Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas 1969

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Wendy and Mary Jollette Christmas 1969
Wendy and Mary Jollette
Christmas 1969

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Squeezebox Christmas

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is intended to inspire the “Homo Sepians” (Thank-you, TICKLEBEAR, for that brilliant new word!) to blog about Christmas.  But along with Santa in that photo is a happy chap playing the accordion.  I can do Christmas anytime, but when will I ever get another chance to feature the much-maligned “squeezebox”?

When my dad was a teen, he was responsible for getting his sister, my Aunt Betty, to her accordion lessons.  I always found that to be funny.  Betty?  Playing the accordion??  I just couldn’t picture it.  After all, as long as I’ve known her she has never owned an accordion.  She doesn’t even seem especially interested in music except for playing CDs on her Bose Wave. 

But play the accordion, she did. 

Beverly Slade Anderson with accordion
Aunt Betty with accordion

Now, I must confess that I am not a fan of accordion music.  Intellectually I know that playing requires coordination and skill, but emotionally the sound of the accordion coupled with visions of Lawrence Welk and polka dancers makes it difficult for me to appreciate whatever artistry the accordion can produce.

That might explain why this is my favorite cartoon:

Tired of the abuse, accordionists found someone else to kick around:

There is no denying the popularity of the accordion, however, especially in the 1940s when Aunt Betty was a student.  I join Betty’s accordion teacher in wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Beverly Slade Anderson's music teacher

Please visit Sepia Saturday to see if other bloggers were able to combine the accordion and Christmas so seamlessly.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Calendar: Christmas Music

Geneabloggers is once again hosting the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encouraging family historians to write about their holiday traditions.

Nan Tucker Ringers Aldersgate UMC 2012
Nan Tucker Ringers 2012
Raised row left to right:  Bryan, Brenda, Jim, Perry, Ron
Going around the tables left to right:  Gail, Karen, Valerie,
Kim, Dee, Linda, Connie, our director Sue,
ME, Kathy, Anne
(photo courtesy of Mike McCoy)

Nothing says “Christmas” like the sound of English handbells.  The handbell choir at my church plays throughout the year, but the bulk of our repertoire is Christmas music.  When December rolls around, we are quite busy playing for nursing homes, a local garden center’s Poinsettia Tour and Holiday Gala, and the Community Christmas Celebration.

We are a 5-octave choir.  My main bells are D and E 5; if you can picture piano keys, that’s the D and E above middle C.  It’s a hot-spot musically, meaning I play all the time unlike the very high bells and very low bells that add so much color to a piece. That doesn't mean I'm better than they are.  In fact, it's easier to play a lot. When you play only now and then, it's easy to lose count and miss a measure.  If you play at the wrong time, it's almost always very obvious in a not-so-good way.

If you would like to hear the Nan Tucker Ringers of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, click on the church name and then scroll to one of these dates:
  • 12/19/2010 – a 30-minute Christmas program from 2010
  • 11/22/2009 – 2 pieces for Thanksgiving.  Select one of these if you don’t want to sit through 30-minutes of bell music.

I’m not sure why there is nothing more recent.  

Merry Christmas!

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Peace!

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Mary Davis Slade, Mary Jollette Slade Pollock, Wendy Slade Mathias
Momma, Mary Jollette, Me
Could we be any more relevant in 1970, giving the Peace sign?
Don't ask me why we're on our knees.

See the pink wig stand?  I got a wig for Christmas in preparation for the next semester at Madison College (now James Madison University).  I was signed up for swimming and needed to be able to get from the pool to my next class looking presentable in the days before blow-dryers.   

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Calendar: Christmas Stockings

Geneabloggers is once again hosting the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encouraging family historians to write about their holiday traditions.

This post is a revision of two Advent entries from 2011.

Our family Christmas stockings are more decorative than functional.  Only a couple stocking stuffers actually ever fit. 

My stocking was made by my mother from a pattern that she drew herself.  The fabric is a heavy cotton, maybe a good quality of muslin, certainly not as heavy as canvas.  She cut out a tree and star from felt and sewed them on by hand.  She attached some plastic berries, pinecones encased in yarn, and a jingle bell for the toe.  There is no loop for hanging, so the stocking simply lay on the hearth.  On Christmas morning the stocking was placed among the Santa gifts to distinguish my gifts from my sister’s gifts. 

Christmas stocking

Momma’s sewing and crafting skills obviously improved greatly over the years.  When the grandkids came along, she made them some fancy shmancy stockings.  She smocked my girls’ names on the top part of the stocking made from red and white polka dotted fabric.  White eyelet lace and a jingle bell completed the look.

Christmas stockings

When my sister and I became adults and were on our own, believe it or not, Santa continued to bring a stocking.  However, our stocking was no longer a stocking.

It was a shopping bag.  A big one.

Christmas 2009
See the shopping bag stockings!

The bag could be filled with any variety of goodies from hand lotion to earrings to slippers to kitchen gadgets to underwear to frying pans.  Many years we got underwear AND a frying pan.  Shopping bag gifts are not necessarily small nor necessarily cheap.

Mary Jollette and Christmas Shopping Bag

After our parents passed away, my sister and I decided to continue the Shopping Bag tradition because that was truly our most anticipated gift to open on Christmas morning.  What would be in that bag?  Some flavored coffee?  New gardening gloves?  A piece of our china?  Vintage pillow cases?  A bell jar?  Maybe underwear and a frying pan.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Lovers adrift

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows lovers kissing across two vessels.  If we carry that image to its logical conclusion, those boats will drift apart, and the lovers will be separated.

The symbolism implied in the photo extends to the story of my great aunt and uncle, Catherine Walsh and Steve Barany.  

Steve and Catherine Barany

Could two people look any happier?
Steve and Catherine Barany

Steve and Catherine Barany

In her teen years my aunt Betty (Beverly Slade Anderson) visited Aunt Cat and Uncle Steve in their Washington D.C. home many times.

Jackie, Steve, Betty in Washington, D.C.
Jackie, Steve Barany, Betty (Beverly Slade Anderson)

Aunt Betty said Cat and Steve were lots of fun.  Steve made sure to show Betty and her friend Jackie a good time, usually going to hockey games and other sporting events, but they also toured the historic sites of Washington D.C.

Cat and Steve were loved by their neighbors.  They had lots of friends and enjoyed parties.

Steve and Catherine Barany
Steve and Catherine Barany on the left
with neighbors on the right

Steve and Catherine Barany at a party
At what appears to be a birthday or New Years party,
Catherine and Steve are on the front row, far right.

Catherine Barany
Front row: Cat is smoking and wearing a dark striped
sweater.  I wonder what the tags were for.  

But there’s a dark side to their story. 

By day, Steve was a machinist in the Navy Yard.  By night, he was a bookie.  He ran his business in the basement of their home.  No one was allowed to answer the phone except him.  If the call was for Cat or Betty, he rang a little bell to let them know to pick up the phone upstairs. 

The Barany household must have been much like that of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Cat and Steve fought too much.  They also drank too much. Maybe that came with Steve’s business.  Maybe it was part of the Irish curse that Cat would become an alcoholic like her brother and two of her sisters. 

So like lovers on two different boats, Cat and Steve drifted apart.  Although legally separated, they continued to share the house in Washington D.C. for many years until Cat decided to return home to Portsmouth to be closer to her sisters.   In 1969, Cat and Steve died within months and miles of each other. 

Please visit Sepia Saturday for more stories of hugs and kisses, hello’s and good-bye’s, boats, and lovers.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Oh Christmas Tree

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Christmas tree on Eastwind 1946
from my dad's scrapbook
of photos of his time in Thule, Greenland
The sailors aboard the USCGC Eastwind had at least two Christmas trees in 1946.
Christmas tree on Eastwind 1946

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent Calendar: Other Traditions

Geneabloggers is once again hosting the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encouraging family historians to write about their holiday traditions.

This was originally published in 2011, but pictures have been added.

Opening gifts on Christmas morning takes us HOURS.  Yes, HOURS.  But we love it and would never change it.  We are always bent double with laughter and our sides ache for much of the day.  That’s because of our gift tags.  No “Love, Mom & Dad” or “Merry Christmas from Wendy” or “No peeking! From Aunt Kek” for us.  That’s kid’s stuff. 

Mary Jollette reading a gift tag 2009
My sister studies the gift tag on her present.

Years ago my mother, weary from signing “Love Momma and Daddy” on countless gift tags, began our tradition of giving clues to the contents of the box.  Her first offerings were simple.  A red, white, and blue skirt and sweater set was signed “From the Patriots.”  The next year, clues got more sophisticated.  A box of underwear was signed “From Chapmans,” a company that made seat covers.  Get it? 

Wendy reading a gift tag 2010As everyone quickly caught on to those “obvious” clues, the next level of difficulty required recipients to make logical connections.  Consider a gift signed “FBI.”  Hmm.  FBI -- Undercover agents -- Ah ha – UNDERWEAR! 

Oh, but even that is WAY too simple by our standards today.  Can you guess what was in the box from these clues?  I’ll start you off with some easy ones:

  1. From Roger Bannister
  2. From Jesse Owens
  3. From Helen speaks
  4. From the Nazis
  5. From the quotable Judy Carne
  6. From Sitting out a year

I’ll give you a minute to think.

Jordan and Zoe 2011
Jordan is reading the clue carefully.
Will she be able to guess what's in the box?

Time’s up.  Here are the answers:

  1. White sweater  (Bannister was the first to break the 4-minute mile.  He probably sweat.  And he was white.)
  2. Black sweater (famous black track & field athlete.  He probably sweat too.)
  3. Wawa gift card (reference to Helen Keller’s first spoken words when she finally associated water with fingerspelling – you had to see the movie “The Miracle Worker” to appreciate this clue.)
  4. Brown shirt (reference to the uniforms worn by the paramilitary organization)
  5. Socks (are you old enough to remember “Sock it to me – Sock it to me”?)
  6. Red shirt
You have to be a master Googler to correctly guess what’s in a box from “Tattersall’s horse market” or “The Irish and Canadian fascists.”

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sepia Saturday: OMG

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is an ad for Osh Kosh overalls. 

Nothing says “Osh Kosh B’Gosh” like these girly overalls:

Catherine Barany and friend
Aunt Cat on the left
Unidentified friend - and she's probably glad of it!

That’s a friend of my great-aunt Catherine Barany sporting the striped overalls-esque jumpsuit, which definitely falls into the category of “what was she thinking?”  

Oh My Gosh!

When I first saw this photo, I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a man or woman.  But once my eyes got adjusted, I noticed the bra-style top (which could have benefited from some built-in support, by the way).  

The jumpsuit was not a new phenomenon, having been worn by women in the factories as early as 1913.  But the style caught on as a high-fashion must-have in the 1930s and 40s.  Evidently Cat’s friend was right in style, especially with her matching shoes.

Overall, there’s more to see at Sepia Saturday.

PS - Some readers of last week's Sepia Saturday entry about the swimming hole asked for more information about how Naked Creek got its name.  Read the update HERE.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Naked Creek

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

As part of my participation in the Sepia Saturday group, I recently posted a story about the Blue Hole, a local swimming hole in Naked Creek, located in both Rockingham County and Page County, Virginia.  Blue Hole and Naked Creek have been ingrained in my family memory for as long as I can remember, so it never occurred to my feeble blogging brain that the name “Naked Creek” would spark such interest.  Comments ranging from “sounds like a place to go skinny dipping” to “we want to know MORE about Naked Creek” sent me on a research mission to get the full story.

And here’s the naked truth:  there is no story.  At least not one that is even mildly titillating. 

I checked my resources which include a couple pages from a Page County gazetteer and a book on the history of the town of Shenandoah.  I even found Dr. John Wayland’s History of Rockingham County online.  He’s the go-to expert on everything about the Shenandoah Valley, and if he had nothing on Naked Creek, there must be nothing to say. 
According to the gazetteer, Naked Creek is a right-handed tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, which forms about six miles of the boundary between Page and Rockingham counties.  Exciting?  But there’s more.  


There are falls.  Yes, Naked Creek Falls is a cascade of the East Branch of Naked Creek between Long Ridge and Powell Mountain.  An experienced hiker can bushwhack his way to the falls from the Skyline Drive, but there is no real trail.  If you don’t feel adventurous, you can enjoy the photos posted at one of these 2 spots:

Shenandoah Views (I use Google Chrome.  If I use Internet Explorer, this page gets garbled.)

Where there are falls, there are mountains.  Naked Mountain was an early name for part of the Blue Ridge Mountains that was mentioned in surveys as early as 1771.

Did I stop there with my research?  Heck no.  Surely there has to be a story, some explanation for how the creek got its name.  I checked the various genealogy forum message boards on the off-chance that someone might have asked about the history of Naked Creek.  And I found something that MIGHT be something.  Of course, it might also be nothing.  In April 2003 someone seeking information about an ancestor said this:  "I was born at the Old Furnace at Nakjec Creek. . . .  My great grandfather . . . was the postmaster and Justice of the Peace at Naked Creek."

“Nakjec” and “Naked” – I’ve Googled “Nakjec” and even checked back with Dr. Wayland’s book, but I can find nothing.  But I do wonder if “Nakjec” was an old Indian name for the creek, and over time it morphed into “Naked.” 

Sounds reasonable to me, but for now it's just a theory.  

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Advent Calendar of Memories: Santa Claus

Geneabloggers is once again hosting the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encouraging family historians to write about their holiday traditions.

This post was originally published in 2011.

Even when my friends were casting doubts about Santa’s identity, I knew he was real.  That’s because one Christmas morning – I guess I was about 4 years old –  my dad actually saw Santa and his sleigh just as he was leaving.  Daddy came running into my room, calling for me to get up and HURRY.  “Quick.  Santa just left.  If you hurry, you’ll see him up in the sky.”  Did I run!  I looked out the living room window.  But I was too late.  I even ran outside and searched the sky in all directions, but I guess Santa was too far above the clouds for me to see.  If only I had woken up a few seconds earlier!

When my sister and I were kids, we could hardly sleep Christmas Eve night.  The excitement was just too big to contain.  We knew Santa would never let us down, letter or no letter.  But we wrote one just to be on the safe side.  My parents saved mine from 1958 (Santa must’ve dropped it in his hurry to move on to the next house).

The front of the letter is simply a list – no greeting, no “How are you” – just down to the business of naming my toy choices for the year:

Ironing board and
Dishes and a
Sleepyhead doll and a
Diaper Bag set and a
Dolly’s travel case and a
Bride doll and a
Knitting basket and a
Tune Tote and a
Beauty kit and a
Steam iron and a
Mechanic’s Bench
And that’s all
To Santa Claus

The back of the letter is where I build my case:

I meen a goog little girl

My family loves to repeat a funny story, so over the years that one little sentence has had more revivals than "Oklahoma."

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Calendar of Memories: Outdoor Decorations

Geneabloggers is once again hosting the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encouraging family historians to write about their holiday traditions.

In December of 2011, my most inspired outdoor decoration was the result of months of neglect on the part of my city, Chesapeake, Virginia.

Periodically the road in front of my house begins to cave in.  A phone call to the City is all it takes to get someone running with a pail of asphalt to patch her up.  The patch never lasts long.  The summer of 2011 the road gave way again.  This time the City decided to get serious.  They delivered a traffic drum.

Surely that meant help was on the way.

September.  October.  November.  Months passed and cars continued to swerve around the drum. 

In December, I added a bow.  Heck – the drum seemingly had become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood.

On Christmas Eve, there was nothing to do but this:

The neighbors loved it.  They even wondered what we could do next.

In February I came home from the Dollar Store with a bag full of decorations for Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, and Mardi Gras.  But the drum was gone, and in its place was a NEW patch.  

In June, our road was put on life support with a prognosis for a speedy recovery. 

No more Christmas traffic drum.  We'll have to get in touch with our inner Griswold some other way.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Swimming Hole

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photo of a footbridge in Mosman Bay on the north shore of Sydney Harbor.  People stopping to chat, some boaters, and a dog bring life to the scene. 

So why did these young people cross the footbridge?

Violetta's friends on a footbridge
Friends of Violetta Davis
early 1920s

To get to the other side, of course!

So they could do this:

Friends of Violetta Davis Ryan
Violetta Davis Ryan far right

Where my great-aunt Violetta Davis and her friends were swimming that day is not easy to determine since she didn’t bother to identify the Who, What, Where, When or Why.  

A favorite swimming hole for those living in Shenandoah, Virginia, was “Blue Hole.”  But that seems to be the popular name for any spot in the river wide enough and deep enough for people to swim.  There were at least three Blue Holes where Violetta and her friends could seek relief from the heat of summer.  The closest was in nearby Naked Creek near Elkton, Virginia. 

Blue Hole near Elkton, Virginia
scanned from Shenandoah:  A History of Our Town and Its People

Judging by that rock outcropping in both pictures, I think they were right here in Naked Creek bringing life to the otherwise quiet swimming hole.

A simple CLICK will serve as your footbridge to more interpretations of today’s theme at Sepia Saturday.

In response to the request for more information on Naked Creek, please click HERE for an update.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.