Category Archives: Gloucester

Rolling with Laughter

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Coworkers are my source of humor and constancy in my daily routine.

We tend to miss each other over weekends, sometimes I feel it is due

to our being ‘displaced’ from our lines of preferred professions. All of

my fellow table mates at lunch and break were in other jobs before they

came to work at the warehouse.

When Melvin went off to Massachusetts, the week seemed to drag

forever.

 

This week, just the first three days already, have been hysterical. He

regales us with tall tales of lobster 3 or 4 times eaten daily. He is also

teaching us more and more about the Army life he led.

 

You may remember a long ago post about Melvin being raised by

parents from an island. By the time they came to America, they had

chosen Massachusetts as their home. I think the link, “cous cous” may

connect you to that story. . . We feel this is an interesting ‘thread’ that

connects the two of us. Since my Mom’s parents were both immigrants,

meeting on a street corner in New York City, but choosing to live in

Connecticut. My Grandpa’s father had chosen Massachusetts, where

my Grandpa went to school and his sister lived there, once adults.

Grandpa had moved away from there to go to the engineering or

‘technical college’ in New York City. He knows we both like many of

the New England specialties, too.

 

Melvin had been a good student in school. He decided to go into the

Army to get a ‘free education.’ Instead, he found his true interest or

“calling” in cooking. He did not go to culinary arts institute. He went

to Germany while in the Army, where he had an amazing time learning

about German food preparation. Then, he followed this with his next

tour of duty being spent on the Army base in Hawaii. Where native

fresh fruits are part of the daily Army diet. He excitedly described to us

at break today, they are also cut specially into shapes like lotus flowers

and birds, presented on the platters as ‘garnishes.’

We pursued this culinary specialty subject awhile, “Not in Officer’s

Club, but Mess Hall grub has garnishes?”

“Yes,” Melvin intoned then elaborating, “The different things you

can create varies from vegetables to fruits. A large melon, zucchini,

radishes or apples you make sliced criss-crosses, blanch them in

boiling water and quickly place them in icy water. The hot water gets

them to open up like a lotus blossom.”

He added, “Did you know that the Army never adds new amounts

of a food to an older dish?” (You know how while at a buffet or a

salad bar, they add more potato salad to the old? Nope, this NEVER

happens in the Army dining room!)

 

So, Melvin brought me the delicious German wine last year, which

he mentioned that in Germany at Christmas, the shops downtown

have little tables of treats and ‘shot glasses’ of drinks. They also warm

their wines and give out tastes of these. He contributed to my sense

of ‘culture’ while I shared this with my Mom and family last year.

Mom said a toast in German, which was one about health and love.

(My Mom’s mother was born in Germany. She told me to thank

Melvin. He had bought this on the Rickenbacker Air Force base,

as a gift to me. So thoughtful, you can see why he is a ‘keeper,’

when it comes to friends!)

 

Another morsel he shared with us was of an Army skill he acquired

while in Germany. He informed us they would bring in huge blocks

of ice and there would be one skilled ice sculptor who would create

lovely centerpieces for Army banquets at holidays. He apprenticed

and learned this amazing skill.

Again, we asked Melvin, “Do you mean ordinary Army enlisted men

would have banquets with carved ice decorations on their tables?”

We were incredulous. I am hoping there may be some enlisted men

from the past, who will confirm this outlandish ‘story.’

Really, please let me know. . .

“Yes,” Melvin looked and sounded like he had the Bible and would

“solemnly swear that this was the truth, the whole truth, so help

him God.”

Melvin then proceeded to tell us about mountains, ski cabins and

other etchings in his German ice sculptures. Then, he decided to

mention how he created elaborate Hawaiian ice sculptures with

volcanoes, trees and ocean waves along beaches. He had learned

how to, sculpt detailed floral arrangements out of ice. We wished

he had photographs but we believe his stories.

 

So, when Melvin got back from Massachusetts, we listened to how

he and his ‘my lady’ had lobster omelets, lobster rolls and lobster

linguini. He emphatically repeated this annoying part (we were

jealous, that is why we were annoyed), “I ate lobster 3 or 4 times

a day!” Upon repetition,  we still did not roll our eyes, since he was

entertaining us quite brilliantly. Never a dull moment at the good,

old warehouse with Melvin around.

 

Melvin’s accent had changed over his one week “Back home, out East.”

He vocalizes the sound of his “r’s” to “h’s” so his car was a “cah.” You

could close your eyes and imagine a Kennedy speaking. He sounds so

“cultured.” We tell him he should take his “lady friend” to England

and get their full ‘edification.’ Come back with a British accent. Then,

being the dramatic ‘ham’ that he is, he put his little pinky out and

pretended to hold a tea cup and saucer. He attempted an imitation

British tea party, exclaiming “Cheerio, my deah ones, we need to

order some crumpets and scones.”

 

Melvin told us how offended he was McDonald’s thinks “frappes”

sound like “frapays” while most New Englanders know “frappes”

rhyme with “wraps.” The real ‘frappes’ are delicious old fashioned

milk shakes made of real ice cream and whole milk, with flavors with

real chocolate syrup or real whipped cream. It makes me think of the

rants that began with this funny question, “Don’t you understand the

words that are coming out of my mouth?” from the two movies, with

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour’ (one and two.)

 

Whenever Melvin opens his mouth, we laugh. He is full of spirit, likes

to tease and pull your leg. There is always a chance,  at any moment,

for his voice to  become high-pitched and indignant about something.

This is what he calls his “Ohio homey’s” slang and attitude.

 

The story Melvin finished with was about his days of being the Head

Cook at the Marysville Penitentiary. He claims that at any point in

time, you could run into a sister of a male inmate, while she is in

the female cellblocks. Or a mother! There was a special occasion,

where the Warden had arranged for a comedienne named, Monique,

to entertain the inmates. She is a known African American stand-up

comic, who uses ‘blue’ (vulgar) humor in her sketches and anecdotes.

Melvin smiled wide, snorting while remembering some of the skits

or jokes she told.

Melvin finally stopped laughing and  said, “The Warden got up from

his seat in the front of the room, apparently unaware of her type of

humor, with a bright red face, looking down as he walked to the back

of the room, quietly exiting. Everyone clapped and hooted, encouraging

this Monique to ‘carry on,’ with her crass jokes.”

 

I had a chance to change the subject at second break and told my

good friends that yesterday was the 51st anniversary of Push Button

Telephones. (I had already decided to post about the serious subject

of Malala and her Nobel Peace Prize.) So, you are finding this fact

out a day later than my coworkers!

 

ATT first presented these new phones to Pennsylvania residents on

November 18, 1963. The original Push Button phones had only ten

buttons, while in 1968 they added two more buttons (#) and (*). This

squared off phone replaced my favorite old fashioned  rotary phone.

Going along with the raucous humor and our improved mood, since

it was our Melvin’s long-lost return, we used our fingers to squeeze

our noses, to make our vocalizations to sound nasal and together

we imitated one of the greatest comedians ever, Lily Tomlin, by

chanting:

“One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy” and so forth, making the funny

character of the old time operator from variety shows of the 60’s

of “Ernestine,” come back alive. Tammy and I were rolling while

Melvin, who is a great imitator of voices, was pretending to be

the character.

 

In honor of Melvin, though, I will tell you his favorite singer is not

who you would expect. If you remember my post, “Someone Saved

My Life Today,” you may remember Melvin loves Elton John, so

does his girlfriend. The songs he says are ones that get him up and

dancing are:

“Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.”

Melvin is one ‘hep cat’ who knows how to ‘jive!’

 

Single Ladies Unite!

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On June 4, 1948, Marion Richards placed a greeting card and a corsage on

some of her coworker’s desks. Inside each card, she left a special message

and in honor of her choice of words, there is a holiday on June 4th to celebrate!

She had chosen, you see, women who were over thirty years of age and were

unmarried at the time. She wanted them to feel loved and cared for, despite

their status.

This day is called, “Old Maid’s Day!!”

Oh my! Let’s see, in that time period my Dad was 16 years old and my

Mom was 20 years old.

Both my parents had aunts that were unmarried, due to choice, situation

or loss of a husband. They lived in separate homes, leading active and

productive lives.

My Great Aunt Marie had lost her husband to death while young. She had

worked until she was 67 years old at Gorton’s Fish Company in Gloucester.

She was one of the ‘highlights’ of my 16th summer in 1972. She had a little

red sports car and would take me to the drive-in movies, pick up young (and

cute) hitch-hikers when we were heading out of town. She would carry on the

liveliest and most interesting conversations. She was a good ‘role model’ for

my future dates by being independent and leading a positive life. I remember

one of her favorite outfits that she wore. She had a bright coral blouse and a

beautiful silk scarf with a floral design that included the color of turquoise.

She showed creativity and good fashion sense, which I liked to think about

as time went by She showed a ‘joi de vivre.” She will always be, in my eyes:

Forever young!

When my Great Aunt Marie was 92, I went to visit her. She still had her

own apartment, liked to walk to Bingo, to McDonald’s and the stores

in Gloucester.  When I woke up early to hear her lilting voice raised in

song, I walked slowly and quietly into the kitchen to find her dancing.

There she was floating on her toes, gracefully pirouetting and spinning.

When that song that says, “I Hope You Dance” came out, I carefully copied

all the words and mailed it to her. We were pen pals, and although she

never remarried, she always professed love for Pete, her husband who

had died. She never expressed regrets for not having children and truly

seemed interested in mine. I kept some of her letters, since they hold

such amazing positive words of encouragement. She was not lonely and

made friends up until she died at age 96! No worries for her being an

“Old Maid!” Not in her vocabulary or sensibility.

My Great Aunt Harriet was also a widow, a little older than my Aunt Marie,

but still would take her easel out Bearskin Neck and paint boats and the

infamous Rockport, Mass. red boathouse, Motif Number 1. She also was one

who would hop on her bicycle and go to the other ‘coves’ or inlets to use

her drawing pad. She was quite lively, intelligent and could get my 16 year

old self intrigued in everything from conservation, sea life, and politics!

Mom used to talk about her “elderly old maiden aunts,” which in reality

were cousins of hers. They were retired school teachers. They were not

related, so there were times, much later in my life, that Mom said one

time,

“I think they may have loved each other, choosing to spend their retirement

days, reading and volunteering at the library in Middletown, Ohio.”

Still later, while watching Sean Penn acting as the gay character with the

same name as the movie, “Milk,” she expressed thoughts that her maiden

aunts “may have been” lesbians adding,

“I guess we will never know for sure, since they never told anyone, that I

knew of, in the family.”

Tomorrow, (June fourth), is “My Day!” It may be “Your Day!”

In this world of crazy reasons to celebrate, rejoice in the feeling of being

‘free to choose whatever you wish to do,’ as long as you don’t go out and

break any laws, I don’t care if you even ‘play hooky from work!’

Many women, in today’s society, choose to remain unmarried well past

their 30’s. There is no ‘time limit’ or restrictions or even suggested age

that one must marry now. When women choose to focus on their careers,

their own paths in life, and possibly having children with no marriage

license. . .

I think, “Whatever works for you!”

If you haven’t found Mr. Right, he may just be around the corner.

(At least you have not settled for Mr. Wrong!)

If you are looking for Ms. Right, she may also be just around the corner.

(I hope you catch her eyes!)

If you are content in your ‘Single-dom,’

May it be a kingdom filled with

Joy, Independence and Tranquility!

Who needs an excuse to celebrate being single?

No one needs one, but it is fun to do so, anyway!

Any excuse for a Party of One!

In case you have forgotten the beautiful and inspirational lyrics of

Lee Ann Womack’s song’s lyrics are written by Mark D. Sanders

and Tia Sillers in 2000.

“I Hope You Dance”

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,

You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger.

May you never take one single breath for granted,

God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.

I hope you still feel small

when you stand beside the Ocean.

Whenever one door closes,

I hope one more opens.

Promise me that you’ll give faith

a fighting chance,

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

I hope you dance..

I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,

Never settle for the path of least resistance.

Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking.

Loving might be a mistake but it’s worth making.

Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter.

When you come close to selling out– reconsider.

Give the heaven above more than just a passing glance,

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

I hope you dance…

I hope you dance.

Time is a wheel in constant motion,

Always rolling us along.

Tell me who wants to look back on

their years and wonder where those

years have gone”

(A couple of repeated stanzas and the “I Hope You Dance” repeats.)

If this song isn’t energetic enough, check out Martina Mc Bride’s

song, “This One’s for the Girls.” Of course, you can always rely on

the fun song, even sung by the little Chipmunks’ girlfriends can

be silly to dance to: “All the Single Ladies” by Beyoncé Knowles

and others.

A totally different song, a rowdy and controversial song with

anti-violence message and ending domestic abuse is called,

Independence Day,” sung by Martina McBride. This was not

played on radios because of the difficult subject matter of a mother

fighting back against abuse by burning her family’s home down.

The reason I support this song is due to Martina McBride’s being a

dual spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and

the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“Independence Day” contains a powerful message for those who are

needing an ‘anthem’ to give them ‘backbone’ to get out of abusive

situations. I like it just to shout out the lyrics, “Let freedom ring!”

 

Great Aunt Marie’s Love Story

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I had a wonderful 16th summer up in Rockport, Massachusetts. I was a candy clerk

at Tuck’s Pharmacy where my Great Uncle George and his wife Great Aunt Dorothy lived

upstairs. I simply called my great uncle, “Uncle George” and my great aunt, “Aunt Dot.”

My other house mate was Great Aunt Marie. She was much younger than the couple

mentioned. She was 16 years older than my mother! I will tell you that my mother was

42 and so, Aunt Marie was 58 years old. She was a former beauty queen!

Aunt Marie and I were the best of pals when I was off work and she was off work from

her job at Gorton’s Fish Factory. She would come in singing and greet me. I sometimes

would leave her a note that I went off with my friend, JoEllen, who lived in Rockport and

was in her senior year in high school. We would sometimes go to a nearby quarry or one of

the many wonderful beaches along the coast.

Aunt Marie would take a lemon from the refrigerator and cut it in half. She kept the other half

for the next day. She used 1/4 of the lemon to add to her sweetened tea, the other half to scrub

her hands and cuticles daily. “This ritual,” she told me, “started when I was married to your

Uncle Pete.” My antenna went up and I waited patiently for her to tell me about him. My Mom

had filled me in on some of the details but I wanted my Aunt Marie’s “embellishments!”

My Mom had always been enchanted by my Aunt Marie and now, I had become so attached to

her and  enjoyed her stories! Everywhere we went, even as far as Gloucester, everyone knew my

Aunt Marie. She had won, in her twenties, the crown title of “Miss Cape Ann.” She had also gone

on to be in the running for Miss Massachusetts! She was one of thirty finalists but never made it to

the ‘real finals of that beauty pageant.’  I am not sure if they stopped at twenty contestants on the stage

or if her memory of the numbers had faded. This would have been in the days of radio shows!

But there, in all its glory, was a huge almost 3 foot tall silver Trophy in her special antique curio cabinet

with the leaded glass doors!

I was waiting for her love story first and her pageant story second!

Aunt Marie got a misty eyed look over her face when she mentioned Uncle Pete. She usually was silent

about him. She said that he had been sitting at a diner in Gloucester, a typewriter propped right on the

table, eating scrambled eggs, toast and bacon. He had a jaunty hat on his head and looked so rugged

and handsome that while Aunt Marie was chatting to her good friend, Elizabeth, she tried to catch his

eye.

“I raised my voice just a little octave higher and louder, trying to still sound sweet and genteel.”

(This is true, my dear Aunt Marie almost sounded British at times, not the typical New Englander!

She had come over as a baby when my Grandpa Mattson had come over as a teenager from Sweden

with their whole family. His accent was entirely different from Aunt Marie’s.)

Anyway, she stopped rubbing the lemon on her fingers and took her shoes off. She got a wash cloth,

filled the sink up with bubbles and hot water, then came back to the bed where I was perched. Aunt

Marie was so sentimental and she was not looking sad while she told this tale. She proceeded to wash

her feet and add a thick lotion to them, along with a pair of white cotton socks, telling me her story.

“Your Uncle Pete stopped typing to hear my voice, I could just tell I was getting his attention and making

an impact!”

I inquired with anticipation, “What were you wearing, Aunt Marie?”

This is an important fact if you are a young woman of 16 years old and have seen the beautiful wardrobe of

a “legend” in your personal life. I always coveted some of Aunt Marie’s fancy clothes and told her often that

she had a closet that would compare to a movie star. I had already been in high school drama for 2 years

and felt that her style and grace equaled many movie stars! If you saw her when I was 22, 6 years later, you

would not believe she was 64! She is in many of my first wedding pictures because the photographer just loved

her looks!

My Aunt Marie walked over to the closet and brought out a pretty light mint green filmy blouse (she had auburn

hair like my mother’s with green eyes: this would be so perfect to bring the eyes out!) and showed me a flared

skirt that was a pastel floral one, it reached below her knees.

She said, “I had my hair back from my face with a pink scarf so while we drove around the countryside that day,

Elizabeth was the driver, I didn’t have my hair go haywire!”

I gave a little sigh, said, “That was a perfect outfit! It would compare to Audrey Hepburn’s in “Roman Holiday!”

Well, finally she got to the details of when Pete got up and leaned over the booth from behind her head. She said,

“I always wondered if he was being coy about his looking at Elizabeth while he chatted with us!”

His conversation revolved around “What had they been up to this fine Saturday morning?” along with,

“What were your plans for the afternoon?” and finally, “Are you two beautiful women going to the dance tonight

at the square in Rockport, by any chance?”

Each time they answered, “Not much” or “We don’t have any plans.”

But, my Aunt Marie being born gutsy, burst out at the last question, “Only if you will meet us by Tuck’s Pharmacy!”

Pete answered, “Why certainly! I could pay for you gals’ ice cream sundaes, if you like!”

She continued to tell her love story about the much older newspaper journalist who asked her to “live in sin!”

She also said, “No, thanks!”

She did manage to get a proposal after only 2 months of dating and handholding with no romance allowed.

Aunt Marie has told me that she was proposed to and asked to live with at least 25 men over the course of her

life up until this conversation!

When they married, she moved into his large house and she helped him to rent some of the rooms. She would

cook when she got off work and clean on weekends. She said that her habit of singing in the morning and also,

at bedtime were, “some of Pete’s favorite moments. He would grab me around the waist and swing me around to

the music on the radio. If it were a slow song, we would just sway back and forth. He would make me swoon all

over again!”

Aunt Marie told me that Uncle Pete was a “creative type” and had been around the world, she felt fortunate to have

him as her husband. She did not fuss over his drinking every night whiskey ‘straight up’ nor did she get upset that

he went downhill earlier than she would have liked. She felt the compensation of having been “well loved” made

up for his “sickness.” He died only ten years after they married. They never had children nor did she ever consider

another marriage proposal again.

(The pharmacy although run by Uncle George Tuck as the pharmacist, his brother Roger made candy and ice

cream for which I have met people who remember how delicious those treats were. By the time I worked there, in

the summer of 1972, the soda fountain no longer existed but I sold candy there behind the glass cases. Of course,

the ice cream was there when Aunt Marie met and was courted by Uncle Pete. It also was there when WWII ended

in Europe and Mom was serving up the lots of celebratory ice cream cones then.)

True Life Fairy Tale: Love Foreign Style

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While visiting mom up here in Cleveland, I like to have her recount the tales of the

beginnings of our fairy tale.

Her grandfather John was a stone mason who was living in Sweden, building a wall

in an aristocrat’s garden. The aristocratic daughter would sit outside and watch him,

reading books and sometimes throwing glances at her proletariat working man.

He shared a dream with her, to go to America and build castles and walls up and

down the Eastern coast. They ran away, married and crossed the ocean to America.

They lived in Massachusetts, he built a lot of stone walls using the granite from the

area, he built a castle in Gloucester, he loved his family. His wife asked him to build

her a wall around a garden. She wanted beautiful roses and fancy flowers. He did make

this garden for her, in the midst of those superb flowers, lo and behold, he also had

some tomato plants. His practical side and her dreamy princess side always meshed

together like a quilt of many patches and beautiful colors.