2017 A to Z: Letter P…
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 P is for… Perry, Pecans, Peanuts, Peaches, Phone Pranks, Proms, Politics, Poems, Party Planning, Pocketbooks and Paperdolls
I’ll always consider Perry my hometown… and even though I wasn’t born there, I lived most all my life events there. We moved to Perry about 1957 when I was 5 years old… and this was where I learned to ride my bike, got my drivers license, went to my first prom, graduated high school… leaving Perry as a married woman.
Perry was an awesome small town to grow up in…. one of those places where everybody knew your name, literally. All the police in town knew me, there was no getting away with anything. Mama always knew everything I did… no getting away with much!
When I left, the population was probably not over 4,000, and today it’s over 15,000… still small but it’s grown! It was founded in 1823 and first known as Wattsville, but the name was changed in 1824 to Perry… after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a hero of the War of 1812.
Perry is the county seat of Houston County and has seen much industry come and go… many I never knew or even saw the remnants of… like gristmills, sawmills and cotton gins. The local newspaper, The Houston Home Journal, began publishing way back in 1870 and still very prominent in Perry.
One of the main employers of residents of Perry was WRAFB… Warner Robins Air Force Base… that is what brought my family to Perry, as Daddy had gotten a job there – and worked there for almost my entire life.
Perry has made many changes over the forty-six years I have been gone, but it still hasn’t grown so much that I’m lost when I visit. Downtown has transformed into a quaint Southern town with shops… still keeping the town alive. While many of the hotels, motels, and restaurant names are gone that I grew up with, other new names have since taken their place. The one big change is The New Perry Hotel has now closed after being in operation since 1894; originally known as Cox’s Inn. It was rebuilt in 1925 and became a landmark for many Florida tourists who drove Route 41 South…. before I-75 was built. I remember seeing those tourists in town as they strolled the streets in the evening… shopping and enjoying our Southern food at the local restaurants.
Perry had great cruising streets and during the 60’s… that is what teenagers did once they got their drivers license, and I was no exception. Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sundays… all day… was our cruising times. Hwy. 41 was the biggest cruise strip, with the local Dairy Queen being the ultimate destination where we parked. What did we do when we parked… well we sat and watched others cruising by! And when you were tired of sitting at the Dairy Queen, then you cruised to the opposite side of town where the Royal Castle and Tastee Freeze was… and then you cruised back, and once my parents let me leave town, Warner Robins was where I mostly hung out and cruised… and met my husband Steve.
The Dairy Queen was “the” hang out in Perry… we cruised around and parked our cars… they made the best cherry cokes!
Johnson’s Store in Perry where I worked.
Many changes have come to Perry…. We used to go to Macon to the State Fair every year, but now the State Fairgrounds are in Perry near I-75… bringing much traffic to Perry. There were no “box” type stores when I left, and now there is Walmart and several others to chose from. The Dairy Queen is still there and still in the same spot, but my cruising route has changed with the addition of new businesses. Very few downtown stores with the same names have remained… all new shopping name stores, but they’ve still kept a Southern look to my hometown. I spent many Friday nights at the Perry Theater, and like most hometown theaters… it has closed its doors to movies. But the good news is… they remodeled it into an awesome antique store… I can’t wait to visit!
Perry downtown how it looked when I grew up!
Perry downtown how it looks today!
There were two tall pecan trees in our backyard in Perry on Smoak Avenue…. wonder if they are still there? Our subdivision was once a farm belonging to a farmer with the last name of Smoak… maybe these trees were part of his farm and that’s how they ended up in my backyard. I don’t remember any pecan trees in other backyards.
Pecan trees made for great climbing trees, although even though they don’t have low limbs, once I managed to get up… I could climb and climb. When the pecans were ready to harvest, I often climbed up to shake the branches… pecans need help in falling, needing that shake!
Today I rely on Mama to send me Georgia pecans. Years ago she’d often go out to a friends house and pick them up… even cracking and picking out the meat before sending to me. She’d crack them outside with a brick, then bring inside to pick out the meats while watching TV. I truly enjoyed her efforts, but she had a secret agenda…. she wanted the shells for her garden. That was OK with me – saved me lots of time and saved her extra postage!
So what do I make with all those Georgia pecans… Pecan Pie is always a favorite of mine! At Christmas, I use them for my Thumbprint cookies and I always share with my daughter and daughter-in-law…. I can never eat all that’s sent to me.
Boiled peanuts are one of the first things I crave when I hit the Southern states on vacation. In growing up, we were always kept supplied from Granddaddy Bryan’s farm. Mama roasted them a lot but they were always plentiful in our house.
I usually buy a bag of green peanuts to bring home and make a big pot of boiled peanuts to share with everyone…. although not everyone likes them. Yankee’s aren’t found of wet peanuts, but hubby eats them with me. They go best with a really cold beer!
Georgia Peaches… Oh My… and at this writing, they are ready for picking in Georgia, so head on down! My mouth is drooling for them as I’m writing, can’t you just smell them?
Nothing is better than a fresh Georgia peach in the summer… and just outside Perry was Lane Peach Packing Plant – an open-air workplace. Many kids from school worked there in the summer, but I guess Mama never wanted me to because of my asthma. I remember the kids talking about working there and how “hot” it was. It wasn’t a fun job… hot and sticky and some said the peach fuzz made you itchy.
One of my favorite ways to eat peaches is to make a southern peach cobbler, so easy! Boy, I can smell it cooking now, guess I’ll be making one soon. And you can never go wrong with just cutting them up and adding sugar and milk…. so delicious to add to your cereal or just enjoy a bowl full. My father-in-law loved them that way and I’d often take him a big bowl every week in the summer. I never had to twist his arm to eat those peaches!
Most likely my generation is the last “phone prank” generation… While we didn’t prank on the party lines – and yes I vaguely remember having one and waiting for someone to get off the phone so I could use it. Imagine that today! I don’t think I dared prank at my house, my mama would have whipped my behind!
It was probably mama who pushed her father into putting a phone in… granddaddy had no interest in a phone… he had no one he wanted to call! He had a farm bell to ring if there was an emergency – that’s all he needed! I can only imagine what he would think of our phones today… carrying a cell phone wherever you go… texting and sending pictures to anyone at the drop of a hat. I can just imagine him shaking his head, not wanting anything to do with that!
It was at granddaddy McKinley’s house where I pranked… guess I was just a little bored at times. I remember calling… whomever… and asking “do you have a mule”, well, of course, everyone had a mule… and then I said, “you better come get him out of my garden.” Not sure how I thought that was pranking, but…
The most known prank was the old Prince Albert one, and yep I did it…. calling a store and asking if they had Prince Albert in a can… well of course they did… then the punchline… well you better let him out! So Corny!
Another famous prank was calling an unsuspected homeowner and asking if their refrigerator was running, and then…well you better go and catch it!
Ok “pranksters” – let me hear the pranks you played!
Proms were a big event in high school and my school had two every year – a Junior-Senior and a Senior Prom. They were always held in our gym… decorated by prom committees comprised of the lower grades. It always amazed me at what a good job the committees did in decorating… not sure why I never joined, but I do remember peeking in to see what they were doing.
Junior-Senior Prom 1969 (left) and Senior Prom 1970 (right)
My Junior-Senior Prom theme in 1969 was Fly Me to the Moon and decorated in an outer space theme… complete with planets hanging from the ceiling and a huge spaceship. We were announced with our dates as we walked through the ship doors and down the ramp.
In 1970, my Senior Prom theme was The Land of Oz complete with munchkins, lions, scarecrows and tin men…. and it was awesome! I was transported to Kansas and Oz all in one night! My after-prom was spent at Calloway Gardens with my date… not sure why we picked that place, but maybe it was a popular place everyone went; I think we also went to Six Flags. Pretty much the only thing I remember from that day was that we tried riding a bicycle built for two…. well that went sour, we kept losing our balance and could never get in sync… I think we opted to walk. Every time I see one today, I always want to try again… I’m not sure I could even ride a single bicycle now much less a tandem!
I never gave a second thought to politics in growing up… all I knew was that both of my grandfathers were Democrats and they voted that way no matter who ran… that’s just how it was! Granddaddy McKinley was more political than Granddaddy Bryan; during election times every Saturday afternoon was dedicated to talking politics at the filling station in Siloam. I’m not sure how much talking there was… those talks became very political and quite heated, I’m told.
Probably the only time I paid attention to any politics in growing up was when John F. Kennedy ran for president – it was publicized everywhere. The day he was assassinated, I remember very well… I was in 6th grade. We were all brought into the school auditorium and TV’s wheeled in for us to watch the news. Most of us girls left school crying that day… it was the first tragedy I had experienced. I saved lots of paper info on the Kennedys in my scrapbooks.
I was never political or even gave a second thought whether I wanted to be a Democrat or Republican until our country was hit on 911. The world changed… never to be the same again! My husband and I began following the elections more closely – him more involved than me.
I had signed us both up to vote several years earlier, but we never did. He soon began voting for the first time and finally convinced me to go vote in the 2016 election when Trump ran for office.
I think my love of poems came from listening to the music of Rod McKuen, who was very popular in the 1960’s… not sure how I became so hooked on his music, but I bought all his albums. One of my favorites was My Friend the Sea, a beach setting in the background, hearing the beach waves and seagulls while he
talked, sang. In listening to them now, I find them somewhat depressing… not quite sure why I was so hooked on his poems, but!
I remember reading other poems and one year daddy bought me a poem book I had mentioned I wanted… and still have…. somewhere! I will be hunting it down!!!
If you listened to Rod McKuen….. what was your favorite poem/songs?
Whoever knew I had party planning skills until my children married and I was recruited to help first with my daughter-in-law’s showers and later my daughter. When I planned my daughter’s I racked my brain for a theme… finally choosing movies as she loved them so, and at one time wanted to be a movie/TV director.
Once I had a theme, it all rolled into place using her favorite movies of Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Godfather, Wizard of Oz, The Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Frankenstein. As she arrived, there was a red carpet to walk down, just like the Oscars… even complete with someone interviewing the guests as they walked in. Each table was decorated with a specific movie theme… the Harry Potter table had his famous jelly beans… but with better flavors than ear wax! The Goonies table was complete with maps to help find the treasure on the pirate ship. I can’t remember what I came up with for Star Wars, but The Godfather table was the best…. they each had a pretty box containing a cannoli!
I had a popcorn machine for guests to enjoy while the presents were opened and at the end, a surprise letter was read to her from a few of her favorite characters…. supposedly telling why they had traveled to be there with her on this special day; all her favorite movie characters soon walked in. I enlisted,
blackmailed the help of the groomsmen as Harry Potter, The Tin Man, and Indiana Jones, and last but not least… the groom as Frankenstein. Why Frankenstein…. because they had dressed as Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein for a Halloween party the year before. What I was most proud of was the movie poster I designed to make her bridal shower look like a movie with credits. I even had it printed and framed and on display there.
I was quite proud of myself in creating this!!! And YES Melissa still have this poster in the frame, although sometimes not quite sure where to hang it. I keep reminding her of all the hard work that went into creating it and one day her girls will WANT it!!!
The guests had such a good time laughing and guessing which movie star was coming in next and Melissa was completely thrown off by the ending. I gave her no hints as what her shower theme was, as she wanted to be surprised by everything.
The finale of the Bridal Shower! L. to R: Frank Gillon, aka Frankenstein (Groom), Melissa Insalaco (Bride), Darth Vador, The Tin Man, Mark Mancini, aka Harry Potter (Best Man), and Indiana Jones played by her brother Steve Insalaco. Guys were awesome to play along for the event! They drove there in costume in hopes of getting pulled over… No Luck though!
And what comes after a bridal shower? Yep, a baby shower. Now we all know how somewhat boring baby showers can be, so I strived to make it fun! My theme was a washing theme of clothes… complete with a clothesline where all the little extra’s that came with the gifts were hung with clothespins. Prizes were everything to do with washing and the centerpieces were Melissa’s dresses I had saved. I found small wooden hangers, which my husband attached dowels, which were mounted on a wooden heart base… that was my centerpiece! I must write a blog post to show all those cute baby dresses!
Pocketbooks or Purses…. as my daughter tells me!
As I became an older teenager, I fell in love with pocketbooks, or purses as my daughter always ‘aka’ corrects me! Sorry… it’s still pocketbooks to me and my Mama calls them that also, so maybe it’s a southern thing… daughter is a Yankee! But I forgive her for that, she can’t help where she was born, just don’t correct your Mama!
One of my famous name pocketbooks was John Romaine… and on my yearly trip to Atlanta with The Rainbow Girls, I always bought one! That trip to Atlanta to Rich’s Department Store was by train… The Nancy Hanks out of Macon. Those train rides were so much fun… the anticipation of the ride… what we were going to buy… and then the ride home with all our goodies! There was even a dining car on the train and once in awhile, we splurged for food. The food was pretty expensive so we didn’t often spend our money on it, but we liked to walk through as we checked out all the train cars… walking through the cars was entertaining to us and made the time pass.
I don’t think I ever returned home from Rich’s without a new pocketbook, and what is better than changing to a new one? That is what kept me busy on the ride home…. going through my old one and deciding where everything was going in my new bag; nothing better than a girl buying a new pocketbook! And I always liked to buy makeup there too, a girl can never have enough! I can visualize those pocketbooks, too bad I have no photos of them… if only memories could be printed!
In searching for vintage pocketbooks of the 1960’s, I found two similar of my favorites remembered.
I remember having a pocketbook just exactly like this John Romain Leather and Tweed satchel type… seems like just yesterday I was setting up my purse and being so excited to show it off… having not a care in the world except having a new pocketbook!
Another favorite style of mine, not sure why these hard case box-type were popular… but they were with just a small handle on top. It resembled a small piece of luggage, and maybe it was supposed to. I remember having a couple different box-type ones and I loved them. I kept it for many years after I married, but finally, I let it go… bad decision!
My paper dolls would probably be laughed at by today’s standards… or by my granddaughters; they only know magnetic dolls or Apps where you play with them on your I-Pad… but I’ll still take mine any day over those new-style versions.
What was better than a new folder of paper dolls to cut out? Nothing… well maybe a new Nancy Drew book might run close or a new pocketbook… but again it’d depend on my age at the time! I’ve racked my brain in trying to remember which dolls I had and only two come to mind… Doris Day and Kim Novack.
Being an only child, I didn’t have to beg for too many things, and pretty much whatever I asked for… Mama bought! She tells me I really never asked for things when she took me shopping, then she would ask me if I’d like it… if I said yes, she bought it. I loved paper and scissors… I could sit all afternoon with a shoebox, paper, and scissors; I haven’t changed much, I still love paper and if I had a pack of paper dolls right now, I wouldn’t have a problem in cutting them out. What fun it was to cut the doll clothes out… actually, it was a dilemma in what to cut first… as I usually couldn’t wait to get them all cut out, and I was quite
meticulous in cutting; making sure to cut them neatly and if I accidentally cut off a fold-down tab… well that became a serious tragedy! I didn’t like broken things… I wanted all the tabs to be in perfect condition!
When I mentioned to Mama I was writing on paper dolls… “I loved paper dolls as a young girl, but growing up on a farm…. money wasn’t there for things that weren’t a necessity. My paper dolls came from the Sears & Roebuck Catalog… I’d sit for hours flipping through the pages finding dolls and pretty dresses to cut out… making them fit! My favorite spot was up in the loft over the daddy’s car shed… away from everyone while I amused myself all afternoon.”
So who likes paper dolls? Tell me your favorite stories!
Want to read more, then click… 2017: A to Z… All About Me!
© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved