2017 A to Z: Letter H…
I thought I’d change the on-going 52 stories this year to an A to Z of 26 stories of “All About Me”. I plan to post bi-monthly, but I’m not holding myself to a certain time frame other than completing by year end. Originally I was going to do the “All About Me” for the 30 Day -April A to Z but thought I might get just a wee bit long-winded, so I’m giving myself a longer time frame. Hopefully, by the time I reach letter Z, I will have written all I can remember about “me.” If you so feel inclined, why not join me in your own “A to Z” of All about Me!
Letter H is for… Houses, Hair Styles, Halloween and Haunted Houses, Horses, Handwriting, Hurricanes, Holly Tree and Hippies
My parents lived at 212 Binns St. in Union Point, Georgia when I was born; our house was just one house away from my father’s parents – Paul and Evelyn Bryan. It was Granddaddy Bryan who built our house with lumber supplied by granddaddy McKinley… my parents first home after daddy left the Navy. We only lived in Daddy’s hometown for about five years before he took a job at WRAFB (Warner Robins Air Force Base) and we moved to Perry; this is where I grew up and went to school.
It was at this house on Binns St., whether I remember it or not, where I learned to walk, talk and almost ride my bicycle without training wheels. It was with the help of Butch, our German Shepherd, that I learned to walk by holding onto his tail. He guarded me, never letting me leave the yard… or letting anyone in the yard. He was part bird-dog, which meant… he’d point you before he bit you.
Santa first visited me there but for some reason, I have no Christmas memories other than what mama has told me through the years. It seems I was not a fan of Santa and wanted nothing to do with him….. or his toys. One Christmas Eve, Santa came to our door with a doll for me… I took one look at him and ran to hide under the bed, and never touched the doll. She tells me on Christmas morning that I’d walk by and look in where the toys were left, but it would be days before I actually played with them. I sound like a very strange child! One of my favorite toys was a wooden stick horse, which I rode until I wore the end down to a point. Mama often remembers it and wished she’d saved that one toy, as I never showed as much interest in anything else.
My first birthday parties were in this house, mostly only a few friends… remember I wasn’t older than five! Another thing I don’t remember are those birthday parties, but mama saved a picture! I don’t know what I received for Xmas, but it looks here like I was enjoying it.
House No. 2 was our first home in Perry at 1321 Smoak Avenue. We moved just in time for me to begin first grade at Perry Elementary, and it was on Smoak Avenue where I finally learned to ride my two-wheel bicycle… no more training wheels. I probably learned more quickly because the other kids already knew how and after making fun of me… I learned quickly. There were a few run-ins with the bushes and the pavement, but I learned!
There were many kids on that street, two girls near my age just next door, an older girl on the other side and another girl, near my age, up the street. Directly behind me was a girl my age and just around the corner another girl. There were several boys of all ages on my street, but it was mostly the girls I played with unless it was Friday night… then we all played kick the can until way after dark… until the sound of our mother’s calling us home echoed in the night.
Our front stoop was often the center of games… most evenings mama sat on the steps and called “Mother May I” and “Red Light.” Another activity that took place on the front stoop was the scary stories mama told. She’d spread out quilts for us to sit on and when it was dark, the stories began; often she’d have to walk most of the kids home. In as much, as I’m not a fan of being outside in the dark now, it never bothered or scared me as a child.
This house was where my love of reading matured and my collection of Nancy Drew books began, along with Trixie Beldon, The Bobbsey Twins and more. Mama says I kept my bedroom meticulously, and never liked anyone to touch my bookcase; I wasn’t one to share my books. After I graduated from Nancy Drew and the like, the town library was where I often spent my Saturday mornings. My love of reading continued with biographies of presidents, inventors, and every historical person in a book that I could find. I’d walk to where mama worked at Clara’s Beauty Shop with an armload of reading material… hoping mama would be taking lunch soon to take me home. The rest of the afternoon was often spent, laying on a quilt outside, reading and watching the clouds roll by; Mama usually read my books before I returned them.
We moved to House No. 3 at 706 Hillcrest Avenue by the time I entered Perry Junior High, which was grades 5 – 7. It was a much larger house with three bedrooms, an L-shaped house with two fireplaces. Granddaddy McKinley was now coming to live with us and enjoyed using the fireplace in the den, which probably reminded him of being at the farm.
It wasn’t the same in this neighborhood, very few kids, but I had already outgrown those Friday night games. Now I was a teenager, things were changing and I was no longer interested in outside games. This was the house where I grew up… going to the prom, learning to drive and graduating from Perry High School… but it was not my last home.
I thought my bedroom was the best because of the huge bulletin board that covered half a wall. It didn’t take me long to fill with pictures of my favorite movie and music stars! Teen and 16 Beat magazines kept me supplied with my favorite teen idol photos of Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Monkees and the Beatles to pin on that board. Peter Noone was one of my favorites, and although I never was able to see him as a teenager, I did see him a couple of years ago at a local summer concert. What a show he put on singing all the now…oldies – I couldn’t have enjoyed it more!
There was a circular driveway at this corner house and it was here where I got my first car … a 1965 yellow Mustang! I remember daddy looking for months and months for a car for me, although it seemed like much longer. I’ll never forget how excited I was on the afternoon he came home and told me my car was parked outside. I don’t think my feet could scurry fast enough… it was so exciting! It was my granddaddy McKinley who had paid for the car – a whopping $500 in 1967. I wanted to just get in and take off, but I was only allowed to take it around the block a few times.
I thought I was “cool” driving that Mustang with the shift on the floorboard – I’d pretend I was changing gears. Too bad I didn’t keep it!
It was at this house where my parents divorced…. my life changed! My mother moved back to the farm to care for my grandfather and I remained with my father to finish school. I didn’t want to leave during my Senior year and miss my Senior prom or graduate at a new school.
It wasn’t much later before daddy and I moved across town to House No. 4 at 836 Oakridge Drive. While living there, I met my husband… and it was while living there, I left daddy’s house to marry and move to Connecticut. Daddy cooked us and our friends a catfish and hushpuppy dinner our last night there. Steve couldn’t believe all the fish he had caught in such a short time that morning; I’m sure he had a honey-hole fishing spot!
I didn’t always have long hair, but for the most of my life… I did! My early years before school showed curly short hair… today my hair won’t even hold a curl! Mama said as it grew, the curls were pulled out. In looking back at my school photos, and I’m not posting those, Oh My Heavens are they awful… you will just have to take my word on them! My hair was probably just like yours if you’re near my age. I don’t know why mama didn’t just let it grow long when I was in Junior High, but I’m sure by the time I entered High School it was way past my shoulders. Although there was that one time I cut it super short when that was the style… short in the back, then tapered toward the front in a long point cut. Mama cut it like I wanted, and I cried for weeks after that; she never cut my hair again! She still doesn’t like to even trim it today as she knows how fussy I am. Most times I cut my own hair, I’ve just never been a fan of relaxing at a salon having my hair cut… I know – I’m strange!
Ok, I relented with the school photos! Bangs vs no Bangs!
Many of my early photos showed me with bangs, but as I grew up and the hair grew longer, the bangs grew out, and I haven’t had bangs since! See the photo of me above by my bulletin board, I had bangs.
I was born with a head full of hair… mama says! Here I am with my cousin Paulette… about 3 years old with bangs and long hair in braids. Mama must have cut it soon after.
I still have bangs in these early photos, I guess mama liked me with bangs. She always talks about my Shirley Temple curls…. how did I lose those? I remember my daughter’s hair in those ringlet-type curls when she was small.
When my hair was long I went through the streaking stage, and if you’ve ever streaked your hair back in the day… My Oh My…. what a process! I remember my girlfriend Janet helping me… and it took all day! You stretched a plastic cap on your head, then pulled small strands of hair with a crochet hook through the tiny holes in the cap…. and it seemed to never end. It was only after you pulled as much, or as little, hair through the holes before you could bleach them. I think one time we pulled so much hair through those holes that I ended up almost totally blonde, maybe that’s why my hair looks so blonde at graduation.
The photograph on the right is my graduation photo, everyone took these style senior photos with the velvet drapes. Every parent had one or several of these painting-type framed pictures hanging in their living room. For whatever reason the schools in my area did these, I’m glad they did… and would love to see them make a comeback.
My husband has only known me with long hair, as well as my children. When my daughter was about three, I could actually sit on my hair… yes it was that long. Having long hair is easy to care for…. wash, dry and go… no rollers. But I was constantly
harrassed, told by his family members to cut my hair. Did they just want me to have to roll and style my hair every day… like them, constantly going to the salon? Well, I wanted no part of that, and besides… my husband loves my long hair, and never wanted me to cut it. My daughter also had long hair, although never as long as mine ever was, but it was much more beautiful. She could easily have been the “Breck” girl with her long thick red hair…. and it held a curl, unlike mine. I’ve just dated myself by referring to the Breck shampoo commercials from TV.
If you’re wondering if my hair is still long, because we’re told that as you get older, the hair is supposed to get shorter, well it’s not short, and it’s not long, but it’s still just past my shoulders. I don’t think I could ever go the route of short hair, unlike my mother who likes hers the shorter the better. Once it starts to creep down the back of her neck, out comes the scissors and she starts clipping away; she’s a beautician and has always cut her own hair.
Halloween and Haunted Houses:
I don’t remember dressing for Halloween in any of those boxed costumes, but I do remember dressing up as a teenager as a Hobo. I’m not sure how I thought to cut my jeans into long strips made me look like a hobo, but that was how I dressed; I must have had a few of those Halloween boxed costumes when I was young though.
We had Halloween carnivals at school and sometimes they even set up a haunted house, but nothing on the scale like they do today. There were also carnivals that came around near that time with rides and scary houses and the house of mirrors maze that made you scream trying to escape. I always went inside them and was always amazed at how long it took in finding my way out… another favorite was the ride-through scary houses where I screamed with fright at everything that jumped out at me but loving every minute of it.
I guess stamp collecting would be the only hobby I had in as far as collecting specific things. Too bad I wasn’t interested in collecting family history information at a young age – just imagine what I could have learned. What I wouldn’t give to have had a one-on-one with my grandparents and heard their stories first-hand… and have a conversation with daddy on his childhood and his days in the Navy, especially while on the USS Blueridge during the atomic bomb testing at Bikini Atoll. Why did he never talk about that? Oh if I could only have had that conversation and hear what he actually saw; I learned about all these things too late in life.
My Stamp Collecting Books
Mama sewed strips on black construction paper to hold my extra stamps.
I’ve always enjoyed horseback riding and wished for a horse of my own. My parents had friends with a farm who had horses, and it was there where I first began riding; we went often to their farm on weekends. They had a son, Mike, just a few years older than me, who often helped me with saddling and he’d usually ride with me. Naturally, he was my first crush and I’d pretend to need help in picking up the saddle; they were heavy though.
My girlfriend, Janet, dated a boy whose mother owned a horse farm… another place where we rode. One time a colt was born while we were there, it was awesome to spend time with such a young horse… we’d even bring him inside their trailer, although his hooves didn’t do well on the smooth floors. He’d follow us girls around and suck on our shirt tails.
While I don’t feel I have nice handwriting now…. often because I’m rushing to write… I did when I was young; there was no computer or other attractions competing for my time. Today the only time I’m writing is when I’m scribbling notes to transcribe on the computer, but before I wrote letters, real letters to people…. today we write emails or send messages… no one needs to have good handwriting. Sad, as letter writing is a lost art and I treasure the letters I have saved.
As a teenager, I loved writing letters… so much that I had several pen pals over the years. Many of my letters were written with my favorite ink pens that you changed cartridges with for different color inks. I also often had blue, red or green ink colored fingertips from those cartridges.
While my husband was in the Air Force, I honed my handwriting skill… and we both saved all our letters; my daughter has laid claim to them one day. Mama told me she had saved her and daddy’s too, but somehow they were lost in moving. How I would love to read them now.
I’m always envious when I see someone with unique and exceptional handwriting. It’s mesmerizing to watch as they’re so at ease in writing… I try to slow down and write instead of my often scribbles, but I quickly lose patience. Today in school, they want to exclude cursive writing from being taught…. that is so wrong. How will the children of tomorrow read my letters I’ve saved – will it look like a foreign language to them? If they become a family history researcher, how will they read the old wills and land deeds? I have a hard enough time in trying to decipher them as their style of letters are different from what I learned, but this generation will look upon them as a foreign language. I will be teaching my grandchildren how to write cursive!
While I never experienced any hurricanes in Georgia as a child, I’ve lived through many here in Connecticut as an adult. My first experience was in 1971 while living at my in-law’s house in West Haven.
I remember how the strong winds frightened me and after finally falling asleep, I was woken to a loud thundering crash. It was so loud, that it made me almost afraid to even go downstairs, thinking a tree hit their house. In finally venturing down, I found that their large Weeping Willow in the backyard had uprooted and fallen, but missed the house. Weeping Willows have very shallow roots so often become uprooted in high winds; Steve was overseas in Thailand when Tropical Storm Doria toppled that tree.
Several years later while living in a two-family house on Fountain Street in Westville, we experienced the wrath of Hurricane Gloria on September 28, 1985. By the end of the winds, there were two trees covering the garage… where our cars were. That meant the chainsaws had to come out in order to free our cars from the branches holding them hostage.
It was during Hurricane Gloria that we lost power for almost two weeks. We had a small radio that picked up television signals, so we laid in bed at night and “listened” to TV… and laughed about how we were experiencing what our grandparents did at nighttime on a regular basis… sitting in the dark at night, listening to the radio. Here we were, many decades later, doing the exact same thing! It quickly became a way of life for us, every evening before sundown, we went to bed – to lay there and listen to our TV programs and visualize. It was impossible to try and do anything else by candlelight, so we adapted our lifestyle. The night that the lights suddenly came on…. actually felt weird!
Living near the beach gives you a respect for water….. seeing first hand exactly how high those waves become during a hurricane is eye-opening. Water is a force of no stopping, once it starts, it doesn’t stop until it’s ready. It’s not even safe to be too close to the beach, between the waves and the wind, you can easily be swept away; if the wind is blowing at full force, you can’t even stand. The high winds scare me now as I’m always afraid that a tree will crash onto my house.
The last time my husband and I lost power here, we were lucky that the top of my gas stove was usable, so out from the basement came the old tin coffee pot and we enjoyed percolated coffee. It was actually really good and I missed it a little when we went back to the Mr. Coffee drip pot; this was during Hurricane Irene in 2011.
If you’ve never lived through the experience of “stocking up” during a storm at the grocery stores, well you’re lucky. Just mention hurricane and everyone runs to the grocery and hardware stores. The shelves are emptied quickly of milk, bread and every snack imagined. Everyone wants to be home with an ample supply of potato chips, cookies, and ice cream. I’ve seen the stores so empty that it’s almost like a new store opening – starting from scratch in re-stocking the shelves again. I work in a grocery store, so I’ve worked through all the hurricanes except when we couldn’t get to work, or I didn’t want to go out.
One of the worst hurricanes to hit the eastern seaboard of CT. was in 1938 when an unnamed hurricane came ashore… leaving much destruction along the West Haven shore; It destroyed most of the Savin Rock Amusement Park that sat along the shore.
When we lived on Smoak Avenue in Perry there was a Holly Tree in our backyard… and what was in it – my tree house! It was nothing fancy, basically a platform, but it was My tree house… a place for me to read, play with my Barbies or just be by myself. Now putting a platform in a Holly tree is odd, as Holly leaves are a little prickly, but it was the only place it could go. The other trees were large Pecan trees and the lower limbs were too high off the ground to grab… the Holly tree was more manageable to climb up into with no help.
A funny story about my Holly tree is how the neighbor often teased me about it. She was already in high school and several years older than me and she liked to tease me, telling me it was her tree; the tree sat almost on the property line. One day I went running into mama telling her that Jackie said that my Holly tree is hers. Well, I guess mama had had enough and told me to go tell Jackie that if it was her tree, then move it in her yard. I can just picture me flying back out the back door telling Jackie to move that tree if it was hers. I think that pretty much ended the ownership of the Holly Tree!
I grew up during the age of Aquarius…. the hippie generation of the 1960’s. It began with the music of the Beatles and quickly transformed me into a bell-bottom, flower power hippie. I had all the hippie style clothing of the times from the hats like the Beatles wore, to Nehru-style jackets, and the wide bell-bottom pants. Many of those wide pants were hip huggers which required wide belts.
One of my favorite pair of pants was my hip hugger bold blue pants with the large colored flowers all over – they were my “flower power” pants. I sure wish I’d kept them. LOL The one pair of pants I kept for several years after I married was a light pink pair of jeans. I never remember having any blue jeans, but I did have jeans in other colors. Even after they didn’t fit anymore, I held onto them; don’t we all think one day, you’ll fit into them again! Finally, I parted with them! I bought them at my favorite shopping store in Perry called Tot’s to Teen’s… all the teenage girls shopped there.
A couple of my “flower power” pant outfits! Love seeing granddaddy’s old Chevy in the background. I used to hate when I had to drive it – now I’d love to have it!
Shoes of choice in growing up were flip-flops, Be-Bops (black and white saddle shoes) and later the Dr. Scholls in every color I could find. I don’t remember ever wearing sneakers, and that’s all I wear now. Maybe I should get myself a pair of Dr. Scholls again! I also went barefoot a lot and still enjoy it, but hubby fusses at me that it’s not good for your feet…. he insists that feet belong in shoes! The minute he goes barefoot, he always steps on something! I didn’t go barefoot too often in Perry, as I didn’t like stepping on sand-spurs; they are like stepping on cactus spines.
Note: I know I have a few more photos to add to this post…. when I find them, like the picture of me dressed as a hobo (I found the photo), a picture of our house on Binns St. and Hillcrest Ave and our cars held hostage during the hurricane.
Want to read more, then click… 2017: A to Z… All About Me!
© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved