history

Staying in Focus: The Stones of Britain

1013132_10201235686306950_1581442518_nToday I will consider stone in my compilation of photographs. The British Isles are home  to all kinds of stones, from the cobblestones of the old roadways. to the stone left by glaciers, which were  used in building their fortresses and castle keeps, cathedrals and towers, not to mention theIMG_1876IMG_1852ir oldest stone monument, Stonehenge.  The difference when visiting the grand cities of Europe, from those on our continent is mostly a matter of time. The walls of some of the buildings here are ancient compared to ours. And these stone  walls are imbued with the rich  history and pageantry of these nations. Stone is strong, and weathers well the passage of time.   And they have a story to tell, of knights and ladies, kings and queens, battles  and romance, rebellion and invasion. So enjoy a walk among the stones that built a civilization. Perhaps they will speak to you as they did to me.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Planes, Trains and Automobiles/On the Road Again

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Daily Prompt: : Planes , Trains,  and Automobiles

 

Given enough time to travel leisurely, there is nothing that beats a road trip by car. When I was about 13 years old, my parents decided  to set aside two weeks each summer and pack two adults, three children and lots of luggage into the family station wagon and take off on a cross-country adventure.

We explored most of the nation’s national parks; we ate dinner off a chuck wagon in North Dakota and sang with the cowboys under the stars.  We were cave spelunkers so we explored caves of all sizes, some large enough to house a cafeteria (Mammoth Caves of Kentucky), and one we traveled through by boat (Lost River Cave) in Tennessee.

We gazed into the Grand Canyon, watched the divers dive for pearls in Mexico, attended the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Canada, rode a trawler out on the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, and had a snowball fight in the Rocky Mountains on the fourth of July. (see photo)

We saw Old Faithful erupt, danced with Native Americans, and joined friends for a catfish fry in South Carolina. We experienced New Orléans, reached the top of Pike’s Peak and crossed the Mojave Desert into California.

My parents gambled a bit in Las Vegas, my father excelled at haggling with the craftsman in Mexico, acquiring us lace beach hats and cover-ups, alligator purses, pottery and jewelry.  (see photo) We swam in both oceans, Lake Tahoe and the Great Salt Lake.

We encountered history at Monticello and Mount Vernon, at Custer’s Last Stand, and on the civil war battlefields of Manassas, Virginia. In between stopping to explore various attractions, we would love to stop at Stuckey’s restaurants and buy souvenirs. I collected charms of the states and places we visited.

I could go on forever about our vacations. It was a time my father shed his worries about his business and concentrated on family. The time together in the car lead to family sing- alongs  (The Bear Went Over the Mountain was dad’s favorite).  We played license plate Bingo and evenings found us swimming in the motel pool and sampling the local cuisine.

The advantage of a car road trip for us was the ability to set our own schedule, avoid missing things by flying over them or passing by so fast we couldn’t be sure what we’d seen. We were able to immerse ourselves in the local culture, talk to Native Americans, Mexican craftsmen, cowboys of Canada. We saw history through the eyes of others : the Civil War through the eyes of the southerners, living a simple life through the eyes of the Amish, traditions of the Native Americans, the lore of the cowboys, the songs of the prairie.

There is so much to discover in this diverse, yet united, nation of ours, as well as those of our neighbors to the north and south.  It was always my dad’s dream to take the family to Alaska, but we ran out of time to do it together. We did, however, cover the lower 48 states in our travels.

The downside to traveling by car these days are traffic jams because of the number of people on the road.  GPS can help here. A car trip can’t be beat for providing family time, for truly experiencing  all the wonderful, diverse cultures that  make up our country, exploring our neighbors and their cultures to the north and south.

I can still feel the excitement of that first day, the car packed, the open road and lots of time  ours for the taking.. I can still hear the sound of the tires spinning as we headed down the highway, nothing weighing us down, nowhere we had to be, just enjoying the freedom  and looking forward …  to see what we could see.

If you haven’t read John Steinbeck’s classic, Travels with Charley, do so. It is the ultimate road trip story, recounted only as Steinbeck can do.

More on methods of travel next post.

Staying in Focus: Thoughts in a Confederate Soldiers’ Cemetery

IMG_0836IMG_0897Recently, while touring historic Jonesboro in Georgia, we visited a Confederate Soldiers Cemetery. This cemetery contains the bodies of several hundred soldiers who fell in the Battle of Jonesboro. Far outnumbered by Federal forces. these brave soldiers died trying to protect the last of the rail lines  supplying Atlanta. And although it was  a small battle when compared to some, it was pivotal because when Jonesboro fell, Atlanta’s last lifeline was severed  and the city forced to surrender. Only then could General Sherman begin his march across Georgia from Atlanta to the sea (Savannah).

When the Union soldiers died, their bodies were removed from the battlefield and taken for burial in a Federal cemetery. The Confederate soldiers were buried where they fell. In 1872 it was decided that the soldiers be exhumed and reburied in the Patrick Cleburne Memorial Cemetery. Patrick Cleburne , an Irish American, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. His strategic use of terrain and his ability to hold ground when others failed , earned him the nickname “Stonewall of the West” He commanded Hardee”s Corps in the Battle of Jonesboro. He was killed in 1864, in the Battle of Franklin. The headstones  of the soldiers are laid out in the shape of the Confederate battle flag.The walkways form the X and the headstones fill the triangles. A large magnolia tree graces the cemetery with its shiny green leaves and white flowers. A footpath leads to an engraved memorial: TO THE HONORED MEMORY OF THE SEVERAL HUNDRED UNKNOWN SOLDIERS REPOSING WITHIN THIS ENCLOSURE WHO FELL AT THE BATTLE OF JONESBORO AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 1, 1864.

I often find visiting cemeteries to be a sobering experience, and even more so those of soldiers.  so many of them young and  idealistic,willing to give up their lives in service to their country. It begs the question, where does such patriotism  come from? I don’t know, but it takes a person of courage  and strength to make such a commitment. One thing I do know is that the leaders, both civilian and military, should think long and hard before putting the lives of their soldiers on the line because they are our future, the best of us.

I wonder how many families who lost soldiers in the  Battle of Jonesboro wandered these paths, wondering  if one of them held their son, or husband, or father. Since these soldiers are unidentified, their headstones are unmarked , their place in history carried only in the hearts of their descendants. Young Margaret Mitchell spent many a Sunday afternoon, sitting on the  porch of these now historic houses, and listening to the stories told of the  War Between the States  and the Battle of Jonesboro. Years later they served as her inspiration for Gone With the Wind.

 We came to Atlanta to follow the Gone With the Wind Trail, and we learned a lot about Margaret Mitchell, her epic novel and the inspirations she drew from people and homes in and around Jonesboro.  But  it was in Jonesboro that we found history, in the modest cemetery  of  their fallen soldiers.

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Note: Quote on collage taken from the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Pete Seeger

If you ar ever in the vicinity of Atlanta, make  a stop at The Road to Tara Museum and sign up for the Gone With the Wind Tour. Ask for Jack.

Daily Prompt: Journey of a LIfetime

Daily Prompt: Journey

I have to return to my lovemom timelinely mother as a model again for this one.  90 years of life is certainly a journey!

This is mom’s timeline, stretching from 1923 to 2013. I included milestones in her life as well as  social, cultural and technological changes which have occurred  during her lifetime. Foe example, she has seen the change from 78 rpm records, through 45 and 33-1/3 rpms, to 8 tracks, cassettes, cds, mp3 players and ipods. She has lived through WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has seen man reach the moon, and terrorists destroy the Twin Towers. She has seen the good man can do, and the evil as well. She has battled cancer twice and won, and we hope she can do it once more, and be with us to celebrate her 100th birthday!

Staying in Focus: Focus On: Photographs Preserve our Memories

family memories are the threads
 that weave the tapestry of our lives
they remind us of the past
enrich the present
and guide us into the future
they are our story…
– pat coyle

For all of my family living in the northeast,and out west,  here are a few photos you may enjoy:

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This is my most treasured photograph of my grandparents, Frederick Vincent Struble and Mary Minerva Marion on their wedding day.  Her dress is quite different from those we see brides wearing today. Long sleeved and high-necked as it is, I think she looks sophisticated and very proper.  They have such serious expressions on their faces, but that was typical of that time.  I like the little feminine touch of the white ribbon in her hair. My grandfather looks a bit tense, his hands are tightly clenched. Maybe he didn’t like to have his picture taken. My grandmother has her arm entwined with his as is she is afraid he is going to bolt. I’m not sure how old they were when they married but I can use the birth date of my Uncle Richard (1904) as a starting point, which would make my grandfather 23-24 years old and my grandmother 18-19 years old.Do you think they could foresee what this union would bring to the world? Next picture, please.

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The Struble family.  Look at those strapping sons and pretty daughters!. My mother believes this photo was taken when Blanche’s daughter Phyllis married her first husband, Hank Connolly. That would explain the corsage Blanch is wearing. Bet it took awhile to make dinner for that crew!

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These are my father’s parents, Grace Carroll Wetzel and Charles Louis Wetzel.  I do not have  a wedding picture of them, but they are smiling in this picture. They had three children, Marie, Jack and Etta. I didn’t get to meet my father’s parents.  They both died early from heart disease before I was born.

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From left to right:  Etta, Marie, Grace and Lou Wetzel (and 2 furry friends)

I knew my grandmother Minnie the best – she lived next door to us all my life.  My grandfather, Fred, was not an overly affectionate man – or a very talkative one, and I can not recall any specific conversations I may have had with him. One thing  I do remember, however, was that I lost the gold cross I received for my First Communion in their backyard and my grandfather found it.  He had just had surgery for cataracts on his eyes and was so proud to be able to see well enough to find it. It resides now on my gold charm bracelet and I remember him when I see it to this day

. He passed away in 1963, when I had just turned 10. .My grandmother dies ten years later in 1973.

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No wonder my mother fell for him. Just look at those eyes and that smile! I love the jaunty, little tilt to his cap. My father, John(Jack)Martin Wetzel

Photo07He was drafted into the service before Pearl Harbor.  He was home on leave for Christmas when the attack occurred   My mother remembers President Roosevelt’s address to the nation on the radio and his call for all persons in uniform to return at once to their respective base. When they shipped out, no one at home knew where they were going.  My father’s unit was sent to Panama to guard the locks and the canal, as there was fear the Japanese might strike there next.  After a while, they were able to contact their loved ones  at home. He attained the rank of Tech sergeant, and served his country  by serving his fellow troops – he was a cook.

We benefited greatly from this, as he would cook for us as we were growing up.  We especially liked his corn fritters. They often became a Friday Night Special. Dad roasted the turkey for Christmas dinner and his stuffing was heavenly – he’d grind up all that extra stuff they stick in the turkey like gizzards and necks.  He added the most finely chopped vegetables, and his secret blend of spices, and all you needed for Christmas dinner was some stuffing and gravy.  Everything else was a side dish. When he retired, I bought him a wok, and after that there was no stopping him – he became a stir-fry master.  He also made the best sausage and peppers served on fresh hoagie bread. He really enjoyed cooking and applied his usual perfectionism to everything he served.

My parents were married on April 24, 1944 when my father returned from duty in Panama. He had one more year of service to complete, and so my mother accompanied him to Georgia.  She became pregnant, and had to return home before my father completed his duty, but he was home in time to be there for the birth of my brother, John.

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This is one of my favorite family pictures, even though my brother, Steven was not born yet.  This was taken on our first big trip as a family to visit my father’s Uncle Cecil in Florida. As you can see, the world had turned color by this time. I like this one because it’s so the 1950s  My dad looks like he could be Buddy Holly sans the glasses and John could be Bud on Father Knows Best. My mother is the epitome of a  50s wife, wearing a dress, and probably high heels.  All she needs is a string of pearls! When I look closely at this photo, I see that my father, mother and Mary Lou are all looking off camera, to the left.  What is so fascinating over there? My mother has  a smile on her face so it must be something or someone good or perhaps entertaining.  John isn’t distracted  however, and is looking at the camera. I, on the other hand, have my eyes squeezed tightly closed. I can’t tell if that’s a smile or a grimace on my face.  I do like my little red patent leather shoes!

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Here is a photo of my brother, John, on his Confirmation day.  His cousin Floyd was his sponsor.That shy, little sprite is me.

And finally , the funniest picture I came across.  One night after work my mother, Ann and her sister, Blanche ,joined those wild and crazy DuPont girls for a night on the town. Certainly these young women deserved  a night out to relax and de-stress.  These brave women did not get the recognition from the nation that they deserved..  They  worked during the war for the DuPont company where they made explosive caps.  My mother remembers hearing hem go off at times and being worried that a friend had lost a finger or a hand..They were young, proud to serve their country and very, very brave That’s Blanche driving and Ann right behind her. .My question is, how did they all fit in that car?:)

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