My Wheels – Chapter 17
1965 Corvair

65corvair1We had apparently become accustomed to being a two car family at this point so, when the blue Nova became a non-runner, I went shopping for another beater. I bought a 1965 Corvair in Kentucky. It didn’t look as ragged as the one at right (which might actually be a ’66) but it probably was. It was a full-on stripper with 3 on-the-floor, bare rubber floor mats, and no perceivable options other than an AM radio and even that might have been standard.

65corvair265corvair3It had begun life as a poor white Chevy and that was still the color of the top. The bottom had been painted fire engine red. It was a decent repaint and still pretty shiny. It was sort of a blend of these two cars minus the fancy wheel covers and all that chrome. It really didn’t look too bad from the proper distance. Up close, something of a reverse freckled look became noticeable. A few chips had appeared in the red part so that bits of the white part showed through. It was a mild case of reverse measles that gave the car “personality”. Yeah. That’s what it was. Personality.

The fun began before I even had it registered. In order to transfer the title of an out of state car, it has to be physically inspected. The inspection has nothing to do with the condition of the car. Someone with the proper authority has to verify that the title matches the car. At that time, and maybe still, most car dealers had one or more properly authorized people on staff. The seller allowed me to take the car with his plate on it (I may have eventually mailed or taken it back) and I drove the car to a dealer. A properly authorized person looked it over and denied the transfer. The car’s VIN, which was inside the engine compartment, did not match the VIN on the paper Kentucky title. It was easy to see why but knowing didn’t help.

The proper VIN had a ’13’ in it. At some point in the past, probably because of grease and crud on the number, it had been written down as a ‘B’. It was definitely a “we’ll laugh about this later” situation. We both knew that the car and the paper belonged together and that the paper was wrong but the inspector was not authorized to fix it. All he could do was say yea or nay and he wasn’t about to say yea.

I tried another dealer without success and came within one county of returning the car. The error, I eventually learned, had occurred two transfers back. As long as the car stayed in Kentucky, no physical inspection was required and the error was simply propagated forward. I bought the car from a guy in Campbell County who had bought it from a guy in Kenton County. Or maybe it was the other way around. In any case both counties were close and once I got the right one, it was fairly easy to get a corrected title issued.

We were once again a two car family but not for long. The two cars, the ’69 Opel and ’65 Corvair, held up just fine. It was the family that fell apart. When my wife and I divorced, we sold the house and split the trivial amount of money that resulted. About the only things I wanted from the house were my clothes and some LPs (“No way you’re getting that copy of Hard Day’s Night I bought in high school!”). There wasn’t much property to divide and the division went pretty smoothly. She got the Opel and I got the Corvair. I also got the canoe. Because these three things are titled in Ohio, they had to be listed in the divorce decree and titles transferred. The first line of the decree was something like “Dennis L Gibson will have as his sole possessions the canoe and the Corvair.” I believe the intent was to establish that I was the sole owner of these two opulent vehicles but it read as if they were the only things I owned which was, Beatles albums aside, pretty much the truth.

The end of my time with the Corvair was at least somewhat interesting. It naturally continued its decline but served me reasonably well for many more months. When the starter went out I decided it was time to move on. But not immediately. My credit rating at that point was the opposite of good and it took a couple weeks to arrange a purchase. During those weeks, the Corvair did its job. I was living in a trailer park with enough of a slope to the driveway to get it started in the morning. The far side of the parking lot where I worked had an even better slope for getting it going at the end of the day. When I needed to stop somewhere else, such as at the grocery, I just left it running. No one was going to risk an auto theft charge for that measly car.

Christmas Escape 2014

pic01dDespite a sincere and publicly proclaimed desire to get to Key West last year, it didn’t happen. I can’t guarantee it will this year either but at least I’m headed that direction. I attended the Lighting of the Serpent on the evening before leaving and have plans to drive some Dixie Highway both coming and going. I’ll probably also visit some friends and/or relatives somewhere along the way.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments.

Route 66 Festival 2014

pic01bI am now on my way to the 2014 International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona. My first day ended in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is not exactly on the imaginary straight line connecting Cincinnati and Kingman. In fact, it is at least 300 miles from any such line and I’m going to get a lot farther away from it before I’m done. I’m starting out in Tennessee because I’ll be visiting my son in San Diego before the festival and I’m following the Old Spanish Trail, which starts in Saint Augustine, to San Diego. Between Chattanooga and Saint Augustine, I’ll be on the Dixie Highway which isn’t any farther off of a Cincinnati to Saint Augustine line than those fancy modern interstates. I’ll probably get on the route in the title a little before the festival and I’ll certainly drive parts of it as I head home afterwards but, if Route 66 is the only reason you’re here, you’ve got a couple of weeks to wait.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments which are very welcome and appreciated.

Trip Peek #21
Trip #93
The Sailor’s Family

X-Ray Mirror at Museum of ManThis picture is from my 2011 The Sailor’s Family fly & drive trip to visit my youngest son in San Diego, California. At that time, he was assigned to the USS Boxer and I timed my visit to coincide with a planned “family day” cruise aboard the ship. My son, oldest grandson, and I did that while the daughter-in-law and youngest grandson did safer things. The oldest grandson and I also worked in a day trip on US-80 while the rest of the family fulfilled their normal obligations. The picture was taken the day all four of us spent at Balboa Park. Inside the Museum of Man, my son and youngest grandson stopped in front of a pair of skeletons in a scene that looked like a x-ray mirror. Although the stop was an accident, the humor and coolness of the scene was immediately realized by even the youngest among us. I had flown to San Diego from Indianapolis and an ice storm back home forced me to stay in San Diego a couple of extra days. Worse things can happen in early February.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

My Wheels – Chapter 11
1967 Dodge

1967_dodge_coronet2The crumpling of the Corvair was just one of several major events occurring within a few months time. Wreaking the Corvair led to purchasing another car and one of the other events led to purchasing a house. That event was my wife’s announcement that she was pregnant. We lived in a small one-bedroom apartment and immediately started looking for something larger. We looked at multi-bedroom apartments and a few rental houses. The owners of one house we looked at were considering renting as a last resort. They had already moved to a fancier place and were paying two mortgages. The financial strain coupled, I believe, with a little sympathy for the growing young family, resulted in them selling us the house on a land contract; a form of owner financing. So, in fairly short order, we became expectant parents, bought a three-bedroom house, and moved across town. Somewhere in there, we also bought a car.

We bought the car at one of those shady looking lots that can be found lined up on certain streets in every city. That’s not our car in the picture. Some of the paint looks really dull on the car in the picture and that wasn’t the case with our car at all. Otherwise, it’s a pretty close match. The lot where we made our purchase wasn’t a “buy here, pay here” place but it was barely one step removed. I’m sure the lot owner and the guy from the finance company were good friends or maybe related. The Dodge Coronet was no more than two years old but had obviously just been retired from some sort of fleet work. I don’t remember the mileage but doubt it was accurate, anyway. Other than the 318 V8 and automatic transmission, the car was completely devoid of options; not even a radio. But the salesman was slick and the dark blue four-door did look the part of a family sedan for our developing family image. I hung an 8-track player under the empty dash and used the new car to bring our new son to our new house.

Here are a couple of stories involving this car.

Our house sat on a hillside with a small almost unusable garage in the back at the level of the walkout basement. The driveway sloped sharply beside the house. The normal parking spot was about even with the front of the house at the top of the slope. One night, at just about the same time as I heard my wife at the door, I heard a loud bang. Half joking, I said something about the car rolling. She was only part way through the door and, looking over her shoulder, assured me that the car was still there. We laughed and forgot about it — until morning. When I headed off to work, there was no car in the driveway. Most likely left in “Drive”. it had rolled down the slope and halfway over a low stone wall at the top of a steeper and longer slope. It took a tow truck with a long cable to winch the car from its perch atop the wall.

During the time we had the Dodge, I was in a band and occasionally towed a trailer full of equipment. That wasn’t at all good for the transmission which I’m sure wasn’t treated particularly kindly in its previous life. It eventually died and was sent off to some shade tree mechanic for a rebuild. It seems likely that what he did was swap in an oldie from a junkyard but the car once again became mobile and I was happy. Before long, however, the transmission started slipping again. This happened while I was visiting my friend John and he was pretty sure the problem was merely a clogged filter. After we pulled the pan off of the transmission, we realized we needed some technical information so we took out our smart phones and looked up the specifications for a ’67 Coronet. Actually we did the 1970 equivalent and drove to the library to copy some information from a Chilton auto repair manual. Before leaving, we placed the transmission pan on some trash cans beside John’s house. I’m sure our jaws really dropped when we got back from the library and realized that the trash man had come and gone in our absence. Our panic was short lived, however, as John’s wife pointed to the pan lying beside the door. The trash man had started to cart off the detached piece of my car then had second thoughts and knocked at the door to see if it might not really be part of the week’s trash. Saved from myself by another unnamed hero.

Book Review
The House on Hathaway Road
The Henkalines

The House on Hathaway Road coverNot only did I graduate from high school smack dab in in the middle of the ’60s, it was smack dab in the middle of the Henkalines, too. There were four of them; a girl and three boys. The girl was a few years older than the boys. The oldest boy graduated a year before me and the next a year after. Though I was most familiar with the two boys closest to me in age, I knew them all. It was a small school in a small town in rural Ohio. Everybody knew everybody.

All four siblings contributed to the book. Jack, the guy just a year behind me, got things started in the 1990s by recording remembered stories on his laptop during idle time on business trips. The idea was to provide some personal history to his own children. This was a low priority and sometimes forgotten task until the death of a friend gave Jack a nudge. The friend had long maintained a journal and his widow told Jack how much that helped her and the children deal with the loss. It prompted Jack to return to his recording. In time, the brothers and sister became involved in filling in some blanks and recording their own stories and ultimately producing The House on Hathaway Road.

After introducing their parents and the house they grew up in, each of the four “kids” provides a chapter. Chapters on the final days of the parents and on the next generation follow. A member of that next generation died in an automobile accident in 2007 and there is a chapter dedicated to her. A Henkaline family tree concludes the book.

Jack’s original goal, to pass on some history to the next generation, is clearly accomplished and then some. There are certainly items in the book that will be of little interest for non-Henkalines but there are many more that provide glimpses of the 1950s and ’60s that almost anyone can enjoy. There are some truly universal memories like 24 cent gas and gathering in front of the TV to watch whatever Dad wanted to watch. The Henkalines even include a chapter titled “Nostalgia” with pictures of things that most people of a certain age will remember. Things like skate keys, TV test patterns, and Burma Shave signs. Other memories might not be exactly universal unless you lived in “the country” in the Midwest. In that case, things like chicks in the mail, laundry day with a wringer washer and “on line” drying, party line telephones, and all-purpose aprons might sound familiar.

One of the stories that Jerry (the guy a year ahead of me) tells might be simply entertaining to most readers but for anyone attending Ansonia High School in 1963 it’s a major highlight on the memory reel. Jerry was a starting tackle on the team that broke a 38 game losing streak. I recall a story that newscasters Huntley and Brinkley, who ended most programs with something lighthearted, used our first victory since 1958 as that night’s closer. I’ve never found any documentation for that but Jerry’s reporting of an uncle in Oregon who first heard the news on radio indicates there was some national coverage and that the Huntley-Brinkley story could possibly be true. I’ve always considered my time at AHS to have been excellent preparation for being a Bengals’ fan.

The book’s dust cover speculates that readers might find themselves saying, “That story reminds me of what happened to me growing up.” That’s likely true of almost any member of my generation regardless of where that growing up occurred and absolutely true for those of us who grew up within a few miles of Hathaway Road. Those in other generations will still enjoy the book but they might get jealous.

The House on Hathaway Road: Where Memories Began, The Henkalines, Aventine Press, February 18, 2013, hardcover, 9 x 6 inches, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1593308124


Also available on eBay.

Book Review
How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips
Terri Weeks

How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips coverI thought of reviewing this ebook when it came out last March but it didn’t happen. There were actually multiple items, including a couple of CDs, that were review candidates about that time which got pushed aside by stuff like preparations for the coming summer. By releasing this second edition, Terri Weeks combines a reminder that I missed posting a review last year along with a second chance.

Terri lives within ten miles of me, does a goodly amount of traveling, and writes a blog about it. Add to that the book she’s co-written called Adventures Around Cincinnati and the travel related lecturing she does around the area and you might think it almost a given that I’ve met her. Not so and what at first might seem odd, might not be at all surprising once you learn that the full title of that book is Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent’s Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids and that her blog is called Travel 50 States with Kids. I’ve nothing against kids, of course. I did, once upon a time, some traveling with my own and my trip journals include at least one outing with just me and a grandson. But it’s an obvious fact that I seldom travel with anyone and that I travel with kids even seldomer.

But kid-friendly attractions are hardly uninteresting attractions and I’ve been following Weeks’ blog for some time as she describes visits to quite an assortment of them. I did — and continue to — read the blog through its RSS feed but I also have an email subscription. Why email? Because signing up for email is the ticket for getting a free download of How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.

The twelve trips described in the ebook are not just theoretical lines on a map. The routes are practical and mostly proven. They are the routes that the Weeks family has or will follow to taste every state in the union before the youngsters finish high school. Terri Weeks has an engineering background which I’m sure served her well when she set out some years ago to devise a plan to accomplish the family’s travel goals. They are getting close. One change for the second edition is an update of “…eight states and three years to go” to “…six states and two years to go”. If I understand the scoring properly, nine trips are history and three are yet in the future.

Even if you exactly share Weeks’ goal of visiting all 50 states with your offspring before they finish high school, you might not want to do it in exactly twelve trips or exactly the same twelve. In fact, I imagine the chances of someone using this book as a precise blueprint for their own travels are pretty low but I’m confident that’s not what Weeks intended. The twelve trips are her way of making sure her family accomplishes its goal. They provide an obvious way to organize the nice catalog of attractions which is the book’s primary offering and they serve as an example of how the 50 state task can be accomplished.

For Weeks, the goal is not to simply reach each state but to actually visit each one; to experience, where possible, something unique for which a state is known. Things like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a Mardi Gras museum in Louisiana, the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, Yosemite National Park in California, and even the Mall of America in Minnesota.

How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips mapThe book is not large, 40 pages, 4.5 KB. There are no detailed directions. There is a general map, like the one at left, for each trip followed by a daily itinerary. Itinerary entries are usually one-liners with any details provided through a web link. Being an ebook, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips can assume some connectivity that paper books can’t. That means web links for many attractions. Sometimes the links lead directly to an attraction’s website and sometimes, for attractions already visited, to a Travel 50 States with Kids blog entry which often contains a link to the attraction’s website along with a report on the family’s visit.

As indicated, identifying various attractions is the ebook’s strong suit. The trip routes and itineraries are also quite useful if only as examples for creating your own. And there is a third subtle value in the the ebook. Both it and the blog behind it serve as gentle reminders that, if there is a long term goal in your life, you will probably need some sort of plan in order to reach it. In the case of getting kids to fifty states before graduation, merely keeping score won’t get it. Having just three or four states to go when the senior year rolls around sounds good unless those states are Maine, Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii.

How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips – Second Edition, Terri Weeks, self published, February 2014, ebook, 8.5 x 11 inches, 40 pages, free with email subscription at How to Visit All 50 Atates in 12 Trips


By Mopar to the Golden Gate coverBy coincidence, the first review of my own book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, appeared yesterday. Written by Ron Warnick at Route 66 News, the very positive in depth review can be read here.

My Wheels – Chapter 8
1957 Austin Healey

Austin-Healey 100-6Why in the world would a couple of newly weds buy a ten year old British sports car in the middle of winter? I am, at present, as baffled as anyone though I apparently once knew the answer to that question. A month or so after our 1966 Boxing Day wedding, my bride and I purchased a 1957 Austin-Healey 100-6. The one pictured is a 1958 model but looks pretty much like our ’57. This was not a play car to park next to a dependable sedan. This was our only car.

The Renault‘s reliability had steadily decreased until I sold it to a friend who either rebuilt or replaced the engine and drove it for quite awhile. I almost bought a 1959 Plymouth an aunt had recently replaced and actually “test drove” the car for a few weeks before acquiring the Healey. Buying the Plymouth would have been the sensible thing to do. But we were 18 and 19, I was a full time student, she was just out of high school, and we had just gotten married. Why spoil it by doing something sensible?

The Healey lasted more than a year. It was a great summer car and an OK winter car. Climbing snow covered Cincinnati hills was not its strong suit but it got around as good as many other cars of the day and it was reasonably warm in slowish city driving. Things were a little different on the open road. It helped that it had a removable hard top. It was fiberglass and not heavily insulated but was infinitely better than the cloth top. But it was a true roadster with sliding Plexiglas side curtains rather than roll up windows. At highway speed on a cold day, the heater stayed on full blast trying to keep up with the air escaping through the side curtains.

That soft top I mentioned was on the car once while I owned it. Attaching it had much more in common with raising a tent than with raising a convertible top. The hard top came off in the spring and went on in the fall. In between, with the one exception to prove that erecting the canvas top was possible, we made do with a tonneau cover and, yes, we did get wet now and then.

It was called a 2+2 with a pair of padded depressions in a shelf behind the seats. I actually remember carrying someone in those “seats” for a short distance but the shelf was much better at holding a couple bags of groceries than a couple derrieres.

The 100-6 was produced for three years. In 1956 it replaced the four-cylinder 100 which immediately became known as the 100-4. The 100-6 had a 2.6 liter six-cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission with overdrive. In 1959, it was replaced with the 2.9 liter Austin-Healey 3000 which had a rather long run through 1967.

Cars are often remembered for the misadventures they were part of and here is a story that helps me remember the Healey. For reasons not quite remembered, there was no license bracket on the front for awhile. It had been damaged somehow and repairing it had slipped entirely off my schedule. We were driving home after a visit to my parents. On state route 49, near the town of Arcanum, we passed a state trooper headed the other direction. He turned around, turned on his lights, and pulled us over. There was no “serious” issue, like speeding, but there was no front license. After checking a few things, he gave me a written warning and went on his way.

A couple of weeks later, I was back in Darke County. The low slung Healey had suffered a few scrapes and bumps on its crankcase and had developed a minor leak. I arranged to meet a high school buddy who had a welder so we — actually he — could fix the leak. The repair was accomplished and I headed home. At just about the same spot as before, that same state trooper passed the Healey with the same license plate not there. When I saw his brake lights come on, I immediately turned off on a side road and, with a few quick turns on the narrow roads, made my getaway. Satisfied that my evasive maneuvers had worked, I was starting to slow when I saw it. The road ahead was unpaved. It had not been graded for awhile. A fairly tall gravel ridge stood in its center. Before I could stop, I was plowing that gravel. Then I was oiling it.

The gravel had ripped off the recently applied weld and the crankcase was leaking much worse than it ever had before. I lost a lot of oil by the time I made it back to the main road. At a little gas station and grocery store, I bought a five gallon can of used oil. I believe farmers sometimes used used oil in slow reving equipment so it was often available for sale. The leak was not quite as bad as I feared but I still lost close to another gallon getting back to the friend’s house. He had just been visiting from college and was already gone when I got there. His dad let me use the welder and I managed to plug the leak with one of the ugliest welding jobs ever. This was the first and last time anyone ever left me alone with a welder. Then I drove home and fixed the license bracket the very next day.

Although our car must have looked just like the one in the picture when new, when we had it the paint had lost its shine and there was rust. Not major visible rust but hidden and interior rust in floor pans and such. The car was never garaged while we had it and I suspect that was true of much of its life. The rust and mechanical malaise led to the Austin-Healey being replaced before the next summer rolled around.

My Wheels – Chapter 7 — 1961 Renault 4CV


Although this post is semi-random (I picked it from two possibilities) it appears during Cincinnati’s first snow event of the year (which is kinda why I picked it) and gives me an excuse to tell a semi-related story.

1959 Plymouth FuryThe 1959 Plymouth Fury at left is a dead ringer for the one I passed up to get the Austin-Healey. A rather spiffy ride, don’t you think? On one snowy night, my new wife and I were out with a friend in my borrowed car. The snow was not deep but the big Plymouth was not doing well on the slick streets. At one point, as we attempted to climb a slight incline, the friend and I got out to push while my wife took over driving. It did not take much to get the car moving but stopping to let us back in would have left the car stuck once again. Instead, my friend and I each grabbed a fin and “skied” alongside the Plymouth to the top of the hill.

One Last Flash

Flash coverThis Flash is not a fleet-footed tights-wearing superhero. It is, or was, a publication, though saying it was about superheros would not be wrong. The Flash‘s banner reads “A publication of the 78th (Lightning) Infantry Division Veterans Association dedicated to the preservation of the friendships established in 2 world wars”. The association is disbanding. There just aren’t that many friendships to preserve anymore.

There were 1542 members at last count; 1011 veterans and 531 associates. I was one of the associates. My dad had been a member. After his death in 2011,
I wrote to arrange my own associate membership and was warned that the association might only continue another year or so. It lasted for a bit more than two. The note that cautioned me about the possible end of the association mentioned a couple of reasons. One was obvious. At that time, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 670 World War II veterans were dying every day. Another, though related, might not be so obvious. Veterans in the association ranged in age from 85 to 95. They remained very much in control of their association but recognized that increases in age are often accompanied by decreases in faculties. In the words of that note, “They want to decide what to do before they are no longer able to do that.” Just one more example of how “The Greatest Generation” doesn’t want to have someone else finish their business for them.

Dad never attended any of the reunions or other gatherings of the association but he “read” every copy of The Flash. Starting in the mid-1990s, I would bring home the issues he was done with and “read” them, too. We both went through the pages the way one does with a newspaper, scanning the headlines until something caught our eye. For Dad, it would probably be a place or a name he remembered. Increasingly, when he recognized a name it would be in an obituary or the “Taps” column. I looked for anything related to the 309 Field Artillery Battalion, Dad’s unit, but finding something was fairly rare. Mostly what I read were the remembrances that veterans or, as was also increasing the case, surviving family members, sent in. Sometimes it was a quickly written and possibly even jumbled memory of a single incident. Other times it was a longer memoir. Some were organized and well written, others not so much. But all were interesting. All were glimpses of real history that I felt privileged to read.

The Flash was not a glossy magazine. It was printed on newspaper like stock in black and white with just a touch of red on the front and back covers. It was well organized but not overly edited. Pretty much everything members sent in appeared in print. Even the last issue includes change of address letters mixed in with the obituaries, reports on recent happenings, requests for information on events of 70 years ago, and those remembrances that I look for. It was published quarterly although the final issue came out more than a year after the previous one. The June 2012 issue announced the planned dissolution and spoke of one more issue. When the end of 2012 came and went, I figured that was probably not to be. When the final issue did arrive, I was glad to see it and sad to read that this time it was  — officially — for real.

The final issue reported on the 68th Jonah Edward Kelley Award ceremony that took place in Keyser, West Virginia, in April. Kelley was the 78th’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and the Veterans Association has annually given the award and a $6000 scholarship to a graduating senior at his former high school. The Association’s remaining funds are being transferred to the Ed Kelley Scholarship Trust so that this practice can continue.

The Association’s website will also continue. There is an active group of 78th reenactors and two members of that group have taken on the work and expense of keeping the website, which includes a message board, alive at www.78thdivision.org, the same address it has always had. The website for the 78th Infantry Division WWII Living History Association is at www.78thinfantry.org.

My Christmas Squirrel

cdecor1I’m not much of a decorator. When there were young’uns in the house, there was always a tree at Christmas and I even strung up a few outdoor lights once or twice but there has been nothing of that sort around my bachelor abodes. When I lived in a one bedroom apartment, I found a couple of red balls that probably came from someone’s tree and hung them from a ceiling beam. I’ve expanded on that just a bit in my current location. At some point after Thanksgiving has passed each year, I take my single armload of holiday trim out of the closet and make things all Christmasy.

The little tree is store-bought. It’s the only component in my Christmas display not made by a family member’s hand. The snow-couple on the mantle are covered soft drink bottles. My sister dives into various arts and crafts projects on a regular basis and one year she made quite a few of these. I’m guessing that the ornament with the photo of the grandsons was assembled by my daughter-in-law or maybe the oldest boy did it. It arrived just a few days before my first ever Christmas Escape Run in 2006 and I took it with me. It first hung on a tree of sorts in a room above the Under the Hill Saloon in Natchez, Mississippi.

cdecor2The star is one my Mom made of wax-coated paper. My sister and I each have five. I think Mom may have formed the stars then dipped them but I might not be remembering that quite right. She passed away in 1959 so the stars are at least 54 years old. Unlike my current piece of fake shrubbery, there was some store-bought stuff on our trees in those days but not a lot. There was popcorn we had strung while also eating a goodly amount of it and each year we carefully removed the hanging strands of tinsel (icicles) to reuse the next. The tree was definitely not fake.

cdecor3The merry-go-round isn’t exactly holiday themed but, like pretty much any toy, seems quite appropriate. I guess Dad ran out of furniture to refinish or chairs to cane or maybe he just wanted a break. Whatever the source of the urge, it resulted in the production of several of these merry-go-rounds some years back. They were populated with a variety of animals. Mine has a chicken, duck, cat, and squirrel.

The sweat of the honest makes the merry-go-round.
Dirk Hamilton, Rainbows in the Night, 1995


cdecor4I wasn’t able to get an ornament made by my newest grandson in time to include it in this post. Construction is in progress and I’ll update this post with a photo as soon as possible. For the present, I’ll just include this photo so that all three grandsons are represented.


Wesley's ornament UPDATE: January 3, 2013 – I picked up the new ornament on the way home from my Christmas trip. As promised, here it is. I’m all set for Christmas 2013.