Saturday, July 29, 2006


I’ve just begun to blog and here I am leaving you. Believe me it will be temporary.
A Hiatus is defined as: “a gap or interruption in space, time or continuity...a break”.

That is what this will be...simply a three week break. I have some traveling plans and it includes a visit to my daughter and her husband in NY State and to a niece and family in Anchorage, Alaska.

I feel like I’ve acquired a new family and I will miss each and every one of you. I will check your blogs when I can get to a computer and should be back to posting my own by the last week in August.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement. ‘bye for now………Ginnie

Friday, July 28, 2006

“FANTASIA” at the Radio City Music Hall…1941

My oldest sister gave me the gift of a lifetime in 1941. It was my 8th birthday and her gift to me was an enchanted afternoon at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City. We were there to enjoy the live stage show and the ground-breaking Disney musical, “Fantasia”.

The movie portrayed cartoon characters performing their skits to classical music. Leopold Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra and I sat in a trance as the music wrapped around me. It literally felt like the music was carrying me up and into the movie that was enfolding.

I particularly remember “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” featuring Mickey Mouse as an aspiring magician who gets himself into and out of a bunch of predicaments. At one sequence he is practically over-run by a battery of brooms carrying buckets of water.

Then there was the “Dance of the Hours” with lumbering hippos, crocodiles, ostriches and elephants… up on tip-toes, twirling their huge bodies in time to the music. The juxtaposition between the clumsy animals and the dainty dance that they were performing was charming. We clapped with delight.

“Fantasia” never became a box office success but it was an enormous treat for me and I loved it. However, the memory that burns the brightest happened at the finale of the live stage show. Two comedians were sparring with each other and playing to the audience. At the end of their performance they came close to the front of the stage and one man said, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here”. His partner chimed in with, “and I thank you from my bottom, too”….while proceeding to turn his back on the audience, dropping his pants and "mooning" the lot of us.

How shocking! How crude! How DELIGHTFUL!! My virgin 8-year-old ears were burning but I thrilled to the naughtiness of it all. I couldn’t wait to get home to share the experience (in great detail and with many embellishments) with all my young friends!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

59 Years After My Birth…a Reunion!

I was born in 1933 in the Muhlenberg Hospital, Plainfield, New Jersey, the youngest of 5 girls. Only 8 years separated me from my oldest sister and I guess my parents had given up making it a big deal by the time I came along.. This became apparent when my Aunt Emma, who lived in Brattleboro, Vt. recorded the event in her Diary like this: “Wed Feb 15, very pleas after awhile but foggy early, turned colder & quite cold this eve. Went over to Ida’s about 9 & she had just had a phone message from Jimmie saying Rith had just had her 5th girl, her name is Virginia. None of us knew anything about it.”

So, that was my introduction! Perhaps not too auspicious but I was thoroughly loved and pampered so I have no complaints. My older sisters always accused me of being spoiled but I think it was more that my parents were just plain tired by the time I came along…and they more or less left me to my own devices.

My father worked as a Production Manager in an Ad Agency in New York. He had many friends there and collaborated with one on an ad that was quite famous in it’s day. It was titled: “The Kid in the Upper Bunk” and showed a very young soldier on a Pullman train occupying the upper bunk. This was in the early 1940’s and it was commissioned by one of the railroads to demonstrate that the troops would be using the trains shortly and for the regular passengers to be considerate of that.

I tell this for a reason. In 1992, in Pinehurst, North Carolina I ran into an elderly gentleman with an unusual name that sounded oddly familiar. When I mentioned to him that my father (who had passed away in 1960) had a friend with the same name he couldn’t believe it. “Are you Jim’s daughter Virginia?” he asked and when I told him I was he just shook his head and then he floored me by saying: “I was at the hospital with your Dad when you were born!” Isn’t that amazing? He was the writer for the advertisement, “The Kid in the Upper Bunk” and, though quite a bit younger than my father, one of his closest friends.

I think it just goes to prove, once again, that real life can most certainly be stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

THE GRUNION RUN….on a Southern California beach, 1952

One of the most memorable nights that I can remember was at a beach just north of Ventura, California. My friend Gayle and I were there during our summer break from college. The year was 1952 and we were working as waitresses at The Pierpont Inn.

Our work schedules were quite full but we did manage some fun excursions and this one topped the list. It was close to midnight and a group of us had lit a blazing bonfire on the sand. There was a full moon and the waves were very active, crashing rhythmically on the beach. A feeling of tension was in the air. We had no idea if we would be lucky enough to see the grunion, or if it would be another night climaxed by disappointment.

Suddenly a great cry went up, and was heard to echo down the length of the beach: “the grunion are running”...and there they were. Thousands of small, silvery fish were riding a wave to the shore. As the wave receded back into the ocean, the grunion remained on land, the females drilling grooves into the sand as they twirled on their tails, depositing eggs. The male grunion would curve around her in order to fertilize the eggs and the spawning was accomplished before the next wave appeared to return them to the depths of the ocean. It was a sight to behold.

Suddenly all bedlam broke loose as old and young alike raced for the fish, trying to catch them by hand. They were considered a great delicacy and it was a challenge to harvest them because they were on land for such a short time. The smell of fried fish soon filled the air and I realized that those bonfires were used for more than just alleviating the chill.

Observing the grunion, however, was more to our style than trying to catch them. Gayle and I watched in fascination as the show played out in front of us.. As I understand it, the southern coast of California and the Baja Peninsula are among the very few places where the grunion run so we were fortunate indeed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

AIR TRAVEL…….in the 50’s and now.

In 1957 I was living in New York City and one of my favorite pastimes was to people-watch at LaGuardia airport. In those days it was a luxury to travel by plane and the customers dressed accordingly. It was not uncommon to see a known personality, dressed to the nines and accompanied by 6 or 7 peons carrying elaborate luggage and all varieties of pets, on leashes and in cages. I would spend hours mesmerized by the glamorous scene.

Another aspect of that time was that you didn’t have to be the traveler to get up close to the take-off area. A viewer, like myself, could pretend to be waiting for someone and would have a front-row seat in the terminal. My romantic, 22 year old, imagination would take over and I would be the one departing or arriving. Ah, youth...tragedy and elation rolled into one long afternoon.

Fast forward to today. The airport is still one of my favorite people-watching places but humanity itself has changed drastically. I actually prefer it now because it represents real life as opposed to the Hollywood version of my youth. I love the variety of skin colors, the ethnic outfits and the languages that I don’t understand. I especially enjoy seeing young people travel but so many of them have the air of world-weary travelers. I want to shake them and say, “forget being so cool...cherish the moment.”

The new airport regulations have made it a little more inconvenient to travel by plane but it is well worth it for the sake of security. The one area that annoys me, however, is the inconsistency between scheduled flight times and the actual times of departure and arrival. I have spent many a harrowing moment wondering if I would make my connections.

I will never forget a ticketed flight that I had from Florence, Italy to Munich, Germany and then on to the United States. On arrival at the airport…at 5:30 AM… we were told that they were repaving the Florence airport and that our flight was cancelled! (Only in Italy could they pull this off…with many hand gestures and expressions of sympathy and assurances that our plane would wait for us in Munich! HAH !!)

Then there was the time that I was stuck…on the plane…for over 7 hours in Dallas. It was February and an ice storm was creating havoc. Our pilot was fit to be tied because we were a small plane filled with vacationers and the tower kept bumping us for the larger commercial flights. He finally spoke over the intercom and told us to feel free to write to the airline with our complaints. He even gave us his name to include in our letter.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: I will continue to travel by plane as long as I am able. With all it’s flaws and inconveniences it still gets me to magical places.

Monday, July 24, 2006

FROGGY….My Protector and Door Warden

In August of 2004 I returned home from Duke Medical Center in Durham, NC. I had undergone brain surgery (which was a great success) and was about to start 6 weeks of rest and recovery in my little house.

My family and friends gathered ‘round and I wanted for nothing. I was a very lucky gal. There’s nothing like a serious brush with mortality to bring life into focus. However, what I didn’t know was that I had a non-human protector, also.

My son-in-law was the one who spied Froggy first. I have a small wooden bird house that resides on the wall of my house beside the back door. It is strictly decorative and, to my knowledge, has never housed a bird. But there he very own little tree frog peeking out from the entrance to the bird house. He seemed perfectly at home and he remained there for the entire time that I was recuperating.

I did a bit of research and found that he was a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor). They spend most of their time in the tops of trees and it was actually quite a treat to have him close enough to observe. I would greet him every morning and check on him during the day. He seldom left his perch so I could only assume that he hunted for food at night.

The strange thing was that he remained with me the entire time of my recovery. When I was once again able to get out on a regular basis and to drive the car he started to disappear for varying lengths of time and then, suddenly, one day he was gone for good

I guess it's silly to grieve the loss of a tree frog...but I couldn‘t help it. Imagine my surprise and delight when he returned in the summer months of 2005. The little bird house became his abode once more. He didn‘t remain very long but it felt like he was checking me out.

And now it is 2006 and, guessed it...he‘s appeared again!! I‘ve just spied him twice this year but both times he has been on (not in) the bird house. Is it the same little Froggy? I’ll never know, but, I prefer to think that it is and that he can once again resume his wanderings, secure in the knowledge that I am fine and that I will call for him if needed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I’ve just discovered something about myself and I don’t like it! I’m a “music snob”.
I haven’t really given the music of today a chance. How could I when I’ve been stuck in the mind-set that only the tunes of the “good ol’ days” were worth listening to? After all, we could understand the words back then, couldn‘t we?
Well, I’m here to tell you that my eyes have been opened. It happened like this: I decided to prove my theory about the “better music days” and this is just a small sampling of the music that I had (conveniently) forgotten:
1.) “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, a kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you? If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey, sing …mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”
2.) “Oh, the flat foot floogie with a floy, floy…..yeah, yeah, yeah, byah, oh, baby! ….flat foot floogie with a floy, floy, ….floy, floy, floy, yeah! Send me on out there!”
3.) “Cement mixer, putty, putty……a puddle o’ vooty, a puddle o’ gooty, a puddle o’ Scooby, a puddle o’ veet concrete. First you get some gravel, pour it on the vout. To mix a mess o’ mortar you add cement and water. See the mellow roony come out slurp, slurp, slurp.”
And of course we can’t forget this classic by the Andrews Sisters:
4.) “Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit……..Now the Rawlson is a Swedish town, the rillerah is a stream, the brawla is the boy & girl, the Hut-Sut is their dream. Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah,… etc., etc. ”
‘nuff said…I guess you get the idea!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


I was at a conference recently and the featured speaker opened his talk by saying: “I’m sure of what I am going to say. I am not so sure what you will hear!” and he went on to give this example: A State Trooper stopped a man driving a pickup truck that was filled with penguins. He said, “You can’t be driving these birds around town. Take them to the Zoo immediately.” The next day the officer was amazed to see the same driver with his truck filled, once again, with the penguins. The only difference was that this time all the birds were wearing little sun glasses. The Trooper stopped the truck driver and angrily said, “I thought I told you to take these birds to the Zoo.” “I did,” replied the driver, “and today we’re going to the beach !!”

Isn’t that a great story? It made me really look at the fact that so many of us can read, hear or see the same thing and yet perceive it in a completely different way.. I guess it is based on our backgrounds, our innate prejudices and, sometimes, just plain stupidity. No wonder there is such a disconnect between humans.

Keeping an open mind is something that I’ve been cultivating over the past 17 years. These years have been spent in Alcoholics Anonymous and, believe me, that is the place to test your patience and tolerance. A sense of humor and some very wise members kept me on track. I am so glad they did because I wouldn’t have missed this journey for the world.

I always had high expectations and it wasn’t until I saw life through a different pair of glasses that I came to realize that I was cheating myself. “Cease expecting and you have all things” says Buddha. How crystal clear that is to me today. By taking the expectations out of my daily life I find that I receive much more than I would have settled for on my own. I no longer fight life. I accept things as they are and if I don’t condone or approve of them I leave them alone. (Who am I to change the universe to my specifications?)

So my new outlook on life (tried and tested over the past 17 years) is simplicity personified. I make plans, but I don’t predict the outcome. I accept people, places and things as they are and I realize that the only person I can change is ME !

Friday, July 21, 2006


Growing older does not mean that my mental abilities will automatically be decreased. I used to think that was the case; but, research and my own experiences have taught me otherwise. Maintaining an active mind is the key to staving off mind loss and Alzheimer’s, say the experts.

I have two favorite mental exercises that I practice every of them is reading. I listened recently to an authority on sleeplessness and he stated that one should never read in bed. I guess his reasoning was that reading would stimulate the mind and tend to keep the reader awake. It acts precisely the opposite way for me and the last thing I do every night is read a chapter or two. It works better than a sleeping pill.

That’s why I always have two or more books that I’m reading at the same time. I have my daytime stimulator and my evening “snooze-maker”

My second exercise is the crossword puzzle. I go to the AARP Magazine site on my computer and print out their daily puzzle. This version is just hard enough to be fun without having to pull out the dictionary. I do this in bed also...first the puzzle and then the book. I'm definitely a creature of habit.

I don’t like to think that I have an obsession to working crossword puzzles but an unsolved one, wherever I find it, is definitely a lure. That’s why I had to laugh when I saw this cartoon. I remember so clearly being stuck in a Doctor’s office, waiting to be worked in and knowing I would be the last patient of the day. I spied the local paper and was comforted by the fact that I could while away the time by doing the crossword puzzle. When I opened the paper and found that the puzzle had been cut out I almost cried with frustration.

Joseph Addison has said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. I would add crossword puzzles to that. They are both part of a mental playground where I can romp to my heart’s content.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


In January, 1907, this adorable picture of my mother and her pet rooster, Teddy, appeared in the “Boston Globe”, along with the following article:

“Roosters are not unknown as pets, but little Ruth P. of West Brattleboro, Vt., has an exceptional rooster, Teddy, in that he will allow her to do anything she may wish with him.

The way this little mistress manages her bird playfellow is extremely interesting. She never punishes him because he never needs a rebuke. She speaks to him in a quiet tone, but there is in her eyes a certain power of the will, a power which is rare in children, which forces him to submit to her kind, though sometimes odd, treatment.

In the morning he struts into the kitchen and with a jolly “crowing” he mounts the low table at Ruth’s command, steps into the washbowl and patiently submits to a sponging with soap and water. After shaking his feathers a bit he is dried off with a towel and then brushed until his coat shines bright and clean.

Then follows another of her favorite pastimes. She hitches Teddy to her small doll-cart and drives her noble steed by “gee” and “haw” out through the woodshed, down the front yard to the sidewalk for a jaunt… both child and bird with tiny white hoods crowning their heads.

Ruth has had this strange comrade for several years and has trained him entirely herself. Teddy shows a great fondness for his mistress and obeys her without the least hesitancy.”

My mother lived to the grand age of 92 and, as one of her five daughters, I can attest to the fact that she “trained” us pretty much in the same way that she did Teddy!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

50th Reunion and Vivid Memories of the CLASS OF 1950

In the year 2000 I went back to my High School’s 50th reunion. It was pretty much like I expected it to be and I was delighted to see that we had all aged to the point where we didn’t try to outdo the accomplishments of our fellow classmates. We were genuinely happy just to be alive and together.

I enjoyed seeing everyone but I don’t think I was prepared to be so overwhelmed by my remembrances. It was my first time back. There was the classroom where Mr. Crockett taught English. We had a fair amount of good story-tellers in that room but none could compare to our classmate Sylvia Plath. We would just sat back and enjoy the by-play between teacher & student. We were captivated..

Here was the stage where we produced our plays. I was fortunate to have been cast as Emily in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. This was the beautifully tragic story of small town Grover’s Corners, in New Hampshire. Emily dies in childbirth and in Act III she comes back for just one day. She is advised to choose the least important day in her life…”It will be important enough” they tell her.

We also produced “The Admirable Chrichton” by J. M. Barrie…where a butler is ship-wrecked along with his employer and his upper class friends…becomes the leader of the party and then reverts back to butler when they are rescued. It is Barrie’s comment on the illogical nature of social class distinction. I was one of the female friends and it was a fun and challenging role.

Of course, sports and music were big parts of the school experience, too, and the most endearing moment for me at the reunion was when one of our classmates played “Just The Way You Look Tonight” on his clarinet. He was always a favorite of ours in High School…a multi-talented musician with a great sense of humor.

I finally topped off the weekend with a walk to the old house where we used to live. It is just 3 blocks from the school and not much had changed since 1950. I can’t say the same for myself….but that’s another story, another day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WHY ?? … Do I BLOG ?

A month ago I didn’t know what the word meant. My interest was piqued when I read an article in the AARP magazine stating that so few seniors took advantage of this line of communication. I had heard the word, BLOG, of course but I figured it was just another part of the vast internet world that would forever elude me.

The amusing thing, to me, is that in my day we would have simply called it what it is...a Web Log. (Then I would have understood it !) But the shortened version is here to stay and reminds me, once again, to get on the bandwagon or be left behind in the dust.

But, back to the question, “Why do I blog?” I have tried journaling (recording my daily thoughts and feelings), keeping a diary and even submitting articles for publication…all to no avail. Each of these outlets left me strangely unfulfilled.

Blogging, however, is the perfect medium for me and I love it. I have often wished that I could have known my parents as children and young adults. What were their dreams and accomplishments? Did they overcome diversity? Did they seize opportunities or let them slip by? Who were they?

I am hoping, with the help of this blog, to supply my children with these answers about their own mother. This will be my own personal scrapbook...not full of staged photos but full of emotional history, my triumphs and my downfalls, and how it created the person that I have become today.

Why do I blog? Because it is my way to record the emotions and events of 73 years on earth...a journey of self discovery. I find that each article that I write prompts me to remember still more...a great taxing of the mind. It is an exhilarating memory experience and I am so thankful that it is available to me.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Some of the best conversations I have ever encountered have been during or after an evening meal. The body is fed and the mind follows. This was particularly true of my childhood home.

By the mid 40’s none of us had left home yet so our dining room table was always full. It was very large…room enough to seat 10 comfortably. We needed that space because we were 5 girls, (separated in age by 8 years!), my mother and father, and an assortment of boyfriends and other guests.

Everyone was welcome and it was understood that if you stayed for dinner you would participate in the lively discussions and games that followed. The menu might be scant, due to rationing or lack of funds, but, the enthusiasm was abundant.

One of our favorite games revolved around the Dictionary. One person would hold the opened book on their lap, eyes closed and point to a word. It was then up to all the participants to define the word and the winner was the one who came closest to the actual definition in the dictionary. An example might be: the word PICOT. (Typical answers could be: “a small bed”, “a quaint saying”, “ used to make a fancy fence”…etc.) Of course the actual definition is “ornamental loops in embroidery”. It was not only an amusing game but it helped to increase our vocabulary and to promote an interest in words. I loved it.

Another high-light of those evenings were the discussions. We would relate our day’s events, talk about world or national events or just plain listen. Our guests were an eclectic group so we would often be mesmerized by what they shared. What a lucky little girl I was!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The MUSIC ROOM…a Child’s Escape

When I was ten years old our family lived in a 13 room, 3 story Victorian house in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The home was nowhere near as elaborate as it sounds. Seven of us lived there…my four older sisters and my parents, and we actually rented out two rooms (made into a very small apartment) to a local schoolteacher to make ends meet. It was a very “lived-in” abode with hand-me-down furniture and an air of hectic fun and chaos. This was true of all the rooms with the exception of one.

We called it the “Music Room” and it was my favorite, especially in the wintertime, when the doors were closed tight (to save on heating) and the room became my private, if somewhat chilly, land of make believe.

I used to sneak into the shivery half-darkness…a braided and scrubbed ten-year old hugging my arms tightly around me. I never turned on the lights. no matter how dark the winter’s day, and I would always sit in the same place…perched high in the exact middle of an austere Victorian loveseat.

Like the afternoon shadows my eyes sought out the objects in the room. The piano dominated the room, covering half the wall and wide enough to carry a Tiffany lamp, 3 stacks of sheet music, a violin and a clarinet atop it’s paisley shawl. It was the most ornate piano I have ever seen, each piece of wood carved and set into the gigantic black body. Even the legs were knobbed and curled into immense pedestals sturdy enough to carry the weight.

The rest of the objects in the room vied with the piano…the marble table tops turning pink from the reflection of the peach colored wallpaper, the leather book covers, the frosted light globe hanging by a “gold” chain and, best of all…two Victorian side chairs, my little “fat ladies” stuffed into flowered brocade, the dark scrolled wood curving into shoulders, short arms jutting at either side and the legs planted firmly apart on the floor.

When I was in the “Music Room” the everyday hustle and bustle of the rest of the house disappeared. I was a grand lady, a princess, at peace in my serene and elegant world. I would give a slight nod to the piano….the recital was about to begin !

Saturday, July 15, 2006

PORKY & PENNY Peddle Posies

Good morning. My “thinking cap” is taking the day off. I thought I would simply share a little ditty that I wrote many years ago. I always thought I would try to turn it into a book for children…but that has never happened. I hope you enjoy it and I will be back to my eclectic memoirs tomorrow.

Peddling Posies at the Pennsy Pavilion

Porky, the penguin and Penny, the porcupine lived in Pittsburgh, Pa.
where Penny played in the park, picking posies ‘til dark
and Porky peddled the posies by day.

At a penny per posy the profits were cozy
and they put piles of pennies away.
But. the problem arose, and the question it posed, was
“How much?” and “Who?” should get paid?

Should Penny, the porcupine, palm all the profits?
She picked the posies, you see.
Or should Porky, the penguin, pocket the pennies,
for the selling was done by he.

Now Penny, the porc and Porky, the pen, were a sensible pair,
that’s a fact.
So they pondered the matter, amid much pitter patter,
and finally signed a pact,
whereby every last bit of the profits they split,
thus keeping their friendship intact.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In Memory of my High School Classmate… Sylvia Plath

The year is 1963 and I was living in NY City with my husband and children. It was a snowy February day and the morning mail had just arrived. As I opened a letter from my mother a newspaper clipping fell to the floor. Even at that distance I could make out the young woman with her two small children…but, it was when I held it closer that I recognized the shy warmth of the woman’s smile.

“Why, it’s Sylvia”, I thought and I wondered what new honors she had attained. Then the ugly words of the headline became clear to me………”the LATE Sylvia Plath Hughes”.

I stared out the window at the swirling snow and suddenly I remembered another winter’s day six years earlier. My husband and I were enjoying the Christmas sights at Boston’s
famous Louisburg Square. Suddenly I heard a familiar laugh and turned to see Sylvia walking hand in hand with her new husband, British poet Ted Hughes. She had never looked lovelier…her head was bare and the snow tangled in her long hair and formed a lacy halo which she broke apart with each toss of her head.

It had been almost 7 years since we had sat side by side in Mr. Crockett’s English class at Wellesley High School…but those years faded away as we introduced our husbands and got caught up on the news. It soon became too cold to stand still so we hugged goodbye and promised to keep in touch. Of course we never did

Now, as I sat with the clipping in my hand I forced myself to concentrate on what was written there. It was an excerpt from “The Observer Weekend Review of London” and was entitled “A Poet’s Epitaph” by the British critic A. Alvarez. In part he wrote:
“It was only recently that the peculiar intensity of her genius found it’s perfect
expression…she was systematically probing that narrow, violent area between the viable and the impossible, between experience which can be transmitted into
poetry and that which is overwhelming. It represents a totally new breakthrough in
modern verse, and establishes her, I think, as the most gifted poet of our time…the loss to literature is inestimable.”

As I read these words I couldn’t help but think of the Sylvia I had known. She had always been intense and, to the high-school standards of the time, I suppose a bit peculiar too. (A suicide attempt in the early 50’s just reinforced her differences.) She was a very pretty girl, fun-loving and flirty…which I’m sure was a cover-up for the deeper feelings that she wasn’t able to share with us, although she tried so very hard to be accepted.

43 years have passed since Sylvia died but I remember her fondly and rue the fact that we (her classmates and I) let her pass through our lives without getting to know her better.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Power of SMELL….my first memory

I have tried very hard to recall my early days but I honestly don’t know what I actually can remember as opposed to those things that were retold so many times in my family that they seem to be MY memories.

I am not able to go back much further than when I was 6 or 7 years old. The years before that seem to be lost to me….except for this amazing experience. I have heard that the primary sense is that of smell…and I can attest to that. When I was very young the whole gang of us went to Brattleboro, Vt. to visit my mother’s family. I know this is true because we have pictures to prove it and it is also recorded in my Aunt Emma’s diaries. I must have been 3 or 4 at the time and I have no conscious memory of that visit.

HOWEVER….many years later I became aware of a very strange smell…it seemed to be a combination of three odors…the pungent smell of new sawn lumber, the slightly gamey smell of lamb being roasted in the oven and the almost sickly sweet smell of maple syrup bubbling on the stove. I was immediately transported to the kitchen of my grandparents in Brattleboro. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch them...and I actually remembered being there. It was a swift but powerful memory and then it receded almost as quickly as it came..

The interesting thing is that Grandpa was a carpenter and had a shop and wood lathe in a large room off of the kitchen. They also had a “sugaring-off” business and would tap the maple trees and boil the sap into syrup on the wood stove in the kitchen.. The smell of lamb being roasted?? Perhaps that was the special meal being prepared for our visit.

Whatever it was, I have only smelled that combination three times in my 73 years and each time it has pulled me back to that warm and loving kitchen of my childhood.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

GREGORY PECK takes me under his wing!

I am a Northeasterner by birth and disposition but at one time I actually worked and played in Santa Barbara, California. It wasn’t for long….little more than a year; but it was there that I had one of my all-time favorite memories.

I had graduated from College (Boston University) in 1954 and, after a short stint at an Advertising Agency I spent a little over a year at WWNY radio station in Watertown, NY, where I wrote advertising commercials…some even set to jingles.

Lots of fun but time to move on. I had a sister & family living in Ventura, California and I decided to head that way and try my luck at finding work. I was very lucky indeed since I was hired as head of the Publicity Dept. for KEYT…a small television station in Santa Barbara.

I was barely 23 and in on the ground floor of the burgeoning TV era…but I was a complete novice as to the workings of a publicity department. I couldn’t believe it when my boss told me that the MGM movie “Moby Dick” was going to premier in Santa Barbara and it was my job to act as liaison between the stars of the movie and the press.

The big day arrived and I went down to meet the train that would bring everyone to Santa Barbara. Of course the place was packed and it was all I could do to stay at the front of the line to welcome the cast and crew. Then all of a sudden there he was, stepping off the train… Gregory Peck …he seemed bigger than life to me and I felt my legs quake and I was afraid I was going to faint. I pulled myself together and managed to get his attention. In a very quivering voice I introduced myself and explained that I was brand new at KEYT and had no idea how to proceed.

I will never forget what happened next. He put his arm around me and started walking with me into the crowd of reporters. Of course they started to bombard him with questions but his only answer was, “Sorry, you’ll have to clear that through Virginia. We are guests of KEYT and she will arrange it all for you.” This was not technically true but it certainly worked like magic for me….and he was true to his word. I don’t know about the rest of the cast, but no one talked to “Captain Ahab” without clearing it first with me!

“Moby Dick” is a John Huston film classic that is often replayed today. Gregory Peck’s masterful portrayal of the crusty Captain Ahab is spellbinding…but nothing compared to the actual man. He truly was, and is, my only filmdom hero.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The “BRITISH SAILOR” Quilt and Castoro Cellars

I've had a lot of interest in the Quilt that my mother made depicting the 126 British sailors that we entertained during World War II. (See my blog of July 7th).
I find out that I was mistaken. It was indeed inherited by my sister and she had it framed and gave it to her son but it is in his mountain retreat…not in his winery.
I hope that I can get a picture up on my blog-site soon.

However, the winery itself is a treat. It is in Templeton, California and the name is Castoro Cellars.
Be sure to drop in and visit with my nephew Beaver and his wife, Bimmer, if you are in the vicinity. Beaver, of course, is not a brown furry rodent with a flat tail. He’s a real live man whose name is Neils Udsen, but he’s been Beaver since he was a small child. Castoro Cellars uses a Beaver on it’s Logo and many of their wines are labeled as “Dam Fine Wine”. Pretty clever, huh?

I was there last year and was fascinated by the inner workings of a winery. Of course a lot depends on weather…but modern techniques have improved the chances of a good crop. Just the irrigating system alone is amazing.

They hosted a wonderful dinner and wine-tasting event for their members on the Sat. night that I was there. The food was based on Tuscan fare and they even had a delightful non-alcoholic grape drink for those of us who are allergic to the “real” stuff. The cool evening, the live entertainment (guitar) and the ambiance of the winery itself made for a memorable evening.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Ubiquitous CELL PHONE…A plea for etiquette!

In this digital world of ours the cell phone is here to stay…and rightly so. I have used mine to advantage many a time. I have a very inexpensive Tracfone. It is a nationwide prepaid wireless phone and I buy about 60 units of calling time every three months. The cost is approximately $8 per month and I can choose to cancel anytime that I want to.

I bought the attachment that connects my cell phone to the car and that is where I keep it most of the time. Very few people have access to my number because I only use it for emergencies…or for the occasional time that I am not near a phone and need to contact someone. This is how it works for me and I know that I am in the minority.

My son and his daughter both have very elaborate, extra-slim cell phones that do just about everything but pick up the weekly garbage. (Hers is actually pink!) He is in business for himself and his phone is his life-line…so I can understand the need there.

The thing that annoys me about cell phones is that they encroach on my privacy. I really do not want to hear someone’s life story when I am trying to concentrate on what to buy for dinner…or trying to enjoy dinner out, for that matter. When I was in Italy I would have sworn that every Italian male seemed to carry a cell phone. We used to joke that they were probably calling Mama to ask what to order for dinner!

I will never forget the time that I was stuck in an airport for hours waiting for the weather to change. A sloppy twenty-something male slouched down next to me and proceeded to phone a buddy. He then spent the next hour describing in great detail every female under the age of 50 that passed by his sight. They were having a great laugh over this and when he saw my look of disgust he said, “Hey, lady…you don’t have to listen”.

But that’s just the point….how can we NOT listen? I really resent this intrusion and hope that someday there will be a cell phone revolution…those of us who still treasure privacy will rise up and, at the very least, conduct courses in cell phone etiquette. The plan to restrict the use of phones while driving is gaining momentum and is actually enacted into law in some States. So, maybe there is hope after all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

BELLA FIRENZE…Florence, Italy, the city that captured my heart!

I have been reminiscing recently about my second trip to Florence, Italy. In my first blog, written just 5 days ago I tell of being in Italy in Sept. 2001. The Italians could not have been nicer. They were concerned, generous and very sympathetic about the horrendous events of 9-11

The highlight of my trip was our week spent in Florence. Of course we used it as a base to visit the wonderful towns of Siena, Fiesole, Arezzo, etc. but it was the city itself that captivated me. Florence is a joy to behold and a walker’s delight. Our days were filled with Duomos, museums, piazzas and, of course, Gelato! When we left I made a pledge to myself that I would return.

When I did return in 2004 the city had remained the same but the people’s attitude had changed drastically. It was a shock and a great disappointment to me. It would seem that the “Ugly American” has come to the forefront again and it breaks my heart. Where, just 3 years before, I had been met with smiles and open arms I now encountered tolerance, at best, and an actual dislike of all that was “American”.

Will we never learn? Why do we have to inflict our way of life on to others? Why can’t we live our lives and let others live as they want? Our differences make this world a glorious place and I am haunted by the fact that we seem to be obsessed in making them all see “our way”.

Oh, well…….time to get off the Soapbox. All the best. Ginnie

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Memories of my grandfather……HARRY LEE

I recently read a heart-warming article entitled "MEMOIR, Seeking my grandfather in Jerusalem". It was posted July 5th on Mortart’s blog(
Thank you, Mortart for writing that and for reminding me of my own Grandfather.

Papa Lee, as we called him, was a gentle, almost child-like man who lived with my Grandmother, Mary, in Plainfield, NJ. He was a writer and his head was often in the clouds. That may have been of concern to his stoic and hard working wife but for his grandchildren he was a delight. One of my fondest memories is when he took me to see the movie “The Strawberry Blond” (I was all of 7 or 8 years at the time) and we danced and sang “And the Band Played On” all the way home.
“Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde,And the band played on.
He'd glide cross the floor with the girl he adored and the band played on.
But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded,The poor girl would shake
with alarm.
He'd ne'er leave the girl with the strawberry curls,snd the band played on".

Papa worked for Warner Brothers, writing movie reviews. His column was in one of the NY papers of the time (in the thirties) and he was also a published author. His first book, written in 1920, was titled “High Company”, and was a book of poetry portraying courage and comradeship in World War 1. He had been a medic in that war and I have a great picture of him in uniform standing behind a soldier in a wheelchair.
(If I can ever figure out how to get pictures onto my blog I will include that one.)

Shortly after “High Company” came out he produced a play that depicted the life & times of St. Francis of Assisi… “The Little Poor Man” (“Il Poverllo”) It was published in 1920 and actually had a short but successful run on Broadway.

Papa’s best known work was “More Day to Dawn” written in 1941. It is the biography of Henry David Thoreau, written in prose and poetry…dedicated “To Mary”, (my Grandmother) and with a forward by his friend Brooks Atkinson. I love the last page of that book:

The Sixth of May, 1862

May and morning..winds that sigh in cool trees yearning toward the sky.

A couch that pillows a weary head. “Have you made your peace with God?” one said.

Silence...and then the calm reply: “We have never quarreled…God and I”.

Papa spent a lot of time volunteering at the Henry St. Settlement House in NY City but he rarely spoke of that. I have often wondered if a tempestuous youth was a fore-runner of the gentle man that I knew. No matter……..he was my Papa and he enriched my life immensely

Friday, July 07, 2006

1943 ...the story continues....British sailors

Writing about those days in 1943 (when our family entertained British sailors) has made me realize that I was too young to understand the loneliness that so many of those boys must have been experiencing. For me, at age 10, it was a time of great excitement and expectations.
We lived in Wellesley Hills, Mass., quite near the railroad station, and it was a treat to watch the incoming trains from Boston and to see "our boys" arrive. Many of them were based in Boston at the Fargo Naval Base and would come out every weekend or day that they had off. We often had 5 or 6 boys at the same time.
As I mentioned before the officers proved to be unacceptable...very Britishly (is that a word?) proper and no fun at all. But the regular, run-of-the mill sailors were a delight.
Ron Brown was a regular, as was Bert Entwistle (father of the yet-to-be-famous son John, of the "Who"). We only deviated once away from the sailors. That was to invite two Australian belly gunners to our house. Their names were Happy & Jack and Happy became my special friend. When he finally left to go back to action I remember saying "Happy landing" and being very proud of my 10 year old's ability to make a pun of his name. Sadly he was the only one of the entire group that we entertained that was killed...and his friend Jack was shot down and finally returned to his home, but in an almost vegetated state. Obviously, being on a ship was much safer than being in the air. (I sorely regretted my parting remark.)
Another fond memory is drinking tea by the gallons and then having our tea leaves read by Paddy (from Wales). He managed to make it seem like the future was to be a wondrous place...even in the midst of that war.
The war ended and so did our small contribution to it...but my Mother made a quilt that is a reminder of that period. She had all the boys sign it and then she cross-stitched the name on the quilt. My sister Barbara inherited the quilt and has had it framed and it now resides on the wall of her son's Winery in California.
What fond memories. Ginnie

Thursday, July 06, 2006

1943, Entertaining British Sailors in New England

In 1943 my father asked me what I would like for my 10th birthday. "A British sailor" I replied...and that's exactly what they got for me.
I was the youngest of five girls and we ranged in age from 10 to 18. Our home was a big old Victorian in Wellesley Hills, Mass...nothing fancy, just lots of rooms full of love.
Dad and I went to the Union Jack in Boston and came home with 2 British officers...a big mistake. They were exceedingly dull, snobbish and unappreciative. We almost gave up but decided to try our luck again and this time we hit the jackpot. One of the boys was just 16 and terribly homesick. He and his mate took to our family like a duck into water.
The first night was spent in playing jokes on each other...short-sheeting the beds, etc. and just becoming acquainted. I remember that, after I went to bed, I heard a sound like sobbing and tip-toed downstairs to see my mother cradeling the young sailor in her arms. I'm sure he got a good night's sleep after that.
During the war years we entertained over 126 sailors and one of them and his wife even came back in 1976 for my mother's 80th birthday celebration. I will never forget those years and the joy it felt to be part of their lives.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Still searching for other people in their 70's

My first try at blogging was on Monday. Is there anyone out there that has read my blog...and who would care to respond? It seemed so simple but when there is no feedback it takes the heart out of it. I will keep trying and hope that there is another person somewhere who would like to correspond and share ideas about life after
70. Ginnie

Monday, July 03, 2006

Lodging in Italian Monasteries, Sept. 2001

My dream for many years was a trip to Italy. Finally, in 2001, I was able to live this dream. I had been widowed for over 10 years and was retired..…a free and independent soul living in North Carolina, USA.

My good friend Douglas and I planned our stay in Umbria and Tuscany . I had read a wonderful book entitled “Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries” and realized that we would be able to afford a month’s stay, instead of our proposed two weeks, by utilizing their services and traveling via public transportation.

We made reservations at 7 Monasteries (located in Rome, Orvieto, Bavagna, Gubbio, Cortona, Florence & Venice), and were on our way to Italy on September 4th, 2001.

Three days in Rome and two in Orvieto were filled with treasures and views that I had only imagined and read about. The 6th day, which was September 10th found us in the small town of Bavagna. This is a charming town with two small piazzas tucked in between ancient adjacent buildings and churches. We chose Bavagna because it was close to Assisi and we wanted to visit the Basilica of St. Francis.

Neither Douglas nor I were affiliated with any religion but we were both greatly influenced by the Prayer of St. Francis. Being "friends of Bill W." had put us on a spiritual path and we were anxious to visit Assisi. We did just this on Sept. 11th and returned to Bavagna at approximately 4:30 pm.

The first inkling that something was wrong was when the few townspeople who were in the Piazza called to us and pointed to the little bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor, insisting that we go there. The shop boasted the only TV in the square and it was just recording the horrific events of 9-11. We actually saw the live pictures of the second tower being attacked.

I will never forget that day and the feeling of being so far from home and so totally
useless. It changed my life. I lost my good friend Douglas last year to cancer and I guess that opening this Blog is just my small way of reaching out and seeing if there are kindred souls out there who would like to exchange ideas.

In a nutshell...I am a young 73, in good health and with a positive outlook on life. I abhor our political shenanigans...the worst I have seen in my lifetime...but I have great faith in our country and can't wait to see what the future brings. I would love to hear from any of you.

Your blogger friend......Ginnie