Category Archives: 1960s

Only child’s take on dining out(side)

Only Child with Mom in the backyard

In the stifling hot days of summer, my mother would haul out the whole paraphernalia for our family of three to eat outside in the summer. This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when air-conditioned homes were not the norm. But at suppertime, our backyard had shade.

So, with some help from Dad and me, and several trips – from the kitchen, down the side stairs, out into the driveway to the backyard went a small card table, three chairs, table cloth, serviettes, cutlery, plates, and all the dishes of food – depending on what we were eating. And yes, it was often hot food. But the entrance to the backyard was inviting – an archway of red roses.

Only Child’s Dad under the backyard entrance

It was enjoyable eating outside in the breeze. But when even the temperature in the shade rose too high, mom used her backup plan – eating in the basement. Before the basement renovation, we would sit in our own private dining room with black floors, huge cement pillars, a furnace turned off for the summer, the old coal bin (which remained after the switch to oil heat) and mother’s pride and joy – her root cellar where all her canned jams, pickles, green tomatoes and the like were stored.

You could say it was all a labour of love combined with necessity – either roast or eat the roast, be cool or sweat.

But Mom had a dirty little secret, one which was shared among some of the women on her side of the family.

Except for cooking, canning and sewing, my mother hated housework.

I don’t recall her even doing a weekly housecleaning, except for laundry and it got hung out (even sometimes in winter) until she purchased a clothes dryer. But vacuuming and dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc.? Only if company was coming.

Then it was the big hustle to make everything neat and clean. Put away in closets and drawers were all her sewing paraphernalia – including the portable machine. You see, the home for all of that was the dining room table. And we needed that for the dinners for company. Company was mostly family and some friends. Mom did love to cook and bake and our family loved to eat.

But cleaning the house. Not in our genes.

And I think this dislike, even hatred for doing housework, is in the genes. I can’t find any scientific proof, so I will use anecdotes. My mother’s youngest sister , my godmother, was the same – loved to cook and bake, garden, and can, but clean? However, my godmother was a farmer’s wife, so there was lots else to do that your average housewife of the 50s and 60s didn’t do. But that doesn’t explain one of my Detroit Michigan cousins – who loved to sew and cook but hated to clean.

Are you getting the picture?

As for me – well I love to cook and garden, but freeze and dry garden vegetables and fruit (sometimes from the Farmer’s Market, not just my garden). I used to like to sew but lost interest over the years – I blame that on other interests taking over, lack of sufficient time, but also bad eyesight. When I am forced to mend an item of clothing, I can take more time threading the needle because I can’t see the hole, than actually mending. And this from a woman who made all her maternity clothes and used to quilt by hand.

As for the weekly housecleaning – some of it gets done – the laundry, changing bed-sheets, clean kitchen counters and sinks, and vacuum or mop. Dusting? Maybe every six weeks – to borrow a friend’s phrase “too much work.”

But nothing beats going outside on the veranda or in my backyard patio to eat my meals. I have it easier than Mom. Sure, for the backyard, I have to use a side door like Mom. But there is a patio table and umbrella already out there, so it is just bring out the food, sit down and eat. And breathe in, feast my eyes and nose on the flowers and veggies in my garden.

Top of my patio table up close

 

And try to keep the wasps away. I’m allergic to them. But it’s my patio and my garden.  So when it’s not raining, I’ll sit, eat and enjoy.

Looking from the patio at fresh lettuce, rhubarb and oregano

 

So, do you regularly clean your house, condo or apartment?

Or do you have better things to do? And if so, what are they?

I’d like some comments about this.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Garden, Gardening, Heat summer, Hereditary, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Only child

Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued)

Only Child in Grade 12

In our last memoir writing session this week, we covered the topic of using fiction techniques when writing your memoir. Today, we discuss setting. There are similarities with using setting  in memoir and in writing fiction, with a few differences.

Always, you need to remember, memoir is not fiction, so you can’t make stuff up. True, settings in fiction often are real settings – at least countries, cities and the like. But sometimes the city or town is fictional, as are the residences and businesses and of course the streets.

Setting in memoir can give the writer an advantage, though. For example, you can write about the place you grew up in – as it was then (and a lot of that is how you remember it. Look at those old photos) and you can go back and see how it is today. Is the house you grew up in still standing? Or is it now a huge ugly condo or a paved parking lot?

But the narrative of setting in both fiction and memoir is stronger and more interesting if you skip writing it like a travel piece and put your character (you, in the memoir) right there. Show yourself going into that high school for the first time – how did you feel? Who did you meet? And blend in what you saw? For example, when my friend Nancy and I switched high schools for grade 12, (in the mid-1960s),  we had a heck of a time finding the most important classroom – the study hall. I don’t know how many times we walked around the whole top floor of the high school (it was walking in a square – that’s what it felt like and the actual shape of it). Finally another classmate with a study period helped us find the room.

So, you can see how that could generate the setting of just this school floor as Nancy and I wandered around lost. And the emotions, some dialogue and the actual study room when we finally found it and entered it.

Here’s one of the exercises I had my class do for setting. If you have time, you could try it.

  1. Exercise: Take a scene from your past and write about it with you in it. This could be the backyard of the house you grew up in, your bedroom, the kitchen, the street where you live. Note: if your memoir is about a particular time in your life use a scene from that as opposed to a scene in your past that won’t have anything to do with your memoir. The purpose is to create the atmosphere as you remember it in one location important to your life and learn how to show it to the reader from your unique POV. For example, if you were terrified of thunderstorms and hid under the covers when one came, and your brother liked to run outside in thunderstorms, the two of you would definitely have differing points of view. (copyright 2017 Sharon Crawford)

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under 1960s, classmates, Friends, Memoir content, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, School days

Only Child on research for your memoir

Grandpa’s farm back when

“Have you found Grandpa’s farm?” my cousin Leona asked me when I called her just after arriving in Walkerton, Ontario.”

This is all part of my research for my family history on my mother’s side.

Today’s class is on doing research for your memoir and beginning your memoir. In this post we will briefly focus on the research part.

Research can vary depending on your memoir’s content. For example, if you were born in another country from the one you now live in – you will be doing research in different countries. And if you are going back to your ancestors, that likely means another country.

I’m in Toronto, Canada, so some of the points I cover below will be from that perspective.

Last week’s post on family photos and how to use them to write your memoir, have another purpose. They not only can kick-start memories, but can provide possible people to interview about your shared past – and in the case of family – your ancestors. When I first began researching for my memoir, I went to my cousin Anne who is the family genealogist (on  my mother’s side). Anne and I went to visit her father – my uncle and godfather – in the nursing home. Now, I’m a former journalist, but Anne did most of the work, showing her dad old photos (which I did supply) and asking him who was in it and to tell us a bit about what was going on. The photo showed a group of then young women, including my mother’s older sister who appeared to be waving a book around. At any suggestion that this aunt of mine was being frivolous, my uncle basically said that no, she was a good girl.

So photos can lead you to point people to interview and in turn they can lead you to others to interview, a good thing with me as only two uncles remained alive then (both since died) to interview. But another cousin, Anita, who used to go with her mother to visit extended family, put me on to one of her mother’s best friends who was still living. Got a lot of family information from her.

Besides photos of family and friends, there are diaries (maybe like me, you kept one or two or more). I went through most of them (I keep them in a box) and pulled out one or two with excerpts that could be used. You might also have access to family letters and documents such as wills and house sales. I have some of the latter.

Anita was a big help in my search for Grandpa’s farm where I used to visit with my parents every summer. They could drive there – the two miles from Mildmay, Ontario, but didn’t know the exact lot and plot numbers. You need that to find out who currently owns the property. And we had no intention of just landing at the farmhouse and banging on the door.

The search taught me two things.  Serendipity plays a big role and your research is never all online or all in person and phone.

Churches and the area assessment office often have records. So I phoned both – no luck with either. So onto the Internet and to the area’s main library branch in nearby Walkerton, Ontario. Yes, they had land registry info so I booked a day’s use for the micro fiche machine, contacted cousins Anita and Leona for our actual visit to the farm after, b00ked a motel room in the main area of Walkerton (no hotels), got a bus ticket, packed my bags and off I went.

The librarian who booked the micro fiche wasn’t in that day and the librarian who was didn’t know how to work the micro fiche machine. Neither did I, but she figured it out and handed me six possible micro fiche rolls. If you have ever used micro fiche, it is labour-intensive, not easy like digital (Note: some larger libraries in big cities have their daily newspapers digitized from when the newspaper began to up to two years ag0 and with a library card you can access it from your laptop anywhere). I found the info in the sixth roll but did discover another couple of properties that my grandfather owned. I was so excited until I discovered the info went up to the early 1980s  and we were now in the 21st. century.

So I asked a librarian for the Land Registry phone number, phoned them for their hours and location.

They were still open for half an hour and were one block from the library.

I paid for the micro fiche copies, gathered my belongings and ran out the door. And stood on the corner.

Which way to go? I asked somebody and charged down the street, just in time to get inside, look at the latest piece of information, get it photocopied and pay for that. Then it was back to the motel to make some phone calls to the current owners and my cousins.

I had an answer to Leona’s question and she and Anita met me at the motel the next morning. And we were off. But that’s another research story.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course

Only Child on using photos for memoir writing

Only Child and friends

One way to remember your past is to look at old photos. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” can be translated here to “a photo is worth many memories.”

Take that photo here. I am on the right and two of my friends are beside me. The fourth in our summer play group isn’t in the photo because she took it.

If you are writing a memoir – whether you are trying to figure out what to focus on, or trying to remember the past, look at your old photographs – or those from family members – you never know what is lurking in their drawers, photo albums or yours. Remember, we may be going back before digital and before selfies, although many of us scan our old photos.

Look at the photo and identify who is in it. Go from there and see what stories about the people and their relationships, the location of the photo. The possibilities are endless. Write them all down in a list to start and then write a short scenario – dialogue included – about what the picture conjures.

For more detailed information about photos and writing memoirs, go to one of my much older blog posts right here.   That one says a lot more.

Now, I have to get moving to teach the first session of my Memoir Writing Course.

Out into the rain – yech! We get more rain, too much (so I’ll be on basement watch) Wednesday overnight and Thursday.

And rain can also bring back memories.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir

Only Child teaching Memoir Writing Course

A week from today, I start teaching my Sharing Your Stories: Introduction to Memoir Writing Course at the Toronto Reference Library. For four Tuesday afternoons in April, the 20 participants and I will share some of our personal stories, share the joys and roadblocks we are encountering to even get started writing. I will share how to actually get on your butt (at the computer) and get going at writing your story.

I taught this course last year at another library branch, and many short workshops on Kick-starting Your Memoir. Yes, I have written (and rewritten) a memoir . It has not been published yet, but it has been pitched a few years ago. I got sidetracked because I started getting my mystery fiction published in 2012, but have plans to do some more rewriting (and change the title) of my memoir. Meantime, I pull short excerpts from my memoir and rewrite them with more text pertinent to short or longish memoir pieces for print and online magazines. And I teach memoir writing.

We can all (participants and instructor) learn from each other. As this course is full and not everyone reading this blog lives in the Toronto, Ontario area, I plan to post snippets from each session in the next four or five blog posts. That way I can share some information and suggestions with readers of this blog. After all, one of the original criteria of this blog is the memoir aspect. And I know I have deviated somewhat into posts about weather, religion, gardens, seniors, my parents – well even those are related to being an only child growing up Catholic in the 1950s and early 1960s, the only child of middle-age parents. Our past has a lot to do with our future. Of course, we can make changes, if we choose to do so.

And posting some info here avoids carting around a bunch of handouts. Although I use Power Point for part of the first two sessions, it is still hard copy and a lot of dialogue. Which might be appropriate for a course on writing about the past.

Today, I will just add the overall information about what I plan to cover in this course.

First the blurb used:

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need motivation and guidance? Author, editor and writing instructor, Sharon A. Crawford will get you writing your story. Using prompts such as the six senses to kick-start your memory, sharing your stories, looking at published memoirs, and doing fun exercises, these four hands-on sessions will take you into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir.

Broken down briefly (for now), sessions will be:

Session 1 – Getting started – often the big bugaboo. And often it is because we can’t decide what to write about. So, we will get some ideas and tools on this and do some writing exercises. Lots of discussion as well.

Session 2 – Research and Writing Your Memoir Beginning:

It’s not all online searching. We must not forget the “rellies” (as a friend calls her relatives). Dialogue, dialogue as well as documents, documents. Again exercises, including writing a draft memoir beginning and sharing our stories.

Session 3 – It’s all about Form and Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir

Memoir is written in many forms, but the bottom lines are: they read like fiction, but are not fiction. Again lots of discussion back and forth and writing exercises.

Session 4 -Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued), Truth or Dare, Q and A

The actual memoir writing (and I only promise to get everyone starting their memoir) takes more than one session. In fact a whole six to eight week course would be more realistic and then you would have to write some more. And rewrite and rewrite. So we will continue with this, including writing and sharing our stories. We will also cover something most memoir writers run up against – the rellies wanting to keep family secrets secret.

Are you writing a memoir?

I’ll close with a couple of suggestions of memoirs to read – maybe you have already read them. Both describe family life – but two completely different situations. The books are Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildner and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Bloggimg, Only child, Only child memoir

Only Child on dental matters

 What you don't want the dentist to use on for extraction


What you don’t want the dentist to use for extractions

My late dad once spent two hours in the dental chair getting one tooth pulled. My mom was so incensed, she transferred the three of us to another dentist. But it was going from the frying pan into the fire. The new dentist was more than scary. Think of the 1976 movie Marathon Man where the late Sir Lawrence Oliver plays a dentist who torments patient Dustin Hoffman. Our family’s new dentist didn’t hurt physically. But he looked scary and his talk was scary. I remember him telling me that I would lose all my teeth at an early age.

That dentist finally died. But I would like to tell his spirit that I’m in my late 60s and still have more than 95 per cent of my own teeth. I did just have one removed a week ago and the oral surgeon who removed it said “you haven’t had any teeth removed for a number of years.” He was right – over 30 years ago – those pesky wisdom teeth and one molar.

This oral surgeon was just the opposite to Dr. Scary – gentle, kind and friendly in his talk and helpful. And the actual tooth removal took – are you ready for this? – five minutes. Most time spent in the chair was waiting for the freezing to take effect. And today, freezing isn’t heavy (as in weight) but still leaves that area of your mouth feeling no pain.

I learned a few other lessons from connecting with this oral surgeon. Lessons that could be applied elsewhere in life.

If at first you don’t get what you need, be persistent. The first oral surgeon recommended by my regular dentist turned out to be questionable – the practice at the same address had three different names and it was debatable just who was actually there and when. The receptionist was rude. So, my son stepped in, phoned his dentist’s office and got the name and contact info of oral surgeon I went to.

Sometimes what you expect doesn’t happen – But a caveat here – this can go both ways. For me, all the worrying (based on past dental experiences and yes, I had one hour in the chair with a regular dentist trying to pull a wisdom tooth and having to go right away to a specialist – that was one of the aforementioned wisdom teeth. At that point I lived in Aurora, so my dentist was no longer Dr. Scary, just Dr. Incompetent.)

Be thankful for your family members who actually help you – my son also met me at the oral surgeon’s, paid for the surgery (I had paid for the consultation visit), drove me to the drug store afterwards, then home and stayed until early evening to make sure I was okay. On the flip side – not with my son, but for all of us – watch out for family members who don’t care.

Follow post-operative instructions and if you get stuck, ask for help. I got detailed printed instructions and also chatted with the oral surgeon about them. But not everything goes smoothly. With me the bleeding didn’t seem to stop, although it was never heavy. But I went through a lot of gauge in the first four days, so made a follow-up appointment. The oral surgeon said it was healing nicely and at this point to ditch the gauze as it was getting in the way of the healing to finish. That was a relief – not just that everything was okay, but that I could stop using the gauze. Anyone who has ever tried to eat with a pack of gauze in your mouth will understand what I’m referring to about here.

So, did I learn to stop worrying about things?

No!

There is too much crap in life shoved at us to deal with and if you become like Ms. Pollyanna, you could be in trouble.

So, I go back to the Brownie motto when I was a child – be prepared.

And if that includes worrying, so be it. At least it gets you doing something about it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

What Dr. Scary reminds me of

What Dr. Scary reminds me of

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Anxiety, Dental Surgery, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Worrying

Only Child’s Christmases past and Christmas present

tree05It is nearing midnight Christmas Eve. Mom and I are struggling to stay upright as we walk along the icy sidewalks in the dark. We hang onto each other. Maybe we should have worn our skates – the ice is thick enough, but it is bumpy. We have to make it to Holy Cross Church on time for midnight Mass.

It is something different for both of us as morning Christmas Day Mass used to be the norm for Mom Dad and  me. We would eat a small snack before, check out our stockings hanging from the mantle and then head for church. Afterwards, back home it would be a big breakfast, then the magic of digging out the presents from under the tree. Presents that Mom and I had wrapped – her at the table in the kitchen and me at the table in the dining room. When either of us needed more wrapping paper or scrotch tape, we gave the other warning so there was time to cover the presents not yet wrapped.

After the ceremony of the presents, Mom would finish preparing Christmas dinner – turkey, sometimes goose or a duck, if she was feeling adventurous. Sometimes instead of eating dinner at home, we took a bus and streetcar to my aunt and uncle’s place in mid-Toronto to celebrate Christmas with them, my grandma who lived on the third floor of this old house, and my three cousins.

But that’s when Dad was still alive. He died the month before Christmas. The year was 1965. I was 16.

Fast Forward to 2016 and Christmas is so different. Not just because both my parents are long dead, but I am now past the age where each parent died. I no longer go to church as I  no longer find it relevant or helpful in my life. Life for not only me, but most everyone is changed so much. And it’s not just because we are older; it’s what’s happened, what is happening to us and to the world. We have too many problems, too much sickness, too much poverty and don’t forget the weather. Used to be snow was snow and it was normal. Now, we get ice storms, freezing rain, even regular rain, flooded basements and communities flooded out  their homes, often forever. This is good?

Within all this bleakness I still celebrate Christmas ,but it is a secular Christmas. I don’t mean shopping till I drop, although the past week it’s been difficult to get out even for a loaf of bread, with all the snow, ice, rain, bitter cold and today the winds which are supposed to howl down on and at us. Not to mention an unexpected and unwelcome dental problem and more house problems, some related to the weather. Somehow I can’t help feeling that the Christmas baby in the manger has failed us all so miserably.

My Christmas is spending time with family and close friends – friends and I eat out and sometimes stop at their house afterwards to continue the warm visit. In my old age, I have fewer close friends. One died from cancer earlier this year, but beyond that I am just picky. I think the bottom line has to do with friends who are reliable, friends who are there for you and you for them. In family, it is my son and his girlfriend. My son has helped me so much   – now with this dental problem (the actual dental extraction is after New Year’s Day) . They will share the Christmas presents under the tree, and a Christmas dinner (chicken, not turkey as I’m now allergic to turkey – that is if I can find a chicken for a reasonable price, a chicken that isn’t so small and scrawny there is barely enough for one meal for the three of us. There seems to be a paucity of roast chickens and turkeys on sale, or not on sale, this Christmas).

There will be no church involvement here, not even on TV. Instead I have been almost binging on watching TV Christmas movies (old and new – White Christmas  with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney comes up this Thursday evening) and Christmas segments of the regular series I watch. Here I can get involved in other people’s problems instead of mine and know solutions will be found in the hour or two hours of the show. I know that some of these resolutions are too pat and don’t always happen in real life, but I need to get away from real life. To tell the truth, real life can well, really suck.

But I am not stopping celebrating Christmas – with the Christmas songs, trees, decorations, presents, food, music, good friends and family. And yes, even Santa. To me, he represents Christmas for children, maybe like a mascot. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget shovelling all that white shit (snow is a four-letter word) and keeping track of the weather that is coming so I know if I might be mopping up a basement or sprinkling salt on ice outside.

May all of you have a Merry Xmas, however you celebrate it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

What I like about Christmas:

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and I ready to celebrate Christmas Day together

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and I ready to celebrate Christmas Day together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I hate about Christmas and winter

I do like the old buildings - it's the white stuff on the ground I don't like.

I do like the old buildings – it’s the white stuff on the ground I don’t like.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1960s, Christmas, Christmas spirit, Mom and Dad, Only child, Winter Weather