Halloween

October 31st could have been one of my most favorite days of the year as a kid. By the first of October my friend Lora who lived a few houses from me and I would begin planning our costumes. We generally would dress in the same theme. I remember some of our costumes being witches, old ladies, and hobos. My favorite by far was the Hobo. As a matter of fact I think I was a Hobo on more than one Halloween. We didn’t have giant Halloween stores to purchase our customs so we had to make them ourselves out of clothes that we already had. Growing up in a small town that had a highway running through the middle of town we were only able to go Trick or Treating on our side of town. Unfortunately for us we lived on the smaller side of town. But we were not going to let that stop us from gathering all the candy humanly possible that night. Now Lora and I were very astute and we would have a plan as to how to hit EVERY house on our side of town. I can remember days before the 31st we would take off on our bikes to try out our new path. You see we only had a few hours in which to do this as we had a curfew. In this plan was a time where we would work our way back to one of our houses just to drop off a very heavy bag of candy. We didn’t want to take any chances of being so weighted down that we couldn’t move efficiently. There was also the possibility of a bag tearing and spilling out all of our hard work. This happened one year to me, I remember that it was cold and wet that night and my paper bag could not bare the weight of all my candy. As we where running to our next house on our path my candy spilled out onto the sidewalk! Luckily we were a team Lora and I, as I stood guard of my hard work splattered on a wet sidewalk Lora ran to the last house we were at and was able to talk them into giving us another paper bag. A very grateful me scooped up all the candy into the new bag. Now onto our route as time was ticking off our clock. I don’t know if we ever made it to every house on our side of town but I do know that there wasn’t another duo more determined to make it happen. At the end of our route we head to our separate homes to discover what treasures we were given by our neighbors and our neighbors neighbors.

Maria, You’re Going to be a Big Sister

I remember feeling nervous about this moment for a while. I was about to tell my 8-year-old that she was going to be a big sister. It was a moment I had thought about for ages – I always wanted her to have siblings. But, life circumstances being what they were, this was my first chance.

Maria and I have a unique bedtime ritual and have since she was a baby. Being my only child for eight years, she was and still is spoiled. Not just with lots of toys, but with a lot of love. Perhaps too much sometimes, if that is a thing. Each night, I lay with her for anywhere from 20 minutes to hours (if I fall asleep). We talk about the highs and lows of the day, laugh and snuggle. Knowing this is one of most happy of spots, I chose this as the place where I would give her the big news.

After lots of our usual chats and giggles, I blurted out, “Maria, guess what?” She looked at me with a weird look and said, “What?”

No sooner had the words come out of my mouth, “You’re going to be a big sister,” that tears welled up in her big brown eyes. I should have better prepared myself for this type of reaction, but I sat there waiting for her to make the next move. She dove into her pillow and screamed. It was a lovely moment! I sat there in shock at a level of drama even I didn’t anticipate. After the scream, she sat up and balled her eyes out for what felt like an hour but was probably about three minutes. After that she asked me about 100 questions in rapid fire:

– When is the baby coming?
– Is it a boy or girl?
– When will you know if it’s a boy or girl?
– Why do you want another kid?
– Where will it sleep?
– Will you throw up a lot like Sophia’s mom did?
– What are you naming it?
– Can I pick the name?

After the questions, she wiped her tears and smiled. We talked about name ideas and how fun it will be to have a best buddy like I did (my little brother Jack is 9 years younger than me and we’re best friends). She popped open her unicorn sparkly journal and jotted down name ideas she liked for boys and girls.

We went through every emotion together in 45 minutes. And when I kissed her goodnight, she was full of joy. God, I love that little girl.

**Brooke Kathleen Knobel was born at 6:24 a.m. on October 6, 2017, and big sister Maria was the first person to hold her (other than mom and dad)**

Summers in Swedetown

Starting when I was young, probably about 6 or 7 to about 16, My mother would send me on the train or bus from Detroit to Calument, MI to spend the summer with my Grandmothers. Grandma Sophie and Grandpa Matt Ollila and Grandma and Grandpa Olander shared me each summer. I shared a birthday with Grandma Ollila and was the oldest grandchild.
The train station was so grey and old. The train was so big and black. The conductor was in charge of me and always made sure I traveled safely since I was alone. Even the conductor sent me cards at Christmas time we got so close. What a sweet man.
Sometimes I had to take the bus. It was long and I never got off. I made sure to get a window seat and the seats were so big as a small kid. If no one from my family was coming south, I had to take the bus back.
We went to Big Traverse a lot while up north where my Uncle Ralph had a fishing boat. The little fishing boat was named the Millie after my Aunt Millie. I only got to go on the long day trips because I hid on the boat when they took off. I usually had to stay behind because I couldn’t pee like a boy. Uncle Ralph tried to teach me how to swim by throwing me off the boat and i sank. He had to dive in and get me, which he was not very happy with.
I used to go berry picking with Grandma Olander and Aunt Ida. She was a tall blonde, and certainly where I got my looks from. My job was to skim the foam off the top of the blueberry jam.
When my grandma’s were busy, Grandpa took over taking care of us. For breakfast, he would make us coffee with crackers and cream from the top of the milk. We never complained because we were always told we had to eat whatever was put in front of us. The only thing I absolutely hated was pea soup. I’d hide if it was served. I would climb a tree until dinner was over and ate again at breakfast.
Not many people spoke English in Swedetown so Grandma Ollila was the mouthpiece for most of the town. She translated for many people and went to appointments with them. She basically acted as a teacher and helped the migrants from Finland and Sweden get their Green cards.
My Grandpa Ollila was the sheriff of the town. My cousins weren’t always up there the whole summer with me. I always came up the day school let out and came back the day before school started.
One of the lasting things that will stay with me forever is that both of my grandparents loved and respected each other so much!

25th Wedding Anniversary

This is one of the happiest days of my life and owe it all to David, daughter Kristen, children and grand children. David and Kristen planned the entire day from start to finish. My job was to have a great time and to get dressed up. All of my children and grandchildren were there to help celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and vow renewal. Considering our wedding was a quick ceremony when were were young with only Don and Sandy present. Having a day so special filled with our family and my mother meant so much.
The ceremony was at the Victoria Wedding Chapel in Waterford, MI. There was a special room for me to get ready in before and Kristen did my hair with flowers in it. It was a cold day so outdoor pictures weren’t happening but we did a balloon release outside after the ceremony. The whole family took individual pictures and we made sure to take so many with the Grandchildren. Even the owners of the chapel complimented me on having so many children behave so well all in one place. We were only missing the Duncan family due to the birth of their son.
Dinner was at Christie’s in Lake Orion, MI. Earl and Carol brought my Aunt Millie to celebrate too. Even one of my work friends, Roxanne showed up! What a surprise.
It was one of the best memories I have with David and our family.

Grand Hotel

I believe that if you make a good decision regarding who to marry, all the other decisions get easier.  I have always felt like myself around Jayme, and we’ve always had fun together.  It’s one reason that I’ve never, for one day, regretted marrying her.

I met Jayme the summer before my senior year of high school, when her brother Gregg called and asked me to play the drums in the back of his dad’s pickup for the El Dorado parade.  Her dad was driving, Jayme was waving from the passenger seat, and Gregg, Brad Doggett and I were in the back playing.  Gregg and I remained friends, the band stayed together, and for the next six years, when I was at Gregg’s house, she was the cute kid sister who would bring us popcorn.

After I graduated from KU, I accepted a job in Oklahoma City for accounting firm Peat Marwick.  The day before I left, I called Gregg’s house and Jayme answered.  She started to get Gregg, and I told her I had called to talk to her.  I was moving to Oklahoma City, I explained, and I wouldn’t know anyone there, and I asked if she would mind being pen pals.

When Jayme arrived back at school at K-State, there was already a letter from me waiting for her there. We wrote letters for a few months.  On our first date we went to see Superman! over the Christmas holiday when we were both back home.

When I got back to Oklahoma City, busy season hit in the accounting world.  Since I was new to the working world, I had no idea what to expect. The hours were intense. I was driving to work before seven a.m. and returning around nine p.m.,  seven days a week, and I was miserable.  I tried to get myself to call or write Jayme, but I couldn’t.  I was exhausted, I didn’t think I had anything to offer. I hoped she would understand, but I knew she likely would move on.

This went on for four months.  In late April, busy season finally ended. The first day I got to leave at five p.m., I stopped at the grocery store, got a steak, went home and went jogging, and after dinner I decided I was ready to call Jayme. It had been months since we had talked.  I was prepared to hear that she was either dating someone, engaged, or maybe just mad at me for ignoring her for four months.  I got up the nerve to call.  She was still interested.  I was relieved.   We got married a year later.

Jayme and I always managed to have fun no matter the circumstances. When we lived in Whitewater, money was tight, but we still made a point of taking weekend trips to Oklahoma City or wherever we could afford.  We had frequent get-togethers with friends, often at our house. On weekends, we would load the kids up, go to El Dorado lake, stop by Kentucky Fried Chicken, and get a bucket of chicken to take to the El Dorado Drive In.

When we lived in Minneapolis, we found a way to take several trips across the U.S. A friend told us about Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was quaint, had no cars, and a cool place to go.  We were sold, and booked a trip to the Grand Hotel. We loved it. In the years since, we’ve been to numerous destinations in several countries, but the Grand is our favorite. In the ten years we lived in Michigan, we made it up there about every year. Once, we were able to take Alex, Tori, Lindsey and Jake.  Of all the fun we’ve had, the Grand may be the funnest.

Our routine is pretty much the same every day. We get up, I go down to the world’s best breakfast about 30 minutes before Jayme. After breakfast, we rent bikes and ride the seven miles around the island. Next is bocce ball, then over to the golf course for a quick lunch before teeing off. After golf, we  change clothes and head to the Esther Williams swimming pool. I then take a quick shower, put on my suit (required on the lower level of the Grand in the evenings) and head straight to the Cupola Bar. The Cupola Bar is located on the top floor, and has a spectacular view of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and the Mackinac Bridge. I’ll have a Heineken, watch the ferry boats leave marks on the lakes, and think about life. Jayme walks in  looking like a million bucks a little later, we stay and chat with the Cupola crowd, then we head down to the greatest evening meal in the world. Five courses, rotating menu. After dinner, we head to the ballroom and dance to the band. The dance floor is usually pretty empty when we get there.  Not for long.  Sometimes, we attract a crowd; other times, it’s just us. Before heading to the room, we walk the world’s longest porch and enjoy the terrific Northern Michigan summer evening.  The next morning, it’s the same routine.  If we’re there for three or four days, it’s the same thing every day.  And we love it every day.

I think our marriage has worked so well because we really enjoy spending time together.  On Mackinac Island, at the Grand, there are no cars, we never turn on the television.  It’s just us.  We take the time to reflect on how cool our lives together are and how much we love our family.  It’s a special time.

Browne’s Market

After I returned home from wheat harvest, I went to work for Browne’s Market and Butcher Shop in El Dorado.  My job included stocking grocery shelves, and sacking and carrying groceries for customers.  Also, on Tuesdays, I worked in the slaughter house. There were four of us slaughtering about twenty hogs and my job was to pick everything up that was on the floor and put them in their designated places. I picked up the hearts, livers, and kidneys then hung them up on hooks and washed them off. That left just the guts on the floor, which I gathered and put into five gallon buckets then carried outside and dumped them into fifty five gallon barrels. Every Tuesday when we butchered hogs there were two couples that would be going thru the gut barrels and cutting out the stomach and what ever else that they could use. The slaughterhouse butchered cattle on Wednesday but I wasn’t involved with that. The store also had a baker and two sweet ladies did the baking. One’s name was Bea Hammaker, but I’m sorry I can not remember the other lady’s name. They made sure I got a warm doughnut when they baked a new batch.

While I worked for Browne’s I had a room at the Butler Hotel, just a half block from where I worked and across the street from the Butler County Courthouse. Pat was living with Marilyn, which was about a mile or so from the hotel. I would walk to her house and back most evenings. Later on, I bought a 1929 Model A Ford which we rode around town in. Pat and I started going steady about December 1954.

I worked for Mr. Joe Browne until the end of February 1954, then my coworker Jerry Hayes and I both joined the Air Force.

Meeting Pat

Around the last of September or first of October 1954, my friend Eldon said you need to come and meet my girlfriend’s friend in El Dorado, her name is Pat.

We went to the El Dorado theater where the girls were after a football game. We started up the stairs to the balcony just as Eldon’s girlfriend Marilyn was coming downstairs and Pat was with her. Pat was in her Pep club uniform, a white blouse with a red vest, black skirt, red sock and a black sock, a pair of black and white saddle oxfords and a very beautiful face. She didn’t know I was going to be there, as she had told Marilyn not to set her up with any more dates, she was capable of getting her own.  I’m glad I didn’t know that, or I may have not gone. I said, “Hello, I’m Jim Woodall, it’s good to meet you”.  After talking for a few minutes, I asked her if she wanted to go on a date. She said yes, and as I write this we have been together over sixty three years.

What a lucky guy I am, also what a lucky bunch of kids and grand kids for Pat saying yes to this bashful country boy.

Just Stories

Childhood Toys
Ukulele was my first musical instrument (with many more to follow). I taught myself to play, like I did with the guitar and trumpet later.
Cowboy Guns & caps and cowboy hats that were too big and had to be stuffed with Kleenex.
Chemistry Set – I was a science buff and I remember getting a small set and did all the experiments in the manual. I really wanted the big set that was in the Sears Christmas catalog. I never got it.
Dads Army Gear – Most of the boys of that time played “army”. We dressed up in clothes that were too big and put on the helmet and adding the canteens, and lunch kits to our belts. I remember the metal taste drinking out of the canteen it wasn’t pleasant. Reflecting on that, I can’t believe that my Dad drank out of that for years during WWII.
Airplane- I remember going to the football field and watching Barry Armentrout flying model airplanes. This was before remote control, they flew on two wires around in a circle. You could make them do loops and fly over the top. I just had to have one so I bought a kit and put it together. They were made our of balsa wood and had paper stretched and glued on the wings. We painted and “decorated” them and put an engine on them. The first plane flew only 2 times before I wrecked it. We also had one that was plastic and held together with rubber bands. We had fun crashing that one.

 

Bands

Beach Boys
Rolling Stones
Paul Reverie and the Raiders
Simon & Garfunkel
Peter Paul and Mary
Supremes
Neil Diamond
John Denver
Sly and the Family Stones

 

 

Childhood Books
Unfortunately, I don’t remember any childhood books except “Little Black Sambo” which is not appropriate now. Grandma Wagler always told us bible stories.
However as I got older I loved Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer, and the Hardy Boys (read all I could find. In the sixth grade we had a reading contest at the library and I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories and all the Perry Mason books by Erle Stanley Gardner, and won the summer contest. BTW Perry Mason went from print to movies and then black and white TV in the 50s and 60s.
Then I got hooked on biographies and that was the end of fiction in my life.