Tag Archives: memories

The Blizzard of 1978

Blizzard of 1978 - Dayton, OH (Photo courtesy of Dayton Daily News Archive, Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University)

The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches. ~ e.e. cummings

If you were anywhere in the Miami Valley in 1978, you most likely remember very well what you were (or were not) doing 34 years ago today! On January 26-27, 1978, the region was hit with a major blizzard, one of three that struck the region in January and February that year. Over twelve inches of snow fell in 24-hours on January 26th alone!

Take a look at some of the terrific pictures captured by photographers from the Dayton Daily News, showing the effects of the blizzard, at our Dayton Daily News blog!

I, for one, am very grateful that all the rain of the past few days has not been snow instead — or we could have looked a lot like those blizzard photographs!

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Remembering My Father

Dad at the Continental Divide, ca. 1954

I love my father as the stars – he’s a bright shining example and a happy twinkling in my heart. ~ Terri Guillemets

My father was a farmer, and the primary land my father farmed was located about ten miles south of the house where we lived. Several of our ancestors were buried in the front part of the woods. During the winters when he couldn’t farm, my father worked clearing the timber, setting the tombstones upright again, and cutting wood to feed our fireplace at home. He would come home out of the cold on those winter evenings, to settle in front of that fire with his coffee and a good book.

He hated illness, especially his own, and it was not often he was ill. Mostly that was because he’d never admit to it. My mother would always tease him when he would reach for so much as an aspirin.

“Better call Meredith. He’s taking a Bayer.” Meredith Pritchett ran the local funeral home.

One evening after working in the timber all day, he came in limping, obviously favoring his left foot and trying desperately to hide it from Mom’s eagle eyes. I was setting the table, moving from kitchen to dining room and heard the conversation only in snippets. It began as I took the plates from the cupboard.

“What happened to your foot?”

“Nothing.”

I was out of earshot until I returned for the glasses.

“So you dropped the axe?”

Axe?” I thought, nearly breaking a tumbler. I slowed my actions in hopes of hearing more.

“A little bit, yes.”

“A little bit?”

I knew that tone. It was the same tone she used when she arched her eyebrow and called her children by their full first and middle names. That tone meant trouble. I grabbed the last glass and headed for the dining room, but soon returned for the silverware.

“It’s nothing. A little bruise,” he insisted.

I knew from his defeated tone that surrender was imminent. It was only a matter of time.

When I returned for the napkins, it was over. My father was up against the kitchen counter, staggering to keep his balance as my mother tugged off his steel-toed work boot. His sock was scarlet, dripping abstract patterns onto the blue-flowered linoleum. Turned out he missed his target with the axe and hit his foot instead. The steel of his work boots saved his foot, absorbing the brunt of the hit and dissipating it. Instead of slicing off the front of his foot, the power of the swing reverberated through his shoes hard enough to split his foot open across the sole. It took twenty-five stitches to repair.

My mother tended to describe my father to her friends via clichés, summing him up as the “strong, silent type” and often commenting that “still waters ran deep.” I remember him as being quiet, often sitting still amidst the chaos of his wife and four children. His recliner was the most worn piece of furniture in the house. When my mother had it recovered, she chose green checkerboard leather because the material would stand up well to wear and tear. I hated sitting in it during the summer after that because the pattern would end up welded into the bare skin where my shorts ended. I saved a piece of that material when we left the house, and now it is a part of the cushion on my rocking chair. Some summer days I forget to move the cushion and for a moment I am twelve again, feeling the peeling leather stick to my legs as it imprints the checkerboard into my skin yet another time.

I remember the day one of my childhood neighbors drove my dad home. It was mid-winter, when the sun sets by late afternoon and frosty fog rises to coat the trees by nightfall. This particular evening, my father’s truck pulled into the lane much quicker than normal, and, as it slowed in front of the house, I saw my father slumping against the passenger door, visibly gray under his permanently farmer-tanned skin. Johnny Moore, the neighboring farmer who lived across the way from the timber, was driving. Johnny hopped out and went around to help him out, shouting for me to get my mother, double-quick. Johnny told Mom that my father had knocked on his door and asked Johnny to drive him the ten miles home, as he wasn’t feeling well. We later learned that he had been about one hundred yards into the timber when he felt the first pain. He walked to the edge of the timber, down one side and then up the other side of the ditch at the side of the road, crossed the road and walked up the quarter-mile lane to Johnny’s house, because he didn’t trust himself to drive. It was my father’s first heart attack; I was a freshman in high school.

He was back at work within a couple of weeks after that first heart attack. No real damage had been done physically, but it had dealt a psychic blow to the man who thought himself invincible. He began to work his death casually into conversations, as though testing the waters.

“I don’t think I’ll ever sell this tractor. That will be your job when I’m gone.” His hand lingered on the yellow stripe down the side of his favorite piece of John Deere equipment.

“Make sure to remind your mother that the tax papers are in the bottom drawer of the cupboard. She never remembers where they are, and she’ll need them.”

During my senior year of high school, he surprised us all one late autumn day by announcing that he was going to quit farming. He’d done his time, he said, and he was tired. Early on a December morning, a month after his last crop was harvested and stored away, he got up to use the bathroom and get some water, then returned to bed. My mother couldn’t get back to sleep, so she put the coffee on and finished writing the Christmas cards. When she was done, surprised that my father had not yet re-appeared, she went to wake him, but he was gone; he passed away in his sleep. I came downstairs that morning to go to school only to find my world had forever changed.

That day was December 14, 1982, 29 years ago today.

Hanging around with my Dad

The family found instructions on how to handle the farm sale on his desk, and my mother’s traditional Christmas present –a bottle of her favorite Estée Lauder perfume and a box of Fannie May chocolates—already wrapped and under the tree. Mom chose “Goodnight, Sweetheart” as the closing song for the funeral, as it was the last thing she said to him every night. At the service, the pastor commented that the only thing that would have made my father happier was to have one hand on a John Deere tractor as he went.

He was probably correct.

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Monday Moments: Good Gravy

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. ~ Erma Bombeck

It’s that time of year again. That week where the focus is one of giving thanks, being thankful for all the things we have (and for those that we do not have as well). As Thanksgiving comes around, so does the remembering of holidays past.

For many, including me, a lot of those great memories revolve around the dinners that are served, the time spent with family gathered around the table. And that table — full of favorite foods and special ones, too, ones that only appear at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The sounds of cheery conversation are underscored with strains of holiday music. And wafting over all of that are the aromas of the dinner to come.

The centerpiece of many a holiday dinner, especially at Thanksgiving, is the turkey (and no, not the one crazy relative who, in all likelihood, is a turkey…..). This year we’re having another mammoth turkey. I kid you not – it looks like a young child (and not really that young!). Rumor has it the bird this year weighs in at 38 pounds! One of my brothers-in-law hosts Thanksgiving, and when his oven heard the news, it promptly died.

Quit.

On the spot.

“No way,” I imagine the conversation began, “are you doing that to me.”

For you see, back in 2009, we had another pterodactyl-esque turkey, which, if I’m remembering correctly, was about 37 pounds. We have pictures.

Thanksgiving 2009 - our 37 pound turkey

See? I wasn’t kidding on the size. The thing was huge.

But for me it isn’t so much about the bird as it is the gravy.

Good gravy.

The very best gravy.

The gravy that is so awesome and amazing that it should be classified as its own food group.

My mother-in-law makes this amazing concoction. That’s her, up in the picture at the top of this post, beginning the process, using those luscious turkey juices from the roasting pan as a base. I swear she has some magic potion, some special mother-powers, where she chants “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” and waves a magic wooden spoon, and the gravy appears. She swears not. But nobody in the family can quite replicate whatever combination of patience, spices, and stirring produces a gravy so dark brown, so smooth, and so amazingly delicious.

It’s darn good gravy.

Is there a special holiday food you’re looking forward to this season?

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Monday Moments: Ghosts of My Friends

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~ Cynthia Ozick

Directions: Sign your name along the fold of the paper with a full pen of ink, and then double the page over without using blotting paper.

So opens the book The Ghosts Of My Friends. Arranged by Cecil Henland and published out of London by Dow and Lester Forester’s Hall Place, E.C., this book is a charming collection of autographs, with a “ghostly” twist. When the instructions are followed, the resulting image oftentimes produces a ghost-like image, built around the lines of the original signature. Sometimes, if the ink is too dry, the image is just a reflected signature. Other times, the images look like insects. Sometimes they don’t look like anything at all.

But with Halloween approaching, take a look at a few samples from a copy of The Ghosts of My Friends that we have in the archives where I work. See what images you can see in them! And did you notice that some of the signatures were collected while sailing on the Lusitania?

If you’d like to see it in the Archives, the book is part of our MS-383, Local History Ephemera collection, which has a number of interesting and unusual items relating to the history of the area. And if that isn’t enough “boo” in your Halloween festivities this weekend, be sure to check out some vintage Halloween photographs from our Dayton Daily News Archive on our DDN blog!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of one of the scariest costumes at our local Halloween party. This guy was good…. He dressed in a suit, complete with tight-fitting black silk gloves, just like you see in all the great serial killer movies or television shows. He never spoke. Not a single word. Nor did he eat or drink. And, in case you are wondering, that is a real pumpkin. A very large one, that he carved out and wore. I think it is now my new favorite costume that I’ve ever seen.

What is your favorite Halloween memory? A favorite costume or treat? A scary moment?

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Monday Moments: Strange Encounters

It’s very strange when the life you never had flashes before your eyes. ~ Terri Minsky

There was a gorgeous autumn full moon in the sky a few nights ago. Beautiful, for sure, but I think it brought with it a wee bit of craziness. Twice during the past weekend, I’ve had a strange encounter. Not just odd, or unusual. Strange.

My husband and I go out a fair amount. Sometimes, we’ll encounter people we know, though not as often as we expect. Occasionally, we’ll run into folks we haven’t seen in a long time, and we’ll spend a bit of time catching up. Then there are the weird moments, where something wacky happens, and we suspect the universe is trying to tell us something.

I had two such encounters this past weekend.

The first happened while we were out eating dinner at a local restaurant. Most of the time we were eating, I had the sensation of someone watching me. You know the feeling, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you just *know* someone is looking at you, and not just looking, but watching, staring. Weird. I did my best subtle glance around, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. A few other couples and groups around the restaurant, but no one caught my eye. Then my husband left the table for several minutes. We were close to finishing up, so I nibbled the last few bites of food on my plate. A shadow fell across the table, and when I looked up, an older woman, round-faced and obviously very nervous, had silently slipped up to our table next to me. “Excuse me,” she said politely, “but was your mother’s name Barbara?” It wasn’t. “Oh,” she said, deflating, her shoulders sinking. “You just look exactly like my old friend Barbara. She passed away last year.” OK… now I was a little weirded out. It seems Barbara had a grown daughter and, although this woman had not seen the daughter in years, she assumed I was that daughter, because I evidently looked exactly like her friend, Barbara. “Are you sure?” she asked again. Umm…. yeah, I’m pretty sure I know my mother’s name. But I nicely told her no, that I hadn’t grown up around here, but that I was very sorry she had lost her friend. “Oh, that’s okay,” she said, making her way back to the table. “You sure could be her twin.” She sat back down with her husband and the couple they were with, but she never really joined back in to their conversation before we left. It appeared she was lost in her own world, perhaps remembering her times with her friend.

The second was my doing. We had stopped for a quick bite while running some errands, and the place we ate at had a little gift shop connected to it. Kitschy stuff, trinkets and such. The kind of stuff you put on kitchen windowsills. I looked at several items, more to kill some extra time before heading back into the errands rather than any real interest in the stuff for sale. But as I turned around a shelf full of discounted Halloween items, I caught the back of a woman going around a corner of a table several rows ahead of me. And in an instant, the flash of a glance, I saw my mother. From the back, the woman had the exact same physique and height, the same hairstyle and color, and I would swear the same clothing that I had once seen on my mother. In just that moment, I was back on a shopping excursion with my mom, wanting to catch up with her to show her some “find” I had run across. The feeling was so strong, so real, that my breath caught, my heart stuttered, and my eyes teared up. My mom passed away 16 years ago, and in all that time, I’ve seen a few people who kind of, sort of looked similar. But never someone my brain thought was her. Yet all the same sentiments and feelings of being with her came rushing back in less than a second. And I missed her. The woman stopped and looked at an item, showing it to the person she was with. And from the front, she looked nothing like my mother.

The moment passed, but the feelings stuck. I thought back to the woman who had talked to me, thinking of the far-away look on her face after she had returned to her table. Convinced that same look was now on mine. Maybe it was just the full moon. Or maybe late October stirs up more than cardboard spirits. Or perhaps it was just a weird turn of moments, where two strange encounters happened close together.

What about you — any strange encounters lately?

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