As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fifty Years Ago, in an America Far, Far Away...

A week from now*, on July 5, will be the 50th anniversary of the beginning of my great road trip to the West, a formative experience I've blogged about before. I plan to retrace what I can in memory and from scrapbooks on this blog. Since I'm involved in a major project at work (and at least this weekend also have to finish a book chapter I've contracted for) it may not be daily. But I do want to get my memories down, for Sarah if for no one else.

* Actually a week from "tomorrow" since the post is tagged as 11:59 pm. I thought it would be tagged after midnight and wrote accordingly.

To recap: in July 1958 my Dad was shifting from managing the Montgomery Ward Farm Store in Joplin to become head of the automotive department at the new Sears Store opening at Eastmoreland Plaza (now, as the link suggests, more a historical artifact than a place: this link says it opened in 1956; a recent photo history of Joplin says 1957. It was certainly still new when my Dad started in 1958.). He had to go away for 10 days or two weeks or some such to someplace out of town, either Kansas City or Oklahoma City, though I can't now remember which. My Uncle, Miles Landis (married to my mother's sister, Aunt Kathy Landis), ran a steel company in Picher, Oklahoma (recently wiped out by a tornado in 2008) and lived in Baxter Springs, Kansas, about 20 miles west of Joplin. He had meetings in British Columbia and New Mexico (and maybe elsewhere) and suggested that he and Aunt Kathy take my Mom, me, and my first cousin Steve Jones (who lived in Oklahoma City) on a road trip out west while my Dad was away. (Photo above is us at 10 am -- according to my scrapbook -- on July 5, 1958, a Saturday, which as it happens it will also be in this 50th anniversary year, the 4th being a Friday both years, standing behind the 1958 Oldsmobile that carried us for the next two weeks. I'm the kid in the white T-shirt; Steve's the one in the hat. Aunt Kathy's on the left, my Mom on the right, and Uncle Miles in the middle.Don't recall who took the photo: maybe my Dad. And why does my mother seem to be holding her purse up for the camera? I have no clue.) (Uncle Miles always had an Oldsmobile; Aunt Kathy always had a Cadillac. They were the wealthy side of the family, but Miles, the good businessman, knew that the Olds had the same engine as the Caddy and cost less; Kathy was more interested in the prestige. And I can't resist saying that this was your father's, or in this case my uncle's, Oldsmobile.) I'd never been West of eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. I'd never seen the Rockies. I'd never been in a foreign country, and British Columbia was, of course (gasp) Canada. I'd never seen a desert. I got to see all those things. (Though, oddly enough, I didn't get to see an ocean till college. And having become a Middle East specialist along the way, I've seen a lot more deserts.)

I noted in an earlier post linked above that this was the last moment of the pre-stamped-out-by-cookie-cutter road trip. McDonald's and other chain fast food joints hadn't yet appeared most places. (Dairy Queen and, I guess, Howard Johnson were the main chain food joints, but I don't even think HoJo was spread much in the West in those days.) The Interstate Highway system was being built, but was in its infancy: there'd be a few miles, usually around cities, complete, at most. A good part of the trip -- Gallup, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, at least -- was on the old Route 66 of happy memory. It was the last chance to see pre-Interstate, pre-franchise America, and I treasure what I remember of it.

In one of those odd bits of coincidence or synchronicity, two weeks ago the Washington Post's Sunday Book World supplement ran this highly favorable review of a new book entitled Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations, by Susan Sessions Rugh of Brigham Young University. The timing couldn't have been better since this was about postwar American vacations and I was thinking very much about the golden anniversary of one that had a major impact on me. So I found it on Amazon and ordered it, and while I've only been reading for a little over a day, I think I can recommend it for anyone who did road trips in the 50s and 60s. It's a tad academic but not tediously so, and it spends a lot of time on issues of segregation and the problems blacks had finding accommodations, which were major issues most of us were blissfully ignorant of in the 50s but which deserve to be understood, but my main complaint is it seems too short.

You'll be seeing more on the 1958 trip as we go through the 50-year anniversary of it. I used to have -- I think even after I moved into this house, which means it's presumably still here somewhere -- a desk-calendar/daybook I used as a diary (something Uncle Miles gave me I think), but can't find it now. Some of the dates are in the scrapbook I kept, and others I have to guess at. I'll blog periodically through the anniversary, and all the posts will be accessible through the category 1958 Trip.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where I've Been

Okay, it's been crazy again. Sarah ended Second Grade, started summer camp; this weekend for father's day we headed up to Winchester, VA and Berkeley Springs, WV; with various things I didn't have time to blog. Then yesterday we had a major storm and lost power all through last night and into today. Since I refuse to blog from work, I just haven't had a chance to get everything up. Soon I hope.

In the process (though I mentioned it last month) I failed to note the first anniversary of this blog on June 11. If you want to read our first month of entries in June 2007 you can do so here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Graduation weekend and summer camp

A busy several days. The last day of second grade on Friday, with an awards ceremony, followed by a "Daddy day" with Kung Fu Panda and lunch, followed by a friend's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday, then a pool party for another friend's birthday on Sunday, and starting summer camp on Monday. Meanwhile temperatures have been hovering close to 100 degrees, and all three of us have been coughing from allergies: me so bad that I took a sick day today (Monday). Sarah specifically asked that the two pieces of art at left, done today in summer day camp, be posted to the blog, so I am obliging.
I'll be adding to this post through the evening. It's been a rough day with the coughing, but I seem to be medicating it okay. The hot weather adds to pollution in the air, naturally, since it's also high humidity. I shouldn't have taken the day off but I could barely talk when I called my number two today to say I'd be late; he asked why I was bothering to come in since I was miserable.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

There is No Raccoon in This Picture.

There is no raccoon in this picture, which Sarah insisted I take, but there was one on our deck tonight (actually May 31, I'm blogging past midnight as I must often do).

We know we have raccoons around. A couple of years ago I heard a noise and looked out the window onto our deck to see three of them, helping each other to climb up onto our hammock. Stupidly I went to wake Tam instead of grabbing a camera; they were gone by the time I got back. A guy cleaning our gutters told us he found raccoon scat on our roof. Something -- either raccoons or squirrels -- ate a good part of our hammock which we stupidly left up this winter. Great, give 'em a high fiber snack through the wintertime.

Tonight Sarah saw it first. We'd changed the lights on the deck, had the lights down in the family room because she'd been watching Cars again, and so she spotted it through a crack in the curtains. She started shouting, "Raccoon, Raccoon, Raccoon!" and he ran off. Later he came back again, and this time I scared him off; realizing the camera was still in the car, I went out the front door, promptly tripped over the bottle recycling bin (making a loud noise) and so on. Earlier today we'd had a major storm -- we were in the movies watching the second Narnia movie, and missed it, but there was a major thunderstorm that dropped an inch of rain in a short time and apparently even put a funnel down in rural Maryland. We came home to find our electronics had all rebooted, apparently from a brief power failure, and lots of water and some wind evidence. A tray on the back porch was full of water and we didn't bother to empty it, and the raccoon was trying to drink water from the tray.

Sarah was very excited. She thought she could see part of him hiding behind some furniture on the deck, and made me take the above picture, which has nothing in it.

I told her they're very shy creatures and I was glad she'd seen him; the fact that he ran away was good news, not bad, since they can be rabid and you don't want them acting boldly.

I made a crack about how you can tell they're little thieves because they have a bandit's mask on. She asked what I meant by that. A robber's mask, the black mask around their eyes. Why is that a robber's mask? It's like a Zorro mask, says I. "But Zorro's a good guy," she responds. Obviously the idea of robbers wearing black masks over their eyes has dropped from the culture. Has she never heard of the Beagle Boys?

But there were good moments. She wanted to name him, then decided to name the (family?) of three I had seen a while back (one looked younger than the others). She named the biggest "Ranger Rick," the second "Rocky," -- thus evoking obvious environmentalist and Beatles references -- and then decided to name the young one "racket." I noted that this was remarkably close to "Rackety Coon Chile," the young raccoon in Pogo. Within weeks of her discovery of the Marx Brothers, can her discovery of Pogo be far behind? Pogo was, of course the greatest comic strip. ever. written. ever. at all. There is no argument here. I have spoken.

We've discussed going out in the woods to look for critters tomorrow. Good.