Five Years of Tuesday Newsday

A Bloggers Life

January 11, 2022

When, on January 10, 2017, I posted my first Tuesday Newsday, I had no idea that five years later, I could say I’ve written 248 weekly articles which average about 1,000 words each. For those keeping score at home that is a quarter of a million words. Guess I’ve had something to say.

Every so often I get into a discussion with someone about my blog and why I started writing it.

Back in the fall of 2016, I was actively looking for a publisher for my novels. Friends of mine, Jim and Sandy, suggested that I go with them to Portland and meet their friend, Judith Glad, who had published several novels of her own AND also published novels for a handful of other authors.

So off we went. We had lunch with Judith (or ‘Jude’ as they affectionately call her) and she and I sat down that day and discussed writing and publishing and what our particular journey’s looked like. It was a delightful adventure.

Author Judith Glad

One of the topics which came up was whether or not I had a webpage.

“No!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t published any of my novels. What would be the purpose?”

Jude gently explained that, as a writer, you still create the webpage and then it is ‘ready’ when you do get to the point of publishing your books.

This made total sense to me: do those things you will want to have in place for when you do publish.

Even though my books were not quite in line with the type of books she and her daughter’s publishing company takes on, I left that day feeling buoyed and determined to launch my own webpage and blog.

In early January I created an account on WordPress and started the painstakingly slow task of building my own webpage.

The first article was all about Jim Croce, whose birthday was January 10. It was a grand total of 348 words long.

The subject of my first post, Jim Croce

Since that first, rather short, article, I’ve developed a template of sorts as to how I approach most weeks. I search the web for things which occurred on the particular date. Last week, for example, I learned the patent for the roller skate was granted on January 4th and it piqued my interest enough that I decided to write about it. I try to look for topics which I can relate to my own experiences since a huge part of each week’s article is making the connection to something personal for me or others.

And I always mention the Infallible Wikipedia. One of my favorite weeks was a year ago on January 15 when I wrote all about… the Infallible Wikipedia! For those that do not know WHY I refer to it as the Infallible Wikipedia, be sure to visit my post which explains it: https://barbaradevore.com/2021/01/12/the-infallible-wikipedia/

The Infallible Wikipedia logo

Now, for those keeping score, those 248 posts represent about 68 percent of the number of days in a year. By my calculations I will have a post for every day of the year in a little over two years from now… or will I? That’s where this has gotten tricky. Thanks to Leap Years, there are some dates which simply do not fall on a Tuesday within my time frame and, of course, others which already have articles for that date but will soon have a second Tuesday.

In 2024, the Tuesdays start to repeat themselves. I wrote articles for March 5, 12, 19, and 26, for example, in 2019. Yet, those dates once again fall on Tuesdays and I can’t usurp the old articles for new ones. And what about those other dates which will be skipped over? Surely they deserve their moment of glory?

What to do, what to do? I’m actually still debating that question.

This was something I did not consider when I started writing Tuesday Newsday. Of course the reason for doing the webpage, originally, was to create a place where I could share when and where people could get my books. Obviously I have to make sure to have the first book – at least – published by then!

Creating my author’s webpage has truly brought me joy. It’s become, in many ways, a vehicle by which to pluck snippets of memories; captured in words for my children and others who might have a glimpse of what the world looked like five, ten, twenty, or more years ago.

That, more than anything, appeals to this historian’s heart. As one ages you realize that the world is NOT the same as it was when you were a child or even a young adult.

Pe0rhaps my favorite author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, captured that sentiment in the last section of her first book Little House In the Big Woods:

“When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, ‘What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?’

One of the wonderful Garth William’s illustrations from Little House In the Big Woods

‘They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,’ Pa said. ‘Go to sleep, now.’

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, ‘This is now.’

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

But, alas, the days of our childhood disappear into the mists of time, and one day you wake up and you’re 25 or 45 or 65 and your head is filled with bits and pieces of memories and of people and times gone by.

Thank you to my many readers for indulging me these past five years. None of us know what next year or the year after that, or even the next week might bring. So do that thing which brings you joy and fulfillment!

My little corner of the world where imagination takes flight.

As always a link or two:

Although I didn’t get into the weeds on blogging and how many blogs there are, the Infallible Wikipedia does, in fact, have a page about it for those who wish to learn more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

The author who encouraged me to start my own webpage/blog:

http://www.judithbglad.com/

There appear to be a few ‘big boys’ who host web pages, including the one I chose, WordPress:

www.wordpress.com

Roller Skates

‘Rinkmania’ was all the craze in Victorian England

January 4, 2022

There are days in history on which an invention so novel arrives, that it becomes all the rage – at least for a time.

An early ‘concept’ of a roller skate as well as a quite humorous interpretation.

One such invention was the four wheeled roller-skate, patented on January 4, 1863 by American James Plimpton.

Unlike an ice skate, the wheeled variety did not require a flat frozen surface and could be enjoyed in a variety of settings.

During the late 1800’s, it also was the catalyst for a ‘sexual revolution’ of sorts.

The roller skates story begins in 1743 when a pair was used in the theatre in Great Britain. John Joseph Merlin patented his version of the skate in 1760. But they were difficult to steer and, because there was no braking system, stopping at will was problematic.

It was Plimpton’s 1863 design which proved to be commercially successful. The Infallible Wikipedia informs us that Plimpton invented what was known as a rocking skate:

“… (He) used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design, one that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity of roller skating, dubbed ‘rinkomania’ in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.

1950’s era roller skaters

Eventually, roller skating evolved from just a pastime to a competitive sport; speed skating, racing on skates, and inline figure skating, very similar to what can be seen in the Olympics on ice. In the mid 1990s roller hockey, played with a ball rather than a puck, became so popular that it even made an appearance in the Olympics in 1992. The National Sporting Goods Association statistics showed, from a 1999 study, that 2.5 million people played roller hockey. Roller skating was considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but has never become an Olympic event. Other roller skating sports include jam skating and roller derby.

Roller skating popularity exploded during the disco era but tapered off in the 1980s and 1990s. Sales of roller skates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought safe outdoor activities.

Roller skating saw a revival in the late 2010s and early 2020s, spurred on by a number of viral videos on the popular video sharing app TikTok. Many popular brands sold out to the point of back-order, with many people taking up the hobby during COVID-19 quarantines across the globe.”

One aspect of the roller skates history which intrigued was the claim that it inspired a sexual revolution back in the 1860’s.  This is attributable to the stodgy Victorian moral codes of the day in Great Britain.

I’m not quite sure what the heck was going on here… but everything about this photo is intriguing!

According to one article, the skating rink proved to be the one place where romantically inclined young Brit’s could meet other young people.

“By the mid-1870s, a craze for indoor rollerskating had come to Britain, with 50 rinks in place in London at one point. The press dubbed the phenomenon ‘rinkomania’, but the healthy exercise that Plimpton had boasted of was not all that attracted the young ‘rinkers’.

‘The skating rink is the neutral ground on which the sexes may meet,’ reported Australia’s Port Macquarie News of goings-on in London and elsewhere, ‘without all the pomp and circumstances of society. The rink knows no Mother Grundy, with her eagle eye and sharp tongue, for Mother Grundy dare not trust herself on skates, and so the rinker is happier than the horseman of whom Horace sang.’

Holding hands and whispering sweet nothings became easier without Mother Grundy – a contemporary term for a stern matriarch – and her ilk tagging along. Prolonged eye contact with one’s intended replaced stolen glances.”

Skating rinks were also built all across the United States and remained wildly popular for one hundred years. In the late 1990’s and into the early part of the 21st Century, many were shuttered.

1960’s era metal roller skates. Very adjustable, you could make them fit your tennis shoes exactly.

But thanks to the global pandemic of 2020, roller skating has emerged as a great way to get exercise. Roller rinks are seeing a revival in popularity.

I must admit that when I came across this topic, it produced nostalgia. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve been out roller skating. A fear of falling and breaking something keeps me from pursuing this particular activity.

But as a child, I was fearless. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t roller skate. It was in 1966 when my parents did a home remodel and our carport was converted to a family room. The driveway was relocated and became a large, flat expanse of concrete. It was perfect for a child with a pair of all metal roller skates which attached to her shoes. I spent many hours in the driveway skating around. No doubt I skinned my knees dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But I was undaunted.

When the weather turned inclement I’d sometimes get to go to my Aunt’s house a couple blocks away and skate in circles around their basement.

The current exterior of Yakima’s Skateland

But the holy grail of experiences was on the days when I got to go to Skateland, Yakima’s very own roller rink. I loved everything about Skateland. How it smelled. The wood cubbies where one stored their shoes and coat. The flashing lights suspended over the rink. The planked floor with numbers painted on it for when they had a contest. The sound of hundreds of wheels rolling across it. The impossibly loud music. Dancing the hokey pokey.

September 2001 was the last time I went skating at Skateland in Yakima. The occasion was my niece’s ninth birthday. We are pictured skating together at the left side of the photo.

I feel quite confident that roller skating is in my rear view mirror but I wonder if there is some inventor out there who could create a contraption that would allow all us Baby Boomers to skate once again. Places like Skateland in Yakima, or Skagit Skate not too far from where I currently live, could make it a real thing.

What we BB’s need would be akin to training wheels or even a walker like device. Something that would allow all the old fogies to stay upright and be able to recapture a few fleeting moments of our youth. Ah yes, those were the good old days.

A few links:

First up is Jim Croce’s classic ‘Roller Derby Queen’ – his explanation at the beginning is great!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_skates

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31831110

Same Old Lang Syne

The Iconic song with a twist

December 28, 2021

The end of December is, traditionally, a time to reflect on the year just past. No song is more associated with the ending of the year and the start of a new one than Auld Lang Syne.

It somehow seems appropriate that the origins of this poem and song are steeped in the mysteries of time. It was plucked from obscurity by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, in 1788. He set it to music and added verses which most closely approximate the song familiar to all.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares, of course, a plethora of information:

“Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 with the remark, ‘The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.’ Some of the lyrics were indeed ‘collected’ rather than composed by the poet; the ballad ‘Old Long Syne’ printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same ‘old song’. To quote from the first stanza of the James Watson ballad:

Scottish Poet Robert Burns

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

Chorus:
On old long syne my Jo,
On old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On old long syne.

It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (not to mention English, Welsh and Irish people) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.”

The song was popularized in the United States by Guy Lombardo who “is remembered for almost a half-century of New Year’s Eve big band remotes, first on radio, then on television. His orchestra played at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 (snip) to 1959, and from then until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Live broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a large part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was called ‘Mr. New Year’s Eve.’”

You would have had to have been born in a cave and lived in the wilderness your entire life to never have heard the song. In December 1980, another artist came along who wrote an autobiographical song which succeeded in connecting yet another generation to the concept of remembering, with a wistful nostalgia, days and people since gone.

Dan Fogelberg’s addition came about following a chance encounter with an ex-girlfriend on Christmas Eve in 1975. They run in to each other in the grocery store and then proceed to share a six pack of beer while sitting in her car at a mini-mart. It is, I think, the very ordinariness of the encounter which juxtaposes so very well with the emotions just under the surface.

Cover for the 1980 single

Somehow Fogelberg – who claimed to have begun the song more as a joke – ended up transforming the opening music from the 1812 Overture into a nostalgia filled classic that ends with Auld Lang Syne.

Perhaps the thing that makes the song resonate with so many people is that one recognizes – as one matures – that life is a series of binary choices. A first love, for example, is just that. A young person simply does not have the advantage of time and experience to understand that once a relationship is over it is likely to stay that way.

Fogelberg – in his song – encapsulates that moment of recognition and the emotion which comes with it:

We drank a toast to innocence

We drank a toast to now

And tried to reach beyond the emptiness

But neither one knew how

We drank a toast to innocence

We drank a toast to time

Reliving in our eloquence

Another ‘auld lang syne’

It is, though, the final few bars of the song which stops the listener and creates the ennui associated with endings… he leaves the car to walk back to his parents’ home and the ‘snow turns in to rain.’ It is at this moment when Fogelberg uses Auld Lang Syne to such devastating effect through a soulful, blues filled saxophone rendition.

Although many regard the song as a Christmas one due to its taking place on December 24th, I’ve always thought it belonged to the last week of December when, as we take down our calendars and put up the new ones, we reflect on the year just past and remember those who are no longer with us.

So here’s a toast to Auld Lang Syne with a short verse which is one of my favorites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same_Old_Lang_Syne

Leavenworth, Washington

Bavarian Village in the Cascade Mountains

December 21, 2021

This time of year it’s easy to find ‘lists’ of the best holiday and Christmas towns in the U.S. For those who live in Washington State, it’s no surprise to find Leavenworth always on those lists.

A view of downtown Leavenworth during the Christmas light festival, courtesy of Seattlerefined.com

It was named, a few years ago, as the ultimate holiday town by the A&E TV network. No wonder, then, that the place has been overrun in recent years with tourists – especially during November and December.

The Leavenworth story began in 1892 when lumber was king. A sawmill was located on the Wenatchee River and the Great Northern Railway established its terminal there; the last stop before the climb up and over Steven’s Pass to Seattle.

Downtown looking west 1953

The town thrived for several decades until the railway moved the terminal to Wenatchee in 1925. Over the course of the next 25 years the lumber mills closed and residents – with no hope of employment – moved away, leaving much of the town boarded up and abandoned.

Leavenworth could have followed the fate of other small towns, withering away into historical obscurity. But thanks to the vision of two Seattle businessmen, a plan was hatched. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“The city looked to tourism and recreation as a major economy as early as 1929, when they opened a ski jump. In 1962, the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee was formed in partnership with the University of Washington to investigate strategies to revitalize the struggling logging town. The theme town idea was created by two Seattle businessmen, Ted Price and Bob Rodgers, who had bought a failing cafe on Highway 2 in 1960. Price was chair of the Project LIFE tourism subcommittee, and in 1965 the pair led a trip to a Danish-themed town, Solvang, California, to build support for the idea. The first building to be remodeled in the Bavarian style was the Chikamin Hotel, which owner LaVerne Peterson renamed the Edelweiss after the state flower of Bavaria.”

Perhaps the thing which was most compelling for the Bavarian theme is Leavenworth’s incredible natural scenery. At an elevation of 1,170 feet, Leavenworth is noted for its Continental Mediterranean climate. Summer days are primarily sunny and hot but with cool, crisp nights. Winters are typically cold and snowy.

The snowiest winter on record in Leavenworth occurred in 1968-69 when over 18 feet of snow accumulated. The most snow in a single month was December 1996 with 92.3 inches – yes, that’s nearly 8 feet of snow! A typical YEAR is 90 inches.

The mountains to the west rise precipitously, becoming the perfect backdrop for an Alps-like village. In the winter, the picturesque slopes and snow covered trees and hills causes one to stop and ponder.

Leavenworth has, in many ways, become a victim of its success. So popular is the destination that hotel rooms are sold out – often a year or more in advance – for the big festivals and finding a place to park becomes impossible. Seattleites (a generic description of anyone from the Westside of the Cascade mountains) have in recent decades discovered the Bavarian village and cars stream across the mountains in search of a magical experience.

Aerial view of the Icicle Village Resort. The wedding was held on just the otherside of the fence past the pool… lower right of the photo to the left of the parking lot.

As a girl growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s in Yakima, visiting Leavenworth was NOT a thing. The first time I stayed in Leavenworth was when my sister and I hatched a plan to celebrate New Year’s eve there on December 31, 1999 – to ring in the year 2000 (I wrote about that here.)

In the ensuing years, we made the occasional trip to Leavenworth but never again in December. Until this past weekend.

My daughter – having survived the Y2K scare during that 1999 trip – and her fiancé decided they wanted to get married someplace in Washington where there would (they hoped!) be snow. Thus Leavenworth was chosen as the perfect spot. Waaaaaay back in March 2019 right after getting engaged, they visited Leavenworth and reserved their venue at the Icicle Village Resort for December 19th… 2020.

The planning commenced. Save the Date postcards were mailed. A wedding dress was purchased. Attendants secured. All was coming together right up until March 2020 when the world shut down.

There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to change plans. The ‘wedding’ did happen on December 19, 2020 but with a total of five people present besides the bride and groom: the officiant, the maid of honor, the best man, a photographer, and a videographer.

As the bride’s mother I was not happy with this but also being a realist did not lament over it but resolved to make the best of the situation. As did my daughter and new son in law.

Determination took over and no way were they going to let a little thing like the world being shut down (eat your heart out Y2K – 2020 said ‘hold my beer.’) to stop them from having the wedding event of their dreams.

Fast forward to December 2021. The Pandemic still raged and yet people had finally figured out that the world continued on despite it all.

Thus it was we found ourselves in Leavenworth on Friday, December 17th, preparing for a party. We rehearsed and then picked our way down icy streets to downtown to eat German style sausages and raise glasses of beer (except me – I don’t do beer). The younger folks continued on to a couple other locations while the hubby and I walked back to the resort.

Within a short time of our arrival back, I looked out our window – which had that perfect view of the mountains to the west – and noted that snow had started to fall.

The mothers of the groom and the bride taking care of the garbage bags for chair coverings.

The next morning, the snow continued. Both Stevens and Snoqualmie passes were closed for a time and about a dozen guests opted out.

Even so, just before 4 p.m., those who had made the trek, arrived for the OUTDOOR wedding. Worried about the comfort of the guests, my niece’s husband had graciously – at my behest – gone and purchased white garbage bags so everyone would have dry chairs to sit on. I stood, in my formal dress and snow boots, at where they entered and handed bags to every single person!

And then it was time… first the groom’s mother was escorted down the aisle and then me. The snow fell as if in snow globe, everything blanketed in glittery white.

Next came the officiant and our son-in-law. Then the train of groomsmen followed by the bridesmaids bedecked in shades of blue.

Then, at last, we all stood, turned and watched as my daughter – looking every bit a Bavarian fairytale princess – swept down the aisle on her father’s arm. And I was so very glad she had persisted in her desire to have not one – but two – weddings. It was a magical moment which I will carry with me the rest of my days.

It occurred to me that along the way, Leavenworth would forever hold a special place in our family’s history; an exclamation point for a few important events. I have a suspicion that there’s a whole bunch of Washingtonians who feel the same way.

The Bavarian Bride escorted by her proud Padre.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavenworth%2C_Washington

https://www.historylink.org/File/9475

https://bestlifeonline.com/american-christmas-towns/

The three other Washington State ‘theme’ towns pictured on Facebook are: Winthrop, Lynden, and La Conner

The Christmas Card

Curses to the person who started it all

December 14, 2021

I have a lot of friends who love, love, love Christmas. The decorations. The lights. Snow. Music. Truly, all of these things are wonderful and there’s a lot to enjoy this time of year.

A Victorian era Christmas card

But as the calendar turns from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, I am filled with a sense of dread. “But, Barb,” you are no doubt exclaiming, “why?”

The answer is simple: Christmas Cards and presents.

Friends of mine who are not writers or ponderers (is that even a word? If not, it should be!) will never understand the anxiety this time of year brings to those of us who are either or both of these things. I’ve heard comments like “Well, you’re a writer, it’s easy for you to jot a note on a card, right?”

The answer, my friends, is “no, it is not.”

So here I sit on November 21 and I have not purchased a single Christmas card to send but I do still have at least a dozen different blank cards of varying quantities from holiday seasons past. Sometimes I send those out to family along with checks because I have no great ideas for presents.

My ‘collection’ of cards from Christmas past… always ‘some’ sent but never all, leaving a mishmash to choose from each year.

Which got me to wondering, “Who can I blame for the tradition of mailing Christmas cards?”

The Infallible Wikipedia, as always, provides some answers. Historians have discovered a Christmas card sent to James I of England in 1611! It is some 200 years later before the next such missive is noted:

“The next cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card’s recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.”

The idea caught on and, by 1873, the phenomenon had become a cultural change in both Great Britain and the United States. In the early part of the 20th century, with the advent of mass produced cards, the sending of holiday greeting exploded. Hallmark – the largest manufacturer – posts that 1.6 BILLION Christmas cards are produced annually. Now that’s big business.

The sending of Christmas cards is also more likely to be from, ahem, older people. Younger folks don’t have a problem with digital greetings and messages, forsaking the now ‘old fashioned’ physical letter mailed through the post office.

The adorable stationary I chose for the 2021 Christmas letter

For me, personally, I prefer the ‘Christmas Letter.’ Why? Because when I have a blank card in front of me I feel guilty if I just sign my name and don’t pen a personal note to the recipient. But with the Christmas letter, I can agonize over each word, looking for just the right combination of humor and humility. And I get to type it on a computer which is much easier for a wordsmith.

For those who get one in the mail AND read my weekly Tuesday Newsday blog, the format of this will look familiar. Why, I asked myself, mess around with what works? And why not, I also conjectured, blend the need for Christmas greetings with my regular column?

Just one of about a dozen pages of Christmas cards in a scrapbook which belonged to my Great Aunt Frances DeVore. These are from 1945.

Voila! It’s the first annual Tuesday Newsday Christmas blog and greeting letter. A tidy way to accomplish it all.

No Christmas letter would be complete without a bit about the family. So here it goes: both kiddos are off doing their own things. The son is living in Mexico having recently purchased a Mexican fixer upper house. His days are filled with work as a Senior Software Engineer (working remotely) or solving a deluge of plumbing issues. The daughter got married at the height of COVID in December 2020. Not even the bride or groom’s parents attended the ceremony… the party was delayed a year to give close friends and family the opportunity to fete the happy couple. Even better is that the pair moved back to the PNW in April 2020 and both work for Amazon. I do my part to help support them. Sometimes so does the hubby. Thank goodness for that Prime membership!

Speaking of the hubby, he became president of our HOA earlier this year and he and I both manage to stay busy via our involvement with Masonic organizations. As I am a state officer for the Order of the Eastern Star this year, most weekends find us at a reception somewhere in Washington and many a weeknight I’m off to visits. What a wonderful experience it has been!

Photo Christmas Card from my Aunt Helen and Uncle Al to our family December 1956. The stockings behind them were handmade by my grandmother.

When not traveling, I stay busy writing my blog (www.barbaradevore.com), crafting my seventh novel, and cleaning house. Just kidding about that last one. My lazy housekeeper does that. For those wondering, my hope is to finally get a novel or four published. Back in 2005-ish I penned a list of things I wanted to accomplish. First on the list was ‘Write/Publish a Novel.’ Turns out the write part is easier than the publish part. Why? Well, in today’s world, one pretty much has to self-publish and self-promote their book(s). And that takes one commodity which I often find in short supply: time. Until I have the time to do it right, publishing will have to wait.

But I am determined that eventually everyone can meet the Paxton family and find out ‘who’ is The Darling of Delta Rho Chi.

Well, I just looked at my word count and see that I’m about a dozen words from the magic thousand… the amount which fits on a two sided piece of cute holiday stationary. I certainly cannot send out plain paper! Despite my protests over the anxiety of Christmas cards, etc., I love, love, love, stationary. Thanks Amazon!

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night! (Final word count: 988)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_card

Harry Chapin

The Cat’s In the Cradle and the Silver Spoon

December 7, 2021

On December 7, 1974, Singer Songwriter Harry Chapin was, arguably, at the apex of his career. He turned 32 years old that day, his album Verities and Balderdash had been released in late August and was performing well on the charts. Two weeks later, his single Cat’s In The Cradle would claim the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

If he were still alive, Harry Forster Chapin would be celebrating his 79th birthday. Born in New York City,  the second of four sons, Chapin’s first exposure to music was trumpet lessons, encouraged no doubt by his father, Jim Chapin, a renowned percussionist. His younger brothers, Tom and Steve, formed a musical group as  teenagers and Harry would perform with them.

But music, it seems, was not the direction he went… at least not at first. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“He originally intended to be a documentary film-maker and took a job with The Big Fights, a company run by Bill Cayton that owned a large library of classic boxing films. Chapin directed Legendary Champions in 1968, which was nominated for a documentary Academy Award. In 1971, he began focusing on music. With John Wallace, Tim Scott, and Ron Palmer, Chapin started playing in various nightclubs in New York City.”

Having a father in the music business probably helped his career along. He became the prize in a bidding war between two high powered executives at Columbia and Elektra records. The result being a multi-million dollar contract with Elektra which, at the time, was one of the biggest ever signed.

On his debut album was the song Taxi – a wistful story of a chance encounter with an old girlfriend the taxi driver picks up one night. That song catapulted Chapin to fame. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“When asked if the song was true, Chapin said ‘It’s emotionally true, if not literally true. I’ve been in the film business on and off for a lot of years, and wasn’t doing well at one point. So I went out and got a hack license for bread, and during the month that I was waiting for it to come through, I heard an old girlfriend of mine had gotten married and instead of becoming an actress she married a rich guy. I envisioned some night I’d be driving a cab in the big city streets and this lady would get in the back, and I’d turn and look at her and she’d look at me and know we both sold out our dreams.’ Billboard ranked ‘Taxi’ as the 85th song of the year. ‘Taxi’ also earned Chapin a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist of the Year.”

By 1974, Chapin had a string of memorable songs and a reputation as a talented songwriter. Cat’s In the Cradle – his most successful recording – is a poignant and memorable song about a man who has a son, but no time to spend with his child. We follow the man through the stages of life and, at the end of the story, we learn that his son has followed in his father’s footsteps, never finding the time for his family either.

Sadly, Chapin lost his life in a horrific auto accident on July 16, 1981. He was on his way to play, for free, at a benefit concert.

Chapin with son Josh and daughter Jennifer

In addition to his music, Chapin championed a number of social issues. In 1987, on what would have been his 45th birthday, Chapin was recognized for his work on behalf of fighting world hunger and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. That award is given to individuals “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

A few years back, the organizers of a class reunion for my high school sent out a questionnaire as a way of engaging classmates. One of the questions was ‘which song from high school best represents our experience?’

I did not hesitate a moment and wrote Cats In The Cradle. When the list came out at the reunion, I was pleased to see that many of my classmates felt the same way.

Perhaps, that song is Chapin’s most enduring contribution to people everywhere – a reminder that life holds no guarantees and can be over in an instant. The best any of us can do is pause every once in a while and give our time to those we love and value.

Time, after all, is the true currency for all. But it cannot be earned or purchased. It cannot be borrowed. It can only be spent. Chapin seemed to understand this and did so very much with his allotted 38 years.

The lyrics for Cats In The Cradle:

A child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it and as he grew
He said, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you”

Chorus: And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man in the moon

When you comin home, Dad, I don’t know when,

But we’ll get together then,

You know we’ll have a good time then.


My son turned ten just the other day
He said “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on lets play
Can you teach me to throw? ” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do” He said “that’s okay”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him”

(Chorus)

Well he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile

“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please? “

(Chorus)

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said “I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu.
But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad,
It’s been sure nice talking to you…….. “
And as I hung up the phone it had occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me,
My boy was just like me…………..

(Chorus)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Chapin

https://harrychapinmusic.com/

A Rainbow Encounter

Have YOU ever driven through a Rainbow?

November 30, 2021

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher Miss Crosslin, loved to teach us science. It was in her classroom one day when she darkened the room and then shone a light through a prism. A rainbow leaped across the space, my attention riveted on this amazing phenomenon.

Rainbows are created when light is refracted through prisms

I learned that a natural rainbow is the result of light being refracted through millions of droplets of water. The Infallible Wikipedia informs:

“When sunlight encounters a raindrop, part of the light is reflected and the rest enters the raindrop. The light is refracted at the surface of the raindrop. When this light hits the back of the raindrop, some of it is reflected off the back. When the internally reflected light reaches the surface again, once more some is internally reflected and some is refracted as it exits the drop. (The light that reflects off the drop, exits from the back, or continues to bounce around inside the drop after the second encounter with the surface, is not relevant to the formation of the primary rainbow.) The overall effect is that part of the incoming light is reflected back over the range of 0° to 42°, with the most intense light at 42°. This angle is independent of the size of the drop, but does depend on its refractive index. Seawater has a higher refractive index than rain water, so the radius of a ‘rainbow’ in sea spray is smaller than a true rainbow. This is visible to the naked eye by a misalignment of these bows.”

While the scientific explanation provides the why and how, the rest of the equation has to do with the human response. It is, perhaps, the most noticed phenomenon in nature and one which causes people everywhere to stop and notice.

A double Rainbow which appeared the morning of January 1, 2020. The photo is looking west from my sister’s home in Selah, Washington. The hubby and I were headed home that morning, and we saw multiple Rainbows as we traveled.

I chose today to discuss rainbows since it was on this date in 2017 when a single rainbow was observed for nearly nine hours! The Guinness Book of World records shares:

“The longest lasting rainbow observation is 8 hours and 58 minutes and was achieved by Chinese Culture University (Chinese Taipei) at Yangmingshan, Taipei, Chinese Taipei, on 30 November 2017.”

The world record rainbow in Taipei on November 30, 2017. Not only was it the longest but several different Rainbow phenomena were present that day.

Rainbows have been referenced throughout human history. I imagine that most Americans are familiar with, for example, the story of Noah and the appearance of the ‘bow in the clouds’ as a sign from God that he will never again destroy the world. The rainbow has been a sign of hope, and used as such, throughout history. A myriad of organizations, businesses, and movements have adopted the rainbow as their symbol. All of which speaks to the universal experience of seeing one.

In addition to a regular rainbow, they’ve been observed with double arcs, and full circle rainbows have been seen from planes. There are also twinned, supernumerary, reflection, and monochrome rainbows.

One thing the Infallible Wikipedia did NOT cover was something I experienced and posted on Facebook a few years ago:

Photo I took of a rainbow in North Bend, Washington, March 2016. About 15 minutes later I ‘drove’ through it.

“Have you ever driven through a rainbow? I’ve done it twice. It’s an incredibly intense experience. The first time was in September 2005 as I was driving a van load of girls back from a trip to the beach. The second time was a year ago March on my way to Yakima. Here’s what happens. The sun is behind you creating the rainbow through the prism of raindrops. As you get closer and closer the light and the colors get more intense until, at last the two merge together in brilliance. A moment later you are enveloped by the sky which has turned dark and gray. The legend is that the rainbow vanishes as the searcher approaches. .. I think that more accurately it vanishes behind you. Here’s the rainbow I drove through about 15 minutes after this photo was taken in North Bend in March 2016.”

I will elaborate a bit further. I was headed southeast and up the hill out of North Bend, Washington, heading across Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima. The rainbow, ever present, shifted from my left side and was now directly in front of me. It grew larger and larger; the rain poured down. I could sense that at some point the rain was going to win out against the sun which was now shining directly from behind me. At the instant it happened, the world was bathed with intense color – red mostly – and a moment later the brilliance evaporated, leaving only a monotone world of grays as if someone had switched off the color.

I think that the automobile is what makes this phenomenon possible as you can travel at a speed which allows you to move out of the sunlight. Even a hundred years ago I doubt it occurred. I can find no recorded accounts (besides my own) of this sort of event happening. My wish for everyone is to experience it once. It truly was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever encountered.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/66553-longest-lasting-rainbow

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2018/4/record-confirmed-for-stunning-taipei-rainbow-that-lasted-for-almost-9-hours-520704

Turkey Tomfoolery

Everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving Bird

November 23, 2021

A native to North America, this bird – which takes center stage this week – is, perhaps, the best representative of all that is uniquely American.

The turkey, it turns out, has been around a long time. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

There’s even a giant turkey statue in Frazee, Minnesota

“The earliest turkeys evolved in North America over 20 million years ago and they share a recent common ancestor with grouse, pheasants, and other fowl. The wild turkey species is the ancestor of the domestic turkey, which was domesticated approximately 2,000 years ago.”

The Aztec culture developed a myriad of recipes for the fowl, many of which are still used in Mexico today. We know that the turkey was known in North America when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, documented as being served at the first Thanksgiving.

Since then, the turkey has come to be THE meat to serve on the fourth Thursday in November and, for many families, at their Christmas feast also.

Of course there is a good case to be made for cooking a turkey. The size of the fowl, unlike a chicken, make it possible to feed a large group with just one bird. The Guiness Book of World Records tells us:

“The greatest dressed weight recorded for a turkey is 39.09 kg (86 lb) for a stag named Tyson reared by Philip Cook of Leacroft Turkeys Ltd, Peterborough, United Kingdom. It won the last annual `heaviest turkey’ competition, held in London on 12 December 1989, and was auctioned for charity for a record £;4400 (then $6,692).”

That’s a lot of leftovers!

Some of my earliest childhood memories center around Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners both of which featured a large turkey.

An annual tradition is for a pair of turkey’s to get a Presidential Pardon. Pictured at the White House are Peanut Butter and Jelly, the 2021 turkey’s.

Because the family ate ‘dinner’ at noon, that meant my mother (or my aunt if we were going to their house) was up at four a.m. to get the bird in the oven. It was always a treat to awaken to the smell of roasting turkey.

My job, when I was a child, was to set the table with my mother’s china. Oh how I loved the anticipation of that meal.

It was sometime in the mid-1980’s when I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal. After the hubby and I married in 1980, we ping-ponged between our two families, never giving a thought as to the work it took to create the feast.

Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple found us in Blaine with his family. When we walked into his parent’s turn of the century farm house that November 27th, the kitchen was in a state of being updated. The hubby’s dad had recently built an ‘island’ in the middle of the kitchen to house the pride and joy of my mother-in-law’s kitchen: a Jenn-Air cooktop.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the original Jenn-Air was a cooktop only and featured burners, grills, and griddles which were all a standard shape and size. These cartridges were ‘plugged’ into a power source. The typical Jenn-Air had two cartridge slots on either side with a down draft fan in the center; you mixed and match your elements. It was easy, for example, to remove the two burner cartridge and plug in the grill.

A Jenn-Air cooktop circa 1980

My mother-in-law was VERY excited to use her new cooktop. There was only one problem… it was a cooktop and, at that time, there was not a conventional oven in the kitchen.

Which brings us back to the issue of cooking a turkey. No matter how wonderful the Jenn-Air cooktop might be, it wasn’t going to be able to cook a 12 to 16 pound bird.

But never fear, dear readers, because there was another new – unknown technology – appliance in the house that year: the microwave oven.

Now, in 1980 hardly anyone understood the advantages or disadvantages of the microwave. In fact, only some 25 percent of U.S. households owned one. The average new microwave cost about $400 which in 2021 dollars is about $1300. Microwave manufacturers were busy touting how great this new ‘oven’ was. We had all been told that the microwave could do everything a traditional oven could do, but would take less time and cook more efficiently.

And that’s how we ended up eating a Turkey cooked entirely in a microwave! That bird got flipped and turned more times than an Olympic Pairs figure skater. And it took much, much longer than anyone could anticipate. For HOURS the microwave was cooking that bird with, it seemed, minimal impact.

Companies advertised microwaves as being able to cook just as well as a conventional oven.

Finally, rather late in the day, the turkey was declared done and dinner was served.

The turkey was nearly inedible.

Rather than a nice roasted brown color, it was gray. There was no crispiness to the skin, no yummy juice coating it.

When the knife cut into the bird for carving, the meat was stringy and tough.

Of course we all made the best of the situation. And it was a rapid learning event in regards to microwaves. They are great for some things, but not for cooking whole turkeys (or other poultry and meats in my opinion).

I also SHOULD have learned that doing kitchen remodels on top of a major holiday is a bad idea. Unfortunately, it was a lesson that I promptly forgot on several occasions in subsequent years. But that’s a story (or two) for another day.

This year I am the one hosting Thanksgiving and am thankful that my in laws will be joining us on Thursday. My turkey will never see the inside of a microwave. Call me a traditionalist, but there are some things which are sacred. A properly cooked Thanksgiving turkey is one of them.

My mother’s china on the table I set for Thanksgiving 2018 – the last one with my Dad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_(bird)

I purposefully didn’t comment on this photo which I posted on Facebook along with the link to this article. Why? This was from Thanksgiving a few years ago when the larger of our two ovens ‘failed’. I was unable to fit a full size Turkey in the smaller oven and had to cut the bird in half and turn it on its side to cook. Now that was quite the chore! That turkey – unlike the one in the microwave – DID come out just fine after I performed my surgery (as pictured)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This Is Important. It Mean’s Something.

November 16, 2021

Perhaps more than any other element of this Academy Award Nominated (and win in one category) film, is its memorable five note musical sequence.

For those unfamiliar with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the five notes are how the extraterrestrials who make contact with earth communicate where they are going to set up shop, so to speak.

When this film premiered on November 16, 1977, it launched movie goers into a Science Fiction world which felt quite real.

Devil’s Tower looks nothing like this poster portrays it.

The premise of the movie is multi-faceted, but the main protagonist – played by Richard Dreyfuss – is key to telling the story of the arrival of extraterrestrials and humankind’s ‘close encounters of the third kind.’ We go to the Infallible Wikipedia for more information:

“At a rural home (In Indiana), three-year-old Barry Guiler wakes to find his toys operating on their own. He starts to follow something outside, forcing his mother, Jillian, to chase after him. Large-scale power outages begin rolling through the area, forcing electrician Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) to investigate. While he gets his bearings Roy experiences a close encounter with a UFO, and when it flies over his truck it lightly burns the side of his face with its lights. The UFO takes off with three others in the sky, as Roy and three police cars give chase. The spacecrafts fly off into the night sky but the metaphysical experience leaves Roy mesmerized. He becomes fascinated by UFOs to the dismay of his wife, Ronnie, and begins obsessing over subliminal images of a mountain-like shape, often making models of it. Jillian meanwhile also becomes obsessed, sketching the unique mountain image. Soon after, she is terrorized in her home by a UFO which descends from the clouds. She fights off violent attempts by the UFO and unseen beings to enter the home, but in the chaos Barry is abducted. (snip)

 Witnesses in Dharamsala, Northern India report that the UFOs make distinctive sounds: a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale. Scientists broadcast the phrase to outer space, but are mystified by the response: a seemingly meaningless series of numbers (104 44 30 40 36 10) repeated over and over until (scientist David) Laughlin, with his background in cartography, recognizes it as a set of geographical coordinates, which point to Devils Tower near Moorcroft, Wyoming. Lacombe and the U.S. military converge on Wyoming. The United States Army evacuates the area, planting false reports in the media that a train wreck has spilled a toxic nerve gas, all the while preparing a secret landing zone for the UFOs and their occupants.”

Despite the movie being firmly in the category of science fiction, it is Richard Dreyfuss’ character which provides the humanity needed to make the movie compelling and memorable. He does a superb job of portraying someone who has experienced a life altering traumatic event. Neary’s quest to go to Devil’s Tower sets up the dramatic final scenes and left audiences everywhere believing that such an encounter could truly happen.

If you have never seen the movie, it is one which was recognized in 2007 as “‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ by the United States Library of Congress, and was added to the National Film Registry for preservation. In American Film Institute polls, Close Encounters has been voted the 64th-greatest American film, the 31st-most thrilling, and the 58th-most inspiring. It was also nominated for the top 10 science fiction films in AFI’s 10 Top 10 and the tenth-anniversary edition of the 100 Movies list.The score by John Williams was nominated for AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores.”

I feel pretty certain I did not see it during its initial release. In the fall of 1977 and early winter of 1978, I was immersed in college life and, being perpetually broke and busy with other social events, it likely never made it to my radar screen.

But when I did eventually see it, the premise intrigued.

I had heard about UFO’s and was somewhat familiar with the legend of their appearance near Mt. Rainier in the late 1940’s. In January of 1980, as a reporter in Eatonville, Washington, I had the opportunity to consider if extraterrestrials could possibly be true and wrote about that experience in one of my blogs from a few years ago: https://barbaradevore.com/2018/03/27/a-blast-from-the-past/

It was in 1989, however, when the hubby and I made it to Devil’s Tower to determine, first hand, if a giant alien ship really could have landed on top of that volcanic plug.

1989 was a ‘camping’ trip vacation and the hubby and I had a tent which we dubbed ‘Darth Vader.’ The reason for this was that the tent – when fully set up with the rain fly over it – looked a lot like the helmet worn by the Star War’s villain. Our first child had not yet arrived in the world although he was in process.

How Devil’s Tower looked during our 1989 trip

Since it was still early in the pregnancy, sleeping on an air mattress in a tent was acceptable. We had camped our way from Seattle to Yellowstone and from there had headed northeast towards Devil’s Tower. Or at least I think that’s what we had done.

The day we arrive it’s getting on toward sunset and it’s windy and a bit stormy. And although WE got our tent set up and firmly secured, it was moments before the wind and rain swept into the campsite. We watched from inside our car as one tent rolled over and over ending up in the river; objects flew past our car.

Fortunately, the squall soon passed and the rest of the night was without incident. The next day we hiked around the base of the tower and learned that, no, the top of the rock looked nothing like the massive spot where the aliens landed in Close Encounters.

Fast forward to 1998. We are now touring in style, towing an 18-ish foot travel trailer complete with kitchen, indoor plumbing, a dining table, and bunks for the kids. The kids are 8 and 5 and we head out to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. It’s August 1998.

The afternoon we arrive at Devil’s Tower campground it’s hot but that’s to be expected. What’s not to be expected is a repeat of the 1989 trip… yet there we are.

The storm clouds roll in and there’s lightning. The wind picks up. Rumor has it that there are climbers up on Devil’s Tower who, because of the thunderstorm, cannot get down from it.

We had just finished dinner when we see the park ranger approach our campsite. Although I cannot remember his exact message, I will paraphrase:

“We are under a tornado warning (or perhaps it was only a watch?) and it’s recommended that you seek shelter. You can go to the bathrooms or, if not that, buckle yourselves into the seatbelts of your car.”

Oooookay…

I remember looking over at the cinderblock bathrooms and being repulsed by the idea of staying inside the musty cement building for who knows how long.

So we all climbed into the Wrastromobile (1998 White Chevy Astro Van), buckled up and waited for the tornado. My five year old daughter and I were in the back seat. She never let go of my hand, traumatized by the thought that we were going to be pulling a Dorothy and end up soaring up in the funnel, still buckled into our seats. The tornado never arrived.

Obsessed with the imagery of Devil’s Tower, Roy Neary makes models of the mountain out of everything, including mashed potatoes

Eventually, the ranger came back by and said the warning was past. So we exited the van, had a campfire and watched the sunset over Devil’s Tower. The next day we learned that there had been a EF-0 tornado about 20 miles away in Moorcroft.

The next evening, while staying further west in Buffalo, Wyoming, we experienced a high wind event which, although it was not an official tornado, ripped the awning off of our trailer, took down a bunch of branches, removed all the recycled cans from the wire bins in the campground, and generally left the place a mess.

And although we never saw any extraterrestrials landing their ships atop Devil’s Tower, I’m convinced that whatever happens there is important and it means something. But I’m in no hurry to go back and tempt fate with a close encounter a third time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind

Facebook Quiz Answers: E.T., King Kong vs. Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters, 2001: A Space Odyssey

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.