Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Apartment Building

Our apartment building was in the Cass Corridor. Only three blocks away was the Masonic Temple which hosted plays among other events. Next door was the Employment Office. Across the street was a hotel of ill-repute. At the other end of the street was Woodward Avenue which is one of the main thoroughfares of the city.

My husband and I lived on the third floor... no elevator. We had a living room/dining room, bedroom, and bathroom. It was not a bad place to live even though the neighborhood was bad.

My son who was a baby slept in a dresser drawer atop the dresser. That way he was close when he woke up hungry and I was still in bed.

This was where my parents stayed with us when they first arrived. Of course it was crowded.  Besides my husband, baby, and me there were my parents and six brothers and sisters.

My parents rented an apartment on the first floor. It was much larger. So my family moved there. They enrolled the children in school. Daddy looked for work.

In less than a week my father was employed. The kids were in school. It seemed that things were working out well... for the most part.

The apartment directly below my parents was occupied by a strange man. Apparently he had been a merchant seaman at one time. He was loud and rude. One of his ears had been pierced.  During a fight his earring was ripped out leaving his earlobe split and separated.

He had a habit of imagining enemies outside his window. He would scream and curse at them. Then he would throw firecrackers and M-80's at them. This usually happened after he had been drinking.

On his good days he would place his radio in the window and turn it up as high as it would go.

My parents asked him nicely if he could stop with the fireworks and not play the radio quite so loud. He was congenial and agreed to be quieter.

The noise did not stop although he only played the radio loud when he knew my father was at work.

Finally Mom had all she could stand. She had a pan of water boiling on the stove. She took it and leaned out the window. She threw the whole pan of hot water at the radio. BULLSEYE! The radio sputtered and crackled and died. When he got a new radio he kept the sound down.

Next door to our apartment lived a man with his daughter and son. The daughter and my sister became close friends. Over the years they grew apart. However the girl married my husband's younger brother. They now have seven children and a whole bunch of grandchildren.

More next time.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Places To Live

When I first arrived in Detroit my husband and I stayed with his brother and family until we found an apartment on the East side. We lived just a few blocks from the Detroit River.

Our apartment was on the second floor. There was another apartment on the same floor. The first floor was occupied by a young family with several children. The husband was a veteran. The wife was from Germany.

The third floor was not much more than an attic. A strange man lived there. He drank to excess. When he was drinking he would play records of Hitler's speeches. He was sure that would attract the woman from the first floor.

The day he went out into the street and stopped traffic was the day they finally did something about him. Because the traffic was backed up the police came. He was delirious and violent. That was the last time we saw him.

Eventually we moved to another apartment. It was in the Cass Corridor near downtown Detroit.

The Cass Corridor is a bad area. Not the worst but bad.

Across the street from our building was a hotel. That was where the prostitutes took their 'clients'. Sometimes some of us who lived in the apartment building would choose a hooker and see how many men she would entertain in an afternoon. It became a game.

When the riots in 1967 happened that area was dangerous. We happened to be visiting my husband's brother and family that day. A mutual friend came into the house in the evening to watch the news to see what time the curfew started. We all thought he was crazy.

We stayed there for a week until it was safe to go home. In the meantime there was a high-speed car chase down the street as we were standing in front of the house talking to neighbors.

My parents were frantic. They had not yet come to the big city. They had no idea where I was or whether we were safe. They sent a telegram that I did not receive because I was not home. I had no idea that it was national news.

My family was relieved when I called them to let them know that we were all safe.

Later that year was when I took my baby to meet his grandparents. Then they came to the big city.

More next time.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Together In The Big City

My husband and I had been married slightly less than a year. There was very little work in this part of the country. What work there was offered little opportunity to better oneself. After much discussion we decided to try our luck elsewhere.

My husband's older brother had moved to Detroit. He told us that work was plentiful there. Detroit was where we would try.

My husband drove to the big city. I went to stay with my parents until he found work. After he got his first paycheck he would send for me.

After a couple of weeks I was on the bus headed for Michigan. We settled in to live where the work was.  I did not like the way people live on top of each other in the city but we made the best of it.

After another year I had my first baby. I desperately wanted my family to see him. I took time from my job and rode the bus with my little one to visit family.

I had a good time being with everyone again. They fussed over the baby of course. We also spent some time with my husband's family who were also thrilled to meet the newest member of the family.

My father's company had done away with the night shift. He was foreman of that shift. They told him he could go back to the day shift as an hourly employee which was basically a demotion. He decided to try his luck elsewhere. They would drive me home and see what the big city had to offer.

It was a fun trip. Both my parents, my six younger brothers and sisters, and my baby and I left for Detroit.

I was glad to be home and be with my husband. My family took an apartment in the same building we lived in. Daddy looked for work and found it almost right away. Things were looking good.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Summer will come eventually. I hope.

I was thinking last night about summer when my children were small. Other children often came to our yard to play. Nieces and nephews were at our house. Then came my grandchildren. We often had the yard filled with children.

When the weather is hot children need to have something to drink. And they are always hungry. It can be expensive to keep them in snacks.

Water is the best thing to drink but the kids like something with more flavor. Kool-Aid and other drinks like that work well.

Another good trick is to freeze Kool-Aid for a cooling and wet snack. Just pour the drink into ice cube trays or small paper cups. Popsicle sticks are usually available at the dollar store. Put one in each cube or cup. As the liquid freezes the sticks are frozen into it. Nice handles. Some people use toothpicks but they are sharp and I do not recommend them.

There are many snacks that are easy to make. One of my favorites is graham crackers and frosting. You can either buy cans of frosting or make your own with confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla, and a touch of milk. Spread a generous amount of frosting on a graham cracker. Then cover it with another graham cracker. They are quite filling. You can use saltines too but they are not quite as good.

Popcorn is inexpensive. Make up a bunch and give it to the children. I can tell you ahead of time that they will probably have a popcorn fight and throw it all over the yard. It hurts nothing. Birds and animals will eat up whatever falls before the next morning.

If you feel especially energetic you can make Kiddie Cookies. Pie crust is cut into pieces. I used the cut off pieces of pies I was making. Put them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. Bake them for a few minutes until they are golden brown. They are crispy and sweet.

Core an apple and cut it into wedges. Put a dollop of peanut butter where the core used to be. They are so good. One apple goes a long way so you will not have to use too many. You can also fill them with soft cheese or even fluffy marshmallow.

These are just a few ideas. It makes child'splay fun and your time a little easier.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Arlington National Cemetery is where many of our military dead are buried.  If you ever get the chance to see it GO. There is nothing I can tell you that gives justice to the sea of perfectly aligned headstones that mark the graves of fallen soldiers and dignitaries.

The history of the cemetery is astounding with many historical figures mentioned.

George Washington married Martha Custis, a widow wirh 4 children. One of her grandsons was George Washington Parke Custis. George and Martha raised him after his father died when GWPC was just 6 months old.

GWPC eventually married. He and his wife had 4 children but the only one to survive until adulthood was Mary Anna Randolph Custis.

They lived on a lovely bit of land GWPC inherited from his father. It was about 1000 acres that overlooked the Potomac River with a view of Washington DC. He built a Greek Revival home at the top of the hill to take advantage of the view.

GWPC gave a 'living inheritance' to his daughter that specified that she could not dispose of any or all of the land during her life.

Mary married a military man with a great future. He had graduated from West Point and was highly regarded in the highest circles of political society. His name was Robert E Lee.

When Lee chose to remain loyal to Virginia during the Civil War they had to reluctantly relocate. Union forces captured and occupied Arlington. As was common practice at the time Mary buried many family valuables before she left.

Because of the war the two nearby cemeteries rapidly filled. The US government realized that national cemeteries would be needed. After deliberating on locations it was decided that Arlington was the best spot.

Arlington had a view of Washington DC, it sat on high ground as protection from flooding, and it had a serene, pleasant feel to it. A bonus to using Arlington was that since it was the home of Robert E Lee he would have no home after the war.

The US government purchased Arlington for taxes after denying payment of those taxes from Mary Custis Lee.

In 1874 Mary's son George Washington Custis Lee (also known as Custis Lee) sued the US government claiming that he was the rightful owner of Arlington. He won. He then sold Arlington to the government for $150,000.

There was a signing ceremony to transfer Arlington back to the government. Attending were Custis Lee and Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln.

Arlington House is still on the grounds. It is a beautiful home.

There are several monuments and places of interest in Arlinton National Cemetery. I will let you search for them if you are interested. I want to mention only two of them.

The Tomb of the Unknowns honors those who lost their lives in wars but were unable to be identified. With modern science identification is more probable and some of the unknowns have been named.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is located on the spot where Robert E Lee had his garden.

The guards for the Tomb of the Unknowns are there 24 hours of the day. The solemn ceremony is beautiful, majestic, and sad all at once. Even small children become quiet to see them perform their duties.

Volunteer soldiers guard the Tomb. They undergo rigorous training to qualify. They guard in every kind of weather all day and all night.

The second memorial is the Eternal Flame for President John Kennedy. I suppose it is because Kennedy's assassination was such an indelible mark in my brain that I feel its importance.

Remember a serviceman today. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What Happened To Spring?

It has been raining for about a week now. I will be honest and say there were a couple of sunny days. For the most part it rains.

Today is heavy rain and a lot of wind. I had to go into Sioux City to pick up groceries. The wind made driving difficult.

It was not cold enough to freeze though. When I was coming out of the store I noticed that the water on the paving in the parking lot was thicker and slippery.

When I went to get into my truck I opened the door. When I went to step in to sit down the wind almost blew my feet from under me.

Things are supposed to calm down by tomorrow. My sister-in-law winters in Texas every year and she finally came back last week.

We are meeting at the cemetery tomorrow (weather permitting) to get things looking nice before Memorial Day. We go to three cemeteries evey year. Then we go to lunch and catch up on family news.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Divine Malady

This is a re-post of something I wrote a few years ago. It needs to be seen every once in a while. Please read it all. It might come in handy someday.

When I was 16 I took a summer job babysitting. It was a family of 5 children. They lived in a trailer park on a lake. Their trailer was a very large nice home.

They had four boys and one daughter. I would sleep in the same room as the daughter because I would stay there all week. On weekends I would go home.

Both parents worked so they needed someone who could take care of the children, do light housework, and cook at least two meals each day. No problem. Remember I have six younger brothers and sisters.

The children also had an aunt and uncle only a few trailers away. The aunt was only a few years older than I. I was asked to never leave the children alone with her because she had epilepsy. She had been in a car accident and there was a bruise on her brain that caused seizures.

She was a very nice person and we got along very well. She would come down a couple of times a week just to visit while her husband was at work.

One day she had a seizure. She was just sitting and quietly watching television when she began to act strangely. She yelped a couple of times and slapped her leg repeatedly. It took me a few beats to realize what was happening but I had no idea what to do for her.

I had promised the children I would make Johnny cake for breakfast one day. What I call Johnny cake is just hot cornbread with sugar and milk poured over it. It is delicious if you want to try it. So one Monday morning I got up early to start baking.

I did not know that the parents had broiled steaks the evening before. They decided to leave the oily aluminum foil on the broiler and clean it after work Monday.

I lit the oven and started making cornbread batter. The oldest son of the family came in rubbing his eyes and trying to wake up. As we were talking we saw the flames flare up from the broiler.

I am good in a crisis so I was going to go out and turn off the fuel tank. When I got to the door I suddenly felt myself turning to the left and spinning uncontrollably.

Then I was waking up on the couch with the mother of the family hovering over me and the children looking so frightened. She wanted to know if I was okay. I felt fine. Maybe just a little sleepy.

The oldest son had the good sense to run outside and turn off the fuel. Then he ran down and had his aunt come up. She called the mother who came right home. It was about a 45 minute drive.

The mother decided to take some time off work so I could go home. My parents had me rest and stay calm even though I felt fine. After one week I went back to take care of the children again.

I was there for about a week and a half. I was up before the children once again. As i moved through the living room toward their rooms to wake them up I turned and saw myself walking slightly behind and to the left of myself!

Once more I woke up to see the mother there as I was lying on the couch. This time my mother was with her. I was still so scared from what I had seen. The mother of the children of course needed someone who was not passing out all the time. She had made arrangements for a friend of mine to finish out the summer. That was fine with me. I wanted my mommy.

Mom took me home and we were relaxing again. That same day I passed the television as I was walking to a chair. Mom was in her bedroom folding clothes.

There was some sort of art program on television. The program was flashing from one painting to another and the lights changed with each painting.

I felt dizzy and was able to sit down. Then I felt myself reach up and tear the whole left side of my face, jawbone, teeth, and all, completely off. Then I felt that same hand reach down and tear the muscle from the top of my left leg. Of course that did not happen. I passed out.

Mom said she heard a funny noise and came into the living room to see me sitting in a chair with everything on my body trying to fold into itself. I am not a limber person. She said my hands were sort of palm up with my fingers almost touching my wrists.

I went immediately to the doctor. I do not remember much about the doctor visit. He admitted me to the hospital.

I had never been in the hospital before. I thought it was kind of cool to be served my food in bed. I did not like the testing they did as most of it involved drawing blood.

The second or third day I was there (I do not remember how long my stay was) I was lying there and I began to think about epilepsy. I remembered hearing my grandmother talk about two sisters in town who had "fits". That and the aunt of the children I had taken care of was the limit of what I knew on the subject.

My parents came in that morning and stood at the foot of my bed. They told me that the doctor thought I might have epilepsy. I said, "I thought that might be what it was."

When I got the chance I asked the doctor what this would mean for me having children. He said not to worry about it. But I did worry about it. So he assured me that the chances of my children having seizures was not even 1 in a million.

I was put on the medications that they used to treat seizures at that time. Now I am not a medicine taker. Two aspirin will knock me out. The medicine that I was taking made me so sleepy all the time. I do not know how I got through my senior year of high school that year. And with my A average to boot.

I have grand mal seizures (now called something else). Those are convulsive seizures. They are extremely painful. Each one a person has is a bit worse than the one before until they can be so bad that a person can die from a seizure. In fact I have almost died three times. I feel very fortunate to be here.

I am also very fortunate that I am very well controlled with medication. It has been so many years since I had a seizure that I cannot remember when the last one was.

I am still taking the original medications that the original doctor prescribed. One of them is a controlled substance. After fifty years I am physically addicted to it. That means without it I will go into withdrawal and the classic symptoms that accompany withdrawal. It does not mean I am constantly craving more. I just need it to live.

A dear friend of mine was on the city council of the big city we lived in. She was on President Carter's epilepsy commission. She asked me to go through the information she had and give her a synopsis. No problem. Until I saw the research. It was five books. Each one was about four inches thick except the last one. It was about three inches.

What I read was a real eye-opener for me. While epilepsy, like many other maladies, is not inherited the predisposition is inherited. That means that my children might have a weakness that they inherited from me that would make them more disposed to having seizures.

Also they used an example of a parent with four children (I have four children). If one child has seizures the likelihood of another having seizures multiplies (not adds up, multiplies). If three children have seizures the fourth will have seizures.

I learned that an uncle of mine had epilepsy. He died before my father was born. He was in a home for juvenile delinquents. My father always thought his brother was "bad" because that was better than being "defective".

My mother suffered terribly from migraine headaches. They are a first cousin to epilepsy. Many of the workings of the brain are the same in both.

Two of my sons had migraines when they were about 8 years old. Testing showed some brain activity but I would not allow them to be put on medication until there could be a definite diagnosis. Neither has had any further problems. My daughter is fine. I recently discovered that my other son has been having petit mal seizures for about three years. He did not want to worry me so he kept it to himself.

Two of my grandchildren have migraine headaches. So does their mother, my daughter-in-law. Two of my grandchildren have had seizures. One was placed on medication for a year. The seizures stopped and the medication was also stopped. He has been fine for several years now.

If any one needs to know anything about seizures feel free to ask. I am almost an expert. And if I am not certain I have the right answer I can probably guide you to the place to find it. In the meantime I am going to tell you what steps to take if you are with someone having a seizure.

1. If they are upright, lower them safely to a prone position. That will help keep them from injuring themselves in a fall.

2. NEVER, EVER, EVER, try to force anything into their mouth. Fingers have been bitten off. Tableware and wooden sticks are either broken or cause damage to teeth.

3. The human tongue is a muscle. It sits in a particular spot in the body. It is physically impossible to swallow your tongue. However the tongue like any muscle can fall to the back of the mouth and block the air passages. Gently position the person on their side. That way the tongue falls to the side instead of the back of the mouth.

4. If the seizure lasts for more than three minutes or if there are repeat seizures call for medical help immediately.

5. When the seizure is over often the person will lose consciousness or maybe just be confused. When they awaken the body and brain are busy trying to re-establish connections. They have no time to answer questions like "Do you know me?" Leave that for professionals. Simply say, "hi, (insert name, it is important). I am (insert name, it is important). You just had a seizure. You are safe and I am right here. Everyone is taken care of. You need to rest so go to sleep. I will be here when you wake up." If an ambulance is on the way or the doctor is on the way let them know that too. That way they can let their body heal itself without wondering what is going on.

In the beginning  I was up and full of energy after a seizure within a couple of hours. As time went on it took me at least two full days to be able to even get out of bed and stand on firm feet. Each person is different.

Epilepsy is nothing to be ashamed of. No more than diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. If you were ever to see the list of famous people and world leaders throughout history who had seizures you would be amazed.

But it must be treated. By a doctor who knows what he is doing. Not many do. Most of the "maladies" are only mentioned in medical school in passing. I hope I have enlightened you a bit. I hope you never need the information. But if you are confronted with a situation you now know what you can do.