GETTING a year older every year isn't half as unnerving as getting a driver's license renewed every three years.
This is my year for it-and this is the month. Since the Dayton Auto club kindly mailed me a polite reminder, I took advantage of their invitation and stopped in the other day.
The lady behind the counter was efficient in action, gentle in manner and most discreet. When she had determined my age from my birth date on the old license, she repeated it VERY softly so no one else nearby could hear. It was nice of her, bur hardly necessary in my case since I said out loud in front of an NCR Schoolhouse audience the other night that I graduated from Stivers high school 35 years ago which doesn't really make me the oldest person in the county since a couple other people like Claude Cannon and Marv Farrier and Si Burick and Milt Caniff graduated from Stivers YEARS before I did! (One or two, anyway.)
We got through the next few questions without mishap. Then the lady asked: "Do you work outside the home?"
"Well-yes," I replied.
She continued to look straight at me as if she required greater detail than that. So I added: "I work at The Dayton Journal Herald."
She looked at me again, then at my name on the old license. "I read you every day," she said, matter-of-factly, "but they don't spell your name like this in the paper."
"No, we cut the first name short and omit my maiden name," I said.
"You don't spell the last name the same, either.
" "We do, too!"
"No, you don't," she said.
"I spell it just like it is on the old license and the way it is in the paper and THAT'S the way I want my name spelled on the new license!" I said, firmly.
She shrugged as if it didn't matter to her if I couldn't spell. And then
we continued without argument until we got to the color of hair.
"Brown," I said.
She looked at me.
"Well, it WAS brown the last time I looked." She didn't move. Just looked at me.
"What color do YOU think it is?" I asked.
She hesitated ...
"Well, I certainly won't let you put down gray!" I declared. "Because it ISN'T. It might be brown AND gray, but you certainly can't call it ALL gray!"
"What kind of hair IS it called?" she asked.
"It's called ME kind of hair, that's what it's called," I said, removing my hat and giving her a good look.
"Does your hairdresser tip your hair?" she asked.
"No. I do my own hair. This is the natural, ordinary color. This is the color it is. And this is the color you put down on my license."
"Mixed," she decided.
And that's the way it is on my driver's license, renewed. It doesn't even say "mixed." It say "MX."
Not MX blue and purple. Not MX green and pink. Just plain MX.
For the next three years, it will be: Hair-MX.
I paid my dollar, picked up my social security card, signed my name to the new license and put it in my billfold. As I turned away from the counter, the lady said:
"Well, if you did tip your hair, I just wanted to say your hairdresser does a nice job."
June 11, 1966
THIS IS the perfect day-April Fool's day-to talk about the pretzels I made last Sunday. I'm not fooling about making the pretzels-I certainly made them. But what a fool I was ...
It is one more chapter in the continuing saga of Marj and the Soft Pretzels.
Briefly, I've loved soft pretzels since I was a child and bought them for 2 cents each. I continued to love them through every price increase, and to this day happily eat Smale's pretzels that I get in the Arcade, and Stauble's pretzels that I get at the Xenia avenue bakery ... and many's the story that has accrued.
Through the mail, I bought a pretzel shaper ... and there was that mess I made with THAT! Then I went out to Stauble's and learned how to properly twist a pretzel ...
As a result of that column, the president of a pretzel factory in Pennsylvania laughed so much he sent me a sample of every kind of pretzel his firm makes ... and the National Pretzel Bakers institute asked if they could reprint the column and they sent me some recipes showing how to make pretzel crumb crusts, how to make fudge with crushed pretzels, and how to cook pretzel-fried chicken!
Then came that soft pretzel recipe from the Dayton woman who said her girls loved to make the pretzels and so did all their friends and they often had pretzel-making parries ... and a local grocery chain sold out of kosher salt so fast they had to order and re-order to keep up with alI the amateur soft pretzel-bakers in town ...
And I decided last Sunday afternoon was a perfect time to try another soft pretzel recipe sent in to me by a reader who cut it out of the Los Angeles Times. This recipe used beaten egg as a coating, and I didn't have any coarse salt so I used plain table salt which is a little too fine for pretzels.
Everything went amazingly well. And there was relatively little mess.
In no time at all, I had two racks of soft pretzels cooling ... the bowl and bread-board cleaned and put away ... and all the flour wiped off my nose.
There was only one thing that didn't go according to Hoyle.
You see, you're supposed to get three to six dozen pretzels from that recipe, according to the size of the pretzels you make.
My yield was 16 pretzels. Fat pretzels.
They were the fattest little pretzels you ever did see.
But they were mine, all mine, and I stood there, all alone in my clean kitchen, admiring those 16 fat soft pretzels, wondering if I dared taste one ...
You wouldn't believe this now, if you saw it with your own eyes - but I tell you, it DID happen. One minute I am all alone-and the NEXT minute there are eight people in my little house, each one criticizing the pretzels and making remarks and tasting and laughing and teasing, but still eating those pretzels down to the last crumb ...
What they didn't eat, they took home to eat later.
"The pretzels are too BIG!"
“They aren't done yet-put them back in the oven."
"The salt's too fine."
"They're too thick. Slice them in half and put them under the broiler and see what happens ... "
"Is THAT the way to twist a pretzel?"
"Hand me another one, they aren't TOO bad!"
"You're supposed to knot them in the middle, not lump them."
"Put some butter on them."
"Say, they're GOOD with butter. Here, you try one with butter ... "
Those eight people had just finished a big dinner and didn't have much appetite for soft pretzels-but that didn't keep them from tearing my cute little fat little great big soft pretzels limb from limb, three people sharing one pretzel, stuffing them into their mouths whilst they complained and kept on spreading butter on the split and toasted pretzels which anybody can tell you is not the way to eat soft pretzels.
'Taste better than toasted Vienna bread!"
"Did you patent these?"
"You could have a nice sideline here, selling toasted, buttered pretzels! "
"Sister, don't you care what they say about your pretzels. You make them like this if you want to ... "
As quickly as they had come, those eight people left again ... taking a couple pretzels with them ... and the remarks kept on ...
"Put the pretzel in the middle of the back seat to distribute the weight evenly!"
"Watch out there, the car's tipping to one side ... "
"You'd better stop at the service station and get air in the tires ... that pretzel is putting too much weight on the rims ... "
Finally there were only the birds ... and the gray cat twisting pretzel-like around my ankles ... and the silence that remains when eight laughing, joshing relatives and friends have departed ... and one pretzel!
I'm going to learn how to make and twist pretzels if it's the last thing I do. It may well be!
THOUGH the name of Stivers has been much in the public view of late, I saw this venerable old high school and what it stands for in still another light last week ...
It was the occasion of the 58th annual commencement, held in the NCR auditorium, at of a beautiful June evening.
The stage was banked with greenery. Robert Kline was at the organ.
The auditorium slowly filled with parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents of the graduates as the minute hand of the big clock at the rear of the newly redecorated hall inexorably swung upwards to the appointed hour.
The parking spaces near at hand and then farther away filled as more and more people converged on the stately building in the NCR complex known to old-timers as the "schoolhouse." They streamed up the wide white steps, after bidding affectionate temporary farewells to their graduates who headed for the stage door on L street.
The boys donned their blue robes as if it were the most normal thing in the world. They tipped their mortarboards at pixie angles just for fun and nobody had to tell them to set them straight. They did it because this, too, was the thing to do.
Some of the girls collapsed against each other in mock nervousness, worrying about their hair and their make-up and their glasses. Some giggled, some shook in true bouts of nerves as they lined up, short ones in front, tall in back, in their white all-enveloping robes.
It was crowded and dark backstage as teachers checked names against lists. "If they weren't here for the practice this morning, they can't march tonight!" "l'Il just DIE if I stumble on those steps!" "Sh-sh! They'll hear you out front!"
The choir, assembled below the stage, sang with young voices true and vibrant. Their performance, directed by H. Herbert Jones, was so good that I regretted that some custom or tradition kept the audience from applauding in sincere appreciation.
We whispered there in our big leather chairs set to one side of the stage-Robert French, superintendent of schools, and I-that if nobody began the applause after the next song, we two would lead it ourselves. At that moment, the choir filed to their seats under cover of Bob Kline's music-and we never had a chance.
Chester Gooding, principal, and Marvin Farrier, member of the board of education, sat on the right side of the stage, too-and on the other side sat James Hanby, assistant principal, who would give out the diplomas ar the program's climax.
As commencement speaker on this, the 35th anniversary of my own graduation from Stivers, I wore a Christian Dior original hat and kept a tight grip on my notes. This was no time to depend on fluent ad lib oratory-I needed those notes right at my tongue-tip!
In that brief suspension of time before Bob Kline chorded the first notes of the March from Tannhauser, I realized suddenly that the principal, assistant principal, member of the board of education and the speaker were all Stivers graduates who had filed down the same aisles to the same music played by the same organist ...
And then that special moment of magic' That unforeseen, unexpected, magical moment that comes to me from time to time ... when, instantly, all things are clear and true, when the whole experience is a perfect thing of itself-and all my senses recognize it.
That special moment existed as the rich, deliberate melody of Tannhauser rolled up and out of that great organ and, from each side of the stage, there came two color bearers, tall solemn boys wearing the orange and black shoulder ribbons of honor graduates. One bore the American flag. The other the orange and black banner of Stivers high school.
They walked slowly, proudly, eyes straight ahead. And behind them the graduates, short to tall, marching slowly, proudly, becoming a part of Tannhauser as Tannhauser became a part of all the audience, each member straining to catch a glimpse of his own particular graduate.
In that special instant, I, too, was marching in a long swaying line, along with every other graduate at every other commencement that had ever been held ... among those who had faced a certain schedule of study, had conquered it and were now about to receive the certification of a task completed. Somehow I knew that a little bit of that magic was rubbing off on everyone else there ...
The significance of that moment was so real, so symbolic of all commencements everywhere, that I saw the remainder of the processional through a moist mist with sniffle attached.
The Stivers 1966 graduates may never remember a word their commencement speaker said (no graduate ever does, according to a private poll I conducted recently). But their speaker will never forget one moment of their graduation!
June 17, 1966
Inaugural – 1965
W ASHINGTON-A moment of history when the 36th President of the United States takes the oath of office.
In the bright cold January sunshine of mid-day, directly in front of the Capitol building, as the time draws near, the moment is one of mounting tension, of rigidly controlled comings and goings.
Three hundred members of the Mormon choir of Salt Lake City are massed in grandstands, below the portico, rehearsing. Threading through their lower ranks, en route to a press section, are the reporters and columnists, photographers and Western Union men, plowing through the thundering "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" to find seats on the rough pine board benches with a clear view of the platform where the swearing-in is scheduled.
The Marine band squeezes into the small space immediately below the President's microphones. The color guards, ramrod straight, take up their positions on either side of the band.
Rich Democrats with special tickets twitter importantly in a reserved seat section to the right and below the special balconies erected for members of Congress.
The temporary portico built for the inaugural ceremonies duplicates in plaster and paint the marble columns of the Capitol building. On either side stretch matching false balconies-to the left stand the members of the House; to the right, the senators, with Margaret Chase Smith, in mink and white gloves and a red rose pinned to her coat, the prettiest of the lot.
Above, the American flag waving the way all flags of proud lands should wave, rippling in the breeze beneath a true-blue sky traced with scudding puffs of white clouds.
"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory ... " and helicopters rotating around the upper air. The seal of the United States glinting in the direct line of the television cameras ... and blue-coated policemen lining the Capitol's roof. A sense of imminent history beginning to settle down over the crowds as heads turn toward the doorway and the leader of the band alerts the musicians ... a drop of moisture on a cold nose ... the fast tapping of a nearby typewriter ro lend urgency to the background noises ... all of this blending into a moment of history ...
There's a flurry of movement and growing applause on the portico now ... Luci and Lynda, proud and beaming, take their seats near the governor of Texas ... Muriel Humphrey and Lady Bird Johnson lean toward each other in a quick hug ... all of the ladies looking neat and clean and garbed as the fashion papers have been heralding for days.
Hubert Humphrey, without hat or coat, moves in on another wave of applause ... he and Chief Justice Earl Warren shake hands and talk a bit, Lady Bird waves to friends she sees in the reserved seats ... everyone quiets down in a small well of waiting, those on the platform enjoying the warmth of heaters, those in the press section stamping their feet and making notes with gloved fingers, the public standing quietly behind the television nest on stilts where the eyes of cameras will transport the moment of history all around the world ....
As the silence and the waiting grew, Hubert Humphrey walked over to the First Lady and kissed her temple, both conscious of many eyes upon them.
"Hail To The Chief" ... the applause of many gloved hands ...
Lyndon Johnson, well-tanned and unruffled, taking his time about getting to his appointed spot ...
"Mr. President, Mr. Vice President-Elect, distinguished guests and fellow citizens, we meet today ... " and the solemn inaugural ceremony begins. The invocation ... "Man does not live by bread alone" ... 'The moral leadership of the world" ... a lovely dark-skinned singer, Leontyne Price, singing "America the Beautiful" lifting her voice triumphantly at the phrase "and crown Thy good with brotherhood" as a proper wind ruffled the red, white and blue overhead ...
In quick order then, Hubert Humphrey promising "to defend against all enemies" and then turning to kiss his wife ... a prayer for "a man to be set apart," a man in the "terrible splendor of leadership" ... and as the cannon fire resounded in the distance, Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office, in his proud personal moment of history.
Cameras clicked among the congressmen, the press, the populace bundled against the January cold ... as President Johnson faced you and me and the world and said, "My fellow countrymen" ...
All 300 choir members, backs to the platform wanted desperately to turn around, but they obeyed the rule not to rum.
With the President of the United States alive and in person a mere 30 yards away, giving his own inaugural address, many persons kept their eyes on mimeographed copies of his speech distributed moments before by press secretaries. So do some moments pass into history ...
Three hundred voices soaring with joy at the singing of "This Is My Country" as the 36th President of the United States listened intently and nodded to the choir leader at its triumphant conclusion ... the "Star-Spangled Banner" as only a military band can play it ... and a moment in history is complete.
So let the blood tingle, let the shivers travel the spine, let the flag ripple in absolute glory against a blue sky as the band plays. At the moment of the inauguration of a President of the United States, if this feeling be sentimental and corny, so Jet it be.
WE WERE sitting in my living room, talking, when my visitor suddenly jerked forward in her chair. Her eyes looked startled. "What was THAT?" she asked.
A crab apple falling off the tree.
She looked as if I were making up a story.
I tried to reassure her. That's just a crab apple falling off the tree, landing on the tin roof, rolling down the roof and then dropping-plop -on the gravel.
"Oh," she said. "It certainly sounds loud, doesn't it?"
I guess I'm used to it. It sounds rather friendly to me, I replied. And then we went on with our woman-talk. A few minutes later, she sat bolt upright in her chair and her eyes looked a little wild. She kept looking at the ceiling. I hastened to explain.
That was a squirrel jumping from that big tree out by the front porch on to the roof, running the whole length of the roof and jumping on to another tree at the back door.
She was not convinced. "It sounded like more than just a squirrel ... " Oh, he jumped on the crab apple tree and that knocked three more crab apples down on that tin roof back there and that's what made the racket. Everything's normal. Don't be frightened. It happens all the time.
"And it doesn't bother you?" she said, incredulously.
No, I have the happy faculty of being able to identify sounds almost at once, and as long as I understand what is going on, the racket of the crab apples and the squirrels doesn't bother me.
"Well, I certainly wouldn't want-WHAT WAS THAT?" This time she was up and out of her chair and halfway to the door.
Probably one of the neighbor dogs walking through the dry leaves in the side yard.
Yes, it's daytime. If it had been dark, and a raccoon, then it would have been kind of a shuffling sound through the leaves ...
I had to run to catch up with my guest because she had grabbed up her handbag and car keys and was determined to quit my abode.
"It may be all right with you," she admitted, gamely, "but I don't think I could live out here the way you do ... "
I tried to laugh it off and change the subject as she walked around her car parked in my driveway. She happened to walk directly under the bird feeder as one of the bold and friendly blue jays was fanning his bill through the birdseed, scattering seed in a wild spray to make the seed fall faster in the feeder so he could get to the sunflower seeds.
My friend let out a yell as the seed fell in her hair. She ran into the garage and stood there, clutching her handbag to her chest, and breathing hard. The blue jay flapped to a limb and scolded her in raucous tones.
I tried to explain, but she interrupted me. "Oh, THAT!" she said, nodding toward the bird feeder. "I understand how birds throw seeds out of a feeder to find the kind they like best. That isn't what upset me." Then what?
"Are you setting some kind of trap under that feeder?" she said. "I was walking along on the gravel and the ground was hard and then suddenly the ground underneath my feet got soft and I started to sink down -and it scared the wits out of me! All I could think of was those pits the white hunters dig in Africa and cover with leaves to catch wild animals ... "
We both started to laugh, remembering how she had hotfooted it into the garage which has a cement floor.
Then I tried to explain something else around my house that puzzles guests. So many seeds have fallen from the feeder the last few months that some have begun to take root. Their growing in the hard ground has started to break up the earth in that spot, and bird droppings have fertilized it, and now that one spot is as springy to the step as the good black earth in other parts of my yard where years of leaves have turned some of the ground into loam ... across the lane, the earth has turned to peat and I remember well the time it caught on fire and burned for several weeks until we had to call a fire department to come pour water down into the ground to put out the fires ...
Somehow, she didn't wait around until I got out all the fascinating details.
I stood out there under the crab apple tree for a few minutes after she'd gone. I watched two little gray birds walk down the plastic clothesline that holds the feeder in the tree. It didn't seem possible that they could do it, bur I saw it with my own eyes. Instead of flying down, they walked down the rope.
I thought hard about my little old red house among the trees with crab apples sounding like hail, and squirrels sounding like gang busters, and those funny birds. Everything seemed so normal to me-bur some visitors were puzzled. Could it be, I wondered, that maybe there WAS something a little strange about my house ...
At that precise moment, a hard red crab apple crashed right down on my head, and then bounced off into the gravel.
I had my answer.
MENTION fresh black raspberries to me and I start to drool. Not red raspberries. Not blackberries. Plain black raspberries, warm from the sun, bursting with natural sweetness ... Wait a sec while I wipe off my chin!
I have been known to savor black raspberries (canned) used in pies and tarts and ice cream. I never pass over black raspberry jam if there's a choice. I concede this flavor is most pleasing to me.
But nothing can compare-for me-with fresh black raspberries.
And the season is so short. I well remember several years when I blinked my eyes and missed the season altogether.
The other day, eating rich red ripe strawberries from Dot Harlan's strawberry bed-she grows things organically at her farm outside New Madison-I thought of the black raspberry season to come. And my mouth watered. I reminded myself to begin to look for the berries in the market ... and to be sure not to miss them this year.
Tuesday of this week, I was sitting here at the typewriter when the words "Black Raspberries" flicked through my mind. I made a mental note to ask for some at the market this weekend. I kept on with my work which was all-absorbing. Several hours later the words came more emphatically, as if in capital letters this time: "BLACK RASPBERRIES!"
I actually replied, in my mind. I said to myself: "OK. OK. I get the message!" And I kept right on with my work ...
I thought no more about black raspberries. I cleared off my desk and prepared to leave the office. Without thinking that I was doing something contrary to my usual custom, I left the building by an elevator I seldom use when going towards the parking garage. Out on the street, I hesitated without knowing why.
Then I remembered black raspberries. Oh, all right, I said to myself, since I'm this close to the Arcade, I'll just walk through and see when the berries are expected. Maybe I can order some for the weekend ...
There they were! Four small baskets of fresh black raspberries. I caught sight of them from a distance. Could it be? No, they're probably blueberries ... no, they're fresh black raspberries! I felt like dropping everything and running to the fruit stand. But I walked sedately-too sedately! Another customer edged in ahead of me. I held my breath when she asked the price of the black raspberries-and let it out when she sniffed and walked away.
I thrust my money at the man behind the counter. I'll take all four baskets, I said, before he could even ask me if I wanted anything.
I shared one basket with my parents, one with neighbors, ate one whole basketful for my supper-and put the fourth one aside for the next night. My favorite way to eat black raspberries-or strawberries - is plain without milk or sugar-but if the warmth of the sun is out of them, then a sprinkling of granulated sugar and a generous helping of milk is a wonderful treat.
But they taste even better if first I've shared some with others. Thank heavens I learned this truth very early. When I was a child, any time I tried to be miserly with a special treat, I ended with a stomach ache. Any time I tried to hoard something so that I alone would have it to enjoy for a couple days, either the ants found the candy before I could get back to it or it melted or got stale and never tasted quite the same.
Maybe my fondness for fresh black raspberries stems from my relationship with my grandma who shared her berries with her small granddaughter. When she lived on a farm and I stayed there overnight, I remember waking in the morning and going out to the summer kitchen in my white cambric nightgown. Grandma would give me a small bowl and tell me where the raspberries were thickest on the bushes.
Barefoot, I'd walk through the cool grass to the raspberry bushes along the fence next to the field. One berry for me, two for the bowl, one for me, two for the bowl. When the bowl was almost full to the top, I'd sit on the bench under the grape arbor by the back steps and the pump. Grandma'd get the pitcher from the springhouse and pour milk over my berries. Then while I ate my breakfast, she'd sit on the bench beside me, a pan of freshly picked snap beans in her lap.
While she snapped the ends off the beans with deft fingers and I ate berries and milk, we'd talk of many things. And, sometimes, grandpa would come in from the barn or the field to get a drink of water at the pump.
He'd take off his straw hat, wipe his forehead with a red handkerchief from his overalls pocket and stand and look at us. "Now, if that doesn't make a picture," he'd say, sometimes, looking at the tall slender woman with the big kitchen apron and her sunbonnet on the bench beside her ... at the little girl in a thin white nightgown and bare feet and a bowl of berries in her hands ... at the blue granite pan heaped with green beans ... and the sunshine through the grape vine dappling light and shadow over all ...
I get more than the momentary taste on the tongue when I eat fresh black raspberries. The season is short but, oh, so satisfying ...
"SEE THIS big wide street-with the nice little houses on each side?
"Well, right here is where they overturned cars, set them afire. I saw 20 or more burning right here in the middle of this street.
"And over there was where I nearly got it. I'd just parked my car behind a sheriff's car and got out with my camera when this big chunk of concrete came off that roof there. It bounced on top the sheriff's car, made a big dent iii it-and then bounced off the car right at my feet. One step more and I'd have been killed.
"I've had four years of war but last August's riots had it beat! "Afraid? You're gosh darn right I was. I drove the car with a gun in this hand, one on the seat, a shotgun under the seat and a big club on the floor."
This was a look at the Watts area of Los Angeles three months after the riots of August when the uncontrolled use of weapons, fire and looting by mobs of out-of-control Negroes struck fear into the hearts of people all over this land.
Ray Graham, photographer for the Los Angeles Times, retraced his movements during those fearsome days and nights.
Ray Rogers, a reporter, born and brought up in New York's Harlem, who had been one of the L. A. Times' researchers for its series of articles by Jack Jones on the how and why of the riots, came along to explain and interpret.
We drove, in the rain, through a part of a big city that was at once a mixture of the primitive and the modern ... where charred shells of buildings stood mute and horrible next to clean small shops and homes ... where residents-with eyes straight ahead-walked by still uncleared heaps of bricks, fire-blackened beams and rubble ... where the causes of poverty, lack of communication between races and unfulfilled hopes for a better life were not defined, only the results were uncomfortably evident ...
"That's where they hid, on those roof-tops, sniping with every kind of gun they could find. I saw some using bows and arrows. They set fire to one store and when you went there to put it out, they were three blocks away setting more fires," said the white-skinned photographer.
"It was a set of circumstances deemed by sociologists as perfect for a riot: poverty, misunderstanding, exploitation, white ownership, rumors blown out of all proportion, no jobs, grievances about housing, not enough to eat and, over all, that unbearable heat," said the black-skinned reporter.
We drove past beauty parlors with signs: "Pin curls and cup curls"... past the fish markets: "Louisiana buffalo and catfish, fresh daily" ... past the SpiritualTemple of the Holy Ghost: "Jesus Saves" ...
"They went in groups of 10 to 100 and they concentrated on the big grocery chains and the stores that didn't have any Negroes working there. And they burned and they looted. They went to one furniture store that was closed and started to break in the front door. The Negro janitor was sweeping up and he went to the door and said, 'What do you think you're doing?' and the rioters said, 'Peace, blood brother,' and went away," said the photographer.
"In Harlem they say 'soul brother' but it means the same. You see, here they live always with the police problem-who's right and who's wrong. These people come from rural communities in the South, many of them, where they don't see a policeman in a month of Sundays and then, suddenly, out here the police are on the scene all the time. The police can do what they call a 'field investigation' and stop anyone on the street at any time. They keep a card file. The Negro gets stopped on the street, cited for a misdemeanor, and the first thing they ask you when you go for a job is do you have a police record and the man wants to be honest, so he says yes-and no job," said the reporter.
We drove past laughing children in yellow slickers going home from school ... past the HaciendaValley fire department and a branch of the U. S. post office ... past the John F. Kennedy elementary school and a small neat building with the sign: 46th Church of Christ, Scientist ...
"After the arsonists and the looters broke open the stores, ordinary people you wouldn't think of as law-breakers ran in the stores and came out with maybe two boxes of soap powder or one pair of shoes. I saw one woman carrying one jug of Clorox, that's all. And one man took only a six-bottle carton of Cokes," said the photographer.
"When you have next to nothing, even a pair of shoes or a box of soap is a great deal. I talked to one young Negro girl who considered herself a law-abiding citizen but, without being able to stop herself, she said she took a cotton blouse from a looted store. 'It was wrong, I know,' she said, 'but do you know how long it has been since I had anything new to wear?' " said the reporter.
"No law-abiding person would do a thing like that," broke in the photographer.
"A law-abiding citizen has a full stomach," said the reporter.
We drove past the one-story houses of orchid and green, yellow, white and pink exteriors with flowers growing in the yards and lace curtains at the windows ... past children playing on front porches because it was raining so hard ...
'The National Guard set up roadblocks here. At one time there was a seven-block area on fire. That corner drive-in went up in flames as I drove up to it and I yelled to the manager, 'Did you call the fire department?' and he said, They wouldn't dare come here,' so I called the fire department on my car radio through the newspaper and it took them 45 minutes to get there, but they came. The fire was going into a high voltage line and they had to," said the photographer.
"Magazines like Ebony tell readers that surveys show California is the best state in the nation for Negroes. So they come here expecting Utopia and they can't find it. People like that wouldn't find it anywhere -no education. The big trouble with Watts is if you don't have a car, you're in trouble. You might have fair bus service days but, after dark, practically nothing, especially if your job depends on your going early and coming home late. So when a man gets a job, he puts a few bucks down on a car and hopes it will keep running, so he can keep that job. Usually it breaks down somewhere and then no job again," said the reporter.
We drove past homes of white families who have lived in Watts for 40 years and have no intention of moving ... past yards with lines of wash hanging in the rain ... past a pool hall with a sign: "Shine-Wax or Spit" ... past a poster saying, "Education is for the birds-the birds who want to get ahead. To get a good job, get a good education" ...
'They even set fire to a fire truck," said the photographer.
"Lack of communication on all sides is a big problem. A Negro living here puts on a white shirt and a tie and the other Negroes call him 'Uncle Tom,''' said the reporter.
In pre-Civil War days when railroad workers settled along Central avenue, it was called Mudville. It became Watts during the 1880s when a Pasadena real estate man called C. H. Watts lived on a small ranch in the area. As Watts, it was annexed to Los Angeles in 1926. By the end of World War II, Watts was concentrated along Central and Avalon boulevards and known as Los Angeles' black belt.
Until the August 1965 riots, Watts was known principally for the Watts towers, a landmark of scrap iron, broken crockery and cement built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia from 1921 to 1954. A recluse, he created an artistic monstrosity that engineers contend can't be destroyed easily and now an art center has sprung up nearby because what is one man's poison is another man's meat.
We drove past the little public library ... and the Rock of Faith Baptist church ... and the storeroom with a sign in the window: "Watts Study Project-UCLA" ...
The photographer turned to the reporter and said: "Don't worry, Ray. Things will get better for your people soon."
The reporter looked out into space. In a flat voice, he replied: "When I was a little boy, that's what my grandfather told me, too."
Nov. 27, 1965
It's A Habit
WHEN I looked outdoors last Sunday and saw the snow spitting at the birds bouncing on and off the feeder, I said to myself this is no day to go walking in the great Outdoors go back to bed and cover up the head that's what I said to myself I said ...
When I reached one arm Out the back door to get the Sunday paper and a sudden mixed-up curtain of raindrops splashed my bare hand, I told myself this was a lovely day to stay inside by the fire ...
When the wind whipped waves across the little lake with its watery patches of thin ice, I spoke very definitely to myself saying this was one day off when I was nor required to be anywhere or do anything so why didn't I relax and forget about trudging over hill and dale that's what I said to myself ...
I kept saying those same things all the while I drank my orange juice, ate my cereal and opened the drawer where I keep the long red underwear. One part of my mind believed me. The other part was asleep. At the appointed time, there I was, in five layers of clothing and boots, going Out the lane in beautiful February sunshine.
Each time I walk, the way gets shorter. So this time I tried a new way, one that is-by the car's speedometer-four tenths of a mile longer. I still made the trip in a half hour. The cranberry coffee cake with the crumbly topping was still in the oven at my destination ... usually my hostess and I try to co-ordinate our timing so accurately that something is coming Out of the oven as something else is coming in the door.
I wasn't tired from the brisk walk. I wasn't tired from the five layers of clothing. I was fit and chipper and raring to go. I even discussed the possibility of walking home instead of accepting a ride.
That's the last thing I remember saying.
My friends woke me up a half hour later. They said I fell asleep in the big chair while I was telling them how wide-awake I felt!
Feb. 16, 1966
Living History – I
ON AN APRIL DAY, bursting with sunshine and sprinkled with violets and spring beauties, a man named Leonard U. Hill of Piqua cut briskly through the corner of a field sewn with clover and alfalfa and walked up a grassy slope.
He stood there, an erect energetic man of 81, silently looking down across the meadows towards Swift Run Creek, then to the bluffs that formed a natural boundary. Behind him the sounds of State Route 66 traffic were muffled by a stretch of farmland.
The city of Piqua was around the bend of 66, a little to the south ... nearby was the 1814 red brick house and the springhouse, the barn with the hand-hewn beams all built by Col. John Johnston, the first Indian agent in the land of the three Miamis ... down towards the road was the private cemetery that yielded only recently its mystery of Colonel Johnston's soldier-son killed in the Mexican war in 1846 ...
Leonard Hill, retired farmer, historian, author, was at that moment as far from the modern world of television and Teflon as a man can be whose avocation is sifting through local lore to find the truth of local history in the days of the Shawnees and the Wyandots.
He was standing atop a circular mound built, he believes, for protection in a natural setting well able to be defended. The circular mound, about 100 feet across, was presumed empty, since only conical mounds have Indian burials and artifacts. The height of the wall is, at some places, six feet above the bottom of the ditch on the inside, Mr. Hill has determined.
A spring breeze ruffled the high grass. A leafless thorn tree swayed, its untrimmed branches deceptively benign. It was easy then to let imagination pare away hundreds of years, leaving you to stand where Indians stood, ever watchful, even before Columbus found a new land.
"Yes, Indians roamed here," said Mr. Hill, "and even cultures more ancient and archaic. It was just a few years ago when 32 skeletons were found in gravel three miles north of Lima, and those burials are believed to be 4000 years old. So there were people living and hunting here five thousand or more years ago-right where we are."
More recent history is marked by three stones a little way off the main road. One was erected in 1906 to mark the spot where the 94th and 110th regiments were mustered in the U.S. service, this being the site of drill grounds and a mustering place during the Civil War.
A second monument marks Pickawillany, a mile northwest of the monument-this a fort, headquarters of the Miami tribes, the first English settlement and the most important trading post in the west. This was in 1748, destroyed in 1752 by the French.
A short distance from these two markers is a third, erected in 1898 to commemorate the last battle of the French and Indian war fought near this spot in 1763. On this same day, in June, Pontiac, the Ottawa chief, formed a conspiracy to attack all the forts from Pittsburgh to Fort Wayne, including Detroit. This did not come to pass, largely because of fighting done at this site in Ohio.
Aside from these few historical markers erected by the Piqua chapter of the DAR, and articles written for the Piqua Daily Call by Mr. Hill in his devotion to the local past, this whole area's historical significance might have been lost eventually were not something done to hold back the ravages of time.
Last year, the farm of Col. John Johnston came under the care of the Ohio Historical Society and plans arc under way to preserve it as a state memorial.
"Before coming to Upper Piqua in 1 HII, Colonel Johnston had been Indian agent at Fort Wayne for nine years. He also served in that capacity from this big old brick house which he built in 1814," stated Mr. Hill.
"During the war of 1812, he kept the Ohio Indians from becoming allies of the British. The numbers of Indians congregated here during that war have been given by different writers as from 4,000 to 10,000."
The 174-acre farm enjoys a fine location, an important part of the landscape north of the modern city of Piqua. Gen. William Henry Harrison had his army and headquarters on this farm in the late summer of 1812.
The spacious farmhouse, three stories high counting the large basement, was built of brick made on the grounds. Lilacs and sweet williams, roses, spirea, bridal wreath, forsythia and even catnip abound all about it and a slope blossoming in all manner of spring wild Bowers leads down to a springhouse that must have been the best of its day.
The springhouse is two stories high with three rooms at ground level.
A clear cold spring runs in definite channels through the rooms, one being arranged for milk crocks to be set in the running water. Another room, with big fireplace to heat the water, was the place where the cooking, washing, butchering and apple-buttering could have been done. Outside the springhouse, watercress and buttercups made thick green and yellow carpets, but you had to wade to harvest this abundance.
According to old letters and diaries, guests were quartered occasionally on the second floor of the springhouse. They could dip a cup-even as I did-in the cold running spring to quench a thirst.
The original Johnston barn of hand-hewn logs, ash and hickory, oak, walnut, hackberry and yellow poplar all chopped nearby, has been preserved within another barn. Chopping marks and tree bark are still visible. The floor within the 84 x 28-foot barn was used as a tramping floor for grain.
Mr. Hill and his wife, the former Laura Marshall who used to teach at Fairmont high school before her retirement in 1959, walked around the farm, pointing out significant elements of frontier living as if it had all been only yesterday.
At the small Johnston cemetery, in the southwest corner of the farm between State Route 66 and Swift Run Creek, a mystery which no one suspected was buried there under the tombstone of Abraham Robinson Johnston, first son of the Colonel and his wife, Rachel, and named for Rachel's father.
A few months ago, the true story appeared in print, a story not Included in Mr. Hill's book about the area published in 1957.
Abraham R. Johnston, graduate of West Point and a captain in the First U.S. Dragoons, was killed in 1846 in the battle of San Pascual, San Diego county, Calif., during the Mexican war. The body was taken to a San Franciscan depot to await shipment by sea to New York, thence by train to Ohio.
During the San Francisco earthquake, fire and its aftermath, the box with the body was forgotten and its shipment delayed. Finally, it was sent on its way and eventually interred in the family plot near Piqua.
Years later, in an army warehouse, one box among many containing iron scrap was found to contain human bones. Research indicated the box beneath the Johnston tombstone contained scrap iron, having been sent by mistake. The story was kept quiet and, to this day, the box beneath the stone in Johnston cemetery contains iron, not bones.
Another minor mystery still surrounds three plain headstones set apart and down the hill from the more formal plot. Each stone contains only one name. So lie Baby Paul, Little Pearlie and Luther Erastus.
GRASS GROWS at Lockington, now-in the six stone-walled locks on the abandoned Miami-Erie canal where man had to assist nature to lift boats over a plateau in southern Shelby county, highest canal point between the Ohio river and Lake Erie.
Six stone locks within a half mile raised or lowered canal boats about 67 feet. It was an engineering feat in the early 1840s.
To stand today at the edge of the worn freestones and look about - imagining water filling the locks, boats of all kinds waiting their turn to go up or down the canal, roustabouts and freight and 19th century travelers in colorful confusion-is to experience the kind of goose-pimple thrill you get when you realize you stand at a moment of history.
The Miami-Erie canal on its entire 249-mile length from Cincinnati to Toledo was as important and thrilling in its day, 1845 to 1877, in opening vistas of transportation as was the first space craft to orbit the earth and return.
It was a wilderness, that land three or four miles to the north of Col. John Johnston's farm along Swift Run Creek where Ohio's first Indian agent lived and worked from the time of the war of 1812, through the Mexican War and the Civil War.
Transportation through the wilderness was a necessity and in the early 1830s there were those who thought a railroad would be the best link to move goods and people between the Valley of the Miamis and Lake Erie.
Colonel Johnston, by then the most prominent citizen of nearby Piqua, supported a group who felt a waterway, an unbroken hydraulic toll highway, would be better.
There were fights and factions and, for a time, the canal men won.
Daniel R. Porter of the Ohio Historical Society reports: " ... The work of clearing and grubbing, muck removal, construction of embankments, riprapping, puddling with gravel and loam and other back-breaking labor necessary to create a maintenance-free water course proceeded at great cost ... and at a snail's pace due to a labor shortage until German immigrants were recruited at a salary of 50 cents per day in 1836 ..."
The quantities of timber and stone required to build the six 90 x 15foot lock chambers were enormous. Uncut blocks of stone, many weighing more than 500 pounds, were hauled by oxen from Dayton.
Porter's research indicates the lock foundations were built of hewn, white oak timbers. Three-inch-thick oak plank floors were laid on cross-timbers and nailed with 10-inch hand-wrought spikes.
Each block of the stone face of the locks was meticulously cut allowing for no more than quarter-inch cracks filled with quicklime mortar.
When Leonard U. Hill of Piqua, historian and author of much material about this area, stood with me at the top of the abandoned locks one beautiful day a few weeks ago, he seemed to know intimately each detail of the construction. He pointed out that the lock walls were banked with stones no smaller than 300 pounds each, filled in with aggregate and now grass grows to smooth out the all but forgotten pain of the hard work.
We stood on stones bearing the grooves made by the ropes which donkeys pulled to inch the canal boats along. Mr. Hill gestured to show exactly where riprapping (a foundation of broken stones) was laid 40 feet below each lock to prevent erosion as water poured from the open gates.
When the canal flourished, there were passenger packets, grocery boats, freighters, pleasure craft and log rafts going through these locks and so was born a small community to care for the Lockington locks and its travelers.
But the Civil War tipped the scales in favor of railroad travel because of the railroad's economy and speed. A canal boat could travel no more than six miles an hour because backwash would erode embankments, Porter has recorded.
The canal, unmaintained during the war and after 1877 when it was abandoned, went from bad to worse. The wood rotted, the walls sagged, the iron hardware was ripped out for scrap drives.
The locks became community dumps until the early 1950s when interest revived in marking sites important to history. Yet today empty beer cans and other modern wastes carelessly litter the locks-but this condition will be improved.
In February of this year, the Ohio Department of Public Works transferred to the Ohio Historical Society the Lockington locks and the three-mile segment of canal lands extending south to parallel Colonel Johnston's farm at Piqua.
Soon the locks and the canalway will be properly preserved and open to the public interested in how local history came about.
Leonard Hill, a quiet thoughtful man who knows the value of history in relation to modern times, contemplated the trickle of water that fell over two of the locks. "We've had much rain," he explained. "First time I've seen water in this lock." He studied the grassy ground between the stone walls and then lifted his eyes to look far and away. The few houses that comprise the town of Lockington now were not in his sight.
"The last load hauled through these locks was in 1912. William Combs hauled a load of gravel, with donkeys pulling on those two paths over there. William Combs died last year. He was 97."
As a jet streamed overhead, Leonard Hill walked away from the empty locks of the once prosperous Miami-ErieCanal.
THERE are compensations for all chores, I suppose ...
Not long ago I labored over 122 entries in a feature contest sponsored by the North Carolina Press Women's association. The by-lines were carefully scissored and I had no way of knowing who wrote what, so the judging was based on good feature writing published in papers over 30,000 circulation.
Out of the welter of stories, good and bad and indifferent, came one that described such an hilarious tale of woe that it needs to be shared in Ohio. In the particular category in which it was submitted, this story didn't win a prize but it certainly must have produced giggles in its own territory when it first appeared.
It's about a woman who had her hair done on Saturday. The next day, preparing for church, she sprayed her hair to keep it looking nice.
She closed her eyes, sprayed the spray, opened her eyes-and screamed. She'd used a spray can of white enamel by mistake.
She shouted for her husband who took one look and commented that her hair probably would fall out.
She ran next door for help. The neighbor thought her white hair looked nice.
She ran home and called her hairdresser-who offered another can of spray to hide the paint.
Getting neither help nor sympathy, our heroine began to experiment First, she tried paint remover mixed with water. She vigorously brushed it into her hair-and watched the hairbrush dissolve.
Frantically she grabbed the strongest soap at hand-La va-and, for good measure, a bottle of all-purpose household detergent. She poured and rubbed and her hair got gummy.
She added hair shampoo. Her hair got gummier. She poured kerosene on her head. Horrors!
She poured vinegar on her head. A sorry mess! She simply stood there and cried. That did it!
The thick ooze on her head began to bubble up--and it all washed Out. So did the white enamel. So did her hairdo.
She never got to church that day.
Bring A Covered Dish
I wonder who in the world invented the social custom of the "Covered Dish" ... and when.
It is more than a mere dish of food with a cover to keep our flies.
It is a picnic, a dinner in the church basement, a welcome for a new home, a welcome-home for anybody returning from anywhere. It's a celebration, it's a budget-stretcher.
It's a family reunion, a sorority get-together, a night out, a conclave of neighbors and a mother-daughter banquet.
A true "Covered Dish" occasion has more variety than a Swedish smorgasbord, more flattering compliments than a beauty queen and more noses our of joint than any number of little sisters with a new baby brother.
It has a full complement of worriers-the ladies who say, "My slaw just didn't turn our right this time," as they carry in a huge bowl of the most perfect pineapple cream slaw they ever made in their lives.
It has a few culinary sneaks-the ones who get credit for bringing a meat dish when it's actually a meat loaf stretched with oatmeal and molded around hard-boiled eggs.
It has a couple of show-offs-the ones who pretend they're as common as old shoes as they bring in roasters full of fried chicken, enough for everybody there, even though they were just supposed to bring enough for their own family-and two extra.
It always has a small dish of heavenly hash which disappears as quickly as people can get spoons dipped into it ... three molded gelatin salads that collapse in the heat ... one casserole of baked beans that everybody likes, and four they don't touch ...
It isn't considered a success unless Hazel brings her nut-bread, Maude does a pecan pie and the Brown girls bring their specialty, a three-layer mocha cake with English walnut halves in the caramel icing.
It isn't official unless Jane, who promised to bring a lemon pie and some celery sticks, changes her mind and brings a watermelon-warm ... and Belle totes store-bought rolls because she says she was too busy to bake and besides it's been so hot lately, hasn't it, and dear me, was J supposed to bring butter, too?
There's always a small stir when it comes time to pack up ... some people take home more than they brought ... some people have a basketful of licked-clean platters", somebody always goes home with an oblong glass cover for a square baking dish". and when everything's packed, there is always a half-empty bowl of potato salad that nobody will claim ...
There's a flurry of exchanged recipes that never get tried. , .one person who complains that "". Ruth hid cucumbers in that salad and cucumbers always give me indigestion" ... and four persons (usually male and small or large) who get scolded for (a) eating too much, (b) not eating enough of Carrie Miller's fruit salad even if it was too sour "because she had her eye on you the whole time and you didn't have to make such a face!" (c) making a pig of themselves with the shrimp dip and telling everybody "we never get anything like this at home!"
"Covered Dish" is an experience you go through ...
If you make a menu in advance and assign various dishes to various cooks, you'll end up with four pots of beans and not enough ham to go around because some people never can remember what they're supposed to bring. Nobody brings vegetables,
I remember the time everybody mislaid their written instructions and brought potato salad. When the guests went home, we buried the contents of seven bowls of potato salad in the yard.
If you let everybody bring what they want, you have seven dishes (three ham loaf!) and no rolls or salad.
One "Covered Dish" occasion was a bust because everybody thought everybody else would bring baked beans and potato salad, so they brought perfection salad for a change, and the picnic was just one plate of limp gelatin after another,
Some people have special covered dishes with their names marked on the bottom that they save for a "Covered Dish" .. , some people swear by aluminum foil that can be dumped with the garbage ... some people stop at the handiest drive-in and bring barbecue sandwiches that they end up eating themselves, . ,
"Covered Dish" is an old American custom, I suppose .. , and there's a special way to make the most of them. You do it this way: you keep sniffing as the dishes arrive to spot your favorites, you keep alert so you're first in line, you never count on seconds-you take all you can hold the first time around.
The day after a "Covered Dish" is a fine day to fast.