Tuesday, April 27, 2021

My other grandfather

Since I've written a lot about my dad's father, my Papa Lee, I think it's only fair that I introduce you to Grandpa Prentiss, my mother's dad. 

Here you see me in 1936 ... the littlest of the Lee girls.  I'm squeezed onto the running board of my Grandfather's new car.  He sits proudly in the driver's seat and my grandmother peers out the back window.  The picture was taken in Brattleboro, Vt., where they lived and, although I certainly can't remember that particular day I can imagine the sights and smells quite well.

Grandpa's hobby was woodworking and I loved to watch him at work in his shop located just off the kitchen.  Wondrous toys, furniture and bric-a-brac seemed to miraculously spring from his agile fingers as he turned the wood lathe and I loved the smell of the new sawn shavings.  His main job however was as a salesperson for the Estey Organ Company and he traveled far and wide throughout New England in his beloved car promoting and selling their product.  Here you see an Estey Reed Organ, circa 1927.

My grandfather Prentiss was a complete opposite of Papa Lee and, although I remember him as a fairly reserved and stern figure in his home the stories abound about his travels on the road ! I can just see him ... the windows of his beloved car wide open to catch the air and his cap perched jauntily on his head.  I would love to have gone along on those trips, but doubt he would have appreciated my company! 


Thursday, April 22, 2021

The 22nd day of every month...

For many years I thought that superstitions were just a bunch of hooey … but I changed my mind 28 years ago and ever since then I've refused to travel or make plans for the 22nd day of any month. 

Somewhere around the 70's I became aware that many bad things seemed to happen on that day. I remembered a young friend who was in a fatal car wreck on May 22, 1956. Then in May also, but in the year 1960, my father died. That was very sad for me because I adored my Dad. Then, of course, there was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the traumatic effect that had on me and the nation and, as we all recall, that was on November 22nd, 1963.

Then, as the years passed, I was still doubtful, but thankful, that my “22nd of the month disasters” didn't include deaths. However, although I still didn't believe in superstitions. it did seem that so many fender benders, lost wallets, a fractured hip and every other form of discomfort or woe inevitably occurred on the 22nd. It wasn't until September of 1990 however that I finally decided to take my superstition seriously. My husband finally died after a long illness and, yes, it was on the morning of the 22nd. I guess what it boils down to is that no matter how much I'd like to be above the fray I have to admit that I now believe in, at least, this one superstition.

Oh my gosh. I just realized that I've made all sorts of plans for today and didn't realize that it is April 22 as I write this. Forgive me for running off but I have a lot of cancellations to make !


Friday, April 16, 2021

Papa Lee's “Golden Birds”

Papa, my grandfather. was almost child-like in the way he approached life.  It was up to my Grandma Lee to take care of the "every day" things.  However she never tried to change him. She knew that his greatest contribution came from his writings and she gave him space to do that. He earned a living by working for Warner Brothers in the 30's, writing movie reviews for his column in one of the NY papers and, as I've also written, he was a published author.

However, we (his 5 grandchildren, the Lee sisters) were the ones who really brought out the child in him. His poems for us are far from classic but they came straight from his heart and are proof of his love. The following is another of the poems he wrote for us in 1937. 


I know a flight of golden birds attends me everywhere I go, the air is golden with their wings, their songs like golden rivers flow.

My golden birds are golden prayers that little children say for me. They send them from their hearts to God. He knows my need and sets them free.

And so I care not what the road, nor what the winds of heaven blow. I know a flight of golden birds attends me everywhere I go.

Monday, April 12, 2021



I've written about my grandfather, Harry Lee, quite a few times since I started my blog in 2006.  He was an author with two published books … “More Day to Dawn” the story of Thoreau, “High Company” sketches of courage in WW I and a play about the life of St. Francis which had a very short Broadway run in 1928.

Papa Lee, as we called him, was a very dear man and we 5 Lee sisters adored him. We were his only grandchildren and he would spoil us royally whenever he got the chance. In 1937 his Christmas gift to our family was a handwritten book of poems he titled “Penny-a-ride.” It was filled with simple rhymes such as this:


When Grandma and my Aunt Jeanette were just like we are, little girls, there was a naughty boy would sneak up close behind and pull their curls.

And once he pulled my Grandma’s curls and ran off down the wagon track where’s all the dust and then he turned and rolled a big red apple back.

And when I asked her why he did and where he did and when and how, my Grandma said, “Go ask him child, that naughty boy's your Grandpa now.”

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The many talented Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

I recently came across an article about the 1969 Johnny Cash performance at San Quentin prison where he brought the inmates to a standing ovation after singing "A Boy Named Sue". Both Johnny and the song became overnight sensations and it got me to wondering who wrote the song.

Lo and behold it was Shel Silverstein who wrote both the words and the music.  That was a surprise to me. I thought that he was a writer and illustrator of children's books, although I shouldn't use the word "just" because there was nothing ordinary about any of his books.

This example of his book "Where the Sidewalk Ends" proves this:

"There is a place where the sidewalk ends .... and before the street begins  ... and there the 

grass grows soft and white ... and there the sun burns crimson bright ... and there the moon

bird rests from his flight ...to cool in the peppermint wind." 

So, why am I posting about Shel Silverstein ?  He was a cartoonist, playwright, poet, performer and recording artist.  He also won a Grammy and was nominated for an Oscar for the song "I'm checking Out" for the film Postcards from the Edge.

I had no idea that he was so multi-talented and thought that might be of interest to others too.

Saturday, April 03, 2021


 My husband, 3 children and I were living on West 94th St. in NY City in 1962. Our apartment was on the 11th floor and, although this was a reputable address, it changed very quickly when you turned the corner. The first building on the right was The Whitehall and our bedroom window looked right into it. To say it was low down and tawdry is being kind. It was a mess! I was also in a Writer's Workshop at the time so when the assignment was to write a short story based on a “Portrait of a Neighborhood” this rolled off my pen.



To me, “off-Broadway” is not a theater production but a massive, out dated hotel for transients on New York City’s upper West side. Hanging from the marquee is a grimy cloth banner that proclaims this to be “THE WHITEHALL”.

All shades of humanity pass through the filth-infested hallways of this building just four doors from the respectability of West End Avenue.  Daily a handful of World War II vets wheel their chairs to the pavement. They sit deceptively still in the sunlight. Then a pedestrian walks by and they spiel off obscenities from mouths twisted with hatred.

A maroon convertible purrs to a stop in front of the hotel. Five scantily dressed girls and the driver, a strutting and jewelry encrusted black man, pile out of the car.  “Big Boy, you sure can peddle them white gals”, says one of the vets and t
hey stand around cracking jokes until a police siren pierces the air. As if by osmosis, the group fades silently into the building and the street is deserted. 

Only the men remain, their faces closed as they watch the squad car approach. The police rush into the building and the men place bets on who they will pick up this time. They all lose.

It’s just a family quarrel and the police are still breaking it up as they drag the couple to the squad car. The man holds his arm, blood seeping through the dirty towel that he’s twisted around it. “She used a bottle on him”, say the men knowingly, and so it goes at THE WHITEHALL, the transient hotel where only vice, corruption and poverty find a permanent home.


Friday, April 02, 2021

Iceland ... our Bucket List destination

I, and all of my family, have been looking forward to the day that we can finally celebrate the end of this pandemic.  We've decided that when it does come we will gather at a place that all of us have wanted to visit. We call it our post Covid Bucket List and it looks like Iceland has been picked as number one. 

Ever since we've made our choice it seems like something new crops up almost daily about Iceland and the latest is the Fagradals Mountain volcano that erupted recently.  It had been dormant for over 6,000 years and, of course it drew visitors. (as seen in this photo by Jeremie Richard)

Officals at first said it appeared to be small and was not considered a threat to the capital, Reykjavik, just 25 miles away, but due to the constancy of the lava flow and based on the analysis of the magma they now suspect that the eruption could be a long-hauler.

A scientific study of the freshly-minted basalt by volcanologists suggests that the magma has come from deep within the Earth's mantle over nine miles beneath the surface.  "Magma from a source that deep has not been seen in this region for thousands of years and has the potential to sustain itself for a long time.", they said.

What it says to me is ... "Don't worry you guys from the States.  We are looking forward to your visit and will be putting on a show for years to come!"