21 December 2016

Christmas Wishes of Yore

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2016

A psychologist friend tells me that we can learn a lot about ourselves by remembering our Christmas wishes. I don’t know how he knows this, but he is smart and worked with children for years, so perhaps there is something to it.

Christmastime was a mixture of religious and secular traditions in my family. After my younger twin brothers came along, it was much more fun for me because I loved surprising them with gifts, wrapping the presents and reading Christmas tales and poetry to them. I’d even sit up late with them “waiting for Santa” — they usually fell over asleep on the sofa and we’d tuck them into their beds. 

On Christmas morning, I’d tell them how I had heard Santa’s sleigh landing on the rooftop right after they went to sleep. They were as gullible as I — believing all the stories about Santa, the reindeer, and red-nosed Rudolph. Even though we never had a house with a fireplace or real chimney no one questioned how Santa got into the house to deliver the gifts or how he could make a round-the-world trip in one night.

Mother always decorated the tree except for allowing us kids to toss some icicles on it. She was a creative and talented decorator, and it was not until I was married and bought my first Christmas tree that I realized I did not have a clue about how to decorate it. I am glad no pictures survive of my first pitiful tree.

My family was not big on giving toys, although my parents always purchased at least one gift for us to play with, but most of our presents were practical ones — you know, underwear, socks, pajamas, clothes, sweaters and winter coats. Daddy usually bought me “girly stuff” — Heaven Scent cologne and bath powder or jewelry. 

We were taught to be grateful for everything we received. I was fortunate to have several aunts who always sent me a gift or some money. I really liked the green stuff best so I could buy paper dolls and books.

I don’t recall ever actually writing to Santa and asking him for anything. Usually someone in the family would ask me what I would like to have for Christmas, but I don’t remember anything I ever specifically asked for until the year I was eight.

I spied it in a furniture store window and fell in love with it. It was a golden oak desk with a little matching stool. The slanted top of the desk raised up and inside was plenty of room for crayons, scissors, pencils, writing paper and my paper dolls. 

Santa came through and on Christmas morning, there it was next to the tree tied with a big red bow. I was delighted. Later I overheard my mother tell one of my aunts that she didn’t understand why I wanted a desk, but that was all I had asked for. My aunt laughed and said, “Well, maybe she is going to be a writer.” Little did they know.

Of course, the signs were all there about what I would grow up to be, if anyone had been paying attention. One year I asked for a camera — a Baby Brownie. Then for a Mickey Mouse watch and a few years later for a typewriter. However, somewhere between the watch and the typewriter requests, I asked for a Toni doll 

The Ideal Toni Dolls were a promotional doll, connected with the Toni cosmetic company. Toni dolls came with their own home permanent kit. Everything that a mother had to perm her daughter’s hair, the Ideal Toni Dolls had the same things. That included a permanent solution, made of sugar and water. There also were end papers and a comb, just as in the adult home permanent kits.

I gave my doll many permanents and had her until I was in junior high school. That was when my younger brothers decided to perform surgery on her. They amputated her limbs and scalped her.

About that time, I decided I wanted to be a twirler for the school band and asked for a baton. What was I thinking? My hand-eye coordination scores were probably at the bottom of the charts — most likely not even on the charts. I never even made it to tryouts as my baton was usually lost in the grass.

However, when one dream is crushed, I discovered a new one might even be better — in the long run. So I gave up the dream of wearing a white satin outfit and twirling a baton. I replaced it with a typewriter and became the editor of the high school newspaper. 

It was one of my smarter moves in life.

22 November 2016

Mayflower Links

It's that time of year, when some genealogists (and the media) turn to thoughts of ancestors who actually celebrated the event, popularly called the first Thanksgiving. While my ancestors are not among the Mayflower passengers (mine all arrived with the 17th-century Dutch, Norwegians, Huguenots, Swedes and a few English and Welsh stowaways (I suspect), plus a number of early 18th-century Swiss and Germans), my husband's line goes back to a famous couple who arrived in 1620.

Descent from Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins

John Alden (Sr.) [ca 1599-1687] = Priscilla Mullins (Molens) [ca 1602-1680/87]
Joseph Alden [ca 1628-196/7] = Mary Simmons [ca 1641-after 10 March 1696/7]
Isaac Alden [ca 1666-1727] = Mehitable Allen [1664-after 20 October 1727]
Captain Ebenezer Alden [1693-1776] = Anna Keith [1695-1775]
Abigail Alden [1721-1762] = Ebenezer Byram Jr. [1716-1762]
Mary Byram [1755-1819] = Silas Ayres [1749-1826]
Hannah Ayres [1781-ca 1832] = Isaac Pierson [1779-1859]
Byram Ayres Pierson [1801-1886] = (3) Catherine Holflick(Hossick) [1810-1890]
Isaac Pierson [ca 1847-1911] = Katherine Maybee [1850-1887]
Claude (née Pierson) Gormley [1886-1942] = Cleo (née Cummings) Endicott [1902-1975]
Leo C. Gormley 

It is interesting, genealogically speaking, to learn about some well-known descendants of this couple, such as:
President John Q. Adams →Ruth Alden = John Bass →John and Priscilla
William Cullen Bryan →Jonathan Alden =Abigail Hallett →John and Priscilla
Marilyn Monroe →Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow → Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla
Vice President Dan Quayle → Sarah Alden = Alexander Standish →John and Priscilla
Dick Van Dyke →Sarah Alden = Alexander Standish →John and Priscilla
Orson Welles →Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours. Gobble up!

Graphics thanks to the kind permission of: http://www.mycutegraphics.com/

23 June 2016

Cat on a Hot Skateboard

Cat on a Hot Skateboard
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2016

Sometimes I become so involved in researching and writing about the past that I forget to record what’s going on in the present. That may just be a personality quirk of mine. It also might be an indicator of a brain disorder from which I have suffered for decades.

Living in a small gated condominium community consisting of 38 owners — mostly much over 55 year olds — it is not exactly party city. In fact, except for a few strange ones who stay up until 10 p.m. or gasp, later; it is pretty quiet around here most of the time.

However, once in a while exciting things happen. The other day, we had a sprinkler head burst and spurt forth enough water to flood a driveway. It needed washing anyway. Just as the landscapers were trying to fix that problem, down at the other end of the community a flooded water meter erupted and the city was called to fix it (their meter, not ours).

The landscape crew also discovered some standing water outside one of the homes and when they dug down they found a broken water pipe, which had to be replaced quickly. It was water, water, everywhere. Of course, in the Pacific Northwest in April, one doesn’t get too excited over wet things.

Our landscape committee has been busy lately getting rid of some sickly plants and replacing them with 170 new ones. Actually the count is 169, because one of the azaleas has disappeared. It was last seen the other day in front of Unit 13-A, awaiting to be planted in a lovely location. I was drafted to be on azalea watch all week, but so far, no sighting of the fleeing flowery shrub. We may have to get Marcie’s toy poodle to do some sniffing around to find it.

Like many communities, we have a few rules pertaining to pets and owners. One of the rules is that all pets must be on a leash or carried in your arms (and owners must, of course,  clean up the poop and are responsible for their pet’s behavior). Imagine the surprise to see an unleashed cat on a skateboard sailing down toward the RV parking lot last Saturday. Close behind was a girl chasing it. Neither the girl nor the cat was wearing a helmet (another transgression of our laws). The Neighborhood Watch patrolman got a workout writing tickets for those violations — and tracking down the grandparents who had allowed such outrageous behavior.

Just when things began to settle down, a drone flew over the community, making lazy circles in the sky and frightening some of us who were enjoying the sun on our patios. Immediately, or so it seemed, a distraught woman appeared at our entrance gate, crying for help and begging to be let in. One of the community’s board members happened to be doing some work near the gate and heard her cries. He learned that she and her husband had been in Cirque Park (which abuts our community on the west) flying his new drone when he lost control of it and it flew down into our community.

Eventually the errant drone was found on the roof of Unit 17-B and returned to the tearful lady, along with some words of advice about what will happen next time their drone wanders into our air space. Something about “finders keepers; losers weepers” I think.

Obviously our governing board is going to be writing some new laws about unleased cats on skateboards and wayward drones that invade our privacy and disrupt our dull, drab lives.

Meanwhile, just got a tip about an azalea that’s hiding out in back of Unit 19-A, pretending to be a rhododendron.  Gotta run.

15 February 2016

In Search of Taillights, Elephants and the Ugly Patrols

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (C) 2016

Just when we were talking about taking an early Spring driving trip out here in the Far West, news arrived that a state representative from Missoula, Montana has introduced House Bill 365, which as I understand it, means yoga pants will be illegal to wear there, along with other garments that reveal too much of one’s anatomy.

At this stage of my life, I’m into covering up as much as possible, but I do resent being told that I can’t pack my yoga pants if I am going to or through the Treasure state.

I also discovered that in Montana it is illegal for married women to go fishing alone on Sundays, and it is illegal for unmarried women to fish alone at all. That does it. Scratch “the Big Sky Country” off my list.

Having spent some of my early life in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, I am aware that there are some silly laws on the books in those states. State lawmakers have way too much idle time in my humble opinion. How else can you explain that Kansas actually has laws on the books that:
  •  Ban shooting rabbits from motorboats. I never saw a rabbit anywhere near the water when I lived there; and actually never saw any water on which motorboats could cruise in those wheat fields either.
  • Require pedestrians crossing the highways at night to wear taillights. Really? Have you seen any taillights for humans lately? Do they come in various sizes and styles? How do you wear them? Will they go with my vacation wardrobe and look good with my yoga pants?
In Oklahoma, it is against the law to:
• Wear your boots to bed. I bet my granny was behind that one.
• Be tattooed. Probably lots of lawbreakers roaming the Sooner state now.
• Read comic books while operating a motor vehicle (guess texting and using smart phones are OK though — along with fracking.)
• In Tulsa, you can’t take elephants into the downtown area. No problem. My elephants never had any hankering to go there anyway.

Texas ranks up near the top with crazy laws and I was lucky to escape from the Lone Star state before getting arrested. I had no idea I was breaking the law by consulting the Encyclopedia Britannia. The entire set is banned in Texas because it contains a formula for making beer at home. Imagine that. Now you can just Google “beer making” until the Texas Rangers catch you.

• It is also illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel. Always stay on the ground floor, on three, or above— if you’re into buffalo shooting. Problem solved.
• It is against the law to milk another person’s cow, too. Somehow, this activity has never come up — probably because I buy my milk at the supermarket and quit milking any cows when I left Oklahoma. 
Down in Houston it is illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sunday. Dad would not have liked that one bit. He was against any restrictions on cheeses. Over in Texarkana, you can’t ride horses at night without taillights. What is it with all the taillight laws?

When I moved to the West Coast, I thought I had escaped from the crazy laws, but I was wrong.
California has almost as many as Texas, including:
• Women cannot drive in their housecoats. Really? I didn’t know there was a dress code for drivers — or is it just for women?
• Toads may not be licked in Los Angeles. Anyone seen the Toad Police? Now that’s an ugly job.
• Women can’t wear high heels in the city limits of Carmel, but guys can.
• In San Diego, it is illegal to shoot jackrabbits from the back of a streetcar. What is it with all the laws about shooting rabbits?
• In San Francisco, if you are classified as “ugly” you can’t walk down any street. Only place I know of that has “ugly” police patrols. Do you have to carry an “ugly” ID card?
• You better keep your elephants on a leash if they are going to stroll down Market Street in San Francisco. I had no idea we have so many elephant problems in this country.

Utah also has its share of goofy laws too, including:
• It is illegal not to drink milk. Watch out for the milk police in the Beehive state.
• It also is illegal to fish from horseback. Well, there goes my vacation fun.
• When a person reaches the age of 50, he/she can then marry their cousin. But, the law doesn’t specify which cousin or the degree of closeness — first, second, or thrice-removed? The genealogists let that law slip through.
• In Salt Lake City, you can’t walk down the street carrying a paper bag containing a violin. Evidently, tote bags and backpacks are OK though — and violas.

In Nevada, where one would expect some crazy laws, it is illegal to drive a camel on the highway. Says nothing about elephants though.
• Out in Elko if you are walking the streets, you are required to wear a mask. (Note to self: Better pack masks to use while in the Silver state.)

Arizona has more than its share of weird laws, including one that forbids donkeys to sleep in bathtubs. Now, just where can one let one’s ass sleep?
• In Tucson, women may not wear pants. The brilliant lawmakers neglected to specify whether these are under or outer pants, so ladies, wear any at your own risk.

In Oregon, whose state universities’ mascots are Ducks and Beavers — a place where you’d think some reasonable lawmakers exist — I discovered that
• You can’t eat ice cream on Sundays. Well, I’ve broken that law more times that I care to count.
• Dishes must drip dry (what moronic lawmaker came up with that idea?)
• You can’t bathe without wearing “suitable clothing,” i.e., that which covers one’s body from neck to knee. Are they going to be checking in my bathroom? I think not.
• In Klamath Falls, it is illegal to walk down a sidewalk and knock a snake’s head off with your cane. Pity.

Washington, my adopted home state, has a few strange laws on the books too. In the Evergreen state, it is against the law to:
• Buy a mattress anywhere on Sunday or to buy a TV in Spokane -- on that day.
• Pretend that one’s parents are rich. That’s never been a problem for me.
• In Bremerton, you can’t shuck peanuts on the street. Maybe that’s to protect the seagulls who are allergic. Why don't those birds just wear ID bracelets like the rest of us?
• In Seattle, you may not carry a concealed weapon that is over six feet in length. (You have to realize how much Viking blood runs through Seattle pioneers to appreciate this law).
• In Wilbur, it is against the law to ride an ugly horse. The ugly police are everywhere out West. So watch out which horse you pick to ride — if you are ever in Lincoln County.

So, if you’re going to vacation out West this year, watch for all the ugly patrols, rabbits, and elephants — and don’t forget to turn your personal taillights on. I hope Costco has some of the latter and that they match my vacation attire, especially my yoga pants.