Remembering WW II Veterans

Throughout my childhood, November 11 was called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I  at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month – the war to end all wars.  Then came World War II and somewhere along the line the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor the veterans of all wars.

There were many veterans in my family during World War II.  Three of my uncles served for the entire duration of the war.  The first uncle, Frank, was drafted before Pearl Harbor, just months after he had married a young girl who had to wait for 4 years before they could resume their married life.  Frank sent great letters home to everyone, including me.  My mother thought he made my letters especially history/geography related, assuming I’d be taking them to school and he was right.  Almost every day, someone brought a letter from some distant war zone to share with the class.

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One letter from December 20, 1943, tells about a nine-day leave he had just completed in London.  He wrote, “I saw some good shows while I was there and ate at some of the most famous places, rode the subway and two-deck buses all over, and set my watch by Big Ben.  I had a good look all over the city and London was really blown up during the blitz.”

In a letter to my father dated May 29, 1942, he tells about a radio they were able to get to listen to news from home.  “The Lieutenant got us a radio the other day – an Echophone Commercial – it is made in Illinois and it’s a pretty good set.  It has 3 wave bands.  It’s an amateur outfit something like a Sky Buddy.  It has a B.F.O. and a jack for head phones if you want to use them.  It also has a band spread.  It only cost us about $32 American and that also included one of those long fish pole aerials, too.  We get the U.S. just as clear as if we were at home. “

Frank was a big guy, rather fair-haired with a loud voice and a hearty laugh.  He told a lot of jokes and funny stories, all of them punctuated regularly by his laugh.  In another letter to my father , Frank writes, “I am still getting close to the good earth.  I have holes dug all over to hide in and I can sure as hell use them sometimes even if it’s only to keep away from work – ha ha.”

Frank was part of Patton’s Third Army through the Battle of the Bulge.  He sent home these pictures captioned “Pagny (Moselle) France” and “Taken at Metz”.

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My uncle Phil followed his brother into the service and served his time with the Merchant Marines.

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Phil didn’t write as often, but we do have a couple of letters from his training days in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Phil wrote in 1942, “Well, I guess you still feel the after effects of Thanksgiving, eh?  Did you have turkey?  We did but I didn’t enjoy it at all.  Some of the fellows here didn’t get any turkey at all.  The cooks thought they had plenty and the ones that got there first sure got plenty.”  And, “By the time I get out of here the damn war will be over.  But I can tell people I was in the Merchant Marines in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Ha! Ha!”

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It turned out that he did get out of Florida and saw action throughout the remainder of the war.

The third uncle to leave, Mike, was in the Air Force, was shot down over Germany, spent about a year in a German prison camp, and eventually escaped.  He served for the remainder of the war and after coming home, became an FBI agent.

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Among the letters home, I also have a letter from their mother to my parents.  I had been with Grandma many times when she went to the big rural mailbox, hoping for word from one of her sons, only to find it empty.  In her letter of February 4, 1942, she’s concerned about not hearing from Frank.  “I am so worried about Frank, I don’t know what to do.  I have cried all day.  I could just scream as loud as can be.  We don’t know where he will be.  I had my picture and a prayer book for him but now I have to wait until I hear from him.  I sent him some homemade doughnuts and an angel food cake.  He said he wouldn’t leave until Monday and here he left on Saturday.”

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“Frank sent me a fine pillow top and it has Camp Walters, Texas, on it in big letters and a flag and red roses and a mother reading on it.  It made me cry as I am so blue about him.  If I only knew he would be safe. 

I will close and say goodnight.  It is 10:30 PM and it sure is raining up here – a good time for the blues.”

All three sons survived the war and came home to raise families, take up careers and eventually retire.  These three veterans are all gone now, as are most of the World War II men after over 60 years, but on this Veterans Day, it’s good to remember them and the ones they left behind.

Thanksgiving Wall Hangings

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Several years ago, my daughter gave me a great redwork piece showing Grandma and kids preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  I had just started quilting and designed a bottom piece to make a wall hanging. 

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Above the Thanksgiving scene, I hang a punch needle pumpkin that my daughter made. 

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She also does rug hooking and made a turkey for the front door ….

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….and one with three pumpkins for fall decorating.

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I look forward to getting out all these pretty things each November to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Country Turkey Wall Hanging

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I bought this pattern while I was in Holmes County (Ohio) Amish Country earlier this year.  I thought it would make a nice wall hanging in my cheerful yellow kitchen.  The pattern is by Becky & Me and the basic pattern measures 16×16, a nice size for a pillow or a wall hanging. 

I used the fusible method of applique and decorative stitching to complete the project.  It has a nice country look for the Thanksgiving season.

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Autumn at the Township Park

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We have a beautiful little park close to my house in Loveland, Ohio, where I like to take my dog, Rusty, and my four-year-old granddaughter.  There is a nice play area for Dolphin ….

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For over a year, Dolphin has been fascinated by a huge tree that was cut down and is still there near a big stump. 

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On Halloween Day we were surprised to find a face carved on the stump – so appropriate to the day.

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There’s a beautiful bridge that connects two playgrounds and leads to a trail in the woods (Rusty’s favorite spot).

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To add to the fun, there’s a pretty lake with ducks and usually a bunch of kids feeding them.  Rusty’s not choosy – he’ll sniff anywhere.

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All in all, it’s a nice place to spend some time on a sunny autumn afternoon.

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Nantucket Cranberry Pie

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Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in southwest Ohio, far from Nantucket, but I had never heard of a Nantucket Cranberry Pie until I noticed one on a blog by Live, Love, Laugh and Learn.  For anyone who isn’t familiar with this dessert, it’s not a pie at all – no pastry crust, a thin layer of filling and nothing underneath the filling.  It’s not a cobbler although a batter is poured on top of the fruit.  The thin cake topping does not rise but is buttery rich and delicious.  It’s also not a cake because each layer is thin and just supports the other.  But this dessert, whatever it is,  is especially good and just meant to be eaten at a table in front of a window looking out on  a clear blue autumn sky and  falling leaves.

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NANTUCKET CRANBERRY PIE

Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Topping:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 10″ pie plate.  Place the cranberries in the pie plate and toss the sugar and walnuts over the berries.

For the topping, cream the eggs and the butter with the sugar.  Add the flour and almond extract to the egg mixture, lightly tossing with a fork.

Pour the topping over the cranberry mixture.  If it’s difficult to get the topping to extend out over the filling, press down with water-damped hands to even it out.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes @ 350 degrees F.  Place on a rack to cool.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Yield:  8 servings

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Primitive Stuffed Pumpkin

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I’m not an accomplished craft person, but I was able to make some cute stuffed pumpkins from a free pattern on Quilt in a Day, (see update below) called the Fall Pumpkin Patch.  There’s a small amount of sewing involved, and then some winding of jute twine and gluing of silk leaves.  I used some white chenille salvaged from a damaged vintage bedspread, but any type of fabric could be used.  The size and shape of the pumpkin depends on the amount of fabric used and good directions are given.  I gave a pumpkin to each of my daughters for Halloween, with the thought that they could stay on display through Thanksgiving.

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Update:  It was brought to my attention that the free pattern apparently is no longer available on Quilt-in-a-Day.  My personal instructions are below:

Supplies Needed:

  • 1/4 yd. pieces or fat quarters or any size pieces of fabric for the pumpkin
  • Green, brown or orange pipe cleaners
  • Tacky glue
  • Raffia strands
  • Jute twine
  • 2″ wooden stems from tree branches
  • Fall silk leaves – 2-3 per pumpkin

All of the pumpkins are made from rectangles.  They can be any size you like (9″x18″, 9″x21″, 7″x17″, etc.).  According to the dimensions they will come out short and fat or tall and skinny.

Fold rectangle in half, right sides together.  Leave a long tail of thread as you begin to sew and stitch a 1/4″ seam down the side of the rectangle.  Leave another long tail of thread attached after you finish sewing.

With a hand sewing needle, thread one tail into the needle and gather up one end of the tube from the wrong side of the fabric, 1/8″ from the bottom edge.  In other words, sew a straight line across one end 1/8″ from the edge.  Pull tightly and knot off.  Turn tube to right side.

Stuff the pumpkin with polyester stuffing or batting scraps.  With the hand sewing needle and thread tail at the other end of the pumpkin, sew a straight line across 1/8″ from the edge, pull tightly and  knot off.   The opening will be covered by the silk leaves.

Using Jute twine, leave an 8″ tail.  Starting from the top of the pumpkin, wind down the sides on the seam line to the bottom, back to the top on the other side, then turn slightly and do it again, leaving thumb or finger on top to keep twine in place.  Make 6 or 8 ridges.  Tie a knot tightly at the top and then a bow.

To decorate, glue a wooden stem into the top center opening withTacky glue.  Wind the pipe cleaner around a pencil and fold in half.  Glue the pipe cleaner into the opening.  Make a bow out of raffia and glue into the opening.  Glue 2-3 leaves to the top to cover the opening.

Display with pride.

Halloween in the 1940s

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Until I was 11 years old, we lived in a third-floor flat in downtown Cincinnati.  Those were the war years when any kind of housing was hard to get and we were lucky to have a large apartment that looked out on the huge Court Street Market.  On market day, tents took up the entire wide street and the sellers hawked their fresh produce in loud voices.  We were within walking distance of every major movie theater in downtown Cincinnati, numerous 5 & 10 cent stores and large department stores.  Those were advantages but the disadvantages were not being able to enjoy small town or suburban activities such as beggar’s night or penny night or the big Halloween celebration itself.  I understand huge crowds gathered on Halloween night on Fountain Square but they were for older people and considered too rowdy by my parents for two little girls.

We dressed up in costume for our Halloween party at school and once I was invited to a friend’s nearby apartment for a party for the girls in our class, but otherwise Halloween passed by pretty much unnoticed.  Occasionally, a scraggly little boy would make his way up three flights of stairs to beg for pennies but begging (or trick or treating as it was later known) was not an activity that we knew anything about.

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When we moved to the East End of Cincinnati in 1943, it was like going to a small town where there were a lot of German, Irish, Hungarian and black families, neat small houses with tidy gardens and BEGGAR’S NIGHT.  I wasn’t at all sure about this new event that all the kids in school were looking forward to.  The thought of traipsing up and down the streets, in and out of strangers’ houses, asking for candy just seemed so strange.  But my friends were all going out, my little sister wanted to go and surprisingly my parents agreed, so out we went.  We had orders from our parents to not even look into the saloons along the way, let alone go in one, but otherwise we were free to tramp up and down steps, go into the houses if invited and to come home with a bag stuffed with candy, gum and apples.  Nothing was prepackaged in those days and we were grateful for wrapped candy like peanut butter kisses which didn’t get all gummed up with everything else in the bag.

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I remember one year when word was passed from one gang of kids to the other that someone was giving out hot doughnuts.  By the time we made it to the house, they were out of doughnuts but I loved the idea.  In 1953, my first year giving out treats as a married woman, I used my wedding gift deep fryer to make homemade doughnuts and gave them out to amazed visitors.  And I had plenty so I wouldn’t run out before the last beggar.

I never was quite comfortable with the affair, but my sister loved it and I continued to go begging until she was old enough to go alone with her own friends.   Now, I’ve been through the trick or treat years with 4 children and 4 grown grandchildren and this Halloween, I’m looking forward to throwing some candy into the bags of my two youngest grandchildren, aka the Mummy and Glynda, the Good Witch.

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Halloween Quilted Wall Hangings

When I started quilting about 5 years ago, this wall hanging was one of my early efforts.  My daughter did the hand quilting on it, since I do no hand quilting myself and wasn’t too good at machine quilting at that time. 

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The second wall hanging was made about a year later and I did the machine quilting on this one.  This hanging won a blue ribbon at our county fair.

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The third hanging also won a blue ribbon at our county fair and was made 2 years ago.  I used the same cat and moon motif to make a vest for myself, which also won at the fair.

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All three pieces were appliqued using the fusing method (I’m also not good at needle turned applique).  They didn’t take long to make and are cheerful additions to my Halloween decor.

 

Halloween Around the House

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Thanks to the creative efforts of my two daughters, I have Halloween decorations all around the house – on walls, shelves, chairs – just about every surface.  The oldest daughter made the wreath and the three items that are on my piano – the scottie pumpkin is new this year.  Her blog at Salmagundi Express describes exactly how she carved and painted this pumpkin.  

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Some more of her work:

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The youngest daughter made the little Dracula and pumpkin man along with the door handle piece when she was a teenager.  She also made the cute candle holders.

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Her main handiwork now is crocheting the most gorgeous afghans and I have one for every occasion.  She also contributes a large number of these every year to the local Linus Project.

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I love to look around my house and see so many beautiful things that my daughters have made for me over the years. 

Walking the Trail with Rusty

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Our local park has a lovely trail that makes you feel as though you are in the woods on an old farm.  The trail is cleared enough to be able to walk comfortably and get really close to a wide variety of trees, flowers and … weeds.  My 8-year-old mixed hound, Rusty, loves to go on the trail.  Unfortunately, he has a thing about riding in cars and always looks completely despondent until I take him out of the back seat and he sees where he is.  Then, it’s pure joy as he investigates every inch of every plant on our walk. 

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We didn’t expect to see any really colorful fall foliage this year after a dreary, hot, drought-ridden summer, but the trees are spectacular in spite of the bad treatment nature gave them this summer.

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There are a lot of almost deformed trees along our walk.  These are two of my favorites. 

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This is always a slow, leisurely walk, giving Rusty all the time he wants to sniff.  He’s had some health problems, so after 20 minutes or so, we’re both ready to head back to the car.

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