Sunday, December 9, 2018

181 Music madness

A month of music madness

Christmas music fills the month of December with traditional and not so traditional carols and jingles. The airwaves are flooded with the familiar words of the holy and commercial season. No one can escape it and I am one who doesn’t want to--I love the music.

As I think of the holidays, various songs seem to resonate with each phase of life. Their lyrics sticking with us for decades no matter religion, language, or ethnicity.
The buying frenzy is infiltrated with tunes by Perry Como and Bing Crosby crooning about a picturesque holiday “White Christmas” with snow as well as family gatherings “No Place Like Home for the Holidays” that can’t be missed. Lovely sentiments pour out of the speakers with hopes that all will come true as projected-- I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

As children, the magic was palpable as we eagerly awaited Santa propelled by his trusty reindeer. “Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer.” 
Plus making a list to send Santa was on our minds, making sure we behaved at least for the weeks leading up to the big day, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

As we aged out of the Santa phase, the holidays became more about what we were doing over the holidays, such as short-term jobs, buying for that special someone, parties, and appropriate attire -- “Blue Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Music gave us more incentives to handle what was coming, “Sleigh Bells” and “Deck the Halls.”

Marriage and children added another dimension as we went back to the Santa days we go--hiding gifts, adding a few surprises, and trying to keep the true meaning of the holiday in the forefront, “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”
Who could ever forget Gene Autry singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his very distinctive manner, or Roy Rodgers crooning a myriad of carols and jingles?

The music continues as children leave home and return with their children and we go back to Santa, doll babies, festive clothes, trees, food, etc. “Deck the Halls” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Even special stations are named Holly and the like and play the holiday music non-stop. And some of the songs are not so traditional as “Momma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Grinch.” Plus, we find the very young entertainers performing renditions of the more traditional versions of the songs – often as good but not always. Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” and the Hawaiian Christmas song just aren’t the same without his soulful crooning.

But Willis Nelson has a knack for singing any of the traditional songs and they sound great no matter how he does it.
And so it continues as we see a cycle of holiday traditions come back with the music scrolling through it all – in the stores as we shop, on the radio and electronic devices, and streaming through many different sources. Certain ones will bring back a particular or place where we remember hearing it or dancing to it--“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” with Brenda Lee. I personally prefer her version as I remember it as a teen, but others have made attempts that are admirable.

Or a church service where “Noel” and “Adeste Fideles” were sung with heartfelt gusto. The words come back to mind as we hear the familiar renditions. I often can’t remember what day of the week it is. but the lyrics of the carols come rushing forward.
Of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks have brightened the holidays with various renditions of many songs. I guarantee a smile will grace your face when the little rascals start to sing.

No matter what the preference in music styles and artists, holiday songs can be found by almost every artist. The only bad part of all of this is the day or week after Christmas, it all fades away until next December. Sometimes I would like the music to stay a little longer but then it might become ordinary!


Sunday, December 2, 2018

180 Manuscript estate planning

What about your papers?

A few blogs ago, I talked about estate planning but the frustrations I have encountered in my research about Judge Richard Parker, the judge who sentenced John Brown to hang in 1850, made me realize that I had overlooked an important topic.

Judge Parker's will made me wonder what kind of a lawyer he was! His will is dated July 24, 1888. Parker died five years later in 1893 so perhaps he was not at his sharpest when he wrote the will although he does follow the legal niceties well (from my limited knowledge, that is).

He does allocate certain items such as family china, silver, Bible and prayer books, and photographs to specific relatives. He had no children and his wife had died in 1887. He states in the will, "The residue of my property is of such small worth that it would be of but little help to any." So he divided it among his sisters' children and the children of his wife's sister. "Share and share alike," said Parker in his will. With so many heirs, all they could do was to sell everything and divide the proceeds.

But, Richard Parker, what about your correspondence, your journals and diaries, your ledgers, your business records, your books? Gone, all gone!

I have been tracking down his papers. Fortunately, one man made it his mission to collect everything related to John Brown, including Judge Parker. Boyd B. Stutler, 1889-1970,
created one of the most important John Brown collections in existence, and the West Virginia Archives acquired the collection in 1977. They received a grant from the federal government to digitize over 20,000 pages of the collection and make the digitized documents available to the public. 

Stutler also published an article on Parker in the Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society in 1953. Unfortunately, he provided no footnotes or bibliography in the article, but I was able to locate most of his sources in the West Virginia John Brown/Boyd B. Stutler collection.

The Handley Archives has a copy of a manuscript Civil War diary by Parker that is owned by the Library of Congress that purchased it in 1984. 

The University of Virginia owns the twelve-page catalog of Parker's books, so about 280 of his books were sold at auction. But having the list is a bonus! 

There is also a large collection of Richard Parker materials at the Chicago History Museum. Other items that I have not yet seen are at the University of Maryland and Stanford University. I am still searching to find more manuscript materials!

Maybe our personal papers would not be as valuable as those of Judge Parker, but I bet all of us have something that might be useful to future historians. Even If your children and grandchildren are getting all your photographs--can they identify all the relatives and friends pictured in them? Local archives might also like one or two of you and all your ancestors--of course, everyone should be identified. 

Diaries, journals, and business ledgers are often useful to historians. Letters describing war experiences and other important events are another item. Even if you don't want to give local archives originals of these materials, they would be happy with good copies.

I realize too that we did not specify in our will who gets our research materials about Civil War relics, Frederick County Courthouse history, and Judge Parker materials. More estate planning--and photo labeling to do!

So what about your papers? Don't forget to get them in order, labeled, and mentioned in your will!


Sunday, November 25, 2018

179 Walt, the Mouse, and Me

Walt, the Mouse, and Me

Ambivalent is the perfect word to describe my feelings about the whole Walt Disney enterprise. 

My grandfather, known as Pop-Pop, and I used to go to movies almost every Sunday afternoon that we could steal away from family. You Boomers will recall that Sunday afternoon drives with a stop by to see relatives were a very common happening. 

So, Pop-Pop and I went to matinees. We had an escape the relatives date! We saw whatever was on. Didn’t matter--saw war movies, corny slapstick movies, romances, film noir (not that I knew what that was), and Disney movies.

My first Disney movie was Cinderella. I was four years old. Oh, my, how entranced I must have been. I was sure that a fairy godmother was going to make me royal. I don’t think I gave much thought to the prince. It was so much more about the dress and the shoes and the ball. And the dress had to be blue! What great expectations Walt Disney gave me. False ones! 

The Disney movie was preceded by a cartoon. I remember the newsreels more than I remember the cartoons, but I am sure I saw many a Mickey Mouse cartoon. So this year is Mickey’s 90th birthday and Cinderella had to have been at least 18 in the film so she’s at least 85 years old. What a long and thriving enterprise Walt Disney created.

Why, you may be asking, am I still ambivalent about all this? Okay. I was probably a preteen or teenager before I could definitely say which picture was the Biltmore Estate and which was Cinderella’s castle.

[I was afraid to use a REAL photo of the Disney castle as I do not want to get sued. I understand that is a reality for using photos without permission.] Besides, when Disney decided on the parks, he bought up all the surrounding land (often under shell corporations) to protect the largest size area he thought could ever be needed) 

I lived in an ordinary house. I had no turrets and no fairy godmother. Why not? Remember: “If you wish upon a star, makes no difference….” Phooey! This is more like reality: 

While I maintain that Disney lets us confuse reality and imagination, here are some aspects of Disney that I appreciate and admire. Number one is MARKETING!

Walt Disney was truly an entrepreneur – stories, films, parks, songs – all ubiquitous. His castles and other parts of the parks are all about perspective. Next time you visit a Disney theme park, look at the size of the boulders and trees on the Matterhorn to make the mountain appear bigger than it really is. He was able, and taught his employees, to use perspective to make bigger, more impressive scenes.

And Disney’s attention to detail is exquisite. Did you know (I read it in a Disney magazine -which I did not purchase - at a bookstore) that there are vents on Main Street in the parks that pump out scents according to the season – usually vanilla until fall, then cinnamon. Crazy brilliant.

Another canny idea that Disney incorporates (and I am not sure I understand HOW he does it) but the parks and movies and the available souvenirs seem and are so accessible and yet carry with them a touch of being exclusive – a cut above the rest. Fans, therefore, WANT to interact with his brands.

Next, I chatted with an old friend of mine who worked for several years at Disney in Florida. He would not tell me his character, but here a few of his insightful memories.

  • You are not an employee; you are a cast member (remember exclusive)
  • Rules are strict – princesses must be between 5’4” and 5’8” and a size “very, very small”
  • Cast members have extensive training--i.e. school--so almost any question can be answered
  • Cast members could not point with ONE finger--two or more fingers or the whole hand
  • Lost children were announced as “children with lost adults” (kind of thoughtful, actually)
  • Social media and electronics (including cell phones) are banned at work; absolutely NO SELFIES at work
  • All cast members are responsible for keeping the parks clean--all of them help
  • If you leave something behind at a Disney establishment, it is stored for a few weeks. After that, cast members can purchase the items.
  • Don’t get caught in the broom closet with another cast member. You will be fired on the spot.
  • No gum chewing, no tattoos, no beards, no visible piercings. Only Gaston can have long hair. 
  • Do not try to drink alcohol in the park--wait ‘til you get back to your Disney suite. There are undercover, plainclothes agents on patrol in the parks not only for alcohol but for pedophiles, particularly around water rides.
Now, a final word or two about Mickey Mouse. November 18th was his birthday; I am a bit late in wishing a happy birthday to him (or rather Steamboat Willy, his original iteration). 

Now, this date, if you follow – even for fun – astrological signs, here is a bit about Mickey. (Yes, still ambivalent!) Is it ironic that the Scorpio sign is an M? No--just coincidental, I am sure!
From a website called, I have paraphrased their findings. Scorpios live their lives as if they are the center of attention and always on a theatrical stage. In opposition to this element of their personality, they are focused on financial achievement through “unorthodox ways.” (No explanation given.) People find the Scorpio “mystifyingly mysterious” which makes him stand out among peers. Scorpios are deeply connected to family and friends and want to make the world a better place. (Well, yes and no!)

In the end, do I thank Walt Disney or am I still just a little cynical that so much positivity can seem like sugar overload and unrealistic dreams – particularly for little girls? But, whatever I think and whatever you think, here’s a belated wish to the

Savvy? Glenne                     

Sunday, November 18, 2018

178 Coke or Pepsi

Coke or Pepsi

More and more restaurant servers will ask after a soft drink is ordered--we only have Pepsi or we only have Coke. Is that okay?

My answer is always no if it is Pepsi. I have no idea why I don’t like Pepsi while I love Coca-Cola. 
My husband will take either so he always makes me look bad.


 I don’t remember being asked that question until recent time. Why they don’t offer both, I guess, has something to do with expenses or market coverage. It is rare for an eatery to offer both popular cola drinks.

The history of soda-pop drinks is lengthy and complex with the changing of recipes and the addition of other popular flavors, such as Sprite and Dr. Pepper. (I grew up using the term “pop” but that seems to be a regional use of the word).

These types of drinks actually date back to the late 1800s, but the availability was not what it is today. Coke was developed in 1886 by John S. Pemberton while Pepsi followed in 1898 by Caleb Bradham.

Bottles and cans are part of the history that included recipes with tremendous amounts of sugar (pounds and pounds). Some people prefer glass bottles and swear that it tastes better. When plastic came on the scene, bottles were made of the softer material. Metal cans also cause various opinions to surface--some people cannot abide by the taste of the soda pop in a can.

Fountain drinks are also popular and some people swear by them. The combination of carbonation has to be just right or the drink will not have the taste we have come to love and desire. Sometimes I ask for no ice since it often melts too quickly and waters it down.

One major recent theme is the reduction of sugar in almost all of the offerings. Diet drinks were offered in the 1960s but the healthy aspects have plagued the drinks.

Soda pop was not a common drink in households in the 1950s and 1960s, at least not in mine. We were allowed a drink maybe on Sundays or on a special occasion. My maternal grandfather would always bring us ice cream and sodas (always Coca-Cola) on our birthdays. That may have started my preference for Coca-Cola.

Certain menu items seem to be paired nicely with sodas--pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers. But some people start the day with a soda no matter what they are eating.

No matter your preference--Coke or Pepsi--there seems to be a certain satisfaction in downing the caffeine-riddled concoction. Headaches, tummy aches, and other ailments seem to dwindle once a soda is consumed. That may not be accurately or scientifically proven, but it often works for me.

Just this year, Bloomberg noted the biggest cola rivalry in history is still in full swing no matter how the market changes. The cola drinks are still the most popular of both companies. 

Vending machines have also survived through the ages where the glass bottles used to be available through doors that were opened once the money was registered. Now the plastic bottle or metal can is dropped down a chute to land in the slot for retrieval. There is nothing quite like a cold cola on a hot day, arriving through the trappings of the magical vending machine.

So what is the most common answer when a server asks if Pepsi is okay? Don’t believe there are stats on that, but I will continue to say no. The serves often give me a stunned look since most people probably say it is okay (someone like my husband), but it is not okay to me. I like a Coke and that will probably never change.

                   Coca-Cola fan Frances

Sunday, November 11, 2018

177 No clear answer

No Clear Answer

Glenne and I seem to produce a fair number of blogs in which we explore a topic of interest to us and then tell you about our research.

Well, I started out on another hunt. I have shared with you my obsession with collecting reading figures, some for real and the tacky ones in a virtual collection.
From the Ridgeway Virtual Collection
I also have a small collection of made in Japan very small ceramic dogs. It started with one my mother-in-law owned.
You can see by the ruler, mom is about 2 inches and the puppy is one inch. It is not a quality piece but I thought it was fun and mentioned it to my sister who found me another.
Three puppies at their feeding bowl--just about 3 inches. It is hard to find low quality pieces this small. I think even at the thrift store, they may throw them out, but I have found or been given a few more.

I keep them all on a small table with another statue that is in the same scale. 
Getting back to my original point--It may be difficult to read, but all but one say "Japan" or "Made in Japan" in black ink. So I thought I would research the marks to see what I could find out.

There is some interesting history involved in dating Japanese ceramics. Japan has been making ceramics since Neolithic times. In the 17th century, the Dutch East Indies Company supplied Japanese craftsmen with wooden version of European pots and exported the porcelain versions back to Europe. After the 1860s, the Japanese began flooding with porcelain ware that was cheaper than the European and American products but equal in quality.
In a much earlier tariff war, the McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 ruled that imported items must be labeled with the country of origin. From 1891 to 1921 the Japanese items were labeled "Nippon," the Japanese word for "Japan." In 1921 the United States said the the mark must be in English, hence the word "Japan." The words "Made in" were added over time.  The one definite dating is the phrase "Made in occupied Japan," which runs from 1945 to 1952. 

So I thought I had a few facts straight then I found the articles:



After reading numerous web pages and finding the experts could not identify many of the marks since many small factories were lost during the war. And I also learned that the color of the lettering does not help with the dating at all--unless it is a blue rubber stamp as in the image above.

So I still know that my tiny dogs have very little value--I did see 3 dogs on a leash for $10 on eBay, but would anyone buy it? But now I know there is no good answer to the date but as cheap as they are, I am thinking 1950s or 1960s. Anything more recent would say "Made it in China"!

More befuddled than Savvy Trish           

Sunday, November 4, 2018

176 OED Update

The OED - An Update

Keeping up with words is both instructive and fun. A good way to check on what new words are acceptable and not just current slang is whether that word has been entered into the Oxford English Dictionary, fondly called the OED. 

A little background shows us why the OED, published by the Oxford University Press, is the authority--yes, the definitive--dictionary of all dictionaries.
Work began on the first OED in 1857 and was published in 1894 in unbound installments.  You will chuckle at the original title, I think: A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society. In 1895, the words “Oxford English Dictionary “were first printed on the covers of the series. The OED was finally published as a 10-volume bound set in 1928. 

An updated version, OED3, was begun in 2000 and is still in preparation--with a completion date of 2037! A spokesperson for Oxford University Press says this version probably will not be printed but in electronic form only.
There are 59 million words in the 2nd edition along with 2.4 million quotations and etymologies running 21,737 pages. Some of our most used words like “run” and “make” have the longest entries because of the many different uses and senses of these words. Available are also reduced size OED editions which come in a slipcase with a magnifying glass. And that magnifying glass is a must.

So that I stay legitimate (and legal), the above history was gleaned from an article in The Guardian, February 2018, entitled “Inside the OED: Can the World’s Biggest Dictionary Survive the Internet?” by Andrew Dickson as well as from the overview paragraph of the OED on Wikipedia.

From www., I found the explanation of how new words are chosen for the updates of the OED: in order to be entered into the OED, a word or definition must satisfy certain evidentiary requirements. For example, there must be widespread evidence in a variety of sources, attested over a significant period of time. The OED is a historical dictionary which aims to cover the full thousand-year history of English, so it tends to wait a bit before adding neologisms, to ensure that they have staying power.

The following is a list of a VERY, VERY few of the 1400 new entries considered for 2018. Many of the other words are new uses of words already in the OED. Some words, however, are really new! At least, they were new to me.

Nothingburger – a person or thing of no importance

Idiocracy – a society governed by people characterized as idiots (I like this!)

Asshat – an addition to “ass” meaning one of obnoxious behavior

Fam – a shortened version of family but also meaning close friends and fellow members of a particular group

Belly bump – an addition to pregnancy slang but with the meaning a fast, downhill ride on a sled

Dump cake – a simple cake made by dumping all the ingredients together at one time; thought now to be a variation on “dumb cake” when women cooked together without speaking

Preppers – people who prepare for something be it a catastrophe or a party

Bonified – a now acceptable version of bona fide (huh?)

Updation – the nominalization of updating

Bongga – from the Philippine Tagalog language which has moved into other language families – meaning impressive or generally excellent

[List from Katherine Connor Martin, Head of Dictionaries, US at]

AND, surprisingly – D’OH – from Homer Simpson made the OED in 2001!

Well, Readers, have you any words that you think OED should consider? You can send them to the many OED editors for consideration. I think I am most shocked/surprised/amazed/ amused that “bonified” is now a real OED word. Thoughts?

Savvy (?) Glenne        

Sunday, October 28, 2018

175 Halloween mysteries

Mysteries of Halloween

This time of year is one of mystery and wonder—what will the weather be, what costumes will be popular, and how much and which candy will be given out. Of course, this is Halloween season which is either loved or detested by the masses.

There are decisions on both sides--what to buy to give out and what to wear to add a measure of surprise and intrigue. Or even if households will take part in the evening march house to house to fill bags with loot. Some may even decide to not turn on the porch light and ignore the knocks at the door.

I have always enjoyed this holiday but not in the way some people go absolutely bonkers with decorations and costumes. I put out a pumpkin and put an orange ribbon on my wreath--no stress for me. I usually buy several bags of goodies that we may want if we don’t get the hundreds who often stop by.

During my childhood years, we would throw on anything we could find around the house (dressing up as hobos and gypsies) and add tons of makeup--that was the real thrill since we were never allowed to touch it any other time of year. We would never think about spending money on a costume and I am not sure they were readily available.

Halloween gave us freedom not only with how much makeup we could slather on our faces but also going out trick or treating on our own--just us kids with no adults.

Of course, we knew the limits and stayed in the neighborhood avoiding suspect houses we knew would not be welcoming while carrying our trusty bars of soap.

One of our main stops was our grandfather’s grocery store, Victory Market, which was around the corner. Uncle Jimmy (most of us who were on the candy run were related – either cousins or sister and brothers) would greet us at the door and said no candy for you. We then proceeded to soap the large store windows on both sides of the building.

Then he would come back out with candy and beg us to stop. This was a ritual we all participated in each year giving us all a great deal of pleasure especially with unspoken permission to soap the windows. We left no tiny spot uncovered with our robust machinations. We did feel a tiny bit guilty the next day when one of the employees of the store had to spend hours cleaning up the mess, but that didn’t last for long.

Halloween for my kids in the mid-1970s and early 1980s took on a new meaning. Plastic costumes of popular cartoon and movie characters enticed the youngsters away from homemade varieties. We gave in after a few years and let them buy the trendy products.

In addition, they were always escorted door to door and definitely no soap was involved. Boy, did they miss out, but times changed and safety was paramount.
For our grandkids, Halloween has been similar as it was for their parents with purchased costumes and guided trick or treat. Costumes are a little more creative like a cup of Starbucks coffee. The internet has assisted in this endeavor as just about anything can be ordered with endless possibilities.

Our daughter adores Halloween so she made it very special when her girls were young concocting costumes that were envied by many. She misses it now that the girls are too old for the rituals. But many adults continue this passion into amazing costume parties and contests to judge the best. 

Our son’s family gets into as a group since their daughter was born Oct. 29. Many of her parties require costumes for everyone.

As far as treats, some have come and gone (pop rocks) but the basics remain--Hershey bars, Reese cups plus some healthier options including pretzels and trail mix. No more handmade items even if you know the person who made them are given out to young revelers. Dangerous events have happened to curtail this and often not even in your area or state, but we must be cautious.

The most bizarre of rituals surrounding the holiday was when at a young age I would accompany my mother and other family members to light candles at the cemetery on All Souls Day Nov 2. Not sure if this was Catholic or Italian or both but we never missed. Votive candles were placed around the tombs or graves and lit while prayers were said for the souls of the deceased who might not have been in heaven yet so we tried to give them a boost out of purgatory.

We always went around dusk, not sure if this was intentional or not, but it added a layer of intrigue. It was actually a pretty picture. Most of the graves close by were friends and family members so we didn’t neglect any of them.

Considering it was forest fire season in the mountains, it was amazing we weren’t arrested, but great attention was given to make sure the candles were extinguished with love and care. I miss those days and wish I could ask my mother more questions about the practice but she has been gone for 20 years. I must rely on my memories to keep the pictures vivid in my mind. Wish I had some photos but we never took any--no cell phones to record everything as we do now!

Whatever the degree of Halloween celebrated, enjoy it in the best way that suits what you like!!


Sunday, October 21, 2018

174 Cloud illusions

I was a passenger on a recent long road trip where the sky was starkly blue and filled with clusters of cumulous clouds. Of course, the first thing I thought of was "I've looked at castles everywhere--from up and down [In my case--left and right]--and still somehow, it's cloud's illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all."

Well, Joni Mitchell, what is wrong with illusions? I can go much further than "Rows and flows of angel hair and feather canyons everywhere." How about a very muscular giant with a bulbous nose that morphs into a poodle? (The giant, not the nose) Or a covey of gossiping cupids that become a sea turtle? The possibilities are endless and fun!

I also saw Poseidon and Pegasus. Think about a world where the clouds and the stars (along with the rest of the natural world) were the only entertainment. No wonder we have such a rich mythology from every civilization. I imagine the Greeks witnessed many battles over Mt. Olympus.

A number of years ago we took a trip with a restive 5-year old. I wasn't having much luck keeping him happy with stories or jokes, but then I pointed to the Blue Ridge Mountains in front of us and said that some folks thought they were sleeping giants.
Eventually, my husband got tired of the lad's endless descriptions of the body parts of giants, but isn't imagination a wonderful thing?

I saw the photo on the left in Facebook with the caption, "Proof that all dogs go to heaven."  Perhaps if I spend less time communing with flickering screens and more time enjoying the left and right and up and downs of nature, I'll find Tootsie in the sky . . . with diamonds!                                      Trish