Friday, November 27, 2015

Lizzie Borden

Yesterday in old Fall River Mr. Andrew Borden died,
And they got his daughter Lizzie on a charge of homicide.
Some folks say she didn't do it and others say of course she did,
L But they all agree Miss Lizzie B. was a problem type of kid.

         Composed by Michael Brown performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio

I have been fascinated by the story of Lizzie Borden since I was a child. It is a mystery that may never be satisfactorily solved.

Andrew Borden was a wealthy man. Still he lived without many of the modern conveniences of that time. His daughters lived at his home as was the custom of the day for unmarried women. Andrew's wife Abby was the stepmother of the girls.

Andrew Borden was not liked by almost everyone who knew him. He did not seem to mind. He and his family lived a reclusive life.

Then on August 4, 1892 Lizzie found Andrew on the sofa in his home. He had been brutally murdered. His head and face were the focus of the injuries. Blood was splattered everywhere. It was not until a little later that they discovered the body of Abby in an upstairs bedroom. She had also been ruthlessly killed.

Emma, the older daughter was not at home that day so she was ruled out as a suspect. She and Lizzie had both gone on vacation but Lizzie returned home earlier.The maid, Bridget, was supposedly outside cleaning windows.

John was the brother of Sarah Borden. Sarah was Lizzie's and Emma's mother who had died. John had spent the previous night at the Borden home. He was seen in downtown Fall River at the time of Andrew's death so he was cleared as a suspect.

That left Lizzie. She was an animal lover. She had adopted the pigeons roosting in the shed behind the house. Her father killed them using a hatchet and she was furious. There were other questionable actions on the part of Lizzie that led police to believe that she had killed her father and stepmother.

Lizzie was tried and acquitted of the murders. The murders remain a mystery to this day. Many believe it was Lizzie. There are other theories about what happened. We will probably never know the truth.

In a college class I was required to critique two plays. One that I chose was about Lizzie Borden.

Two young women in their twenties spent the whole play talking about Lizzie and her family. They discussed the murders. They talked about the lives that Emma and Lizzie lived after the trial. (Neither ever married.)

Then the play ended. Not even the offering of an opinion about who killed the Bordens. I was disappointed.

When my oldest granddaughter was chosen to participate at the Student Athlete Games at Rhode Island University her family decided to vacation there. When they invited me I jumped at the chance.

We stayed in Fall River while my granddaughter stayed on campus. We spent one day at the house where the murders took place.

It is now a bed and breakfast if anyone wants to spend the night. The bedrooms are lovely, clean, and comfortable looking but they are so small in the style of that time. There is a shared bathroom. Andrew would not have approved of the bathroom. An outhouse was what he provided for his family.

There is a little gift shop in a fairly new building out back. The shed that attracted pigeons is long gone. In the gift shop you can sign up for a guided tour of the house.

While we were waiting our turn for the tour a young man of college age came into the shop. He was so excited. While taking the tour earlier in the day he had taken a lot of pictures. One of the pictures showed whar appeared to be a ghost by the window of Lizzie's room.

The young man wanted to know if he could just go back inside to take more pictures. He was hoping for a more clear picture of the ghost.

The guide told him to go ahead. "Alone?" asked the young man. He was terrified. But in he half-bravely went. I do not know what happened with his new pictures because our tour started and we did not see him again.

The tour guide was a nice older gentleman who resembled Andrew Borden. He dressed as Andrew Borden and conducted the tour as Andrew Borden for most of the time.

The house has been preserved much as it was during the late 1800's. It has been updated with electricity and modern heating.

As we went through each room we learned about the room as well as details about the way the family lived. In the bedroom said to be Lizzie's is a dressmaker's dummy. It is wearing a dress worn by Elizabeth Montgomery in the movie she made about Lizzie Borden.

That was also the room where the young man had taken the spooky picture. I immediately spotted what had happened in the picture.

There were men working on the street outside. Obviously the camera was focused on something inside the house. The men working outside were out of focus and seen through a window creating the ghostly sight. I should have been on one of those TV shows debunking things.

Then there was a woman on the tour with her daughter. She wanted to brag that she a cousin of Lizzie Borden. Her maiden name was Borden. She was positively beaming with pride.

The tour guide gently broke the news to her. There are no closely related Bordens. There might be distant cousins but none with the Borden name. A quick look to Wikipedia confirms this. Another busted bubble.

It is a beautiful house. The history of it is interesting. There are photos of the Bordens in every room including pictures of them taken before their dead bodies were removed. The tour guides know their stuff. It is a tour I recommend.

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother 40 whacks.
And when the job was nicely done,
She gave her father 41

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Shall We Do Tonight?

I have mentioned many times that my family had little money when I was a child. We never went hungry but often we did not have money for some of the "extras" that a lot of people take for granted. New clothes were extremely rare. And most of them were made by my mother. Extras like movies or concerts were rare. Usually if we were able to go it was because we had earned the money ourselves.

I am not complaining though. There was a lot of love and laughter in our family. We enjoyed each other. We knew how to entertain ourselves.

Alone time was often spent reading or working puzzles of some sort. Puzzle magazines could be found in every room of the house.

Often we watched television together in the evening. If someone felt like making popcorn and fudge it made a happening.

We played a lot of games. Besides being fun it kept our minds sharp. My parents did not "let" us win. If we came out ahead we knew we deserved it.

At Christmas we got board games as gifts. We saved them even after the boards were worn and the pieces were missing. We used pieces of paper instead of game pieces. If the dice were missing we wrote numbers on pieces of paper and drew them randomly out of a bowl.

Almost any board game there was we owned. Monopoly, Scrabble, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers, Checkers, and Chess are a few that I can think of.

Lay Four Out was the first card game I played. It is an easy game for small children. Each player is dealt four cards and then four cards are placed face up in the center of the table. Each player in turn tries to match one of the cards in the center. With a match the pair is placed in that player's pile of cards. When the deck has been depleted the player with the most pairs wins.

We moved on up to games like Old Maid and Concentration. Eventually we learned to play pitch (or whist), Uno, Pinochle, various poker games for matchsticks, Hearts, Spades, Rummy, and Canasta were favorites.

Of course there are many different kinds of solitaire games. They are fun card games to use when no one else wants to play. I have about a dozen that I play regularly. Some are very easy and some are next to impossible to win.

Games using paper and pencil are wonderful if you have little money. Categories is a game where one person chooses five letters of the alphabet. Another has already chosen five categories. The players try to list one thing that applies to a category that begins with each letter. For instance under the category fruits using the letter K you might list Kiwi. Our categories could get quite outrageous.

Making as many words as you can out of a larger word is fun. Tic, Tac, Toh is fun too but so hard to get a winner if you have been playing since you were very small. Connect the dots or as we called it penning the pig takes some time. You have to make the dots by putting rows of dots acroos and an equal number of rows rows of dots going down. Each person takes a turn and connects two dots with a line either across or up and down. Once a box is completely formed the person's initial is written inside. When all the boxes are formed the player with the most initials in boxes is the winner.

Mom found a fun game in a magazine.Each player would make two grids of ten boxes across and ten boxes down making one hundred boxes in all. Across the top each row would be labeled from one through ten. Down the lines each box was labeled A through J.

Into one grid the player would place two destroyers composed of three connecting boxes, one cruiser made of four consecutive boxes, and one battleship of five consecutive boxes. The other grid was left blank until the game began.

The first player would take three guesses of for instance A1, H4, and G7. The first player would place an X in the corresponding box of his blank grid. The other player placed an X on the grid with the ships. The player then had to tell the first player if he had hit any of the ships and which ships they were. If a ship was hit on all its boxes it was sunk and the other player was informed. The winner was the player who sank all of the other player's ships.

Most people have now heard of this game. It is popular and goes by the name of Battleship.

I  like word games a lot. The only things you need are a brain, a mouth, and someone else to play.

They are usually simple games used to fill time. Most people know the game of someone saying a word and the next person has to say a new word using the last letter of the previous word as the beginning letter of their word.

We might take one word and see how many synonyms or antonyms of that word we could find. Word games are only limited by the limits of your imagination.

So besides having fun and and enjoying the company of loved one we learned some valuable lessons. You do not need a lot of money to have fun. You can learn just by playing a game.

The most important lesson is sportsmanship. We all played to win. That is the object of a game. If we won we learned to do so gracefully. If we lost we did that gracefully too. That was a good life lesson.

Friday, November 20, 2015


I heard something on television the other day that made a huge impression on me. I have no idea who said it. I cannot remember what program I was watching. I wish I could give the proper credit but I wish to share the quote and my thoughts about it.

"Don't give me credit for what I've been through; give me credit for what I have accomplished."

That is one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard. Too many people might brag about being in school with a famous person. Big deal. It is a fun bit of trivia but it does not reflect anything about the person.

The same can be said for someone who, for instance, has a loved one who died. It is a sad time and obviously the person needs comfort. But at the same time it says nothing about the person who is grieving other than the fact that they are in pain.

I have known people who take a traumatic event and make certain that everyone they meet knows that it happened. Then they bask in they pity they receive.

Instead of concentrating on having been a cancer victim why not feel proud that you volunteer your time and make things easier for other cancer patients who need help now. Instead of crying about having been abused as a child why not see to it that children being abused are safe.

Instead of trying to show that you are better than everyone else because you shook hands with your favorite movie star why not organize a group to watch movies periodically. Each person could host a night and provide beverages and snacks.

Now I do not diminish your experiences. Each experience has influenced you to become the person you are. But it is only an influence. It is not you.

I think I should take stock of what I have accomplished so far in my life. What more would I like to accomplish?

As I do just that maybe you would like to do the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oo Ee Oo Ah Ah

My uncle was the oldest of my mother's brothers. He was 12 years older than me. And he was getting married.

I had been to other weddings. I remember vaguely a cousin's wedding. Really I remember the bride and groom at the altar during the ceremony and nothing more.

The wedding was in the afternoon. It was a lovely church ceremony with the beautiful white dress and all the pomp that goes with it. It was beautiful and without any extraordinary events.

There was to be a reception that evening. A party! And everyone including the children were invited. It was a family celebration.

The thing was that those of us from out of town needed something to fill the time between the end of the wedding and the beginning of the reception. Enter the father of the bride.

He was the manager and groundskeeper for the local golf course and country club. Because of the wedding the place was closed. He was not available in case of a problem.

So what the father of the bride did was to give us a few golf clubs and all of us children headed out to "play golf". It was a genius idea.

The parents were able to relax after the wedding and ready themselves for the evening festivities. The children were out hitting a little white ball and getting rid of the energy we had stored while sitting quietly during the wedding ceremony.

After washing our faces and hands we were inspected and our clothes restored to a semblance of respectability. Then we went to the club house to begin the reception.

I was not sure what to expect. I had never been to anything like this before. There was music and that made me happy.

The bride and groom had their first dance as husband and wife. That was pretty. There were other customs fulfilled. Then the party started.

There was food. There were drinks both alcoholic for the adults who wished to drink them and non-alcoholic for those who did not wish and for the children.

We did not often have pop to drink at home because it was so expensive. I drank a lot of pop that night.

The best man was another uncle. He liked to party and he stayed true to form. He was quite drunk. Grandma would tell him to slow down (partly because he was not yet quite old enough to legally drink) but soon I would see him with another bottle of beer in his hand.

I had never seen my uncles dance before. All of them seemed to have a good time. We (the children) pretty much stood along the wall trying not to be stepped on.

It was 1958. One of the most popular songs that year was The Witch Doctor by Alvin and the Chipmunks. The first time I heard it was at my uncle's wedding reception. I also heard it the second, third, fourth, and maybe one hundredth time at my uncle's wedding reception.

That song is the most vivid memory I have of that day. When I hear the song my mind conjures pictures of the club house and me standing off to one side watching my uncles drunkenly trying to dance. For me it is a beautiful memory.

The day my uncle was married was a great day in my life. I saw the wedding, played golf, heard The Witch Doctor, and drank a lot of pop. Best of all, I got to stay up late.

Friday, November 13, 2015

It Isn't Any Trouble Just To S.M.I.L.E.

I have had many, many jobs. Some I liked, some I endured, and a couple I hated. I worked hard and tried to give my best at each.

I liked the jobs in which I did paperwork. I actually find it exciting.

Being a cashier was interesting. I interacted with a variety of people. Some were caricatures of real people.

I liked working in the cash office. I was able to play with money. I had to use my brain to find out why if a drawer did not balance.

When I was a waitress in the tea room of a department store I was not happy. Most of the customers felt entitled to having what they wanted immediately. Some were quite rude and/or condescending. Then they left no tip.

I had a job in the fast food industry. I have nothing good to say about it. I do, however, admire the people who can perform those duties and still smile.

At the junk yard I was in charge. I enjoy knowing that things are being done the way I wish them to be done. I can tear down a car faster than a lot of men.

I was the assistant manager at the body shop of a new car dealership. Most of what I did was paperwork but I also dealt with customers. I liked that one too.

As a telemarketer I was one of those annoying people who call and bother you at the most inconvenient of times to try to sell you something you do not need or want. I had a lot of fun with the other people in the office.

I managed the band. I loved those guys and their music. We were all friends and our families would have outings together.

It soon was apparent that they could do the managing themselves. Because I was there with little to do the owner of the bar would occasionally ask if I would mind helping out if the place got overly busy. I was happy to help.

Soon I was included in the schedule to either waitress or tend bar. I made good tips.

Two brothers owned the bar. The one who hired me thought I could do no wrong. When he took an extended vacation the other brother took over. He was not as enamored with me. I moved on.

Then I went in to see the band one night and he asked me when I was coming back to work. I asked him if he really needed me. He said yes so I agreed to return.

It was a good place to work. None of the women had to put up with unruly or rude customers. Most of us had our regular customers who appreciated us and left good tips. It was good money.

It happened suddenly. I was not only not the favorite, I felt that I was disrespected by the owner. I felt the cold shoulder from him and he decided to give me the worst section to wait on. I was so unhappy.

One night as I was entering the building I decided to paste this huge dumb smile on my face to show him that he was no longer affecting me. I was tired of having a stomach ache simply because I was going to work.

I kept that smile on my face until I realized that I was actually having a good time. For several weeks I pasted that goofy smile on my face as I entered the building. Soon I had no stomach ache and I was happy to meet the evening.

I learned a valuable lesson. Even though others behave in a certain way the way I feel is up to me. All I need to do is smile. I feel good in no time. If others are happy, fine. If not, it is up to them to alter what needs to happen to make them happy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wise Woman

My mother-in-law was the wisest woman I ever met. She could take one look at a person and know exactly what kind of person she was dealing with. She always knew the right thing to do in any situation. And she put up with no nonsense from anyone.

Mom had a hard life in many ways. She was so small when she was orphaned. She was sent to live with grandparents who were not always kind. Her grandfather committed suicide while she lived with them.

She was more or less the voice of reason for her older brother and sisters who were slightly wild. She worked to try to keep them out of trouble.

Then she married my father-in-law and they began their family which eventually grew to seven children.

My father-in-law was similar to my father because he was always looking to see what was on the other side of that hill. Never quite satisfied with what he had. It had to be hard for her to move as often as they did.

Money was always a struggle. Our families were so similar.

Mom had little education but she could read and write. When we did not live close she wrote nice letters and I wrote to keep her informed about her son and grandchildren.

She read books that were interesting to her. She had a lot of religious books. She was a devout Catholic but was interested in all religions. Because of her reading she was knowledgeable about many of them.

She liked histories and biographies along with anything else that captured her fancy. After she died there must have been at least a dozen copies of Roots in her house. So she did a lot of reading and educated herself.

My mother-in-law was also artistic. Her love was ceramics. She started from scratch. Some of her molds were found in stores and even second-hand stores. Some she made herself.

She did not like the normal powder used to make the mix to pour into the molds. Mom liked her ceramics to have a little weight to them so she experimented until she had a concoction she used.

She made all sizes of ceramics from small animals to the large pitchers and bowls. Some were for the shelf or table and some were for the wall.

After her molds set some had to be put in the kiln. Because she lived in the country she did the task herself.

Then they had to be painted. She had a variety of paints. Some looked like enamel. Some were flat and not quite as shiny. Some were pearled. Some were metallic. It depended on her artistic feeling that day which she would use.

After an emergency appendectomy I stayed on the farm because the doctor would not allow me to be home alone. Mom tried to give me things to do that would keep me from getting bored. One day she suggested that I help her paint some ceramics.

I tried to tell her that I have no, as in not at all, artistic talent. She knew that I would be able to do once I started.

After about half an hour Mom looked up at me and said maybe I would like to go rest. I later overheard her telling someone that I had made her so nervous that she had to send me away. I laughed to myself. I tried to tell her after all.

She made a bit of extra money selling her creations. She even took special orders. Some people wanted colors to match their decor. Some wanted a special item that they could not find elsewhere. It sometimes took some time for her to make the mold but she was able to do it.

So besides being wise Mom was talented. You would think with all these artistic people around me I would have absorbed something. Alas I was not meant to be talented. I simply enjoyed the talents of others.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I am not a religious person. Like all people who are not religious I say that I try to do good and harm no one. Is that enough? I do not know but it is the way I try to live my life.

As a child I went to church. Usually it was only for Sunday school. We went and learned about the Bible and the players in it. A small donation was given then which came from my allowance.

I have read the Bible and remember a great deal of what it says. I even know a few quotes. Even better to my way of thinking is that I understand most of the messages given. Some I agree with, some I do not.

If I were assigned a religion based upon my upbringing it would be as a Protestant Christian. I knew very few people of other religions as I was growing up so I had nothing to compare.

But I am not here to tell of my religious beliefs or any lack of belief. I simply wished to inform you of my background as related to religion. I want to offer some observations I have made over the years.

My two best friends both attended the same church. If I could go with them I would, just for the opportunity for us to be together. It did not hurt anything that the minister had a really cute son our age. Each of us had a crush on him. The church was in a town about twenty miles from the town we lived in.

My father took a job working for a house mover. His boss and wife had grown children who did not live in the same state. They decided to take pity on this poor little heathen and see to my religious training. The went to the same church as my friends. Of course I would ride with them.

When I would get into the car on Sunday the couple would give me a handful of money. For me it was a lot of money. I thought they were paying me to do something I would have done free. Looking back I now realize they expected me to put it all in the collection plate. But I had my donation from my allowance.

My mother worked washing dishes in a small cafe in the town where we lived. After church I would have the couple drop me off at the cafe. I would order lunch and pay for it with the money my father's boss had given me. By the time I was done eating my mother would be finished working and take me home with her.

The church was a Pentecostal church. The preacher would preach a mighty sermon. Often the worth of the sermon was measured by how long it would stretch past the noon hour.

The minister was masterful. He would drone on and on and on sometimes almost in a monotone. Then suddenly as men's heads would begin to nod as they fought sleep he would scream at the top of his lungs and the men would sit upright. It was fun to see.

One morning I had gone to church with my friend rather than the couple I usually rode with. My father's boss's son and his family had been in town visiting from another state all week. They left for home the night before.

As a regular part of the sermon the minister asked for people ask for any special prayers they wished to be included that day. The woman stood and asked for a prayer to be said for her son and family to have a safe trip home.

The minister screamed, "Sister, I rebuke you in the name of the Lord!" He invoked the wrath of God because she had the temerity to think that God would not automatically watch over her son.

He screamed at her for several minutes. I felt so sorry for her. All she really wanted was for people to commiserate with her because she was going to miss her son and his family. She simply wanted him to be safe. That horrifying exchange has stayed with me for almost 60 years.

My youngest sister is a shy timid person. She has few friends but the ones she has remain friends for life.

She went to church with a friend of hers one time. The preacher was a "fire and brimstone" sort of minister. He was very loud and then would scream even louder to make his point. It scared her half to death. My sister has not gone back to church since. It has been more than 45 years.

Now lest you think that I am against religion I must say that I know a lot of people who find comfort in their beliefs. My mother-in-law was one.

Mom was a devout Catholic. She was not able to attend church regularly because she lived on the farm and did not drive. But she had a rosary on her at all times.

She made a point of going to mass several times a year and made arrangements for Novenas for her loved ones. At Christmas we received a nice card letting us know that a prayer would be said every day all year for our family by the nuns she occasionally donated to.

When my brother was killed in Viet Nam we were one of the fortunate families who were able to have an open casket funeral. We received his body in a timely manner.

One of the things that touched me most at my brother's funeral was a neighbor. Before the funeral began she came in wearing the same old housedress she wore all the time. She went up to my brother and knelt in front of the casket. She had her rosary and said her prayers for him. Then she quietly left.

How comforting for her to know exactly what to do in such a sad situation. The rituals of a religion give a person the way to behave in specific times. The neighbor knew what prayer to say and what to do when she  said it. It has stayed with me all these years and I thank her still for the feeling of calm she instilled in me at that terrible time.

I now know people of many faiths. They all have things in common as well as differences. If they find the comfort to face life it is a good thing. 

Peace is what I believe we all are looking for. If you find it within your religion wonderful. If you feel you do not need religion to find you peace that is also wonderful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Origin Of The Jack-O-Lantern

Halloween has just passed. I have the story of the origin of the Jack-o-lantern. Please enjoy it.

Stingy Jack was well known around his part of Ireland. He liked his drink and was thought to take liberties with other people's property. He cheated, deceived, and misused anyone he could. Stingy Jack did not particularly care what others thought of him. All that mattered to Stingy Jack was Stingy Jack and his comforts.

Now the devil had been keeping tabs on him. Stingy Jack was a prime candidate for the devil's domain.

One night after a night of heavy drinking, Stingy Jack was stumbling home. He came upon a body lying in the road so he stopped to see if there was anything of value in the pockets.

Suddenly the body moved and jumped up. Stingy Jack realized that it was the devil and Jack's earthly time was to end. But he was not ready to go.

Stingy Jack asked for a last wish. The devil saw no harm in granting a final drink to Stingy Jack. Off they went to the pub. Stingy Jack was a frequent patron and knew the bartender well. As the duo walked through the door the bartender smiled. When Stingy Jack got the best of somebody, the bartender got a nice part of the take.

Stingy Jack proceeded to have a sample or more of every type of drink in the pub. When he finished he told the devil to turn himself into a silver coin to pay the tab. He promised that he would get the coin back so the devil could change back into himself.

The devil turned himself into a coin of silver. Stingy Jack grinned at the bartender who grinned right back. Stingy Jack dropped the coin into his pocket which just happened to also contain a crucifix. The crucifix took away all of the powers the devil had. He begged and begged to be set free.

Stingy Jack, being the kind-hearted soul he was, said he would set the devil free IF the devil would promise not to take his soul for 10 years. Of course the devil agreed.

Ten years passed with Stingy Jack continuing in his evil ways. The devil appeared as he said he would. Stingy Jack knew his time was up. The devil had Stingy Jack by the arm ready to take him to Hell. Stingy Jack asked if the devil would climb the apple tree they were standing next to and pick an apple for him to eat on the way. The devil heaved a heavy sigh and climbed the tree.

While the devil was picking a nice apple Stingy Jack hurriedly surrounded the tree trunk with crucifixes. The devil was stuck in the tree.

Once again the devil found himself pleading for his freedom. Finally Stingy Jack made the devil promise to never take his soul. The devil begrudgingly promised. Stingy Jack took the crosses and happily went home knowing that he had outsmarted the devil.

Stingy Jack continued his evil ways but eventually he died as everyone does. He sat and waited patiently for his turn to enter Heaven. When he approached the gates he was turned away. He was told that he was far too evil to be in Heaven.

With resignation Stingy Jack went to Hell. He knocked on the gates and the devil met him there. The devil reminded Stingy Jack of their agreement and told him that since he could not have the soul there was no place for him in Hell. He was doomed to wander in nothingness for eternity.

It was Stingy Jack's turn to plead. Eventually the devil agreed to give him an ember to light his way through the darkness. Jack placed it in a hollowed turnip or rutabaga to keep from burning his fingers.

Stingy Jack came to be called Jack Of The Lantern or Jack-O'-Lantern. At certain times of the year, such as Halloween, when the world of the dead is close to the living Jack-O'-Lantern is seen wandering.

In Ireland during Halloween the living tried to make sure the dead cannot cross back. They began leaving meals on their doorsteps to keep mischief away. If they had to be out in the night they would wear masks and costumes to fool the spirits so that they would not be molested.

Carved pumpkins called Jack-O'-Lanterns are placed on the doorstep to remind spirits of Jack-O'-Lantern and his plight. They do not want to be caught in between the worlds of the afterlife so they avoid any house that is protected by the Jack-O'-Lantern.