Saturday, April 28, 2012

Epic Driving Stories - Part 2, by Joyce Tillotson-Henderson

Grandma Lil told me when Wendell was around 8 or 9 he would take her car and go for a ride around the loop in Center Lisle. He would drive around the back side of town by the school house, around the corner up to the farm on the edge of town, back down by the Lodge Hall, down Main Street and back to the store. I believe the big attraction was driving and going to the farm where he would later work when he was a teenager. Needless to say, Grandma Lil was really upset. She told me she was afraid she was going to lose her driver's license if he kept that up. 

 Wendell and Grandma Lil

She ended up buying him a little tractor. She told me it was a big relief to her. She could hear that tractor start up, knowing he was driving that tractor instead of her car. She could keep better tabs on him when he got that tractor.

All three of the Henderson kids were like their Dad. They all started driving at the age of 8 or 9. Ronnie was an accomplished driver at 12. He could bale hay, spread manure, plow, rake, run the mixer wagon and drive the skid steer.

Ronnie with Grandma Lil

By 14, he was an accomplished mechanic. He had one of his father's most expensive John Deere tractors apart and the parts were scattered all around the garage floor. He was doing a major repair. I was astonished and said, “Ronnie, do you think you can put the tractor back together?" He said calmly, "Why, Mother, I have no doubts."

He learned so many things from his Dad - driving, welding, doing electrical work, machinery repairs, and this last fall he built two new horse stalls and is now completing a new hay wagon. Ron told me not too long ago, "Mother, I was playing with electricity when I was 5.”

Ronnie Driving the Tractor, Baker Family Reunion 2009

Kathleen started by driving the riding John Deere lawn mower. She loved this job. She always kept the lawns looking so nice. She gradually got into doing flower beds.

She learned a lot from her dear great Aunt Gladys. Gladys loved showing her all the different varieties of flowers and Kathleen took it all in. Kathleen had beautiful flowers in the flowerbed she and her Dad built from fieldstones right here by the porch near the steps.

She now has her own home and she has the green thumb, with many beds of beautiful flowers. Kathleen likes doing the perennials. Every summer she stops into our local greenhouse near Lisle, which usually has very good prices on all their flowers.

I believe Aunt Gladys instilled in her the love of growing beautiful flowers. Her Dad always wanted a large vegetable garden, which she also has. She always has all the vegetables she and her boys can eat, shares some of the veggies with me, and keeps it weed-free even though she has a demanding job at the hospital. 

 Aunt Gladys's Garden, 1990

David started driving the skid steer when he was 8. The skid steer has a bucket on the front of it and one day he was pushing the manure down the free stall on the far part of the barn. I was milking cows at the time and the cows were all gathered up in the holding pen to be milked. I went out the door to put another batch of cows into the milking parlor and, lo and behold, I looked straight ahead and my little boy was driving the skid steer! I was a little bit shocked - more like horrified! - but found out his Dad was right there near by. 

We have many stories about life with Dave on the farm. Like taking my car for a drive when he was 2 and Ronnie running after the car with Dave inside. Dave had just been on the porch with all of us and then suddenly the car was going across the driveway.

Dave would take keys out of tractors and the draw pins out of the tongue of the tractor where the two pieces of equipment would connect. One day Wendell was driving the tractor and all of a sudden the front end of the manure spreader dropped to the ground - no draw pin! Wendell was a little bit upset but Dave made it right when at the same age – 8 - he installed a radiator in my car.

Wendell, Dave and I had gone to Cortland one morning and picked up the newly renovated radiator for the car. We came home and I was getting lunch when I noticed it was much too quiet in the house. I said, "Wendell, where is Dave? You better go see what he is up to.” Sure enough, he was in the garage and had installed the radiator into the car! Wendell came into the house and was just beaming, exclaiming, "Gee, he actually did a good job and did it right. I guess I can't get too mad at him!"

 Wendell and Joyce

I believe our children growing up on the farm was a good life for them even though they all had to work hard but they learned so many things. But it can be a dangerous place as well and Wendell always stressed safety. Wendell was pretty much even tempered and I am proud of our children and I am so glad they had Wendell as their Dad who was always positive, hardworking and took everything in stride. All three children have these traits and I am very proud to be their MOM.

Standing: Kathleen, Dave, Joyce, Grandkids, Ronnie
Seated: Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Day for Us! By Aunt CB Kinsella


It's Aunt Gladys' Birthday Weekend, so here is a story for her, by her cousin, CB Taylor Kinsella:
Gladys and I were 15. I’d just finished my summertime job of keeping five little kids occupied while their mother was in the hospital, so I grabbed three days and bused to Center Lisle. I needed my summertime visit!

When the bus pulled up opposite Aunt Lil’s store, Gladys was hanging out the door and we collided in the middle of the road. The bus driver laughed!

What to do? Where to go? Didn’t matter, our mouths were busy. We decided to head on over to see Aunt Nell a bit, then go up to Grandma’s. Aunt Nell was always a joy to visit, loved us just as we were. She was always ready to hear our tales of whatever. Now I realize we were a welcome change in a quiet life but then, we just thought we were special, and to her we were!

Later, walking up the hill to Grandma’s, we followed a zig-zag pattern as we tied to step on every tar blister we saw in the road. We hadn’t stopped talking yet!

Up by Belle Barrow’s we snuck an apple from her orchard. They were pretty green but didn’t matter to us. Walking by the patch where Doris had promised me a money tree would grow, when years before I’d lost a quarter Uncle Elmer had given me, we gave it a good reconnoiter but no luck yet! Beliefs are hard to let go!

Finally at the farm, we arrived just in time to help get supper. Grandma sent us out to harvest a summer squash for the meal and a late growing cucumber if possible. The garden this year was across the road, near the garage. As we hunted for the cuke Gladys shouted, “Watch out, you’re walking through a window!!” Confused, I looked up and light dawned, this was where, four or five years before, we’d fashioned ourselves a “house” by outlining its walls with stones, old pieces of wood and metal that we’d found in the trash heap. Also found several old broken dishes and pans so we had a “home!”

Roaring with laughter, we remembered how Grandma was amazed at what we’d done! (read that “not too happy”) We returned all items before I had to go back home that year!

We started to go to the barn to help Adin clean up after milking when into the driveway drove Aunt Lil in her old car. She drove any car more or less as an old one! Having basically taught herself to drive, she made pretty much her own “rules of the road.” She’d remembered to bring my suitcase, had left Emily and Elmer in charge of the store, and planned on a meal and a nice visit on the front porch afterwards. That was fine with us.

Adin was about through with the clean up. He greeted us with the news that he’d made $3! (said with a wicked grin!) We knew how he’d made it, he’d peeked into the little pocket some cows had under their tail and between their hind quarters (after he’d reached in his own pocket) and with great surprise, extracted it in dollar bills from three cows! We followed our routine of amazement and raced out the opposite barn door to try to find some of those cows ourselves but they were long gone down the night’s pasture path! Meanwhile he finished graining the cow stantions for their morning meal, we fed the horses, patted and stroked Pet and Reba, told them we’d see them tomorrow and let them out to enjoy the evening air.

Supper was Grandma’s usual “groaner” meal! She’d opened a jar of her canned beef, made gravy to go over boiled potatoes, fried up the summer squash we’d picked and sliced the cucumber in vinegar and salt and pepper. Gladys and I set the table. Aunt Lil sat in the rocker to rest her feet and enjoy the first respite she’d had all day.

Supper over, dishes done, (now mind you, Gladys and I were still jawing away, hardly halfway through solving the world’s troubles). We all adjourned to the front porch, Adin, Lil and Grandma in the rockers, Gladys and myself the front steps, shredding daisy petals to discover whom we’d marry (remember “doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief, etc.!?) Now we sat in silence, listening to the trio of adults comb the neighborhood of gossip. Every once in awhile you’d hear a “zing” as a bug flew too close to the porch light. I didn’t know many of the people mentioned but they were familiar to me as names. However, the day had begun early for me and we’d been busy every minute. I was tired.

Soon Gladys and I said our good night to all, climbed the stairs to the front bedroom and fell into the welcome bed. As we curled around one another, Gladys said, “I’ll scratch your back, then you scratch mine.” “No,” I said, giving her a hitch as I turned to circle her back, “I’d better do yours first or else you’ll never get me awake to do it later!”

Thus ended a perfect day, one she and I would always remember for we didn’t get many for just us. Somewhere in the future we’ll meet again and then there will be no more paralysis, no more blindness, no more deafness, no more heartaches, just the joy of being together and our jaws will see action again!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Epic Driving Stories – Part 1, By Sue Kinsella

I’ve been thinking about driving a lot recently because my son, Alex, is working on getting his driver’s license. He’s 19 and in college and, while he got his permit at 17, he’s had to renew it for a second year because he really just wasn’t that interested in practicing driving. He went to high school in San Francisco and I’ve noticed that kids there are much more likely to put off getting their licenses than “in the good old days.”

Alex, at 3, "driving" at Disneyland

Maybe it’s because driving on the City’s many car-clogged hills is like driving on a bumper car roller coaster. (One hill is so steep that you can’t see if there’s any road in front of you as you start down it and, no matter how carefully I drive down it, I hit the front of my car on the surface of the cross street when I get to the bottom!) Plus, San Francisco has an extensive bus, trolley and cable car system and the kids become public transit experts early on, even putting apps on their cellphones to predict when the next bus will come along.

Still, it seemed odd to me, since I, myself, had been waiting at the DMV door practically on my birthday to get my license. Dad had let me start driving on the dirt roads up at the cottage in Canada when I was 15 and his patience was surreal when I nearly took out the road’s communal mailbox and barely avoided landing us in a ditch.

Later, when I found it initially challenging to be getting the hang of driving while also learning a stick shift at the same time, he very patiently got out of the passenger seat in the middle of an intersection – cars backed up, impatient to get through - to come around and take over as the driver when I couldn’t rev the car over a small rise in the road. Little did I know that years later I’d be driving a stick shift all up and down those San Francisco hills and even get the hang of starting up on what felt like nearly vertical inclines.

Still, I decided not to push Alex into driving if he didn’t feel ready for it, and I admit I liked driving him to school when he was a senior in high school because it was about the only extended time I got to spend with him, he was so busy otherwise. But now, suddenly, he’s gotten motivated to get his license because his upcoming summer job requires it.

  Alex, at 19, driving the roller-coaster mountains by the Pacific Ocean

So I’m spending a day most weekends right now devising interesting routes with lots of new challenges for Alex to drive. The bonus for me is that these take us on delightful mini-adventures and engender wonderful conversations. However, I do have a sore foot from stomping on that passenger-side phantom “brake,” and when Alex goes around curves on mountain roads a little too fast and I look down over the side – well, you can see what I look like from this picture here. That’s me on the left.

Mom and Dad (Aunt CB and Uncle Jack) have some wild stories about their driving escapades. Dad’s started early, when he was two years old and his mother took him along for her driving lesson. He stood right next to his Mama on that front seat – remember how that used to be the preferred place for little kids? She was pretty proud to be one of the few women who learned to drive a car in the 1920s.

But that all changed when she faced an oncoming car (unusual for those days), her driving instructor grabbed the wheel and turned it so quickly they ran head on into a telephone pole, and her baby (my Dad!) went flying through the windshield. Those were the days, of course, before safety glass, so the windshield shattered into thousands of jagged shards and splinters. His mother reached through the broken glass, picked him up off the hood of the car and pulled him right back through the shattered glass! And she never drove again.

That didn’t seem to discourage him, though. Dad learned to drive when he was about 14 and got a job with his best friend at the Waterloo Body Shop, by the train station. It was during WWII so gas was rationed, with people getting a set allotment for how much they could buy each month, depending on what kind of car they had. Stationwagons were allotted more gas than sedans. The body shop had previously made wooden wagons and had a lot of carpenters so they applied some typical American ingenuity. First they bought sedans, then they cut off the roof and doors but left the fenders, and ultimately they built a new wooden car body to turn the cars into stationwagons. Voila, now they qualified for more gas coupons! This was the birth of the kind of stationwagon we later knew as a “woody.”

Dad and his friend had the job of driving the sedans to move them around the property as they went through their “surgery.” It was a great training ground for fledgling drivers because it didn’t matter whether the cars got banged up, since all the metal was going to come off them anyway. So it sounds as though his “driving lessons” were much more like bumper cars than highway driving.

My mother also took along her baby son, Dan, when she took her driving test, but he was better protected – she was nine months pregnant and took her test two days before he was born. Those were the days, she said, when tests required stopping a stick shift car on a hill, shutting off the motor, then restarting and shifting to drive with no rolling backwards. She thinks the instructor passed her because he felt sorry for how she could barely reach around her stomach to do all the required maneuvers!

But it wasn’t as though she’d never driven before. She’d often been the non-drinking designated driver during her dating days. However, this was the first time she’d been able to afford to buy her own car. She figured she’d better accompany it by getting her own real driver’s license, as well.

I was thinking of some more stories to tell but then I wondered how different this topic might have been for kids who grew up on the farm in Center Lisle. So I asked Joyce Tillotson-Henderson if she had any stories from their family. Wow, did she ever! I can’t wait for you to read her stories! 
Look for Epic Driving Stories – Part 2 in a couple of weeks!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Storms, by Evelyn Taylor

One last winter discussion until next fall--this one is memories by Eve Taylor, wife of Bryant Taylor who was the son of Floyd, twin brother of Lloyd Taylor.
The years that we lived on West Main Road provided us with many experiences with ice storms and blizzards. That period from 1946 to 1968 was one of record-breaking winter storms, and "We were there."

In 1946 we lived in an 1850 gray, limestone Federal-style house which had been made into two apartments. Bryant and I and his brother Rex and his wife Dene lived side by side. The fellows were just returned from World War II, and we were starting our lives at last with civilian jobs and new homes, complete with brand new furnishings. It was an exciting time!

But we were in for excitement we had never dreamed of: a Sunday blizzard. Snow and high winds always create problems of low visibility and drifting. This day the wind was from the northwest, and at the intersection of Keeney Rd. and West Main Rd.(Route5), a huge drift formed, eventually preventing any vehicles from getting through.

As a result, cars began to come to a halt on our side of the drift. Not knowing how long they would be delayed, Bryant and Rex asked them to come in our house. Before long, we had both of our apartments full of strangers to us and to each other. There were probably more than twenty, including children and one infant.

It kept Dene and me busy raiding our "company shelves" and refrigerators to feed them. Fortunately, both of us did a lot of canning so had peaches, pears, tomatoes, applesauce, and jams and jellies to help. This went on into the early evening before the plows finally bulldozed their way through, and Route 5 was once more open. Everyone scurried to get on the road again before the drift returned.

Recalling this today, makes me realize how people really pull together in emergencies, sharing what they have and helping out in any way they can. That Sunday blizzard brought many strangers together, but each left a little bit better for the experience and no longer a stranger.

The storm did continue, and such a high drift formed between the house and barn that it was impossible to reach the animals. Bryant tunneled through the drift finally to reach the livestock and chickens. Before the storm ended, the drift reached the second story of the house, and Bryant plowed the last of it under in June.

Twenty years later in 1966 our whole family learned what a blizzard could do. The snow had been falling steadily all day and night with a wind that erratically changed directions.

We awoke to find that our front and side doors were unable to be opened because of snow piled up against them. We managed to get out the front door eventually. Now came the hard reality -- our tractor with its blade for snow plowing was inside the garage, and the snow was drifted up to the top of the garage doors; a pickup truck near the gas pump was almost completely buried; the side door had snow up to the middle of the storm door.

Our Collie dog needed to go out, so we took out the upper glass panel of the storm door and lifted her out, but the snow was too deep for her to get through. We solved that problem by letting her out into our screened-in patio at the side. Here the screens had filtered out some of the snow, which meant it was only a few inches deep, and she could handle this depth.

We all pitched in, to the best of our strength, to dig out the tractor which seemed to be the most essential piece of equipment. I cannot recall how long this nightmare lasted, but after the snow stopped, our neighbor came to clear the driveway with his tractor and hydraulic bucket. The drifts were just too big for our blade to push.

It is said that out of everything bad that happens, some good comes. All the kids in the neighborhood had several days of no school, countless drifts to burrow into to make forts, and mountains of snow to slide down.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Birthdays, 2012

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
                                 - Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926

I love this poem—the ‘tramps’ reminds me of Uncle Adin hitching rides on trains and staying at hobo camps, and yes, April CAN be mud month. Not sure that will happen this year—too little precipitation and too much heat. BUT, April also has Cousins Birthdays! So, let’s begin:

 Judy Lochner

Rick, Sarah, Laurie

In Aunt Esther’s family, Laurie Acker Lochner (Rick’s wife), and Judith Powers Lochner (Ted’s wife) both have birthdays in April.

In the Old-Timers Group, William Carson, father of Emma Carson was born in April.

In Uncle Harold’s family, Jessie Taylor Spear (Mary Lou’s son) is the Birthday boy of the month.

In Aunt Doris’ family, Charles William Hawkes , Kelly Marlene Walker ( Cindy’s daughter), and Esther Grace Walker, (daughter of Justin and Sharon Walker, grand-daughter of Cindy Hawkes) all have birthdays in April.
Mary, Charlie Hawkes

In Aunt Gladys’ family, Gladys Howland Wood herself is the Birthday Girl. But, she has lots of family to celebrate the month with her--Michael F. Wood (Glady’s son), Aedyn Langstaff (Kathryn Wood Barron’s grandson), and Adin Lester Hart-Wood (son of Joshua Hart-Wood) all have birthdays to celebrate in April.


In Aunt Ruth’s family, Marlene Ann Maney (Richard’s daughter) celebrates this month.

In Aunt Phyllis’ family, Rhoda Lynn Coleman (Phyllis’ daughter), Sheila Ann Coleman (Phyllis’ daughter), and Bernard C. Walker (Dawn Coleman’s—Phyllis’ daughter-husband) are all the Birthday Kids.


In Aunt CB’s family, Rosemary Holz Kinsella (Tim’s wife) and her son Paul Christopher Kinsella ,  and Kelly Ann Kinsella (Jim’s daughter) all blow out candles.

In Aunt Leona’s family, Neil Carmen Maffei, Jr. (Leona’s son) is the birthday kid.

In Uncle Floyd’s family, Pamela Taylor Crane (daughter of Bryant and Evelyn Taylor) has a birthday to celebrate.
 Neil, Dorothy, Aunt Leona

Pam, Lance, Amanda, Evelyn, Charlie

In Uncle Arnon’s family, Michael Anthony McCarty (Diana’s son), Krista Elaine Taylor, (daughter of Jennifer Taylor, grand-daughter of Bob Taylor), Graham Alan Wright (Donnie’s son, grandson of Nancy), and Gabrielle Michelle Letourneau (Cynthia's daughter, 1st grandchild of Nancy Taylor Wright) all celebrate this April.



Congratulations to everyone! An Irish Toast to end the April Birthdays:

We drink to your coffin. May it be built from the wood of a hundred year old oak tree that I shall plant tomorrow.

Hope everyone has a wonderful month of April!