Monday, April 30, 2012

The Notebook

Social media has opened many doors of communication, not just that between old friends. Sometimes it reaches out to even those who still use a horse and buggy for transportation. Sometimes reaching from the beyond. Always adding surprises to my life.

Janet, my friend and neighbor from Neff Road, and I keep track of one another on Facebook. A couple of weeks ago, I got a message from her that another neighbor (Janet) had an old notebook of my mother's that she wanted to send to me and needed my address.

How exciting! I could not wait to receive it. The small package came. Inside was little Royal Note Book that had been my mother's in the 8th grade. It was Book Two. I was thrilled because I have Book One. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember that Mom had given Janet the book for her kids to learn history for inside this note book were Mom's history notes.

Some of my favorite questions and Mom's answers:

Give duties of the Mayor of a city:  keep streets clean, watch people from wrong, fire escapes are kept clean. (I not sure if this was literal.)

I stole a horse. Is it a civil or criminal case: Criminal case (Mom did not steal a horse.)

Give the laws regarding the speed of automobile:  35 mile an hour (Highways were 70 when I was a a young woman driving to Dayton to work.)

What is our gasoline tax: 2 cents on every mile (I imagine that gasoline was not much more than the tax back then.)

The last president she listed was Calvin Coolidge. It was another time. My mother was young, a school girl. Times have changed and so to has Neff Road.

Janet sent a short note along with the book. Her son and his wife own the house back the lane. The circle of life. A young family living in my once home. She told me that now a cute calf, a dog named Toby and a new puppy, Lucy, are sometimes in the yard along with a roaming piggy. She gave me this notebook, but even more, she has given me some time back home again.

We have come a long way from a speed limit of 35 and president named Coolidge. The country has change as well as the home on Neff Road. I received a gift in the mail. I received a memory.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Preserving the Past

This week in the Greenville Daily Advocate was an article about tours in the old historical buildings of downtown Greenville. The tours will be of the upper floors of the old buildings. Wow, how I was there.

I love going home. Home being Neff Road. My trips to Greenville are special, because I am catapulted once more into my childhood memories. Okay, I know, I am easily catapulted, but I think it is important to remember those places which could so easily be replaced by something 'new and better'.

Mom, Peg, June and I walked into the Palace Department Store almost every Saturday. It was on the corner across from Gray's Jewelers. Across the street was the movie theatre. The Palace had jewelry in the front cases. We walked past the cases to the back of the store to look at shoes. We didn't buy much when we went to town, but Mom loved to shop. Sometimes she had to take her small daughter to the restroom which was up a small flight of stairs. It was a rather remarkable set up. A place to powder your nose and a place another couple of steps up to......well, you get the picture. We rode the elevator to the second floor. Mirrors, rounders and rows of clothing lined the walls. The Palace was a marvelous place for a little girl's memories.

We parked at the end of the street walking up one side then down the other. Always we stopped at the music store for a new piece of sheet music or a new reed for my saxophone. Concerts at Memorial Hall. A new book from the library. The fountain. City Hall. History everywhere we looked.

My cousin Sue and I sat in the Montage Cafe last summer. The store I remember in this spot was where our neighbor Lois had a flower shop. The stores look the same on the outside. The names and businesses change. Still those old buildings hold the memories of generations of shoppers who went downtown or into town to shop. Memories that might just still reside in the upper floors of old buildings.

Hm. Wishing I was on a tour....or maybe I just took one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Old Hippy

He came into the store again. He had been there before with another leather-bound friend. I'm not sure where the bikes were parked, but I knew an old biker when I saw one....who wouldn't!

Sometimes people come into the store with their stories. They don't realize it when they walk in, but they want to talk. I would make a good bartender. Seems like people always bring their stories to me. I don't mind listening. If I were on the other side of that bar, I'd want someone to listen to me. Okay, it's not a bar, its the counter at Hallmark.

I don't know what brought on this conversation, but this man in the leather jacket with his belly hanging over his belt and an unkempt beard on his chin wanted to talk. We started talking about the music of the sixties and the unrest that came along with it. Soon we were sharing stories of this aged 60's generation who stretched the limits in a 50' thinking society.

"I was kicked out of school for wearing shoes without socks," he said. Then he added, "That was the first time. The principal came up to me at a ballgame and told me that I didn't look like one of their students and needed to leave. He then kicked me out of school because my hair was too long."

It took me back. We had a student in our class who was suspended because he had long hair. It probably didn't help that he wore a leather jacket as well. He didn't look like the rest of us in our 'acceptable' clothing.

This man before me went on to tell me that he had done the drug thing along with the hippie movement. After his life dipped as low as it could go, he got his GED then put himself through college receiving a Masters in chemistry. Now he was retired from Intel and missing the old days when 'freedom' was new. Dick Clark had just died along with Levon Helm of The Band. This guy was feeling his age.

I didn't have much to add to this conversation. I was just the Hallmark 'bartender'. I stood there with dust cloth in hand thinking that I should be drying a beer mug. He left the store telling me he would be back again. I knew he would. I think I need a tip jar.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Place Called Home

It was a home to many. Over time, it became the home to hundreds. My great grandparents were there before it began.

The Brethren Retirement Community celebrates 100 years. I cannot think of the Home without thinking of the family and friends who resided and who reside there. Sweet visits to dear people. Friends of Neff Road gathered in one home together. They visit one another, dine together and pray under the same roof. A place to give honored seniors a place to go to rest after a life of labor. A place to heal in loving arms.

The Hollingers  Back Row: My grandmother Ethel, my dear Aunt Alma, Roy  Front Row: Esther (Alma Lea's mother), Jeremiah and Angelina, Ernest
I found my Great Grandmother Angelina Bookwalter Hollinger's obituary. She died in March 1950. Jeremiah, my great grandfather, passed in 1937. Angelina and Jeremiah were teachers. Her obituary reads:  Several years ago Mr. and Mrs. Hollinger served as superintendent and matron, respectively, of the Greenville Brethren church home. A place that would later become the Brethren Retirement Center.

I never knew my Great Grandmother. Vaguely, I remember sitting on her lap. I was only two when she died. From the stories I have heard from my father and my cousin, Alma Lea, I know that my great grandparents were very loving people. I can only imagine the love and care they gave to the elderly of Greenville while raising children of their own.

One hundred years ago, the Brethren Home began. My great grandparents were part of that long history of giving. I remember standing in the door of the County Home in Greenville when I was just a tot. Mom shoved me to the front of the caroling group, so I could sing for the older adults. I was frightened of all of the people staring at me. Little did I know that I gave them reason to smile and something to remember.

Happy Anniversary to the Brethren Retirement Center. Even more, congratulations to Greenville for sharing in the rich history of a caring community.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another Spring

Spring comes, and I am once more a little girl waiting for the lambs to be born and mushroom season to set in. Today we will hang with the lambs.

A friend of mine recently told me that a local business has baby bunnies, ducks, chicks and lambs. Sweet spring babies. I definitely need to stop in for visit.

For every spring since I've been writing this blog, I have talked about baby lambs. Perhaps that is one of my fondest memories of the farm. I didn't remember my grandfathers having sheep. So baby lambs were a treat to the girls who grew up on Neff Road.

I was delighted when I looked through the old pictures sent to me when my cousin passed and found this one of Mom feeding the lamb a bottle. This picture of my mother with her nephew, Leon. The baby lamb brought several questions to mind.  Mother never talked about liking sheep. Maybe she didn't. I'll never know. The barns look to be those of Pop Johnson's, but there again, I don't remember sheep on that farm.

When Dad brought home the two small lambs, we were thrilled. We hadn't been around sheep. This was a new experience....or was it?

I love this picture. My mother loved her nephew, a relationship that lasted their time together. Learning about Mom as a child is only possible now through pictures. There are no others who remember. Perhaps this bit of writing will preserve a little more history for the generations of children to come. A small profile of a wonderful woman.

It was another spring.


Obviously, change did not work for me so here we are trying on a new template. Bear with me, please.
  1. Street the person lives on: Neff Road
  2. House number:  4 (I wasn't born yet)
  3. Number of household in order of visitation: Too many to count
  4. Is the home owned or rented? Yes
  5. Value of the home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented: Ask the bank
  6. Does the person's household live on a farm? Of course, this is where you came to take the census.
  7. Name: Willard I. Loxley
  8. Relationship with the head of household: One in the same
  9. Sex: With a name like Willard, I had best be a man.
  10. Color or race: Both
  11. Age at last birthday: 27
  12. Marital status: Still in love
  13. Did the person attend school or college at any time in the past year?: Are you kidding?!
  14. What was the highest grade of school that the person completed?: As high as the grades went.
  15. Person's place of birth: Across the road
  16. If foreign born, is the person a citizen?: Of course not.
Such would be my answers to the 1940 census that was taken when someone drove back the lane and knocked on the door of the house on Neff Road. I wasn't born yet. I wish I had been. I'm sure Mom made pie that day and the census taker had piece of it. I know I would have had a lot add to the questions, especially at the age I'm at now.

What was it like to live in a time when there were fewer people? A time when farms dotted the landscape and kids did chores before they went to school? What was it like when you went to town and knew most of the people you passed on the street? If you didn't know them, you still stopped to chat. What was it like to live in a time......

It is hard for me to think of my parents that young. A young couple waiting for their second child. A young couple struggling to make ends meet. A boy now a man working his own farm, worrying about keeping up with all the expenses. A man with a pair of Belgian horses in the barn instead of a tractor. My would have been mother in the house baking, washing clothes in the wringer washer, watching over her three-year-old.

A war was raging. Young men were dying and families perished in concentration camps. Farmers were exempt so that they could feed a country and the armies that went to war. It was 1940.

The census taker knocked on the door. Ah, another visitor to the Loxley house. I'm sure with each question asked, my parents gave them a story with each answer. A time when life was simpler and people were more easily counted.

Occupation: Writer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Grossly Overstated

I love NPR (National Public Radio). It is thought provoking and enlightening. It makes me laugh and makes the world closer to me.

The country was full of farmers until machinery changed the face of small farming.This morning I was listening to a program about how machines began to replace workers in the sixties. A tomato picker was developed once tomatoes could be produced that were uniform in size. The picker replaced "the picker". The conversation went on talking about how grossly overworked the field workers had been. Grossly overworked.

As I have said, we raised tobacco. It was hard, back-breaking work, but it is what we did as farm families. We worked hard. It was the way of it then.

I guess I was a little offended of the term 'grossly'. These radio people didn't live back the lane. It was a rough life that sometimes was made worse depending on the weather. However, that said, it was a wonderful life. Sometimes my sisters and I talk of the different life my mother might have wished for, but in truth, my mother was very happy woman. She loved working beside my dad. She loved the freedom of the farm. She did her work always with a song on her lips as did my dad. They loved the community that shared the same struggles and successes. The only thing gross about that life was hulling manure.

Larger machinery made life for the small farmer difficult. Either he borrowed on the farm to buy more land and machinery to keep up with the changing time or he retired. I thank God that my father was a man who retired in his own time and then lived a wonderful life of contentment with the woman he loved.

Life was good back the lane on Neff Road.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Learning the Ropes

Last night I attended a concert given by one of the students I knew from my years of working at the high school. She is now forty-eight. Where did the years go? Janet was our lead in the musical "Music Man". She has come a long way from Marian the Librarian. We knew Janet had an incredible voice. Until last night I had no idea of its beauty. Janet Chvatal is a well-known opera singer in Germany. You can find her music on utube. She just happened to walk into my store yesterday. Very lucky for me for I got an invitation to a concert.

In her opening speech last night, she talked about the role of the church in her career. She grew up singing at church. Her mother, Nancy, was the choir director. She was one of the singing kids at the high school who had similar experience in their growing up years. Children with lovely voices and a congregation giving them total support. It was the way I grew up.

My mom was the church choir leader, along with a dozen other jobs. She loved to sing and was always ready to stand my sister then me in front of the congregation, usually with a song that was way out of my range. But sing I did. I personally think she taught me stage fright. But there were those who embraced the experience in front of an audience. Even when adults, they were invited to come sing at church. We were never without a loving audience. I was always told that we were wonderful.....even when I just stood there staring and not singing. We were always asked to sing again and again.

When my son began his singing career, Mom got him in front of that same congregation. He was "Pam's boy". He sang a song about love of family and friends. As he sang, Kleenex were passed down the pew. James didn't realize what his song represented. He was a fourth generation of singers who stood in the front of this congregation. It began with a grandfather and now a great grandson. I knew the congregation would talk about this day. I knew they would remember the other men of our family who sang.

What a lovely place to learn to sing. A loving congregation giving a gift of a lifetime.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Awakener of Memories

Memory keeper. I think perhaps that is the who I'd like to be thought of. A memory keeper. Maybe Memory Awakener. Hm. I think I like that better. What brought this on, you ask? An email.

I received an email this morning from a reader of my newspaper column. She thanked me for writing the column and said that it brought her memories back to her, that we seemed to share similar lives with our families. I remember her. Linda was ahead of me in school, but I remember her well. I guess I would be more amazed if she remembered me.

Awakening memories. Two words I like singularly and even better when connected. This entire blog is about memories. I find that the more I write, the more the memories rap at the door of my awareness. I hadn't really thought that they were the same type of memories that other families shared, too. I was a kid and didn't stay there to build more memories with my fellow Franklin Township people. I took my recollections of the past, of my family, of my then neighbors with me. I didn't think of what was happening in other homes. Now I hunger to learn more. I want to sit on the porches and talk for hours over coffee and scenery. I want to learn the history of those others who had their own Neff Road. I want once more to embrace old friends and acquaintances.

I'm not sure where this journey is leading me. It started with a weekly column I wrote in a weekly office memo. Then it grew into a column in a Newsletter. From there it drew me to a blog and a newpaper column in my 'hometown' paper. Best of all, it has lead me to other people and their memories. It takes me home again and again. Walking into the past with those who walked it with me. All of them Memory Awakeners.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Thread

They were the last visitors to the house before my father passed. Old friends with whom many a birthday was celebrated. Helen had been married to my cousin Lyle long before I was born. They divorced. She later married Joe. Their home was always full of laughter and fun. When they came to visit, they brought the fun with them. Helen and Joe were family.

I had lost track of them years after the death of my dad. Distance takes a toll. Sometimes the toll is friendship. I decided to try to track them down late last year. I made a call to a once boy, now man, named Barry and introduced myself. Before long I had another call from his sister. I had not seen them since they were children. Jo Ellen, whose birthday was a day behind mine, caught up with me. It seemed that once again I was in the embrace of home and wonderful memories.

I received an email from Helen on April 4th. She passed on April 6th. I don't know if she read my reply. With her goes, too, the last to who remember my mother's family. One who knew my grandparents and the rest of the Johnson children.

For those of us who are blessed to find pieces of our past and those people who were part of our lives, we are given a beautiful gift. Perhaps someday someone will seek us out. That thread that ties us together is truly strong and a gift to those of us who grab hold of it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Little Peeps

Little peeps. They came in big boxes that had holes on all sides. Some were punched out so the little peeps could get air. Brenda and I pushed the little plugs in then stuck our fingers into the holes. The little birds would peck at the appendages invading their safe domain.

It was an exciting day on the farm when baby chicks arrived. The brooder house had been cleaned with the warmer in place. Brenda and I would never give over our little playhouse for anything less than new chickies. Dad removed the top of the box. A few chicks were strong enough to hop from the box. He allowed Brenda and I to take the remaining chicks out and to move them to the warming hood. The brooder house was full of flying chicks and the smell of baby chickens.

With Easter coming, I'm reminded of the time spent with those baby chicks. They didn't stay small for very long and, with their growth, our interest waned. The sweet downy bodies were replaced with prickly quills of new feathers. The little pecks turned into nasty ones. They would soon leave the brooder and go to the chicken house.

Maybe Easter was more special for us with the baby chicks and little bunnies that grew up on our farm on Neff Road. The spring lambs chased their mom's across the barnyard. It was a time of new life, a time of celebration.

Almost makes me want to go to the feed store and get a couple of chicks.....almost.

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Look for an Old Blog

I've been playing around with blog I'm sure you can tell. I decided that I needed a new look that presented more to the reader. I love the way this style shows the pictures of my home and the people on Neff Road. By tabbing through the bar at the top, you can see a variety of pages. I hope you like this new look of Neff Road.

Changes. We all go through changes except for many who refuse to change. Changes were essential on the farm in order to produce better crops. Finding methods for better yields. Purchasing equipment to make the task of the farmer easier and giving the farmer opportunity to increase his property. Changes were essential as with any part of life. Move forward or be left behind.

I learned creative thinking on the farm. Looking for new ways to make life easier. It was a great day for Mom and Dad when the microwave came into the kitchen. The deep fat fryer was long gone and health got a boost. The farm was tiled in order to drain off the excess water that stood in the fields when rain was insistent. Changes.

There a chance of being left behind if we don't adjust and change. I think perhaps our brains agree with us either way. They agree that they can't change or they agree to accept challenge. I decided to tell my brain that we were accepting challenge today. We are moving from the old format into a more updated look. We are leaving the apron behind and wearing skinny jeans.

I hope you find this change pleasing. I hope you continue to find your way to Neff Road.