The Naked Truth, From My Perpective

Sometimes memories are clear as a bell, sometimes cloudy.  Most the time memories are different depending on who’s they are.  One such memory as vivid as if it happened yesterday for me and two of my brothers.  Oh how different our memories are:  the facts are the same, but the emotion is completely different.  This is a summer story.  Still, it’s on my mind because both Loren and Frank shared their version with me this past year.

I told you before about our camping trips.  All eleven of us slept and changed in one big army tent with wooden poles and canvas army cots.  Man-o-man, those cots Continue reading

The Naked Truth, From My Perspective

Sometimes memories are clear as a bell, sometimes cloudy.  Most the time memories are different depending on who’s remembering.  One such memory as vivid as if it happened yesterday for me and two of my brothers.  Oh how different our memories are:  some of the facts are the same, but the emotion is completely different.

I told you before about our camping trips.  All eleven of us slept and changed in one big army tent with wooden poles and canvas army cots.  The only time we went in the tent were:  to change clothes, to sleep, to put things away after clean-up.  That last one is the one that got me into trouble.

When I was a little girl, taking turns was part of everyday life, like breathing.  Especially with work.  Even on vacation I had jobs; only I liked the jobs better ‘cuz everything was outside.  I liked to stay in my bathing suit all day long, but most mornings the first week of August it was too cold, so  I wore jeans, and a sweatshirt.  Sometimes I wore the sweatshirt inside out, ’cause the right side was dirty. I only had one small box for clothes, so I get inventive. I was messy and Mom hated that.  She said even poor people could afford soap, so there’s no excuse for being dirty.

Anyways, I had to do dishes after lunch, just my turn that’s all, and I was in a hurry, on account of the rain clouds breaking up, and the sun was shining down, and well, pretty soon I was going to be hotter than blazes.

The dishes got stored in the tent.  So of course I marched myself right in there, lickety-split, and was marching myself right out again when I heard my name called out in an angry voice. Uh-oh, how could I be in trouble for putting things tidy and neat.  Still, that happened to me more than I liked to say, ‘cuz some times, just when I thought I was doing a good job, blammo, trouble came knocking.

“What are you doing?”  Dad said.

Yup.  That was his angry voice, all right enough. Continue reading

Load ’em Up, Head ’em Out

Dad took two weeks of vacation every summer. One week was for getting ready to go, and one week was for the actual vacation. He always took us camping. Dad learned how to camp in the army, but he learned how much fun it could be from Mom. Mom camped when she was a little girl, and that’s before there were even campgrounds.

First off, we had to bake cookies for the trip. Mom had a big lard-tin that had to get filled up with home-baked cookies.

Deanna baked Cherry Winks, yucky, I hated those: marachino cherries and corn flakes. I hated Corn flakes ’cause of the six thousand boxes we ate saving Post Toasties box tops for all those free cereal bowls and juice glasses, and marachino cherries were so sweet they made my teeth hurt.

Vickie made no bake chocolate cookies, that’s the first thing I learned how to make in 4-H Cooking; except for learning how to make a root beer float,  that’s just scooping and pouring. Any do-do bird can do that.

Bonita made peanut butter cookies. Yum, those were best still warm with a glass of good, cold milk. I liked to hold a bite of cookie in my mouth and let the milk soak in. That’s almost the same as dunking, but no crumbs in the milk glass. Mom hated dunking, it was against the rules.

I made chocolate chip cookies, my very favorite kind, and the kind I got my first blue ribbon for in my first year of 4-H. Each of us Big Kids made about 10 dozen cookies each. I had to eat some right out of the oven, ’cause that caramel-good smell with melting chocolate made my mouth get slippery inside and it seemed like those cookies just begged to be eaten. That left a big greasy stain on the newspaper, so I put new cookies on those stains, so Mom wouldn’t know I snitched cookies.

Making cookies took a long time, ’cause I could only bake one sheet at a time, and each sheet took exactly 12 minutes. Let’s see, that’s 12X10 or 120 minutes. Okay that was only 2 hours of baking, but then there was the mixing and washing the dishes, and finally packing into the tin, with a perfect circle of waxed paper between every layer of cookies. Holy smokes, that was a project. Twelve minutes was too long to just sit around staring at the oven, so I liked to read in between. The only trouble was, if I got lost in my book and forgot to set the timer, pretty soon somebody was yelling,

“The cookies are burning,” which was usually Mom, ’cause nobody else paid attention to smoke like Mom did. Grandpa was a fireman, so she knew all about fires and she was scared to death of our house burning. She was always saying, “Are you trying to burn the house down?” That was another one of those questions I wasn’t supposed to answer.

Once I wondered what she would say if
Continue reading

Camping It Old-Style Again

In the Michigan Immense Public Park (Sleeping ...

Image via Wikipedia

Setting up camp for a week of camping is quite a project even today.  Back when I was a little girl there was no high-tech, lightweight fabric or flex-cord aluminum rods, no coolers on wheels, and very little pre-packaged food.

Our tent was like a small canvas circus tent, with poles made of wood and no floor.  The cots we slept on were canvas and wood, and Mom brought along a large cupboard with enough food to feed a small army.  Come to think of it, we were a small army.  Once a fellow camper stopped by and asked Dad how he got all his kids to pitch in and work together so smoothly.  A slow grin spread up one side of his face and lit up his eyes, then washed over the other side of his face before Dad said, “Oh that’s easy.  No one can go to the bathroom until we get camp set up.”  Dad had all kinds of ways to motivate kids without raising his voice.

I loved to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes to camp.  For one thing it was a little closer than Brimley, so Continue reading

Camping It Old-Style

In the Michigan Immense Public Park (Sleeping ...

Image via Wikipedia

Setting up camp for a week of camping is quite a project even today.  Back when I was a little girl there was no high-tech, lightweight fabric or flex-cord aluminum rods, no coolers on wheels, and very little pre-packaged food.

Our tent was like a small canvas circus tent, with poles made of wood and no floor.  The cots we slept on were canvas and wood, and Mom brought along a large cupboard with enough food to feed a small army.  Come to think of it, we were a small army.  Once a fellow camper stopped by and asked Dad how he got all his kids to pitch in and work together so smoothly.  A slow grin spread up one side of his face and lit up his eyes, then washed over the other side of his face before Dad said, “Oh that’s easy.  No one can go to the bathroom until we get camp set up.”  Dad had all kinds of ways to motivate kids without raising his voice.

I loved to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes to camp.  For one thing it was a little closer than Brimley, so it didn’t take us a week of Sunday’s to get there; for another thing, the beach was all white sand and we got to set up camp on a site right on the beach.  That was the berries.  The only down side was that campsite was at the top of a sandy hill that we had to lug all that gear up.  Geez-o-Pete’s, that was tough.  Oh yeah, and getting steaks to hold firm in all that sand was kinda tough, too; but that was Dad’s job; I just had to hold the poles steady while he figured it all out.

Dad drove around and around the campground until he found just the right site for us.  It had to be pretty close to the bathrooms, ’cause one Little Kid was in diapers and another was getting potty-trained; but not too close to the bathrooms or people would be traipsing over our lot.  That was no good.  Then Mom walked around and around the site until she found just the right place for the tent.  She told Dad exactly how to put the tent, where the door should face, and how close to a shade tree.  Then Dad set the tent up with all us kids helping.  Nobody in this world could set that tent up by himself, not even two people could do it.  Sometimes it took two Big Kids just to hold one wooden pole steady.  Once the main poles were up and the ropes staked in, me and Deanna and Bonita put in the wall poles, that was pretty easy.  That tent never, ever ended up exactly where Mom wanted it, but once it was up, there was no way in blue blazes it was getting moved.

Lots of times Bonita and I worked together to put the army cots together.  That was pretty easy until we got to the last peg in the hole for the cross-bar, then Bonita held on tight and braced her feet against the legs of the cot and I pulled hard as I could to get that canvas stretched tight and finally: pop, the last cross-bar was in place.  Vickie and Loren carried the cots into the tent, one at the head, and one at the foot, singing ‘We are Marching to Pretoria” or some other song Mom taught us, and Mom got everything all organized and neat, with all the cots in a row, and everybody’s beer box of clothes underneath.  Little Kids slept toe to toe on one cot, ’cause there was no sense in wasting space.  Mom and Dad had this huge double cot with metal mesh and a thin mattress on top; they always slept together, that’s what married people do.

Mom put the cupboard and the icebox in place, right outside the tent door, and the stove on the picnic table, and finally, we were on Easy Street.  Just beach and sand and cookies and ice cream and adventure.  Sure I still had to help with dishes, making supper, and watch Little Kids, but I liked that stuff anyway; well except for the dishes.  Even doing dishes was fun when I was outside.    I told Dad that in the old days, people just used sand to scrub pans, ”cause Brillo pads weren’t invented.  He said that was a great idea, so I should give it a try.

Carefree Camping

After that we never packed Brillo pads, ’cause sand worked super, and it was a lot more fun scrubbing a pan on the beach, with the sound of the waves and the seagulls all around me.    Dad said that was the best idea ever, and I knew he meant it, ’cause those blue eyes of his never ever lied.  Anytime something got burned on, I volunteered to go scrub the pan.  That happened a lot, ’cause when we were camping, Dad cooked breakfast every day: hot Tang ’cause it seemed like it was always cold and rainy outside in the morning when we camped, bacon, eggs, and the best of all things, bread fried in bacon grease.  That was the most delicious breakfast in the whole wide world.   Once Bonita begged Dad to cook that breakfast at home for us.  It about made me want to throw-up.  I guess some things are only delicious when you’re outside all day and you are really, really hungry, and there’s no Cheerios and fresh milk handy.

A big orange canvas tent with wooden stakes. See the portable cupboard Dad made for Mom.

Most of the time we all just ran around, built camps in the scrub-brush, jumped waves and swam all day.  I tell you, every kid should have the chance to vacation like that:  no TV, no radio, hardly any chores to do, just each other.  We got to know each other in a whole different relaxed way.  Want an ice cream cone?  Let’s walk.  So what if it’s three miles?  We’ve got all day with nothing on the schedule.  Now that’s the berries.

The Naked Truth, From My Perpective

Sometimes memories are clear as a bell, sometimes cloudy.  Most the time memories are different depending on who’s they are.  One such memory as vivid as if it happened yesterday for me and two of my brothers.  Oh how different our memories are:  the facts are the same, but the emotion is completely different.  This is a summer story.  Still, it’s on my mind because both Loren and Frank shared their version with me this past year.

I told you before about our camping trips.  All eleven of us slept and changed in one big army tent with wooden poles and canvas army cots.  Man-o-man, those cots and that tent were so hard to set up, but nobody did anything until camp was tidy and neat.  The only time we went in the tent were:  To change clothes, to sleep, to put things away after clean-up.  That last one is the one that got me into trouble.

When I was a little girl, taking turns was part of everyday life, like breathing.  Especially with work.  Even on vacation I had jobs; only I liked the jobs better ’cause everything was outside.  I liked to stay in my bathing suit all day long, but most mornings the first week of August it was too cold, so  I wore jeans, and a sweatshirt.  Sometimes I wore the sweatshirt inside out, ’cause the right side was dirty. I only had one small box for clothes, so I get inventive, ’cause I was messy and Mom hated messy, even if it was an inside-out kind of neat.  She said even poor people could afford soap, so there’s no excuse for being dirty.

Anyways, I had to do dishes after lunch, just my turn that’s all, and I was in a hurry, ’cause the rain clouds broke up, and the sun was shining down, and well, pretty soon I was going to be hotter than blazes.  I had the dishes to put away, which got stored in the tent.  So of course I marched myself right in there, lickety-split, and was marching myself right out again when I heard my name called out in an angry voice. Uh-oh, how could I be in trouble for putting things tidy and neat.  Still, that happened to me more than I liked to say, ’cause some times, just when I thought I was doing a good job, blammo, trouble came knocking.

“What are you doing?”  Dad said.  Yup.  That was his angry voice, all right enough. Continue reading

Down to Earth Again

I came home from camping this year, a day early.  My I-phone and Weatherbug notified me of pending thunderstorms  the day we planned to break-camp.  There’s nothing worse than taking down a wet tent and packing up wet gear.  Well, on second thought, a week of rainy weather with nine children in a canvas tent might beat all forms of torture.  That’s what happened more than once, when I was a little girl.  Somehow it seemed more like an adventure than any kind of torture.  We always went camping the first week of August when it often rained every day and got pretty darned cold at night.  I’m not sure why Dad picked that time of the year, but he never varied.

Camping Overlooking the Tree Tops

We never knew for sure if it was going to rain all day or just for a little while.  Sometimes we got all cooped up in our tent with nothing to do.  Dad gave us a dime for each fly we could kill while he took a nap.  I got about two dozen, Continue reading