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Archive for the ‘Way back when’ Category

Dear Readers,

Forty-two years ago today my husband and I were united in matrimony.  It was a cool, beautiful blue-sky morning in Louisville, Ky.   And St. Therese Church at Schiller Avenue and Kentucky Street was the site of the ceremony.

Every June 20th I love to examine our wedding album and relive all the moments of that day.  I never fail to notice that both of us looked so incredibly young!  My older sister, Martha, was the matron of honor and younger sister, Nancy, was a bridesmaid along with two other girlfriends.  They were dressed in long gowns of pale pink and carried bouquets of pink carnations and white daisies.  My husband’s best friend, Jake, was the best man and there were three other groomsmen.  My wedding dress was an empire waist off-white gown adorned with a lace top and long sleeves.  Stephanotis and white carnations filled the cascading bridal bouquet.

A limousine rented from the neighborhood funeral home was my mode of transportation to the church.  I was extremely nervous as I entered the car and sat next to my Dad.  My father wisely advised me in these words:  “Mary, this is your big day.  Don’t let nerves ruin it.  Just sit back and enjoy every minute of this day that only comes once in a lifetime.”  These words really calmed me and I realized he was right.  This day was so special.  As Dad escorted me down the aisle, my eyes saw only my future husband standing there waiting for me.  I thought my heart would burst with love!

Mike was very anxious during the ceremony and developed a nervous laugh.  I reminded him a couple of times to relax.  It seemed strange for me to be the one who was calm after worrying about every detail of the wedding for six months.  He pulled himself together and did a fine job repeating our wedding vows in front of the entire congregation.

Father Jerry Eifler married us and remarked during the homily that the love we felt for each other that day was minuscule compared to the love that would develop between us during the coming years.  I didn’t understand that statement in 1970 but I do now.  It took a lot of shared ups and downs along with joys and sorrows to perfect our love.  After 42 years together, our love just grows stronger, sweeter and more tender.  Father Eifler was absolutely correct – I love and appreciate my husband more today than I did on June 20, 1970!  Happy Anniversary, Mike!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I’m proud to say I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and even prouder of this fact during Derby Week.  For it is during this time that the city of Louisville really shines.  There’s a spectacular fireworks display, the staging of “Thunder Over Louisville”, a lively parade full of marching bands, clowns and artfully decorated floats along with more parties than “you can shake a stick at”!

There’s one Kentucky Derby that I will always remember vividly; well, maybe it was really the morning after.  Let me tell you about it.

Many Sundays during the spring racing season, my Uncle Leonard and my Dad (both avid horse lovers) would drive to Churchill Downs at sunrise to go to the “backside” to observe the horses out on the track for their morning exercise.  Occasionally my younger sister and I would join them even though it involved attending Sunday mass at 5 AM.  But the sacrifice was well worth it; for when we arrived, the sun was just rising in the sky, the air was fresh and chilly and a low fog lay over the track area.  It was magical to see these graceful animals begin with a slow trot and gradually progress to a full gallop.  Their hooves smacking the dirt track made a melodious clip-clop, clip-clop sound.  Before we left, we would stroll by the stables to survey the horses in their stalls eating oats and munching on carrots.

On the Sunday after the running of the 1956 Kentucky Derby, we embarked on a sunrise trip to Churchill Downs.  But this day was special; yes, very special.  As we wandered through the stable area, we spied a gorgeous blanket of red roses draped over a stable door.  Then we saw a handsome and proud horse standing nearby.  We moved closer for a better look and sure enough it was Needles, the 1956 Kentucky Derby winner.  A gentleman near the horse proudly told us so and he allowed my sister and I to pet Needles.  He asked if we would like a couple of roses from the blanket.  Sure, we exclaimed; so he pinched off two rosebuds for both of us.  What a treasure for a 10 year old girl!  We couldn’t wait to show them to our Mom, when we returned home.

Somehow during the years those dried Derby rosebuds were misplaced and lost.  But I will never forget our encounter with Needles, the winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

There was one Christmas we were not certain there would be enough money to buy any presents.

My Dad worked at American Standard Plumbing Co. as a brass assembler and he was a member of the union called the American Association of Machinists.  During the summer the union contract expired and negotiations fell apart over an increase of wages.  Neither union nor management would compromise, so a strike was declared.

Dad had been through previous strikes and they usually ended in four to six weeks.  But this time it was different.  Both sides were dug in and no compromise was in sight.  The work stoppage continued from August through Thanksgiving with no hope of returning to work.  Dad received strike benefits of about $30 a week but that was not near enough to cover all our expenses.  Dad found some work painting houses but he was eager to go back to his factory job.  Luckily, Mom had a “rainy day” fund but even that was steadily dwindling as Christmas approached.  Money was so tight that Mom was seriously considering brushing up on her typing skills and applying for a job at the hospital where my older sister worked.

Thankfully around the first of December the strike ended.  But there wasn’t much money left for lots of Christmas presents.  Christmas was a little leaner than other years.  But we had each other and we realized Christmas wasn’t about receiving things but being around the people you loved.  Our family thanked God at Christmas Mass that Dad had returned to work and that we had each other!

Have a very Merry Christmas and remember to

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I was probably 12 years old and all I wanted for Christmas that year was Nancy Drew mystery books.  Nancy Drew was my hero!  She was 18 years old, beautiful, and a fearless amateur detective who drove a convertible sports car.  She embodied everything I wanted to be and do.

My sister and I received about four books for Christmas, including “The Scarlet Slipper Mystery” and “The Secret of the Old Clock”.  Our best friend, Darlene, also received a couple of Nancy Drew books.  The three of us spent the entire holiday week reading about our hero.  As soon as we finished one book, we would trade around and read another one.

Our reading area was our “front room” where the Christmas tree was displayed.  The “front room” was the room facing the street and it was a special room that was only used for celebrating Christmas.  It contained all the fancy furniture my Mom inherited from her parents.  There was a lovely velvet black with maroon trim Victorian sofa with two matching chairs, one of which was a wingback chair.  A stately china cabinet filled with dolls on display anchored one corner of the room.  There was an oil painting of two ladies in long dresses and matching bonnets enjoying a cup of tea, centered above the mantel.  Dad had a clock encased in a glass dome resting on the mantel above the fireplace.  Three gold balls rotated round and round at the base of the clock to show the passing seconds.  The clock was so delicate and graceful.  No wonder this room was off-limits most of the year.  Mom wanted to keep the area as a showplace.

So you can imagine how thrilling it was to read about Nancy Drew, lounging on the special sofa in the glow of the Christmas tree.  Mom determined that we were old enough to be allowed to drink ginger-ale garnished with a red maraschino cherry from an elegant glass.  We pretended this drink was a real cocktail.  We wanted to be as sophisticated as Nancy Drew.  True, we had no exciting mysteries to solve nor a convertible to drive, but it was still a Christmas worth remembering, even after all these years.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

After experiencing 65 Christmases, quite a few pleasing memories linger in the back of my mind.  Permit me to dust off a few of these recollections and share them with you.

“Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” is a church hymn sung during Advent (four weeks of preparation before Christmas).  Singing this song reminds me of a holiday cantata I sang in as a freshman at Ursuline Academy in Louisville, Ky.  Every Christmas this pageant featuring the entire student body was produced and presented as a fund raiser for the school.

The first song of the show in 1959 was “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”.  The entire freshman class was chosen to sing all six verses of this hymn by heart.  We practiced daily for weeks but somehow none of us put much effort into memorizing all the words.  We stumbled and mumbled quite a bit after the first verse.

About a week before the performance, we were still not sure of the words.  Sister Vincentia, the cantata director, was so exasperated by our lack of interest that during this song, she suddenly banged on the piano and shouted “dammit”!  You could hear a pin drop on the stage.  That comment sure caught our attention.  Did Sister really utter “dammit”?  She was so irritated with us that she demanded we memorize all six verses that night for homework.  You better believe that at rehearsal the following day, the hymn was sung perfectly.  Sister Vincentia never had to raise her voice again and I realized for the first time, that nuns were human too!

Another Christmas memory involves ice skates and a big surprise.  On one particular Christmas my sister and I no longer believed in Santa but Dad wanted to surprise us with a special Christmas present.  He chose our gift from Speier’ Hardware on Barret Avenue, where every December a large area of the store was dedicated to a Christmas toy display.  Shelves were overflowing with all types of dolls, trucks and games.  Shiny new bikes were lined up in a long row.   There was even pairs of ice skates on display.   All the neighborhood kids loved to wander up and down the aisles and dream of what toy they would be receiving for Christmas.

A few days before Christmas, Dad came home from Speier’s carrying a big box under his arm.  It was gift-wrapped and the tag had both our names written on it.  He carefully placed it underneath the decorated Christmas tree.  We were intrigued.  We would pick it up, shake it and speculate on the contents.  After much jiggling and shaking, we decided that the box contained a pair of ice skates.  We pictured ourselves skating on ice in beautiful costumes just like the girls in the Ice Capades.  Can you imagine the dismay in our eyes, when we opened the box and pulled out a regulation-size basketball?  I’m sure my Dad thought it was the perfect present for two young girls.  We tried to hide our disappointment because we didn’t want to hurt Dad’s feelings.  Bouncing a basketball was enjoyable but it would never match the thrill of skating across the ice!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

In the 1940’s and 50’s coal was delivered directly to our house.  It was burned in the stove to provide heat during the winter.  Each fall Dad would order at least a ton of coal and the truck would dump it onto the street near the curb.  Dad then had to fill a wheel barrel with the coal and empty it into the coal bin in the basement through a small window.  This whole procedure created lots of black coal dust.  My older sister loved to help Dad by picking up small pieces of coal laying in the street.  By the end of the day, she was covered with coal dust and had to spend a long time in the bathtub while Mom scrubbed the coal dust from her scalp.

The loud noise from the dumping of coal scared me to death.  Mom said I cried and cried.  I was so frightened as a toddler that for about three or four years, I spent the day at my grandmother’s house whenever coal was scheduled for delivery.

During the 50’s two different newspapers were delivered to our home daily.  In the morning we received the Courier-Journal and at 4 PM, the Louisville Times.  Every Friday night around 7 PM the paperboy came to collect money for the paper.  We had a payment card and as each week was paid for, he punched a hole in the card by the appropriate week.

Every other week Mr. Lawson, our insurance man, would visit our home and collect 25 cents for the life insurance policy my parents had purchased.  He would pencil in “paid” and the date in the line next to our name in a large, thick payment book that he carried with him.  Mr. Lawson told Mom that if she had a two dollar bill, she would never be broke.  I guess the reasoning behind that remark was that two dollar bills were pretty rare even then and that if you had one, you would never spend it.  When I recently asked my sister about Mr. Lawson, she informed me that she always carries a two dollar bill in her wallet.  Both her son and daughter do the same!

At the time, I guess we thought those home deliveries would continue forever.  Sadly they didn’t.  By the early 60’s, coal was no longer used for home heating, insurance bills were mailed out and the home delivery of bread and milk was no longer profitable.  But it’s awfully nice to remember those delivery people and what a big part they played in my childhood memories.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Today if we need milk or bread, we just hop into our car and drive to the nearest grocery or convenience store.  This wasn’t the case in the 1950’s.  These food items were delivered directly to your doorstep at least once or sometimes twice a week.  Let me tell you more about this great service.

Donaldson’s Bakery in Louisville, Ky. carried “Peter Wheat” bread and delivered it by truck door-to-door.  (My older sister remembers when their delivery truck was horse-drawn in the 1940’s.)  I can recall the Donaldson delivery man knocking on our door early Saturday morning with a large metal delivery tray of assorted bread and baked goods.  Mom always purchased a loaf of bread for making school lunch sandwiches.  In addition to that, we were allowed to choose something for Saturday morning breakfast.  There were sweet iced cinnamon rolls, streusel-topped coffee cakes and even tender doughnuts.  It was difficult to decide which baked goodie to buy.  Some Saturdays, Mom went out to the delivery truck to procure an iced layer cake or fruit pie for a special occasion.  My favorite was a yellow cake covered with creamy caramel icing.

Twice a week milk was delivered to our door in quart-size glass bottles.  There was a metal box on our side porch where the bottles were deposited.  It kept the milk cold until Mom could move the bottles into the refrigerator. The top two inches of the bottle contained heavy cream.  Mom would skim it off the top and beat it to produce real whipped cream for special desserts.  Empty milk bottles were also stored in the metal box for pickup by the driver.

Our milkman dressed in a uniform of white shirt, white pants and a white hat and was named “Duffy”.  I suppose that was his last name.  My younger sister and I would call him “Ducky”.  He always laughed at that and when Mom paid the weekly bill, he would give us old order pads to play with.  We used them for writing food orders whenever we played “grocery store”.  Each order sheet consisted of two different pieces of paper.  The top sheet was white with carbon paper on the back and the “customer copy” sheet was yellow.

We had the same mail delivery man for at least 15 years.  He was so kind and always waved “hello” to us.  Mail was delivered twice a day in the weeks preceding Christmas.  As soon as we heard the clank of the mailbox being closed, we rushed out to collect the Christmas cards.  By the way, stamps were three cents!

To Be Continued.

Keep smilin’!

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