Springtime Flowers

Years ago in the early spring when my son was a toddler my husband got into bicycling in a big way. He bought himself racing bicycles for us. He joined a racing club and also rode his bike the ten miles back and forth to school. One morning, he said that if I would go bike riding for an hour or so, he would get our son up, get him dressed for the day and feed him breakfast. And I quickly said you have a deal. On my first ride I noticed the riot of wildflowers on the back roads in New Jersey. Coming from Key West, I had never seen wildflowers and I was fascinated. The next morning I took my camera and stopped and took pictures. I bought a wildflower book and started identifying the flowers. I put all the wildflower pictures on slides and they were stored in hot attics for many years. I thought they were ruined. But when Peter started putting photos on the computer, they came out beautifully, so in celebration of Spring, I thought I’d share some of them with you.




Butter and Eggs






Pickerel Weed








White Japanese Honeysuckle






Orange Milkwort


















Tansy leaf Aster with friend.





Common Mullein with others.





Smooth False Foxglove.





Chicory with Bumblebee





Tick Weed






Purple Loosestrife




The Coral Rock bed in Key West is not conducive to roadside wildflowers as in the Northern States. Some, such as Queen Anne’s Lace are seen as a cultivated flower. We have our own plethora of tropical flowers that are colorful and different. Another time I will take you on a tour of Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.

Things Change

It is said that the only thing constant is change, but as you get older it is hard not to be nostalgic. In Key West we have gained some good things but also have lost some things that I for one particularly valued.

First, Dennis Pharmacy on the corner of United and Simonton went away. Breakfast at Dennis Pharmacy was quick and delicious. The waitresses were efficient, had been there forever, and had breakfast in front of you before you had hardly ordered it, always with buttered Cuban bread and Cuban coffee. You could sit at the counter or at tables. It was a small place, and always crowded, but you never had to wait. Most of the tourists at the tables wanted to be off and running, while the regulars at the counter chatted and laughed with the waitresses. Nobody seemed rushed. It was a great way to start the day. Then afterwards you could go to the pharmacy side, pick up a prescription or aspirin, buy some sunscreen, a hat, a sand bucket and shovel for the kids, sunglasses, postcards and stamps to send to friends and you were on your way to the beach.

Fast Buck Freddie’s closed. I was horrified. A high-end Emporium, it was always worth a visit. It had nice dressy summer wear clothes, furnishings suited to the tropics, kitchen wear and table linens, and all kinds of other neat stuff. I remember the cookie jars that sang when you removed the lid to get a cookie, for example, the one shaped like a shark that played the Jaws movie theme. I bought all my Key West Christmas ornaments there a few years ago. The flip-flop shoes ornament is a favorite. Fast Buck Freddie’s was located in the old Kress building, which was a Five and Dime in the Fifties. The street windows alone were works of art and whimsy and always worth a good look. It was a classy operation.

Last year, the top of the La Concha closed. You used to be able to take the elevator to the top floor, have almost a 360 Degree look at the island. I guess too many people started using and abusing and the high-end hotel turned it into a spa.

The Rusty Anchor Restaurant on Stock Island closed recently. It was very casual, had a large salt-water fish tank on display, which fascinated all, children particularly. Very fresh fish, yellowtail and other snappers, black or red grouper, and porgies, right off the boats served with Black Beans and Yellow or White Rice. We always started with Conch Fritters and bowls of Conch Chowder. It was simple, casual and mouthwateringly delicious.

Years ago there was a grand Piano set outside on Duval and a man played classical music as you strolled down the street taking in sights and basking in the delightful soft cool of a Key West evening. It has been replaced by loud raucous bar music blasting out into the streets. Well, really there’s only one block of this, but it’s plenty enough.

I realize that things have to change, but it is hard not to shed a nostalgic tear when such fond memories are replaced with something as pedestrian as a bank or a chain drugstore.

The best part of Key West is the day-to-day weather, always changing, and always glorious.

Whitehead Street (From Sea to Shining Sea)

Let’s start at the beginning. Remember The Southernmost Point at the corner of South and Whitehead streets with the big ugly buoy, Havana Cuba 90 miles to the South. People taking photos night and day, nothing like my blog front page photo taken in the 70’s, simpler, nicer, but the sign kept getting stolen. It always gets the blood flowing to start with a little rant.

As we put our backs to Cuba and head down Whitehead, on the right is the Hemingway House. Ernest Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, bought the old Tift Mansion and renovated it in the 30’s. When he finished “Farewell to Arms” they left our neighborhood and moved in. It is now a tourist attraction.pr19891 It has a planter, the urinal, which Hemingway brought to his house from Sloppy Joe’s Bar because he said he had put so much of himself into it.   There are lots of 6-toed cats wandering around the place or sleeping. The in-ground pool that Pauline built cost a fortune. It was dug into solid coral and originally the slightly salty water was pumped up from underground. In the early 40’s it was converted to fresh water when the water pipe from Miami started providing fresh water to the Florida Keys from deep underground aquifers. It is a beautiful Spanish style house with a lot of Hemingway’s life story in it. Picture: (State Archives of Florida/Liddle).

The Key West Lighthouse has become more and more landlocked over the years as the island expanded. I remember in first grade riding on the yellow school bus with my friend to her house one afternoon after school. She was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper and lived on Whitehead in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

dm2815We sat on the front steps and did what six year olds do. Nothing very much productive, I’d warrant. The Lighthouse was electrified sometime in the 60’s and the lighthouse keeper no longer needed. It is now a museum. You can climb to the top for a nice view of the island.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida/McDonald).

Down the street is a beautiful old church, which has just been renovated. It is the African Methodist Episcopal Church. When I was little, once in a while, the Episcopal nuns there would come and take communion at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

On the other side as we zigzag down Whitehead Street is the Green Parrot Bar. It’s basically an open-air bar with barstools easily accessible off the street in a quieter part of town, near the Courthouse and the gate to the Navy Yard. On weekends live bands rock the neighborhood. dm6474It has been on that corner of Southard and Whitehead for many years. It’s a nice bar for a hot afternoon beer, or to be part of what’s happening on Saturday night. In past times, it was strictly a sailor’s bar.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida/McDonald)

The County Courthouse is on the opposite corner. We lived across the street and I was born at Dr. Gailey’s Hospital around the corner on Fleming Street. I mention this only for posterity’s sake.

On the same side down the street is the Presidential Gate and further down across the street is the Audubon House, one of the first houses to be renovated in Key West. pr30033The Audubon House was listed for demolition in 1958 but was saved by The Wolfson Family Foundation. The house contains 18 first-edition works by John James Audubon that are included in his “Birds of America” folio. There’s a beautiful tropical garden out back. This was the first renovation in Key West and many think it the best.  Picture: (State Archives of Florida/Spalding).

Across the street is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Mel Fisher with his family and workers spent decades treasure hunting in the Florida Keys. On July 20, 1985, he found the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, sunk in a hurricane off Key West on September 6, 1622. The estimated $450 million cache recovered included 40 tons of gold and silver, 114000 “pieces of eight”, gold coins, Columbian emeralds, gold and silver artifacts and 1000 silver ingots. This was only half the treasure. The wealthiest part of the ship, the stern is yet to be found. After many court proceedings mainly with the state of Florida, The Supreme Court of the United States has confirmed Fisher’s ownership to the treasure and transferred to him 75% of the appraised value of all material recovered.

c032324Down at the other end of Whitehead Street is the Key West Aquarium, which has been there since I was a child. My granddaughters go there every time they visit. It is not a large aquarium, but there is a large open-air shark tank and many other interesting and beautiful sea animals to visit.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida).

Streets of Key West

In 1829 the four owners of the island of Key West, John Simonton, Pardon Greene, John Whitehead, and John Fleming, signed an agreement for the division of the land of the island. They divided Key West into a grid and each block divided into four quadrants, with each owner getting one of the quadrants… Today Key West is a very easy to get around little city because of this grid.

A lot of the streets were named after their daughters. There is a Caroline, Emma, Rose, Margaret, Elizabeth, Petronia, Amelia, Olivia, Angela, Varela, Pearl, and Alberta Street.

The main drag from Route 1 to downtown Key West is Truman Avenue named after President Harry S. Truman. He visited Key West often during his Presidency and used the Commandant’s Quarters on the Naval Base. It came to be known as the Little White House. President Truman spoke to an assembly of all students at Key West High School in 1962 when I was a senior. I don’t remember a thing he said, but I remember that we were warned within an inch of our lives to behave ourselves.

Presidential Gate

The Presidential Gate

Accompanying note: “Gate adorned with a wreath following the death of former President Harry S. Truman. President Truman was the first president to stay in the commandant’s quarters making it the Little White House.”  (State Archives of Florida/McDonald)

Kennedy Drive and MacMillan Ave are named for President John F. Kennedy who visited Key West in 1962 with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of the United Kingdom. They had a fast drive in a convertible from Boca Chica Naval Base to the Presidential Gate. There were twelve cars of notables with them. Many Key Westers lined the streets to wave. I was one of them. It was rather a subdued crowd because they were there to discuss the Cuban Missile Crisis, but exciting to see nonetheless. There is also a Roosevelt Boulevard, but no one quite remembers when or why he was here.

There are many lanes and alleys in Key West. There is: Poor House Lane, Windsor Lane, Cornish Lane, Rose Lane, Donkey Milk Lane, Hibiscus Lane, Telegraph Alley, and others named after the original Settlers who lived on them; there is Tift’s Alley, Stump Lane, Shippens Lane, and Curry Lane.

The main Downtown Street is DuVal Street, named after William P. DuVal, first non-military governor of the newly acquired territory of Florida. President James Monroe appointed him, which is probably why Key West is in Monroe County. I always thought DuVal Street was Duval Street. Maybe it is by now. Easier on tourists and sign painters. The things you can learn on the Internet just by delving into a little piece of History. The Internet is a trove of information. Someday when I have the time, I’m going to go into ancestry.com, but not yet.

The Monks at St. Paul’s Church

This past week a group of monks of Drepung Gamang Monastery visited the Keys and constructed a Sacred Sand mandala in the nave of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. They worked on it for an entire week, building the mandala a grain of sand at a time. All could come and watch, and many did. The monks stated mission was to spread a message of peace, loving kindness, wisdom and compassion and to share Tibetan arts and culture.

The tradition of creating a sand mandala is said to bring healing and blessings to those who view it and to the environment in which it is made. While making the mandala, monks chant and meditate to invoke the energy of the deities. The sand is applied through special metal tubes and funnels. St. Paul’ s mandala took a week to complete. The word mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “world in harmony.” The monks start by drawing an intricate geometric design on a large board and filling in the design with colored sand grains.

Here is a photo of the completed mandala at St. Paul’s Church (click on the photo to zoom and see the incredible detail).IMG_0391

Last Saturday, there was a community songfest at the church celebrating the completion of the mandala. The church was packed. I was waiting for the concert to start when I heard a band coming down the street. We waited for it to pass before starting the celebration. Then the band started coming into the full church. It was about 25 people of the Key West Community Marching Band. They marched around the church, and ended up in the nave to “When the Saints go Marching In” and everyone clapping and singing.IMG_0191 Then a local Gospel choir sang some gospel numbers, a seven-year old girl on a piano with a drummer accompanied a vocalist singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” and then St. Paul’s choir (or at least one bass and one tenor) did some French four-part Taize songs. The local Rabbi wearing a Prayer Shawl and a Monk demonstrated blowing the Jewish Shofar (ram’s horn) and the Buddhist Ceremonial Horn ending with what could very loosely be called a horn duet. In fact, they sounded quite alike. Speaking of Harmony, the Rabbi mentioned that when the Key West Jewish Temple was burned down by arson, St. Paul’s invited the congregation to meet at St. Paul’s while their Temple was being rebuilt. It was obviously very much appreciated. Finally the monks came up and did two chants, which included one monk chanting in the impossibly low guttural tone for which some monks are trained from childhood. The best comparison is to the sound of an Australian aboriginal Didgeridoo.

It was quite a joyous occasion and when the ceremony was over, everyone took pictures of the Sacred Sand mandala with their iPhones. IMG_0193The whole evening was Key West eclectic, impromptu, well attended and with only voluntary donations. The next afternoon, there was an ending ceremony at St. Paul’s at which the mandala was swept up and the Sacred Sand released into the ocean at the foot of Simonton Street. This whole undertaking was to show the impermanence of things in this life.

Which reminds me of a poem we all learned in high school English class:


I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

A Boatload of Boating Misadventures

Having grown up in Key West, it was inevitable that I would occasionally find myself on a boat and seasick: many more times than once. Of course I have also been airsick, and carsick. Unexpected motion and I are not friends.

My first boating trip was with my cousin Bill. Scan 4He was home from USNA in his last year. He took my brother and me out on a charter boat. I guess we were about eight and ten years old. I don’t remember getting sick and have a picture of me on the boat, windblown hair askew, broad grin, and proud me holding up the fish I’d caught, which actually was not too small.

When a teenager, I was invited by my friend’s family to go out to the Dry Tortugas where Fort Jefferson is located, the last and most isolated of the Florida Keys. I remember that it took us 6 hrs. to get out there. It is about 68 miles west of Key West. Remember, Dr. Samuel Mudd, implicated in President Lincoln’s assassination, was imprisoned there and played a large role in tamping down a Yellow Fever epidemic. When we visited that weekend in the sixties, I remember seeing stored in the Fort a large stock of canned goods, part of emergency supplies in case of nuclear war stored there in the fifties. It is now a National Park. You can get there by seaplane ½ hr., fast catamaran 2 hrs. and slow boat 6 hrs. I haven’t been since that trip in the sixties. I suspect it’s much more touristy, but still very popular if only for the snorkeling alone, which is amazing.

When I was in my early twenties, five of the Navy guys I knew had gone together and bought a broken down 28 ft. sail boat for $5000 and lots of us would go out on it for a day of sailing fun. The sails were weak, due to inexpert handling or no wind I don’t know, but they had to run the motor all the time. So one night two of the guys invited my friend and me to go on a moonlight sail. The boat was kept in a slip out on Stock Island. The guys picked us up and when we got there, the boat was gone. The guys were peering at the slip but the boat was not there. As callow young women will do, we started giggling saying to each other, it’s a good thing we knew they had a boat. What if they had invited two girls who had never seen the boat and probably never would? The giggling was noticed and not much appreciated. They asked the caretaker and he said a group of partyers had boarded at about 4 in the morning and left. We went down to the Coast Guard to report the theft, but I don’t think the boat was ever found. Of course, they kept the key on the boat next to the helm.

A number of years ago, we had some friends visiting and we all decided to go out for a sunset sail. I told Peter that we needed to go back to the house to get my seasick medicine. He said it was a fairly calm day and I wouldn’t need it. He lived to regret those words mightily. When we got out of the lee of the island, it was not too rough, but there were swells and the schooner was heeling so that standing was difficult. Well it wasn’t long before I was sick and Peter took off his cap, which soon overflowed. To say that we were not the most popular people on the boat, well, Peter told me I could at least raise my head to look at the sunset. Right. I could say after that he always heeded my dire words of prediction, but that probably wouldn’t be true.

IMG_0368Peter took the family out on a Charter boat on Christmas Eve. It was a morning half-day trip. The one on the boat from Indiana was not sure she was up to going, but when morning came she decided to go. It wasn’t a rough trip; they stayed inside the reef, just a half hour ride out. Two were sick or queasy, one not too interested. Two really got into it, especially the one from Indiana. She wants to go deep sea fishing next time and catch a sailfish and have it mounted on the wall. I of the iron stomach, of course, stayed home.


Christmas in Key West

IMG_0161Many years ago when my son was a teenager, we were visiting my parents and were out bicycle riding one afternoon a few days before Christmas. It had been raining and somehow that added poignancy to my Christmas story. We were heading down South Street to the Southernmost Point and stopped as some commotion was going on there. Someone had put up a ragtag Christmas tree and there were several men playing Christmas carols badly. They had probably had very little practice time, but they were doing a creditable job. The Conch Tour Train had stopped and the people. on the train had got off and were dancing in the street. It was quite a joyous scene. Olde Sol in the west was about to sink into the ocean. As the tip of the sun dipped into the water, the band started IMG_0174playing “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.” Everyone got very quiet and watched as the sun sank slowly into the ocean until out of sight. Then the band and Conch Train quietly left as evening descended and the lights came on. I turned to my son and said I don’t expect you’ll ever see anything like that ever again.

IMG_0165One Christmas when very young, my father took my brother and me to buy a tree. We went down the street to the little Cuban Store a few blocks away. Now, my father, always careful with his money, told us that we were going to find the worst tree on the lot and take it home and make it beautiful. Of course, the worst tree was also the least expensive, my father not about to spend good money on something he was going to throw away in a few weeks. I remember it cost $2.50. This was in the early 50’s. We took the tree home and Dad cut some branches off the bottom and tied them into the bare spots, trimmed the top a little, put the star on and the lights after we had untangled them. They were always a mess. The bubble lights were my favorite. We decorated the tree with IMG_0173round and bell shaped ornaments and put silver tinsel on it. When we finished, it was beautiful. In those days when a bulb burned out, the whole string went out and you had to try a new bulb in each socket until you found the burned out one. Very tedious, but my Mom turned on the tree each morning as we awoke and made sure it was brightly lit.

IMG_0169Today in Key West, there is a children’s Christmas Parade in early December, and a bicycle ride in mid December. The kids and a number of adults decorate their bikes with lights and ride around the island. They went right past our house the other night. A police car with Santa, led the parade. Peter went out and waved to them and most waved back. There must have been hundreds of bikes. They met at Bayview Park and went to Mallory Square and back to the park. They took a route that was easy to get around if you were in a car and in a hurry.

IMG_0181As a child growing up in Key West, I had never seen snow and we had no chimney, but Santa came each year in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. I remember waking up as a child and seeing my parents bringing toys into the house. My mother saw me and told me they were helping Santa, but I mustn’t see him or he would go away, so I should go back to bed and go to sleep. The innocence of five year olds must be kept for as long as possible.

There are some pictures of this year’s city lights interspersed in this post (notice how many snowmen there are in a city that hasn’t ever seen frost).

More Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah

One night in February, Uncle Fred who was a Harbor Pilot in Tampa invited Tommy, my cousin, and me to go with him when taking an Israeli freighter out of Port Tampa. I didn’t think this through nor ask too many questions. What an adventure. We boarded at the pier, had dinner in the ship’s mess, lox and kippers I think. We toured the ship and everything was fine until my Uncle Fred said it was time to leave the ship and led us out onto the deck. I envisioned an isle with a pier. I don’t know what I thought. As I said before I hadn’t thought this through. I said to Uncle Fred. Isn’t the ship going to stop? He said, “No, we’re going to climb down this ladder to the pilot boat below. I looked over the side at the pilot boat bobbing up and down in three-foot waves. It was forty feet down the side of the ship on a rope ladder. I said, “I’m not going to do that.” That’s when Uncle Fred said. Then you’re going to Venezuela. That’s when I realized that I was going to do that. When I got down I said to Tommy, “Well, that wasn’t too bad.” He said, “Yeah, they held the rope tight for you. They just let me bang around on the side of the ship.” He was not happy. Then we got to Egmont Key and overnighted. All the pilots had houses there and we stayed at Uncle Fred’s. When I looked in the bathroom mirror, I was black from head to foot. The house had heat but no hot water. I washed out my jeans and shirt in cold water and in the morning when we went over to the bunkhouse for breakfast, I put on my cold wet clothes. Then we took the boat back to Port Tampa.

This was my Uncle’s life. The pilots bought their jobs; the house on Egmont Key came with it. The pilots were on call night and day for two months and had the third month off. My Uncle Fred loved it. We spent many summer vacations on Egmont Key. The turtles would come and lay their eggs in the sand and my Mom and Aunt Sarah made Turtle Egg Soup. I remember that there were two large canvas hammocks on the front porch. We kids were always falling out of them onto the hard wooden floor. Not pleasant. We fished with adult help until the adult said, “If you’re going to fish, you have to bait your own hook and take your own fish off of it.” That just about did it for me. I started hunting for seashells.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah always played cards on Sunday afternoons and if someone knocked on the door, Aunt Sarah would grab all the cards and shove them in a drawer in case it was someone from church. Made everyone furious. One day, all we kids were in the car with her and a fire engine passed us. She immediately followed it and we went to the fire. She told us not to tell Uncle Fred because he hates it when she does that. Another time she sat me down and said, “I’m your godmother, and I’ve been negligent in that department. So how is your religious life going? ” Well at the time it wasn’t. We talked about it a little, because I didn’t have that much to talk about. Aunt Sarah always asked me about what was going on in my life, and never talked about hers. And I was too wrapped up in my own little world to ask.

Uncle Fred used to take me to the bus station for my 3-hour trip back to Tallahassee. He would buy me magazines and snacks and tell the bus driver to keep an eye on me. It was nice. Uncle Fred was a speed demon in a car and when the new Sunshine State Parkway opened, he came to Key West on it for the first time. When he got to the end, they ticketed him for speeding, since he could not possibly have made that distance in so short a time if he was obeying the speed limit. It was his first taste of Big Brother watching him. He was incensed. We all soon learned that you have to stop and have lunch when speeding on the turnpike.

After I met Peter, he invited me to Newport to meet his parents. I was twenty-two, teaching school and living at home. I told my father and he expressed strong disapproval; something about chasing halfway across the country after some man Very tawdry. I remember feeling mixed-up and uncertain about what to do and going into my bedroom and sitting on the side of the bed. Aunt Sarah came in and sat down next to me. She had heard my father. She said to me. “Listen, if that’s your man, you go get him and if you need the money, I’ll loan it to you.“ So I went and a few months later, Aunt Sarah had a stroke and died. She never got to meet Peter. I still to this day wonder about it all.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah

Uncle Fred was born in New Jersey. His parents were immigrants from Estonia. In the 1920s he was a young merchant marine man on a ship bound for places further south when he got Appendicitis and was taken in to the Marine Hospital in Key West. While recuperating, he was invited to dinner at the Curry home on Elizabeth Street. Fred was a handsome man, blond hair he wore in a crew cut, blue eyes and a personality bigger than life. All the young girls were dazzled and then shocked when he chose my Aunt Sarah to marry. Sarah had broken her hip as a child and it had not been set properly and one leg was decidedly shorter than the other and when I knew her she wore black lace-up shoes, her right shoe with a 2-inch platform on the sole and with a four-inch block heel. She walked with a decided limp. Boy would I love to know the story of that courtship. The family arranged for them to buy a house in Key West for back taxes when Fred got a job at the port in Ft. Lauderdale and Sarah went with him, and later to the port in Tampa Bay. The family was not happy about it.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah were my godparents. I have so many stories that this will probably take two blogs. My first memory of Uncle Fred was when he and Aunt Sarah were visiting during one of our downtown Saturday nights and we went to Kress with my father to get our toys my brother and I got each week. Uncle Fred went with us and wanted to buy me the biggest doll in the place. My father wouldn’t let him. I was not privy to the conversation but my father didn’t want me getting used to more than he could provide. I don’t remember being disappointed.

My Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah took me to the New Year’s Eve Orange Bowl parade in Miami. I was maybe seven. It was my first time away from my parents and I remember crying the night before we left. I was scared. Cathy my cousin went with us to the parade. It was fun.

My next memory was when I was nine; they took my brother and me fishing. We took a few sandwiches and went up the keys to a place underneath the start of the Bahia Honda Bridge. We used hand lines and when throwing the line out one time, I caught the hook on the back of my pants. Ouch. Despite my lack of fishing skills, I think we even caught a few small grunts that Uncle Fred took the hook out of and threw back into the ocean.

Then one summer when I was fourteen, Aunt Sarah took me to Washington, DC, where I went to the Washington Monument where I walked down the few thousand stairs. Whew, bad move. And to the Library of Congress and Mount Vernon, and later caught fireflies with my cousins, and was out playing in the twilight well past nine o’clock. We went next to Lakehurst, NJ where we stayed with Uncle Fred’s family and went to a Music Hall and I learned to do the Polka, and went swimming in a lake for the first time. Then we traveled to New York, and to Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building and to an Automat for lunch. We did this all by train and staying with family. For a young teenager who had only gone as far as Miami, that trip with my Aunt Sarah gave me a view into a bigger world. Speaking of bigger worlds, next week I will tell you about how on a dark night in February I almost went to Venezuela.

Sixth Grade

I looked at a classroom photo I found recently of my sixth grade class. It was the only class picture found in my box of old photos. I love digging around in there occasionally; I never know what I will find. The picture was a little bit torn and creased, the worse for wear sitting helter-skelter in a box, but there I was sitting at my desk, hands folded, two braids hanging down my chest, freckles across my nose, awkward smile, still a child, but sneaking peeks at life’s next adventure. I tried to remember what was happening and what it was like.

One thing I remember clearly is the day I got marched into the Principal’s office with an eraser on my head along with seven other girls. I think one other girl had an eraser on her head also. This is how it happened. Half of our class went to Music and the other half to PE. The girl’s PE teacher was absent and so there were the eight of us left in the classroom with no teacher. We decided to play eraser tag. Guess we were making a lot of noise and the school secretary below heard us and came up and marched us down to the Principal’s office. She made us keep the erasers on our heads to provide some visual evidence of our errant behavior I guess. We got a talking to. I don’t remember what he said. I just know that when I got home, he had called my mother. She didn’t elaborate just let me know. Today you practically have to commit a felony before a mother is called if they could even find her. In the 50’s, Moms were usually always home.

When we went to PE, we changed into a one-piece dark blue playsuit with our names embroidered on the front and put on sneakers and socks. We learned to play team sports, softball, volleyball, and girl’s basketball. I’ll bet all you guys and half of you gals don’t even know what girl’s basketball is. It was called six-on-six basketball. Their were three forwards from Team A and three guards from team B on the half court; and on the other half court three forwards from Team B and three guards from Team A. They were all not allowed to go past half court and were allowed only two dribbles before shooting or passing. It was really big in high schools in Iowa from the early1900’s to the 1970’s. I think our PE teacher was from Iowa. Could be. After several court cases from women’s libbers, it was fazed out.

After we played our game, we went back into the locker room, took a shower, dressed, put our stuff in a locker and went back to class. How we did all that in an hour I don’t know. I don’t suppose we dallied. That’s for sure.

Peter’s favorite comic strip is Big Nate, the trials and tribulations of a sixth grade boy. Nate is always in trouble at school. Mrs. Godfrey is his homeroom teacher. He hates her and she has it in for him. He is always in detention, is bigger than life, and is very optimistic about all his exploits. Boy-girl intrigue is starting up and causing problems among friends. Brings back memories of those years in middle school when you were cautiously anxious to stroll headlong into that teenage maelstrom. It is a fun read.