Kent State

As a college freshman in 1968, there was still an air of formality involved in classrooms and organizations. We dressed up for class, wearing skirts and pantsuits. I remember wearing my graduation dress to freshman orientation the previous summer and my parents were dressed in church attire… heels and hose, suit and a tie.

By May of 1970 when I was a sophomore, changes had taken place. The Hippie look was now part of even the Midwest conservative college scene. Bell bottom trousers and jeans, tie dye, and lots of fringe and leather. Most of us had long hair and we had now reached the point where the guys hair was just as long as the girls.

Those of us who were students in May 1970, at Bowling Green State University, remembered vividly the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy… we were just junior high and high school students when that horror began.

As I walked across campus on May 4, I remember it being sunny and warm, with the promise of summer break approaching. As I approached the Student Union I was surprised to hear shouting and chanting and as I read the flyers that were being handed out describing briefly what had happened, it brought all those terrible feelings back again. Following a weekend of disruption and demonstrations about the Vietnam War and other issues, students had been shot and killed by National Guardsmen at a demonstration at Kent State University…. just a couple of hours away from our campus.

By the time I got back to my dorm, everyone was talking about it, many were crying, many were also packing their bags to head home. I felt afraid, shocked. It was unbelievable to think this had happened. I kept thinking about my fiance who was a member of the Army Reserve. How could this happen?

Later that afternoon an assembly on the lawn of campus in front of Williams Hall began and student speakers were ready to organize our own type of protest to what was happening. Like magic, microphones were set up on the steps and students began to gather.

Classes were forgotten. Everything was forgotten except the tragedy that had just happened and we waited eagerly for more news. Each floor in our dorm had only one TV in the common room near the pay phones and there was not continuous coverage like there is today. We waited for the evening news. We listened to radio to find out anything we could.

Parents were desperately trying to call in and find out if everything was ok at BGSU. There were rumors that there were demonstrations at all campuses and one rumor was that BGSU students had formed a human chain to block the traffic on Interstate 75 which ran east of campus. My parents said they were coming to get me, but I said no. I wanted to stay and be a part of campus at that moment. It seemed like where I should be.

Just hours after hearing the news, a group of students briefly occupied the BGSU Administration Building on the west end of campus, demanding that classes be cancelled and demanding to talk to Dr William Jerome, President of BGSU. He agreed to speak at Williams Hall where a meeting was planned. Eventually classes were cancelled and a memorial service was planned for the students who were killed.

Later that week a candlelight march was held. We walked from campus to the downtown area in eery silence as others lined the streets and watched. When classes resumed, there was much discussion about the incident.

Campuses changed after that. Its hard to explain. We realized how vulnerable we were. We realized that having a voice could be dangerous. We were the generation who would be in charge in a few years. The simple, fun-loving, carefree days of youth were quickly disappearing. Sometimes I look back and think of all the violence and disruption that was part of my world growing up. Each generation has a fair amount of that. My parents’ generation dealt with the Great Depression and WWII and all the baggage that came with it. I think of college students today learning to live with a pandemic, having their lives disrupted at a time in their life where everything should be exciting and challenging, and just plain fun.

Its important to remember the tragedies that have been a part of our history. We should have learned from them. We seldom have control of them. And we can’t forget the ones that didn’t get to grow up with the rest of us, the soldiers, the victims of violence, and four students lost that May.

Student vigil at BGSU May 6, 1970. From the BGSU library collection permission to use for non commercial use

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It’s Howdy Doody Time

No. Sorry. Its not. But it did get your attention! I’ve been cooped up too long. I’ve started to write songs. Just the lyrics. Over the years I have written a few with friends. One year my elementary school wrote and sang to the kids “Thank God that school is out” (to the tune of Thank God I’m a Country Boy.) And one year we did the Twelve Days of Christmas… the only part I can remember is “and a first grader with a bloody nose” Took the place of the partridge in a pear tree.

Here is my pandemic song sung to the tune of “Its Howdy Doody Time”. You youngsters will have to Google that….

Its senior shopping day

I’ll soon be on my way

But first I’ll don my mask

I’m doing all they ask.

And next I’ll sanitize

Keep fingers from my eyes

And wipe the shopping cart

cause I’m corona smart.

I’ve organized my list

to minimize the risk

At this I am quite good

At finding all my food.

Fogged glasses make me squint

As down the aisles I sprint

At last I think I’m done

Oh this is so much fun.

I load stuff in my car

I parked not very far

Now sanitize again

Kill germs from where I’ve been.

At home I put away

Continue with my day

And hope enough I’ve done

Stay safe…. everyone!

I’m not expecting a Grammy…. maybe a Granny award.

Add some lyrics in the comments if you’d like!

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Eighth Grade Dance

Spring 1964.  The last year of Junior High School.  Next year, a brand new high school building ten miles out in the country.  Three small rural schools would form a much bigger class…. The class of 1968. 

But for now, we were still eighth graders and still had a month of school left and there was a dance coming up… The Eighth Grade Dance, a traditional end of the year event.

I found myself on the planning committee for the dance, probably because I hadn’t learned how not to volunteer for everything that came along.  There wasn’t much planning involved.  The dance would be held in the school cafeteria… what can you do with a school cafeteria except move all the tables out so there is room to dance?  Maybe some decorations, but one whole wall of the cafeteria was floor to ceiling windows with a great view of the playground, the opposite wall was broken up with double doors on each end, and one end was the kitchen and cafeteria line.  That left one wall to decorate.  Simple.  I remember cutting out round pieces of paper made to resemble a 45 record.

The school had  record players and one of our teachers promised to have one setup in the corner for music.  A couple of the boys said they would be the DJ’s, which really meant they would change the records when necessary. 

    I had a few 45’s of my own. Mine were mostly the Beatles, the Beach Boys, some Motown records, and one by Andy Williams. 

None of us had ever been to a dance before. The girls (we were just 12 and 13 years old) had danced at slumber parties and with our girl friends but not with a boy. The boys had never given it a thought. 

I remember asking several people to bring records to the dance so we would have some music and specifically asking one eighth grade boy who had older brothers and sisters and a pretty extensive record collection.  He promised he would bring some good ones. 

The night of the dance came, parents dropped kids off at the east side of the school next to the swing set, and we all gathered in the cafeteria.  Awkwardly.  All the tables had been moved into the hallway except for one that held the record player and records.  Chairs  outlined the walls.  The dance floor looked huge!    There was no starting announcement. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I thought someone would stand up and say “Ladies and gentlemen, start your dancing!” In reality we just started to hang out and I put on one of my records because the boy who was supposed to bring most of the music hadn’t arrived yet. 

No one danced at first. We just all sat or stood in little groups.  All girl groups and all boy groups.  No mingling.  Just awkwardly standing around.  The girls outnumbered the boys at least two to one because this dance wasn’t interesting to most 12- 13 year old boys. There were some teacher chaperones and parent chaperones who walked around and tried to encourage people to dance, even by going out and dancing themselves.  We just all rolled our eyes.

Finally, Eddie Kimball, who became the legend of the evening, asked someone to dance a slow dance.  I am guessing Eddie’s mom or older sister had taught him to slow dance in anticipation of this very evening.  So we all watched in awe as Eddie and his partner took their places on the dance floor and started to dance.

Eddie’s method was dancing in a box formation.  One step left, one step forward, one step right, one step back.  That was it.  That was the dance.   A few girls, me included, found other girl partners and we started to emulate Eddie’s box dance.  The boys had nothing to do with it.  They were still in their little groups either looking awkward or doing something stupid together and laughing.   

I brought only one slow record… Charade by Andy Williams.  So we played that over and over while Eddie changed partners.  Soon there was a line forming of girls who wanted to slow dance with a boy.  Eddie, who I had never really paid much attention to before, was now the center of attention. 

I kept watching the door for the rest of the records to arrive.  Finally the “record collection boy” walked in.  Alone. He had nothing.  I rushed up to him and said, “Where are your records?  You were going to bring your records!”

“I forgot,” was all he said and went off to join a boy group. I shrugged my shoulders and made a mental note about not trusting boys with important jobs.

One of the cool teachers got us to do a snowball dance.  The purpose of the snow ball was to get as many people on the floor as possible.  A few couples start the dance, someone yells “snow ball” and everyone has to go get a new partner from the groups who are not dancing.  It was successful at getting kids involved.  But at the end of the dance, everyone hurried back to their comfortable spot on the wall.

The evening was spent listening and dancing to “Charade” over and over and over until people started to groan when it came on.  There were a few other records we played but no one was brave enough to get out and do any fast dancing. 

I shared a couple of dances with Eddie Kimball. He must have moved away after junior high school, he’s not in our graduation photos, but I like to think about him dancing his life away. Are you out there somewhere Eddie Kimball?

It might sound as if this dance turned out to be a real dud.  As far as eighth grade dances went, I think it was probably as successful as any. And it made a legend out of Eddie Kimball, at least in my mind.

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Grandma Eier

Grandma Anna was quite different from my other Grandma. She seemed fragile.  She lived a long life despite the tragedies she endured. The death of a toddler daughter and the death of her youngest son 30 years later broke her spirit and forever changed her and the family dynamics.  My dad and younger sister were there to help pick up the pieces but sometimes when things break, they cannot be fixed.

Grandma Anna was a gifted artist in many ways.  She could sketch and paint, she could play the piano beautifully,  and she had an eye for the beauty that surrounded her in her simple farm life.  Most of her sketches and paintings were completed on what was available to her. Not canvas or specialty papers. She painted on burlap, on shoe box tops, on the inserts from nylon hose, and any cardboard or heavy paper that she could find. Her subjects were often wildlife; bunnies, birds, fish, and other small animals were some of her favorites. She also had a knack for drawing kittens, giving them human characteristics. Later in life encouraged by her daughter, she made quilts and pillowtops from quilted patterns. Grandma Anna was adept at writing letters and sharing her days with others.  Her twin sister, Martha, has some of the same skills. That is another story.

Anna’s pussywillow

I had a special connection with Grandma Anna, too because her name was my middle name.  It was from her that I was encouraged to play the piano. Like Grandma Thomas, she had an old upright piano that I was allowed to  play. We often played duets together as I became more skilled.  No visit to her house was complete without me sitting down to play a song for her or with her. She was my first audience.

In the corner of her bedroom was a collection of things to play with when we visited.  There were board games like Chutes and Ladders, card games like Go Fish and Old Maid, and checkers and dominoes.  There was also an old stereoscope tucked away in her bedroom bureau that we were sometimes allowed to use and view 3D scenes that she had collected.  She had a Jenny Lind bed in her bedroom, various arrangements of dried flowers, herbs, and weeds in coffee cans in her kitchen, a small dish of mints in the middle of the kitchen table, and an unusual collection of wishbones in the kitchen window.

A walk to the woods was another shared activity as the weather permitted, picking up acorns and hickory nuts, colored leaves, and visiting the sugar camp in the late winter. She loved the wildflowers and collected and dried all types of weeds to make stunning arrangements. She grew beautiful roses in the front yard.

I was 47 when she passed, almost the age she was when I was born.  It was hard to lose her but it was time: she was unable to walk and see very well at the end and she often talked about wanting it to be over.  She and her twin Martha lived almost 97 years, dying just a few months apart.

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Country road

A thousand times I have traveled this road

driving cars, trucks, tractors.

On crisp fall days with wagons of corn and soybeans,

On cool spring days delivering meals or a thermos

and chasing escaping livestock.

A thousand times I have traveled this road

hauling toddlers on the back of a bike,

Riding beside my children, pulling them in wagons,

picking up acorns and fuzzy caterpillars

dodging earthworms and birds.

Walking and jogging, tripping and falling

teaching children and grandchildren how to drive.

A thousand times I have traveled this road

In heat and cold, rain and snow, and beautiful summer days

driving to doctors appointments and surgeries

picking up parts for broken machinery

heading to vacations or visits with friends.

Lives change but the road remains the same,

Leading me into the next phase.

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Grandma Thomas

Grandma Thomas was a Wonder.  Literally, she was. She was born Ruth Katherine Wonder on April 24, 1897.  My grandfather Orville Thomas married her in 1917 and together they had 8 children, the oldest child being almost thirty years old when the youngest was born.

I was named after my grandmother. We had a special connection because of that.  But my memories of her are mostly of her being ill.  We visited often, but it was because my Mom and her sisters were taking care of her; brushing her long hair and sweeping it up with tiny tortoise shell combs, washing her face as she lay in a dark bedroom, cleaning house, and catching up on laundry grandma could no longer handle.

Often there were  huge molasses cookies in the cookie tin, despite her illness.  And in a bureau drawer in the hallway,  a hand puppet of Porky Pig that we were allowed to play with when we visited.  An old upright piano in the living room fascinated me, until Mom would come out and quiet me down because grandma was resting.  There were pictures of my grandmother and me when we were both a few years younger.  For most of them I was too young to remember.

Ruth and Grandma Ruth

Grandma worked hard on the farm, milking cows, feeding hogs, growing a huge garden to feed the family, canning, butchering. She even found time to grow flowers, I remember making small dolls from the hollyhock blossoms with her.  It was not an easy life.   She was just 60 years old when she passed.  The illnesses she suffered from (diabetes, heart disease) would be treatable nowadays but health care was different in the 50’s.   I often wish I had more memories of Grandma, but I was just 7 years old when she left us. I cherish the memories that I have.

Ruth and Grandma Ruth at the barn

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The Simple Life

“Life in the 50’s and beyond” is one of my taglines. I can’t help but compare what is happening during the pandemic to my childhood. No, there was no virus causing this much disruption around the world, but the way in which we are now living our lives easily compares to life in the 50’s.

Everything moved much slower back then. Cars didn’t go as fast and drivers certainly didn’t drive like they do nowadays. We lived in rural America, so we were naturally isolated and didn’t really know any other way.

We seldom went shopping and when we did, it was well thought out; lists were made knowing that it would be another several weeks or month before the next shopping trip. We didn’t need as much because we had food canned or frozen from our gardens and our moms cooked from scratch. As long as the kitchen was well stocked with staples, we were all set. Carry-out was not even a thing.

As far as finding things to pass the time, we had to be creative. Yes, there was radio and limited TV but everything was plugged in and there was no taking your entertainment with you. Even when transistor radios came along, you had limited stations available to listen to and you waited patiently for your favorite song to come on, sometimes for hours.

The pandemic has slowed most of us down. Not by choice, and some of us are kicking and screaming in protest. But I am finding I rather like it. I am getting things done around the house that I thought I never had time to complete. I am getting out some old recipes and cleaning out places that are past due for cleaning. I’m finding time to take a walk, and even looking forward to getting out of the house for some quiet time.

I don’t feel as rushed, I am planning trips to town for only necessary things and there just seems to be more time to do everything.

Yes I miss my family, my friends, and going out to eat every weekend. But for the most part, I am enjoying this little bit of downtime that some of us haven’t experienced for a long time.

I know everyone is not having the same experience as me. I am thankful for the health care providers and the necessary workers who keep everything going everyday in spite of the risks to their well being. For the sake of the world and everyone’s health, I hope this is over soon. I also hope that the world can learn something about slowing down and about being more prepared for whatever is next.

My Grandmother Ruth and me.
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The Bad, The Ugly, and the Good

Health issues can make life a real struggle. For almost 8 years my husband has been dealing with foot pain. He’s not diabetic, which is the first question that doctors ask. His foot pain story is unusual. It involves heel pain which has beeb excruciating, and a wound on his heel that appeared usually in the month of November and finally subsided in April. Year after year.

Of course, you always start looking for treatments with your primary care physician. He really didn’t have any answers except to send us to a podiatrist. We went to five or six different foot doctors, none of which really could give us and answers or any relief from the pain. We then went the nerve route because the pain he felt was similar to the pain you see in the TV ads for diabetic nerve pain. He also had tests to check circulation in his legs and feet. Next on the list was a neurologist who repeated some of the same tests he had already had with still no answers. Then we tried a wound clinic to get the heel wound to heal. Let me tell you this. All wound clinics are not created equal. In the midst of all these doctor appointments, we also were trying Pain Management. For two years, my husband went through a series of injections in his spine and other nerve locations. He had at least eight different injections.None worked. Each time we would return and they would want to try a different location to inject. It was futile. I won’t go into detail on the aggravations and frustrations with doctors throughout the process. I would have to write a book.

After none of these visits proved beneficial, we were considering going to the Cleveland Clinic to see what they could come up with. Then I had lunch with Pat, who told me about her husband’s podiatrist who was also head of a wound clinic (not the one we had already visited) We made an appointment.

From the very start, this appointment was different. Dr. Ward had numerous ideas as to what this condition was and why it was recurring. He said he had similar conditions that he had treated. He gave my husband an injection in the office and there was immediate, though temporary, relief. We were on the right track.

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We decorated the post surgery boot for Christmas!

 

My husband had surgery on December 23 and since then has had pain relief! He is not completely healed but the pain is so much improved. We are hopeful that this is the answer and that we can do the other foot as well. The surgery included restructuring his high arch, injecting a nerve to deaden the pain, and straightening his big toe to give him more stablilty. He’s been wearing an air boot for support and is transitioning out of the boot.

One of the first questions my husband asked was, “If you can give me a simple injection in your office that gives me immediate relief, why couldn’t Pain Management do the same thing?” Dr. Ward explained that he is a member of a group of physicians who for several years have been treating pain issues differently and using methods that differ from Pain Management Centers. And they have been successful. He has attempted to educate Pain Centers with the procedures they are using, but says they are not open to change. He then said that the best way to let others know about this is word of mouth.

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The Ugly

I understand that hospitals,  pain management centers, and physicians have their own set of procedures.  But when new ideas and methods come along,  I hope that others are open to at least discussing the new methods.   Pat gave me a message that certainly helped.  My objective in writing this article is the hope that someone who needs the information will see it.  And to encourage people to keep looking when you think you have tried the last possible solution. 

 

 

 

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A Christmas to remember

Retired Ruth

December 1957.

The Christmas that I received the least is the one I remember the most.

My parents were in their mid 30’s.  I was 7, my brother was 12.  We lived on a small farm which we farmed “on the half” with the farm owner. We had milk cows, a few hogs, chickens and eggs, and we grew corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, and sugar beets.  My Mom worked alongside my Dad milking the cows and driving the tractor.  In addition she did all the mom chores…. gardening, housework, childcare, canning.   My Dad also worked third shift in a local sugar beet processing plant and I  remember Mom getting up early and going outside to start the chores.   Feeding, milking, cleaning out stalls.  She knew Dad would be tired when he got home and wanted to have things pretty well finished when he arrived home from work.

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Birthday Party Dress

“You shouldn’t put the dress on this early. You will get dirty before the party!”

Despite the well-intended advice, Mom zipped up the dress in the back. “This will probably not fit when school starts in the fall; you better wear it to Sunday School all summer! ”

I smoothed out the skirt and vowed to stay clean until my friends arrived. It was July 1959, the first birthday party I had ever had. A few classmates and girls from our neighborhood had been invited.

The dress had been handed down to me from my cousin Carol. It was blue cotton with a scoop neckline and tiny flower print all over the bodice and the skirt. A wide solid blue sash went around the waist and tied in the back with a bow. It really wasn’t all that fancy as far as dresses go but around the neckline was a row of diamonds…..really, they were just tiny rhinestones. They sparkled in the sunlight and I thought it was the most beautiful dress I had ever owned. I felt like a princess!

We played clothespin drop, tag, and circle games in the backyard. Hide and seek and then my favorite chocolate cake with caramel icing, ice cream squares and Hawaiian Punch. There were gfts but the only one I remember was a soft round bath sponge on a stick that came with tiny rose shaped soaps.

Everyone loved my dress, especially the diamonds. I’m sure I made a point of asking everyone. When school started in September, I was disappointed to find that I had outgrown my special dress.

As I recall that happy moment from my childhood, I can’t help but compare it with birthday parties today. No designer cakes, no clowns or entertainment, no fancy decorations. It was just a simple celebration but the impression it made on me was enough to last a lifetime.

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