A blast from the past

I opened my mail box and in amongst the post was a letter addressed “To the neighbours”,  I was extra curious as there was no stamp on the letter. Inside was this…

A letter and photo

A letter from one of our neighbours and a photograph of The Crokery long before it was The Croakery, when it was first built. It was such a lovely surprise.

The Croakery circa 1970

I love visual history, and can’t wait to learn more about this house and it’s previous owners. The house has changed and evolved since this was taken, now it’s my turn to write  a chapter of history in this house.

Fat George

No matter how small, he will always make himself fit in an empty box.

Since Florrie got to show off her tiny Terror yesterday, I thought it was only fair that today, on National Cat Day, I get to boast about my fat baby. My fat fattie George. His many alias’ include Georgie, Fatty, Fat Fatty, Joey, Puss, or Joe. I had considered calling him Jupiter as a kitten, but he was way too sweet and goofy to be Jupiter. He was a George through and through. I got him and his brother Harry (Harrison, Mr. Stinky Butt, Harry-Cat) when they were just little peanuts. My friend’s cat had kittens and I was just going to take one, but I am a sucker for cutie pies and decided to take them both. I was still dorming in college and smuggled them into my dorm room. They were so tiny that no one noticed.  That was over 15 years ago and he’s just as silly and cute as he used to be then. Sadly, earlier this year Harry became ill and had to be put down, poor kid. But he had a good run. Fifteen years without any major health issues was pretty good. And he was a sweetie till the end. He was the most good-natured cat I ever owned. Miss you Harry Cat.

George and Harry mid-tussle

And George,  George is still a kitten at heart. He has admittedly expanded quite a bit in his old age though. For the first 6 or so years of his life he was a long and lanky kitten. Now he’s nearly 22 lbs! That does come in handy this time of year though, cause he’s a cuddly sleeper and keeps me warm at night. He’s also very chatty and is constantly having long conversations with me. So, happy National Cat Day George!

Roller Derby

Grandma

Grandma Marjorie

My mother’s mother always seemed a bit of a mystery to me.  We saw her about once a year when I was very young, but I wasn’t old enough to really get to know her as a person. Mum would tell me stories about her though. Apparently she was a bit of a wild child, and in her youth she used to sneak off to Wilkes-Barre, PA for Roller Derby back in the 1930’s.  Her father found out where she was and dragged her back home. It was quite scandalous! This is also the grandmother who was also very nearly a professional bowler.

Back in the day Roller Derby was more a battle of endurance rather than the knock em down scene you find today.  A few years back I tried out for the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League here in NYC. I wanted to do something more atheletic, and I love roller skating. I got the gear I needed and headed over to the try out site in Queens.  Sadly the only skates I owned at the time were my Britney Spears roller sneakers from Sketchers… sigh. I prayed noone would notice the glittery wheels, or the Britney signature on the tongue. The purchase was less about Britney and more about having roller sneakers… I had a pair of ‘Roo’s sneaker/skates in the 80’s and I felt all nostalgic. Remember those? Kangaroo brand, royal blue sneakers with yellow details and a little tiny zip pocket with a kangaroo logo. I would squirrel away quarters for the Space Invaders machine at the corner 7-11. Ah memories.

So anyway, I tried out, it kicked my ass and I didn’t make the cut. It was really hard! Those girls are no joke! But I felt OK about not making it. There were loads of girls who were better skaters than me, but a lot that were way worse, too. Besides that I shudder to think about how much time it would have sucked out of my life! But it was fun to try out and I think Grandma may have been there rooting for me.

Happy Surprise!

moo1There is a company called Moo that makes the most darling little mini cards. I usually get them as business cards for my hand knitting, etsy shop and blog. You just go into your Flickr account, drop in any pictures that you want for the fronts of the cards and type in what you want the backs to say. Simple as pie. You get 100 cards per pack, so you can get 100 cards with the same picture, or 100 cards with 100 different pictures of any number in between.

I haven’t ordered any new cards lately so imagine my surprise last week when I got my mail and I had a little white package from Moo.

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Good things come in teeny white boxes with orange belly bands.

While scratching my head, I opened it up!

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And suddenly, there they were. On the back it reads Fabulous Trip., fabulous time. Florrie had taken the time to put 100 of my pictures of our trip to England on these teeny cards and now I have the most precious mini photo album.

A very small cross section, but huge memories!

A very small cross section, but huge memories!

What a great idea. That Florrie is full of them. Thank you!

moo7

One Room Schoolhouse

Grandma Ruth in the 1940's

Grandma Ruth in the 1940's

I was looking through a folder with some old papers in it tonight, and I came across a 6 page handwritten letter from my father’s mother. I immediately recognized the slightly crooked, yet pretty penmanship as belonging to Grandma Roby, and I was delighted to discover that it was a letter she had written to me about how she used to teach in a one room schoolhouse in rural western New York . She was 22 years old when she got her first school.  In the letter there is even a little sketch in one corner of the yellowing paper of the layout of the little school room. Its nice to recognize the history of one’s own traits. Friends who know me are familiar with the joy I get out of having a reason to sketch out a diagram…especially floorplans!   Without further ado, here is the letter as she wrote it with a fountain pen, on a yellow legal pad, now even more yellow with age. The blue ink fades and grows bold again with dips of her pen into a pot of ink. I can imagine Grandpa’s blue blue eyes twinkling at her as she wrote it to me.

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Wednesday evening 4-4-84

Dear Heidi,

Grandpa and I were pleased when you  Mother called last night. Its such a joy to hear how everyone is. The report about your report cards sounded pretty nice- We’re proud of you both. she asked me to write about the school where I taught. I shall start away back at the time that I applied for my first school. I went at night down a muddy dirt road. Didn’t take the car for fear of getting stuck. You see, dear, it was the second week of May in 1929.

Each little community had its school house- One room only, usually.

“School Meeting” was the first Tuesday in May. So, the first Thursday in May , I walked down a muddy country road to the home of a Mr. Fred Hodge. He was the trustee and, as such, was the only one to see about getting

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the position of teacher filled. The year was 1929, the year of the “Great Depression” I was fortunate to get the job- it paid the fabulous amount of $39.50 a week. (A real bonanza at that time.)

The next day, your Uncle Frank Mandeville took me to see my new place of business.  The building was white, with windows (6) on one side only.  The overall measurement was approximately 35’x35′. The equipment was: one dictionary, on a tiny table- one pointer, one brass hand bell, and a round oak wood stove + a desk- the toilets were the Kaustine types; one on each side of the entry. May I draw a tiny diagram?  The fifth of September I began my duties- There were seven

GRoby2

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pupils. Marian and Junior Youngers, William, Barney and Carl Pfaff, Freida Kernan and Carmen Sciandra.

I assigned them to seats, and made it clear that “I was in charge!” This was the beginning of a year long association. I found that I was not only teacher, but nurse, janitor, arbitrator, and phys-ed person + maintenance. It got very cold out on French Road, Bennington #10 School House. I decided that I would fix a hot lunch (usually soup) on cold days.

The Pfaff boys came to school, right from their trap lines. Often the odor of skunk was decidedly noticeable. Then, when thatdidn’t get them a “day off”, they ate leeks. Such a smelly classrooom.

I had pupils from age 4 to age 15. I taught 5 grades. Marian and William made me very proud; when they passed their first Regents. All the others (grades 3-4-5)

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also passed their grades. My second Country school was on route 20A in Sheldon. I had a total of 28 pupils here. Of that number 19 were taller than I. I had pupils in all grades and one (a 15 year old) mentally retarded boy. the equipment was very much like the other building, except that the recent building had a huge wood shed.  The wood for the entire winter stored. 

I think the one thing that my pupils liked the best was my policy of NO HOMEWORK. I was a jealous instructor. I wanted to supervise all the work done by them.

The lovely thing about the “One room-8 grade schools” was the older ones helped the little ones and those who learned more easily could work with classmates who had problems- It was a fine place to learn to care for others- a rare quality in today’s Central Class Centers.

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We had little trips. Went to East Aurora Bank. Another day, we visited a large grocery store-the sweetest trip we ever took; was to a Sugar Bush. Mr. Victor showed us how sap was gathered and boiled- each one of us received a small bottle of syrup.

Then I organized a sort of  P.T.A. Each month (the third Thursday) I fixed a simple lunch, and the parents came, and we had sort of a working -social time.

There were some anxious moments one morning, when the older boys brought a Billy Goat to school. I was terrified, but we had been taught to “show no fear” so I simply bolted the door and hoped Billy’s head wouldn’t break it down. I was overjoyed when Mr. Calmas came and took his goat home.

To sum it up: I wouldn’t have missed my experience but, I’d not want to try it

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again. I always get a thrill when I meet some of my former pupils- Many cherished memories-

There are many lovely things that Central School pupils miss, that are really part of our heritage. For instance: The sound of a locomotive whistle in the night, the huge engines, belching steam – cow bells, when each farmer knew each cow wore which bell. Skimming over the snow in a horse drawn cutter, the days when children were in the position of  parental authority and respect.

I’m so happy that I lived in the day when I could be the entire staff of the “school system”  of the neighborhood. Really, my only claim to fame. It wasn’t easy, but oh so very worthwhile.

GRoby1

 

I love how nostalgic and carried away she gets at the end.

Just like me.

Grandma Ruth, Me and Grandpa

Grandma Ruth, Me and Grandpa