Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hanging Out With Grand Children

L, J, V, and Katja at Skyline Chili

Dear George,
It’s been an overly long time since December when we last saw our seven-year-old grandchildren, V and L, so we were excited about their arrival on Thursday evening for a long weekend.  We had some initial trouble retrieving their carseats at airport baggage, but, the very moment that our son J had arranged for vouchers from the airline to purchase new ones, the carseats magically appeared on the conveyor belt.  Katja had made lasagna, and we topped it off with ice cream at our neighborhood Graeter’s.  Friday morning we went to the zoo, watched the baby cheetahs playing, took a zoo tour on the train, and did the gift shop.  Then lunch at Skyline Chili, the children’s Cincinnati favorite.  I did my annual interviews with L and V (see below), and V drew some cardboard animals to add to my recent arts and craft project.  That evening we saw "Independence Day: Resurgence" at the Western Hills Cinemark (34% on Rotten Tomatoes is generous), and wound up at Putz’s Creamy Whip where the children were equally interested in eating softserve cones and capturing lightning bugs.  On Saturday a.m. we went to a neighborhood yard sale, bought a flower and leaf press, and went to Burnet Woods to gather interesting leaves to be pressed.  After hot dogs and baked beans, J and I took the children to Sunlite Pool at Coney Island for the afternoon, the  biggest hit of the trip.  L persuaded me to stand under the Typhoon Tower where seeming tons of water cascaded down on our backs and heads.  J asked me to watch V do the diving board at the deep end of the pool, but, when he and L returned, I’d lost track of V and we couldn’t find her anywhere.  As it turned out, she’d swum away to some unknown destination.  We had pizza at Dewey’s, more ice cream at Graeter’s, and listened to the rock music at Clifton Plaza while V and a couple of other kids did a dance at the front of the crowd.  Sunday came too quickly, and we got up at 5:30 a.m. to be at the airport for their early flight.  Because we packed four days’ worth of activities into two and a half, we have lots of pleasing memories.  Probably most grandparents think this, but I'd say that V and L are remarkable.  Not only are they smart, articulate, and fun, they get along amazingly well and look out for one another.  Here’s what L and V had to say when I interviewed them.       

Interview with L

How old are you now?  Seven
If you could be any age there is, how old would you want to be?  Twelve.
Why is that?  Don’t know.  
What do you think it will be like to be a teenager?  Fun.  Different.  Be grown up.  
What do you think will be different about your new school?  I went to visit.  It was good.  
What is your favorite thing about school?  Recess.  
Why is that?  Play games.  
What is the most difficult thing?  Working.  
How would you describe yourself as a student?  Smart.  Hard-working.  I play.  
Do you have any hobbies?  No.
Do you collect anything?  No…  I collect legos.
Do you collect Pokemon?  No, I’m all done.  
Which would you like most?:  To have lots of friends; to make lots of money; to help children and poor people; to write a Broadway show?  Make lots of money.
How much money?  A couple hundred thousand.  
What animal are you most like?  Lion.  
Would you say you are more funny or more serious?  More funny.
Are you more good-looking or more intelligent?  (pause)  More intelligent.
More cautious or more bold?  More bold.  
Which is the best time of life?  Babies; young kids; teenagers; adults; old age?  Young kids.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what it would be?  My intelligence.
More intelligent or less intelligent?  More.  
What is your favorite holiday?  Christmas.
Why Christmas?  Lots of presents.  
What is one of your earliest memories as a little child?  Me holding my mom’s hand for the first time. 
Do you get an allowance?  Yes,
How much?  Five dollars every Saturday. 
What do you use it to buy?  Toys.  
Do you like: 
Movies?  Yes
Zoo?  Yes. 
Going to the dentist?  No
Airplanes?  Yes
Doing math?  No
Watching sports on TV?  No
Tests in school?  No
Roller skating?  Yes
Walking the dog?  No
Have you ever had a nickname?  Yes, Shezong. 
What is something that makes you sad?  V kicking me. 
If you found a genie in a bottle who could grant you any wish, what would your wish be?  Having more wishes. 
If you could vote, would you vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump. 
What do you think makes for a happy life?  Being loved by my mom.  

Interview with V

How old are you now?  Seven.  
If you could be any age there is, how old would you want to be?  One.
Why is that?  I’d be the smallest. 
What do you think it will be like to be a teenager?  Fun but scary.  
What is your favorite thing about school?  Recess.
What is the most difficult thing?  Working.  
Do you have any hobbies?  Gardening.
Aside from your brother, who is your best friend?  Sophia.
What do you like about her?  She’s been my friend since kinder.  
Do you ever get mad at your brother?  Yes.
Why?  I don’t want to say.  
What do you want to be in life?  A vet.
Which of the following would you want to be?: An actress; a politician; a soldier; an airplane pilot; a police officer.  A police officer.
Why is that?  Because I can make the world a better place.  
Which would you like most?  To have lots of friends; to make lots of money; to help children and poor people; to write a Broadway show.   To help children and poor people. 
What animal are you most like?  A cheetah.  
Did you see the baby cheetah at the zoo today?  Yes, they were so cute. 
Which would you like to do the most?  End poverty; end cancer; end war; end blindness?  End blindness.  
Would you say you are more funny or more serious?  Serious. 
Are you more good-looking or more intelligent?  Intelligent. 
More cautious or more bold?  Bold. 
What is your favorite sport?  Swimming. 
If you could change one thing about yourself, what it would be?  Nothing.
Do you like: 
Movies?  Yes
Zoo?  Kind of. 
Going to the dentist?  No
Airplanes?  Yes
Doing math?  No
Watching sports on TV?  Yes
Tests in school?  Yes
Roller skating?  Yes
Walking the dog?  Yes
Have you ever had a nickname?   Yes, Nacho.
What is something that makes you sad?  Seeing a puppy die. 
If you had a hundred million dollars, what would you do with it?  Help the homeless. 
What is your favorite possession?  My dog Iko.  
If you found a genie in a bottle who could grant you any wish, what would your wish be?  All the animals in the world as a pet.   
If you could vote, would you vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?  Hillary Clinton. 
What do you think makes for a happy life?  Seeing other people happy. 

Here are a few photos of our visit.

On the train at the zoo

Out for treats at Graeter’s ice cream parlor

Supper at Dewey’s Pizza

Sunlite Pool, Coney Island

Yum — Skyline Chili

To the movies at Oakley Cinemark

At the airport

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day Mullings

Dear George,
Katja’s pregnancy came as a surprise because she forgot to mention she was discontinuing her birth control pills.  However, it was a welcome surprise, and soon we were attending the natural childbirth classes at Christ Hospital.  Both of us realized there was zero chance that Katja would actually opt for natural childbirth, but we didn’t think the classes would do any harm.  When the big day arrived and we were brought to the birthing room, I followed my training and rhythmically repeated, "breathe...breathe...breathe..."  Katja screamed, "I am breathing, godammit!"  The nurse thought it would be helpful if I were to wait in the waiting room.  It seemed like a good idea.    

Back in those days mothers and newborns stayed in the hospital for five or six days.  When Katja and J finally came home to our apartment complex, we were on pins and needles.  J was so quiet when we put him to bed for the night that we'd sneak into his bedroom every hour just to listen to him breathe.  

Katja returned to work after six months, and J joined Mrs. Tucker's entourage of one and two year olds over in Fairview.  Having brought up gaggles of little children for sixty years, Mrs. Tucker had the wisdom of an earth mother and deserves much of the credit for J's early development and harmonious character.  She definitely made our being parents a more relaxed task.  

For myself, I envisioned the role of father as one of a playmate and buddy.  Lots of games and toys and fun.  Katja was in charge of serious matters like health and illness, diet, bedtime hours, consumer purchases, doctor visits, school choices, vacations, etc.  I was more of an activities director. 

We enjoyed all the holidays, but Halloween was the best.  We’d carve a pumpkin and go trick or treating on Bishop Street with Susan G. and her daughter Jessica.  

Katja, J, and I did lots of things together as a family, and we were more like a threesome than two parents plus a child.  There are undoubtedly pros and cons about being a solo child, but one advantage is that you are surrounded by more mature adults nearly all the time.  Plied with all that adult verbiage and reasoning, J was always rather grown up and sensible for his age. 

Parenting is not always smooth, and I have to remind myself that there were times that we would all go insane and could hardly stand it any more.  J didn't cry that often, but he was an ear-shattering crier when he needed to be. 

One of our regular family outings was to go to Mt. Airy Forest on the weekend and hike to the end of the trail where J played in a creek bed and admired the horses in the pasture.  

In the bigger scheme of things, we’d drive East to Philadelphia each summer and then spend a week at my in-laws’ summer cottage  at Beach Haven on the Jersey shore.  Coming from landlocked Cincinnati, the swimming and body surfing in the Atlantic Ocean was paradise, and the boardwalks at Wildwood and Atlantic city offered many attractions and delights. 

Back in those innocent days it was perfectly acceptable for fathers to puff on a cigarette while holding their kid.  However, it doesn't look like J enjoyed the secondhand smoke that much.

Each year J and I made a snow rabbit in our side yard as soon as we got our first big snowfall of the year.  We’d sprinkle more water on it when the temperature fell below freezing, insuring that the rabbit would remain intact until the spring thaw. 

My favorite parental activity was going camping as a family.  Here we are inside our white Eddie Bauer tent.  J liked that tent so much that we set it up in his bedroom at home, and he slept in it every night.  

Being a dad transforms one's entire network of family members and friends.  Here's a family reunion photo at Farm with various fathers and fathers-to-be, taken by Katja in August, 1972.  Back row: myself (with a cigarette), Steve holding Jennifer, Margie, George, Faith, Doris (with a cigarette), Peter.  Seated in the front row: Vicki holding J (and a cigarette), Vic holding Greg.  Becoming parents was the best decision Katja and I ever made, and I think that holds for the other dads in our family too.  Happy Father’s Day to all!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vic's Photos: Archive #13

Our Family (1953)

Dear George,
My dad, Vic L., took lots of photos of our family, friends, and home town in the 1940’s, 1950’s and beyond.  My brother Peter resurrected many of these from Vic’s negatives, and he mailed postcard versions to family members for several years in the early 2000’s.  I’ve been posting archived batches of these images every few months.  Earlier postings can be retrieved by searching “archive” in the box to the upper left.  I wish I had been as conscientious as my dad was in recording family history.  It keeps our early lives fresh and accessible.

VA Sr.’s and Olga’s family

This is a family portrait taken about 1939 of my paternal grandparents (V.A. Sr. and Olga), Vic, my mom, and Vic’s siblings.  Standing in the back row from the left are my mother Doris, my dad Vic, and my Aunt Martha.  Seated from the left are my Uncle Kent, my grandfather V.A. Sr. holding me on his lap, my grandmother Olga, and my Uncle Karl (Kent’s twin brother).  V.A. opened drugstores in Menominee and Marinette in the early 1900’s, and my uncle Kent and my aunt Martha’s husband Ralph Buscher operated the respective pharmacies when V.A. retired in the late 1940’s. 

The Tourist Information Lodge

This is a winter scene of the Michigan state tourist information lodge on Ogden Ave. at the foot of the interstate bridge in Menominee.  We lived a half block away in my preschool and kindergarten years.  The best sledding hill in Menominee was right behind the tourist lodge, and our moms would take Sally F.  and me there on winter outings.  The tourist lodge burned down sometime in the 1960’s and was replaced by a brand new log building. 

Apple Blossoms

This is my mom and myself somewhere in Menominee County in the springtime, about 1940.  A very idyllic scene, though I’ve lost all those memories.    

A Young Cowboy

Here is something else that I don’t remember – my fleeting childhood horseback career.  My mother enjoyed horseback riding from her youth in Omaha, and she would ride now and then at the stable located near the intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Highway 577 at Menominee’s city limits.   In this photo I’m wearing a full outfit of cowboy boots, hat, and chaps, so maybe I had more horse experience than I now remember. 

Boswell School

This is Boswell school in Menominee’s west end, my first grade school.  I went to Boswell for kindergarten, walking four or five blocks each morning with my five-year-old friend and downstairs neighbor Sally F.  I can't remember anything that happened in kindergarten, though our walks to school were more memorable.

The First Day of School

Here are my mother and I at my first day at kindergarten at Boswell.  My mother, at the center of the picture, is talking to one of the teachers, while my slouchy, head-down posture suggests I was on the verge of emotional collapse.  That’s probably accurate.  I had an anxious time entering new, unfamiliar situations as a child, and I didn’t do much better thereafter.  

Skipper Burke

This is my close childhood friend, Skipper Burke, probably about age 5 or 6.  Skipper and I were in the same grade in school, though he was always taller and more worldly was than I was.  We both lived in the State Street neighborhood in the early World War II years and were regular playmates at his house or ours.  In some ways Skipper was my first mentor in life, particularly in terms of instructing me about girls.  His family owned a summer cottage at Pine Beach on Marinette’s outskirts, and our parents would socialize there while we kids swam at the beach and the pier.  Skipper moved with his parents to Minneapolis-St. Paul when we were in the fifth grade, a sad loss for me. 

Father and son in the river

My dad and I are in the water at my grandfather’s cottage along the Menominee River shore.  In those early days my dad spent more time in the river he did later on.  I think it's because the water for river house came from a pump near the driveway, making use of the bathtub prohibitive, and so we used the river for bathing.  I doubt if the water was that hygienic, but it was our best available option.  When we eventually got indoor plumbing, it was only we children spent time in the river.

A Menominee River stump

I’m sitting on a big stump in the Menominee River.  The river, of course, was a major thoroughfare for the logging industry until the early 1900’s, and, even when we lived there in the 1940s and 50s, there were many submerged stumps and deadheads that were remnants of days gone by.  One of our occasional pastimes was to row across the river to the channel and bring back a large stump to dry out on the riverbank.  

Snow at Caley's

This is a winter picture (circa 1946 or 1947) of myself, our childhood friend Tom Caley, and my brother Steve.   I think the photo was taken in the Caley's yard at Northwood Cove on the Green Bay shore, just north of the city limits on M-35. 

Tenth birthday

This was taken on my tenth birthday in 1947 at the outdoor fireplace on our front lawn.  I was entering the fifth grade at Washington School that autumn. The main thing I remember about fifth grade is that the wicked children teased the teacher unmercifully and made her cry almost every day.  She resigned in the middle of the year, and then the substitute teacher became the new victim.  

Frank St. Peter

Frank St. Peter was one of my close friends in childhood and adolescence.  We played softball and cowboys and Indians in our State St. neighborhood, rode our bikes, swam at Hinker’s coal dock in Green Bay, had snowball fights with older kids from down the block, and went off to YMCA and Boy Scout camps together, including Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  

At my age twelve birthday party

These are my three siblings, myself, and my friend Frank on our front lawn, next to the Menominee River.  It was taken at my twelfth birthday party on July 21, 1949. From the left: my brother Steve (age 8), my brother Peter (age 4), my sister Vicki (age 2), and (in the background) Frank St. Peter (age 12).

Green Bay Sunset

This is a handsome black and white photo of a Green Bay sunset and sailboat from the Menominee shore.  Color photography in the 1940’s was not yet in vogue, and, even though  Menominee sunsets deserved color, black and white captured their elegance too.  

Arts and crafts

We did lots of arts and crafts projects at Washington Grade School, and my parents always encouraged us to continue those activities at home.  This is a symphony orchestra that I made out of miscellaneous materials.  Probably because of parental praise, I carried over those crafts activities into adulthood, though I haven’t done much A&C for quite a while.

Another birthday group

This is another of my birthday parties at our house on the river, probably my eleventh.  From the left: unknown kid, myself, Frank St. Peter, Tom Caley, Bill Caley, Jim Jorgenson, unknown kid in front of him, Skipper Burke, my brother Steven in front of him.  Birthday parties were exciting because of getting a bunch of gifts.  However, they were also anxiety-provoking because the birthday boy got paddled due to others’ jealousy from his getting all the presents.

Cartoon collection

Here I am, about age ten, with some of the comic book-inspired  drawings that I'd done with colored crayons.  This was taken in Steve’s and my bunk bedroom at river house. 

Dave and Steve

Steve and I are looking over a cartoon. I read the latest comic books every week at my Uncle Kent's Rexall drugstore on Electric Square, and my goal for adulthood was to become a professional cartoonist.  I wish I had my comic book collection now.  It would be worth a fortune.  


Here is my younger brother Peter at age two or three.  Peter always had a sweet disposition, as well as a good sense of humor and a tendency to occasional impishness.


This is my sister Vicki at age two.  It's a great photo, and she looks very sweet.  I was the first child in the family and Vicki was the fourth, with a ten-year time span between us.  That’s a big age difference for little kids.  Among her three brothers, Vicki was closest in childhood to Peter who was just two years older than her. 

Birthday No. 12

This is another picture of my twelfth birthday party in the dining room at our house on the river.  Standing from left:  Tom Caley, Bill Caley, Skipper Burke, Frank St. Peter, Jim Jorgenson, Darl Schmidt.  Seated: Peter L., David L., Steven L.  These were important figures in my early life.  I think this was the final birthday party that I had as a kid.  


This is my brother Steve and myself on a camping trip.  This was probably taken at Mason Park a mile up Riverside Boulevard from our house.  I’d say that Steve is 8, and I’m 12.  One of the virtues of living in the county is there were several good camping places available within a short distance.  I’d hitch a red wagon behind my bike to transport our gear, and we’d pedal our way to our campsite.  I still enjoy camping, in part because it takes me back to bygone days.