This cottage at 112 N. Summit Street, a rental, but recently repainted and expanded, is now a graded vacant lot. Stay tuned for developments.
This cottage at 112 N. Summit Street, a rental, but recently repainted and expanded, is now a graded vacant lot. Stay tuned for developments.
I’m currently taking a break from Trollope and reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It is, by current standards, a very leisurely book—not as maddeningly slow as those written by obviously-paid-by-the-word Trollope, but still not a good read for the impatient. I was therefore amused by the following passage, which contrasts Eliot’s narrative style (as she views it) with that of a notable predecessor:
A great historian, as he insisted on calling himself, who had the happiness to be dead a hundred and twenty years ago, and so to take his place among the colossi whose huge legs our living pettiness is observed to walk under, glories in his copious remarks and digressions as the least imitable part of his work, and especially in those initial chapters to the successive books of his history, where he seems to bring his armchair to the proscenium and chat with us in all the lusty ease of his fine English. But Fielding lived when the days were longer (for time, like money, is measured by our needs), when summer afternoons were spacious, and the clock ticked slowly in the winter evenings. We belated historians must not linger after his example; and if we did so, it is probable that our chat would be thin and eager, as if delivered from a campstool in a parrot-house. I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe. [Emphasis added]
So much for those of us who might think that in Eliot’s day there was more time for reading!
Presumably the trees are stretching toward the light, but what is the utility pole’s excuse?
Readers who know me, or who have followed this blog, will know that, although I read a lot, I rarely buy books. For printed books, there is the library. For my Kindle, I look for free books, and that has generally meant that most of my downloads have been of out-of-copyright classics: I’m currently wading through The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope, for which I actually paid $2.99, but it was worth the price for nearly 50 MB of content including 47 novels, short fiction, plays, and assorted nonfiction, mostly pretty well formatted, with illustrations. The only real downside is that I never have any idea where I am in any given novel because the percentages are given for the entire file, of which I’ve currently read 16%.
In my pre-Kindle days, in preparation for a trip out of town, I would have swung by the Friends of the Fairhope Public Library’s used bookstore and picked up a handful of cheap paperbacks, preferably detective novels. Now, instead, I keep my eyes on the Facebook postings from Pixel of Ink and grab free Kindle books that look promising. Since June 2 I have grabbed eight free Kindle books and read six of them. For the most part, they were worth about what I paid for them; in a couple of cases, they were worth less (one started out so unpromising that I gave up on it, and another I finished even though it made me very uncomfortable). Even the ones that were engaging and well written suffered from moderate to severe need of copy editing. Only one—The Dirty Parts of the Bible—was a total standout in content, style, book design, and freedom from errors. I can recommend it without qualification.
But there was one other Kindle book that I took with me on my vacation, and I took the Kindle version only because the hard copy would not arrive until I got back. That was Jay Freedman’s Microsoft Word 2013 Plain & Simple. It was not a bad book on the Kindle, but the printed book is much more readable and far more convenient as a ready reference, which it is ideally suited to be. If you are a novice Word user, you will find the step-by-step, illustrated instructions in this book very clear and easy to follow, and probably 90% of the content of the book is also applicable to Word 2007 and 2010—and much of it to earlier versions as well. Full disclosure: The book (both copies) was supplied to me by the publisher at the author’s request, and I was very grateful to get it and am more than happy to be able to say nice things about it. Jay is a fellow Word MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional) whom I’ve considered a friend for ten years or more. There is hardly any better way to get a broad understanding of the Word application than to, day in and day out, answer questions from users in all walks of life and areas of business, with varying requirements and a wide range of familiarity with the program, and I have always admired Jay’s ability to explain Word in terms that users can understand. That ability is put to excellent use in this book.
I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’ve constantly been astonished by the completeness of its content. My experience with Word/Office books in the past has always seemed to be that they were very general—often more likely to boast of all the things Word could do than to tell you how to actually do them—and never seemed to answer the specific questions I had. Not this book. In addition to the basics on each page—one simple procedure with numbered steps, each step identified on a screen shot—there are colored boxes for TIPS (green), TRY THIS (red), CAUTION (orange), and SEE ALSO (blue). And Jay includes keyboard shortcuts (when available) for every command that is accessed from the Ribbon or a menu. Only very rarely have I seen him miss one (Alt+Shift+O to open the Mark Table of Content Entry dialog, for example), and so far I’ve found only one typo (“tab atops” for “tab stops” in a heading on page 186), and, coming from a copy editor, that is high praise.
The cover bills the book as “Your easy, colorful SEE-HOW guide!” It is certainly colorful. Each chapter has a colored stripe at the top of each page, the colors keyed to blocks in the table of contents, making specific material easier to locate—and just generally making the book more cheerful and attractive. It is a delight to look at and a pleasure to read, and I’m actually learning quite a bit. As I say, I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I also haven’t yet gotten around to installing Word 2013, and this book is definitely whetting my appetite!
Fairhope has traditionally been known as an “artists’ colony,” so I guess it should come as no surprise that even its graffiti are arty. The significance of them, however, so far escapes me.
Some months ago, I noticed this utility box on Fairhope Avenue:
At some later point, I began seeing the upper owl stencil on the backs of STOP signs around town:
I intended to take photos and blog about this at the time but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then I started noticing that someone had begun to obliterate the owls by painting over them with metallic paint, with varying success:
Alarmed, I decided I had better document the phenomenon before it vanished entirely, so I took my camera with me on my walk yesterday. To my surprise, the first “decorated” sign I found had a new stencil:
As can be seen, this stencil has also been added to the only remaining owl-stenciled sign. Furthermore, the next STOP sign I came to had this one:
I have no idea what any of this means. Gangs marking their territory? It would be a bit of a stretch to imagine a gang named the Owls, but Butterflies? Seems hardly likely. In addition, the meaning of the rather drippy ambigram (which seems to say “sapeades”) is totally unfathomable. I await enlightenment!
I composed this bit of doggerel, based on interviews with both my parents, for the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
From Poetic License to Marriage License in Fourteen Dates
(The Unauthorized but Official Version)
In Lawrenceburg, in Tennessee,
In A.D. 1943,
There lived a girl with hair of red
Who was much too choosy, her friends all said.
“You’ll never find a mate,” they warned,
But their advice she wisely scorned,
And graced the halls of LawCoHigh,
Arousing many a wistful sigh
From beardless lads who took her classes
(She was equally popular with the lasses).
Each of the boys had conceived the plan
That he’d grow up to be her man.
But she refused to lower her sights
And saved herself for Mr. Right.
Meanwhile, far away in Kentucky,
A first lieutenant most unlucky
Was giving up on finding love:
From three girls already he’d gotten the shove.
But he had no time for feeling blue;
The 92nd MRU
Was sending him round the countryside
To army bases far and wide
To see the records, if you please,
Of all the troops bound overseas.
And so it happened that he went
To a place he’d earlier been content,
And while inspecting at Fort Benning,
He looked up old friends in Columbus,
[This is where the poetic license comes in.]
And so, by one of life’s crazy flukes,
He telephoned Mrs. Thelma Dismukes,
Who asked him to dinner as soon as she heard,
And then—a miracle occurred!
Two single people, miles apart,
Were brought together with loving art
By friends and landlady, oft insisting,
Despite the couple’s firm resisting,
That the two would find each other sweet
If only they’d agree to meet.
So Tom had heard with many a yawn
Of the charms of the neighbors’ friend Miss Vaughan,
While Virginia’d been told till she wanted to scream
Of Tom’s complexion of peaches and cream
And his elegant manners so deluxe
That he went out every night in a tux.
But now the conspirators’ chance had come,
For Tom was in the Dismukes home,
And Virginia was scheduled to arrive
At the station, to which the Gilders would drive,
Accompanied by Tom, who would finally meet
The lovely Miss Vaughan and be swept off his feet.
There was only one hitch in this excellent plan—
The match nearly ruined before it began:
They’d mistaken the time and arrived very late,
And Virginia was furious at having to wait.
Seeing Tom in his Liaison Officer rags,
She ordered him tersely, “Here, boy, take my bags.”
Which he did—and continues to do to this day.
But I’m getting ahead of my tale—anyway,
They returned to the house, where it soon was made plain
That Tom didn’t play redcap for everyone’s train.
Despite the false start, something clicked right away,
And Tom asked for a date for the very next day—
And they dated each day till the time he must go,
And then, so as not to appear to be slow,
He tried for a kiss on the station platform,
But this haughty schoolmarm gave him whatform.
With a turn of phrase that was quite laconic,
She said, “Let’s have no histrionics.”
Well, he knew she was smart; he could tell by her diction.
And now he determined to win her affection.
He continued his travels and, while at Fort Rucker,
He turned to his parents for comfort and succor.
“I’m in love,” he announced, “but the girl is too coy.
So what can I do her reserve to destroy?”
His mother suggested a cure for his plight.
Her counsel was fateful: she said, “Why not write?”
“But she’d never write back,” he protested. “I think
It would just be a waste of my paper and ink.”
But none of his ideas appeared any better,
So he ended up after all writing a letter.
Virginia admits that her own first impression
Of Tom fell a little bit short of obsession.
He was perfectly nice, and their dates she’d enjoyed.
But she’d had lots of beaux; he was just one more boy.
What he didn’t know then, when he started his siege,
Was her sense of epistolary noblesse oblige.
She’d been properly raised; she felt truly compelled
To respond to all mail with her name rightly spelled.
And it didn’t hurt, either, that she wanted to try
Some gag stationery she’d just had to buy.
At Fort Knox in the meantime Tom was getting advice
From his sergeant, Bill Maxwell, who’d seen once or twice
That in driving Tom overlooked signs that they passed.
“Lieutenant, you need to get glasses—and fast.”
So Tom went to the doctor and got his eyes checked
And received a prescription his sight to correct.
But his eyes were dilated, and he still couldn’t see
When Bill brought in the mail. “Any letters for me?”
He asked hopefully. Bill gave a yell.
“There’s one here that comes from the Honeymoon Hotel.”
Tom thought he was joking; “Well, read it to me.”
What a shock he received! It was from Tennessee.
In Fort Riley, Kansas, the mail brought him another.
(By this time he must have been thanking his mother.)
His memory of all of Virginia Vaughan’s charms
Was refreshed by her missive postmarked “Loving Arms.”
It was then he determined, to his recollection,
That the troops in McMinnville required an inspection.
Although Lawrenceburg was his real destination,
He first went by railroad to Chattanooga station.
Virginia would meet him there, stay with his sister,
He’d make a big play, not go home till he’d kissed her.
The fly in the ointment was wartime transportation,
As Virginia found out at the L’burg bus station.
Every seat on the bus was already assigned
To a soldier; civilians no places could find.
Virginia was desperate and ready to cry,
“She can sit on my lap,” said a lively G.I.
So she did—or at least she contrived to squeeze in
Between him and his seatmate, both luckily thin,
And rode all the miles to Chattanooga that way
Very glad not to have to await the next day.
In a car that Tom’s father had left at the station,
Tom drove with Virginia, with some trepidation,
To Lawrenceburg, where, he was pleased to find,
The Vaughans had conveniences of the most modern kind—
Indoor plumbing, “electric,” and servants besides—
Kieffer Vaughan and his Stella had nothing to hide.
They were Lawrenceburg’s first family, models of propriety:
He the mayor, she a pillar of local society.
Though Virginia was still not encouraging him a bit,
With her mother Tom made an immediate hit.
With her in his corner, he was guaranteed success;
Perhaps she advised him his suit to press.
For Virginia discovered him ironing his pants,
And his cause it did certainly greatly advance,
For she thought, “He can iron! What a guy! What a catch!”
Did he ever iron anything after that? Nat-
Urally not, nor did she; that’s what laundries are for.
But what a great ploy for improving his score!
That was April or May, and about the next month
Tom was bumped up to captain and sent to DuPont.
Between there and Lawrenceburg many letters were sent,
Until in September Tom bashfully went
To his commanding officer, Thomas F. Keefe
Begging seven days’ leave, to the man’s disbelief.
“There’s a war on, young man,” said the colonel. “So why
Should I let you go now?” Tom’s persuasive reply
Would have melted a stone, for he blushed like a rose
And explained, “There’s this girl, and I’ve got to propose.”
And he added, while Keefe was still thinking it over,
“And if she says yes, I’d like ten in October.”
“Take the seven days now,” said Keefe with a smile,
“And the ten days we’ll see about after a while.”
So Tom got on a train t’Alabama, to Florence,
Where Virginia was waiting, along with his parents.
The evening got off in a very bad way:
For Lawrenceburg’s team was in Florence to play,
And Virginia had wanted to go to the game,
While Tom was hardly feeling the same.
His mother had slipped him the family ring,
And so on his mind there was only one thing.
Tom was acutely aware of the rock. It
Appeared to be burning a hole in his pocket.
But the time, he decided, would be inauspicious,
For the subject of marriage made Virginia turn vicious
And her words, when he brought it up, hardly well-omened:
“Do we have to discuss this every waking moment?”
The four of them traveled to Nashville next day,
Stopping by Lawrenceburg on the way.
There Tom’s mother came to like Virginia’s mother,
And the two fathers also approved of each other.
At some point, Stella took Tom aside.
His woe he had not been at pains to hide.
“How’s it going?” she asked, though she thought she could guess.
“I’m afraid not too well,” he was forced to confess.
“Keep on trying,” she urged, “and I think she’ll come ’round.
Heaven knows you’re the first likely prospect she’s found.”
Tom took her advice and bided time well.
In Nashville, they checked into the James Robertson Hotel,
And he and Virginia departed for Loew’s
And soon got a ticket for one of the shows.
There was quite a long wait for the show to begin,
But they got an usher to let them in,
And sat on the balcony steps together,
A moment to change their lives forever,
For while they waited for the feature to start,
Virginia experienced a change of heart.
Tom told her, she says, he’d soon have to ship out
For Europe to fight in the war, and, no doubt,
He’d be back in the long run, but still, who could say?
If she turned him down now, and he then went away,
She might lose her one chance with the best man she’d met,
For he might find another girl, less hard to get.
And then she’d be sorry and wish she were dead…
“I guess we can talk about it now,” she said.
Tom brought out his grandmother’s lovely ring.
Virginia had never seen such a thing.
He asked her to “try this on for size,”
And she literally did, for in no wise
Did she dream it would ever be hers to keep.
Then she went home and started losing sleep
Over whether her choice had been the best,
But she knew Tom was different from the rest,
And her mother knew, once she’d made up her mind,
No better alternative would she find,
Because she’d stop looking and be content
To follow this man wherever he went.
And indeed she has, for fifty years,
Of happiness far more often than tears.
In ten different homes, from Wilmington, Del.,
To Fairhope, L.A., they’ve come to dwell.
And in every location along the way
They’ve both been glad to love and obey,
For Tom has honored her every whim,
And she has been happy to humor him.
And both have forgiven their meddlesome friends
For playing a trick with such excellent ends,
For even a match with such heavenly spirit
Needed angels on earth to engineer it.
Continuing the story of my parents’ “arranged marriage,” this is my mother’s version, from her autobiography, written in the early 1990s.
Tom always tells our Japanese friends that ours was an “arranged marriage,” and indeed it was. He means that our friends Josephine Gilder, mother of Gloria, and Thelma Dismukes, across the street from the Gilders, with whom he had roomed while working at Fort Benning, had been trying for three years to get the two of us together, raving about “Tommy’s peaches-and-cream complexion” and extolling to him my many supposed virtues. The result was that we hated the sound of each other’s names and tried desperately to time any visits to avoid each other. However, the “arranging” of our marriage was not only the result of their wiles, but was also arranged by the Lord. I am convinced of that, for how else can one account for the coincidence of our meeting and the ensuing happy years?
As I was steaming along on the train to Columbus, getting cinders in my eyes through the open window of the UNair-conditioned train, Tom happened to be at Fort Benning to inspect the personnel records of the 2nd Armored Division before they left for overseas. When he called Thelma to say hello, she invited him to dinner. When he arrived, Josephine and Gloria were also there, and to his great dismay, they exultantly told him, “There is a real treat in store for you: Virginia is arriving tonight!”
“You tricked me!” he exclaimed, but he obediently went with them to the station to meet the dreaded paragon of all virtues, Virginia.
His story at this point is of his own making and has no basis in truth, but no one could convince our children of that, as they have heard for years about how I saw his uniform, thought he was a redcap, and commanded, “Here, boy, grab my bags.” It was true that I was indignant and exasperated: although the country was on Daylight Saving Time, the railroads had stuck to Standard Time, and therefore there was a mix-up about my arrival time, and I had been waiting for an hour when the entourage arrived to meet me.
Given my anger, it was odd, in retrospect, that I agreed to have a date with “the redcap” the next night…and the next…and the next! When the time came for him to return to Fort Knox, I went with him to the station, where he reluctantly said goodbye and wanted to kiss me in fond farewell. I rebuffed him with “Don’t let’s get histrionic!” He was intrigued, not recognizing that word, so he says, and then his story goes that, as he left, he felt that that was probably the end of an encounter. However, when he saw his mother a few days later and told her of this girl he had met, she suggested he write to her.
He replied, “Oh, she wouldn’t answer.” Little did he know me! He did write, not realizing that when he got a reply, he would have just had his eyes dilated and would have to have someone else read the letter to him. As it happened, I had gotten a box of stationery with crazy letterheads, like “Honeymoon Hotel” and “The Loving Arms,” so that when Tom asked his friend Bill Maxwell, who had brought him the letter, whom it was from, he replied, “The Loving Arms—do you want me to read it to you?” And thus my first missive to Tom was not even seen by him at first.
Tom always says that we had fourteen dates, including the rehearsal party, before our wedding, and that is true. However, it does not take into account the intervening six months and many letters through which we got acquainted with each other’s thoughts, goals, and feelings. Since it is much easier for me to put my feelings and thoughts on paper than it is to verbalize them orally, I feel that the letters were a more meaningful way to get to know each other than being together during that time would have been.
I went back to teaching after a vacation in Miami Beach with my beloved friend “Peyt”—Jane Peyton Oakes, who was there with her Air Force husband, and the next time I saw Tom was during the summer when he wangled a trip to the Tennessee Maneuver area, and I visited his sister Susan in Chattanooga, after which he came to Lawrenceburg. He has since said how apprehensive he felt driving to Lawrenceburg with me that day, as he had never dated anyone from a small town, knew nothing about small towns, and began to wonder what he had let himself in for: Would there be indoor plumbing or a privy? Would my home be a farmhouse, shack, or whatever? He was infinitely relieved to walk into my very respectable house, meet my lovely parents, and realize that small towns did not necessarily indicate privation or lack of savoir faire.
The next time I saw him was in September 1943 when he came to spend a few days with his parents in Tuscumbia, Alabama. His father was at that time traveling for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and just happened to be that near to Lawrenceburg—40 miles away. His parents invited me to come and spend the weekend there with them, and it was on that trip that Tom proposed to me.
I was not ready to hear any such declaration, much less respond to it. Tom maintains I was mad at him for not having taken me to the football game, as Lawrenceburg was playing Tuscumbia that night. I think my mind really was on that game instead of anything more romantic, and finally after he had made several attempts to get an answer from me, I snapped, “Do we have to talk about it every waking moment?” That was a sufficient dash of cold water to cool the most ardent swain, and he replied stiffly, “No, indeed,” and understandably did not mention it again.
The next day we went to Lawrenceburg with his parents, en route to Nashville, where I was to accompany them for the rest of the weekend. Tom says that my mother took one look at his disconsolate expression and adjured him not to give up. In Nashville, we went to a movie, the name of which we neither one have the slightest memory of, and during the time we were standing waiting for the first movie to be over in order to get seats, we discussed his proposal further, and when he told me that he would be going overseas, I relented, thinking that although I was not sure I was ready for marriage, I certainly did not want to let this person escape. I realized that he was the only man I had ever known who met all my criteria for a husband and that I would be foolish to keep saying no. So as we stood in the theater lobby, I finally said yes to his proposal of marriage.
After our return to the hotel where his parents were staying, he pulled from his pocket, where he said it had been burning him for two days, a small jeweler’s box and handed it to me, saying, “Try this on for size.” It was the beautiful engagement ring left him by his Scoggins grandmother. I had to wind ribbon around it to keep it on, but keep it on I did, proudly, and I have worn it proudly ever since….That was on the twenty-fifth of September, and we set the wedding date for October twenty-third.
Since this “blog about nothing” is turning into a “blog about everything,” I have decided to post a few entries about my parents’ “arranged marriage.” Their stories had some conflicting details, but, as with most family legends, a canonical version had emerged. What follows is my father’s version, in a letter, dated August 31, 2003, to his four children (Virginia had died on June 6, 2002).
As you know, today is the 88th anniversary of the birth of your dear Mother.
I’m sure that you have been thinking about her a lot today; I sure have.
She was such a wonderful person, and I’m glad that I got to know her so well for over 59 years. As you know (I’ve told you the story many times), I met her in the railroad station in Columbus, GA on a Monday night. It was an arranged meeting on the part of two young matrons who lived across the street from each other in Columbus, and they couldn’t stand to see an eligible bachelor (me) and a charming young unmarried girl (Virginia) not meet each other, and they talked endlessly to us about each other.
We later agreed that we couldn’t stand the sound of each other’s names, and we separately told the two well-intentioned matrons to knock it off. One of them was my landlady and the wife of a very funny funeral director (who was, I’m sure, very serious and composed around the bereaved). The other was the mother of a friend of Virginia’s who had moved from Columbus with her family before she married—and whose husband was away in the military.
I had lived in Columbus, working for IBM at Fort Benning, for several months in 1941, and had then moved to Fort Knox, KY. On January 10, 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Army at Ft Knox, and, after being trained as a Tank Driver, I went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Ft Washington, MD, graduating as a 2d lieutenant on August 8, 1942. I returned to Ft Knox and was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Part of my job at Ft Knox was to visit all the Armored Divisions and check out their personnel records before they left for overseas.
So, in April 1943 I went to Ft Benning to check out the 2d Armored Division (commanded by General George S. Patton), to determine their readiness to go overseas. It usually took a week to inspect all the units in the division. So, I arrived at Ft. Benning on a Sunday night early in April 1943. I called my former landlady in Columbus just to say “Hello”, and to my surprise she invited me to dinner Monday night. In all the months that I roomed in their home, I had never once been invited to a meal.
I accepted her invitation, and when I arrived she said, “We’re in luck! Virginia is arriving tonight, and we’re all going to the station to meet her.” To which I replied, “You tricked me!”
The country had recently adopted War Time (now called Daylight Saving Time), but the railroads were still operating on Standard Time.
We got mixed up and were an hour late getting to the Columbus Railroad Station.
There was this beautiful redhead tapping her foot, and that’s when I got my first lesson in punctuality.
Her first words to me were, “Here Boy. Grab My Bags!” And, of course, I did.
As I got to know her a little better on the way home to her hostess’ home across the street, I suggested that we have dinner together the following night. She accepted, and we had dinner that night and the next night and the next night, etc.
I had to leave to go to another Army location on Saturday, and she came to the RR station to see me off. When I attempted to kiss her good-bye, she said, “Let’s not have any histrionics.” As I didn’t know what that meant, I withdrew and got on the train for Birmingham.
My sister, Lue, who was a student at the University of Alabama, had arranged to meet me there with one of her Sorority sisters as a date for me. No offense is intended when I say that I can’t remember a thing about that girl—all I was thinking about was that redhead I had left behind in Columbus.
That weekend I moved on to Camp (now Fort) Rucker, AL, and my father and mother were there to meet me. They were on their way back to Nashville from Florida. I told them about this girl I had met in Columbus, and my mother said, “Why don’t you write her?” I replied, “Oh, Mother, no one writes letters anymore.” Ha!
When I got back to Ft Knox, my good friend Master Sergeant Bill Maxwell said to me as we were driving on the Post, “Lieutenant, have you had your eyes checked lately?” “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?” He said, “Because you just missed that last sign post.”
So, I had my eyes checked that afternoon, and while they were still dilated, Sgt Maxwell came to me and said, “Lieutenant, you have a letter.” And, I said, “Who’s it from?” And he said, “The Honeymoon Hotel.” And I said, “Don’t kid me, Sergeant.” And he said, “No. Really.”
So I asked him to open it and read it to me, and he did—the first of many letters I received from the world’s greatest letter writer.
The next week there was a letter waiting for me at Fort Riley at Manhattan, KS.
And so it went.
As you know, we were married on October 23, 1943, having had a total of 14 dates including the wedding rehearsal.
Some people claim that they “never dream.” My understanding is that everyone dreams, but some people—for whatever reason—don’t remember their dreams. Among those who do, there seem to be some pretty much universal themes. Is there anyone who hasn’t dreamed of being back in school? You haven’t prepared for the test. Or you don’t remember which class is next or how to get to the classroom. Or you’ve forgotten your locker combination. My case is even worse: since I was briefly a high school teacher in a previous life (Latin, four years, straight out of college), I often dream that I’m teaching the class but have forgotten how to find the classroom!
Another common type of dream—at least for me—is frustration when trying to leave on a trip. I have a plane or train to catch, and everything is going wrong. The light is burnt out in the bathroom, I can’t find the right clothes to pack, and there are constant interruptions as the clock is inexorably ticking. If I do manage to get away, I realize when I arrive at the airport (or even at my destination) that I have forgotten to pack underwear or that my suitcase contains nothing but underwear!
It is my understanding that all dreams of this nature stem from a sense of “unpreparedness” in some aspect of life. They occur when life spins out of control and we feel that we no longer have a firm grasp on all the threads of our daily existence. I try to avoid this; I depend heavily on To Do lists, Outlook tasks, shopping lists, and—when I am making a trip—a packing list.
Usually. This weekend I went out of town for a Rotary meeting. Since it was just an overnight trip to a location only an hour away, I didn’t take it seriously enough. I didn’t make a packing list, and, because the day of my departure was full of other mundane chores, I didn’t devote much attention to packing—just hurriedly threw some things into a suitcase.
As I was leaving, I said to my husband, “I hope I haven’t forgotten anything important.” He said that surely anything I had forgotten, I could do without for 24 hours. He was mostly right.
I hadn’t gotten very far before I started thinking of things I’d meant to take and forgotten, and as the day wore on, I thought of others. Some omissions were inconvenient, but none were vital.
Except one. The outfit I’d planned for the next day included a pair of corduroy pants, a black turtleneck, and either of two jackets (light or heavier) depending on the meeting room temperature. As I was about to get in bed, it dawned on me that I had packed the pants and jackets but not the turtleneck!
This was not the first time I’ve omitted a garment in this way—sometimes I’ve dithered about whether or not to take a particular shirt or pair of pants, decided not to, and later wished I had—but it was certainly the most disastrous! Needless to say, I didn’t get to sleep easily, thrashing both physically and mentally as I considered whether it was worth getting dressed again and going out to look for a 24-hour Walmart on the off-chance of finding an acceptable substitute. Or a two-hour drive home and back to collect the turtleneck. Or—wild idea—calling an acquaintance in Orange Beach to see if she had one I could borrow.
I reluctantly concluded that, unless I wanted to make another kind of nightmare come true, I had no choice but to wear the same outfit a second day. I reassured myself that, since most of the other attendees were men, probably no one would notice. I did confess my situation to two female fellow Rotarians (both of them, coincidentally, wearing black turtlenecks), and they both said that (a) they were not satisfied with the clothes they’d brought, either, and (b) the men would never notice!
In future, however, I will remember that even the slightest trip deserves appropriate preparation—even if I have to draft a full-blown packing list to make sure I don’t leave out something vital!
As I wrote yesterday, sometimes you just come to the end of the Internet without finding what you’re searching for. This has been the case with a gadget my father mentions in several of his letters from Italy in 1945. On January 13, he wrote to my mother:
The big news of my day was the arrival of the package from your Mother containing the Pulomatic picture frame complete with all those gorgeous pictures. Of course, I was intrigued by the mechanics of the gadget but even more interested in the snaps. I believe I’ve seen them all before, but some appear to be black and white prints from color negatives—right? Anyway, I just love ‘em and am so pleased to have to show my friends. I wrote your Mother one of my most enthusiastic thankyou letters. Gee, it was sweet of her, and you, too, as I imagine you assisted.
What he had written to his mother-in-law was this:
You sweet thing! You darling! The Pulo-matic picture frame complete with pictures came today, and I am just crazy about it. It is just a wonderful Christmas gift, and even though a little late very welcome.
Although I had seen most of the pictures at one time or another, some were new, and I love them all. You couldn’t have sent me anything I’d rather have.
Later in the same letter, he adds:
I just wish you could have heard me whoop and holler when I opened the package and saw what a cute gadget this Pullo-matic deal is. Really it’s stupendous.
In his next letter to Mother (January 14), he writes:
I’m going to take the Pullo-matic deal out to Aurelio’s tonight and show all the pictures to him and his wife Lydia. All these Italians seem to be interested in pictures.
Later in the same letter, having returned from his visit, he reported on the effect of this demonstration:
They all oh’d and ah’d over the pictures in the pulo-matic, said you were “multi belle” and Suzanne “petissimo” or words to that effect.
On February 17, writing about a get-together with some of his friends, he wrote:
We looked at the three latest shots of Suzanne—the ones taken with the flash bulbs—and they became fascinated with the Pul-o-matic your mother sent, and they almost wore it out.
On April 7, he refers to the gadget again:
I have placed the pictures of Suzanne on the shelf over my desk where Susan’s and Lue’s pictures and the Pullo-matic Mother sent already repose. Really I am surrounded with beauty.
It seems pretty clear that the gadget was a device, metal or plastic, that contained several photographs and, when some sort of handle or lever was pulled, would display a different one. That is, it shuffled its contents to display a different photo each time something was pulled.
Now here’s the thing: the Internet has no knowledge of any kind of picture frame under the name Pulomatic, Pulo-matic, Pullo-matic, or any other combination of letters and hyphens to the same effect. This is really surprising to me. When Mother wrote that she had purchased an Ultra-Vue slide viewer, I had no trouble at all finding numerous photos of the device online. Here’s a sample:
I figured that surely someone would have a Pullomatic (Pull-o-Matic?) for sale on eBay. But no. There are fire screens “with pull-o-matic chain” (we had one of these, with metal mesh curtains that operated like draperies), “Pullomatic Scary Scooters pull-back toys,” and other Pullomatic gadgets you don’t want to know about, but nothing in the way of a picture frame.
So once again, I put it to my readers—and the Internet at large—does anyone know anything about a Pullo-matic picture frame?