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Linda Roorda

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  1. There are special memories we treasure and renew each Christmas season, no matter what! It seems that to honor this most treasured holiday is in our soul, for the birth of Baby Jesus brought treasured Joy and Love into our world. As we celebrate this joyous holiday, we enjoy making or buying special gifts for our loved ones, baking delicious treats, and beautifully decorating our homes. But don’t forget the seasonal aromas of fresh-cut evergreens! Therein lies a favorite memory for many in going out to get a Christmas tree from a tree farm, meandering between the rows to find the right one as fresh snowflakes flutter down, or perhaps simply picking out a favorite from among pre-cut trees on a seasonal lot, the latter option often being pretty much all that’s available to our city friends. Decorating the family Christmas tree brings such excitement to a child! Their eyes sparkle, reflecting the lights and tinsel that shine and shimmer, while the fancy decorations bring special memories to mind from year to year. The first Christmas after Ed and I were married, we cut down a small tree in the woods to decorate in our trailer; otherwise, faux trees were usually the norm as our kids grew up to save the disposable expense every year. Now, I simply set up the 2-foot ceramic tree made for my mother-in-law decades ago, which she graciously gifted to me before her passing. Until this research, I never knew that the evergreen tree is said to represent strength, perhaps strength to resist temptations or to remain strong in the harshest of times. We often consider it a symbol of our Christian faith, a reminder of Christ’s birth and everlasting life, but it has also been an ancient symbol of wisdom and longevity. President John F. Kennedy even referred to the durable evergreen as a symbol of character by saying, “Only in winter can you tell which trees are truly green. Only when the winds of adversity blow can you tell whether an individual or a country has courage and steadfastness.” (The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, pg.276) It seems Christmas trees became popular thanks to England’s Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century. Yet, it was in 16th century Germany where many believe the tradition began of setting up an evergreen in the house for Christmas. Martin Luther, credited with starting the Protestant Reformation in 1517, is thought to have begun putting lit candles onto his family’s tree which were held in place by wires. This bright tradition was based on his seeing stars twinkling amongst the evergreens as he walked outdoors mulling over a sermon. The Germans also added edible decorations to the branches, like aromatic gingerbread. German glassmakers began creating unique glass tree ornaments, a tradition carried forward through the centuries. In 1605, an unknown German left a written record of their decorations: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc." As time went on, figurines of Baby Jesus were put at the top of the tree. Later, an angel was often displayed as a topper to remind us of the one who had first informed the shepherds about Baby Jesus’ birth, or a star was gently set on the top branch in honor of the bright star which led the Wise Men to the young child. In England, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Germany, apparently set up and decorated their first family Christmas tree in 1841 inside Windsor Castle. Young and beloved by everyone, whatever Queen Victoria wore or did often became the latest fad, like wearing the first white wedding gown for her marriage in February 1840. Thus, she and her husband are credited with starting the very popular Christmas tree tradition. An 1848 drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” in the Illustrated London News eventually found its way to America, republished in “ Godey's Lady's Book ” at Philadelphia in December 1850. However, historical curators have established it was actually Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, who began the British tradition of setting up Christmas trees with “the first known English tree at the Queen’s Lodge, Windsor in December 1800.” Simply put, Queen Charlotte didn’t have the effervescent media giving profuse public praise to her every move that we would remember her effort. Lit candles on Christmas trees created a beautiful illuminating star effect. Unfortunately, they were also the cause of many fires. What a promising change when inventor Thomas Edison hung up his safer electric lights in his office in 1880. Two years later his colleague, Edward Johnson, strung up red, white and blue bulbs for use on his tree at home. By 1890, an Edison Company brochure offered Christmas tree lighting services. Only a few years later, President Grover Cleveland became the first president to decorate the White House Christmas tree with lights in 1895. But, not until 1923, did President Calvin Coolidge set up the first National Christmas Tree on the White House front lawn. The popularity of Christmas trees make them highly desirable wherever you live. Along with the beauty of candles or lightbulbs, various types of homemade decorations have been strung on the tree, including popcorn, cranberries, and fancy ornaments from paper to glass. To serve their many customers, trees were brought to the cities by traditional means of delivery via teamsters with horse-drawn wagons and the popular steam locomotive. Of especial interest among certain waiting city clientele, though, were the roughly 60 Christmas tree schooners which plied Lake Michigan between 1868 and 1914. They were among the nearly 2000 or so beautiful three-masted schooners carrying cargo like tractor trailers on today’s highways. Sailing south from northern Lake Michigan with loads of evergreens in late November, these hardy mariners risked their lives despite stormy weather to bring great joy to their customers. Far from summer’s calm, late season sailing often became a ride on roiling and dangerous waters described as “hellish death traps [in] violent hurricane-force storms.” Many of us readily recall Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, a haunting tale of loss on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 – “…The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'. The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early…” This last phrase was oft quoted by long-forgotten mariners on the Great Lakes who knew stormy tragedy; and, I’m sure, are among the fears of those who ply the late-season waters even now. Yet, not many of us today know about the tragic loss of the three-masted schooner, “Rouse Simmons”, the famed and fabled Christmas Tree Ship. Born after the American Civil War’s conclusion in 1865, Capt. Herman Schuenemann, the son of German immigrants, knew Lake Michigan like the back of his hand. He’d been sailing since his youth. He knew how storms could blow up in an instant, causing havoc with sailing vessels, just as he knew about storms which took ships down to their dark and bitter-cold watery graves. After all, he lost his brother, August, in the severe gale of November 9-10, 1898. His ship, “the two-masted S. Thal”, also held Christmas trees bound for Chicago when she sank in a violent storm. Loyal to the good people of Chicago, Capt. Herman Schuenemann faithfully brought in his schooner loaded with Christmas trees every year. While not the only Christmas tree ship on the Great Lakes, the good captain with his evergreen cargo was extremely popular at the Clark Street Dock of Chicago. The annual arrival of Capt. Santa was made more popular by the reciprocal love of his many friends and neighbors. He couldn’t think of disappointing the faithful who hoped to buy his trees for their homes, nor the poor families, orphanages, and churches which welcomed his free gift of a tree. It simply gave him great pleasure to sail into the Chicago harbor with his cargo of evergreen joy. Yet, some would later claim Schuenemann had overloaded his schooner that year, making her top heavy. At least one sailor, possibly several, refused to get on board when it was claimed rats were seen deserting while she was docked. Sailors can be a superstitious lot… still, it’s long been known by old sea hands that if rats desert a ship, they know something’s amiss in what the inexperienced or unconcerned observer may overlook. Even so, Capt. Schuenemann set sail on a nearly 300-mile journey from Thompson’s Pier at Manistique, Michigan the week before Thanksgiving… November 22, 1912, a Friday, another bad omen. To the old mariners, you never set sail on a Friday… just past midnight into Saturday, but never on Friday. Knowing a storm was brewin’, Schuenemann wanted to get ahead of it, ignoring advice from friends in the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “The people of Chicago have to have their trees for Christmas.” (See film clip of Classicsailboats.org, “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”) In the captain’s defense, though, even the official weather forecast on the day he sailed was not one that would have given rise to grave concern. “Washington, D.C., November 22, 1912 – For Wisconsin: Local rains or snow Saturday; colder at night; variable winds becoming northwest and brisk; Sunday fair. For Upper Michigan: Local snow or rains Saturday; variable winds, becoming northwest and west and brisk; Sunday fair. This would not be the kind of weather which a recreational yachtsman would relish, but it was hardly cause to stop the merchantmen.” (“Anchor News”, publication of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, January/February 1990, by Fred Neuschel; p. 87, Pennington.) And so, undeterred, Schuenemann sailed out into the lake with his cargo of roughly 5000 trees… until the 50-60+ mph winds caught up with him. The gale-force winds laden with snow and ice took their toll on the hardy old ship built 44 years earlier. She was seen by a steamer about 2 p.m. on November 23, 1912, the car ferry “Ann Arbor No.5.” Noted to be riding low and listing badly, the captain of “Ann Arbor No.5” later claimed the “Simmons” was not running distress signals. He didn’t attempt to get closer to offer aid thinking she could yet make it safely to shore, later taking much blame for his decision. Less than two hours after that siting, however, the U.S. Lifesaving Station had received notice and sent a rescue motorboat out from Two-Rivers, Wisconsin during the fierce storm to find the “Simmons”. The rescuers briefly saw her riding low and listing with distress flags flying, reporting that “…she was completely iced over, with most of her rigging and sails tattered or gone.” As they drew within an eighth of a mile of the schooner, a sudden snow squall overwhelmed and “blinded them. By the time the squall blew itself out, the ‘Rouse Simmons’ was gone… There was no Christmas Tree Ship, no Captain Santa, and no trees for many needy families’”. (p.135, Pennington, quoting U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, Dec 2000) The late-season cold and stormy Great Lakes does not bring a pleasure sail. High winds angrily whip the lake into a mountainous frenzy, sending waves crashing over ship decks. The captain and his crew would fight the elements as their ship was tossed to and fro. Though all hands knew what to do in riding out such storms, surely they must have also realized they could go down at any moment. Realistically, there was only so much they could do. “Freezing temperatures would sheet rigging, sails and spars with heavy coats of ice. The accumulating weight of ice on the ship could ominously drag her deeper into the water, changing the center of gravity and making her prone to a sudden roll, from which she would never recover. Running any cargo on the old schooners was especially dangerous in the late season.” (“Went Missing II”, Frederick Stonehouse, Copyright 1984; pg.87, Pennington) Actually, four ships with all hands sank in that horrendous storm of 1912 – “South Shore,” “Three Sisters,” “Two Brothers,” and the “Rouse Simmons.” Having lost sight of the “Simmons” despite an extensive search which risked their own lives, the unsuccessful Two Rivers Point men returned to the rescue house. When the “Rouse Simmons” failed to appear at any dock after ten days had passed, let alone her destination of Chicago’s Clark Street dock, it was determined that she must have gone to the bottom of Lake Michigan. She was believed to have sunk on November 23, 1912, possibly somewhere between the Two Rivers Point light and Kewaunee along the Wisconsin shore. Yet, there were numerous conflicting reports of sightings and stories of her final hours, including supposed sightings that she had braved the storm just fine, confusion on the number of crew aboard, and even confusion as to why she had gone down. For years afterwards, evergreen trees and their remnants, including a few ship artifacts and skulls, were caught up in numerous fishing nets. Not until October 30, 1971, however, did a diver, Kent Bellrichard, accidentally discover the “Rouse Simmons.” While searching for another ship with his sonar, he dove down into the depths to investigate his target at the bottom. Quite sure he had found the “Rouse Simmons”, Bellrichard returned a week later for another dive. This time, with better lighting, he found the schooner’s name and hundreds of Christmas trees in her hold, some tucked deep inside with needles still intact. (pg. 232-237, Pennington) Many more years passed before a fishing trawler netted a captain’s wheel in 1999. Determined to be from the “Rouse Simmons” by the year 1868 etched into the wheel’s metal, it was found in an area dubbed the ship graveyard for the many ships which have sunk there in storms over the numerous past decades. It is now believed the “Simmons” did not break apart from age as had been initially surmised. With her wheel found a mile and a half north of where the schooner rested on the bottom, and noting the specific type of damage to the wheel, there seemed to be sufficient evidence as to why the good Capt. Schuenemann was unable to bring her safely in to shore. Judging from the damage to the wheel, it most likely broke off and sank when the massive mizzenmast driver boom, which supported the ship’s main sails, broke loose. Without the vital wheel to guide the ship’s direction, and with her larger-than-usual load of evergreens, being heavily coated with ice, her sails in tatters from gale-force winds, riding low and listing badly, she all too quickly sank below the surface with a total loss of life in the worst storm folks of that day could remember ever hitting their great lake. (pg. 214-215, Pennington) Despite the family’s loss, the captain’s wife, Barbara, was determined to continue her husband’s tradition. She and her daughters, Elsie, and twins Pearl and Hazel, began their annual trek in 1913 to the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They cut down and loaded a schooner full of Christmas trees for the good folks of Chicago, sending more by train. Over time, fewer schooners brought Christmas trees into ports as the safer railroads took over. But, for now, Elsie, age 20, the Captain’s oldest daughter, a very capable trained mariner under her father’s tutelage, sailed the lake on a new Christmas Tree Ship to bring home the greens. Bringing shiploads of trees and green boughs to Chicago’s Clark Street dock at least until 1925 before sending all evergreens by rail, Barbara and her three daughters continued to bring the joy of the season to town just as the good Captain Santa had done. The family was beloved for their kindness and generosity in many ways, but especially during their own time of deepest grief when they thought of others. Yet, one little girl clearly remembered waiting for Capt. Scheunemann’s Christmas Tree Ship to sail into the Chicago harbor back in 1912. At age 5, Ruthie Erickson held her father’s hand as they waited at the dock for hours only to have her father finally say, “Ruthie, everybody is gone. It’s cold. The wind is blowing. We should go home now.” “But Daddy,” she replied, “it isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree!” (p.316, Pennington) Many years later, 83-year-old Ruth (Erickson) Flesvig attended a play in 1990 about the beloved Captain Santa and his Christmas Tree Ship. As the play concluded, her presence unknown to anyone, the real “little Ruthie” walked up onto the stage to say that she had been there at the docks waiting and waiting for the good captain and his trees. Portraying Capt. Scheunemann was Capt. Dave Truitt, former Chairman of the Christmas Ship Committee who, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, helped restore the annual Christmas Tree Ship event in 2000. (p.304-305, Pennington). With tears in his eyes and everyone else’s, Capt. Truitt took one of the Christmas trees on stage and handed it to Ruth. With these words, he spoke for Capt. Scheunemann by saying, “I couldn’t give you a Christmas tree in 1912 when you were five because of reasons you now know, but I give this tree to you today. Merry Christmas, Ruthie!” (p.316-137, Pennington) Donating free trees to Chicago’s needy, the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual Christmas Tree Ship continues Capt. Schuenemann’s beloved tradition. Since 2000, the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, an imposing icebreaker, arrives at Grand Avenue’s Navy Pier bearing a banner proclaiming her “Chicago’s Christmas Ship”. As large crowds gather, a memorial ceremony pays tribute to the “Rouse Simmons,” the lives lost when she sank, and others in the merchant marine trade who have lost their lives over the decades on Lake Michigan. Then, a large number of volunteers help deliver free Christmas trees to needy families throughout the city of Chicago in honor of Capt. Santa, their dear Capt. Herman Schuenemann. As author Rochelle Pennington concluded, “Captain Herman Schuenemann touched the lives of people he would never know, and the volunteers of Chicago’s Christmas Ship are doing the same… dispelling some of the darkness in this ‘weary world’ that there may be rejoicing in The Season of Miracles… [For] the strength of humanity lies herein: in the willingness for each of us to leave the walls of our own hearts, and our own lives, and connect with the hearts and lives of others. A Babe born in Bethlehem told us so. The Life born in the hay had come to say, ‘Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, serve one another in love, and share. And do unto others, for it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” (p.317, Pennington) Merry Christmas and blessings to all! Many thanks to a friend, Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster, for the research tip about Captain Santa and his ship of evergreens, the “Rouse Simmons.” Van Dorp traverses the Erie Canal and Great Lakes as an onboard lecturer for Blount Small Ship Cruises. RESOURCES Online: Rochelle Pennington books Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship (Northern Wilds Magazine, Dec-Jan 2011) Winter Christmas Tree 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Christmas tree ship Brief film clip from “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”, ClassicSailboats.org Through interstate library loan: “The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love,” by Rochelle Pennington, 2004, published by Pathways Press. “Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships” by Fred Neuschel.
  2. Show Off Your Tree

    Love your tree, Ann! It's beautiful - rich and full! Your Grands will love it! Our display is quite simple, the 1970s ceramic tree made for my mother-in-law, gifted to me the year before she passed. I enjoyed making the quilted table runner underneath it from one I liked online (got out the graph paper and drew up the design). May you all enjoy a very special Christmas holiday season!
  3. Christmas Joy!

    I had a big disappointment as a kid one Christmas, but kept it a secret all these years. I’ve never forgotten the Christmas when I was 5-1/2 years old. We’d left a favorite Marion, NY farm to live in Clifton, NJ again, the city where I was born. I was a big girl, walking all by myself the several blocks to kindergarten - PS#15 overlooking scenic Weasel Brook Park. My sister and I with our toddler brother loved to visit Grammy and PopPop (our Dad’s parents), and that Christmas was especially exciting ‘cause we were going to meet Santa!! And I knew all about him… You see, I had a book, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and knew that little story by heart… like another favorite book, “The Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens”. Just ask my kids… they’ll tell you not to get me started – ‘cause I still know that favorite story by heart! But there we were at the Christmas party with a house full of relatives. And who arrives amidst a big fuss? Santa Claus!!! No, not down the chimney, silly! After all, my grandparents didn’t have a fireplace, only radiators in their city house. No, Santa simply came in the back door, all dressed in red with white trim. He had a white beard, and a wide black belt around his big tummy – just like in my book! So, it really was him!! Then, while PopPop took movies, we girls took turns sitting on Santa’s lap, telling him what we wanted for Christmas - me, my sister, Carol, and our cousin, Susan. I honestly don’t remember who went first. But, I do know that I was scared despite being the oldest cousin and in kindergarten. I didn’t know what to say! But cousin Susan? She wasn’t afraid of Santa! She talked to him just like she knew who he was… and I was jealous. Why couldn’t I have talked with Santa like that? But, we were very happy with the big stocking full of candy that he gave each of us! As Santa left, Grammy took us three girls to a window upstairs that overlooked the snow-covered street out front, the sides banked high with plowed snow. “See those lights? There goes Santa!” But, you know what? I knew that was just a car’s red tail lights. Under city streetlights, I didn’t see Santa’s sleigh! Where were all the reindeer? And Rudolph with his nose so bright? He was supposed to lead the way! I knew every word of that story, remember?! Right then and there, I was so disillusioned that I never believed in Santa again! And dear Grammy never knew about my big disappointment… Writing this story, I had to find out who played Santa. From my Aunt Hilda, I learned that Richard Andela was our Santa. Richie actually worked with her husband, Roy Oostdyk, at his Gulf gas station on Main Street in Clifton… where my father also worked on Saturdays over the years when we lived in Clifton. No wonder Susan was so comfortable talking with him! Oh, the precious memories of childhood that we hold onto! Yet, there is someone I can believe in without disappointment… for eternity. For me, it’s the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas… Jesus, the Light of the world, our Lord and Savior. “For God [our heavenly Father] so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 KJV) With the busy holiday shopping extravaganza, commercialization and our hectic schedules, I think we sometimes lose a little of the joy and wonder that must have been felt on that very first Christmas… and perhaps we, too, forget to make room amidst the hustle and bustle for this precious little baby. Like us at times, another youngster was once trying to find the right things to help him celebrate, but nothing seemed to go right for him either. “It was finally Christmastime, the best time of the year. The houses were strung with tiny colored lights, their windows shining with a warm yellow glow only Christmas could bring. The scents of pine needles and hot cocoa mingled together, wafting through the air, and the sweet sounds of Christmas carols could be heard in the distance. Fluffy white snowflakes tumbled from the sky onto a group of joyful children as they sang and laughed, skating on the frozen pond in town. Everyone was happy and full of holiday cheer. That is, everyone except for Charlie Brown…” “Charlie (to Linus): ‘I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…’” “Later, after a day of frustrations, Charlie said: ‘I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster! I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?’” “Linus quietly said: ‘Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.’ [Walking to the center of the stage, Linus speaks.] ‘And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’” [Luke 2:8-14, KJV] * Did you notice that Linus dropped his security blanket while saying “Fear not” in the film? He knew Who to trust and believe! And that’s what Christmas is all about. Wishing A Blessed and Merry Christmas to all! No Room Linda A. Roorda Is there no room, no room in my heart? Midst all the trinkets this world can offer, What do I value and treasure the most… Things that decay or things of the heart? ~ It seems I’ve filled my heart with worry Frets and concerns of every-day life. My wants and wishes each clamor for time Leaving scant room for what matters more. ~ Like the innkeeper from long ago He with no room sent seekers away Little did he know, the love they carried Was in the babe about to be born. ~ This babe grew strong and embraced the weak An emissary of love sent to our world. How else could He know what this life was like Except to become like one of us? ~ Tempted and tried amidst the world’s cares Unrecognized, despised and rejected. No room in their hearts to welcome salvation No room for love and gifts eternal. ~ Still, we are drawn to this man unique… One who went seeking the hopeless and lost, Forgiving our pasts, making new from worn He who has room in His heart for us. ~ Is there no room, no room in my heart, Midst all the trinkets this world can offer? Yes, there is room for the One I treasure… The precious babe, my Savior and Lord! ~~ 12/21/16 – 12/29/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. *1965 TV special: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles M. Schulz.
  4. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Fall is when I tend to reflect on a year of many blessings as we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and remembering the first celebration of thanks just a few centuries ago. On Thanksgiving Day, we realize once again that we have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed us all in so many ways, yet we often (me included) tend to take much in life for granted. And I cringe every time I hear this special day called Turkey Day, instead preferring to think that deep within each of us is a heart of thanksgiving for all the blessings showered upon us each and every day. As a nation, we treasure the story of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving celebration at Plimouth Colony in 1621. (The Pilgrims of Plimouth are not to be confused with the Puritans who settled the Boston area; they are each of different religious backgrounds.) The original Mayflower passengers numbered 102, with about 50 crew members, when they set sail for the intended destination of the Virginia Colony. Blown northward off course, they arrived in 1620 to a barren landscape amidst cold and bitter November winds and snows. These hardy souls struggled to survive as the ravages of disease took a toll on board ship where they wintered. Only 53 passengers and half the crew remained alive in the spring. This left a straggling group of humanity to emerge from winter’s stark bleakness to face the early days of spring. But, the days were bright with hope and promise as the warming sun nudged green buds alive on plants and trees. They had survived! And, with God’s help, they were determined to succeed in their endeavor to settle this new land. Building huts within the protection of a fort and its cannon, they moved from the hold of the ship to life on shore. They learned to grow vegetables and hunt wild game and fish. Native Americans who had befriended them were of great assistance in teaching the best methods for growing their gardens, and hunting and fishing. At the end of harvest in October 1621, a feast was held for three days, traditionally considered the first Thanksgiving. From records kept, 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans attended this great feast. By 1623, their failed communal farming effort had been given over to the more productive privatized individual family farming. With an abundant harvest following a drought and subsequent beneficial rains, Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that same year: “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” The Pilgrims’ annual tradition was followed in 1630 by the Puritans’ first celebration, in 1639 by settlers of Connecticut, and in 1644 among the Dutch of New Netherlands. Each group also set aside an annual day of thanksgiving in future years. By the 18th century, various colonies designated a day of thanksgiving for military victories or bountiful crops. In December 1777, a national day of thanksgiving within all thirteen colonies was declared and set aside by General George Washington after British General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga. On October 3, 1789, President Washington set aside the first Thanksgiving Day, and proclaimed such a day again in 1795. Since then, a national day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by future presidents, but not necessarily annually. It was President Abraham Lincoln who established a national Thanksgiving Day to be held on the last Thursday of November 1863. Since then, Thanksgiving has been observed annually. However, change again took place in 1941 when President Franklin Roosevelt set the fourth Thursday of each November as the official date, and there it has remained. What foods were on the menu for the first Thanksgiving Day feast in 1621? From writings kept, the Wampanoag Native Americans killed five deer. The colonists shot wild fowl – likely geese, ducks and turkey. Indian corn was used since what we know as field and sweet corn were not yet available. Jennifer Monac, spokesperson for the living-history museum at Plimouth Plantation, has said they “likely supplemented their venison and birds with fish, lobster, clams, nuts, and wheat flour, as well as vegetables such as pumpkin (not in pie), squash, carrots and peas.” However, what we consider traditional foods for our Thanksgiving dinner (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie) were not found on their table – these foods had not even been introduced into their diet yet! What sets this day apart for you and your family? What makes your heart thankful? What special memories or traditions of Thanksgiving Day do you share with family and friends? I’d love to hear your memories! Thanksgiving has always been a family day for us, whether during my childhood or with my husband and our children. When I was a small child, my dad had farm chores; but, we always attended a morning worship service. In my late teens, and no longer on the farm, and no worship service at our church, he often took us hunting. For my husband, Ed, every holiday was wrapped in never-ending milking and barn chores, continuing after we married. I especially enjoyed the big dinners after church at my dad’s parents’ home in Clifton, New Jersey in my early teens. With her Dutch accent, my grandmother always welcomed us at the door with her cheery “Hello, Dear!” My grandfather, a general contractor, had fully shed his accent, though they both spoke Dutch when we grandkids were not to know the content of their conversation! And I well remember their food-laden table, surrounded by their three children and spouses, and all of us grandchildren. Thanksgiving Day also brings to mind the quintessential painting by Norman Rockwell of the family gathered around the table - Grandma setting down the large platter of turkey, eagerly awaiting Grandpa’s carving. I began a fun tradition of naming our birds either Sir Thomas or Henrietta, depending on size. Growing up, our children always enjoyed watching the Thanksgiving Day parades. I often had to work this holiday years ago, and looked forward to coming home to the delicious aroma of turkey dinner begun by my husband and children. Now, with our two remaining children grown and married, and each with children of their own, they celebrate with their respective spouse’s family. Ed and I celebrate with a small quiet dinner. And then, we eagerly anticipate Christmas and the return of our family for a few days. Thanksgiving Day also never fails to remind us of those who have left behind an empty chair and a hole in our hearts – our oldest daughter, both my husband’s parents, and my dad and step-mother. Yet, sweet memories of their love cast a warm glow over all. With thankful hearts for the many blessings God has so generously bestowed on each of us, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!
  5. Dancing Embers

    Watching a fire burning in the fireplace is mesmerizing. The dancing flames seem to take on a life all their own, swaying as if in a gentle breeze. And it appears to be that time of year again. Admittedly, fall is not my favorite season, though I do enjoy the brilliant colors as leaves turn various shades and hues before cascading down to replenish the earth. I also tend to find the cold rain on dark and dreary days a bit depressing… yet, I do like the time to slow down, gather in, and observe nature’s changing moods. We shiver as the cold air closes in around us, put on a warm sweater, or wrap ourselves in a cozy quilt or blanket, and grab a good book to read. The flowers faded long ago as their greenery wilted, and the gardens have been put to rest for another season. Soon pristine white flakes will flutter down to cover the drab browns and grays as winter’s blanket settles upon the earth… in a relentless cycle of time. This poem was among my earliest, written in 2013. And, once again, I find myself sitting in front of the pellet stove, missing our trusty old woodstove, gazing at the small fire that slowly begins to burn. As the fire is fed and builds momentum, its heat slowly radiates outward, and I take time to pursue thoughts that ramble… time to think about life… time to ponder where all the years have gone… time to worry… time to realize I need to give those frets to God… time to plan next year’s gardens… time to consider chores on my endless to-do list… and time to contemplate the innumerable blessings God has given us all. Blessings in an every-day hectic life that we so often take for granted. Dancing Embers Linda A. Roorda ~ On a cold wintry night Sitting quiet by the fire A welcomed rest and retreat Watching embers glow bright Dancing as in a breeze Pausing to think and reflect… ~ On blessings clearly seen In ways beyond counting, On those hid from view Only the heart can perceive… ~ On a life oft’ encumbered With worries, frets and woes, On dreams gone up in flames Leaving memories behind… ~ But then I remember One who softly entreats Draw near to Me And release your burdens For I’ll care for you Each step of the way. ~~ Jan/Feb 2013 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author.
  6. This is Love...

    What is love? We say “I love you!” … but we also say we love a book, a movie, a car, a new outfit, our pets. Is love found in endless glowing words of romantic emotion or selfless acts to please another? So, what makes our love tick? It’s the minutes between the anniversaries that make the memories special. I can’t say that my husband is the most romantic guy in the world. Yet, he has written me the most beautiful letters to express his deepest feelings. Not able to buy cards for me unless someone takes him to the store, many are the times he has listened repeatedly to a specific song on record, tape or CD and painstakingly written it out, phrase by phrase... just to express what’s in his heart. That effort on his part means more to me than the world’s most beautiful manufactured card. He shows his love in a myriad of ways… like willingly helping with our babies after he came in from 14-16 hour days of farm chores just because he wanted to. He learned to diaper them, lovingly rocked and burped our little ones, and even read bedtime stories to them before his own dinner. Seeing my big 6’7” guy hold our tiny babies in his calloused farm-worn hands clearly evoked an image of tender love. He’s been committed to his family, always there for me and our children, helping guide them as they grew, or enveloping us in his arms when all we needed was a warm snuggle. He still helps with household chores despite vision and physical limitations – just because it’s his way of showing love... trying to ease the load I carry after working a full shift, taking him to medical appointments, and handling more and more of what he can no longer do. I used to attend an annual women’s faith retreat years ago. In one of the classes, we were asked to share how we express love to our spouse in a unique way as the leader wrote 10 ways on the board. A few said they’d write “I love you” with shaving cream on the bathroom mirror or add a special note when packing lunch for their husband, etc. My simply saying “I love you” to my husband was laughed at when shared with the woman next to me, a pastor’s wife. I felt so humiliated. What I wanted to explain (and should have said, but was afraid to) was that my husband was blind and my saying those three simple words has always been special to him, and that everyone’s examples were only good for those with vision. But, baking scrumptious meals and desserts, and not treating him as incapable of doing things just because he’s blind, seeking his advice when I’ve a problem, or even waiting for him to ask for help before offering or giving my assistance… these also show my love in tangible ways that he appreciates. My husband means what he says. His words are not empty, hollow flattery. When he says something, listen close because there’s a depth of truth and wisdom from his innate ability to understand life and how people operate. Actually, he’s a man of few words. I used to wish he’d talk more, like me! But, I’ve come to appreciate the meaning behind his few words chosen well, his sense of humor, his devotion to me and his family, his strong faith in the midst of blindness and multiple health issues, and his ability to share Godly wisdom. Giving flowers has never been his thing, though I tend to long for beautiful bouquets. On the other hand, he knows the value of our hard-earned dollars. He won’t frivolously throw it away on something that will be tossed aside in just a few days, like flowers. He’d rather spend it on something to be enjoyed long term. And I admire him for that. I have a husband who respects me and appreciates all that I do. Maybe he doesn’t tell me that every day; but, when he does, it’s worth the wait to hear those words because he means it. It’s been a hard life for him, yet he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Being legally blind since he was a premature infant, and though he could drive a tractor on the farm or along the roadside, he could not hop in the car or pickup and go whenever and wherever he wanted. He was stuck at home, unless someone drove him to his destination. How frustrating that has been for him at times! I so appreciate his attitude of acceptance as, even now, being totally blind and with health issues that limit his mobility, he accepts the path God has allowed his life to take. He’s able to express a wisdom and insight we both would not have understood had we not gone through these various difficulties. My husband loved me despite the immaturity I came into our marriage with at age 19. He loved me enough to help me grow, to become the best wife and mother I could be, and to use the hidden talents God blessed me with in ways I could never have imagined. In turn, I love him for being there for me, listening and talking through issues we’ve faced. He’s also been gifted with a sense of humor that crops up when needed most. I loved working by his side in the past in the barn, doing yard work, or in the house. He used to tease me, saying I followed him around like a shadow in the barn, and when he’d stop short to take care of something, I’d “crash” into him and we’d burst into laughter! I miss those times working closely together… a lot. No marriage is perfect. We’ve had our share of problems and arguments when our wants got the upper hand. But, we made it work and kept our vows to each other rather than running away when times got tough. Love comes in admitting our wrongs, asking forgiveness, and understanding the unique and different strengths we each bring as gifts to be shared for personal growth. In contemplating love, the depth of a heart is revealed in the willing ability to stand by a loved one no matter the cost, except in the case of abuse. Yet, even then, if the abuser is willing to admit their wrongs and truly change from within, the path of regeneration, or reconciliation, is well worth the effort. But, if the abuser refuses to see or admit their wrongs, and perpetuates such behavior, even if others may not see it, then it’s time to walk away for one’s physical and/or emotional preservation, whether in a marriage or a friendship. Love is not about what someone else can give you; it’s all about what you can give the other, in building them up, without looking for praise. And in that, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, words rephrased in our marriage vows, that “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) Though I may not be married to the most romantic guy in the world, God has truly blessed me with Ed’s love and practicality. Perhaps the complement to my emotional heart and creativity, he brings a balance to keep me grounded and contented, sharing laughter with his great sense of humor that has helped bring many a smile to our faces. He has an innate ability to understand people… like the depths of my heart and our children’s needs as they grew up, or taking seriously his former role as a church Elder/Deacon… and knows how to balance his role as leader of our family with the Lord as guide. We’re far from perfect, but it’s knowing how to pick our battles, and how to pick ourselves up again in the storm, with “promises to keep and miles to go” to quote another poet.* Therein lies the secret of true love as we seek the wisdom of God above… letting His love permeate our hearts and souls to become a better person. Because I firmly believe God put us together, allowing us to face various difficult trials to draw us closer to Him as we grow in faith and love. And, if Christ loved each of us so much that He willingly lay down His life for us, for our sins, then we can surely share that love with others around us. For as Colossians 3:12-14 reminds us, we are to “…clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” This is the love I see in my husband. Happy 44th Anniversary, Edward! This is Love Linda A. Roorda This is love beyond a feeling in the depths of the heart a commitment to keep. ~ This is love exhilarating joy that flows through the soul with a gentle tenderness. ~ This is love in the place of self a sacrificial gift bringing joy to another. ~ This is love a blending of hearts to become as one in sharing life’s journey. ~ This is love a tear that is shared the hand tenderly held the comfort in silence felt. ~ This is love a listening ear with honest confession as mercy and grace pour out. ~ This is love to take life’s pain and wash it away in selfless gifts with joy. ~ This is love that One above would give His life to show us the path of love. ~~ February 2013 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. *Robert Frost, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” ~~
  7. The Harvests of Fall

    As summer’s warmth gives way to the cooler days of fall, our thoughts turn to cold-weather projects, and that of storing food for the coming winter. Without that process, our ancestors would be hard pressed to get through the bitter cold months, unless, of course, you could afford to purchase all your food supplies at the local general store. Once upon a time, most families cultivated large vegetable gardens and raised a barnyard menagerie to put food by for the coming winter – a vital necessity. How they accomplished it without our modern water-bath and pressure canners, and freezers, that we and our mother’s generation have used amazes me. In 2003, I was concluding my empty-nest project of researching and writing an extensive manuscript which documented every family line of my mother’s parents back to the early 17th century settlers of New Netherlands. And that was using only the pathetically slow dial-up internet for online research! In asking for input from relatives on their memories of our grandparents, my aunt, Shirley (Tillapaugh) Van Duesen, shared how much she enjoyed working alongside her dad. Her ties to her father don’t surprise me. While growing up, I enjoyed time spent working with my dad, too, and that naturally evolved into enjoying time spent working with my husband on the farm and around our property. But, I found it especially interesting that, of all things my aunt chose to write about, she told me about fall butchering time on the farm. I’m so glad she did, though, because in many ways what she wrote about is a lost skill. Oh sure, we still have butcher shops in some rural communities, but gone are the days of farm and backyard butchering where neighbors helped each other with these chores. With permission granted by my cousin, Doug, to share his mother’s words, Aunt Shirley wrote, “What I remember the most was hog butchering time which was sometime in November, I believe. It was a community project, usually two or three days. Everyone who had pigs to butcher helped in the process, and they were hung in my father’s garage to cool overnight or until they were ready to be cut up. Each one took their own [pig] home to process from that point on. I always enjoyed helping cut ours up – to cut and skin the rind (or hide) off the fat, cut fat off the meat, grind and render it down into lard for cooking, cut meat into roasts, pork chops, tenderloin, and grind other remaining meat and scraps for sausage. My father always cut and shaped the hams, then put them in large tubs with a salt brine to cure for several weeks. Then he would take them out and smoke them in the smokehouse. He would do the same with the sausage after grinding and stuffing it into the casings, and then shape that into links. The hams were then put into large brown bags and hung in the cellar, and used as needed – and the same for the sausage.” Her description gives us a great overall picture of the process. Further details on the butchering process can be found in the online Backwoods Home Magazine, Issue No. 23 from September/October 1993, with an appropriate article, “Slaughtering and Butchering,” by Dynah Geissal. I enjoyed this very informative article in which Geissal gives excellent directions for the homesteader in butchering a variety of home-grown animals raised specifically for the freezer. She describes how to cut the meat into appropriate sections, with photos to provide guiding details. She even includes recipes for sausage, scrapple and other delicious fare. Raised on a dairy farm, my husband was present twice when his father and uncles butchered cows on the farm. Like my aunt wrote, Ed agreed that the best time to butcher is in the fall, typically November, because it’s cold enough to hang the carcass to avoid spoilage. When cows were shipped to the butcher shop, he also said it was important to keep the animal as calm as possible before slaughter. This helped keep the meat from becoming tough and unsavory. On a smaller scale in backyard processing, my sister and I were the official assistants when it was time to dispatch designated unproductive chickens or specific meat birds to the freezer. My father was in charge of swinging the axe on the chopping block. And for those who have only heard the expression about someone running around like a chicken with their head cut off – let me assure you, it’s accurate! After filling a 5-gallon bucket with boiling water, we sisters were given the honor of dunking and plucking. With twine around their feet, we hung the scalded chickens from a nail in a barn beam and plucked those feathers clean off as best we could. My mother was in charge of dressing the hens back in the kitchen. Dressing is the more delicate term to describe the process of gutting and cleaning the bird. I still vividly recall my mother showing us shell-less eggs from inside one of the hens – in descending sizes from the current large to tiny! I was utterly fascinated! I should perhaps mention at this point that once upon a time I had thoughts of becoming a veterinarian. As science and math were not among my strong points, that dream soon fell by the wayside. We also raised pigs, three at a time. And now I must confess that I had a tremendous fear of our cute little piglets simply from their noise and stench! So, I refused to care for them, thus putting my younger brothers in charge of the feeding and cleaning of little piglets that grew into large hogs – really a good responsibility for my energetic brothers! My dad knew when they’d reached sufficient poundage and sent them off to the butcher shop to become delicious pork in the freezer for us and our city relatives. Our horse, chickens, ducks and one goose (appropriately named “Honk” by my toddler brother) were my charges with the Muscovy ducks providing entertainment. Digging a hole in the fenced-in chicken run, we sank a square galvanized tub for their bathing delight, and they regularly enjoyed “swim” time. Only one duck decided to set on about a dozen eggs. Four hatched properly and soon waddled behind their Mama to explore the great outdoors. Feeling sorry for the fifth duckling who was late emerging from its shell, this writer took it upon herself to assist the poor little thing. Unbeknownst to her at the time (she forgot to study), fowl do not need, nor do they desire, our assistance to hatch from their shell. They have a “tooth” on their beak which assists them quite well; but, they also must do their own hatching in order to survive. So, you guessed it – this little duckling did not live long once it had been helped out of its shell. Then, a few days later, this caretaker came home from school and eagerly went out to care for her critters only to sadly discover one little duckling had drowned in the 2-inch deep water dish in their pen. That left three cute and fuzzy ducklings to follow the adults as they grew like weeds. And, though a bit more greasy than chicken, they were absolutely delicious when my mother roasted them! (Yes, that was their intended purpose.) During the years that I stayed home to raise our children while my husband farmed with his dad, I grew a large garden every summer, canning and freezing a year’s worth of vegetables and fruit. It sure helped save on grocery bills, wishing I had the time and energy to do it now, but cannot with working full time elsewhere. It was only natural I delved into this venture since my parents raised a large garden every year for as long as I can remember, as did both sets of grandparents. But, as children, when we were sent out to weed our garden, my sister and I opted instead to run and play between the rows! Truth be told, we even tossed some of the green beans under the lilac bushes when we decided we were tired of the chore of snapping them. However, when they were my own gardens with food to be put up for the coming winter, I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the process. But, as mentioned above, I’ve often wondered how our ancestors put their veggies up. They didn’t have the benefit of a freezer, nor could they efficiently use water-bath jar canning let alone the fine tunings of a high-pressure cooker/canner like I had available. In looking for books to study this subject, I recalled my bookshelf held my mother’s, “Putting Food By – The No.1 book about all the safe ways to preserve food.” It’s a very useful book for beginners as it discusses all the prerequisites to canning and freezing vegetables and meats, including explanations of the old-fashioned methods our ancestors used to put up their food. Another excellent resource obtained through Spencer’s interlibrary loan system was “The Little House Cookbook, Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories” by Barbara M. Walker. What a genuine treasure this book is as Ms. Walker expands on Wilder’s descriptions of the foods they ate by explaining how their food was prepared with innumerable appropriate recipes. I thought you might enjoy a scrumptious old-fashioned recipe from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day. A special dessert which Almanzo enjoyed as a child was Birds’-Nest Pudding in Wilder’s book, “Farmer Boy.” Barbara M. Walker includes a recipe in her book for this standard dessert of long ago with the apples “baked…in a custard, biscuit dough, or pie pastry.” This is just one of many old-fashioned recipes found in Walker’s “The Little House Cookbook.” “For six servings you will need: Butter, ½ teaspoon Tart apples, 6 (about 2 pounds) Brown sugar, 1 cup Ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon Eggs, 3 Homogenized milk, 1 cup Maple flavoring, 1 teaspoon Flour, 1 cup Cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon Baking powder, ½ teaspoon Salt, ½ teaspoon Powdered sugar, ½ cup Heavy cream, 1 pint Baking dish: 2 quart Butter the baking dish. Peel and core the apples and place them in the dish. Fill the holes with brown sugar, pressing slightly, and sprinkle half the nutmeg on top. Place in preheated 350-degree oven to start baking while you prepare the batter. Separate the eggs, putting yolks in a 2-quart bowl and whites on a 12-inch platter. Beat whites with a fork or whisk until they don’t slip from the tilted platter. Beat the yolks until they change color; stir in milk and maple flavoring. In a 1-quart bowl, mix flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, salt and remaining brown sugar. Stir this mixture quickly into the liquid. Fold the egg whites into this thin batter. Pour the batter evenly over and around the partially cooked upright apples, returning the dish to the oven, baking until the crust has browned, another 45 minutes to an hour. While the pudding bakes, stir the powdered sugar and remaining nutmeg into a pitcher of heavy cream. Take the baked pudding out of the oven and directly to the table before it ‘falls.’ Turn each serving onto a plate so the apple is ‘nested in the fluffy crust.’ Pass the pitcher of sweetened cream.” (Walker, pp.126-127) A classic from the 19th century, Housekeeper and Healthkeeper (available only online, not through interlibrary loan) by Catherine E. Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe) discusses virtually every conceivable household dilemma for the housewife of the late 19th century. Beecher’s own foreword is written to “My Dear Friends, - This volume embraces…many valuable portions of my other works on Domestic Economy… It is designed to be a complete encyclopedia of all that relates to a woman’s duties as housekeeper, wife, mother, and nurse.” Beecher includes five hundred recipes of which I perused a few. She is completely thorough in all of her explanations to assist the housewife who often entered her new profession without foundational training. I was impressed by Beecher’s ability to address every possible home situation from cooking and putting food by, to cleaning and caring for the sick family. In our ancestors’ time a few hundred years ago, even through the turn of the 19th century, most rural families had a milch (milk) cow or two. Not only was the family’s delicious milk and cream supplied by their very own favorite pet cow, but Bossy’s milk also provided them the ability to make butter, cheese and ice cream. Things just didn’t get any better than that! And, extras could always be sold or bartered for other necessities not readily available or too expensive at the general mercantile. Without electricity, one either had an ice house to keep foods cold, a storage area in the cellar, or a springhouse. Root cellars were a popular place to store vegetables below the frost line. Attics were often used to store food during the winter including hams, pumpkins, squashes, onions, and dried vegetables. Perhaps the home had a storage shed just outside the back door. Here, the family could conveniently store meat in a “natural freezer” during the winter months (though I’ve wondered about wild critters enjoying the free cache), along with stacked firewood, other supplies, and kettleware. Then again, many homes had a large pantry just off the kitchen. I remember well my Grandma Laura Tillapaugh’s huge pantry with shelves on all sides and a door to the cellar, which I never did get to explore. It was in this pantry that she kept her big tin of large scrumptious molasses cookies that we could help ourselves to when she gave approval. Try as I might, I was never able to duplicate her delicious cookies though! My mother shared with me that their cellar held crates of apples and potatoes and other root vegetables. Not a root cellar per se`, my mom said that what was stored in crates kept quite well through the winter. She also recalls her mother did use both pressure and waterbath canners for fruits and vegetables, along with canning pickled tongue and other meats at butchering time. As my Aunt Shirley wrote about butchering time, their meat was put into a salt brine and stored in large wooden barrels or the old pottery crocks. This process meant keeping the meat well covered by brine, held below the surface by a heavy weight. Smoking was another great way to cure and preserve the meat to prevent spoilage and bacteria growth during storage over the long winter. Brine, made of sugar, salt, saltpeter or sodium nitrate, and mixed with water, covered and cured meats placed in large crocks. After the curing time of up to two months, the meat was typically smoked and then hung in the attic or cellar. Or, you could fry the meat, place it in a crock, covering it with a layer of lard, then a layer of meat covered by lard until the crock was full. The homemaker had only to dig out the amount of meat needed for a meal and reheat it. These ever-handy crocks preserved other foods such as butter, pickles, sauerkraut, and even vegetables. Apple cider was fermented to make hard cider, often a staple on the old farms. Lard or paraffin was used to seal a crock’s contents, keeping out contaminants causing spoilage. Before modern conveniences came along, root vegetables were typically stored in the cellar, or root cellar – especially potatoes, turnips, onions, beets, cabbages, carrots and even apples. Areas that are cool, dark and dry help keep vegetables from sprouting, and slow any spoilage that might begin. It was also a wise idea to store apples, potatoes and cabbages apart from each other and other produce so their odors/flavors did not spoil each other. It was also a must to keep an eye on everything for early signs of spoilage. Vegetables and certain fruits being stored could be wrapped individually in paper, or kept in baskets covered in sand, soil or dry leaves. Reading the requirements in “Putting Food By,” we need to know a lot about the root cellar process that, on the surface, seems like such a simple idea – but it’s really not. There are specific temperature and dryness or moisture requirements for the various vegetables and fruits to prevent mold and spoilage. I recall that in the early 1980s, I had an abundance of good-sized green tomatoes. After picking them, my dad and step-mother helped as we lay them out on the basement floor on newspaper to ripen, storing the greenest in a bushel basket with each one wrapped in newspaper. They kept for a good while out in the garage where it was cold but not freezing. Another popular method was to dry fruits and vegetables, often simply by drying them in the sun. Meat dried in this manner is called jerky. If the home had a cookstove, drying could be accomplished on trays in the oven, or the vegetables and fruit could simply be put on strings and hung to dry in a warm area of the room. The warm attic space near the chimney was another good place to dry food, using protection from dust and bugs. Reconstitution by adding sufficient water for stewing was all it took to use these otherwise scarce foods during the cold and barren winter months. Though they often lost some of the original flavor, dried veggies and fruits must have been a welcome addition to their diet during the cold winter months. In the latter half of the 19th century, special driers with built-in furnaces became available on the market for home use in drying various fruits and vegetables. When thinking about the types of food eaten by our ancestors on the frontier, we need to remember that their salty and fatty dishes were necessary for their diet considering their involvement in extensive physical labor. And to this any modern farmer can attest as their own hard work all day in the barn or fields contributes to a rather hearty appetite – I do remember how much Ed ate without gaining weight! Farmers and homesteaders had not only the typical farm chores to attend to in the hot summer and bitter cold winter, but they would hunt to supplement their meat supply, and put in a garden to reap the harvest of both vegetables and fruits. If the homesteader did not have a ready supply of fruit on their own bushes and trees, searching the nearby forest often gave them a bounty of seasonal fruits and berries. Yet, even in that venture, there was the ever-present danger of wild animals, especially bear. The homesteaders’ hearty appetites and wide variety of unprocessed food allowed for a healthy diet which did not require today’s supplemental vitamins. My mother shared her memory years ago of pouring maple syrup (or cooked molasses and brown sugar) over snow which Laura Ingalls and her siblings did to make a delicious candy. (Not recommended nowadays with the pollutants in our snow.) As a teen, I remember making ice cream the old-fashioned way with a hand-turned crank – nothing tasted better when it was ready! And my sister and I attempted to make divinity, once – it wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious! Now, a favorite of mine is to make brittle with cashews – with the key being a candy thermometer which neither my sister and I nor Laura Ingalls’ family had available years ago. It required a lot of work on the part of every family member to hunt, raise and grow the family’s food, and then to put it up for the coming winter, year after year. If they didn’t carefully follow the steps to properly preserve their food, a good deal of spoilage could and would occur due to various elements or critters. And, at the time of which we write, the early 19th century, canning was not yet an available option for our homesteader. Actually, the glass Mason canning jar with rubber ring and wire clasp was not available until 1858. But then, of course, if you could afford it, you could simplify life and buy quality foods at the grocery or butcher shop in town to maintain a well-balanced diet throughout the unproductive winter months. All things considered, we really do have an easier way of life. But, what satisfaction our ancestors must have felt in putting by their own food! I sure did when canning and freezing the produce of our gardens years ago. SOURCES: *The Little House Cookbook, Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1979. *Putting Food By – The No.1 book about all the safe ways to preserve food, by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene, The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, VT, 1973. *The Way We Ate, Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900, by Jacqueline B. Williams, Washington State University Press, Pullman, WA, 1996. *Housekeeper and Healthkeeper, Containing five hundred recipes for economical and healthful cooking; also, many directions for securing health and happiness, approved by physicians of all classes; by Catherine E. Beecher, New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1873.
  8. Tolerance

    I sure do understand what you're saying Hal! Our sentiments exactly! Too many of our youth feel entitled and don't have a clue how to work from the bottom up to earn their way. They can't take loss and disappointment because they've never been taught. And if we disagree with them, it's called hate speech. I agree with you, ask our Good Lord for forgiveness and move forward. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Hal! Much appreciated
  9. A Stranger Barged In

    How do we see others? By their outward appearance? By what they’re wearing, or not wearing? By the words they speak? We can’t tangibly see their heart or their thoughts, nor they ours. So, do we react to what we see and hear, or reach out to meet others where they’re at? Not long after we moved to Clifton, NJ in 1965, my Dad went to the boys’ Calvinist Cadets meeting at the Christian school we kids attended. A few blocks from his destination, he saw a man struggling with a flat tire. Having been a farmer and now a truck driver, this was no problem for my Dad to fix, though it might get him dirty and make him late for his meeting. Without hesitation, he stopped and changed the tire for the stranger, refusing pay for his efforts. Each going his own way, they soon discovered their destination was the same meeting, and became instant friends! But, how do we treat that stranger when he or she walks into our church? They may be different from those of us who normally attend… and, sadly, the stranger in our midst may not feel welcomed or accepted. They may not be dressed up fancy like some of us. They may look a bit shabby and worn, be wearing the dirt of life, or even carry the aroma of alcohol. And I was reminded of the time a stranger dressed in black barged into our church, slamming the door behind him, dropping into the pew. As music worship leaders, my friend, Patsy, and I smiled to welcome this man as we sang. But, he was having none of it, staring straight ahead with an angry sullen attitude. Barbed-wire tattoos encircled his upper arms, the sleeves cut off a black T-shirt. His black hair stood up in spikes, and chains draped from his black jeans. Then, just as our Youth Pastor stood up to read Scripture as our pastor was away for the day, this man bounded up to the pulpit. Grabbing the Bible, he began to read: “…But the Lord said… Do not consider his appearance or his height.... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) What’s his purpose? Why is he here this morning? Does he have an ulterior motive? Are there more like him outside? Are there more like him in other churches in town? Why does he look so sullen and angry? Is he sad and lonely? Do we need to protect ourselves from harm? Does he have a gun? What could we use as a weapon? How can I make him feel welcome? I mean, he’s so different! Will he even accept us? How can we best reach out to him to meet his needs? Such were the questions running through the minds of us parishioners, as we slowly realized that this was actually our Pastor Steve dressed up for a lesson as he expounded on that verse. Do we share our love easily with someone different from us? We pride ourselves on maintaining a status quo of acceptable friends, those with whom we’re most comfortable. But what about others in various difficult situations? What about those who may be going through hard times and are poorer than us? What about those who are dealing with life’s deepest struggles, lost in the midst of their grief, dealing with inner emotional pain or depression, or perhaps seeking answers to life by delving into alcohol and drugs to numb their pain? They, too, are in need of the love and comfort we just might be able to give. What did Jesus say about the strangers in our midst? In telling one of his parables, Jesus spoke about a king whose servants were called faithful and righteous for the love they had shown the king in his time of need. They replied, “‘[But] Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King [replied], ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40) In response to his critics for eating with those considered “unholy”, Jesus gently said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) And later, the Apostle Paul wrote that this “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) And I admit that I, too, stand guilty in many ways. We can express ourselves and our opinions with kindness rather than with an attitude. We can welcome the stranger who is different from us, sharing a peace and comfort from deep within our heart. And, we can reach out to others who are hurting with the same love and mercy we’ve been shown by our Lord… for in so doing, not only will they be blessed, but we’ll be blessed in turn. The Pew and the Barstool Linda A. Roorda One day I walked through an open door Looking for a seat but the pews were full, Except in the front where I sat to listen Searching for comfort from a world of pain. ~ The message of love was heard in my heart And I longed to feel this emotion lost. I yearned for peace in my troubled soul Hope for the day and light in the dark. ~ Wisdom and truth for a hurting world These were the words in the message heard. But as I turned to follow the crowd No one reached out… no one showed they cared. ~ No welcoming smile… no words kindly shared. Their glances away gave proof of their thoughts. Shabby were my clothes with tatters and tears, Dirty was I, and smelling of beer. ~ No comfort from pain, just withering looks. No peace or love was offered to me. I stood alone feeling shamed and grieved. Where was this love they sang from their lips? ~ And so I strolled to the other side Across the street where welcomed was I. Finding my seat on a barstool tall I ordered a round to drown out my pain. ~ If only they knew their hearts had grown cold. Who was this Lord they claimed for their own? Where was the love, the hope and the peace? Did they not know who walked in their midst? ~ Have they not heard and have they not read? I was a stranger yet nothing they gave. They fed not my soul, warm clothing not shared Sickly was I, but comfort they withheld. ~ Do they not heed the words of their Lord? Whatever is done for even the least Is done in His name to brighten a dark world, For those who bless will blessings receive. ~~ 12/08/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of the author.
  10. Tolerance

    It seems we often want our way regardless of how anyone else feels. That old “give-and-take” attitude I remember growing up with seems to be lacking... all too evident among those who mock and bully others, even within today’s world of politics… where a war of words has erupted yet again. It seems like absolute truth and moral or ethical standards have become a negative, cause for ridicule… while relativism, or determining our own truth as we want it to be, is more often revered. Authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens are now suspect, apparently not worth our reading in today’s political correctness. They, like many others, wrote about the way life was as experienced while they walked upon this earth. The Wilder Award in literature has been renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder used words of a different era, inappropriate for today. We were appalled at censorship, banning and burning of books many years ago, yet even now we walk a fine line of what is appropriate. We disallow our children to read of life in other times when words or language we now recognize as inappropriate was used. Even our Holy Bible is not accepted at times because it might offend. Yet, as discerning parents, we did not allow our children to read a few certain books in high school. We discussed why they were inappropriate reading material with both our children and school personnel. We were told by the principal that, because we calmly explained our objections, the school graciously saw our valid points and gave alternative reading material. In Jenn’s case, after giving one particular oral book report, two classmates told her they wished they’d read that book instead, too. A true story, it showed a quality of character in the challenges a young man faced as an Olympian runner diagnosed with cancer. Unable to compete, he turned to helping inner city under-privileged kids. The book read by the rest of the class, however, was filled with gratuitous sex, filthy language, and mocking of parental/family values – found when I simply opened the book at random junctures. Actually, the teacher told his students to seek their parents’ permission to read that book! And, apparently, if the kids actually showed it to their parents, I was the only one who said “no way!” Even the school board was shocked to learn what that book held, and it was pulled from the school’s recommended reading list. There truly is a time for discernment of right and wrong with respect. My poem here began to flow with news of the violence and tearing down of our nation’s historical monuments in the summer of 2017. Removing such historical memorials does not erase or change history. There are lessons learned in those memories earned. We’ve come so far. We’ve grown in understanding and acceptance. Isn’t that cause for celebration rather than condemnation? Our differences can be teachable moments. That’s what Freedom of Speech is all about… with a chance to show love and respect even in our disagreement, revealing true tolerance. Tolerance, by definition, is an ability to be fair, to accept a viewpoint which is different, and to bear with another in realizing that the opposition also has rights… without approving wrong by our silence. Perhaps we remember that society’s Golden Rule (which promotes tolerance, when you think about it), actually comes from the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law…” (Matthew 7:12a) Yet, tolerance is not a license to do anything we want at will. A moral society adheres to absolute truths of right and wrong, or it breaks down without this solid foundation. We should certainly be cognizant and tolerant of others’ opinions or beliefs, respecting our differences… but, that does not mean we have to tolerate rude or foul language, or abusive, bullying, or violent behavior. Tolerance is not freedom to persist in traveling down a wrong path. There are consequences for everything we do... and there is a time and place for speaking out respectfully against inappropriate words or actions. So, where did tolerance go? Too often, it seems tolerance is relegated to that which accepts and promotes a particular politically-correct agenda to the exclusion of the opposing view… and regards differing perspectives as not having validity to be honored. What happened to our ability to show respect through appropriate discussion? What happened to true Freedom of Speech? Why the hate-filled, foul-worded, disrespectful language? Why violence with riots and angry rhetoric to disallow conservative or religious speakers on college campuses? What is there to be afraid of? That others might actually have valid points, different than your own perspective? Fear of a differing opinion by engaging in anger and wrath toward that with which one disagrees serves no good purpose. We have heard violent mobs calling for their rights… while proclaiming how tolerant they are. Seems to me that violence as a coercive bully tactic is anything but tolerance. Perhaps it would be wise to observe that true tolerance… the courtesy to listen, even agreeing to disagree… comes by respecting another’s viewpoint, their freedom of speech, without the backlash of vitriolic speech and/or destructive violence. When morality steps up and extends a hand in true respect, we’re living out the ancient Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Given by God to Moses for the Jewish nation during its exodus from Egyptian slavery, these words serve us well as a moral foundation even in today’s modern society. Doing our best to live out Jesus’ words in what we call the Golden Rule, we show great love and respect for others… just as we wish to be treated. With this love, and acceptance of those with whom we disagree, we embody Christ’s love, for “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:6 NIV) Tolerance Linda A. Roorda ~ Could I but live a life that was safe I wouldn’t question the wrongs encountered. I would not wrestle with problems I face Or troubles inherent with consequent strife. ~ For if I the bad from this life expunged I’d then have left the best for display. My life would exist by my design For my benefit and pleasure alone. ~ Remove the memories and mask the failures Fashion the remains to what I deem fit. Let visible be selfish ambition My life according to myself and me. ~ I have no tolerance for views but mine My way is right and suspect is yours. I demand my way and fight you I will If only to prove entitled am I. ~ Yet what I now see is your hand held out Bearing a gift, tolerance by name. You’ve come to my aid and lift me up To help me stand with dignity tall. ~ There’s a price, you see, for this freedom shared It’s a cost in red that flowed for us all. And it grants relief from oppression’s fist That your words and mine comingle in peace. ~~ 08/18/17 – 08/30/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  11. The Artist's Eye

    I love a good painting, especially a realistic portrayal. Actually, once upon a time I painted landscapes, getting so lost in the effort of creating art that I’d easily forget the time and when to eat. Sadly, I haven’t picked up my brush and oils in a few decades… though I used pen and ink to illustrate a few stories I’d written for my grandchildren a few years back. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of abstract art, though I can appreciate various works of modern art among the different genres. Yet, each one of us views a painting, sculpture, or even a photo differently… because we “see” through our own heart, our own emotions, our own life experiences. That which may stir my thoughts and emotions with a depth of appreciation may do nothing for you at all. And that’s what art is meant to do – to stir our thoughts and emotions, perhaps leading us to recall another time and another place. A great work of art can transport us in thoughtful reverie as we ponder the meaning of the vision before us… taking us back in time to what once was… or stirring our imagination to envision something only a dream may hold. The artist’s work might convey a concept, an idea, a novelty… that which sparks our interest to understand better what the artist is trying to say or trying to elicit through our individuality. Good art should challenge us to think in a way we might not do otherwise. Good art can tear at our heartstrings and bring us to tears. It can incite anger at an injustice. It can elicit great joy within our soul. It can combine a dichotomy of powerful conflicting emotions. It can portray evil overcome by good. It can soothe the weary and distressed. And, it can even reflect a tremendous calming peace, a peace within the storms of life. A good painting can be likened to the beauty we see in the people around us. Each of us portrays an individual beauty, a uniqueness created by the Master Artist. We’re one of a kind, no duplicates. Even the world of nature exudes a seemingly immovable, yet ever-changing panorama which the Master Artist blessed us with. After He created each aspect of the world, our great God “saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1) And in our appreciation of nature, even the simplest perspectives excite emotions within us… as we observe brilliant sunshine lending both a glow and a shadow to life, the menacing darkness of gathering storm clouds, a brilliant colorful rainbow during or after the rain as the first rays of sun return, the fanning out of the sun’s rays from behind a cloud like fingers of God, the awesome display of stars and moon in brilliant light upon a black velvet tapestry, from the calm and peace of gentle waves to the roiling waters which batter a shore, from the awe of majestic mountain grandeur to the simplest flat or rolling land with grass gently waving in a slight breeze, to the colorful changes of the seasons… as these vistas elicit thoughts and emotions within our hearts and minds. And, though the world and people around us are seen individually, through our unique emotions, we see all as through the artist’s eye… The Artist’s Eye Linda A. Roorda In the artist’s eye is beauty beheld Within each scene perfection arrayed A haunting image that speaks to the heart A story told in visual display. ~ Facing blank canvas, brush poised in mid air A picture forms in the artist’s eye As ever gently stroke upon stroke The scene unfolds, its beauty to share. ~ From lighting bright to shadows darkened Lingering mirage or perspective clear Sentiments stir as we gaze upon The artist’s work from within the heart. ~ They say a picture is worth more than words And there are times words uttered alone Cannot convey the depth of feeling Where spoken voice the ambience missed. ~ For within our soul perception awaits The depths of which we don’t often plumb That we might enjoy designs unique By an Artist greater than humanity’s touch. ~ So we gaze upon the scene before us As emotions stir like brush on canvas For out of feelings tempered by life Colors are worked with passion displayed. ~ Thus, what the artist has framed for our gaze Reaches into the depth of our soul As image pondered gives rise to emotions Its secrets exposed through the eye of our heart. ~~ 02/13/15-02/15/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  12. You've A Gift Within

    I'm glad to know this meant alot to you, Hal and I appreciate your service (Navy? my brother is a 20-yr Navy vet, incl during the Gulf War). I totally agree with you re: MASH and The Waltons being shows with a message - awesome to know how much those shows meant to you and your friends in the service! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Hal
  13. Hiawatha Island, Owego, New York

    Hiawatha Island… The name alone brings to mind a land of legends and visions from a long-ago era. Did the legendary Hiawatha ever frequent its shores? Not likely. But, it is believed the Iroquois nation once used the island as part of their homeland. Artifacts found in its soil from bygone eras have been donated to the collections at both Binghamton University and the Tioga County Historical Society museums. The Big or Great Island, as it’s been called, comprises 112 acres in a beautiful tranquil setting. A few miles east of Owego proper, it’s surrounded on all sides by the Susquehanna River flowing west. Once a bustling retreat for locals and tourists alike, it contained a beautiful three-story hotel and meandering sylvan paths with the island’s dock reached by steamboats throughout the summer months. Earliest records for the island note that Britain’s King George III issued a mandamus (a writ directing a lower court to perform a specific act) dated January 15, 1755, deeding land, including the island, to the Coxe family in exchange for their territory in Georgia, the Carolinas and the Bahama Islands. By 1821, the Coxe family had surveyed and divided the land into small farms with the Big Island designated as lot no.120. Moving to Lounsberry in 1969, I did not pay much, if any, attention to Hiawatha Island during my high school years in Owego, NY. However, about 15 years ago, I discovered a [supposed] ancestral tie that piqued my interest in the island’s history. My earliest genealogical research found a McNeill family paper filed at both the Tioga County Historical Society in Owego and the Schoharie County Historical Society at the Old Stone Church in Schoharie, NY. This paper claimed that a Ruth McNeil, b. 1782 in Weare, New Hampshire, was the daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill of Weare, Londonderry and New Boston, New Hampshire. Ruth was noted to have married Matthew Lamont(e). (Note my specific use of one or two “L’s” in the McNeil versus McNeill name.) This is where due diligence pays off in checking all genealogy sources yourself. The person filing that family paper did not reply to my inquiry in 2002. Digging deeper, I found and purchased a McNeil family history from the Montgomery County Historical Society in Fonda, NY simply to see if that family held clues to my own. However, that historical writeup is about the family of John and Ruth McNeil of Vermont who lived in Fulton, NY, with that genealogy listing a daughter Ruth who the researcher was unable to trace further. From personal extensive research on my own McNeill family, it is proven that John C. McNeill and Hannah Caldwell married May 8, 1781, that their first daughter, Betsey, was born December 5, 1781, and that she was adopted by Hannah’s childless older sister, Elizabeth. In checking late 19th century census records for Matthew and Ruth LaMonte’s children, they note their mother was born in NY, not NH. With the above John and Ruth McNeil’s family history listing a child named Ruth of whom nothing more was known, I felt there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for Ruth (McNeil) Lamont to be their child rather than a daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill. Furthermore, John C.’s family did not contain the name of Ruth in any older or younger generations as does the Vermont McNeil family. Of additional interest, my earliest ancestors and their descendants consistently spelled their name McNeill while John and Ruth’s descendants consistently used McNeil. Matthew and Ruth LaMonte removed from Schoharie County to Owego, Tioga County, NY in the early to mid 1820s. The second registered deed to the Big Island, dated June 23, 1830, is to Matthew and Marcus LaMonte. Matthew was the husband of Ruth above. Their son Marcus had at least three children: Abram H., b.1831 on the island, Susan Jane b. 1834 (as a teacher, one of her students at the Owego Academy was the young John D. Rockefeller), and Cyrenus M., b.1837. Cyrenus purchased the Big Island in 1872 just before its commercialization commenced in 1874 with picnics and summer events. The earliest known birth on the Big Island was that of Lucinda (Bates) Lillie, born August 16, 1800. It is also known that various squatters took up residence on the island, particularly when owners were absent, making good use of the fertile river-loam farmland. Another tie of note to the island is that of Ezra Seth Barden who was born in 1810 at Lee, Massachusetts. In 1833 he brought his young bride, Catherine Elizabeth Jackson, to Owego where they set up their home on the Big Island. She just happens to be a second cousin of U. S. President Andrew Jackson. The LaMonte family had their main farm directly north of the island where Rt. 17C runs near Campville. They retained a few acres on the island after selling the rest in 1831, selling that small balance of acreage in 1834. From my previous research, the LaMonte family operated a ferry across the river to the island. In 1840, with her five children, Mrs. William Avery Rockefeller (the former Eliza Davison) removed from Moravia, NY to Owego, renting a house on the LaMonte farm. One of her sons, John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., 11 years old at the time, often worked for pennies a day on the LaMonte farm. Born July 8, 1839 in Richford, NY, John D. Rockefeller, world-renowned founder of Standard Oil Company, went to the Court Street Owego Academy, was tutored by Susan Jane LaMonte at her home, and often kept in touch with her on his returns to Owego as an adult. Another student of renown who taught at the Owego Academy was Benjamin F. Tracy, Secretary of the Navy under President Benjamin Harrison. The former Owego Academy at 20 Court Street is an old brick building still very much in use, nicely remodeled, repainted, and well kept over the years. It was in this Federal style building (built in 1827-28) where I began my secretarial career in 1972 as a high school senior. I worked part time, then full time after graduating high school, for Lewis B. Parmerton, Esq., gaining valuable knowledge from his experienced secretary, Kathy. My desk was at the second window to the left of the front door on the first floor, looking out on two tall buttonwood (sycamore) trees which are now gone. The basement then housed the N.Y.S. Department of Motor Vehicles where I obtained my learner’s permit and driver’s license. I will also never forget the sale of a particular old building on Front Street along the river’s edge to Pat Hansen. After all paperwork had been completed and signed, and Ms. Hansen had left, Mr. Parmerton stood in the office with us two secretaries, shaking his head, “I don’t know what she wants that old building for.” Little did he, or Kathy and I, realize then, but Pat Hansen turned her building into the extremely successful store, “Hand of Man,” spurring on the revitalization and growth of Owego’s Front Street businesses which continues to this day! I love poking around in the “Hand of Man,” enjoying the delicate and gorgeous one-of-a-kind gifts. But, among the antiques in the Parmerton office was an oil painting of the Owego Academy, with two young sycamore/buttonwood saplings which stood in front of our office windows. I cannot find a copy of this painting in an online search. The building’s tin ceilings were high and ornate. There were beautiful fireplaces, an old Seth Thomas pendulum clock, an 1850 map designating every road and building in Tioga County, and Mr. Parmerton’s office/library was lined with bookshelves filled to the high ceiling, rolling ladders needed to reach the upper shelves. The floors were wooden, uneven and squeaky in places, with a beautiful dark wood banister going up the stairs to the second level. In fact, taking the stairs to the upper floor, I had occasion to enter the office of two elderly attorneys, the Beck sisters. I remember Rowena Beck, the first woman lawyer in Tioga County. The sisters’ grandfather was Professor Joseph Raff who, in 1875, composed the Blue Tassel Quadrille for the start of a new season on the Great Island. Of further interest, Sedore notes that Raff was the brother of Joachim Raff, an accomplished orchestral composer, who just happened to be “a personal friend of Franz Liszt and Hans von Bulow.” (Sedore, p.23) Small world indeed! Little did I then know the history I was working amongst! When speaking of the island’s early years, one must also include reference to Joseph Shaw DeWitt, or “Old Joe” as he was otherwise known. Coming from Binghamton to Owego about 1841, he was an actor, fireman, businessman and restaurateur. On the side, he made and sold cough drops in a box which looked much like the Smith Brothers box, along with cream candies, and beer. He owned a restaurant on Lake Street, but it was at his hotel on Front Street in Owego which began the greatest period of Hiawatha Island’s history. Here, on August 5, 1873, a number of businessmen met to form a stock company with the purpose of building a steamboat intended for trips on the Susquehanna River between Binghamton, NY and Towanda, PA. They approached Cyrenus McNeil LaMonte, who had purchased the Great Island in 1872, and thus began the island’s “most flamboyant years.” (Sedore p.5) The Owego Steamboat Company had its first boat ready by the end of February 1874. The “Owego” was 75 feet long, 26 feet wide, capable of carrying 200 passengers. Unfortunately, she did not have the most auspicious start to her career. Putting the “Owego” into the river with 20 men aboard on April 6th was the easy part. All too soon, however, they realized her paddlewheels were too light and frequently simply stopped moving. But, that was easy enough to rectify – a man lay down on top of each wheel house, pushing the paddle wheels with his hands to keep them working! What a job that must’ve been! Having finally gotten the “Owego” into deeper water, things only went downhill from there. As they tried to bring her back to shore, someone misjudged and she stopped with a sudden thud on hitting the embankment. This sent several of the men sprawling flat out on the deck. Deciding to take the flatboat to shore (towed behind for emergency situations), the men got safely onto this small boat – only to find it couldn’t handle their weight, and it promptly sank. With chagrin, their only option left was swimming to shore, likely glad it was the middle of the night with few fans around to observe the indignity of it all. Sixteen days later, though, the “Owego” was steaming to Binghamton and back, and the Big Island was being cleared of brush where a dance hall and restaurant were to be built. “Old Joe,” the first caterer, fed all picnickers who came to the island for its opening day on Wednesday, June 10, 1874. Professor Raff’s cornet band provided entertainment on the “Owego”. Ever the entrepreneur and entertainer, “Old Joe” was ready for customers wearing Indian feathers and war paint on his face, and dubbed his restaurant “Hiawatha’s Wigwam.” Hiawatha Grove was the name for the eastern end of the island and of the train station on the opposite north shore (off Rt. 17C near Campville). Soon, though, the Big Island began to be known by the name of Hiawatha Island thanks to the showmanship of everyone’s favorite businessman, “Old Joe.” Over the ensuing nearly 20 years, the Hiawatha House hotel was built and eventually expanded to three stories with a dance hall, restaurant, and honeymoon suites, with its front balconies overlooking the river. Gravel strolling paths were made, with small “arbors” built along the paths to sell confections, cigars and lemonade. Games were played on the lawns of the island, and scull races were held on the river. Clam bakes were also quite popular, as was the dancing held until the early morning hours, keeping the steamboat busy at the dock. Many businesses and churches from local and numerous outlying communities soon found it a popular picnic destination spot over the years. In 1875, a new and better dock was built. It was 75 feet long with thirteen 16-foot-long piles driven to a depth of 10-1/2 feet. Sedore comments that nine of these original piles are still visible when the river level is down. This was another boom year for the island. In September, the “Owego” was sold with plans in the works for a new steamboat, the “Lyman Truman,” bigger and better at 120 feet long. She was launched March 9, 1876 from the riverbank just west of the Owego bridge, taking far longer to do so than expected. She broke the ropes as she lurched forward, gliding about a mile downstream before being stopped and held in place. Her engine and boiler were not yet completed; sadly, these, too, met with misfortune. The day before the “Lyman Truman’s” launching, the boiler exploded while being tested in a machine shop on Hawley Street in Binghamton. Parts flew upward and outward, some landing 500 feet away, another part embedded itself into the roadway, severing a gas pipe with noxious fumes filling the air. Two people were killed instantly, a third soon died from his injuries, and ten others received various light to severe injuries. By mid May, the “Lyman Truman” had a new boiler in place, just in time for the island’s full season. This was 1876, our nation’s centennial year, and celebrations were being held everywhere, with the island no exception. A great loss, however, was the passing of “Old Joe” in April, but the island’s summer calendar moved forward. The Hiawatha House hotel had just had its third floor added and was ready for the grand opening on June 7th of Hiawatha Grove on the Big Island. About 2000 people came for the July 4th centennial celebrations on the island. Even with a brief heavy shower, everyone was in high spirits. The Declaration of Independence was read along with prayer, a song, and a lengthy speech. Croquet and various lawn games were played, and bands provided music for dancing couples, along with a great deal of delicious food being consumed by those enjoying the day’s events. Every year, travel to the island was enjoyed by thousands. There were other steamers like “Helen,” “Welles,” “Glen Mary,” “Dora” and “Clara,” with the “Marshland” in use for the 1884 season after the “Truman” had been sold. In 1883, the crowds virtually disappeared with the “Lyman Truman” having been sold, as complaints began surfacing of island/hotel mismanagement in 1882. Now, with the “Marshland” operating in 1884, business picked up again with its 4th of July celebrations reportedly being better than ever with 3000 tickets sold for the day! People were coming from as far away as Elmira, Carbondale, PA, Auburn, NY, Waverly, Candor, Cortland, and, of course, Binghamton, Owego and Nichols. The Grand Army Association held its annual reunion of Civil War veterans with tremendous crowds attending. In fact, by the end of the 1884 season, “the Hiawatha House hotel register [showed] that…people had come to the island from twenty-six states and nine foreign countries.” (Sedore, p.85) In August 1887, Cyrenus LaMonte sold the Big Island, now known as Hiawatha Island, to Dr. S. Andral Kilmer and Company of Binghamton who later sold his half to his brother, Jonas M. Kilmer, in 1892. Apparently, Kilmer had stated he hoped to build a sanitarium on the island. Though the 1888 season was a great success, the island was never again used as a summer resort. The Big Island’s greatest days were unexpectedly silenced forever. The Kilmers made no announcements or promises for opening the 1889 season. The steamboats were leased or sold. Boats were not allowed to dock at the island by the Kilmers, and no one was allowed entrance to the island to observe how their work was coming on the new sanitarium. “The 1889 season came and went without the usual excursions to Hiawatha House and the grove. There was no dancing, bowling or billiards. Hiawatha was closed to the public.” (Sedore, p.111) Though small groups were occasionally allowed entrance to the hotel, the demise of the island’s success was obvious. Instead, the Kilmer family used it as their private family retreat. Sedore includes an 1890 photo of the Hiawatha House (Sedore, p.121, fig.32). Near the dock at the river’s edge, she stood tall, an elegant lady in white, an impressive four stories, with first and second floor balconies, and fourth floor dormers. In 1900, the island was sold by Jonas Kilmer, and a succession of various owners filed through the property in the ensuing decades. Hiawatha House was taken down in 1932 after falling into disrepair as other outbuildings either burned or collapsed with age. Aerial photos from 1900, 1937, and 1955 show how few trees remained on the island. From the highways today, it’s hard to tell what the interior of the island looks like beyond its border of trees along the river’s edge. It has been used during the 20th century for private family retreats and camping to dairy farming. I also recall that Hiawatha Island went on the auction block on August 20, 1988 following financial difficulties by its then current owner. Inquiries about purchasing the island came from Japan and the Arab countries, with an ad in the Boston Globe bringing ten phone calls in two days. Having heard a local land developer intended to purchase the island to strip-mine it, the Historic Owego Marketplace, Inc., also known as the Hiawatha Purchase Committee (a non-profit group of Owego business people), decided to purchase the island to protect it. They barely managed the successful bid at $351,000; yet, with a 10% buyer’s premium, the total purchase price was $386,100. Ultimately, the final cost was over $700,000 with interest payments and other expenses. Numerous people, volunteers, and businesses came together to help raise funds to pay off the purchase price, an accomplishment many thought impossible. A good number of fundraisers were held, with Noel “Paul” Stokey (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) coming to town to give a concert. After four years, the fundraising group was able to pay back those who had kindly loaned money to the purchase committee. An annual “Walk Through Time” was held on the island along with a Native American Pow-wow. When the Hiawatha Purchase Committee paid off their debt for the purchase in 1993, they turned their ownership over to the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Apalachin for perpetual conservation. The purchase committee insisted on restrictions to keep the island in a natural state forever, and that the name would always be Hiawatha Island. Waterman Center’s director, Scott MacDonald, has said, “From a naturalist’s standpoint, we preserved a very unique piece of land for the community. It truly is the ‘jewel’ of the river.” (Life in the Finger Lakes.com) “The Waterman Center plans to use the island for education classes on Native American civilizations, conservation, wildlife, and perhaps archeology.” (Sedore, p.220) In 2006, a family of bald eagles was actually spotted living on this now-protected island! And, I’m sure that many more eagles have made the island their home since then. What a legacy the Hiawatha Purchase Committee has left us for the future. In allowing the island to rest without commercial traffic, its use strictly limited under conservation guidelines, this gem of the Susquehanna once again shines in its natural state. BOOK SOURCE: Hiawatha Island: Jewel of the Susquehanna by Emma M. Sedore, pub. Tioga County Historical Society, March 1, 1994.
  14. You've A Gift Within

    It says so much, doesn't it?! Nice to know it's one of your favorites, too, Ann!
  15. You've A Gift Within

    Sometimes, our best inspiration comes from the most unlikely place! I often enjoy relaxing in the evenings with Ed by watching reruns of M*A*S*H. Though not overly fond of some of the show’s escapades, I especially prefer Corporal Walter (Radar) O’Reilly and the latter years with Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce’s new surgical partners, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, and Major Charles Emerson Winchester, III, as well as their commanding officer, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, and Major Margaret Houlihan. The show and its characters seemed to have evolved from a certain nonsense to one of moving and memorable themes. As the varied characters offer a wide array of human egos and emotions, I find the wisdom of humanity expressed well in many of the shows. Recently I saw an episode that has always held a special place in my heart, one that I consider the arrogant Major Winchester’s best. After operating on a wounded soldier, able to save the young man’s leg with his surgical expertise, Winchester tries to encourage his patient further. Explaining that, although he’ll have permanent nerve damage to three fingers of his right hand, it won’t be too noticeable. Angry, the soldier is reduced to tears and despondency, telling Winchester that his surgical efforts weren’t good enough. His hands were his life… he was a concert pianist! With determination, Major Winchester approaches the 4077th’s company clerk, Corporal Max Klinger, handing him a list of sheet music to pick up in Seoul. Later, with music in hand, Winchester wheels Private David Sheridan into the Officers’ Club and positions him in front of the piano. Despite his patient’s disgust, Winchester attempts to encourage the young man’s gift to make music. Angry and resentful, Sheridan wants none of it. Unshaken, Winchester shares the story of a pianist from another time who’d lost the use of one hand. Placing sheet music for a one-handed pianist in front of Sheridan, he asks, “Don't you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be.” Private Sheridan scoffs at his surgeon: “Gift? You keep talking about this damn gift. I had a gift, and I exchanged it for some mortar fragments, remember?” With great feeling, Winchester responds: “Wrong! Because the gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You've performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you've already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world - through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they're for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.” (from the TV series M*A*S*H, “Morale Victory”, 1980) Just as Maj. Winchester tried to help Pvt. Sheridan understand, we’ve each been blessed with a special gift, a talent. We can hide it, misuse it, or use it to benefit others... we have a choice. Though we may not see our gift as the blessing it is, Jesus’ brother James acknowledged that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a) Even the Apostle Peter encouraged us by writing that “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10 NIV) We can encourage a friend with our words or any of our special gifts, like the gift of our time. When we make wise use of our talents and training, we truly are blessing the recipients of our gifts. In faithfully serving others, may we one day hear our Lord say to us just as he told the young man who grew his financial gift: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV) You’ve A Gift Within Linda A. Roorda You’ve a gift within your heart to be shared To love your neighbor as you do yourself But much more than this is humble service Sharing devotion from depths of true love. ~ Seek out the hurting, the ones bewildered In a world of turmoil, in the midst of grief, At a loss for words, not knowing where to turn, Be an anchor bringing peace to their soul. ~ Be generous with praise, speak truth with wisdom, Carry the burden to lift the heavy heart Encourage and esteem, strengthen with hope Humbly meeting each need on your path. ~ Lift up the oppressed, release from restraints Enfold in your arms those wounded by life. Show mercy and grace, forgive the offense Come alongside to guide wavering feet. ~ For out of confusion and cries of the soul In walking a line tween query and quest, Comes peace that calms and joy that rebuilds From the gift within your heart that was shared. ~~ 04/06/18, 06/30/18, 07/22/18 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
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