childhood memories of war, re-posted from September 2016

This post originally was published here on SOMETIMES in September of 2016. I will re-post it today in keeping with a post by fellow blogger Ginsberg420, also re-blogged today.

SOMETIMES

Perhaps the most vivid memories of nursery tales were not of bunnies or bantering fairies…but of War and its aftermath.     We here in the United States did not suffer the horrors that children in other countries did, the bombings and air raids and worse.   But such accounts were very much vicariously present.    And directly following the Hot War followed the Cold War, with its insidious psychological terror.

I was eleven when World War II ended in 1945.    What I write here are my impressions as a child.

Here in the Cleveland, Ohio area we had three major daily newspapers in Cleveland,
in the 1940s-1950s.    Subtlety was not a virtue to our dueling newspapers, bent on gathering new and worse  predictions and statistics to entertain and scare the heck out of the readership.     Everyone read the papers…there was no television in the vast majority  of our homes, and except for newsreel productions in the movie…

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Snow Drifts, and The Night of the Tomato, revisited

Well, Spring is on the way, I heard!    We here in Northern Ohio escaped most of the big snow storm this past week, which is fine with me, but the news weather people were quite disappointed.     It is always so heartening the way they put on parkas and mittens and various snow gear and wade out to the nearest snow drift to pose for the 11 o’clock news segment.      There used to be an old joke about shoveling “partly cloudy” off the front walk on the morning after the prediction of sunshine and warming temperatures.

We never know what to expect here in Ohio in March, when the daffodils are raring to go, and indeed when ready the blooms just open, even there is snow up to their eyebrows.   We have photos someplace of snowdrifts with daffodil flowers laying right on top of the snow.

Back in the 1940s there was a great snow fall in Cleveland.   My Dad and the other men in the neighborhood waded through the waist-high snow (maybe it was thigh-high…but hey, I was a kid) to trudge along the middle of the road to the grocery store, which valiantly opened its doors to the brave men who made it through the deep snow to buy supplies for their families.

Kids all over town were ecstatic, since the school was closed.   Except me…who was sick.   I have written about this traumatic event in my young life before…ten years old and unable to go outside to play in what (as far as I can recall) was the most exciting event ever.      I still remember standing looking out the front window as my brother proceeded to demolish the pristine white snow drifts.    Even at this late date the disappointment is  palpable.     (I have  always been a dramatic kid.)

The television news crew was stranded at the TV studio for a long time, and the exhausted and dedicated News Men were so worn out after being on camera for days (well, many hours anyway) they removed their coats and ties, which was nearly unheard of on the TV in those days.    These selfless and loyal personalities stayed with their fans and watchers throughout the siege…helping the police department care for the needs of the citizens…who were desperate for milk and other life-sustaining items.

Several years later two of my girlfriends, and our boyfriends, were caught in another huge snow storm.   We came out of a movie theater, to find the storm raging…and nearby was a man and woman whose car had become stuck in a snow drift.    We—the boys anyway—helped the couple out of the drift, and they invited us to their house for sandwiches and a hot drink.      That was nice of them, as by this time we were all frozen and starving.

To my horror, the lady served us bacon-lettuce-tomatoes (BLTs), which was something of a remarkable gesture in the middle of winter to have fresh tomatoes and lettuce.    Now, lest anyone fails to understand why the BLTs would be such a bad thing to the point of being a Big Deal to Me.      To that point in time I had never eaten a tomato…I hated tomatoes, and avoided them at all costs.   But now…faced with a tomato sandwich…I HAD to eat it.    Refusing to partake of the couple’s generosity was not possible.

So that’s how I happened to eat a tomato for the first time in my life.    I think of that incident every time I see a BLT….but yes, I do eat tomatoes now, at least in sandwiches with bacon and lettuce.

cheese kuchen and jars of teaspoons

My grandmother Lillian always kept a jar of teaspoons on the kitchen table, along with other appurtenances to   the daily serving of tea.   As a little kid I was allowed to drink tea only in a weakened version, with plenty of milk and sugar.     We usually had cookies of some sort…biscuits as my UK friends might say…and on occasion the most luscious cheesecake ever baked!    The cheesecake came from the bakery on the corner of the street, from which most of the bread we consumed  originated.  More accurately the delicacy was a cheese kuchen, baked inside a kuchen-like crust.   ooooh…

My great-grandmother had arrived from England when she was ten years old, along with her parents and siblings.  It was she, Ann, who had continued the custom of “Tea” as served by her own mother, Mary.    One of the special tea guests was a woman called “Aunt Frank” which was always a great source of amusement to me (and to my Dad, who had grown up in this household.)    Her name was Frances, and she was my grandmother’s sister-in-law, Uncle Will’s widow.

Ann lived to be 93…a remarkably advanced age in those days of the 1930s.   When I knew her she had already retired from her active church life, and the long history of women’s causes…especially the WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union.    The WCTU was the famous Carrie Nation’s organization, which on occasion had experienced members with axes attacking the bars and terrorizing drinkers.

At the time I was three years old, so my memories are dim and certainly embroidered with endless tales related over the subsequent years by relatives.   So every time I think of Tea, or England, or yummy Cheese Kuchen…I think of Great Grandma Ann and Gram Lillian, and the glass jar with the tea spoons.