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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day: Gateway to Summer

Memorial Day is a little like Thanksgiving Day holiday in that there is only the celebration of the day and the events that are commemorated. I don't feel obligated to send cards and things for Memorial Day -- just thanks expressed for the time itself. But I certainly remember back in my growing up days in the Chicago suburbs enjoying Memorial Day or Decoration Day. I always associated the day with the events of World War I, but it seems that the day was started in 1868 to honor those who fought in the (Union side) Civil War. Two events I recall happening on Memorial Day in the 1950s were, one, the Indy 500 mile race and two, trips to the Indiana State Dunes:

Here is a view back to Chicago from the dunes. It was always a challenge to jump into Lake Michigan on that day -- the water was freezing -- but we did it to prove that we were up to it. The other event I mentioned, I never actually got to visit:

But -- I may be wrong about this but even though our town was a little less than 200 miles away I am almost sure that we could hear the roar of the engines, ever faintly, but in my mind distinctively so. Race talk was always big in our town on Memorial Day and it was fun to follow the happenings. I remember Tony Bettenhausen in the 1950s who actually came to visit our High School's driver's ed class and gave a great motivational talk about driving . . . this is the 100 anniversary of the race.

But there are memories of honoring those from our family who have already departed and so it was a time of reflection as well. One thing that it is used visually of course are the grave stones and markers. One HILES marker that is probably the most impressive that I've seen is that of George Hiles. Now, if I could just prove that George Hiles was in my direct line of ancestors . . .

This is the memorial to George and it is found in the Dexterville Cemetery in Wood County, Wisconsin. There are those that say we are connected, but I have yet to see the evidence supporting that. George was a very influential businessman in Wisconsin as you might imagine. If any of you have the proof of a connection to our line -- please share it.

And just recently I found a website (and an app) that I think could have huge benefits for the genealogical community:

It is like Find-A-Grave but gives any of us the capability to take pictures of gravestones with our iPhones  -- any family -- and the app from the iPhone will allow the photos to be sent to a grave image database for all to access. Also volunteers at the website will transcribe the information found on the stones so that is available as well. What a great resource! Please check out the website at:

Lastly our collective hats are off to all those who have served our country!

Have a great three day weekend!  (It is going to be Slider Sunday this week)

See you all in a few . . .

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rains (& now Sun) in Wine Country

Last weekend at this time it was storming in our area. While we were sheltered inside -- the vineyards were exposed to these elements and it is, according to the experts,  risky for rain to come to the vineyards at this time. Surrounding our town the hills are filled with vineyards on almost every available piece of land:

This is a typical view of vineyards within a few minutes of our house. It is hoped that the produce from these and other vines will be converted to and stored in places like -- our's and other folks' cellers:

As you can see there is room for some more . . .

Aside from the huge business represented above -- this time of year represents all sorts of agricultural efforts and our family is involved in that too. Two examples of rain-produced crops are proof of this gold-mine:

If you look closely in the first shot there are some beautiful purple flowers that have taken root in a crack in the driveway and tn the second shot I think budding Oaks have sprouted . . .

Seriously though this was the week that Gail did start our own garden -- tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, some squash, zucchini, and a pumpkin . . . the zucchini and the pumpkin will probably take over and make the garden look ever so fruitful -- we are off to the store to add some green beans to the mix.

Auggie (our doggie) is standing guard as he has done in a fashion for several years. As a note of interest we got Auggie as a puppy in 1999 from the local shelter. 

Here is a picture of Auggie a few days after his twelfth birthday this week -- he is looking good!

Thinking about all this agriculture and "tilling the soil things", reminds me how close I came to be living on a farm. My father's dream when I was growing up was to own a farm. We lived in the Chicago suburbs. In the mid 50s I remember going on weekend trips with my family to Wisconsin in search of the perfect farm. My Mother had certain conditions (like indoor plumbing) while my father was interested in the other out buildings included on any possible farm. 

On one trip to the Augusta, Wisconsin area -- about 300 miles from Chicago -- my parents found a farm that fit the requirements of all of us. It had everything that my Father wanted, my Mother was satisfied with the house and my brother and I were excited about the horses and other animals included. But, if you have ever seen the movie "Sliding Doors" seemingly small things happen to alter events in your life that dramatically change the outcome -- in this case, my Father wanted to "think about it" for a day -- and in the meantime someone else purchased the property.  To my knowledge we never pursued the farm dream again.

Many, many of our ancestors were farmers and to some extent we keep part of what they did alive in our gardens and landscaping efforts. But there still are some from our "tree" that work the soil.

Another week has swept by quickly -- time for sliders again. See you in a few.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

No Fiddlin' on the Roof just Quiddler on the Deck . . .

It is summer mode here almost -- that is -- when the "chores" of the day are done and shortly before dinner we retire to the deck to play a game of Quiddler or two. We have been doing this for several years and have gone through numerous decks. Once in awhile we change the game to "Dominoes on the Deck" but usually get back to Quiddler.As for the roof, well it has been decided that no more visits should be made to that part of the house by either of us -- we'll bring in help for that in the future . . .

If you like word games and cards then Quiddler is a good choice -- and it is a good game for two . . .

As maybe you can tell it is a far better choice -- deck over roof -- anytime. Now it still is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and we have highlighted several of our family member's participation. Every single HILES participant that we have mentioned was on the side of the Union, and for the most part that was true. But probably the most interesting that I have found -- to date -- is the experience of my Great Grandfather Samuel Martin -- my dad's mother's father:

Samuel Martin had a very interesting life and career. There are several newspaper articles and pages from various books highlighting the events. He was born in Kragero, Norway and began life as a sailor at an early age. He eventually made his way to Racine, Wisconsin where he maintained a residence for most of his adult life. He was a Captain of several sailing vessels on the Great Lakes. 

But in 1862 he found himself in the Bahamas area (the Civil War started the year before), here is a brief bio from the book "Norwegians on the Great Lakes":

So in effect Samuel Martin was in the Confederate Navy whether he joined or not. It is hard to imagine life in those days under those circumstances. As a child I visited his home in Racine many times as the house had been passed down to one of his daughters, Carrie. For more visit

The search for family continues every day. Most days I have contact with one or more "cousins" and little by little we get closer to maybe finding who brought our HILES branch to this country -- and from where. Everyday there are new "tools" being introduced for our help in this. This week was no exception and in future posts we will explore some of them. Social Networking also is playing a huge role in bringing researchers together to compare notes and branches.
And lastly, our cat -- Ms Kitty -- has a new collar. Not one that she actually likes but one that she has tolerated this week. Somehow she developed an open sore on one front leg -- and of course she licks it constantly -- so first we tried the "cone" and that was not going to work. We then ordered an inflatable collar and that works just fine -- her medicine can be applied without her licking it off . . . hopefully she will only have to endure this collar for a few more days. Auggie our dog acts like he is jealous of all this . . .

And so it is, another week has vanished. The weather has acted in between Spring and Summer and it might rain tomorrow -- but it's still is a "slider" Saturday Night . . .

See you in a few.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Snail Mail Trail & other visitors to the home

Recently in the light of the morning sun beaming through one of our back windows we were treated to a design that at first we were puzzled about it's origin -- but not for long -- the trail was the meandering of a resident snail:

I think it mirrors the actual route of our current mail delivery . . . just kidding, though it got me to thinking about the other visitors that arrive at our doorstep on a random basis. From my vantage point at my desk I can usually spot visitors or delivery type folks before they even get to our door. Of course the mail does not arrive at our door -- it is put into the box at the street.  Only UPS, Fed Ex and folks like that actually make it to our door. The mailman "beeps" from the driveway if he has a package to deliver so that we'll go outside to pick it up (we have a dog, though he never is loose in the front).

Growing up I remember the mail being delivered right to our front door -- twice per day -- a morning delivery and an afternoon delivery. Also we received a morning daily newspaper and an afternoon daily paper. And there were many products that came via home delivery. Of course the most remembered delivery for me was the "milk man" who delivered all kinds of dairy products to the door and sometimes even brought them inside. Another home vendor was an "orangeade juice" vendor that came bringing absolutely delicious juices.

When I visited my Grandparents home in Chicago there were even more interesting vendors -- the "ragmen" who walked the streets yelling "rags for sale" and they usually had a variety of things to sell or to buy. Then there were the knife sharpeners -- who pushed a large stone-grinding wheel around and for a few cents would sharpen your knives and scissors.  The garbage in those days was picked up from the back of the houses -- it was not dragged by the homeowners to the front street. In the case of my Grandparent's home there was an alley for that purpose.

Back out in the suburbs where I lived -- there were many other vendors like -- the Fuller Brush men, Watson Sales People, Jewel Tea Truck Route Salespeople, magazine sellers and of course vacuum salesmen. So many door-to-door folks.  Many of the vendors I had no contact with -- but there were some that I really wanted to have contact with -- the Good Humor Truck -- whenever it played it's jingles it brought me and most of my friends running to buy ice cream:

I know that I spent a fair amount of my allowance and other accumulated funds for Good Humor treats. In the post World War II years with the explosion of growth in real estate and particularly in the suburbs I really remember another phenomenon that has changed our way of life so-to-speak and that is how we obtained dinner items sometimes. Besides the introduction of McDonalds which I remember came to our neighboring town in the 50s -- there was the ever popular ditty heard on the radio starting in the early afternoon of -- "Don't Cook Tonight -- Get Chicken Delight" and it had to do with calling up and ordering a tasty batch of fried chicken and having it delivered right to you door . . . kind of like some pizza still today:

The chicken arrived at your house delivered by a vehicle with a huge plastic chicken on it's roof -- for all the neighbors to see "who wasn't cooking that night" . . . it was good though and I believe that in some parts of the country it is still available.

I got to wondering how many of the folks in my family tree made their living via home delivered products -- and I'm sure that there are many -- but one in particular comes to mind -- my Uncle Frank -- who actually is my Grand Uncle Frank Johnson. He started his working career in the Midwest and then in the 40s moved to Ukiah, California. A town interestingly enough fairly close (within an hour's drive) from where I currently live in Healdsburg. Frank married my Grandmother's sister, Lillian, who went by the name of La La:

In Ukiah in the 1940s Uncle Frank bought the "Ukiah Valley Creamery" and he owned that into the 1970s. He and LaLa had an interesting life in Ukiah -- they were both active in the community (Frank ran for city councilman) and as hobby he grew Orchids in a greenhouse behind their home. But the creamery products were besides being carried by local stores  home-delivered by Frank:

The above shows an example of a newspaper ad for Ukiah Valley Creamery (Ukiah News 1954) and two of the milk caps from their line.

So there you have some of my recollections of home delivery from the past -- we still though get frequent home delivered products -- mostly from Amazon -- and some other catalog type ordering. We very seldom get solicited for other things though every once in a while somebody "slips" through -- if they are kids supporting a school cause we usually are susceptible . . .

Now if they could only deliver "White Castles" . . . but we look forward to some home prepared sliders tonight. See you in a few.