Tag Archives: life-stories

Sedona Arizona Sunset

31 Dec Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

Sedona Arizona is a beautiful, thin place…

My wife Mary and I traveled to Sedona Arizona on Feb. 28, 2018 after our REI Hiking trip to Southern Arizona. We had driven through Sedona about 10 years prior, stopping for lunch on our way to the Grand Canyon with our children. We both looked forward too a few more days of hiking and exploring this uniquely beautiful place. By thin place, I mean it is one of a few places around the world where you feel a bit closer to the Creator, to Mother Nature, to Gaia. You remember that Earth was not made or shaped by man, but by much more powerful forces. I felt the same way when I climbed in a live volcano, in St. Vincent, when I did yoga on the rocks at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, and when we watched the sunrise at Uluru, Australia. The following are photos from our first afternoon and early evening in Sedona.

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

In Sedona the carved red cock formations surround you…

It is hard to know where to look…

We were advised to head up to the airport for the best view of the sunset

To the west we saw the sun setting slowly, I dimmed the sunlight to get this view…

But in other directions the landscape glowed…

I loved the view of Mesas in the distance…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

But closer in, beautifully carved features…

Seemed to be everywhere…

And the sun was lighting…

All of them…

As then sun continued to sink slowly…

But surely, into the far western hills…

While at the same time, amazingly, the full moon was rising over the hills to our east…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

We shifted over to the main viewing area…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

To join the throngs of gathered photographers…

We were amply rewarded…

By views of layer after layer…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

Of back-lit…

Mountain ridges…

Going on and on…

Into…

Summose Tales - Sedona Arizona

Infinity…

How far could we see…

In the moments…

It didn’t seem to matter…

We were all trying…

Really hard…

Not to miss a moment…

Of Mother Nature’s…,

Of God’s show.

To the right, were beautiful features…

Front and center, the sun continued to sink…

The view…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

The sunset…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

Again, the view…

Again the sunset…

Summose Tales - Sedona Arizona

The rock features were glowing…

The sun was nearing the far ridge line…

The colors, and the layers…

How many layers and ridges was I seeing?

The main show is getting close…

But which way should I look…

I glanced quickly to the right…

To snap a few shots…

I climbed up on a rock…

Summose Tales - Sedona Arizona

To get a slightly better view over the crowd…

Again to the right…

Back towards the sunset…

I did a 180 degree turn to capture the moon-rise…

And then quickly around to catch the sun-setting…

Again the view…

The sun dipping…

I turned on my video recorder to capture the last moments of the sun setting…

Summose Tales - Sedona Arizona

And then it was gone…

But then, by changing settings on my camera…

I could capture the enormous after-glow…

That lit up the sky…

And much of the horizon…

Summoose Tales - Sedona Arizona

The happy crowd, the photographers, and the amazed spectators, started to turn away, while I just stared and enjoyed this miracle of nature, and counted my blessings… Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I reflected that tomorrow we would be hiking in these hills, but that is another story:)


Bruce Summers, is a Professional Personal Historian and Life Story Writer for Summoose Tales, Summersbw@gmail.com.  He is a former global board member of the Association of Personal Historian and served as director, regions and chapters.  He is a founding member of the Life Story Professionals of the Greater Washington Area.

See also

Counting more blessings and saying Thank You.

Cactus League – then Cactus Hiking

Uluru Adventure

Travel

Photos

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Counting more blessings and saying Thank You.

30 Nov

Let’s go hiking for a week in February… My wife, as usual, had a great idea. Normally we would try a couple of day hikes in February, on the weekends, and if the weather was mild.

Blessing #1: We would be hiking in Southern Arizona, I had never been there, and it is quite a bit farther south than Northern Virginia.

Blessing #2: This was our first hiking Trip hosted by REI, so we would be hiking with a group, with trained guides.

Blessing #3: They would help us with transport of our luggage and would provide lodging and food… on the trail or otherwise.

Blessing #4: Another couple, two of our good friends, would also be taking the same hike with us:)

Blessing #5: One of my wife’s cousins lived just north of Phoenix and we could stay overnight with them on two separate nights; first between adventures, and then just before we flew home.

Blessing #6: We were going to be able to get in a couple of days of bonus hiking in Sedona, AZ.  We had driven there once, the landscape is spectacular, and we were looking forward to exploring the region around Sedona for a few days.

Mixed Blessing #1: we had to get up really, really early for our flight to Phoenix. But, we had gotten up early before, and it meant we would have more time to visit the old town in Scottsdale, AZ. We were overnighting there and meeting up with our REI Group the next day.

 

 

Mixed Blessing #2: Though the weather was temperate, we noticed large gobs of people all heading to some type of stadium. We asked a stranger on the street, where’s everyone going? It’s Opening Day of Spring Training for the Cactus League he said. We took a quick walk around Old Town to spot a potential restaurant for dinner, but then we were each bitten, or at least I was bitten, by the spontaneous bug. We saw a man standing along the street trying to sell a pair of “great” tickets to the Opening Day game. “It’s sold out,” he said, he may have mentioned that his wife was ill also.  It may have been a story, but we felt we could afford a pair of tickets and decided to head to the Park to watch a bit of Professional Baseball Spring Training.

Blessing #7: Even though it was not sold out, the crowd was large, for that size stadium, and in a great mood. We sat, down the first base line, a bit into right field. We had a great view.

Blessing #8: Yes they did have hot dogs, no it wasn’t Southwestern food, but it went down easy with a bit of mustard and sauerkraut along with a nice cold bottle of water.

Blessing #9: We saw a couple of home runs, some decent pitching, some decent hitting and fielding, and a few errors of course. It was a hoot.

Blessing #10: We had a yummy Southwestern dinner with our friends. We live in the same area, but we had not seen each other very recently to catch up on the news. It was a great shared evening.

 

Blessing #11: We hit the lottery with our tour guides.  One was rated the #1 or 2 guide in the whole system. The other would have been a #1 guide on any other trip.

Blessing #12: It had rained recently in Southern AZ and the Saguaro Cactus were magnificently tall, plump, and everywhere.

 

Blessing #13: You never know how a week-long hike in higher altitude, in a desert, and during winter will go. Will we be fit enough, we wondered.  How will we shake down with the rest of group. Despite a small miss-adventure crossing the 3rd of 12 streams; we both did great with the hiking as did our friends.  About half of our group stayed back at the 2/3rds point of the hike and then the rest of us, “the rabbits”, I reflected charged off at an enhanced pace to reach the destination waterfall.

 

Blessing #14: The hiking was a bit more challenging, but the view of the waterfall and the catchment pools, and the ducks swimming in the lower pool was magnificent.

Blessing #15: We stayed overnight in a downtown Tucson Hotel. We had a superb southwestern dinner, slept well, geared up, and had breakfast in an old western bar. We then headed out for another great day of hiking, then lunch and visited a great park filled with southwestern Flora Fauna.

 

Blessing #16: We learned a lot about Saguaro and other Cacti during the trip, we saw animals, scat, climbed mountain ridges, and saw spectacular views across wide vistas.

 

Blessing #17: We had another restful night. Then an early morning departure, a tour of a large, now defunct pit mine, a talk with a local Native American Guide, a nice long hike, and then lunch in the park at picnic tables.

  

Mixed Blessing #3: A highlight was our visit to the border fence between Arizona and Mexico. We were surprised to learn that the high fence disappears after going east for a mile or so.  The conditions are arid and dry, not forgiving. Twice during the next day and a half I spotted black painted jugs. These are usually filled with water for the hundreds of people who  attempt to cross this desert border each year.

 

Blessing # 18 and 19: We drove up a high ridge to take in an amazing view of setting sun looking across multiple mountain ridges and ranges. Then we ate a scrumptious picnic supper outside. A special opportunity was an open discussion with a Border Patrol Agent who answered our questions and discussed the challenges, for Border Patrol Agents, to both help people survive who crossed the border to escape bad conditions and sometime threats to their lives, while at the same time trying to discover, and thwart, bad actors who tried to smuggle drugs and even children to become slaves or worse across the border.  I had the pleasure of riding down the high ridge with him back to our lodging for the night. It was a blessing to talk with him and to learn more about the nuances of protecting our border that are experienced by individual agents.

 

Blessing #20: After one more great hike, and a picnic in the rough, we head back to Phoenix. We rented a car, fought through an hour of congested traffic, and then arrived at my cousin-in-law’s home. We had not met her husband. He was a gem. Even better, he was a rock hound, and around his home he had grapefruit and other citrus trees and…

Interim count: Needless to say we got to 20 Blessings and 3 Mixed Blessings and we had not even started our excursion to Sedona yet. We highly recommend a week of walking in the Winter and we are very thankful for our health and opportunities to walk, hike and explore.  We hope everyone has a great Holiday Season and that you take a few moments to count your blessings.

*********************************

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

He served as a global board member and director, regions and chapters for the Association of Personal Historians Bruce is a founding member of the Life Story Professionals of Greater Washington Area

See Also

Counting blessings and saying Thank you.

Mother’s Day – Unique Gift

6 May

Sometimes I get to see my mother on Mother’s Day, and sometimes I can not. I propose a unique gift for your Mom – an hour of time as an active listener or perhaps four hours of time of asking questions about her life stories spread throughout the year.

10470171_790404754323810_1159196822803293323_o Jane Summers talks about her grandmother Lizzie, she made quilts for all nine grandchildren

Mother’s Day and Memories

As a professional personal historian, this is an easy gift for me to give my Mom.  Every time I visit my parents I have my digital voice recorder in my pocket all charged up and waiting for the right moment for some quality active listening time, and there are always more of stories to ask about. Some are favorites that I have heard partially before. Some are new stories about her childhood, about her family, about her Mom and her Grandmothers. What did she make or bake for those Sunday lunches? What did it smell like?

Thanksgiving checklist: cranberry salsa, bread, and the Voice Recorder App.

Thanksgiving Weekend update

Sometimes we talk about interesting episodes.  I love her stories about her adventures with mice.  My Mom was always afraid of mice, my three brothers an I always knew this, but it was not until a few years ago that I sat down with Mom and asked why. Then I got the real stories.

There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart…

Even if you don’t have a digital voice recorder, though they are usually reasonably priced for about $100, you likely have a voice recording app on your Smart phone.  This also works great for recording a few Mom stories during your next visit.

If you need help with questions, of if you need help from a professional Personal Historian, then check out the Association of Personal Historians website.  We are the Life Story people with thousands of years of experience helping families record and share stories about Moms (and Dads) and other loved ones.

Have a great Mother’s Day. I would love to hear about your experiences – listening to Mom stories:) Just add a comment or send me an email.

Bruce

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales and a global board member and Regions Director of the Association of Personal Histories, summersbw@gmail.com.

Save Your Photos Day – September 27, 2014

12 Sep

By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales

I recently learned about Save Your Photos Day – This concept resonated with me. Please share this link with friend, families, and colleagues.

As a Personal Historian I interview clients and help them write and share their personal histories and life stories. I often find/discover photos in drawers, in boxes, perhaps on a wall, in a trunk, in an album, maybe on a CD, or a computer file (with no back-up).

They are often singular records of a moment in time. As families grow and succeeding generations disperse these photos are often at risk.

  • They may be lost in transition, during a rushed move, a down-sizing, or during a disaster such as a flood or a house fire.
  • Will the photo and its context be lost after the client dies. Will it become just a great photo with no story, no history, and no memories connected?

Case 1: Two of my early personal history clients had a combined total of almost 200 years of memories when they died. The good news, I had already interviewed them. I had audio tapes and hundreds of pages of transcripts with their memories and stories. The even better news was that I had re-shot or scanned, edited and digitized over 300 of their photos. The words, from the audio tapes, provided personal and historical context to the photos. The photos animated my clients’ stories and reflections. The photos made my clients’ personal history and memories come alive.

  IMG_3146 Snow in July 2013-07-14 19.50.32 Dinner Bell - Ships Bell - from Mostom house, Jim has it now 7.14.13 IMG_1120 Lloyd as Viking Toddler

I converted these photos into a PowerPoint presentation for use at the couple’s memorial service after they both died last fall. Their daughter used some of the pictures for a photo display at the service. The others were featured as looped slide show next to the display.

As the family personal historian I stood and watched the photos cycle through. A grandson in his 20s watched and asked questions.  His uncle commented, “I have never seen a lot of these”. I could provide context from my interviews and from captions I included in the manuscript of the couple’s personal history.

A few lessons learned:

  • Before the couple died, while they were living in a senior community in nursing care, their family needed to quickly clear out one floor of their home so it could be rented to a friend. Framed photos came down, drawers were emptied, boxes and albums were removed from locations were they had resided for 30 to 50 years. Challenges: the photos could have been lost in transition and in context. The good news: I had already preserved many of them digitally, with their original context and stories.
  • The family had several albums with a year by year history in photos from their father’s 100th birthday celebration. Challenges: there is only one copy and the family is disbursed across the United States and in Australia. The good news: we have over 300 photos that have been digitized and can be shared in context with the extended family.

Case 2: Another client made over 300 quilts after she retired from teaching. Her stories and memories of quilt making came alive as we looked through her album of intricately designed and beautifully crafted quilts. Most of these have been given away to family and friends or donated for good causes. We also recorded her memories of travel and vacations with her now deceased husband. Again the photos animated the stories making these memories come alive.

IMG_4227 Quilt Example IMG_4241 Quilted Sunflowers IMG_4222 Quilt example

A few lessons:

  •  Artists should take photos of their portfolio, organize them, store and share them. Challenge: my client only owns a handful of the quilts she spent thousands of hours crafting, she had a portfolio of pictures but had not shared the stories and details about their creation. The good news: during my interview we digitized and reviewed her portfolio of pictures of many of these quilts. The interview transcripts combined with the pictures provided tremendous insights into this client’s passion and artistic gifts. Looking at the pictures, she was able to recall and share rich details about why and how she created a unique design tailored for each quilt recipient.

Case 3: Making your own personal history come alive. I have recorded over a hundred hours of personal history digital audio tape with my parents, and more recently as part of a Family Reunion Show and Tell. As I start to share these personal history stories I feel compelled to include photos. The good news is that I have started taking more photos when I am in my home town, while I walk around my parent’s home, and as I explore photos and relics in my parents’ basement. The bad news is that most of my parent’s photos are not digitized, many of the older family photo albums have not always been put into context. This photographs are at risk of becoming lost memories and forgotten stories. More good news though my cousins, aunts and uncles brought photo albums to the family reunion including albums collected by their parents, we heard dozens of new stories, collectively we could identify “lost relatives”.  We now know who great-great-uncle William was, the one who died during aunt Margaret’s childhood visit to her grandmother’s house 80 years ago. We also know the same aunt Margaret stole my aunt Joan’s boyfriend. This was all revealed as part of the Family Reunion Show and Tell sessions that I facilitated.

Show and Tell for Family Reunion

Show and Tell for Family Reunion

Charles G. Summers, Jr. Inc. Plant and Office 1925

Charles G. Summers, Jr. Inc. Plant and Office 1929

IMG_4015 Superfine Limagrands

 

A few lessons:

  •  Take lots of digital photos of friends, family, of trips, the seasons of the year, of sunrises, and sunsets, and of important objects that you or loved ones have collected. Re-shoot or scan, edit and file older family photos, connect them with context, stories and memories. Challenges: create a master list of photos that you want to preserve, or that illustrate and provide context or captions to personal history and life stories that you have recorded. Taking the time to do this is often a challenge. Digital photos are easy to take, one trip may yield 200 or more digital pictures and we often forget to go through them and organize or curate the ones we want to preserve and share. The good news is that professional photo organizers and personal historians can help.

Getting Canned!

30 Jul

Getting canned has certain distinct advantages.

 20140712_110818 Looking up the NF Railroad Tracks on Front Street

During my recent family reunion I walked the rail trail in New Freedom, PA and took pictures of the New Freedom Heritage Society murals, one of which showed my dad and uncle…

20140712_110659 Tom and Dwight Summers - NF Mural

  • Getting canned vegetables ready to be processed. The Summers Family was in the vegetable canning business for 118 years.

img103 Summers 100th - Horn of Plenty - Superfine Cans

During my childhood…

  • Getting canned vegetables from the basement for dinner… my mother was deathly afraid of the mice. She was sure they were waiting for her in the basement. We loved canned vegetables. We enjoyed them for dinner all winter and much of the spring. Even better, we could walk or jog down to the canning factory and ask my dad if we could pick out a dozen or so ears of corn, fresh tomatoes, peas or green beans for dinner.

20140712_110802 Local Produce - NF Mural

During my teenage years I worked as a crop inspector. I travelled out to the fields early each morning. I wandered down a row to the middle of a 40 or 50 acre field and collected a random sample of peas or green beans. This was to determine when the field should be scheduled for harvest.

  • Getting canned vegetables scheduled for processing included a few risks. One morning I was moseying down a long row and all of a sudden something flew up near my face. I jumped way back as a pheasant took off right in front of me. I am pretty sure I was more startled than he was. I still remember the incident vividly 40 years later. Then, of course, there was getting the company station wagon stuck in the muddy field. This requiring an embarrassing call to the field office to ask whether and when they could send a tractor to pull me out. It was a bit more fun to clamber up the side of 20 ton tractor-trailer loads of green beans. I had to take a sample of harvested beans to determine quality and how much the farmers would get paid.

During my college years…

20140712_110708 Into the Kettle - NF Mural

  • Getting canned brownies… my grandmother Summers made the world’s best triple fudge brownies. You could not eat more than two of them at a time. They came in an industrial sized # 10 can, so there were plenty to share with selected friends and hall-mates. Even so, I still had about four days’ worth of mouth-watering deliciousness.

During my Peace Corps volunteer years…

  • Getting canned cookies, the homemade kind that only a mom can make, was a holiday season highlight. They shipped very nicely during the two-plus weeks it took the postal service to ship them to Barbados.

20140712_110719 Onions - NF Mural

Canned vegetables provided jobs or early job experience for hundreds of teenagers in our area. For others like my dad, my uncle, my grandparents, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather and his uncle and thousands of their neighbors, canned vegetables provided their livelihood and a nice career. They put me through college. They helped me earn money for my first car. They provided a nest egg that I invested and added to; this enabling me to put a down payment on my first home.

For some getting canned is a very bad day. For me it is not bad, not bad at all.

Show and Tell – At the Chichester Family Reunion

21 Jul

By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

Many colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians have introduced versions of Adult Show and Tell. The concept is to invite adults or individuals of all ages to bring objects then to have them tell a story about why the objects are important to them.

I decided to adapt this concept for my recent family reunion. We were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Chichester Family Reunion. We no longer have any of the original Chichesters, my grandmother was the last of her generation, but we still had four of the five surviving cousins from the second generation of Chichesters that were able to join us along with about 80 other family members and in-laws from generations 3, 4 and 5.

I asked each family member to consider bringing objects or photos, things that were important to them, and stories that they could share.

IMG_20140711_001132

On the eve of the reunion a few of the cousins gathered at my parents’ house to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday and started sharing stories. I learned from my namesake cousin Bruce that our great-grandfather had been mayor of Piermont, NY, he also showed me his police badge, and perhaps as mayor he also could deputize himself as a temporary police officer. I learned that Bruce’s grandfather met his future wife by wrapping a penny in a piece of paper and throwing it out a train window going through New York City on the way to shipping out to France for World War I.

The next morning I asked my mom whether she had pulled out her “Show and Tell” items. She said she would need at least five days notice to think of what she should “Show” but a five-minute walk around her house yielded a good half-dozen suitable objects. We selected a carved cane and a wooded cane carved by her Grandfather Chichester.

10559764_790400804324205_5621305879765786653_n Show and Tell

She also pulled out a quilt made by her Grandmother Chichester and located a number of family photos of her grandparents, her mother, her sister and other family members. This was just what I needed to set up a “Show and Tell” display as a teaser for the main “Show and Tell” event scheduled for the next day.

10556411_790399767657642_307878364499328536_n Jane Summers at Show and Tell - Karen

My mom and her cousins all grew up in the same small town in New York State and their grandparents lived nearby so they shared a lot of collective memories. I was afraid that we might not have enough “Show and Tell” time the next day so we did an early practice version, “Show and Tell” session 1 with my mom and her cousins. A few pulled out old photo albums and family history records and so I gathered mom and her first cousins and had her kick it off by telling a story about Grandma and Grandpa Chichester.

10447771_10204225974314767_3176056181691435408_n Show and Tell Chichester Reunion 2014

They looked at the quilt and confirmed that yes Grandma Chichester was a great quilter. She made a quilt for each of her nine grandchildren and put their names on the bottom, much like the one we used to cover the table. They looked closely at the wooden fan he made; they all remembered him carving and assembling these in his workshop in the garage. Did he start making these after he retired? No, he made these and he wood-burned carved canes his whole life. Many of the cousins still had a quilt, a cane, a fan or all three or had passed one or more of these down to the next generation.

10383847_790399814324304_6316559112438288882_o Richard Chichester made this Cane - Show and Tell - Karen

I then pulled out one of my most precious family heirloom, my grandmother’s “Shadow Box” filled with her special treasures that she kept displayed in her bed room.

10492556_790399844324301_4395276277289917532_n Show and Tell - Grandma Van Zandt's Shadow Box - Karen

This is the personal part of “Show and Tell”. My mom, aunts and uncles looked at each treasure in the box and told me what they knew or what they did not know about the object and shared a few fond stories about my grandmother. The Red Cross badges were from her time as the head of the Red Cross for the town of Pearl River, NY during World War II. She organized volunteers to knit or roll bandages and more. Later my grandmother became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), building on her Red Cross experience.

I shared my story of thinking I heard her calling to me when I worked in the American Red Cross – Volunteers, Youth and Nursing Department late one night. I had to get up and go check the “dead nurse files” to see if Grandma was in there. Later I learned they only included Registered Nurses so she wasn’t in the files.

There was a horseshoe, a bit of crocheted cloth, a few combs and hat pins, perhaps from her “Flapper” days. A small pin with L.B.C. initials painted on for her mother Lizzie Booth Chichester, and even a mysterious belt buckle with a small bag behind it, to Mimi from Stran that she may have gotten as a gift from my dad’s father, were in the box.

10390114_10204225959834405_357776202003740202_n Terri Bell-Nagle and Jane Summers

It was a great way to introduce the “Show and Tell” concept and to get the story sharing started. More photos came out, pictures of my family, my first cousins, our parents, grandparents, stories about vacations in Lake George, NY, meeting up at Grandma’s for Christmas, then going over to see my grandfather, then back to Grandma’s for dessert with my other cousins.

My Bell cousins’ parents died many years ago, so my cousins could ask my Mom directly what their mother was like growing up. “She was outgoing, always the first to find out the names of the new neighbors and the ages of their children. She was a baton twirler…” to which each and every one of her children expressed, “no way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” They also had a hard time believing that she went canoeing with my mom every summer. But the stories were corroborated by my mom’s cousins. Family history crowdsourcing is a great thing.

After “Show and Tell” session 1 I took time to record additional family stories with my digital voice recorder. This is a handy tool often carried by Personal Historians, well at least for me. I take one with me every time I go to visit my parents, especially for a family reunion weekend that is being held in my parents’ back yard. Several other surprising stories were revealed and gradually leaked or spread to other family members.

20140712_110143

The next morning my wife, my brother and I took an early morning walk along the New Freedom Rail Trail that spans the Mason Dixon Line crossing from Pennsylvania into Maryland.

20140712_110539 Rail Trail Walkers - NF Chichester Reunion 2014

US Presidents rode trains along these tracks. Abraham Lincoln rode along these tracks on his way to Hanover Junction during his trip to deliver the Gettysburg Address.

20140712_110659 Tom and Dwight Summers - NF Mural

Four generations of my family worked at the Charles G. Summers, Jr. Canning Plant located along the tracks, but that is another story and another side of the family.

The hike reminded me more about my family stories and my family roots and I was ready for the next full day of the Chichester Family Reunion. I recorded a few more stories in the morning and prepared for the main session of “Show and Tell” scheduled for 2 pm. Cousins, aunts and uncles had been telling me for a day and a half that they had secret treasures and “Show and Tell” objects back at their hotel rooms that they were saving up for “Show and Tell”. I looked forward to the event and asked one of my cousins to take photos. Thank you Karen, many of your photos are featured in the following. But first we had the family “Chinese Auction” however this also is another story.

As the Auction wrapped up I got cousins to help me set up for “Show and Tell”. I rang a bell to give everyone five minutes’ notice to get out their “Show and Tell objects and photos, and to give us time to set up. My mom and two cousins excitedly asked if they had time to run inside and “freshen-up” before we got started. I said yes, and then other aunts and cousins headed over to their cars and pulled treasures out of their trunks.

Finally we were ready. I explained the rules, each family member has up to five minutes to show their item and tell their story. I assigned a time-keeper and shared that the bell I had been ringing to get people’s attention during the Chinese Auction was a “Show and Tell” item from my son. He volunteered at a National Boy Scout Jamboree. I dropped him off and it was about 110 degrees outside and he looked at me wondering why in the world was I leaving him in this inferno… but he brought back this great bell from the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts and the National Jamboree.

10376745_790403704323915_5052273929439078467_n Peggy Bell Destefano shows a necklace from her grandmother with an M on it from her grandmother Margaret during Show and Tell

My cousin Peggy (Margaret) showed a necklace pendant with an M on it that she got from my grandmother since they shared the same first name.

 

10540635_790403784323907_5699149401697166566_n Margaret Bond shows and tells about keys from her Grandmother Lizzie's house in Piermont.

Another Margaret showed a display box of keys that she saved from a jar of keys her grandmother had collected from their old house in Piermont, NY.

10514734_790403827657236_7111211729005349988_n Margaret Bond shows off the quilted apron made for her by her grandmother Lizzy

Margaret also showed a hand quilted apron her grandmother had made for her.

10525808_790403734323912_8838662133221259672_n Sue O'Hare shows and tells about momentos from her grandmother Catherine Chichester Erickson

Her daughter Sue shared a display case with sewing scissors, needles, buttons, crocheting, and buckles that had also come down through the family from Sue’s great-grandmother.

10470171_790404754323810_1159196822803293323_o Jane Summers talks about her grandmother Lizzie, she made quilts for all nine grandchildren

My mom shared that her grandmother was a skilled seamstress and that she had made many of the clothes that her sister and her wore during their youth.

10470996_790404720990480_8366463479178371138_n Robert Cogliati shows preserved images from Aunt Viola's photo album during Show and Tell

Robert showed old family photos that my cousin Craig found in an album when he was helping to clear out his aunt’s basement. These were saved in Archival sleeves. We later compared these photos with others from Margaret’s album from her mother and with photos my mom got from her mother.

10500359_790403894323896_4910736098443802206_n Frank Bell talks about his father taking him and 3 brothers to meet Joe Namath

My cousin Frank showed a picture and shared a great story of going with his father Bennie, his brothers Greg and Bobby, his mother, and some of Bennie’s English students to visit Joe Namath in his penthouse. One of the ninth grade students that went along was Bob Costas who wrote up the story for their school newspaper. Frank told us, “I still have a copy of that story, his questions then sound just like the questions he asks now as famous sportscaster. This was during the spring of 1968, as we were getting ready to leave we wished Joe good luck in the Super Bowl.” He added that this was before the season started that lead to the New York Jets winning the Super Bowl over the then local team the Baltimore Colts. Frank and the other New Yorkers laughed knowing my family had been avid Colt fans. I remember this painful loss, Broadway Joe promised the Jets would win over the heavily favored Colts.

10551028_790404617657157_5385155620284148865_n Bruce Summers Mike Summers telling stories about Uncle Ralph

This started a round of stories by at least a dozen other family members. My brother Mike shared the story about how my grandmother would have the nine “Chichester” cousins over to their house at Thanksgiving and was meticulous about counting the silver afterward, everyone had to check the trash etc. to make sure none of the silverware had been thrown away.

10482010_790404650990487_4185524465545395222_o Uncle Ralph thinking about those silver spoons he hid from Aunt Margaret

Well one year they counted up the silver and went through all the trash but one silver spoon was still missing. Finally little Ralph, the youngest cousin confessed that he had hidden a spoon in his pocket just to see what would happen. At the current reunion he reached into his pocket and pulled out another silver spoon and said to my mom, you better count your silver.

Well the Family Reunion version of “Show and Tell” was a big hit. I came back with forty digital audio tapes. We posted hundreds of new and historic family photos on a special family Facebook site. We learned that my Aunt Margaret sort of “stole my Aunt Joan’s boyfriend.” We learned my great grandmother’s ironing board was always kept by the garden gate on weekends so it could be used to carry injured bathers to the hospital who did not know the Hudson River was tidal and hurt themselves jumping off the pier. We also solved the mystery of who Uncle William was, the uncle Aunt Margaret saw stretched out on her grandparent’s billiard table when she peeked in the room after he died. I wonder what we will show and tell at the next reunion?

Update June 28, 2017:

The next Chichester Family Reunion is in two weeks. This one will be a bit different as my Mom and one of her Chichester first cousins recently passed away. My Mom hosted most of the reunions at her home during the past 40 plus years. I likely will be thinking about Mom when we reprise “Show and Tell” as one of the reunion activities. I look forward to learning and sharing more family treasures – objects, photos, and especially stories, plus it will be great to see everyone again. Let me know, your thoughts if/when you try “Show and Tell” at your family reunion. – Bruce

 

What’s in your basement? Personal Historians want to know, but you might also be curious…

29 Dec

Bruce Summers, SummooseTales, Inc. is a member of the Association of Personal Historians

The Holidays and the start of the new year are a great time to do some exploring or cleaning out… a few recent basement finds – I took a quick look through my parent’s basement during December and the holidays, I found…

  • An old piano (out of tune) that we bought for something like $5 from the old New Freedom Elementary School (we had to take the frame off the door and the lid and wheels off the piano, then used the muscle of 5 strong teenage boys and my dad to muscle this piano down the steep outside cellar steps into the basement – it may never come out)

IMG_4018 New Freedom Elementary Piano

  • My grandmother’s sewing kit, a floor mat from my parents for boat – Summers’ Dream, a wicker basket that held toys for children and grandchildren

 IMG_4035 Grandma's sewing box, Summers Dream, Toy Wicker basket

  • A mystery box with correspondence from the 1880s from my great-grandfather (will need to explore that one in more depth)

IMG_4031 B 1880's Dwight Stone's correspondence in box

  • My father’s slides from his time as a second Lt. on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War… (I did a voice recording of his narration as we looked through the first three trays of these slides)

IMG_4016 Korea Slides

  • A Superfine picture of a can of Limagrands (my family was in the vegetable canning business for 118 years) – See Summers 100 Years

IMG_4015 Superfine Limagrands

  • The wooden wine glass holder that I made for my dad 40 years ago to attach under the basement steps (hmmm… I might need to borrow that for my own home). My dad is still using the same electric belt-sander that I used to make the wine glass holder. It is sitting in the same spot in the basement since we moved in – in 1966 (I remember using this on dozens of school project and to make my own Cricket Bat when I came back from the Peace Corps in 1984).

IMG_4024 Belt Sander - Grinder and fire truck

  • Not in the attic but in my dad’s filing cabinet was the original pencil drawn diagram of the Prisoner of War Camp used to house German Prisoners in Stewartstown, PA during World War II… but that’s another story.

I encourage you to checkout what’s in your basement or your parents’ or grandparents’ basement or attic or that bottom desk drawer, then ask them about and record the stories connected to these items and related memories, you’ll be glad you did. (Hmmm… I guess I should call my dad and ask him why he keeps a toy fire engine by the belt grinder)?

This is a second in a series of blogs about basement finds, earlier I wrote… There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart…

  • I recently recorded a few updates to this mouse story.  My mom shared… An exterminator or similar service provider was checking our basement, this was perhaps around  1960 or 61 and said… “Did you know you had a rat in your basement?” Well this was enough for her to promote my older brother to head of the Summers Laundry as a 5 or 6-year-old since the washer and dryer were in basement. I also received a promotion to head of canned vegetable procurement as my mom now trusted me as a 4 or 5-year-old to go down to the basement to bring up canned vegetables for dinner.  This was in our home on Singer Road. Note: I recently rediscovered one of the old wooden bar stools from one of my parent’s former houses, I can just about picture my Mom perched high on top of this stool waiting for my Dad to come home to address a mouse or rat issue.

IMG_4023 B Bar stool from Singer Road

  • A bit of back story…  My mom explained that our first home on Third Street in New Freedom, PA also had a significant mouse problem… though possibly no rats. My dad’s first cousin had a large black walnut tree and of course black walnuts benefit greatly from being given a few months to dry out before opening.  My dad, having been married just a few years, thought that the attic would be a perfect place to dry black walnuts. Well, evidently the field mice, or perhaps they were regular house mice or more specialized walnut mice fairly quickly decided that my father was not really keeping up with his chores, since he was busy with the peak season for vegetable canning at the Summers Canning Factory, so they volunteered to turn the walnuts over each night, while my parents were trying to sleep.  My mom was less than pleased to hear the walnuts rolling around in the attic.  I was an infant and my older brother was just 2 or 3 at the time, we were not really bothered, I heard on the radio today that “white noise” such as this might even be calming, perhaps I found it soothing as I was taking my many naps during the day and sleeping through the night, though I admit I have no memory of the rolling walnuts.  My mother was even less pleased that the mice sometimes got lost on their way to and from the attic and found their way into the interior of the house, this prompting a call to my father.  He on the other hand is very proud of the fact that he trapped a record 23 mice in that house in one year. Long story short – my mom perhaps earned her phobia of mice honestly during her first 5 or 6 years of marriage.
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