Saturday, October 31, 2015

On the cusp of invention

My first job was working as a file clerk at NCR in the NCR Paper division. I was just a kid learning the ropes of working in a big office. It was not long until I was at a typewriter, answering phones and making copies. This is where I had first-hand experience with progress. We loaded up the typewriter with paper, carbon paper, paper. Most of the time, I had blue fingers and a waste basket full of mistakes.

Our copy methods were archaic as well. The first copier I used was a reflex copy machine. This nasty thing required toxic chemicals and copies that smelled like dirty socks. The copies faded over time and the special paper was thin. My finger tips were blue and now smelly. Thank goodness that our first Xerox machine came into being. We were one of the first to get this fantastic copier as we were NCR Paper, and this was a necessary piece of equipment to our product testing.

So what is NCR Paper? Well, one of our think tank people named Dr. Barry Green came up with a process called encapsulation. Ink filled capsules covered a sheet of paper. When pressure was applied, the cells broke and the image appeared. No more blue fingers and  less mess. Working in this ground breaking division equated to adventure. We secretaries became their trial and error workers. Yardley wanted paper that smelled of red roses, so we typed on paper encapsulated with ink and the essence of a flower garden. Believe me, you can only take so much of smelling roses. We sat on the paper to see what effect it had on the capsules. We tested different processes in ways to make typing corrections on this new paper. We typed on multiple pages and stored them to test longevity of imprint.

I seemed to advance quickly from file clerk to executive secretary. We grew from a small office to one that was in demand due to the fast growing market. Soon we advanced from encapsulated paper to time-released capsules and heat sensitive products that became fads. I have one of the first mood rings that was developed by our department.

In 1978 our division was sold to Appleton Papers in Appleton, Wisconsin. They were already making our paper, so sending us up north made sense. I was in a family way and planned to be a stay-at-home mom. The years I had worked for the company had been interesting and fascinating. It was difficult to sit on the sidelines.

My grandkids do not know the name NCR. They have no idea what impact our division had in all fields. I just bought time-released vitamins and remembered those days again. Mood necklaces and rings still are in stores. We have gone from carbon paper to encapsulated paper to computers. A whole new field has opened. Sometimes I feel as though my life has been a series of beginnings. I have seen the end of one process and the beginning of a new one. Working at NCR allowed me to see a process of where an idea became reality. It was exciting, fascinating.

Once in awhile I put on that old mood ring just to check out to see how my mood is doing after so many years. I do believe that the color has gotten a bit warmer over time. I grew up quickly back then. Working in the city in a professional field taught me about a wider world. Working with a group of wonderful people who took me under their wings, taught me about the business world and life. I learned to stand up on my own and evolve with the changes that were taking place in our society.

From blue tipped fingers to a mood ring. From Red Roses to time-released capsules. From Ohio to Wisconsin. On the cusp of invention.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Almond, the other milk

milk
milk/noun
1.
an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.
 
Hm. Milk. Have been drinking it all my life. Dad stopped milking cows before I came on the scene, but the milking parlour is there, so no doubt about it. We had fresh milk. Hollie milked cows. Uncle Keith milked cows. Grandad had a herd of milk cows. I never doubted where milk came from. Kitties drank fresh milk straight from the cows from a little tin pan. Hm. I am confused.

Rice milk. Soy milk. I sit watching a commercial for Almond Milk and am totally blown away at the image that crosses my mind of little almonds in the cattle yokes waiting to be milked. Hm. It must be very difficult to milk a little almond. I guess the same applies to rice and soy beans. Confusing to say the least.

I can see it all now. Children no longer sure of the source of milk or the use of milk cows. Those children raised on formulas that come from a powder would be surprised that true milk comes in liquid form. Every time I see the Almond Milk ad, the farm girl in me says, "uh-uh". Not true. You cannot milk an almond. Of course, no one is listening. No one seems to care. And the guy drinking the Almond Milk seems content. My guess is that he does not even like milk but is making good money doing the commercial.

Perhaps we had some confusion as kids as to the source of chocolate milk. Did it come from brown cows? If so, why would anyone have any other type of cow. It is indeed a milky situation.

I guess as a child I, too, was confused that we had beef cattle that were not milked. In my head full of questions, I wondered why the calf could get milk from the cow, but dad did not milk the cow. On top of that, I totally disliked the idea that the said calf would be raised for the dinner table. I much preferred to have it milked. Dad and I did not see eye to eye on the subject.

Every definition I looked up for milk said that it does indeed come from a cow. Daniel Webster would certainly be confused. Even the Old English Dictionary is sure that milk comes from bovine. Never have I questioned the dictionary. Nowhere in the tomes does it say that you can milk an almond. So what's up with this?!?!?!

Milkweed. Milk maids. Milk glass. Milky Way.  Milkman. Milk of human kindness. Perhaps I have milked this column much too long. Hm......coconut milk. Argh!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Only the keepers

There were no new homes in the neighborhood when I was growing up. All of the homes had a history. Most began long before each family came to reside. The barns were wood. Some built even before the houses were raised.

The house my Uncle Keith and Aunt Katerine Loxley lived in was fascinating. A big cement porch sat to the side of the house. We imagined everything from carriages dropping people off guests at the platform to children playing on the slab at recess. The old brick house had many bedrooms upstairs and small rooms downstairs. So what was this house at one time? Was it just a quirky farm house or something no one can now recall?  It was a strange house. One that inspired imagination.

Our house was a log house. Long ago it had been sided and painted white, but those of us who lived in it had seen the massive logs in the walls. The axe marks revealing the work it took to fell the trees. Horses must have dragged the huge logs to the spot where a two-story house would stand. The only current signs of those old logs were those of wide window sills the width of the logs and the wide beams that spanned the basement. A house that had seen many seasons. A house that held the scents of food cooked over a fire then later a range. Trees that give up their leaves and lives to secure a home for a family long before the Loxley's came to reside.

Many of the old wood barns are gone. New metal sheds pepper the landscape. Old houses have gone away, leaving space for a new one. Some have been remodeled just as ours had been by my parents and now by the new family who lives there. Old home; old history. I personally think that a journal should be kept with each house. A log of the journey of an old house.

A house has a life of its own. It changes with every new owner. We see it in the layers of wallpaper and the bits of old paint that hides in the corners. Sometimes we see it in last remnants of a house frame or maybe even in a deserted house. Each has a story. We are only the keepers for short time. We are allowed live within its walls and capture its moments on film.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

It's in our roots


The old tom turkey was puffed up and angry. Every face was pinned to his blue face. Well, all except Nolan's, "MeMe, tractor!!!!"
My grandchildren have never been back to Neff Road. They have not asked many questions of my growing up. To them, my childhood is foreign and so far away from all they know and have experienced. So when we go to the pumpkin patch, they get a glimpse of what I already know.
The twins wiggled little fingers through the fence to touch a bunny. Emma picked out a mostly-white pinto horse she wanted to ride and claimed as hers. A big tom turkey put on quite a show with his blue face and angry puffing up of his feathers. Piglets chewed on my fingers. Emma asked questions and Nolan's little eyes followed every tractor that passed by.
For me, it was pure joy watching them experience what I took for granted most of my life. I love my urban life but am so grateful for my childhood years on the farm. Emma asked about the animals that lived behind my house. She was trying to comprehend what it would be like to have animals so close, to be able to see them every day.
My son lifted the kids up on a big John Deere. Both kids grabbed the wheel and imagination took over. The little boy who plays with toy trains, trucks, cars and tractors was actually on a full-sized one. Pure joy. Emma who also has grown up with the same loved the feel of that big beast as much as did her brother. It was then that I noticed the smile on my son's face. This was about more than taking his kids to get pumpkins. He had touched on a memory. The days of his grandparents' farm were something he wanted to share with his children.
We walked over to the play area. Somehow I ended up taking the kids down the big, fast slide while my son took the pictures. James walked over to the barn and was talking to the lady there. He peeked inside at the bale maze and turned around laughing, "When I was a kid, we made tunnels like this out of my grandpa's bales."
The woman said, "I bet your grandpa wasn't happy about that!" Well, she did not live in that house back the lane. She did not know that every kid around the area had played in that barn and built mazes and tunnels out of bales. Sometimes Dad even helped.
We rode the hayride back to the barn after we found our pumpkins, Nolan picking out the seat immediately behind the tractor. I saw in my son's face the joy of the once boy. Nolan and Emma's world grew a bit more that day.
My old saddle sits in the kid's playroom.  When we returned home, Emma ran to the saddle, "MeMe, is this how you get on the saddle?" She asked swinging her short leg high and wide. "I'm going to ride my white horse someday. Okay, MeMe?"
Oh, Emma, some day you will ask the questions and learn about Neff Road. You will pull up this experience and realize that the saddle you own was once on my horse. You will look at old pictures and marvel at the wonderful life I lived. Once a farm girl, always a farm girl…..it's in our 'roots'.