Bachman-Turner Overdrive

“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

November 9, 2021

This band achieved international fame when its song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” hit number one on the Billboard charts November 9, 1974.

Simply saying the letters B-T-O is enough for most who were teenagers in the 1970’s. For those who don’t know, the group is Bachman-Turner Overdrive which, for a few short years, was able to pack stadiums and concert halls with their rock and roll music.

Randy Bachman played with a group called Brave Belt whose sound was decidedly country. That all changed one night. We go to the Infallible Wikipedia to learn about the group’s beginning:

 “…the seeds of the BTO sound were sown at a university gig in Thunder Bay, Ontario, shortly after (Chad) Allan’s departure. A promoter, disheartened with reactions to Allan’s country-flavoured songs, which the band was still playing, decided to sack Brave Belt for the Saturday night show and bring in a more rock-oriented replacement from Toronto. When that didn’t materialize, he begged Brave Belt to stay on and play a set of classic rock cover songs. As the band played songs like ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘All Right Now’, the dance floor filled up and, according to Randy, ‘We instantly saw the difference between playing sit-down music people could talk over and playing music they would jump out of their seats and dance to.’

After Reprise Records dropped Brave Belt from their label, Randy Bachman emptied his own bank account to finance another set of recordings with the Brave Belt II lineup, and began to shop around the next album. Said Randy in 1974, ‘I went to A&M, Epic, Atlantic, Columbia, Asylum – you name it. A week later, I’d get letters saying ‘Dear Randy, We pass.’ We’re thinking of calling our greatest hits album We Pass and printing all those refusals on the jacket. I’ve got all 22 of them.’

The band eventually landed a deal with Mercury Records, one which Randy proclaimed as a pure stroke of luck. In April 1973, Charlie Fach of Mercury Records returned to his office after a trip to France to find a stack of unplayed demo tapes waiting on his desk. Wanting to start completely fresh, he took a trash can and slid all the tapes into it except one which missed the can and fell onto the floor. Fach picked up the tape and noticed Bachman’s name on it. He remembered talking to him the previous year and had told Bachman that if he ever put a demo together to send it to him.”

Bachman shared further:

“’I could hear ‘Gimme Your Money Please’ playing in the background, and that was the first song on the tape. Back then, you sent out two 7+1/2-inch reels of your album, an A-side and a B-side, and that was side one, cut one. He said, ‘Randy, this is fabulous. Is the rest of the album like this?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it’s all just good ol’, dancing rock-and-roll.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have a meeting with my A&R people, but as far as I’m concerned, this is great and I want to sign it.’

With their record deal in hand, the group needed a new name. While at a steak house in Ontario, one of the members saw a trucker’s magazine called Overdrive. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Turner wrote ‘Bachman–Turner Overdrive’ and the initials ‘B.T.O.’ on a napkin. The rest of the band decided the addition of ‘Overdrive’ was the perfect way to describe their music.”

The group’s most famous song, perhaps, is one which always gets crowds up and moving, hands inevitably being clapped in time to the memorable beat: Takin’ Care of Business.

Now, to be fair, I knew the group’s songs. I’d danced to them. Truly who had not heard of BTO? But I did not own any of their albums and would not be considered a super fan.

And, like most – if not all – successful musical acts, there comes a day when the people are not showing up in the tens of thousands to hear you; when your songs no longer get the radio air time; when your venues are now nightclubs frequented by 30 and 40 something baby boomers who had a rare night out and saw that you were in town.

Which brings us to March of 1995. The hubby had a business conference in Orlando. What better excuse did we need to pack up the two kids – ages 5 and (almost) 2 – and fly across the country for a few days at Disney World and explore Florida?

We rented a condo and a car and spent a couple days doing the Disney thing before the hubby had to go to his conference. The kids and I drove out to the Atlantic Ocean and got sunburned at Cocoa Beach; we went to SeaWorld; we hung out at the pool by the condo ; we played and had a great time.

But, like all vacations, the day arrived when once more we had to get on that plane and head home.

When my kids were little, I had a strategy for flying. If the plane had six seats across with the aisle in the middle, I would split the family up so that each child was in charge of a parent. I also made sure to book the window and center seats as being able to look out was good for at least two half hour segments of the plane ride.

Blair Thornton (right) on the inside of the “Not Fragile” album cover

And so it was when we boarded the plane in Orlando which would take us to Los Angeles and then to Seattle. Our seats were near the back of the plane with my daughter and I on the right side and the hubby and son on the left. Because we were traveling with children, we boarded before most of the other passengers.

The plane filled up. Among the last to board were a group of four: three men and one woman who had the four aisle seats: the two adjacent to our middle and window seats, and two aisle seats in the row in front of our row.

As I look up at my ‘seatmate’ – a forty something man with longish hair, I note the expression which clearly says, “Damn, I drew the Mom with the small child.” I had seen that look before. I’d probably given that look before.

What my seatmate did NOT know is that I was anything BUT the typical mom with the small child. I came prepared for every trip we ever took with an arsenal of activities. I had a half dozen favorite books. I carried snacks. My daughter had a tape player with headphones and listened to stories on tape. I would gift wrap small toys and give them out at various intervals to keep my children occupied.

On this particular trip I had made a ‘dollhouse’ for my daughter’s  two inch tall Playmobile Dolls out of three nested shoe boxes. The plane prizes for my daughter were some new dolls and small pieces of furniture to go in the house. That ‘house’ did wonders keeping her engaged.

Eventually, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate and learned that his name was Blair. I asked what had brought him to Orlando to which he replied that he was in a band that had played a gig there.

“Oh, might I have heard of your band?”

He smiled and said, “It’s ETO.”

ETO? Nope. I had never heard of ETO. BTO, yes. ELO – Electric Light Orchestra, yes. But not a band called ETO.

Two of the BTO albums in the hubby’s vinyl record collection

I shook my head and said I wasn’t familiar with it.

We chatted off and on throughout the flight. I learned that the woman sitting across the aisle was his wife. He had ordered the vegetarian meal option but didn’t like the doughnut which came with it so he gave that to me. In all, it was a pleasant flight. We were on final approach to Los Angeles when Blair turns to me and says, “You know, I was worried when I saw where I was sitting but your children are the best behaved kids I’ve seen on a plane… and I’ve seen a lot.”

I thanked him for his kind words, wished him well, and he deplaned, while we stayed on for the last leg to Seattle.

It was only AFTER they had left that I began to wonder who, exactly, had I been seated next to. I told the hubby the band was named ETO which, as one can imagine, got the ‘are you sure’ face. The identity of my seatmate was now bugging me. Once we got home, things were unloaded and the kids settled, I ventured into the closet where the hubby kept his collection of vinyl albums and thumbed through them until I found BTO. I flipped the album over and there on the back cover was the face of one Blair Thornton, the bass guitar player for BTO smiling back at me. I shook my head, irritated by my lack of asking additional questions of Blair.

I had noted that Blair wore a rather large hearing aid; something that seemed out of place for a guy his age. Apparently, however, I WAS the one who needed it that day. I kept the doughnut he gave me for a time but it wasn’t exactly the sort of memento one keeps from a rock star.

Instead the words echoed through my head… “Here’s something that you never gonna forget… B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet” the day I flew across the United States with Bachman Turner Overdrive. 

The Dakotas

But Which One Was First?

November 2, 2021

The author in South Dakota in 2014

Up until November 2, 1889, this region was collectively known as Dakota Territory. But it was on that date when the two were split and became the 39th and 40th states in America. But which was first? South Dakota or North Dakota? No one knows for sure.

 The Infallible Wikipedia shares the following story:

“As the southern part of the former Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota. They are the 39th and 40th states admitted to the union; President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the statehood papers before signing them so that no one could tell which became a state first.”

The scene is all blue and yellow at an entrance to North Dakota Road Sign

Or, if you prefer it from the perspective of the other half:

“North Dakota was admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889, along with neighboring South Dakota, as the 39th and 40th states. President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the statehood papers before signing them so that no one could tell which became a state first; consequently, the two states are officially numbered in alphabetical order.”

Sure sounds like North Dakota thinks they were first. For those paying attention, there were four states admitted to the union in November 1889. Besides these two, Montana and Washington were welcomed on November 8th and 11th respectively. But back to the Dakotas.

I find it interesting that they were split north and south since in reading about them geographically, an east/west split would have probably made more sense. The Eastern half of both states are considered part of the Great Plains with climates and an emphasis on agriculture which reflects this. For both states, the majority of their populations live in the Eastern half.

West of the Missouri river – which bisects all of South Dakota and most of North Dakota – the terrain changes. One notices that there are more mountains and the landscape is more rugged as the climb towards the Rocky Mountains begins.

Both states have abundant natural resources particularly gold in South Dakota, rich oil deposits in North Dakota.

The number of folks who call each state home live in their cities as follows for South Dakota:

“Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a 2010 population of 153,888, and a metropolitan area population of 238,122. The city, founded in 1856, is in the southeast corner of the state. (snip)

Rapid City, with a 2010 population of 67,956, and a metropolitan area population of 124,766, is the second-largest city in the state. It is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, and was founded in 1876. (snip)

The next eight largest cities in the state, in order of descending 2010 population, are Aberdeen (26,091), Brookings (22,056), Watertown (21,482), Mitchell (15,254), Yankton (14,45), Pierre (13,646), Huron (12,592), and Vermillion (10,571)”

North Dakota’s cities are even smaller with Fargo, based on 2021 estimated numbers, coming in the largest at 125,804 residents. The next nine are:

Bismarck (74,129), Grand Forks (54,243), Minot (47,236), West Fargo (38,654), Williston (32,189), Dickinson (24,007), Mandan (23,190), Jamestown (14,840), Watford City (9,345)

I compared these numbers to the three cities of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond, Washington – where the family lived for many years – which has a combined population of about 331,000 people. King County claims 2.3 million people. The two Dakota states combined have about 1.67 million population.

Over the years, the hubby, the kids, and me, have been to both North and South Dakota. Never more than a few days at a time and mostly as brief stops to visit a National Park, Monument, or to spend the night on the way somewhere else.

After the hubby I were married in 1980 something, we drove east on our way to Illinois so that I could meet his older sister and her family. It was day four of our drive when I first saw South Dakota. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I cannot claim actually ‘seeing’ much since we arrived at the hotel where we were able to get reservations in the middle of the night. It was now September 3rd.

After a short night’s sleep, we were up and out the door by 9 a.m. I wrote about that day with the following:

“Our major stop of the day was at Mt. Rushmore. We saw the presidents and then had a picnic lunch on the shores of Horsethief Lake. We barbequed 3 veal cubesteaks on the hibachi.

The author in all of her age 23 glory at Mt. Rushmore in early September 1980

By 1:30 we left Rapid City, S.D. and headed east on I-90. We drove all day until we got to the Lake Vermillion Recreation area, only to discover that it was no longer a picnic area (or a campground as shown on our AAA map!)

We almost cooked dinner there, but gusty winds made us decide differently. We also learned why it was called Lake Vermillion as just at sunset, the lake turned a deep, blood red color. It was quite pretty against the deep green grass along its bank and the blue and purple puffed clouds in the eastern sky.

The sky which caused us to rethink our plans for camping out on the South Dakota prairie.

Sioux Falls was only a few miles down the road so we decided to eat there. We also decided to stop there – instead of in Fairmont, Minn – when we saw a huge thunder and lightning storm boiling up in front of us.

We stayed at the ‘Thrifty Scot Motel.’ We ended up eating dinner at the “Happy Chef’ – a VIP’s or Sambo type restaurant.* We tried to eat at a Mexican restaurant but it had closed by the time we found it.

One nice feature of the Thrifty Scot was that they had doughnuts and Orange juice for breakfast at no extra cost. We paid $22 for our room there.”

A 1960’s era matchbook cover from Sambo’s restaurant. Because back then not only was the theme politically incorrect, but smoking inside a restaurant was also allowed!

A few things come to mind as I read this account from 40 some years ago. One, anyone under the age of 60 has likely NEVER heard of VIP’s since the last of the chain of 53 restaurants closed in 1988. Two, you can be forgiven for not knowing what a Sambo’s is either as it filed for Chapter 11 in 1981. The owners, Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett, combined their names to get the name “Sambo’s” never intending it to be associated with the popular 1899 children’s story of the Indian boy Sambo who turns tigers to butter.

I also guess that the Thrifty Scot was ahead of its time, giving ‘breakfast’ to the travelers for free. J Nowadays, I’d likely skip both the doughnut and the OJ.

In all fairness to North Dakota, we traversed THAT State on the return from Illinois. Unfortunately, I was sick which prompted a stop in Fargo at the emergency clinic, the acquisition of a sulfa prescription for a bladder infection, and then spent the night in the highly entertaining town of Bowbells. (Population 587 in 1980… now about 336) Which is also a story for another post or, possibly, the basis for a work of fiction.

Personally, I think everyone who has the time and the means should attempt to visit every state in the United States. There are interesting things to see and do and one gets a different perspective when one goes beyond the familiar surrounds of where they live.

For more information about the two Dakotas and other items in the post here are some links:,_North_Dakota

National Pumpkin Day

The Ultimate Symbol of Halloween

October 26, 2021

During the last week of October, this item dominates American culture. Its bright orange color and – often large size – make it impossible to miss. I am talking about the pumpkin

National Pumpkin Day is celebrated every year on October 26th.

Believed to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, pumpkins originated thousands of years ago in northern Mexico and the southern United States. There is evidence that the gourd was used as early as 7,000 BC!

The average person, however, might think that it came from New England since its first well documented historic use was at the first Thanksgiving held in Plymouth in 1621. (Although it is disputed as to the Massachusetts event being first since a similar celebration reportedly took place in Virginia two years earlier)

The pumpkin was introduced to the Pilgrims by the natives of the area. The Infallible Wikipedia advises:

“An alternate derivation for pumpkin is the Massachusetts word pôhpukun ‘grows forth round’. This term would likely have been used by the Wampanoag people (who speak the Wôpanâak dialect of Massachusett) when introducing pumpkins to English Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, located in present-day Massachusetts.”

As a food, it is dense and fiber rich; it’s primary nutrients beta-carotene and Vitamins A and C.

Still one of my favorite photos ever of my children

The thing which catches most people’s attention, however, is its visual allure. This time of year a field of bright orange pumpkins is hard to miss. Their large size and eye catching hues are a visual treat. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Traditional C. pepo pumpkins generally weigh between 3 and 8 kilograms (6 and 18 lb), though the largest cultivars (of the species C. maxima) regularly reach weights of over 34 kg (75 lb).

The color of pumpkins derives from orange carotenoid pigments, including beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha and beta carotene, all of which are provitamin A compounds converted to vitamin A in the body.”

The largest pumpkin ever documented and the two runners up in Germany in 2016

The heaviest pumpkin ever documented was in Belgium in 2016 and weighed 2,624 pounds! It’s amazing.

A little horseplay was always in order
One of the last pumpkin carving years

Visiting the pumpkin patch was, for our family, an annual tradition for many years. From the time my children were little we made it a priority to wander out on a sunny weekend day to pick the perfect pumpkin.

One year, while at Remlinger Farms, they had on display a pumpkin which weighed 500 pounds more as either kid. We ended up in the background of a video for one of the news stations as their reporter and cameraman were there at the same time to report on the monster pumpkin.

For a couple of years – when the kids got a bit older – we combined the pumpkin patch visit with exploration of a corn maze which was lots of fun.

Over the years many a photo was snapped of pumpkin patch fun. My favorite photo, however, came from the year we ended up just off Sahalee Way and 202 between Redmond and Sammamish. Our kids were probably around ages 10 and 7 and getting the right gourd was important. The kids – perched on a pallet of pumpkins – are clearly enjoying the event.

Home we would go each year and a day or two before Halloween, the pumpkins were carved and the costumes assembled, all in advance of the big night. But more than any other activity, it was the trip to the pumpkin patch which was my favorite part.

The links:

You’ve Got Mail

America OnLine

October 19, 2021

In the 1990’s the United States was enthralled with a new technology that had everyone saying “You’ve Got Mail.”

That was, of course, the genesis of the widespread use of electronic mail and no company better represents the era than America OnLine (AOL).

At one time these arrived in the house weekly – provided like candy to make sure everyone was a customer.

It was in the month of October 1989 when the company was named, formed out of what started as a gaming download application for the Atari 2600 in 1983.

The 1980’s was a time of innovation by hobbyists who purchased microchips, diodes, and capacitors from places such as Radar Electric – where I worked in the early 1980’s – and were building computers in their garages.

The company which became America OnLine changed hands, grew and expanded, finding its market niche through – particularly – schools. It was in the 1990’s, however, when it became a household name.

It was one of those success stories of providing the right product at just the right moment. But, as is often the case, their incredible success also contributed to their failures. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“AOL charged its users an hourly fee until December 1996, when the company changed to a flat monthly rate of $19.95. During this time, AOL connections were flooded with users trying to connect, and many canceled their accounts due to constant busy signals. A commercial was made featuring Steve Case telling people AOL was working day and night to fix the problem. Within three years, AOL’s user base grew to 10 million people. In 1995 AOL was headquartered at 8619 Westwood Center Drive in the Tysons Corner CDP in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near the Town of Vienna.

AOL was quickly running out of room in October 1996 for its network at the Fairfax County campus. In mid-1996, AOL moved to 22000 AOL Way in Dulles, unincorporated Loudoun County, Virginia to provide room for future growth. In a five-year landmark agreement with the most popular operating system, AOL was bundled with Windows software.

The screen which greeted users circa 1996

On March 31, 1996, the short-lived eWorld was purchased by AOL. In 1997, about half of all U.S. homes with Internet access had it through AOL. During this time, AOL’s content channels, under Jason Seiken, including News, Sports, and Entertainment, experienced their greatest growth as AOL become the dominant online service internationally with more than 34 million subscribers.”

Over the next decade internet users saw the emergence of aggressive competition from entities such as Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!. And they started doing something AOL did not – they provided their service for free.

Eventually, AOL joined the ‘free’ club although they still have an ‘enhanced’ version diehard AOL customers pay for.

I personally cannot recall the exact year our family became AOL customers, but it was probably 1995 or 1996. We paid our $19.95 a month and soon we were connecting with parents, siblings, and friends, sending emails and messages.

My first email address was a combination of my maiden and married names and was only 10 letters long. The reason for this was that your AOL email could only BE 10 letters long.

I truncated my name to accomplish this which, over the years, has caused no small amount of consternation and confusion when I try to give my email to someone.

At the time I didn’t really care, I was thrilled to be able to send someone an electronic message since hand writing a letter and mailing it was a pain. And, with AOL, I could send and get mail within hours, rather than it taking days. Even better was being able to instantly message with someone while at my desk, typing on the keyboard.

The sound of the dialing phone, the screechy noise that the dial up modem would make in order to connect, and the ultimate words “You’ve got mail,” became quite Pavlovian. I had a small cadre of friends with whom I would communicate, a lifeline as I was a stay at home mom with two children under the age of 10 in those years.

A voice which was heard more than 35 million times a day during AOL’s heyday.

And so it went for several years until we changed internet providers and got a new email account. We went over to the dark side some 15 years ago, opting for a free provider.

Over time, I discovered that changing one’s email address- sort of like moving – invokes all sorts of headaches. The people who have your ‘old’ address will forget and send their message to that one only to have it bounce back or, worse, it ends up in some sort of email purgatory never to be found again.

Alas, technology changes and moves on and AOL is no longer the dominant force it was in the 1990’s. I feel certain, however, that somewhere across America some intrepid entrepreneur and visionary is inventing the next big thing which is destined to change the way we communicate. I just hope that we get a culture defining catch phrase to go with it.

My parents, sister, one of my brothers, and my in-laws all kept their AOL accounts… I think the thought of having to ‘move’ and tell everyone seemed like more work than it was worth. My dad paid the monthly AOL fee until the day he died. Not sure if my In-laws still pay for theirs or not. There’s a lot to be said for that sort of consistency. Eventually, the market pressured AOL into providing a ‘free’ email version which both my sister and brother still use.

Personally, I kind of miss being greeted with Elwood Edward’s “You’ve Got Mail” greeting when I sign on. The YouTube link below tells the story of how he became the voice of AOL. It’s worth the two minutes it will take to watch it!


The Big Blow

Storm of the 20th Century?

October 12, 2021

While many may think of the Pacific Northwest as having benign weather – albeit rainy and drizzly for months at a time – it does get occasional severe weather.

One such event occurred on Friday, October 12, 1962. Dubbed the Columbus Day Storm or, by some, as the Big Blow, it has become the ‘standard’ by which all other PNW wind storms are judged.

Yes, there IS an Infallible Wikipedia entry for the event:

“The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (also known as the Big Blow, and originally as Typhoon Freda) was a Pacific Northwest windstorm that struck the West Coast of Canada and the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States on October 12, 1962. It is considered the benchmark of extratropical wind storms. The storm ranks among the most intense to strike the region since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 ‘Great Gale’ and snowstorm. The storm is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 ‘Storm of the Century’ and the ‘1991 Halloween Nor’easter’ (‘The Perfect Storm’). The system brought strong winds to the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, and was linked to 46 fatalities in the northwest and Northern California resulting from heavy rains and mudslides.”

For weather geeks, there are all sorts of statistics which confirm the magnitude of the event. The highest sustained wind speed recorded during the storm was 115 mph. For comparison, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale would place that in the category of a major hurricane. The highest wind gusts registered were in the 170 mph range. The gusts – mostly along the northern Oregon and southern Washington coasts – were so strong that weather station anemometers were taken out by the wind.

A church steeple is toppled in the wind

When all was said and done, many records were broken that day and the storm continues to be studied and used as a textbook example of an extratropical cyclone.

Although I did not live in Western Washington at that time, the hubby’s family did. I asked my mother in law if she recalled that day and her recollection involved two things: one, it was her oldest son’s 10th birthday and he loved the fact that his birthday fell on a national holiday; and, two, was that she had taken a group of girls to a Campfire Girls camp for a cleanup event. And, yes, the day was stormy.

As we move into fall and winter, I ponder the possibility of another big storm. They do not happen every year, but when they do they make an impression. In 1993 when the January 20th Inauguration Day storm hit, I was at home in Sammamish with a three year old and was 7 months pregnant. The power went out around nine that morning and my son and I moved our location to the living room. It got so intense at one point that I distinctly recall us sitting on the couch looking out the east facing window and watching the lids of garbage cans fly through the air like giant Frisbees. The huge cedar trees behind the houses across the street were whipped by the wind, swaying wildly.

A house is crushed by a fallen tree in Clark County

It was only later, after the storm, that I heard the most harrowing account of the day.

On the next street east, which was down the hill from our house, lived another young family. And like me, she had a pre-schooler. The big difference was that she was not pregnant but instead had a less than 3 month old baby.

That morning she had been in their family room/kitchen area, the baby lying on a blanket, her preschooler playing. Around 10 a.m., she picked up the baby and the trio went upstairs. It was a fortuitous decision. Within a couple of minutes of that change of venue, a seventy foot cedar tree crashed through the roof, smashing into the family room… exactly where the baby had been minutes earlier. Someone was watching over that family that day.

When the wind died down later that afternoon, neighbors emerged from their houses to assess the damage. We had some trees down in our back yard, but for the most part escaped without loss.

So consider this your PSA for this year. When a big storm blows in to Seattle and the Puget Sound, you can be pretty assured that it will come from the southwest. Stay home or at your office – I personally don’t drive in windstorms – and look to see where the big trees are. If possible, seek out the northeast corner of the structure.  And remember, it probably won’t be as bad as the Columbus Day storm of 1962… but then again records do have a way of getting broken.

The links:

Scituate, Massachusetts

What a Mann!

October 5, 2021

When one thinks of the earliest communities settled by the European immigrants, no doubt the word ‘Plymouth’ rolls off most people’s tongues.

New England was not, however, just that one community, but a whole network of towns and villages, dotting the east coast like sand dollars.

As someone who loves history and genealogy, I was thrilled to learn in my research that I can trace several of my family lines to some of the earliest settlements of the now northeast United States.

One of these places is a small town in Massachusetts named Scituate. The spelling alone is enough to cause most people to stop and say ‘how do you pronounce THAT!?’ So let’s get that out of the way. It’s pronounced ‘SIT – U- ATE.’ Just think of it as something you do at dinner each night.

It was on October 5, 1636 when the town was incorporated. Happy 385th birthday!

For those who don’t recall, Plymouth was settled in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived. Following the success of the early settlers, no doubt word got back to England, and more people made the treacherous sea voyage seeking refuge in the new land.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us this about Scituate:

“The Wampanoag and their neighbors have inhabited the lands Scituate now stands on for thousands of years. The name Scituate is derived from ‘satuit‘, the Wampanoag term for cold brook, which refers to a brook that runs to the inner harbor of the town. In 1710, several European colonizers emigrated to Rhode Island and founded Scituate, Rhode Island, naming it after their previous hometown.

European colonization brought a group of people from Plymouth about 1627, who were joined by colonizers from the county of Kent in England. They were initially governed by the General Court of Plymouth, but on October 5, 1636, the town incorporated as a separate entity.

The Scituate lighthouse at sunrise.

The Williams-Barker House, which still remains near the harbor, was built in 1634. Twelve homes and a sawmill were destroyed in King Phillip’s War in 1676.

In 1717, the western portion of the original land grant was separated and incorporated as the town of Hanover, and in 1788, a section of the town was ceded to Marshfield. In 1849, another western section became the town of South Scituate, which later changed its name to Norwell. Since then, the borders have remained essentially unchanged.

Fishing was a significant part of the local economy in the past, as was the sea mossing industry. The sea was historically an integral part of the town with occasional incidents such as that described February 13, 1894, in which eight men clinging to the vessel’s rigging on a schooner grounded off Third Cliff apparently died before a large crowd watching from shore ‘literally frozen to the ropes’ while unsuccessful rescue efforts continued through the day and their apparently lifeless bodies were covered by nightfall. A small fishing fleet is still based in Scituate Harbor, although today the town is mostly residential.”

Sign outside the Mann house in Scituate. Photo taken by author 2008

In April 2008, the hubby, daughter, and I took a trip to Massachusetts. We spent two nights in Plymouth. Day three was designated as the day to drive north and stay in the greater Boston area. But something had started niggling at me. Didn’t I have ancestors who came from Massachusetts? I had done research some 10 years earlier and hit the genealogic jackpot when I was able to connect up with a whole string of people who zoomed the family line back from 1848 Wisconsin to Scituate and before that across the Atlantic to England. I now have the Mann’s traced back to 1457.

Although it was the days before or 23andMe, there were programs on the internet where one could store their family trees. So I logged in and, low and behold, as I worked backwards I found Richard Mann, an early founder of Scituate.

Armed with this information I knew we HAD to go through Scituate! Once headed north, we soon found ourselves inching our way there. There were no interstate highways or tollways, just idyllic backroads decorated with budding deciduous trees and bright spring flowers dotting the landscape. The houses we passed were classic New England colonials and saltboxes. It was all very charming.

Scituate was, well, situated on the coast; still primarily a fishing village three hundred and seventy some years later.

And, of course, I was determined to find the home of great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great -grandpa Dick.

As it turns out, my direct ancestral line left Scituate sometime in the early 1700’s when one Abigail Mann married the (it turns out) scoundrel Simon Baxter, Sr. and moved to Connecticut. That didn’t work out so well for her in the long run as Simon got involved with another woman. Divorce, though rare, was granted in this case to great-great-great-great-great-great grandma Abby since Simon had engaged in “fornication with the widow Rebecca Berg” according to the documents of the day. Yikes.

My Mann ancestry

Fortunately for me, they had managed to produce a son, Simon Baxter, Jr. and HE had a daughter Prudence who fared much better than her grandmother and married one Aristides Huestis (my son is, no doubt, thankful I didn’t want to name him after Aristides). The Huestis family lived in Crown Point, New York. They were hardy people and produced a large gaggle of offspring including my great-great-great-great grandmother, Polly Huestis Noyes, who ended up being an early settler into the state of Wisconsin in 1848.

And on the western migration went clear to the other side of country in only 275 short years.

But I digress. Because there are moments in life when one takes a step back and says ‘this explains so much.’ The visit to Scituate was one of those times.

Poor grandma Abby didn’t have a chance, of course, since the way of the world was very patriarchal at the time. While she married scoundrel Simon and moved away, her brother stayed. And his eldest son, and the eldest son after that, and so on and so forth with a new male heir produced each generation. All the way to the 1970’s when the last direct male descendent of Richard Mann, Percy, died without offspring.

Oh dear. What to do with the house in Scituate? How about we make it a museum?

Which is exactly what they did.

This is a nice thing to do for ancestor hunters because much of the heritage of that particular family line has been preserved for all us ‘Mann’ descendents.

So we arrive at the Mann farmhouse on a cool, but sunny, April afternoon. The house (now the museum) is shut up tighter than a reticent New Englander’s mouth. But the gardens and property were open, so we wander about.

And then we find it – the prize which all genealogists want – that thing, that one thing which makes you say “Huh? So THAT’s where that trait comes from!”

Tucked away behind the house and far from the gardens is a tree… surrounded by a car. That’s not entirely accurate. This whitewashed account is from the Scituate Historical Society:

“After Percy Mann had a run-in with the town’s officials in the 1920’s, he decided that rather than pay vehicle registration fees, driver’s license fees, and car insurance, he would just drive his automobile into the back yard, park it and never drive it again. Over the course of time a tree grew up through the middle of the car, which remains where Percy left it almost a century ago.”

The remains of Percy Mann’s car in 2008

I still laugh when I imagine how this whole thing REALLY went down. Old Percy must have been as stubborn as a Nor’easter in November. No one, not even the town leaders, were going to tell him he had to pay fees and get a license to drive a car. “Ah, hell,” one imagines he railed, “I did fine with my horse and wagon and no one’s gonna force me to buy a g-damned license for it!”

So he did what any rational Mann man would do. He drove the car onto the property and never touched it again. That’ll show ‘em.

There is absolutely no doubt my DeVore family is related to the Mann’s, possessing that same stubborn New England Yankee obstinate spirit. It’s in the genes.

As always, a link or two:


A fun fall tradition

September 28, 2021

Autumn seems to be a season of traditions which celebrate our rural and agricultural heritage. There’s just something about shuffling through a carpet of red, gold, and orange leaves or sipping a cup of apple cider on a blustery day.

One uniquely North American tradition which has been enjoyed for generations now is a hayride. I turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for a more in depth history:

“Hayrides traditionally have been held as celebratory activities, usually in connection to celebration of the autumn harvest. Hayrides originated with farmhands and working farm children riding loaded hay wagons back to the barn for unloading, which was one of the few times during the day one could stop to rest during the frenetic days of the haying season. By the late 19th century and the spread of the railroads, tourism and summer vacations in the country had become popular with urban families, many of whom had read idealized accounts of hayrides in children’s books.

Red Tail Farm in Leavenworth offers hayrides in the autumn.

To capitalize on the demand, local farmers began offering ‘genuine hayrides’ on wagons loaded with hay, since one could make more cash income selling rides to ‘summer people’ than by selling the same wagon-load of hay (although most farmers did both). During this era, farming was transforming from a subsistence system to a cash system, and there were few options for bringing real money into the average farm.

Over time the hayride became a real tradition, although the original concept of riding on top of a load of hay was gradually replaced with a simple ride in a wagon sitting on a layer of hay intended to cushion the ride. This was considered far safer than (if not as fun as) riding perched 15-20 feet on top of a slippery pile of hay on a moving vehicle.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, in her book The Long Winter, describes the work of loading a hay wagon and her ‘ride’ from the fields back to the barn:

“There Pa walked beside the wagon and drove the horses between the rows of haycocks. At every haycock he stopped the horses and pitched the hay up into the hayrack. It came tumbling loosely over the high edge and Laura trampled it down. Up and down and back and forth she trampled the loose hay with all the might of her legs, while the forkfuls kept coming over and falling, and she went on trampling while the wagon jolted on to the next haycock. Then Pa pitched more hay in from the other side.

Under her feet the hay climbed higher, trampled down as solid as hay can be. Up and down, fast and hard, her legs kept going, the length of the hayrack and back, and across the middle. The sunshine was hotter and the smell of the hay rose up sweet and strong. Under her feet it bounced and over the edges of the hayrack it kept coming.

All the time she was rising higher on the trampled-down hay. Her head rose above the edges of the rack and she could have looked at the prairie, if she could have stopped trampling. Then the rack was full of hay and still more came flying up from Pa’s pitchfork.

The illustration of Laura in the haywagon from The Long Winter

Laura was very high up now and the slippery hay was sloping downward around her. She went on trampling carefully. Her face and her neck were wet with sweat and sweat trickled down her back. Her sunbonnet hung by its strings and her braids had come undone. Her long brown hair blew loose in the wind.

Then Pa stepped up on the whiffletrees. He rested one foot on David’s broad hip and clambered up onto the load of hay.

‘You’ve done a good job, Laura,’ he said. ‘You tramped the hay down so well that we’ve got a big load on the wagon.’

Laura rested in the prickly warm hay while Pa drove near to the stable. Then she slid down and sat in the shade of the wagon. Pa pitched down some hay, then climbed down and spread it evenly to make the big, round bottom of a stack. He climbed onto the load and pitched more hay, then climbed down and leveled it on the stack and trampled it down.”

For Laura, that ride on top of the hay wagon was a well deserved and needed break from hard physical labor.

Those of us who grew up in urban or suburban settings will never know how difficult life was for farmers.

For me, a hayride conjures up memories from when I was 14 and 15 years old and the Rainbow Girls – along with the members of the boy’s group DeMolay – looked forward to that day each fall when we met at a farm and all piled into the back of a large farm truck for a ‘hayride.’

Unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘hayride,’ ours consisted of bales of hay and a layer of straw on which to sit. We were well enclosed by the sides of the truck and squished together as the vehicle lumbered down the dark back roads of the Yakima Valley. By late September or October, the temperatures in the evenings were down into the 40’s – sometime’s the 30’s – and we were all bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves.

Three things which I most remember about the hayrides:

  • Constant jostling
  • Singing
  • The bonfire and hot dog roast when we arrived at our destination

Sadly, despite keeping a diary for several years as a teenager, the only thing I wrote for 1972 about this event was “Tonight was the hayride. It was fun.” A peek at the weather that day informs us that the high was 63 degrees but the overnight temperature was in the low 30’s. So nice and crisp, exactly how I remember. For a young teenager it was the ultimate fall activity.

Nowadays, being jostled about in the bed of a truck and sitting on hay is, perhaps, not the most fun thing to do on a brisk autumn Saturday night. But if you happen to get a hankering to go on a hayride, there’s a helpful website appropriately named to fulfill that desire. Enjoy!

The links:

Washington Wineries

The State takes it’s place in viticulture

September 21, 2021

View of Mount Adams from the Red Willow Vineyard. The vineyard has, historically, produced grapes for Columbia Winery but now grows for a variety of other wineries.

With over 940 wineries and 14 distinct American Viticultural Areas, Washington State is one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. The majority of grapes are grown in the rich valley’s East of the Cascade Mountains in a climate which is just about perfect for the crop.

Although Washington’s earliest settlers planted grapes at Fort Vancouver in 1825, it is unknown if they used them for wine production. By the 1860’s and 70’s both Italian and German immigrants were planting grapes and producing wine.

With the advent of prohibition – Washington State was an early adopter in 1917 – every commercial winery went out of business.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the fine wines which have made the state a leading producer finally emerged.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

This map shows the various AVA’s

 “The roots of the modern Washington wine industry can be traced to the middle of the 20th century when a group of professors from the University of Washington turned their home winemaking operation into a commercial endeavor and founded Associated Vintners (later renamed Columbia Winery) and focused on producing premium wines. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were merged into a new winery that would eventually become Chateau Ste Michelle. Both Chateau Ste Michelle and Associated Vintners became the driving force in premium wine production for the early modern Washington wine industry.”

During the 1970’s new vineyards proliferated from Yakima to Walla Walla, Goldendale to Grand Coulee. Today there are over 80 different grape varieties grown in the state.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Washington produces a full spectrum of wines ranging from mass-produced to premium boutique wines. It also produces nearly every style of wine including rosé, sparkling, fruit, fortified, still and late harvest dessert wines. Some years can even produce favorable conditions for ice wine production. In 2006, The Wine Advocate gave two perfect scores of 100 points for Cabernet Sauvignon wines made by Quilceda Creek Vintners using grapes from several Washington AVAs. Only 15 other American wines have ever been scored so highly by The Wine Advocate, all from California. Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the largest producer in the state, owning more than a third of all vineyard land in Washington.”

Chateau Ste Michelle Rieslings have been a staple in the household for decades

For the complete experience, one should do a tour of some of the Eastern Washington vineyards. The hubby and I did such an event waaaaay back in the early 1980’s when there were only a handful of wineries to visit. Along with my parents – with my teetotaler mother behind the wheel – we started the day by driving down to Patterson from Yakima and going to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In those days the people running the tasting rooms had not yet been overwhelmed with wine enthusiasts and were eager to share a variety of wines – all for free.

At that first stop the guy behind the bar must have decided I was cute because it seemed that my tasting glass was filled fuller than either my Dad’s or hubby’s glasses. Not wanting to be rude or waste perfectly good wine, I drank all the wine he gave me, which was at least three different varieties.

What a fun day that turned out to be. I was buzzed before we left Ste. Michelle to work our way back north. I know there were other stops, but I couldn’t tell you where.

There was another memorable trip with a group of friends who – during the past 30 years – formed a monthly luncheon group. One year we decided it would be fun to do a girls’ only weekend wine tour. We rented several hotel rooms, arranged for a limousine, and away we went.

All over the lower Yakima valley the limo carried us to a variety of wineries. Some were fancy and others were converted barns. We sampled reds and whites, sweet and ice wines. Everything was going great until  the driver of the limousine we had rented informed us that she was lost!

For those who have ever traveled around the dirt roads of Eastern Washington, you will know that most of the roads follow the contour of the land OR they go in straight lines and then go at 90 degree angles tracing the edges of farms. It’s easy to get turned around.

The Benches Vineyard near Pasco on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

We were someplace east of Benton City and the one person who had grown up in the region was pressed into service as the navigator. Yes, that would be yours truly. A half hour later, I directed the driver well enough that we emerged from our wilderness wanderings, finally back on track.

The driver felt so bad about getting lost that she agreed to pick us up at our hotel later and transport us to dinner. It was a bonus!

Last year, I had an idea to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with an Eastern Washington wine tour… sadly, the hubby and I had to postpone due to the Covid shut downs.

I have a hunch that when we do get to do the tour, there will be more wineries to visit than we could go to in a weekend, a week, a month, or even a year. Cheers!

A few links:,Yakima%20Valley%20AVA%2C%20within%20the%20Yakama%20Indian%20Reservation.

Mork and Mindy

Na-Nu, Na-Nu

September 14, 2021

Na-nu, Na-nu! This phrase – unknown before September 14, 1978 – became a part of the American cultural vernacular thanks to the incomparable Robin Williams in his role as Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The show catapulted Williams to fame and fans of the show tuned in every week to see what crazy new thing Mork would do.

The story of Mork began the previous year as a plot line in the popular TV show Happy Days. In one episode Richie encounters Mork – an alien from the planet Ork – who attempts to capture Richie and take him back to his planet for study.

Apparently fans loved the Mork character and the concept. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode ‘My Favorite Orkan’, which first aired in February 1978 and is a take on the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. Williams’ character, Mork, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode, it all turned out to be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending in the syndicated version was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.”

The spin off show catapulted to the #3 spot on TV during its inaugural season, leaping ahead of Happy Days in the ratings.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mork arrives on earth in an egg

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). Snip

Culturally, the impact was huge and spawned a variety of toys and games

Storylines usually center on Mork’s attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Orkan customs. For example, lying to someone or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called ‘splinking’) on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to humorously comment on social norms. Snip

This series was Robin Williams’ first major acting role. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter and ruining the take, often a difficult task with Williams’ talent.”

In the fall of 1978, I was 21 years old and in college so I didn’t see every episode of Mork and Mindy. But the show, specifically Williams’ role, made an impression. My fellow sorority sisters and I loved Mork and soon mimicked some of his outrageous phrases and antics.

People magazine cover October 1978

We greeted each other with “Na-nu, Na-nu” and the accompanying hand gesture; we used the term “Kay Oh” instead of “Oh Kay.” The crazier male students attempted to ‘sit’ on their heads. In many ways Mork provided a primer on how to be outrageous which, when you are in college, is a goal for many.

Mork and Mindy was like fireworks, bursting onto the television scene, in a soaring arc of sparks and light. Many tuned in just to see what crazy thing Williams would say and do. I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for Williams to keep it up week after week.

Although the series remained popular in subsequent seasons, nothing quite compared to its meteoric season one.

Occasionally, I still find myself saying “na-nu, na-nu” or “K-O” without even realizing how these terms – so very novel when first uttered – have become a part of American culture. All due to an alien named Mork who conquered the world in September 1978.

The link:

Answers to the Facebook post: Three’s Company (1976), Mork and Mindy (1978), Taxi (1978), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), and Laverne and Shirley (1976)

Boston, Massachusetts

To Wooster and Beyond

September 7, 2021

One of the best parts of travel is climbing behind the wheel of a car and exploring interesting historical places. Boston is one of those places where history seems to live on every corner.

The Old North Church, Boston Commons, Bunker Hill, and Paul Revere’s house are but a few of the many  locations one can visit.

Paul Revere statue on a rainy day in April 2008

Boston – which was named as a settled town on September 7, 1630 – was one of the earliest and most influential places in America.

Of course The Infallible Wikipedia has something to say on the subject:

“Boston is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States, founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from the English town of the same name. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill and the siege of Boston. Upon American independence from Great Britain, the city continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub as well as a center for education and culture. The city has expanded beyond the original peninsula through land reclamation and municipal annexation. Its rich history attracts many tourists, with Faneuil Hall alone drawing more than 20 million visitors per year. Boston’s many firsts include the United States’ first public park (Boston Common, 1634), first public or state school (Boston Latin School, 1635) and first subway system (Tremont Street subway, 1897).

Today, Boston is a thriving center of scientific research. The Boston area’s many colleges and universities make it a world leader in higher education, including law, medicine, engineering and business, and the city is considered to be a global pioneer in innovation and entrepreneurship, with nearly 5,000 startups. Boston’s economic base also includes finance, professional and business services, biotechnology, information technology and government activities.

In the United States today, the greater Boston area is the tenth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area and the largest city in New England.

The hubby and daughter at Ben Franklin’s birthplace

The hubby, daughter, and I had the chance to visit Boston in 2008 when she was the representative for Massachusetts for the Washington Idaho Rainbow Girls. We only had one day in Boston proper, but visited a number of the historic sites. The city was a busy, vibrant place even on that cold and rainy April day. We walked around the city and thoroughly enjoyed the historical immersion.

Now, getting into Boston was a completely different experience. Because our trip would take us into western Massachusetts, renting a car was essential.

On the day we arrived at Logan Airport we picked up our luggage then made our way to the rental car lot. The clerk was not too concerned about which car he assigned us; instead he told us to pick one from this one particular row of vehicles.

So out we wandered to the dozens of identical make cars. How to choose? We decided on one with New York license plates for no other reason than our niece and my sister were visiting in New York while we were in Massachusetts.

Soon we were ensconced in the car and off on our adventures. On our second night – after our first down in Plymouth – we stayed in a hotel out in Revere. This afforded us reasonable access to Boston proper with about a 20 minute commute.

Soon we learned that to get to Boston the most direct way was to head south on Everett Street and then merge into the traffic rotary (we call them roundabouts in Washington) and then on to the 1-A.

It was a great plan in theory. In fact there were two things wrong with our plan. Did I mention that we were driving a car with New York plates?

New York license plates? Not a good idea.

As it turns out, people in Massachusetts pretty much hate New Yorkers. Might be related to the Red Sox and the Yankees, but I’m speculating. Or it might be that they just have no patience for anyone who does not drive as crazy as they do.

We were honked at, gestured at, and given the double middle finger salute multiple times over the course of the week.

But back to the rotary. This particular roundabout was HUGE… and the cars were doing at least 40 miles per hour and, in some cases, traveling three abreast.

The death trap rotary as seen from my map App

The hubby, like a good granny driver, pulls up to the stop sign and then waits for a break in the traffic; but there is no break in traffic. Cars whiz by at speeds which made my head spin.

Meanwhile there are now cars backing up behind us. Horns are honked at us as if doing so will somehow motivate the hubby to hit the accelerator and dive into the path of oncoming death.

Then the weirdest thing occurs. The car behind us – his patience apparently all used up – pulls around us on the left and, in a life endangering move, zooms into the rotary, squeezing between a truck and a car. This happens a couple more times – honking horns, hand gestures, and illegal passing – while the hubby is evaluating the possibility of success. Eventually he spies two feet of open space, floors the gas pedal and we rocket into the rotary, somehow emerging unscathed.

In fact our visit to Massachusetts was one driving adventure after another. Heaven help you if you miss your exit and end up in Jamaica Plain. But that’s a story for another day. And woe unto you if you are relying on paper maps… by the time we got to Worcester (pronounced Wooster, by the way) street signs had all but disappeared. I guess most people have lived there for so long that they don’t need street signs.

The street signs we found were mostly of this variety…

Somehow we made it to Barre (pronounced Barry) for our event despite the navigator (that would be me) making wild guesses as to which road we needed to take.

So just remember this… if you are flying into Boston and need a rental car, never ever, under any circumstances agree to drive one with New York plates. On second thought, hiring an Uber might be a better plan.

A link or two: