Thursday, May 23, 2019

Stories about my mom

For Christmas 2003, I gave each of my grandchildren a piece of history, a story about their ancestors.  Everyone got a different tale, which meant they would have to share their stories in order to get a fuller picture of the people from their past.  My three grandsons got stories about their great-grandfather William Elmer Setliffe, Jr., which I shared last week.  My four granddaughters got stories about their great-grandmother Mildred Inez Reynolds Setliffe.

For Cali
My mom was a cook.  That, I believe, was her identity.  She loved to cook for her family and, when she needed to work outside the home, she worked in the cafeteria at Clifton Hills Elementary School on Rossville Boulevard [in Chattanooga, Tennessee].  By taking some classes, she became a cafeteria manager in the city school system.  Cooking was her life, and she loved food.  The one thing that probably stands out in the minds of her relatives and friends is Mom's white fruit cake.  I should probably put that in capital letters:  "White Fruit Cake."  She learned to make it from her mother Inez, my Grandma Reynolds.  Here's the recipe:
White Fruit Cake
1/2 to 1 lb. candied cherries (chopped fine)
1/2 lb. ground shelled pecans
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sweet milk (or water)
1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla or almond extract)
5 egg whites, beaten
Fresh grated coconut
Milk of fresh coconut

Mix and bake in usual manner for white cake:  Cream butter and sugar together until thoroughly creamed.  Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk, into the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Add cherries, pecans, and flavoring.  [To keep cherries from sinking to bottom of cake, first lightly flour the pieces with part of the flour.]  Gently fold in egg white.  After cake is cooled, pour milk of fresh coconut over both layers.  Ice with 7-Minute Frosting and cover with fresh grated coconut.  Add cherries on top to decorate it.  Good served with boiled egg custard that is thin and runny, made with 5 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk per egg, and nutmeg.
This looks sort of like white fruit cake.
In case you want to make this yourself, here's how we did it when I was a kid.  Mom always got a fresh coconut.  We kids would take it out to the sidewalk and pound away at it with a hammer, working hard to break the tough outer shell of the coconut.  Once that was off, we would drive an ice pick into a couple of the three "eyes" of the now-hairy-looking coconut. Then we'd carefully pour the coconut "milk" into a glass, complaining loudly when the coconut didn't produce much milk because that would affect the taste and moisture of the cake.  Then, tired, we'd go play and let Mother go about the real work of producing the cake as described above.  It really is best with the custard.  Everyone enjoyed the soft, moist "white fruit cake" better than the hard, dark ones with lots of tough fruit, even though the only fruit in Mom's cake were coconut and cherries.
The stories I gave to Brandy, Kenzie, and Cady will have to wait until I find them again.  After typing this last week, I put the spiral-bound booklet in a "safe place" until I had time to finish typing this blog post, and now I can't find that "safe place."  I spent nearly an hour this evening searching through papers, under piles of magazines, in the other room, anywhere I could imagine, and I simply cannot find those seven stories.  The booklet is here somewhere, so maybe next week I'll post "the rest of the stories."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Site vs. Sight vs. Cite

"A tally was kept of all birds sited by birders."
Site ~ to put (something) in a particular place.
Sight ~ to see or observe (something).
Cite ~ to add footnotes showing the source of your information.
Which of these three sound-alike words should a birder use?  The second one, about sight.  They didn't place birds somewhere, but they kept a record of the birds they saw.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Caturday ~ and the bulletin board

Clawdia suddenly stopped our walk to the other end of the hall, recently, to stare up at the bulletin board beside the elevators.  At this cat.  She moved her head back and forth, raised herself higher by standing on two back feet, studied this cat.  Never before has she paid much attention to what's on that bulletin board, not even other cat pictures, but THIS cat transfixed her.  Since that day, she has ignored the picture.  It does not, after all, move.  Must not be a real cat.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Beginning ~ with Alzheimer's, called Agnes

The Last Year of the War ~ by Susan Meissner, 2019, fiction
I've a thief to thank for finding the one person I need to see before I die.  If Agnes hadn't slipped her way into my mind to steal from it willy-nilly, I wouldn't have started to forget things, and Teddy wouldn't have given me the iPad for my birthday so that I could have my calendar and addresses and photos all in one place, and without the iPad, I wouldn't have known there is a way to look for someone missing from your life for six decades.
I wrote about this book on Tuesday, if you'd like to know more about it.  As for the beginning lines, yes, I'm hooked.  I want to read more because my mother had Alzheimer's, explained at the bottom of the first page, and also because this is a book about internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click this link for more book beginnings.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stories about my dad

For Christmas 2003, I gave each of my grandchildren a piece of history, a story about their ancestors.  Everyone got a different tale, which meant they would have to share their stories in order to get a fuller picture of the people from their past.  My three grandsons got stories about their great-grandfather William Elmer Setliffe, Jr.  My four granddaughters got stories about their great-grandmother Mildred Inez Reynolds Setliffe, which I'll share next Thursday.

For Kendall
My dad spent a lot of his growing-up years on Main Street [in Chattanooga, Tennessee].  That's where his father, my "pops," had his meat market.  Both my dad and his brother Jeff became meat cutters like their father, and each eventually had his own store or meat market.  Dad opened his grocery store at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, only a few blocks from where his father's meat market had been.  The meat counter had a glass front like those in a deli today.  I have a 1942 photo of the store showing Pops on the left (with center counters hiding the fact that he had had one leg amputated), Dad wearing his white apron and leaning an elbow on the back counter where he weighed meat on the big white scales, and two assistants in the back.

I remember living behind our store, and Dad's parents lived there with us.  One morning, Pops was shaving in the bathroom and one button of his long johns was unbuttoned.  I giggled and pointed and sing-songed:  "I see Popsy's hiney!"  My elders enjoyed that story for years.

I remember only a few "important" things about the store, since I was only two when I lived there.  By important things, I mean my job.  I got to arrange the apples in the front window.  My daddy let me stand on a stool and put the apples on the slanted board.  I can also tell you exactly where the cookie bins were ― in the center of the store.  Getting a cookie, either to sell or nibble, meant taking the silver top off the big glass container and reaching in for the cookie you wanted.  The jars were on a lower shelf, exactly at the eye level of a little girl like me.

I told [my son] David, when he was promoted from bag boy to the meat section of Pruett's [grocery store] on Signal Mountain, that he was following in the footsteps of his ancestors.  I could remember seeing my dad with gauze around a thumb because he had chopped meat a bit too close to his own hand.  Once when I was at Pruett's, I saw David behind the counter with his thumb similarly wrapped ― and the bandage was soppy wet.  Until that moment, I had forgotten that Dad's bandage was also usually wet from handling the frozen food.  I was not too happy about that particular connection between my son and my father, but I guess it comes with the territory ― using meat cleavers and sharp knives.  Still, I couldn't resist telling David no one wanted part of his thumb in their meat.

When I began managing the Trenton bookstore in August [of 2003], I felt totally at home.  Recently, it occurred to me that the bookstore is about the size of Dad's meat market and I'm following the family tradition, retailing to customers who prefer small stores.  No wonder I love working there.
For Chase
My dad had two children and one more on the way in 1944, when World War II was in its next-to-last year.  Being a father had kept him out of the war until then, but in 1944 he was drafted.  He had to leave before Christmas, but Santa was good to us that year and came early so Daddy could enjoy Christmas with us before he left.  I was four years old as I stood on the sofa, waving goodbye to him through the window, and Billy would have been barely two.  Dad was wearing his Army uniform and waved as he walked up the sidewalk.  My little sister, Ann, was born the following March and was several months old before Daddy came home again.

The Army had a funny way of assigning jobs.  Because Dad owned a meat market and grocery store, someone must have thought "food" and decided my daddy should be a cook.  He didn't know how to cook, not at all.  So he wrote home to his wife, my Mama, and asked for her recipes.  Can you imagine taking a recipe to make something for a family of four and multiplying it to feed thousands of men?  That's what he did.  Apparently he did a pretty good job as a cook and came home still cooking "enough to feed an army."  He loved to make chili, but there was always enough to feed the whole neighborhood, literally!  So we would have a block party even before it was called that.  He would use a white coffee cup to ladle out the chili.

It's funny that I miss his chili and wish I could have some now, because I never wanted his chili when I was a child.  It burned my mouth and was too spicy for me.  I guess that's the way the soldiers preferred it, and I would probably like it now.  I wonder if I could find his recipe if I looked through old family papers.  Probably not, because Daddy mostly cooked by dumping in lots of meat and beans and spices and tasting until it was just the way he wanted it.

If he were still alive, I know he'd be sitting around telling you about all his exploits in Japan and in the Philippines.  He would tell you about sailing to the Philippines on the U.S.S. Enterprise, an aircraft carrier.  It was the biggest ship the Navy had at that time, so you could probably find a photo of that ship in a history book or an encyclopedia.  But I've saved you the time by printing out some information I found online for you.  He loved to tell stories, and he would illustrate the letters he sent home to us.  He drew not only things he saw, but cartoons about cows or anything he thought would make us laugh and enjoy his letters.
For Jamey
My dad was in the Army during World War II and was sent to Japan near the end of the war.  He was in the First Cavalry [division], which had a yellow patch with a black stripe slanted across it and the head of a horse in the upper part.  It looks like the one at the right side of this paragraph.  One of the funny stories he told was about the Japanese making replacement patches for the Army and making the "horses" with long ears.  They were making jackasses out of the First Cavalry!

My dad liked to tell stories and make people laugh, so I'm never quite sure whether a story was true or was "elaborated."  Even though Dad was a cook, he also drove big trucks and (according to him) led convoys of trucks because of his good sense of direction.  The soldiers, after all, couldn't read Japanese road signs.  When we children would ask him to tell us about the war, he said he had "captured two Japs."  Then he would tell the truth about that capture:

One night he was writing a letter to Mama (and us kids) and heard footsteps in the gravel outside his tent.  When he went silently to investigate, he found two Japs (what we called the Japanese people during the war).  The two were trying to steal food, and Daddy was the cook.  He grabbed both of them without having to fire a shot.  Only at the end of the story did Daddy admit the two he "captured" were children.  Although he didn't say so, I can only imagine my child-loving daddy fed those hungry kids before he turned them in.

In another story Daddy told us about hearing piano music coming from a Japanese house he was walking past.  He stopped and tried to tell the owner he wanted to listen.  The man, however, thought Dad wanted his daughter, who was playing the piano.  So he got very angry and ran Dad off, even though he simply wanted to listen to the music.  Back home in Chattanooga, as Daddy knew, I was learning to play the big upright piano in the living room.  All he wanted was to think about music and his family.  My dad was a family man who loved his children.  He was missing us when he heard the piano inside that house.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Chalk vs. Chock

Someone wrote that her car was "chalk full of clothes."  Above is a picture of chalk, something that children use to mark on their driveways or a teacher uses to write on a chalkboard.  (We called them "blackboards" when I was in school, back in the dark ages of the 1940s.)  What that someone meant was that her car was CHOCK full of clothes.  That means it was "full to overflowing."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Two books ~ could it happen again?

The Last Year of the War ~ by Susan Meissner, 2019, fiction
A German American teenager's life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp during World War II.  Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943 — aware of the war, but distanced from its reach.  Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer.  The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.  The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers.

Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.  But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her.  In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
Internment ~ by Samira Ahmed, 2019, fiction
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.  With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.  Heart-racing and emotional, this novel challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
Could it happen again?
I have both of these book checked out of my library right now, and it's interesting how possible it seems that our country may do this again.  Force certain people into internment camps, that is.  Here's a good article about the Japanese internment during World War Two, for which National Geographic will require you to sign up to accept emails before they'll let you read it.  It has a map showing ten camps where people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated, mostly in California.