Family Stories: Mama’s School Memories

Mama’s School Memories

School Days, School Days

Dear ol’ golden rule days…

Readin’ an’ ‘riting an’ ‘rithmatic,

Taught to the tune of a hickory stick!

My mother’s school days began in Siloam… the very same small hometown of where she was born. On “Day One” of grammar school… she met her “Best Friend” for life… Willie Mae Walker. They both looked at each other saying, “I don’t think I’m going to like it here.” Those words cemented them as lifetime friends! After Willie Mae’s father moved the family to Union Point, the girls were devastated… mama was left to continue school alone, eventually going to high school in Greensboro alone, without her best friend… but the friendship never ceased!

Siloam Grammar School  (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

Mama’s School Memories

“I remember May Day’s held at the Siloam school… we even had a Maypole! On that day we had all types of jumping and racing games in the schoolyard. My brother, Leroy, was elected King of the Maypole one year… I think I was probably in the first grade. It was usually an all day affair at school.” 

“Did I ever tell you I was a good runner in school? I could outrun all the boys in school! Kendrick Lewis and I often fought to see who’d be first in line at the lunch room… and often it ended in a fight; sometimes I beat him and sometimes he beat me. When we lived in Perry I used to run around with all you kids, one time I raced one of the boys down to the tennis court around the corner; can’t remember who won. I don’t think I could do anymore running now… I’d be afraid I’d fall and break my neck.”

“It seems like all my life in school, people made fun of me… like I was a nobody. Even in first grade my teacher, who I’ll never forget, made fun of me; her name was Mae West. I was talking to my friend Kendrick Lewis as she walked by, and she said to him, “can’t you find someone better than that to sit with?”  Willie Mae and I used to sing a song about her… “I’m Mae West and I’ll do my best.” We’d sing it on the playground and twist around like her, and laugh… she never heard us though. She did try to walk and twist like the movie star Mae West.”

“I wore a hair net to school one day in the 7th grade that was given to me by my Aunt Mae. I had my hair all pretty and rolled underneath like a movie star… my teacher, Mrs. Smellings, made me take it off. I was so upset and hurt that she had picked on me, and making me take it off. My friend, Kendrick Lewis, took up for me, saying “I think it looks good, why did you make her take it off.” It hurt me so bad. I don’t forget anything anyone has ever done to me.”

Picture taken about 1942-45: Mama on right middle photo… she would have been between ages of 12-15. I’m leaning toward a younger age as I’ve never seen this photo of her before, and she looks like a somewhat young teenager. Her “Best Friend” Willie Mae Walker is directly across from her on the left.  (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

Mama (right) with Best Friend Willie Mae Walker (left)

“When I attended school in Siloam there was a small store not far away called Mr. Mooneyham’s. The owners lived next door to the store… which sat just across the cotton field, on the other side of the school. I remember how we’d take turns crawling through the cotton field on our hands and knees to go and buy penny candy for everyone. It was a really small one-room store where they sold candy and a few odds and ends. While one person went, the others sat at the edge of the school yard to wait. The one day that it was my turn, I found our principal, Mr. Burke, waiting for me when I returned. He didn’t do anything to me… he just told us girls to not do that anymore. If it had been the boys caught, they would probably have gotten paddled. One time Kendrick Lewis put a book in his pants before he was paddled, and then got in even more trouble. He was the doctor’s son… and we were very good friends.”

Siloam School teachers

Siloam school early 1940’s: Mr Roy Burke was the Principal. Teachers: unknown, Martha Sue Freeman, Kathryn Snellings, Mr Burke, Irene Gentry, Margaret unk. (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

Mr. Jimmy Copeland, drove the school bus that picked me up every morning… we mostly just called him Mr. Jimmy.  He was the one who always waited for me, as I took too long of a time in fixing my hair in the morning… and deciding what I’d wear to school. He said that the best gift I ever gave him, was when I graduated from high school and didn’t ride his bus anymore. I remember always being the first one on the bus in the morning and the last one off in the afternoon… and I remember how he’d sometime just stop the bus if he saw someone he wanted to talk to… leaving me to sit on the bus… often in the heat of the day! I always thought that was my punishment for making him wait for me.”

“The bus used to pick me up at our farm, but during WWII, to conserve gas for the war, the bus stop was moved and everyone had to walk. Our bus stop was now at Bryson’s farm… the farm just right before ours coming from Siloam. Patriotism was very important during WWI and WWII – not like today.”

School buses at Siloam Grammar School (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

“I wasn’t allowed to stay after school and participate in sports or other activities… that would have meant Daddy had to come and get me… he wasn’t having any part of that. I wasn’t a city kid… they were the only ones who mostly did activities after school; we were poor farm kids! I probably never even saw a car until I was about thirteen (1943). We went everywhere in Daddy’s wagon until he bought his first car, which was a Model T Ford. I feel I grew up ignorant living on the farm… basically only going to school and coming home. When I went to Greensboro High School I joined the basketball team… I guess daddy relented as I probably pestered him to let me… I was always Daddy’s girl!”

While visiting Mama one year… I begged her to sit on the schoolhouse steps again to match her 7-year old photo!

“One day after getting off the bus to walk home, a sawmill truck came by and stopped in the middle of the road to let the local men off who worked for them. They yelled out something to me as they jumped off and began walking toward me. I didn’t wait around to see what they were saying, or what they were going to do… I dropped my school books right there in the road, and took off running through the fields toward my house. When I got home, my legs were all cut up and bleeding, and I was crying; I was about thirteen at the time. After I told Daddy what happened. and identified one of the men, he took the axe handle and waited by the edge of the road. The only one I knew was the preacher’s son, and he lived just down the road from us. Mama was crying and crying… as she just knew that Daddy was going to kill him. When he walked by, Daddy grabbed him by the collar and dragged him down to his house to tell his father, Preacher Goss, what his son had done. Preacher Goss never allowed him to go anywhere alone without him after that, and he continued to go everywhere with his father until he passed away. After that incident, I never had to walk to the bus stop at Bryson’s again… the bus came right to the house to pick me up every morning. I’m sure daddy had something to do with that.”

“My brother Leroy played baseball and was really good… he played in Siloam and was also on the Greensboro High School team. Leroy’s friends often called him “corncob” and me “little corncob”… making me so mad. I remember Leroy was prom king once in high school.”

Siloam Grammar school with a young class on lawn… note the lunchroom building off on the left side… seperate from the school. 

(photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

Lunchroom for Siloam Grammar School… a separate building from the schoolhouse. Mrs. Lizzie Ree in charge of lunchroom.  (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

“In school, if anybody’s lunch was stolen, it always seemed to be mine. We never had loaf bread in our house, Daddy always said that it was like eating a wasp nest… too many holes; everybody always wanted my lunch of biscuit and ham or sorghum syrup. I carried my lunch in probably a tin pail, as I didn’t have a real lunch box like the city girls… I was a country girl. I remember Mama making me chocolate milk… which was probably put in a mason jar. We mostly drank milk in our house, my mother hated sweet ice tea and only made it on Sundays, or when company came. She said the taste of it reminded her of medicine… but she made the best sweet tea.”

My father always blamed Mr. Wills for Leroy being drafted, and later killed. He had gone to the draft board and told them that Leroy should be drafted because he wasn’t doing anything in school. Daddy punched Mr. Wills in the nose when he saw him on the street after hearing the news of Leroy’s death; it was just after Mr. Wills told him he was very sorry to hear about his son. I’m sure whenever I showed up in his office at school, he didn’t want any more confrontations with my father. After he stopped being principal, he taught geometry and everyone passed his class. He usually let us grade each other’s papers, and we always  put 100 as the grade, as he never looked them over; that was the only reason I passed geometry.”

On my nightly phone call tonight, Mama began telling me about the Fuller Schoolhouse that Granddaddy owned. “Daddy owned 10 acres  on the road to White Plains where the old Fuller Schoolhouse sat. My father and Aunt Lena, his sister, bought it so Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae McKinley could live there. Uncle Villa (McKinley), daddy’s brother, had TB, and they needed a place to live away from everybody. While living there, a tornado came through and picked the house up with Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae inside, and sat it down in the woods on top of tree stumps. This was probably sometime in the 1940’s. They weren’t harmed, but the house was no longer livable. They then came to live at our house for a few months, and stayed in the back bedroom while Daddy and Aunt Lena built them a small house on Daddy’s land, just up the road from our house.”

Siloam schoolroom photo taken (1942-45) by teacher Mrs. Martha Sue Freeman… this would have been her classroom. Note the huge heater in the back of the class.  (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar… daughter of Mrs. Freeman)

“I was at school when that tornado came through and we had sat under our desks during the storm; it was pretty scary and I couldn’t wait to go home. A dog later showed up at our house after the tornado… a small black and white dog with spots, so I called him Spot. We never heard about anyone looking for him, so he stayed with us. Anytime a cloud came up, Spot would always run into the house and hide under my bed. He lived with us on the farm for a long time until he died.”

My father couldn’t read well, as he hardly had any schooling… probably no more than a fourth grade education, but he had much common sense and knew how to make money. Mama read all the mail that came to our house, but he could write his name and read a little.”

Book Mobile 1

Mama often talked about the bookmobile that came around to the farms… she checked out as many books as allowed… as she loved to read. Grandmama read them also before they were returned. Mama was a big reader, especially the Nancy Drew book series… but they were borrowed them from her friend June Boswell.

“I was only about thirteen when my brother Leroy died, so sometimes it’s hard to remember what he did when he was older. I do remember when he got his high school senior ring though, because Mama saved and saved by selling eggs, cream and butter to pay for his ring. Then he gave it to some girl to see, and she wouldn’t give it back.”

“I was sent to the principal’s office one morning from an incident on the bus coming to school. The bus driver wouldn’t make the boys roll up the windows that morning, and the air was ruining the girls hair on the bus, so I began singing this song, “John Jacob Jingle-Hiemer Smith, his name is my name too. Whenever we go out, the people always shout, ‘There Goes John Jacob Jingle-Hiemer Smith!” As we sang the verses, each verse became louder than the last. I sang it all the way to school… loudest of all… and drove our bus driver crazy that morning… he sent me directly to Principle C.C. Wills office. I went in and told him I was sent there, and after asking my name, and he learned that I was Leroy McKinley’s sister… he just looked at me, gave me ten cents and told me to go get myself a coke and sit down for awhile before going back to class.”

“Daddy and mama took me to town only once to buy a special dress for a Valentine dance at school…. and I fell in love with a certain dress as soon as I saw it. The saleswoman encouraged me to try it on, even though I told her that my father wouldn’t buy it. She insisted I just try it on, and let him see how pretty I looked. I guess I did try it on, along with the one they picked out for me – a plain dress with a sweetheart neck… which I didn’t like. When we returned home daddy handed me two boxes, and after opening them, I discovered that the dress I loved was inside one of them. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to wear my dress… so excited that my father had bought me that dress, and I was super proud of it. I wore it to school the next day, and I was nominated for Miss Valentine of our room… and won. I’m sure I thought it was all because of that dress. I saved that dress even though I outgrew it and when my brother’s wife came to visit, mama let her have it as it fit her… I was heartbroken… and mad.”

Auditorium in Siloam Grammar School… where many Halloween parties and other events were held. (photo courtesy of Susan Dyar)

As I talked to Mama on Halloween night (2009) I asked her what do you remember about the holiday. “We never had “trick or treat” when I was young, but we always had a Halloween party at school. No one came in any type of costume, that I remember… they had no money for that and probably didn’t even know what a costume for Halloween was. I never remember dressing up, we just came in regular clothes; it was a party that included your family. We bobbed for apples, had haunted houses to walk through… I remember walking down the Hall of Horrors. Someone would lead you down the hall in the dark, and you’d touch things like grapes and they’d tell you it was someone’s eyeballs – and we probably screamed at that point.  They usually had all the father’s bob for apples… I even remember seeing my father bob for apples one time. The mothers brought home-made cakes for the cakewalk, but my mother never brought one; it was usually just certain mothers who baked. Mama didn’t socialize with too many people, she was a loner. While the parents stayed inside, the kids played out in the schoolyard until way after dark. We’d hide and jump out from behind the bushes… trying to scare everyone and yelling Boo.”

I asked mama if she remembered cakewalks, and… “yes we had them at school, mostly at the Halloween carnivals. You walked around on numbered squares while music played, and when the music stopped, if you were on the number of the cake being offered… you won a cake! I think I remember winning one once. My mama baked a lot of cakes, and they were so good, but she never made any cakes for school activities; she didn’t associate with any of the women that baked and even when she came to school, she was quiet and kept to herself. If they had them at your school, I really don’t remember and I know I didn’t bake as I never baked cakes, I only made that lemon pie…. I sure could go for a slice of that right now!” (I remember having cakewalks at the Halloween carnivals I had at school, but I don’t think my parents came)


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Family Stories: Best Friends

BEST FRIENDS… and more

From as long as I was old enough to understand about “Best Friends”… I knew who mama’s Best Friend was… Willie Mae (Walker) Sisson.

In asking Mama about her best friend Willie Mae…. “Willie and I were best friends from day one! I looked at her on the very first day of school and said, “I don’t like this place”, and she looked at me, and… “I don’t think I do either.” That cemented our friendship and we remained friends all our lives. I lived in Siloam, while she lived between Siloam and Union Point on her father’s farm… but we went to elementary school together in Siloam. Later her parent’s, Bill and Katie Walker, moved to Union Point and changed schools. I went on to Greensboro to finish… but we still remained friends. Her father, Mr. Bill, ran the “City Hotel”  in Union Point, and my father often took me there on the weekends to stay… her father would bring me home. We had a lot of fun at the hotel and that’s where I met my husband – he was the best friend of her boyfriend; they both were in the Navy.”

“When I grew up. the McKinley’s and the Walker’s never liked each other much, and always fought. If they were all at a dance… at some point, before the end of the night… there was a fist fight over something… and look who my best friend turned out to be… a Walker! We even married men who were best friends… although we also both divorced them. I remember asking Grandma Walker one day, “what would you do if Willie and I had a boy and girl who married and had a baby?” She replied quickly, “I wouldn’t let it in my house!”

We lived in Union Point, Georgia for the first five years of my life, and mama and Willie Mae were inseparable as they raised their families. Willie had three girls, Karen, Pat and Debbie… they were my playmates. Mama often talked about how she and “Willie”… as she called her, would take us girls to town for an ice cream… and while we enjoyed our cones, they’d sit on the bench watching people… and laughing. Willie loved to joke around… and I can still hear her laugh as I write about how she enjoyed a good joke.

“I have always had a sense of humor… Willie Mae and I laughed all the time… at everything. She enjoyed reading through joke books, and could sit and read… and laugh out loud. I used to laugh telling jokes and remembered every one ever told to me when I was a beautician; I told jokes all the time to my customers. Now I can’t remember where I lay anything, much less a joke. I hope I’ll never forget the joke one of my oldest customers told me as she laid back in the chair as I washed her hair. She asked, “have you ever seen a one-eyed sex maniac?” I laughed and said I guess I haven’t… she slowly covered one eye! I fell over laughing at this 80-plus year old woman telling that joke!”

Masonic Hall of “Chappell 511” on the main street of Union Point… Chartered in 1917… see story of mama and Willie Mae’s escapade below!

masonic building Union Point

This is not the original building when my father was a member… there would have been no shimming up a pole for these windows!

Masonic Door Union Point

Orig Mason building fix

The second floor of the now Broad Street Finance is where the Masonic Hall used to be… those windows would have been the ones my mother shimmied up to peek inside!

My mother and Willie Mae were always was always a willing pair to get in trouble together. Whenever the other was needed, they were always there… willing, ready and able! I remember one episode that my mother often laughed about and enlisted Willie for backup. Mama had always been curious about the monthly meetings that daddy went to at the Masonic Lodge in Union Point, and as he’d never tell her what they did there… well, one evening they followed him. I’ve always thought about it more as a “Lucy and Ethel” episode whenever she’d tell the tale. Mama and Willie crouched in the shadows until everyone on the sidewalk had gone inside, and as the meeting hall was on the second floor, mama told how she shimmied up a pole to peek in the window. Picture a young skinny woman shimming up a pole on the sidewalk… on a main street of town as you drove by! No sooner after finally getting a peek inside of them dressed and crawling on the floor did my father spot her through the window. Like a little kid, she dropped quickly to the sidewalk, and two giggling women ran like a bat out of hell… running all the way back to our house. I’m told he stormed home later asking what she thought she was doing! I can just picture those two long-legged women running down the sidewalk, collapsing on our front porch in hysterics… knowing that they better laugh now before daddy came home! I guess she had the last laugh!

The City Hotel sat on this corner… directly across from the Chipman Mill. I’ve been on the hunt for a photo of the City Hotel, but have yet to discover one… but I haven’t given up!

Mama says these are the backstairs at the City Hotel

mama front of city hotel

If the above photo is the City Hotel… then mama also posed here in front of it.

On one of those long weekend stays with Willie at the City Hotel…  “I stayed at the hotel a lot on the weekends with Willie… my best friend from day one of first grade. One night while we were in the bathroom taking a bath, we heard her uncles in an adjoining room, talk about the whiskey they had, and where they were going to hide it while they went out. After they left, Willie went in and took half of it for us. We got so drunk by drinking it and chasing with chocolate milk… what were we thinking! We were two drunk chicks in the bathroom later, and later throwing up. When they came back, we heard them in their room almost fighting with each other over the missing liquor; Willie finally went in and told them before they actually fought. They probably took one look at her… and knew where it went!”

“Willie’s parents, Bill and Katie Walker, owned the City Hotel and Café in Union Point. It was a large hotel, with one upper side of rooms they rented out… there was about twelve rooms and the other side was where they lived and the café. The hallway where the rooms were, was long with a huge fan at the end of the hall… keeping it nice and cool. There was a long stairway where you could leave without going back through the hotel or out the front way… we often slipped out those back steps.” Most of the people who rented there were the mill workers… the mill was just across the street. They’d stay during the week and work, then go home on the weekend.”

“Often, Willie would sneak down to the cafe in the afternoon and get us cigarettes… sneaking behind the counter to grab a pack of Kool’s… then flying back upstairs. One day, Miss Katie said, “we sure are selling  a lot of Kool cigarettes lately”… Willie and I just fell over laughing!”

“I loved spending the night with Willie when her parents ran the City Hotel in Union Point. There was always so much more to do and get into, and always interesting people. I remember one night at the hotel when we climbed in the linen closet in the hallway… laid on the sheets, and propped our feet up against the door. When someone came by and opened the door, our feet just plopped out in the hallway. We’d lay there laughing and laughing as our feet and legs lay in the hallway. Willie liked to hide in there when she was mad at her parents. I’ll still do that today with my friend Carolyn – If I find something funny, especially at the Senior Center, I’ll look at her and roll my eyes and then fall over laughing. Some people must think I’m crazy, but I don’t’ care – I do what I want, when I want, and if they don’t like it, then they can go somewhere else.”

Willie and I could just look at each other and fall over laughing, just like my grandchildren, Stephen and Melissa do, and probably still do today. We even did that as we got older, and especially while working together at the Holiday Inn in Madison.”

“One time while I staying at the City Hotel, Willie popped some girl in the face and made her nose bleed… her father, Mr. Bill, told us the law would be coming for us… in trying to scare us. We were always into something and never thought twice about fighting, either someone else or each other; we only fought each other over clothes and boys.”

“When I married, it rained cats and dogs that night! I’ve always heard that if it rains on your wedding day, for every drop of rain, you’ll shed that many tears – and I have shed many! I don’t remember what I wore that night, but we went to Richland’s, the local juke joint, to dance later… it was just outside of Greensboro. We came back and spent the night at the City Hotel afterward, as Willie’s father, Bill Walker, gave us a free room for the night… we had no money. Then we stayed with his parents in the mill house where they lived. The next day he had to go back to the Navy base in Memphis, Tenn.”

Even after we moved away from Union Point in 1957 … mama and Willie Mae remained in touch. I never saw or heard phone conversations like we have today with our friends… but back then it would have had to be a long distance “paid” phone call; those type of phone calls were only made out of necessity. Today we pick up our cell phone and never think about where the call is going, as it’s no different than a local call.

As I read about Dudleytown in the ghost book I picked up at work today, I asked Mama about ghosts on the farm, and… “I believe my Daddy is still on the farm… and probably still sitting in his favorite rocking chair… rocking back and forth. I remember one night being woke up and finding his rocking chair in my bedroom… rocking back and forth. I just laid there and watched it rock before going back to sleep. I told my girlfriend, Willie Mae, the next morning, and she got so scared… saying how she wasn’t going to ever sleep over again; I laughed and told her she was silly. Later I figured out what had happened… I had laid my exercise rope on the back of that chair, and at some point, it must have slipped off and caused the rocker to rock. I used to tell tales in town that Daddy’s ghost was on the farm. It made them talk about Mr. Ed still being on the farm, and they were afraid to come around. It did keep certain people from coming down to the farm and bothering me.”

“Willie, was always hesitant to sleep over on the farm, and especially after Daddy died; she believed that his ghost was still there. Anytime she visited, and a cloud came up, she’d have to leave quickly, wanting to go home. I remember one time… it was storming and raining really hard, and as she left to step out into the yard, a bolt of lighting hit the ground and she ran back in the house… but soon left anyway. She didn’t seem to care how bad the outside weather was, she’d rather brave leaving, then stay safe in the house, possibly facing the ghost of Mr. E. T.” (My father was often referred to as Mr. E. T. or Mr. Ed. (Edgar Thomas McKinley)

Willie Mae at farm over fence

Mama and Willie at the farm… straddling the barb wire fence in granddaddy’s cotton field. In the photo of Willie Mae I discovered that granddaddy’s barn was in the distance… it was exciting to see, as I’ve never had it show up before.

In telling mama about all the snow we had here this week after Melissa’s wedding… she said, “During the 1970’s we had a lot of snow… imagine us in the South. I remember one night when I was back living on the farm, and working at Nathanael Greene Restaurant in Greensboro, when we had a few inches of snow. I had to ride in the car tracks of other cars just to get home that night, but I couldn’t get down to the farm so this man with a big truck rode back and forth on the rode down to the farm to pack it down and make tracks for me to get daddy out. I took him over to Willie Mae’s, and he was so mad about leaving his house… he never liked leaving the farm. We stayed at Willie’s and he beat the floor with his cane all night long. I still believe he’s there on the farm… when people don’t really want to leave this earth, their souls don’t leave. I believe my mother left the earth and went searching for her son Leroy, but not my father – he’s still on the farm and his soul will always remain there…that is where he was happy and I was too.”

A funny story mama told about “Willie”… “One time Willie got mad at me when we both worked at Holiday Inn… and we were both grown women. I worked there as a bartender and she was a waitresses in the dining room. Two of her boyfriends came in at the same time one night and sat at the bar and talked to me… I knew them both. When she came by and saw them both sitting there, she told me get them to leave, but I told her that if I tried to get to get them to leave, they’d surely get suspicious… so I said nothing. When she walked back by a few minutes later, and saw them still sitting there, she shook her fist at me – and I told her quickly, “hey wait a minute… I’ll meet you outside… she didn’t take it outside though! We always fought as kids over clothes and boys.”

“One night after work, Willie and I just took off for Florida… we were both single, and often didn’t have a care in the world. We had talked all week about how we wanted to go to the beach… so after we got off work after midnight, we just headed to Florida… we got lost but eventually found our way. Willie and I stayed about two days at a place owned by her uncle. In leaving to come home, I accidentally locked my keys in the trunk. Willie had her car keys in her purse, so we tried them and one of her keys opened the trunk and I got my purse out. Her uncle just stood there shaking his head as he couldn’t believe that another make and model car key opened my trunk. We drove back home that day only wearing our bathing suits… and laughing all the way about her key opening my car trunk.

“I’ve always had a sense of humor, and Willie and I laughed all the time –  at everything… and I can still hear her laugh when I think about her today. She still enjoys reading through joke books today and can sit, and read and laugh. I used to laugh telling jokes and remembered every one told to me when I was a beautician. I told jokes all the time to my customers. Now I can’t remember where I lay anything, much less a joke.”

Mama sitting on top of the “Rat Hole” – train behind!

The Famous “Rat Hole”

In reading through the Greene County book, I discovered a story on the Rat Hole behind the Hosiery Mill in Union Point – it was something I never knew of and I immediately asked Mama. “I don’t remember anything called the rat hole.” But once I told her it was behind the hosiery mill and built under the railroad for people to cross through from one side of town to the other when the train stopped on the tracks, she said. “ Oh that, I’ve been through the opening there that separates the town from the other side, but I never heard it called the rat hole. Me and Willie used to cross through it going to town. She walked through it daily when she walked to school, but she was always afraid and usually ran through it.” I called Willie Mae and asked her and … “Oh yea, I remember the Rat Hole – I crossed through it daily when I went to school. Sometimes when I ride by it now I always look through it.” (While we were in Ga. in June (2010) I rode by and took photos.)

Funny how we are called different names by people… Mama called her best friend Willie, while I always said Willie Mae, but she called mama by her given name of Helen; Willie’s girls called mama either McKinley or just Kinley! I can still Willie Mae’s laugh… sadly we lost her in 2015, but I bet she’s waiting on mama with a joke book in her hand… just thinking of what they’ll get into when she comes! They both were 1930 babies… mama in April and Willie Mae in September… and I bet Willie liked to tell mama how she was older! They’ll have a lot to catch up on one day! Mama is 90 years young this year… but never believes me when I tell her she’s 90! Maybe I won’t either one day… if I live that long!


Happy “Heavenly” Birthday “Willie Mae”! Today you would have turned 90!

Mama, Ellie (Willie Mae’s granddaughter) and Willie Mae


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911 – I Remember


I first posted this on September 12, 2015, writing it on the one-year anniversary of 911.

Today, I’m remembering 911… nineteen years later!

The remains of the World Trade Center stands amid the debris following the terrorist attack on the building in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Alex Fuchs)

As I watched the original scenes replayed this morning of when the planes hit the towers… I remembered it just like it was yesterday! I was at work… and I was stunned when it happened! The first one hit at 8:46… causing America to change forever! We lost our freedom on that day!

Flight Paths on 911

Family, friends, and strangers came together
on that day to help each other… regardless of race or color… Hands were outreached to help their fellow American!

We came together on that day as unified Americans… and now look at America today with so many tearing down America…. burning America… attacking our police and firefighters…. attacking all of us in attacking America. Most of these young people, under the guise of BLM and Antifa were born that year or were not young enough to know what happened, but their parents certainly lived through 911… What has Happened?

Was the story of 911 never talked about in school? Makes me wonder with all the events of many young people looking to erase history… and many of these very young people we’re just recently pulling statues down earlier this year… thinking it will make a change! You don’t erase your history… it happened… you learn from it! Shame on them for their actions!

On today, September 11, 2020, let’s all remember!



I’d like to share a story I wrote fifteen years ago….A day that often feels like yesterday… A day I’ll never forget…A day that changed my life… A day that changed my country! September 11, 2001 is a day I’ll never forget, and pray I never see happen again,  but I was lucky that day, as I lost no loved ones as many others did.

I was at work that morning, just a regular work day for me, when suddenly a friend said, “a plane just hit the Twin Towers in New York.” It was 8:46 a.m. At first I didn’t believe what I had heard and quickly headed over to the bank – they had their TV set on CNN news. I stood there in disbelief as I watched smoke rising from Tower One of the World Trade Center – I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I was watching it on TV, but my mind did not want to accept what was on the screen.

At 9:15 a.m., a second plane flew into Tower Two – now I was really scared, my stomach was in knots and had tears in my eyes. Questions were running through my head – questions I had no answers for. I soon began hearing names like Taliban, Al Quida and Osama Bin Laden. Names I had never heard before, but was quickly learning who they were. My thoughts ran to “why have I not heard of them before?” Was I living a too sheltered and safe life? That was all changing quickly.

My life would now be lived in fear – fear for my children, my husband, our families and America. Fear – a four letter word I had never lived with before, but now it suddenly was forced upon me.

I left work, shaken, confused and wanting my husband and children to come home quickly. I felt the need to have my family together and under our roof. My son and husband were still at work and my daughter was at the local college. She called me after I was home and I told her to hurry home after class. My mother lives in Georgia – I made a call to assure her we were all ok here, as we are only a couple of hours from New York City.

Once I was home, I sat glued to the TV – CNN specifically. Of course there was no regular programming any longer – all stations ran continual live coverage. I watched the pandemonium of New York City ‘live’ that day. The streets were filled with people on cell phones running from the clouds of smoke and dust, which quickly followed them down streets and alleys, as they ran for their lives. I felt as if I was watching a horror movie and soon I’d find it wasn’t real. I was hoping that any minute I would see my world hadn’t changed, and these people on TV running for their lives from the smoke of the collapsed buildings that were blanketing the streets, were only actors – but that did not happen.

What I was watching, was history – and my world had changed for today and always. I felt a feeling of panic setting in and I told my family “no one goes out tonight, I want everyone home under our roof, safe if only for tonight.” I needed the peace of mind that we were all together unlike what the people in New York City were facing.

There was so much panic in the streets of the city – they didn’t even know where to run, as they ran from fire, smoke and confusion of the entire area. There were no running taxis, buses or subways in the city – the city was in gridlock and completely shut down. New York city was in what was called a “lock-down.” No one was getting in or out, at least not very easily. If you were close to the train station you might have been one of the lucky ones who made the last train that left before the station closed. Cars were bumper to bumper trying to leave the city, but even having a car wasn’t guaranteeing you a way out. Tunnels, highways and bridges were being closed. I’ll never forget the site of watching thousands of people walking over the Long Island and Brooklyn Bridge. It was a bridge of human masses covering every inch as they tried to make their way home to waiting loved ones. Many people made it home that day, but many were left stranded in New York. In fact, it took some people a couple of days before they actually got home.

Days turned into weeks of watching “news,” mostly CNN. Before 911, I never watched that channel except in surfing by, but now it became home to me. We watched no regular TV programming in our house for over two weeks. I lived to watch, watch and watch CNN every waking hour I was home. As soon as I came home from work, the TV was tuned to CNN and pretty much stayed there. My husband and I watched the attack, collapse and the clean-up every day, over and over. I was more obsessed then him in watching the coverage.

After about two weeks, the live news ended on an hourly basis for the main channels and regular programming slowly creeped back to some sort of normalcy, but what was normal to us now? I had guilt feelings as I began to stop watching the news every waking hour and trying to get back to my life, watching my regular soap operas and sitcoms and not the news – but life does go on. It took me many months before I stopped completely, as I felt very drawn to CNN and their news coverage.

I can’t begin to even understand, how it was to have been there at Ground Zero on that day. It’s a sixteen acre site, but  much looking much smaller on TV. The Twin Towers took years to build, and in only a few minutes… lives, jobs and homes were gone forever. This is something that has never happened on our home-land; it took everyone by surprise and left us stunned.

Besides dealing with the attack on our country, we next dealt with President Bush declaring war on Afghanistan because they were harboring Al Quida and Osama Bin Laden. I remember that day very well, it was a Sunday and my daughter was in New Jersey. When I heard it on TV I felt very panicky and called her immediately – telling her what had happened and insisted she come home right away. She was scheduled to come home later in the day on the Metro train, but that meant she’d come into Penn Station and have to walk to Grand Central and catch the Metro train to New Haven. I insisted she take the Amtrak train, which would bring her directly into New Haven. At that point I did not want her walking through New York, but instead to just come straight home. If something further happened, I didn’t want her caught in a lock-down in New York and be stranded there alone. I was being a “mother.” It was a long five hours before I picked her up at the train station, but I then knew she was safe.

Even though I had slowly drifted back to regular programming, I never stopped thinking about the destruction on a daily basis. Everyday I checked on the discovery of bodies and the progress of removing debris at “Ground Zero.” There were tons and tons of twisted steel to be removed as they searched with rescue dogs looking for survivors. Television constantly updated us on the war in Afghanistan, almost on a blow by blow account.

11 months later… Ground Zero was finally closed for clean up in August (2002) and is now being prepared for the memorial planned for September 11th this year.

1 year later… As the days inched toward September 11, 2002 I felt emotional with feelings creeping back – I didn’t want to watch those scenes again of the planes hitting the towers, and see the smoke and the fires billowing from them. I never wanted to relive those scenes again.

When I grew up, I never knew the word ‘terrorist,’ but unfortunately my children and I know of that word today. I resent that they have to live the rest of their lives in our United States with that lingering cloud hovering forever.

Since Sept. 11th I look at life differently. I am not as much tuned in to CNN as I was in the beginning – times when I could not stray from those channels. I felt the need to keep updated – every waking moment. Eventually I did pry myself away – life goes go on – and I had to live.

America – the land of the free and home of the brave will never be the same again.
We will now always live in fear and the threat of another attack – and that is exactly what they had hoped to achieve.

This is what they wanted – our lives to be lived in terror – as they live. We now live that fear – never living life as we once did!


Thank you for reading, but more so.. “Thank You” for remembering all who gave their lives on this never to be forgotten day that changed America.

19 years later… NEVER FORGET!


© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories | Tagged | 1 Comment

2020: Quarantine COVID-19 Lockdown

I began writing this post a few months ago… but left it in my draft files as I hadn’t had the energy or desire to write after finishing my 2020: April A to Z blog posts. This is a compilation of the before and after (somewhat) of the Covid pandemic as how it’ affected me! Will it ever end?

2020 VIRUS

2020: Quarantine COVID-19 Lockdown

On March 15th, I wrote daily for 15 days… writing daily counts of Covid 19 confirmed virus cases and deaths in the U.S. and the world. By the end of March we all hoped that April 1st would bring us out of Quarantine… but that didn’t happen. The April Fools joke, April 1, 2020, was on America… as we quickly learned what we really knew in our hearts… we were to continue being in quarantine! As I’m  retired, this social distancing hadn’t really bothered me as I had become accustomed to staying home over the past winter… especially after returning from a road trip to Georgia in February… I was tired of traveling!

Suddenly new names was constantly heard all over television in regarding this virus… Self-quarantine, social distancing, Covid-19, Corona-virus, Wuhan, China, wear a mask… don’t wear a mask, and stand 6 feet apart. Masks quickly became my newest sewing item… and as I had a stash of elastic, fabric and interfacing… I soon began sewing… luckily I had supplies to begin with, because soon places quickly listed needed items as… “out of stock.”


Being a crafter, I’ve always kept more supplies on hand than needed… mostly for girls as I had sewed all the granddaughters flannel burp cloths, swaddling blankets, comforters… and I even sewed crib sheets for the special baby crib I used when my children were babies. I save way too many items… but I was happy that I saved that small crib. Sewing masks soon became my “superpower.”

I quickly began sewing masks for my kids and granddaughters… the girls were easy as I had girl fabric… the guys were limited in what I had on hand, but I managed to find something not too girly for them! Packages of masks were soon headed to Florida!

March 13th was pretty much the last day of school for my granddaughters… but we had hoped they’d be back by Easter… but, Easter came and went… with most families eating Easter dinner alone… as we did; no Easter church service for most, no Easter egg hunts…. and social distancing from everyone not living in your home; they were making you very afraid.


Masks sent to granddaughters in Florida

I ordered takeout for our Easter dinner this year… that’s never happened before! We ate alone… and missed the girls Easter egg hunt. Last year we were in sunny Florida at my sons house… If we’d only known how our world and life would change in a year!!! Well, I guess I would have bought all the coveted items and stocked up instead of having to go on scavenger hunts to find everyday items that had always been on the shelf!

Non-essential work was closed… no bars, restaurants, beauty salons, barbershops, all stores except where groceries were sold. We were told to stay home to kill the virus… only allowed to go out for essential items… such as food or to the pharmacy. They stressed that seniors were the most vulnerable… and to stay home! Restaurants were closed except for takeout… but we were encouraged to support our restaurants to keep them in business. What happened to the waiters and waitresses… unless that restaurant is doing a lot of takeout, they quickly became unemployed! No more enjoying a coffee at Dunkin Donuts with friends….I quickly panicked and stocked up on my hazelnut coffee… and cream. I need my coffee everyday… that’s my fix and security blanket! The media was making everyone panic about food items…  some stores even imposed limits on what you could buy… when you could even find it.

In as I usually have always trimmed my own hair, I never panicked about not being able to go to the salon… I’ve never been one to enjoy spending time in a salon chair or have my nails done… I know, I’m an odd duck! My husband soon learned how to even cut his hair with the trimmer he already had and had never used… I sent our extra one to my son in Florida… as they were sold out everywhere. He’s now begun cutting his hair and has already said he’ll continue to do so… saves money and time!

The hoarding made everyone panic… toilet paper suddenly became the “new” hot commodity that everyone coveted. While we already had a supply… knowing that it couldn’t and might not be found… kept me looking for it… and excited when we finally found it at Costco. For the future, I’ll now keep a “pandemic” supply of things like Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, and most definitely toilet paper!

Who knew, there would ever be a time, in my lifetime, where you couldn’t find simple items like toilet paper, peroxide, alcohol, hand sanitizer, and my granddaughters favorite… “chicken nuggets”… they just weren’t found anywhere!

As of May 30th both our two casinos even closed in Connecticut… who would have ever imagined that a casino would close… even though our Governor had mandated the closing of recreational activities… Indian lands don’t usually fall under their orders. While it never bothered me, as we never go… many were having withdrawals from not being able to go gamble! We went once to the casino… I bought a purse with most of the money I took, as I was determined that I wasn’t going home empty handed! We didn’t even stay long… we just aren’t’ gamblers!

Shopping became a travesty… with several aisles being totally empty… and bare shelves scattered throughout the store; even today, I still don’t find completely filled shelves. Toilet paper became the most wanted item… and not a square was to be had! You shopped now with “NO” list in hand… you shopped and bought as to what you actually found on the shelf. My highly coveted item was always “light cream” for my coffee… and when I found it, I often emptied the shelf… as who wanted to go to the grocery store again! 

We soon turned our second refrigerator on… it became our holding center for my coveted light cream… and the freezer quickly became full… and I still didn’t know what I wanted to eat! (As of July, we’ve finally eaten our way out of using the second full-size fridge, especially after my last electric bill… it’s older and uses way more money then it’s worth!

So what bothered me the most in all this quarantine at home? In as I  had recently began sewing masks, I couldn’t just walk into a fabric store and pick up what I needed… now I had to scan websites, becoming frustrated… as to what I wanted was always out of stock! Luckily I had lots of fabric, but I quickly ran out of elastics and interfacing. Any craft project I wanted to start, suddenly became frustrating… as I had to order online and wait… never having to do that before. It was the same with my knitting… I did have quite a stash of yarn… but, a new project always calls for specific colors or sizes needed… that you don’t have in your stash. Now I had to order online, and again… Wait! We are such an “immediate” need society… no one likes to wait anymore… especially me!


McKinley excited to show off a gift sent from Aunt Kathy… my heart raced! I did ask if I could borrow it sometime! I may just have to try making one of these… I’m sure I can!

The granddaughter’s had to suddenly acclimate to “no school” for the rest of the school year… and even as they’ve adjusted pretty well… I see how it’s hard for them to concentrate at home. Home before, or at least my house, had previously been all about crafts and tv time… and I did find it hard in pushing them to concentrate now on computer work and lessons. I’m more the craft teacher! The most popular craft item recently had become the cardboard loom I made for the girls… although it was mostly McKinley (age 7) who became fascinated with it… Gracie would rather string beads or pull out the potholder loom. McKinley is just like me… she’s happy with paper, scissors and yarn! Now if only I can encourage her to begin reading Nancy Drew… although today she found a heart in my button box and wanted it to wear as her Nancy Drew heart necklace… hey, that’s a start! We had just watched the new Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase movie this week… and it seems she paid attention that Nancy wore a heart necklace… well at least she has the “sleuth” trait!


McKinley’s “Nancy Drew” heart necklace!


My “Nancy Drew” mask I made for me!


Two of my masked bandits!

We have survived into July (2020), but life has changed!

It’s now July 19th, as of this writing… and we’re still wearing a mask (mandated) in all stores. It drives me crazy though when I see people driving in their car, alone, and wearing a mask! I only wear one going inside a business, never in the car. I could go on and on about how I feel about this pandemic, and the masks… so many mixed feelings!

My grandchildren never returned to school after their last days in March… and as of this writing, the granddaughters in Florida will be remaining at home and attending classes online in the fall. My daughter in law did a great job in home schooling the three of them through the end of this past school year… but it was exhausting. I think it will be somewhat different when they return via online as their teachers will appear on-screen daily in teaching… and the girls will be sitting in front of their laptops. As I don’t recall many memories of being in early grades… what will they remember of the years of going to school… from home!

As we began opening in Phase 1 in CT… businesses were busy installing plexiglass between food booths and windows at bank counters. People are pretty much mandated to stand 6 feet apart… and grocery stores measured off 6-foot lines at the checkout for you to stand on. Then came the arrows in the grocery aisles… making aisles one-way. The few times I went inside… I mostly paid no attention as I was too busy looking up at the aisle signs for what I was searching for. No one ever said anything to me… good thing they didn’t, as I probably would have answered them! Everyone was on edge… no one wanted to be in the store… especially having to wear a mask!

Between my knee bothering me more and not liking to wear a mask… I soon began ordering the majority of my groceries online and picking them up. For the most part, I have continued to do so, as I really don’t like spending time wandering around a store. We go inside very seldom, and it’s only then for a quick pickup. I’m somewhat spoiled in my shopping now… it’s almost all online and delivered to my door. I’ve lost my patience of going in stores now… especially the part of “not” finding what I’m looking for… or having to wait in line. The one store I miss actually shopping in… is the craft stores… especially when I want to buy fabric. Buying fabric is a process… as I like to touch and crinkle it… to see how wrinkly it becomes. I had plenty of fabric on-hand for mask making but I did buy online a yard of an Air Force fabric to make hubby a mask. Even though I can pretty much buy any craft supplies online… sometimes you can’t find because you don’t know the specific name for a search. I’ve probably saved a few bucks staying out of the stores though… no impulse buying!

Even though I had three freezers full of food… we often picked up take-out several times as I didn’t want to cook… but I had food! Most of our favorite take-out places have remained open so we frequented them in support; many business will never return. Slowly almost all the restaurants have now opened back… first with outside seating and now with limited inside eating. The first restaurants we ate inside was when we went to Georgia in early June… all the booths were outfitted with plexiglass between the booths. I felt like I was dining in a bubble… isolated from everyone. I feel sorry for whomever has to clean those plexiglass dividers as they will be inundated with handprints once families return. You must wear a mask to your table and all the servers were masks… when will this madness end? All this mask wearing isn’t good for our children… heck it isn’t good for us either… I feel smothered!

What would our grandparents think about wearing masks? This was not the first pandemic in our country where masks were worn… in 1918/19, the Influenza Spanish Flu became an epidemic! My grandparents lived through that in their early twenties… but I never heard them talk about it. Maybe it wasn’t as prominent in certain parts of the country… and living on farms they pretty much kept to themselves for the most part. How I wish I could ask them now, but that window has closed. My mother has never mentioned her parents talking about anything other than people having Tuberculosis and having to live away from family. 

Up until recently, there has been no baseball, football, basketball or Nascar. Just recently Nascar began running races, first without fans, but now a limited amount of fans are being allowed in. Basketball or Football still haven’t began… too close contact. Baseball has slowly started just this week, but with no fans in the stadium seats… but I have seen cardboard cut-out people sitting in some of the seats… Really! Fans have said that they miss the cheering when bases are made or home-runs hit… guess they could use what’s called “canned applause”. As far as football, I could care less if it returns at all… especially after this “take a knee” controversy… and know there’s talk of eliminating our National Anthem… what’s wrong with people?

The ones who will remember 2020 the strongest… are the kids who missed their graduations… their proms… their weddings and funerals. So many of them had to be shelved permanently… never to have! No one goes on vacation… especially when so many states mandate you quarantine for 14 days upon entering their state! Even Disney closed their doors… whoever would have thought! They just reopened slowly this past month, with mandated mask wearing, not all rides are open and on open rides you are distanced from others… and no showing up at the gate… you must sign up on-line for a pass.

My granddaughters have missed out so much in their young life… their libraries closed and are still closed… no museums or zoos… no movies; all new movies are now bought and streamed on-line at home… recreation activities have changed… dancing classes ended, with no end of the year dance recitals… dance lessons went on-line via “zoom”… swimming lessons ended… and as of now, still haven’t returned… can’t swim with a mask on! The new meet-ups went by way of online and “zoom” app… where teachers interacted with their students… it was so strange to see the girls talk to their teacher and friends on-line only. The girls wanted to go the park, play soccer, visit with friends, go swimming, go to camp… just go to a store without having to wear a mask… just be normal again! I do worry… will life ever be normal!

My grandchildren need to get back to normalcy again… they need to go back to real school, have play dates, go to the park, the libraries, dance classes, swimming lessons, spend less time on a laptop… just back to life as they once knew it… I hope they haven’t forgotten that “Yes” they once had a real life!

The children today will be the ones to tell their children and grandchildren about the great American Pandemic of 2020! Will they remember?


© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in 15 Days Stop the Spread, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories | Leave a comment

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #50

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #50


Where Mama was the happiest… piddling in her gardens

March 17, 2019: While watching Hoarders and talking to mama…. “Your daddy used to tell me about some of the houses he went in when collecting weekly life insurance premium money. He didn’t like staying long… as you never know what’s really in some peoples houses. When I worked at the beauty shop, we turned people away who were dirty… many were local people. No one wanted to even touch them.” I told mama it’s Ella’s 9th birthday today“I can’t believe she’s 9, I’m getting old way too fast!”

March 31, 2019: As I watched Meerkat Manor, mama said… “I wonder if you could tame one of them, they’re so cute. Willie Mae’s grandmother, Grandma Johnson, had a pet squirrel… he lived in the attic. He didn’t even run away from us when we went up to see him. I remember him coming down the stairs and she’d give him food… then he’d go back up stairs. I don’t remember if I ever petted him or not.”

I haven’t recorded many conversations this past year… mainly because my mother’s mind and health is not the greatest… although sometimes I think she’s more healthy than me… she just forgets from minute to minute and often my phone calls don’t go well, or even last long. She continues to live alone, and will be celebrating her 90th Birthday on April 6th… although when I tell her she’s going to be 90, she gets a little testy, quickly telling me… “No” I’m not! So maybe I’ll just start telling her she’s turning maybe 80 and see where that gets me. She doesn’t believe that she is old… yea sometimes I have to tell that to myself too… wondering where my years have gone. She still talks to me like I’m the child… and I keep telling her that I don’t listen well anymore… and she tells me I never listened!

March 21, 2020: As mama’s TV is on “All” the time… she constantly listens about the virus pandemic, so it makes her remember it… she will call me during the day just to ask “is everything ok up there?” After telling her we are all ok and safe… she’ll say, “I’m tough as a ladder knot, guess I got that expression from my daddy, as he was as tough as a “ladder knot”… I only wish I was as tough as him! Everyone was afraid of him, they’d say, “you better not mess with Mr. Ed.” (Mama has always talked more about her father than her mother… she was daddy’s girl and spent most of her day following him around the farm and watching him plow. She’d say she didn’t like to stay with mama as she’d put her to work filling the many water buckets on the back porch or sweep the house… mama didn’t like housework.)

Mama says… “All you see on TV today is people wearing masks… I’m tired of seeing them do things wearing a mask!”

After mama moved back to her father’s farm… she always said that his ghost was still there… she’d hear him walking around at night… thumping his cane. Sometimes she would find his favorite rocking chair, just rocking for no reason. It didn’t make her scared… she felt safer feeling he was still there. Even today she’ll mention that Mr. Ed is still walking around on the farm… he loved that farm and his spirit will never leave it. I don’t dare tell the new owners that… but if he’s there… he’d never harm, only protect them.

Mama never does housework anymore… and while it’s a problem for me… she could care less! Whenever I mention that I’d like to get someone to come in at least once a week to vacuum and pick up… that’s when the fight starts, and the conversation quickly goes down the tube… you can’t argue with someone who is dementia challenged… but I keep forgetting. She knows enough to tell me that it’s her house… and her rules! I give up quietly… although sometimes I don’t… but to get off the phone, I’ll say, I have to go make a cup of coffee. I think she knows that I use that excuse way too often! Maybe I should start saying, I’m going to have a glass of wine… she’ll probably tell me to have one for her!

I made another unexpected trip to check on mom in early June… didn’t really want to travel during this pandemic, but felt it was needed. And as usual, I didn’t accomplish much in dealing with her… she still insists on living alone… still saying, “I’m a tough old bird.” Yes she is… and a stubborn and difficult one at best! She has made it clear through her life that she wanted to remain in her home with Boo… her cat. Everyone knows Boo… and whenever she ends up in the ER, she talks about how she has to hurry back home to be with Boo!

The past few months haven’t been talkative phone calls and often what’s said… isn’t writable; she goes through mean stages with me and conversations don’t go well. By the time I hang up, I’m exhausted… and in no mood to even try to write my feelings about our phone conversations. I think she becomes mean spirited and brain fogged from lack of sleep… the woman just doesn’t sleep! On my last trip there I installed cameras throughout the house so I can check in on her… it certainly has helped. One minute I’ll see her roll over and think… oh boy, I have a few peaceful hours of no constant phone calls… and within five minutes, she’s up and the phone calls start. There are days when my phone rings almost two hundred times. Months ago I turned my phone to silent after the many daily phone calls began… even today its still on silent, but always by my side. I can’t really tolerate to even hear a phone ring… although I do laugh at hubby’s phone ringtone… it’s barking dogs… but his phone hardly ever rings!

July 19, 2020: After mama finally slept for much needed hours today, I was able to have a somewhat normal conversation… sleep desperately needed. When she began saying she was bored, I said… “want me to send you some knitting needles?”... “Hell NO… I could still knit, but I don’t know if I could follow a pattern, but I can knit.”

To keep the conversation going smooth, I asked, “was it this hot when you were a girl” “It wasn’t hot back then like it is today. Daddy wouldn’t have been able to plow in this heat. It was hot, but never like it is today. We had no air conditioning, no ceiling fans… and I don’t even remember having a fan of any sort, but we were comfortable. All I remember is a paper fan. We’d sit on the front porch in the evening to cool off. Boo’s laying on the floor now, at the foot of my bed dead asleep… he really looks dead. Guess the heat has gotten to him too.”

“Our yard dogs, Smoker and Bill, slept up under the house when it was hot… laying on the cool earth. They’d sleep mostly during the day unless daddy came out in the yard… then they’d come running out… thinking daddy was going fox hunting. They’d head to the truck and jump in the back… they wanted to go hunting!”

“There’s no life today like there was back when I was a girl. Mother spent her days cooking and cleaning, but family always got together on weekends… today there’s no family. I have no immediate family nearby now as you are so far away.”

“Daddy always had a yard full of animals with his fox hounds…  the cats there were only to keep the mice away. I just have an old black cat named Boo… but he loves me and I love him… he’s my company. Right now he’s on the floor curled up around his food bag.” (Mama gets lots of exercise every day in looking for Boo… as whenever he’s out of her eyesight she hunts the house over looking for him. If I look in on the camera and see her looking behind the chairs and under the bed, I know she’s on the hunt for Boo. That cat has more hiding places than imaginable… and he’s hard to find! I keep telling her that she needs to hunt with a flashlight, but she lays them down and then that’s the end of them… after she’s exhausted her hunt, she calls to tell me that her Boo is gone! It’s usually not much later before I see Boo trailing behind her as she’s hunting for him… then she turns around and picks him up and takes him to bed. Boo is happy when she pets him… that long black tail just thumps away on the bed.)


Like to read more… click on  Conversations with Mama and more

© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in Conversations with Mama and more, Daily Writings and funnies... | 3 Comments

Family Stories: Visiting Manhattan – What a Town

Family Stories

Visiting Manhattan – What a Town!

mikie in manhattenFIX

Uncle Mikie DeTulio on the streets of Manhattan!

To a young girl growing up in Georgia… Manhattan seemed as far away as Mars to me, but after graduation my spaceship finally landed a little closer. I married a “yankee” and moved to CT. Years later, I finally arrived in Manhattan via Grand Central Station – which truly mesmerized me – making me dizzy in staring up at the ceiling – trying to not bump into anyone. As I walked out on 42nd St., I was immediately drawn into the sights and sounds which make up NYC! Does anyone in Manhattan “not” beep their horn?

My daughter was my guide and quickly gave me the spiel – don’t make eye contact… don’t take pamphlets from anyone. Did I listen – No! I quickly discovered I needed to find a trashcan to discard all the cards I had accepted when handed to me. I learned! As I followed her blindly, I thought… “I’ll never find my way around this town called Manhattan.” But I did, and soon felt comfortable coming into the city and knowing where I was… and where I wanted to go… and knowing how to get there; although the subway sometimes turned me around. It also boggled my mind how they even dug and built this underground maze of tunnels to take you all over the city. Quite Ingenious! It’s a little daunting late at night, and I’d rather take my chances  in the late hours above ground vs below ground. My husband soon began coming with me and was amazed at how well I had learned my way around.

The city that I had only seen on TV,  was now surrounding me. What’s better than walking around Rockefeller Center at Christmas time… watching the skaters… gazing up at the Christmas Tree that had been trucked in just for the holidays. Another must see site is St. Patrick’s Cathedral – no matter your religion – it’s awesome inside!  And who can go to Manhattan at Christmas and not go to Radio City Music Hall… where it’s hard to keep your eyes onstage as there is so much to look it. The Rockettes are spectacular and the Christmas Show with Santa – well I can’t say enough about how awesome the show is. The Living Nativity will amaze you and leave you wondering just how do they keep all those animals in getting along with each other… and perform flawlessly. It’s a show not to be missed. And if you never go see a Broadway show, then you’ve truly missed out on an awesome experience. My first show was Phantom of the Opera – and no sooner it was over, I wanted to turn right back around… to experience again. I still believe it has the best scenery productions of any show I’ve seen and I’ve seen a few from… Fosse (front row seats), Wicked, The Graduate (with nudity!), Phantom of the Opera (3 times), Chicago (2 times), Grease (front row seats – produced with the winners from the TV Reality show), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Slava Snow Show (off-Broadway), I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (off-Broadway), Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, and 42nd Street… and I’ve probably forgotten one or two. It’s been several years since we’ve been back into the city… and I miss it.

In walking up 42nd st. one day, I turned to find a lamb on a leash behind us. I had been hearing a “baw” sound and was shocked… when I finally turned to look. Darn… I didn’t even take a picture to prove that I had seen a little lamb walking in Manhattan… on a leash!

Before our first theater experience, I cringed at the thought of standing in those long lines in Times Square for “cheaper” tickets. I soon learned other ways to buy those same very tickets… and bought all our Broadway tickets there… getting great deals – and even able to choose where we wanted to sit. Everyone has their own preference of where they enjoy sitting, but sometimes you have to attend a few performances to learn where those seats are… as each theater is different. I personally don’t enjoy the balcony seats, I like to be on the main floor, preferably orchestra middle seats… and often as close as I can get to the stage. Once you’ve been in several of the theaters, you have a better idea of where you can see – some side-aisle seats are OK, and some have you often missing some of the performance as the performers are out of eyesight.

There’s something to be said for “Yes” to front row seats and then… “No” I’ll sit a few seats back. I remember being all excited the first time we had front row seats… only to soon feel a little awkward as the dancers are standing extremely close to you at the front of the stage. Were they watching me as I watched them… doing the reverse of critiquing their audience? It’s something no one thinks about or knows, unless you’ve sat in those front row of a dance show – They Sweat! And unfortunately… they sometimes gets a little too close for comfort, making you push back in your seat…. with no place to escape… and quickly wishing you were a few seats back!

What have we seen in Manhattan…. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center (no ice skating for us though), St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square, FAO Schwarz (sadly closed now – it was fun and very crowded toy store to browse through), Toys R Us featuring the huge Ferris Wheel enclosed inside the building (now closed), Little Italy and the famous Ferrara Bakery with display cases full of every Italian pastry and dessert imaginable, Chinatown browsing (just don’t get lost in alley-ways), Soho shopping, Martha Stewart show, Emeril Christmas Show (Elmo as guest), Food Network studio in the old Nabisco Factory, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor (love, love, love  the Christmas windows), Ellen’s Stardust Diner (50’s theme diner with singing wait-staff (great food and awesome entertainment), Jekyll and Hyde Club restaurant (haunted theme restaurant), Becco Restaurant on  355 W 46th St. with really awesome food and service (owned by  Lidia Bastianich), Eataly (largest Italian marketplace in the world, a variety of restaurants, foods and beverages, Italian bakeries, retail items, and a cooking school), Hard Rock Cafe (The decor is impressive), Tiffany & Co… who wouldn’t love shopping in Tiffany’s – impressed with the elevators as they still have actual “elevator operators“, Christmas shopping, Central Park Zoo, stayed at the Hotel Roosevelt on Madison Ave. (great hotel right in the main hub and near the train station), enjoyed perusing the shelves at the famous Strand Bookstore, the Museum of Natural History, and rode the Big Red Bus that circles around Manhattan. I never thought I’d enjoy seeing Manhattan like that, but we really enjoyed it… saw so much more… saving our feet and knees.

bus trip Ellis Island

I planned a bus trip for the family to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in 2000. That was our first trip there… and definitely peeked our interest into coming back to Manhattan to see more. Melissa took me a few times, and I quickly learned my way around from her… although I never liked riding the subway. It’s just something about being underground and confined that I don’t like… or trust!

family at Ellis Island

Family visits Ellis Island!

Things we haven’t done yet and probably won’t by now… Horse ride through Central Park, Top of the Empire State Building (lines were always too long when we went; my son proposed to his wife on the top of the Empire State Building), Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, New Years Eve ball drop, Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, Concert at Bryant Park, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Bronx Zoo, New York Public Library (I did walk by it every time we went into the city),  Staten Island Ferry, and the NBC studios.

       Oh, I bet there’s still lots more I’d like to see… but who can remember it all!

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
To read more Family Stories… click HERE

© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved



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2020: Z – April A to Z… Family Stories: Zee Things the Grandchildren Say… and more

2020: Z – April A to Z… Family Stories

I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…

Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!

From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat resembled Coney Island… but was even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories…  remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!

My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!


Zee Things the Grandchildren say…

xmas 2016 with girlsFIX 1

Zee Granddaughters

Ella’s words from her first day of kindergarten (2015) was the best… she came home and said,  “I don’t think I’m going to like this – not enough nap time…. it’s just not going to work for me.” And after two days… she asked her father for an I-Phone and a Facebook pageHe laughed… she got neither!

The first time my son took Ella to church on Ash Wednesday… she was like… “I don’t want to go, they’re gonna pull my eyelashes out?” Sure…. ashes and eyelashes sound alike to me!

Ella spent the first three years at Pop’s daycare in our home… it was usually just Ella and Pop daily… where they formed a great bond. I spent time with her in the afternoon when they picked me up at work. One afternoon I wanted her to go in the kitchen, so I told her to march herself in there… she literally marched with her little legs going up and down as she stomped into the kitchen. I guess she learned about marching on the Mickey Mouse Fun house show she liked to watch… as who teaches them to march!

Grace and McKinley told me about their walk with daddy one day as they hiked up Sleeping Giant… “we get to pee in the woods when we walk with daddy… and sometimes daddy pees in the woods.” Kids remember everything… especially things they shouldn’t re-tell!

Sleeping Giant Park is one of McKinley and Grace’s favorite places to hike… especially, way up to the top, where the castle is. In 2018 a tornado whipped through the area… just down from the girls home, a few miles away. The park was devastated with trees toppled down everywhere… and it was so severe that the park had to be closed; it took over a year for it to be cleaned out and reopened. As the girls were driven by for the first time after the tornado, Gracie said, “Sleeping Giant is very sick.

Both, McKinley and Grace are somewhat picky eaters and in taking them out for dinner one night, I ordered chicken “tenders.” Gracie immediately began saying, whining, that she didn’t want them. McKinley quickly piped in to tell her… “they are literally the same thing as chicken nuggets, you’ll like them.” Big sister trying to diffuse the situation!

Often it was never more than 10 minutes of being in the car before Gracie would say… “are we there yet?” That always reminds me of my mother, as when we take her in the car… she says the same thing!

On days that we pick them up from school, or keep them for the day, we’ve driven to various farms to visit. While they don’t remember the actual names of the farms, they have their own names that they associate with where they’ve visited… hence the “doggie farm” is actually B&B Farm in West Haven. They have two really friendly dogs there that they enjoy petting and bringing dog bones to. The “swing farm” is The Lavender Farm in Killingworth… where a swing is suspended from a huge branch… and they always fight over who’s going to swing first… and whine… that so and so is taking too long on the swing! The “tractor farm” is Rose’s Orchards… their name is from the big tractor that they enjoy climbing up on… I’m actually surprised that they didn’t call it the goat farm or the ice cream farm. The Book Barn in Niantic is called the “cat farm“… because they have several cats that wander among the books… and they enjoy searching out the unusual sleeping places among the bookshelves. The first time we took them there, they took the pamphlet with the cat pictures and walked around searching for them… they weren’t interested in the books… just looking for the cats.

McKinley (Sept. 2015)  said to her mother one day… “I smell something!” Mom… “what do you smell?” McKinley… “Grasshopper Pee!” Now where did that come from? And what does grasshopper pee smell like?

McKinley, at age 4 asked me one day to “pause” her TV program! These kids today are growing up way too smart… and too fast! They can handle the Firestick remote better than I can! They’re born knowing the finger movements to handle the I-Phone… swiping through photos and pinching the screen. My son was proficient at that age with the VCR… I remember him putting the tapes in that he wanted to watch. What will these young kids see in their lifetime when they have children… they’ll probably command everything through speech… we have so much already of that from Alexa, Sirri and the Fire Stick.

The girls were at our house for the day and McKinley discovered a couple of wooden cows that I painted years ago… she asked if she could have them… then asked why I didn’t paint where the “milk part” was. She’s obsessed with cows lately… is she going to be a dairy farmer? Then the joke came… “where do cows like to go?” Me… “I don’t know.” McKinley, “They like to go to the mooovies.” I should have recorded her, as she thought it was hilarious… which it kinda was!

Whenever we had any of the kids in the car when they were young, we always told them to pay attention to their surroundings… so they knew how to get to their house and always knew where they were. McKinley paid so much attention that she’d constantly tell you that you were going the wrong way… if you took a new route. I think she had a couple of meltdowns with her mother whenever she didn’t take the route that McKinley thought she should. I used to like to tell her that Pop was lost… and she’d immediately say… “well this is what we should do, let’s pull into a driveway and turn around.”

In picking up McKinley on New Year’s Eve at after-school daycare… she hold me her mother had sent party hats, but she couldn’t find them in her cubby. Her teacher told her they were way down in her backpack… McKinley says to me, “now this is what we should do, empty out my pack, we will find them and then put everything back.” I told her “no we should not.”

McKinley always knew her right from left… placing her right hand over her heart for the Pledge of Allegiance at daycare. The teachers said she always paid attention to the younger kids and helped to correct them if they used the wrong hand. At her graduation from Pre-K, she was chosen to say the Pledge of Allegiance using the microphone… and she said it like a pro! I was a very proud GiGi!

One afternoon while I went in the yarn store downtown, Pop rode the girls (McKinley and Grace) around the block.  When I got back in the car, McKinley said… “I like seeing reflections.” I then asked “do you know what a reflection is?”  “Yes, it is when you see yourself in the glass, or water or even a window.”

Sometimes I laid down with McKinley at nap time, especially when she didn’t want to sleep. One day I told her to count sheep jumping over a fence, after she kept saying that she couldn’t sleep. I looked over later to see her dragging her hand across her face, saying “one over the fence, two over the fence“… I closed my eyes or I would have laughed!

I can’t remember what I was talking about or had in my hand but Gracie said… “Is that from China?” I then asked her, “why, you don’t buy anything from china”… “no we don’t buy anything from China!”

Grace’s favorite last words whenever she thinks she doesn’t get the same as McKinley- “but what about me?

Every try to tell a kid to be quiet in the movies… it usually doesn’t work as they like to talk and laugh out loud. While at Dora the Explorer movie, Gracie realized Dora was talking about going to the bathroom in the forest and said… quite loud… “I know, she’s pooping in the woods.” Gracie got a laugh from most everyone in the movie… as she was quite loud!

Giving kids a bath is always interesting… as they first liked to hunt all around the house for things to pile in the tub, but it was the hair washing which often had its quirks… Gracie had her own way of getting her hair wet… “I lay down in the tub unless we’re taking a shower” It was her way or no way! Then McKinley said, “my hair feels so soft” after washing and rinsing, I said, “why, doesn’t it feel that way at home?” “No, not unless we use conditioner.” I had used baby shampoo… not wanting any tears from soap in their eyes!

Coming home from the first day at kindergarten has always been interesting. McKinley came home and whispered in her mother’s ear… “I have a boyfriend… don’t tell daddy!”  Oh Boy, that sounds like trouble! Daddy has already told both his red-headed daughters that there will be “no” boyfriends!

McKinley started 1st grade on August 29, 2018… and riding the bus for the first time. In asking her what she liked best on her first day, she yelled out – “riding the bus“…  that’s because she’s such a social butterfly!

One afternoon while McKinley was playing, and not listening to little sister Grace… who was trying hard to tell her something… Grace finally said, “McKinley, I’m not going to tell you again!

While at my son in law’s father’s birthday (2019) party…. Grace said to me, “where are the people with the goodies“… referring to the waiters passing around the appetizers. I then showed her the goodies in my purse… a chocolate candy bar. She was thrilled and forgot about hunting down the people with the other goodies!

I asked Grace and McKinley about the St. Patrick parade…  as they had rode in the “Roaming Train” car Stop and Shop sponsored in the parade. McKinley said, “it was fun.” Grace yelled, “it was cold.” I asked her, “well, did you wear socks.” McKinley said, “no she didn’t, but Mama put them on her.” (2019) For some odd reason… Miss Grace has an aversion to wearing socks! I recently told her I was going to knit her a pair and super-glue them on… she looked at me… and giggled!

Gracie was amazed at Pop hanging laundry outside one morning, and said… “Pop does laundry… my daddy doesn’t… he doesn’t know how much soap to use.”

In teasing Gracie about me popping her backside, she laughed and told me… “my mama says I’m cruising for a bruising!” I bet I said that to her mother when she was little too,  and I’m sure she probably got that bruising… that she had been cruising for!

I asked McKinley if she had a secret safe word between her and her parent’s… meaning so if they had to send someone to pick her up, she’’d know it was OK to leave with them. She said, “no“… then she began coming up with one word after another of what they could use. I could see she’d never pick just one! It’s like just picking out one toy, she can never make up her mind. I told her that the word for her mom and Uncle Steve was Nipper! Then I had to explain who Nipper was… the dog for the RCA Company.

McKinley and Grace were digging in the yard for buried treasure one Sunday afternoon while their parents worked outside… after much complaining that they hadn’t found anything… their dad walked by when they weren’t looking and dropped several coins where they’d been digging…  they soon began yelling that they found buried treasure… but not first before Gracie complained that McKinley found more than she had! It’s always a competition! (Summer 2018)

My son had twins in 2013… two little dark haired bundles of noise and energy. Twins are so much different… each demanding your attention at the same time. It has been fun watching them grow in different directions… forming their own personalities… and having conversations with them… but their energy often zaps mine! Love you bunches Ana & Nina!


And the robot says… “my butt cheeks are cold!”

We went to a Halloween parade at Ella’s school, where she dressed as a “punk rocker” with pink hair… her younger sisters came dressed as a “fairy princess” and a “robot.” Ana was transformed into a robot by the means of a big box for the body… but it was a very, very cold day and she just kept saying… “my butt cheeks are cold.” It was a short box! (I drew the picture in my journal… you can clearly see I’m no artist! LOL)

(2019) Our Nina is a little trickster! She fooled us last year into thinking she didn’t know how to put her shoes on the right feet. When I told her that her shoes were on the wrong feet… she criss-crossed her feet… gave me a sly smile, and said… “now I have them on the right feet.” Ella is the more quiet of the three sisters. She loves looking at 3-D pictures with Pop… seeing them pop out at you; Steve gave her his book of them on our last trip.

I took the girls a DVD of the new Nancy Drew movie and also the 2017 one and we all watched together. They loved them… wanting to watch over and over again… they are movie buffs at a young age. After they understood all the clues in the movies… they’d tell them outloud to you throughout the movie… then they wanted to play Nancy Drew. We downloaded the Haunted Carousel Nancy Drew game on Ella’s computer… she’s trying to figure it out. When cousin McKinley came down last summer, she showed her and the two of them were trying to figure out the clues. I loaded it on my computer also, but I’m not much help… even with cheat sheets. Nina enjoys drawing and is quite an artist… she drew me an elephant after seeing it on my shopping bag. Her teachers are very impressed with her art skills… she tells me she wants to be an artist!

June 25 2019: We picked the girls up at YMCA camp today… they were all excited from camp and I found Gracie flirting with one of the cute boy counselors. McKinley couldn’t wait to show off her singing and clapping song she learned… and Gracie showed me how to do Rock – Paper – Scissors… but she’s tricky… as she likes to wait for you to throw out first… so she can win.

On the ride to our house from another YMCA camp pickup, I asked if they swam today? McKinley said, “I love swimming and I want to be a swim instructor”… last time she wanted to be a vet… and recently she wants to be a yoga instructor”. I‘m going to continue taking swim lessons every year and ballet in the fall.” I asked if she had tried diving yet… “I can kneel down and lean over, and Mar Mar pushes me in.” Then she asked, “how do you stand and dive in?”

Oct 16 2019: At my daughter’s birthday dinner, Gracie blurts out in conversation “Mckinley got lost in Florida.” I looked at my daughter…. and then the story was told; I was surprised the girls hadn’t spilled the beans before. They had gone to a turtle rescue center in Jupiter to watch a turtle release. It was very crowded, and as Mckinley really wanted to see, and no one would let her through the crowds… I guess while Melissa held onto Gracie, she wandered off down to the beach to collect shells! As soon as  the turtle entered the ocean, everyone quickly dispersed… and there was no McKinley! Amidst tears… and the police searching for a red headed girl in a pink hat. Suddenly, Uncle Steve finally spotted her at the beach edge.., picking up shells… oblivious of where she was… and that people were looking for her! She was like… “I went to get shells.” Hopefully a teaching lesson came from this!

In stopping at my son’s house one afternoon, Ella told me about taking her Nancy Drew book to school for classroom reading. I then asked, “are you taking all your Nancy Drew books with you when you move to Florida?” “Oh Yes, I’m taking them all!” Made me feel good as I had given her 1-56 of the original Nancy Drew books.

In listening to Ella talk about school last year.. “it’s all about drama at school“, she said. “Girlfriend drama… Boyfriend drama“… I laughed at all the “drama” words of a fourth grader. Ella talked about how she wants to be an actress and a singer… Ana wants to be an artist… and Nina just wants to play Barbie and be a scootch! She’s the wise guy and trickster… and the LOL (doll) officiendo her mother tells me!

(Dec. 2019) We picked the girls up from school and they came out with gifts in plastic bags… they had shopped in the school store for presents for their parents. Coupons are earned in school and parents sent in a couple dollars for each of them. McKinley told me that one student didn’t have any coupons so she gave her one of hers. She’s so sweet and tender hearted like that… she even bought her sister a gift.

As Gracie played and talked to her dolls, she told me. “My baby’s birthday is tomorrow on Christmas day and she’s going to get lots of presents from her and Tikie, Grace’s husband…and he’s celebrating Hanukkah.” I guess there has been much talk about Hanukkah in school. (2019)

Grace and McKinley were here for the afternoon and as their dad arrived, we all sat down to enjoy “breakfast” for dinner. I took a photo of everyone to send to their mom… and she quickly came back to tell us we weren’t practicing “social distancing”… Really! Gracie said, “we should just all put duct tape over our mouth.” This was during our March 2020 Quarantine!

In waiting for the girls dad to pick them up, the word “moustache” came up because of the cartoon they were watching where the man had a large handlebar moustache. I asked Gracie if she wanted her daddy to have one like that… “well he had a beard once, but he shaved it off… it tickled and scratched me.” (2020)

While at Melissa’s for dinner, (Jan. 13, 2020) McKinley brought me a felt/flannel scarf and asked if I thought it was bought or made. After looking at it I said, “maybe bought“. McKinley said, “no, it was made by my teacher… she gave one to every student… she made them.” I thought it interesting how she asked my opinion… testing me! She thought it was very special that her teacher made everyone in class a handmade gift. She knows about crafts as I knit, her mother knits and her other grandmother knits… I had just brought her and Grace a scarf, mitten and hat…. from a recent knitting frenzy of mine!

Also while there, Melissa told us how Gracie announced the other day,  “I can read.” It must be so exciting when they first discover how  letters suddenly make sense to them as they turn into words. We had taken over Pop’s rocker from he was a kid, Gracie took it over immediately… sitting in it all evening.

While over for Gracie’s birthday (April 25, 2020), I mentioned the word “stupid” and Gracie told me it was a bad word, but I replied “It’s not really a bad word and depends on how you use it.” Melissa came in and said… “now I know where she gets that word, more often from Pop though.” She then asked Gracie, “what does Pop call bad drivers?” Gracie giggled and said, “I’m not saying anything!

In asking my son for some funny moments… “I was taking the girls to school on my way to work… and yelling for them to hurry up, but someone had to go to the bathroom… naturally at the last moment. I’m yelling to come on and hurry up, and with Ana in the bathroom, her sister, Nina, yells out loud… “she’s pooping.” Hey when you gotta go… you gotta go… and you can always count on your twin sister to rat you out!

I’ve always been amazed at how fast my daughter in law, Rose, takes hand of their three girls… I always laugh at how her hand is quicker than you can blink an eye! One birthday as my son blew out his birthday candles… with three girls right beside him helping… but there was one candle that didn’t go out. Ana went to pinch it with her little hand… but mama was quicker than a speeding bullet in grabbing her hand… coming out of nowhere to swoop in!

As my son was taking Molly for a walk, he asked if I wanted an ice cream… “they’re out in the freezer in the garage… I eat one out there so the girls don’t see me and all want one!” I laughed… as I had this mental image of him sneaking out to the garage for a quiet moment… and an ice cream… and then remembered all the times I hid foods in the house from my kids… him included! I guess what goes around… comes around!


A few of my own children’s funny things popped in my head, so I thought why not write them also on “Z”… before I forget!

One day I sent my son stephen to his room for saying bad words… he was about five years old. I told him that he could not come out until he could behave and stop saying them. So off he went to his room, shutting the door… and soon I began him hearing him saying several bad words, over and over. Then it was all quiet, he came out and said, “I’m all done.” 

Stephen, was probably around eight, when I made him push the upright vacuum in the living room one morning; his sister, age four, was sitting on the floor with her hands behind her. Most likely, after several times of yelling to move… he pushed the big red upright vacuum over her hands. She screams and I run… quickly turning it off… heart racing… as all I could think of was that her little hands were rolled around the beater bar. Melissa was crying, I was crying, and Stephen was crying! I slowly lifted the vacuum and both her hands were still flat on the floor… and fine! I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I had words for both of them after that!

As I made french toast the other morning, I suddenly remembered when Stephen and Melissa made french toast in their teens; I was working. Melissa told her brother that she would make breakfast that morning… but soon after she asked, “ok, so how do you make it?” I’m sure Stephen gave her several eye-rolls, before saying, “never mind, I’ll make it!” Stephen had always had more interest in cooking than she did… and cooks quite often even today. When both my children left home… they left with a homemade recipe book of most of their favorite recipes. Melissa is quite a good cook today though!

It just goes to show you that if you don’t write down the funny things said when it happens… it’s often long forgotten. I’m sure there were more things my own children said or did… but those memories are scattered to the winds now. My suggestion to anyone now with children… keep a journal for each child and write to them as time persists. I so wish I had thought to do that… as what a gift it would have made! Hmm… now what would be in my journal if my mother had written to me!

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

For all those who have followed me along in my 2020: A to Z of Family Stories… THANK YOU for your support, comments and sharing your family remembrances with me! I’m sad that today is my last day of writing hubby’s family stories…  It’s been FUN!

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
To read more Family Stories… click HERE

© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

2020: Y – April A to Z… Family Stories: I was at Yankee Stadium when Roger Maris Hit his 61st Home Run

2020: Y – April A to Z… Family Stories

I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I’ve racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…

Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!

From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat once resembled Coney Island… and even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories…  remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!

My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!


I was at Yankee Stadium when Roger Maris hit his 61st Home Run!

roger marris

“The First baseball game I ever went to… was watching Yogi Berra (No 8). We had tickets right behind 1st base. In these photos, Yogi had just been up to bat, and was on first base… I took this photo with my Kodak Argus camera. No zoom features on those cameras… if you were far away… you were just far away!”

“I only went to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York twice – and only because Uncle Pete (Insalaco) was given free tickets from where he worked. The game I most remember was the one where Roger Maris (No. 9) hit his sixty-first home run and broke Babe Ruth’s record of sixty hits in 1927. I was there on October 1, 1961 (Sunday), sitting in box seats behind third base. It was the fourth inning of the last game of the season… between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Everyone stood up applauding as he walked into the dugout… and the fans kept applauding in wanting him to come back out; the players had to push him back out to take a bow… that’s how humble he was. I took a photo of him on the field that day and still have it today.”

“I don’t ever remember eating a hot dog at the games… things were too expensive to us back then… if you were lucky enough to go to the game, you enjoyed the game, not buying all the money making additions.”

I was at Yankee Stadium when Roger Maris hit his 61st Home Run on Oct 1, 1961 – it was a warm Sunday afternoon. We were behind 3rd base with box seats for this game.

“We had upper deck 3rd base box seats on the day of the game… Uncle Pete had gotten the tickets; he was a salesman and often was given tickets; I went with his sister Martha (my aunt). Martha drove her VW to cousin Horace’s house in New York, and he dropped us off right at the gate; the game was played at the Old Yankee Stadium… Horace only lived about 5 miles away.”  

“New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris capped one of the most spectacular seasons in baseball history… with one swing of the bat, he became the major-league single-season home-run leader. Roger Maris retired in 1984… and the Yankees retired his number “9.” The fans called Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris the M&M kids. Mickey Mantle could bat right or left handed and even catch a ball behind his back. I was there the day he hit the ball out of the park… it landing on a street nearby. I even had the actual baseball card showing the ball on the street below his picture. He was one of the fastest runners in baseball.” 

“For all its historic potential, the reported crowd was little more than a third of what the iconic Yankee Stadium could hold. But in its own way, that lackluster crowd saw history made when Maris broke Babe Ruth’s world record. It was the last game of the season… and his last time at bat. The Yankees went to the World Series playoffs the following Wednesday. The crowds were never in the stands back then like today, people weren’t that free with their money… there were never sold-out games.

“I  never sat in the house watching baseball on TV, I was always out and busy. I played the game, but I found it boring to just sit and watch. Going to the game was a different story though, you could look around and watch people… I’m a people watcher. It’s like going to church, you look around at people… who’s wearing what, and being a guy, I’m looking at women, which is what I’ve done all my life.”

“I remember when I wanted to try out for the little league team at school, my father said, “if you can’t play good enough to be professional, then don’t abuse your body. He felt that if baseball was going to be your life, you lived everyday with that ball in your hand. I guess he already knew about aches and pains and was trying to save me grief. I didn’t believe his thoughts, but I sure do now… but as a kid, old age seemed far away.. sure came quicker than I ever thought.”

Maris’ status as an emerging star was soon swept aside when the NY Yankees traded for him on December 11, 1959… trading from Kansas City Athletics… he had only been a left-handed hitting kid from the Midwest.

“My father went to see a World Series game in 1960 when the New York Yankees were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates; it was the third game and played on Oct. 8th. They beat the Yankees that night, 10 to 0. My father saw Bobby Richardson, a second baseman, hit a grand slammer… don’t see that often; but in the end the Pirates won the pennant. There was still snow on the ground when they went as we had just had a blizzard earlier in the week. That was another game Uncle Pete had gotten tickets for, but being a school day, I was made to go to school.”

“I had that very baseball card of Bobby Richardson… I had them all! I won so many baseball cards one day… and only started playing with 47… while another kid had a huge pile of cards. We called the game “Leanzees”…. one card leaned up against the wall… you’d throw your card, and if you knocked over the leaner, you won the pot. I won 400 plus cards that day… winning all the cards that day!”

“I never liked bubble gum, so I never bought many cards; they were like 2 cents a pack… money wasn’t easy to come by when I was a kid, and I didn’t have money to throw away on cards. I still had all those cards when I left for the Air Force. I kept all my things… kept in my drawer in a little box. But they weren’t there when I came home… my brother ransacked pretty much everything I had while I was gone. What I got the maddest over was how he took all my 45’s and cut a hole in those nice jackets so he could see the names… always too lazy to just put the record back in the correct/original jacket.”

“My favorite baseball player was always Yogi Berra – and I loved the song “YOGI” by the Ivy Three that came out in 1960. I heard it on the radio just the other day, and it brought back memories of when I used to hear it new; all the radio stations  played it daily. I actually still have the 45 of it – Dolly gave it to me. The Ivy Three only made that one record… and then they never played together again.”

“Yogi Berra had quite a few sayings – one was “It ain’t over till it’s over”… and in the game of baseball that was very true. He also said “you learn a lot by watching people”… and that’s one thing I have always liked to do. You learn by watching, you don’t learn everything from books.”

“It was a Friday nite when I went to the game and the Yankee Clubhouse with my father and Uncle Pete… he always drove as he knew where to park. The Yankee Clubhouse was right across from the stadium and he took my picture in front of Babe Ruth’s retired No. 5.”

steve baseball stadium

Uncle Pete took my photo at the Yankee Clubhouse…  he had taken my father and I to the game to see the New York Yankees play.

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
To read more Family Stories… click HERE

© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Nancy Drew: Happy 90th Birthday!

Nancy Drew birthday 90

img_4084Nancy Drew celebrates her 90th Birthday today on April 28th, 2020!

The very first Nancy Drew mystery debuted in 1930… and I often call my mother Nancy Drew. My mother was also born in 1930 and celebrated her 90th this year on April 6th… although due to the virus pandemic… she sadly celebrated alone. When I tell her she turned 90… she’s quick to tell me, “no I’m not!” I’m not sure how old she thinks she is… but I’ll just let her be ever what age she wants to be!

While we all know that the iconic Nancy Drew is a fictional character… she seems very real to many of us who grew up following her from mystery to mystery! She calmed us to sleep at night… with flashlight in hand as we read under the covers… often keeping us out of trouble by allowing us to tag along in her sleuthing travels. Nancy Drew was one of the first female sleuths created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer in 1930… conjuring up a female counterpart to the Hardy Boys. Even though Stratemeyer had the vision for Nancy in creating the first story line… the book series were ghostwritten by many authors over the years… published under the pseudonym of “Carolyn Keene.” As a young girl of 9 first reading Nancy Drew, I never knew Carolyn Keene wasn’t a real author… only learning later that “Carolyn Keene” was only a pseudonym name. I never gave it much thought until later in life when I discovered Nancy again… but now in a different way.

Me as Nancy Drew 1

Me as a young Nancy Drew reader!

I began reading Nancy Drew as a 9 year old girl who loved to read… and while many talk about checking out their books at the library… I never did. I did spend my Saturday mornings weekly at our town library, but I only have memories of checking out biographies on the presidents, scientists and the likes of Annie Oakley and Anne Frank; there are no memories of perusing the titles of Nancy Drew at the library… but I had many of those titles on my bookshelf.

All my Nancy Drew books were bought new! Whenever mama took a trip to the newly opened K-Mart… I was quick to tag along… I knew exactly where I wanted to head to… the book department. I don’t remember having any specific titles in mind to buy… as it was usually the books art cover which made that decision for me! Even today, I can easily just enjoy perusing all the art covers of Nancy Drew… as they truly are miniature pieces of art! What I wouldn’t give to actually own one! In 2018, my favorite “The Secret in the Old Attic” cover art went up for auction at Swann Auction Galleries in NYC on June 5, 2018… but, sadly I didn’t get the winning bid of $35,000… hubby would have strangled me! I surely did want it, but good to know that it went to a great home. The Old Attic was book no. 21 in the original classic Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, and first published in 1944. The original cover art was by Russell H. Tandy… one of the most popular artists of Nancy Drew art covers. Swann Galleries also sold another Nancy Drew “Tandy” painting… The Secret at Shadow Ranch.


RUSSELL H. TANDY. “The Secret in the Old Attic.” Original cover illustration for the book of the same name by Carolyn Keene, published as “Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #21” (New York: Grosset & Dunlap 1944). Watercolor, pencil, ink, and gouache on Whatman drawing board. 578×457 mm; 22 3/4×16 inches. Signed in lower right image. Matte attached to perimeters of recto. Verso has release stamp of September 22, 1955 and with publisher’s labels reading “Blue print and Hold / 9am.” Provenance: Collection of the Tandy family. (Info from Swann Gallery Catalogue)

Additional Details from catalogue… This cover features all the visual hallmarks of a classic Nancy Drew mystery novel including a dusty attic, an old chest holding a number of curious artifacts, sheet music spilling out across the floor, and an ominous skeleton peering out at Nancy from behind a closet door as she sifts through the evidence by candlelight. Another “secret” hidden in this cover is the personal family anecdote that the three pieces of sheet music, titled “The Song of My Love,” “March,” and “In the Eve” were all musical compositions that Tandy created in his early career as both a cornet player and occasional composer for the great conductor John Philip Sousa and The Goldman Band. In a nod to that history, the plot of the novel centers around stolen music created by a deceased soldier named Philip March that Nancy must sleuth out. The image shows her at the moment she discovers hidden musical manuscripts that will help solve the mystery.

Russell’s classic and sophisticated portrayal of Nancy helped make the famous series so successful. He illustrated a total of 26 Nancy Drew books from 1930 to 1949. In addition to his literary illustrations, Tandy worked for department stores as a fashion illustrator. He also drew some of the illustrations for Butterick Patterns and designed the original logo for Jantzen swimwear. In his social life, he counted Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dalí, John L. Sullivan, and Norman Rockwell among his friends.

This cover is probably responsible for my love of rambling through old dusty attics… secretly looking for a mystery to solve… or maybe even a ghost!

When my interest in Nancy Drew was re-woken… I learned so much more about my beloved sleuth that I never knew before, such as:

  • Nancy debuted in 1930… created by publicist Edward Stratemeyer.
  • There are two editions for each book for the first 34 volumes. They are often referred to as OT (original text) and RT (revised text)
  • In 1959 they began revising the OT books… changing much of the wording as some called it racist… also changing Nancy into a somewhat less unruly and violent character she often portrayed in the earlier books. While I didn’t necessarily see this in the later books I read, but in being only 16 years of age.. she seemed to have had no rules like I had.
  • Nancy Drew has been translated into 45 languages around the world.
  • There have been 5 Nancy Drew films, three TV series, several computer games, and many Facebook Fan groups… of which I’m a member of several.
  • The many “warnings” Nancy received… and who doesn’t laugh at the many times that Nancy is knocked unconscious… and the dastardly and snooty villains she’s encountered… and the unusual clues and all the iconic clothing Nancy wore.
  • Hypers…. all the funny quotes  from Nancy, Bess and George… and the superstitions … and all those who eavesdropped on them. Never leave a window up or stand near a bush… as there surely will be someone lurking in the shadows… eavesdropping!
  • Much of the stolen goods that Nancy was usually hot on the trail of… was of jewelry.
  • When I wrote my “2018: A to Z … All About Nancy Drew“… I was amazed at all I hadn’t  known. You can read my April AtoZ blog challenge over Here.


The classic Nancy Drew books are the original volumes of 1-56… which were only published in hardcover. While they have continued through the years, and still published today… they are usually released in paperback, but they often publish special editions and covers in hardcover. Even after the first 56, they did publish a few more in hardcover due to copyright issues… and are searched out by fans today.

While the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (in hardcover) continued past the first 56 (paperback), they finally ended them in 2003. But also during that time, they launched a new series to keep drawing the young readers in… and keeping the older reader still hanging on.

In the 1980’s, they slowly began to change Nancy into a slightly older Nancy, taking her in a different direction… slightly more professional. The Nancy Drew Files even allowed Nancy to become more romantic, which we never read about in our classic original books. The 2004 Girl Detective series soon featured Nancy now driving a hybrid electric and even having a cell phone… far cry from the original roadster and landline phone from the books. It always made me laugh when I’d read how Nancy had to leave the scene to go in search of a phone to call the police; she could never immediately call for help! I’m not sure how driving an electric car would help her… just picture her out of juice on the back roads… with nowhere to plug in… but at least she’d be able to call for help!


What’s your favorite Quote?

Through the years, there were several writers, writing under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene… but most of the Nancy Drew “die hard” fans consider Mildred Wirt Benson… as the true original Carolyn Keene! Mildred wrote the first seven volumes… as well as books 11 through 25… writing many of the early, and most-loved… such as, The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Mystery of Lilac Inn, The Secret of Shadow Ranch, the Secret of Red Gate Farm, and The Clue in the Diary. It’s often these that still remain as top favorites of the fans.

Stratemeyer’s daughter’s, Edna & Harriet, took over their father’s publishing company a short couple of weeks after Nandy Drew’s debut in 1930… helping to keep Nancy alive after his death. It was later Harriet (Adams) who began later to write many story outlines, as well as manuscripts for volumes 33 through 56. Harriet had a deep love for Nancy Drew… which truly kept her alive through the years. Did Harriet’s father share his writing of Nancy to her many years before she debuted in 1930… if so, it helped Harriet to bond with Nancy!

bookcase top

Everything Nancy!

Nine decades have passed since this beloved series was read by many of our grandmothers, mothers and daughters… and even today, in many of my Nancy Drew Facebook groups, I find all ages, reading and discussing Nancy Drew… and from all around the world; it makes me smile when I read posts of young girls posting about Nancy Drew. I have five granddaughters from the ages of 6-10… but no real Nancy Drew reader yet… although I keep trying to encourage. In today’s reading world, Nancy Drew has much opposition in reading series, television shows and games! It does make it hard to compete with what is all out there… but I keep trying to encourage! Just the other day I finally sat down to watch the latest (2019) Nancy Drew movie of The Hidden Staircase with McKinley (8) and Grace (6). It had been filmed in my mother’s hometown of Monroe, Ga… and I was there for much of the filming; that was quite interesting to them as I told them how close some scenes were to their great-grandmother’s house. They lasted for the entire movie… so I’m hoping they will ask to watch again. When I first watched last year with granddaughters, Ella (10), Ana (7) and Nina (7)… who are all movie buffs… they immediately wanted to restart the movie and watch again. I think we had three movie viewings that same afternoon, before I called quits!

bottom Nancy

Wanna Play Nancy Drew?

In reading Nancy Drew as as adult, I pay more attention to detail… and her ability to solve any mystery that comes her way… often coming from her father requesting her help. It does make you laugh though, as how many fathers today would be asking their 16 year old daughter to help them solve a mystery or crime… and who would be handing them a pistol to take on a weekend ghost hunting exhibition! Nancy’s father did that very thing when she went to spend the weekend at the mansion of the Turnbull sisters in “The Hidden Staircase” to search out a ghost!img_6209

While I never thought of coloring any of the illustrations in the books when I first read… I do enjoy coloring them today!

Today they often talk about the language and actions in the early Nancy Drew books… especially calling the portrayal of much of the character language as racist. People seem to have forgotten that when those books were written, they were written in the speech of the people of where they lived… people spoke differently in various parts of the South… it was not written with intent to hurt or slander. Being from the South myself, and growing up in the 50’s and 60’s… I often heard that type of dialect… but it’s not heard today. As times changed, they felt the need to rethink those early books… rewriting them to better suit the changing times… and those changed books were really the only ones I first read as a young 9 year old girl. As an adult today, I have now read most of the earlier “original text” books… those with the different words and often even different story lines… and I love them both… it’s often like reading two entirely different stories.

Even though the books are supposedly all about Nancy Drew… it really is the entire group of characters who make the story work. I would say Carson Drew, as her father, had the least of storylines. I love Hannah Gruen’s storyline… in keeping the household running and the household well fed with her delicious foods… and who didn’t enjoy reading about all the great comfort food she prepared. She made sure they ate! Nancy’s sometime sleuth pals, Bess Marvin, George Fayne, and Helen Archer occasionally, were always there for her… no matter what time of day, they’d drop plans in a heartbeat to go anywhere with her; Nancy’s, sometime boyfriend, Ned Nickerson could always be counted on to come to Nancy’s aid in a crisis. Being a romantic in reading… Nancy really kept him and love at a distance… and it seemed like he often wanted more than she offered… but he remained true to her and always very protective.

Did you have a truly favorite character above anyone else?

As events were cancelled this year, due to the 2020 Coronavirus Epidemic, events such as the many Nancy Drew Sleuth conventions didn’t happen… we were unable to gather to celebrate Nancy’s 90th birthday…. so Nancy will re-celebrate her 90th birthday next year! But I will celebrate via Zoom with many of the Nancy Drew fans around the country today… and even the world to chat and remember Nancy Drew!

I so love all the “mentions” of Nancy Drew discovered in watching TV… my ears are always open!

Nancy Drew came back to television last fall (2019) with a new show on The CW channel. Even though they kept Nancy at age 18, they changed it up a bit with Bess and George not really being her best friends… even changing Ned Nickerson into a character so unlike our old Ned… twisting his name to Nick Henderson; why the name change? I didn’t mind the nickname of Nick… as it seemed short for Nickerson.

Curious as I was… I tuned in and was immediately hooked… but not crazy on the relationship of Nancy and Nick… and how they interacted so closely right away. Our Nancy would never have jumped into bed so quickly! George, while still very tomboyish, was way cold to Nancy… and Bess, still a blonde, was new to the town… arriving with lots of secrets and baggage. Like the book, Nancy lost her mother quickly… only to live alone with her father… but not with a relationship like they shared in the books. Many don’t like how that part of their story line is portrayed. I wouldn’t have minded if they had changed it up slightly different… leaving the mother alive for a change, and having the father die… leaving Nancy’s mom to be the lawyer. I can already think of many ways, of how it could play out with Nancy only interacting with her mom.

Unfortunately… no one lives forever… as even characters in books, comics and movies are eventually killed off. Unfortunately, it seems this year that our Nancy Drew is being killed off in a comic book series by Dynamite Entertainment… and they are considering it a celebration of the iconic character turning 90! I’m not sure why they want Nancy Drew dead… but they are calling in the Hardy Boys to investigate. Really? Personally… maybe it should be the other way around… at least to me! I don’t have high hopes that the comic will sit well with the thousands of fans around the world!

What’s your favorite Nancy Drew mystery story?


To celebrate Nancy’s 90th’s Birthday… I plan to continue reading all those stories I still have never finished! Time and things often have gotten in the way of reading… but I’m joining in the Nancy Drew Facebook “Book Club” where we will read and discuss a book twice a month!

and always when in a dilemma… think WWNDD!

…And if you happen to not know what that stands for…  google away!

magnificator ThanksForReadingClick for more … Nancy Drew stories

or to read my A to Z: 2018 – All About Nancy Drew

I great up in a great era… reading Nancy Drew!


© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in Daily Writings and funnies..., Nancy Drew | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

2020: X – April A to Z… Family Stories: Xmas Stories

2020: X – April A to Z… Family Stories

I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I’ve racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…

Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!

From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat once resembled Coney Island… and even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories…  remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!

My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!


xmas tree first ave

Steve Insalaco with Aunt Dolly (Cambino-Alfonso)

Xmas Stories

My mother tells me that Christmas never seemed to appeal to me… no matter how hard she tried. Christmas morning would come… and being the strange child I was, and maybe still am…  walked by the living room where the tree was… looked in… and walked on. What was wrong with me? Supposedly, a few days later I’d go in to see what Santa left under the tree. I truly must have been a one of a kind child… if mama remembers correctly! All my grandchildren rise very early… begging to go see… and usually yelled at to go back to bed until they see daylight! This past Christmas I heard one was up at 1 a.m…. way before Santa even arrived!

Did I have a Santa phobia when I was young… in wanting nothing to do with that jolly ol’ man?  Daddy’s best friend came to the door once, dressed as Santa with a doll for me… I  took one look and ran… hiding under the bed until he left. Maybe he traumatized me… and mama remembers that I never played with that doll! Possibly I waited so long in checking out my new toys… thinking that Santa would suddenly jump out from behind a chair… who knows what thoughts ran through my child mind!

While watching a Xmas movie of a family buying a Xmas tree, I asked Steve about his Xmas years… “We always had a live tree, no one had artificial trees except for, maybe, rich people – they were still new at the time. We would go out about a week before Xmas to pick out our tree – and we all went as a family. There were a few lots around town – one was across from Armstrong Rubber, another one was across from where Clancy Brother’s was, which was across from the Armstrong Warehouse, and another was on Campbell Avenue… across from the VA Hospital. They all had colored lights strung up over the lot, Xmas music playing and fires blazing in the steel drums to warm your hands… just like you see in the movies today; it was exciting and fun to go with the family to pick out your tree. Today Xmas is ruined when they put up the tree and decorate it so early… I liked it better back when I was a kid. I even remember the Xmas trees my grandparents had on the farm, but they were only small trees there… we were poor. After moving to 1st Avenue, they had bigger trees as Johnny and Freddie bought them and they were generous with their money. Freddie even bought the bedroom suite my grandparents had… my mother later used it and my daughter uses it today… it’s very classic, and well-made.”

I blogged “25 Days of Christmas in 2015 year and these were Steve’s memories.

Dec. 1, 2015: Day 1: Trees… “Holidays weren’t as commercial as they are today… no one brought a tree home any early than a week before Xmas. There were Xmas tree lots set up all over West Haven… wherever there was free space, someone opened up a tree lot. A typical tree lot had lights strung over the tops of trees clustered together… trees sitting on those “x” stands… and it seems like Silent Night was always playing. Most times it was snowing when we went to pick out our tree… which always put you more in the holiday spirit. Snow on the ground always seemed to make it feel more like Christmas was coming. It was usually the four of us, me, my brother and parents that went to look for the tree. All the lots were the same, so my father probably stopped at the first one we found… my parents weren’t picky, as I don’t remember us looking for a long time. We went there, found a tree, tied it on roof of the car, and home we went. Most times, we even put it up that very same night.”

“At Christmas Freddie and Johnny always brought home the biggest tree they could find. One tree was so tall that it couldn’t even stand upright in the living room… and what did Johnny do – he just cut off the top of the tree – making it fit!”

steve Xmas houseFIX

An early Xmas tree at hubby’s house… even blurred, it’s a treasure!

Steve Xmas house 1FIX

Another classic Xmas tree photo… same curtains as photos above. Smaller TV here with what looks like a car trophy on TV… could that have been one from Uncle Johnny’s many wins at Savin Rock? Everyone used tinsel and beads on their trees.

Dec. 2, 2015: Day 2: Christmas Cards… “Mama sometimes hung the cards received on the living room stairs ~ I would tape them along the handrail and they’d cover all the way up… or I’d hang a ribbon from one end of the wood cornices, over the curtains, to hang the cards. Mama sometimes sent out about 40 or more cards… my job was to seal the envelopes and add the stamps… and probably mail them also. As the years went by, less cards arrived … and fewer cards were mailed out. As postage stamps increased, everyone complained about sending out cards. (The wood cornices were made by Uncle Jimmy Donahue) He made them for everyone in the family and they often held the Christmas cards from a ribbon strung across.

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Dec. 3, 2015: Day 3: Music…Everything was not like it is today; the music didn’t really even start until about two weeks before Christmas; we only had a AM radio back then. Mama never had any Christmas albums but I remember she playing Italian music all the time – Mario Lanzo was her favorite… and playing them on her Zenith blonde finish Hi-Fi console. Everything in Christmas past was not like it is today.  She played many records but they were mostly her Italian music. I don’t remember my mother having any specific Christmas albums years ago when I was young. If we listened to Christmas music, it would have been on a radio – and there were only A.M. stations back then. Today, the Christmas music starts before Thanksgiving and you find the trees up in the stores, before Halloween even begins… often now even in July… it so ruins the holidays!” 

Dec. 4, 2015: Day 4: Lights… “No matter how many lights we had – we always ended up at the hardware store on Christmas Eve for a few replacement bulbs. I love the big colored lights we had on our tree… they were the best. The big pine trees on the side of our house were once much smaller than the 35 – 40 feet they are today! My father dug up those trees at his mother’s house in Shelton on Kneen St… and until they grew too tall for our ladders to reach, we hung lights on them every Christmas. My father had one of the electricians at Armstrong Rubber make him several light sets and we filled them with the biggest colored bulbs we could find. Daddy hung the lights himself until I was big enough to handle the ladder and reach the top. I then hung them every Christmas until the ladder didn’t reach any more… and then that was the end of lights on the pine trees. The pine tree on the left we were still able to hang lights on – but by 1971, when I married, it was way too high… now the “impossible” unless you had a bucket truck.”

“Uncle Johnny bought the first bubble lights in the family, and hung them on the tree at First Avenue. My father wouldn’t buy them – it wasn’t something he was going to spend his money on… to only use for a week and a half. Uncle Johnny was single… living at home… so most times he was the first one to buy something new… and always had the biggest tree in the family. One year it was so tall that they had to cut the top off to even bring it inside. I remember the huge lighted Santa face he bought and hung on the front of the house. My grandparents house on Christmas Eve, on First Avenue, was always alive with lights, family, fun and food.”

Dec. 5, 2015: Day 5: Christmas Recipes… “As a young boy, I paid no attention to recipes, I just wanted food… and I could eat you out of house and home! Holiday dinners were the best, as the house was usually filled with all your cousins. Xmas Eve was even better though, as everyone gathered at my grandmother’s house on First Avenue in West Haven. The tables were loaded with food, desserts, liquor and cordial bottles – everyone had to toast the holiday! The Xmas foods at my two grandmothers varied so differently… in Shelton I remember only having home-made pizza on Christmas Eve. When we arrived at my grandmother’s house in West Haven, they were serving seafood sauce over pasta, several types of fried fish like shrimp, smelts, cod, scallops, and calamari. And after all the food, came the desserts… trays and trays of cookies, and then fruit and nut trays. How did we eat all that? My grandmother Minnie and her daughters usually made the Zeppoles (fried dough balls) early Xmas Eve morning… serving later with honey drizzled on top. They were my favorite, and the first thing I ate when arriving.”

seafood platter fix

“The 7 Fishes of Christmas Eve dinner’

“Today, I make the seafood sauce for Christmas Eve… and I’ve perfected it as the best! I take it another step by picking all the meat out of the blue crabs to put back in the sauce; it enhances the taste and as no one ate the crabs after the meal anyway – the meat was being wasted. I hate wasting food! I haven’t attempted the stuffed shrimp yet as Jeanne still makes it. I always felt Christmas Eve is the best of the holidays… waiting all year for the seafood sauce as it never seems to taste right any other time of the year!”

Dec. 6, 2015: Day 6: Santa Claus… “I always knew who Santa was – it was so easy for me to figure out which uncle was playing him that night. Our first stop on Christmas Eve was always to Nonni’s house in Shelton. Usually after dinner, one of the uncles disappeared and soon you’d hear bells jingling as he came up the cellar stairs; they changed in the basement. It was often Uncle John, Uncle Tony or Uncle Hubie who played Santa. All the kids gathered in the living room… anxiously waiting to hear their names called as he pulled presents out of his big red sack. I remember one year I received a gas powered small airplane, but it was mostly clothes in those wrapped presents. Santa always made an appearance in Shelton, but only once in awhile did he stop at Grandma Minnie’s in West Haven – and it would be Uncle Mikie, my grandmother’s brother. I have no memories of going to see Santa as a child, sitting on his lap, or even telling him what I wanted for Christmas. Believing in Santa Claus wasn’t anything that I ever believed in. Why – because I had two uncles, Johnny and Frankie… who told me all about how the real world was… never telling me any make-believe stories or sugar-coating any stories. They were my idols – I believed in everything they did – and wanted to be just like them!”

Dec. 7, 2015: Day 7: Christmas Television and Movies… “I don’t remember watching any specific Christmas movies, but all the regular TV series had their own Christmas episodes. A few of my favorites were The Donna Reed Show, Ozzie and Harriet, Jeff’s Collie, and Leave it to Beaver. I basically watched whatever my parents watched, as there was only one TV set, and no remote control… it was the  kids who they sent to change the channel. I liked the Ozzie and Harriet Christmas special the best – they made you feel like you were part of their family. Most of the programs I watched with my mother – she was the movie buff; we watched many Christmas classics together like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol or White Christmas with Bing Crosby… I don’t there’s anyone who hasn’t seen that one. Where was my father – well he was usually in the basement – working on a project; he seldom sat down to watch TV, until he retired. ”

Dec. 8, 2015: Day 8: Christmas Shopping...  “I don’t remember any specific Christmas shopping – boys don’t care about shopping in the same way girls do. We only had one car, so if we wanted to go Christmas shopping in the city, we had to take the bus… and it wasn’t a short walk to catch it. My mother never took me downtown New Haven to shop, but I went a few times with my godmother Aunt Catherine, and one of those times was at Christmas.We went to S.S. Kresges, Grants and Woolworths – they were all on the same block. Woolworth’s always meant a seat at the counter for a sandwich; that’s where I had my first triple decker sandwich! One gift I remember she bought me on one of those trips was a new pair of shoes.”

Aunt Nancy remembers… “I have memories of going to Shartenburg’s in New Haven at Xmas, either with my mother or my sister Catherine. They had a wishing well in the middle of the store, and for a quarter you could fish and win a prize. I’m told now they also had a large train there at Xmas that kids could ride on… I kind of remember it, but not sure if I really do.”

Dec. 9, 2015: Day 9: Christmas Crafts… Unfortunately I have no Christmas craft memories… but I’ve contributed by helping over the years, as there was always something I needed to cut, glue or paint for my mother. I do remember one Christmas that I made her a white birch log candle holder in Boy Scouts. We had one of those fake cardboard fireplaces at Christmas in the living room… it seems everyone had one. She put it on top of that fake mantle… I cut pine branches off our pine tree to lay underneath it.”


Dec. 10, 2015: Day 10: Christmas Traditions…“Christmas Eve was always the best day… besides the abundance of foods served at the evening meal, Santa came that night. I had two grandmothers nearby, and we went to each of their homes on Christmas Eve. Christmas at my other grandmother’s house in West Haven was the best place on Christmas Eve. We didn’t usually eat there as we arrived late, but if Grandma Minnie had stuffed eel left over… it was mine! We only had eel on that night if Uncle Freddie had caught them… they were never bought. She made the best, but unfortunately no one ever learned how to cook them. Some have tried, but she took that recipe with her… some dishes just can’t be duplicated! I never was around for the making of the Zeppoles, or ‘zapes, as we called them, but it was traditional to serve them Christmas Eve. Grandma, along with her daughters mixed up the dough early in the morning –  then the painful process of all the frying began. The dough balls were piled high on a plate and drizzled with honey before serving. They were the first thing I ate whenever I arrived… no matter my age! Grandma Minnie’s house was always bustling with family, foods, drinks, and  cookies… and by nights end, the presents under the tree were piled high! All the cousins gathered, anxiously waiting for their name to be called. Paper, ribbons and empty boxes soon took the place of where all those nicely wrapped presents had once sat. I remember my mother always saying that she often didn’t even know who gave us what… we never paid attention to the cards that came with the gifts – we just ripped into those presents – looking for a toy! Even at my house, Santa arrived on Christmas Eve – Christmas morning was just for playing with the new gifts and eating a holiday dinner. We didn’t have to wake early to see what had arrived, but we still woke early to play with our new toys.”

Dec. 11, 2015: Day 11: Christmas at Church … “Going to St. Paul’s church every Sunday was not something my family did weekly, but they did go several times a year. My best friend, Louie, went to church every Sunday with his parents and I often went with them. My family never went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve either – why I don’t know! I remember a couple of my aunts would leave near midnight to go to mass, but the majority of everyone there that night didn’t go.”

Dec. 12, 2015: Day 12: Fruitcake, Friend or FoeSteve laughed when I asked him and  “you mean that cake that gets passed around that nobody wants?” So I guess that means no memories! I did learn from Aunt Nancy that not all fruitcake is bad… she makes a fruitcake every Xmas… buying the nuts and ingredients even before Thanksgiving. You can read about it and see the recipe over HERE.”

Dec. 13, 2015: Day 13: Christmas in School … “I remember Christmas pageants in grammar school, but as we grew up, all that stopped. In high school we didn’t do anything,  because we were all working and had no time.”

Dec. 14, 2015: Day 14: Christmas Cookies … “I never gave much thought to recipes in growing up – I just ate whatever my mother baked. Christmas cookies weren’t of much interest to me, as I’m strictly a Chocolate Chip Cookie man and my mother never made those at the holidays. If I was lucky, one of my aunts had my favorite on their cookie tray, along with Anginettes, another Italian favorite cookie of everyone. The original Anginette’s were made with orange juice in the batter – and while they were good, they don’t hold a candle to my mother’s Ricotta Anginettes. No one made them as well as my mother, except my wife, but now I’ve perfected them since I began making them… want the recipe, it’s over HERE. It was more my wife who paid attention to Christmas recipes and baking in years past… and she acquired all the family cookie recipes. She loved all their cookies – the very ones I never liked.” My favorite Christmas cookie my mother in law taught me is Cherry Winks. You can read the story and recipe over HERE.

Dec. 15, 2015: Day 15: Christmas Tree Decorations… “The one decoration that I haven’t parted with yet is the vintage snowman we had at my house when I grew up; I took it from my mom’s house a long time ago. She bought it at Barker’s Dept. Store in Orange – and it’s always been my favorite Christmas decoration.”

Dec. 16, 2015: Day 16: Christmas Travel… “Our travel on Christmas Eve was the same every year – first to  Nonni’s house in Shelton, and later to Grandma Minnie’s in West Haven… which was always the most fun. It usually snowed lightly, either before we left, or at some point during our traveling; seeing the snow fall always made it feel more like Christmas. Traveling on that night was basically the same with our children as when I made that trip with my parents. The only thing difference was that it was mostly married adults when we took our children… while it was my single aunts and uncles when I was small – and they all gave gifts… as I was the first grandchild on both sides.”

Dec. 17, 2015: Day 17: Christmas Stories… “Uncle Freddie and Johnny always brought home the biggest Christmas tree they could find. One time the tree was so tall that it couldn’t even stand upright in the living room… and what did Johnny do…  he just cut off the top of the tree… making it fit!”

Dec. 18, 2015: Day 18: Christmas Baking… “My mother made the best fudge, but she never made it at Christmas, that was for baking cookies. It was only made when the mood happened… or often when I started it.. then she would finish. It had to be stirred for an exact sixteen minutes – that I could handle, but I never could manage to make it come together at the end. Often she didn’t either, and she had to put it back on the heat to cook more. My wife is the one who perfected it and makes it the best. I’ll start it now, but I still can’t finish it… I always call her to pull it together… she knows the look and feel.” If you’d like to try Celia’s fudge… check it out HERE.

Remembering the Xmas cookie bakers over HERE

Dec. 19, 2015: Day 19: Christmas Gifts… “I don’t remember receiving big or expensive gifts like my kids have gotten. I’d get one big gift… and then that was pretty much it; my parents got even less than I did. Xmas was fun back then though, not commercial like it is today. People looked forward to it… we didn’t decorate until about two weeks before, not like today when they begin several weeks earlier.”


“I still have a few Christmas presents that managed to survive through the years. One is my Brownie camera… and until I went in the Air Force, I still even had the original box… but it wasn’t anywhere to be found when I returned home. I took quite a few pictures with that camera at holidays; the most expensive part was paying for the film developing.

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Young boy on sofa is hubby… maybe age 6 here. Sure wish the picture was clearer so I could check out the gifts under the tree. Note the leaf patterned rug and his mother’s “must have” sectional sofa he remembered. What I first noticed in this photograph was the “baseball” on the floor. It makes me remember the missing ball he lost in the attic, as a young boy… and still searched for everytime he was in the attic.

Dec. 21, 2015: Christmas Wishes…“I was in Okinawa from October 1968 through April 1969. Bob Hope came in Xmas of 1968 on a USA Tour… and I wanted tickets. Who got tickets for the show – the officers, not us poor working slobs. That was my first insight into how politics worked, and I quickly remembered my Uncle Johnny’s words of telling me how things really worked.”

Dec. 21, 2015: Day 21: Christmas Parties … My father worked at Armstrong Rubber,and they had Christmas Parties for the children; I remember my mother taking me. When my kids were small Armstrong union also had parties for the families at Xmas… they gave out really nice and expensive toys… it was held in the auditorium of Gianotti Junior High (which previously had been a high school). One year Stephen got a nice Tonka truck and I think Melissa received a wagon full of blocks.”

Dec. 22, 2015: Day 22: Christmas Homecoming… My best homecoming was the day I was picked up at the airport in September by my father and wife… I was returning home from Thailand… and spending my first Christmas with my wife.”

Dec. 23, 2015: Day 23: The Meaning of Christmas … Spending with Family!

Dec. 24, 2015: Day 24: Christmas Eve … “Every Xmas Eve Uncle Johnny went to Chancey Brothers to buy Xmas gifts; a large store at Savin Rock. I remember him coming in that night with a big box of toys. He was my brother’s godfather and he brought bring him a seperate big box of toys. Uncle Johnny never shopped any earlier than Xmas Eve! One Xmas he came with a huge Santa head that he put on the front of the house – it looked just like a Santa face… and it was huge! You never knew what he would come in with – always bringing in the biggest; this was before he married.”

Dec. 25, 2015: Day 25: Merry Christmas 🙂 “On Xmas day we usually ate dinner at home, as we had spent Christmas Eve with both grandparents… sometimes we ate with Aunt Catherine… it was a day I’d rather stay home to play with my toys.”

To see more Xmas photos that went with these stories, click over HERE!

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Maybe this deer hunting trip also brought a Xmas tree! (L. Freddie, R. Johnny, kneeling George Froehlich)

“I remember my uncles often bringing home Xmas trees from their hunting trips. You’d see them pull in with this huge tree strapped on the roof of the car and a deer tied on the front… they never came home without a deer.”

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