The First County Fair of the Season


My older daughter and I went to our first fair of the season – our Warren County Fair in Lebanon, Ohio.  The day was beautiful with bright, sunny skies and an 80 degree temperature.

I’ve exhibited many times in the past, but this year I left it all to my daughter who entered several needlework, jewelry and crocheted items.  As always, she did well with 7 blue ribbons and 3 second place awards.


I looked at all of the displays in the large building that housed the needlework, quilting, knitting, sewing, cooking, crafts, etc., exhibits and then found a seat near the racetrack while my daughter went to visit all the animal barns.

I’ve loved harness horses for as long as I can remember and always feel a sense of contentment watching them on the track.


I was able to watch three exciting races, close enough to the track to hear the hoof beats, and we started back home, both of us happy with our first fair of the season.

Collectibles of the Week – It’s Fair Time


I  have so many wonderful collectibles acquired over the last 80+ years.  Some were gifts, some were part of my life growing up, some were inherited, some were purchased at antique malls, gift shops or thrift stores  – all are precious to me.  Some items are kept up year-around while others are brought out seasonally and on holidays.  Unfortunately, many priceless-to-me objects go undisplayed and unseen for years, so each week, I’m going to pull out an item and post a COLLECTIBLE OF THE WEEK.

The first county fair of the year in our area is happening this week (Warren County – Lebanon, Ohio) and it’s time to bring out my fair collectibles.  I have quite a few since I’ve been a fair enthusiast all my life.  The top two vintage banners are for our local Cincinnati (Hamilton County) fair and the Ohio State fair, hanging on an old cane won many years ago.

Since my father trained and drove harness horses, fair time is synonymous with trotters and pacers in our family.  I have a nice assortment of commemorative glasses and mugs on my kitchen shelf (along with a doll that won a prize for her pretty dress about 30 years ago and some small spoons).


Although they are not fair activities, I display my items from the Little Brown Jug (the World Series of pacers) ….


…and the Hambletonian (the World Series of trotters) along with a 1976 commemorative bottle from the Fairfield County (Lancaster, Ohio) fair.


I’ve exhibited many times at fairs in the past but this year have left it to my older daughter who took a few of her antiques to Lebanon.  Can’t wait until tomorrow night to see how she did – and to watch a couple of harness races.


Garden Flag Made from Canvas Duck Fabric

I have a small garden flag stand beside my front walk and have a lot of nice seasonal flags for it, but I was never able to find a flag with a harness horse on it.  This past week, I bought some canvas duck fabric at JoAnn’s to make a floor cloth and thought I would try making a small banner out of this material, using the same general procedure I have used for floor cloths.

The duck canvas gets several coats of Gesso to provide a good surface for painting.  The design is painted with acrylic paint and inked with a Sharpie fine or ultra-fine pen on the canvas and then several coats of clear satin acrylic varnish are applied.

I cut a piece of fabric for the back from an old county fair panel I’ve had for years.  This was also coated with the varnish.

This piece is something of an experiment for me since I know the process works well for indoor floor mats and the acrylic works well for outdoor wood items, but I’ve never combined the two processes before.

I like the banner very much.  The barn is from a photograph of the horse barn my father had for his harness horses for many years.

It was a gathering place for the family in the 1950s and 60s, especially during county fair time when everyone congregated.

I’ll see how this banner works out in all kinds of weather and I may be making a few more throughout the year.

It’s County Fair Time in my July Kitchen.

County fairs were the major source of summer entertainment throughout my childhood in the 1930-40s era and we went to as many fairs as we could manage on my father’s salary and his gas ration points during World War II.  My favorite part of the fair was sitting around the barn before and after the afternoon’s races, listening to all of the “horse talk” going on around me and just sniffing – a horse barn is still my favorite scent in the world.  Of course, a barn is always full of flies.  My mother used to say that my little sister, who was so anxious to get to the midway and rides, would sit on a folding chair in the barn area and constantly wriggle, scratch, complain, and whine, while every fly in the county landed on her.  Meanwhile, I sat very quietly, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells with not one fly near me.

In my childhood, the horses made up 90% of my interest in the fair, so all through my life, I’ve collected anything with a harness horse on it.  I have quite a few items in my kitchen:

Although I always loved the horses the most, I was also anxious to see the baking and canning displays, the animals, and the quilts.

My kitchen shelf has a large silver tray on top that was won by my father for a race in 1969, and there are two silver bowls plus a brass tray that I won in pie contests in the 1980s.

All of the family competed and won awards in our county fairs and the Ohio State Fair.

It’s fair time again and although we don’t compete any more, I have a small county fair to enjoy right here in my own kitchen.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

100th Birthday Mini-Quilts

Yesterday, I posted a tribute to my father on what would have been his 100th birthday.  To commemorate the occasion, I also made three mini-quilts to fit on a tri-stand that I got for Mother’s Day.

The pictures represent his childhood, his family and his beloved horses.

I had the perfect backing using scraps from a previous quilt for my horse-loving grandson.

My daughter bought the stand at the April Cincinnati quilt show and it is the 4×9 Scroll Tri-Stand available through

A Tribute to my Father

This is a tribute to my father who was born 100 years ago today.  Some of the notes in this post are from a tape my mother made when she was 72 years old in 1989.

John Alonzo Applegate was born on May 19, 1912, in Lerado, Jackson Twp., Brown County, Ohio.  His mother was Lillian Frances Illie Applegate and his father was John Black Applegate.  The place of birth on his certificate is Lerado, but there’s a little discrepancy here because family legend is that he was born on the kitchen table in his Uncle Jim Applegate’s home – the old Applegate homestead – and that house is not located in Lerado, but nearby.   According to my mother’s account, possibly John B. and Lillian were visiting Uncle Jim at the time:

On her tape, Mother said, “If it wouldn’t be for Uncle Jim, none of you children, great-grandchildren or any of you would be here today.  He saved Johnny’s life when Grandma was about to have him.  Two of the Applegate brothers got into a fight and she got in the middle of them and she got pushed out a window backwards and she came near losing the baby.  They called Dr. Forman in and he said, ‘Oh, the baby’s breech – he’s going to be a breech birth’, he said, ‘I’m going to have to cut the baby in two to save the mother’ and Uncle Jim said, ‘No baby gets cut in two in my house’ and with that she went ahead and had him and that’s the only reason any of you are here today.  Johnny always had a very bad temper and his brother, Frank, told him the reason he had a bad temper was because he came in back side first and from that time on he always had his backside up in the air over something.”  

Uncle Jim – a very pleasant man unless he was riled.

John Alonzo was always small, serious, intelligent, with a fiery temper.  He used to tell stories of moving around so much and changing schools so often as a boy and how he would have to fight his way into each of the schools,  He also had the job of fighting the boys his younger brother, Frank, would antagonize with threats of “I’ll tell my big brother!“

Frank and Johnny, ca. 1917.  Johnny always had a firm grip on Frank.

Mother said, One day Johnny was playing in the sand and he didn’t have too many toys back in those days and he was playing in the sand and he had a big chain and he was pulling it around through the sand in the road like a big train – playing like it was a train – and two boys from the city, Cincinnati, came up and they said, ‘Oh, look at the little boy playing choo-choo in the sand’ and he just kept on playing, never paid any attention, and they just kept that up – ‘Aw, look at the little boy’ and finally he got up and he took that chain and he beat them over the head and like to killed them.”

When I was transcribing Mother’s tape and listening to her telling about the boys continuing to aggravate my father, I actually felt a chill going up the back of my neck, knowing too well what he would do in such a circumstance.

The family never had an easy life – John B. was a blacksmith and traveled around the fair circuit to make a living.

John B. and Johnny at their shop in Marathon, Ohio, ca. 1914

The family traveled along with him and we can get a good picture of life on the fairground from this picture of Lillian at the washboard and little son, Frank, in the foreground, ca. 1916.

My father’s major passion all his life was harness horses. Mother said, “Johnny started driving horses when he was real young.  He and Frank (his younger brother) both took care of horses from the time they could remember.  They’d each have to stand on a chair to harness them – they were that little – but one day up at Owensville (Ohio) they were making a big deal out of a boy that was 16 years old that was driving and they were just carrying on how big he was and how great he was and Doc Parsons was sitting on the fence alongside of Johnny and he turned to him and said, “How old were you when you started driving horses?”  And Johnny said, “Twelve” and Doc said, “Yeah, I thought so.”

In 1931, while the Applegates were at the fairgrounds in Lebanon, Ohio, brother Frank visited a small diner owned by my Grandma Helen and my mother who was 15 years old at the time.  Frank was a great talker and would go on and on about his big brother, Johnny – how good he was with horses, how good looking he was, how smart he was – and finally one day he brought along his big brother to the restaurant.  Mother used to laugh when she told the story, thinking she was going to see this big, rough guy from the fairgrounds and in walked this young dark haired boy who was about 5’7” tall – not nearly as big as Frank described, but just as handsome.

Photo booth picture of Johnny and his mother, 1932.  When Grandma saw this picture, she said, “Oh, he looks just like a movie actress!”

Mother fell for him immediately  and they were married in 1932.

I always thought my parents were the most handsome couple and so young compared to the parents of my friends.  I considered my father particularly good-looking, probably accentuated by his brooding, quiet manner.  He spoke little but his words were absolute law not only in our house but with anybody he came in contact with.  He started out as a laborer on the WPA but quickly was made a timekeeper and then moved on to other jobs where he always wound up in a position of authority.   After World War II and the advent of television, he did television repair for several shops and for a time had his own shop in the front room of our little red brick house.  He built our first television set and we were one of the first families in Cincinnati to own one.

Snapshot of Johnny, Martha, Lillian and Shirley, 1941

My father had dark, wavy hair and deep brown eyes.  I loved it when people said I looked just like him.  He was a very small man but had tremendous strength in the shoulders and arms from handling horses.  On one arm was a small tattoo of a horse head which fascinated me.  He was a chain smoker and seemed to always have a cigarette in his hand.  He also loved baseball and was a very good softball pitcher and manager.

When I was very young, people would ask me what I was going to do when I grew up.  I always said I was going to get a job and help Daddy buy a horse.  Within months after graduation and getting my first job @ $30.00/week, my father told me he had a horse in mind and was ready for my contribution.  This is one of our early horses winning a race in 1955.  I made the jacket and cap my father is wearing.

I owned shares of my father’s horses off and on for many years until he was better established and my own expenses with four children didn’t leave enough to support a horse.  My father continued to be a top driver/trainer in the southwestern Ohio area for over 25 years.  In 1978, at age 66, he was driving a horse called Peter Horn at a track in northern Kentucky.  Just after finishing second in a photo finish, he died on the track of a heart attack.  Our family said they knew if he died on a track, he died happy except that he would have wanted to be the winner.  This is a winning photo of my father and Peter Horn in 1975.

The following notes are from my journal dated August 20, 1957, when I was 25 years old.  We had just gotten word that my father had been in a serious accident in a race and were waiting on word from the hospital.

“I’m thinking of Daddy when we were both 20 years younger and he was the very ultimate in my life – always right, always strong and unemotional, very intelligent and very strict.  He was the supreme authority in all things and the one I strove hardest to please.  I liked pancakes and chili because Daddy did; I love peanuts and chocolate drops because he did; I was thrilled at harness races and baseball games because they were thrilling to him.  I tried to emulate him, too.  He was quiet and sober so I thought it giddy to talk or laugh too much.  He was always tops in school so I tried to make perfect grades because less was unacceptable.”

Today – 100 years after he was born – I remember my father, the most influential person in my life.

Johnny and Lillian, 1933

A Great Antique Mall Find

This time, my daughter made the find and presented it to me as a gift.  She found a 1946 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine with a great cover picture of harness horses trotting behind a starting gate.  She knew I would be thrilled with anything with a harness horse on it but she didn’t realize that I would remember the magazine from when my father had it back in 1946.  He also couldn’t pass up anything about a  harness horse.

My father came from a family of harness horse people and had been caring for horses since he was a child.  As a teenager, he was already a respected driver on the county fair circuit, but gave up the horse business when he married my mother in 1932.  He knew what a hard life it was for a child and was determined his own two daughters would have things better.

In September of 1946, I was a freshman in high school and by 1950 when I graduated, my father had bought a horse and was back in the business for the rest of his life.

The magazine included a nice article about harness horses and especially about the starting gate on the car which had first been used that year at the old Roosevelt Raceway in New York.  Up until this time, races were started by an announcer trying to get all of the horses away at the same time, resulting in a lot of false starts, restarts, etc.

There were some other articles and ads about repairing a radio (just before the debut of TV), and various handyman projects.

I was intrigued by the ads, noticing several for getting into the plastics business which was booming after World War II.

I wear a tiny hearing aid that is barely visible, so I was interested in an ad about a hearing aid the size of a deck of playing cards with the ear plug attached by a cord.  I remember my grandfather carrying this kind of hearing aid in his shirt pocket.

I love old magazines and ads, and the cover is worthy of copying and framing, so this was a very good find at the antique mall.

79th Birthday Countdown – Day 4

My oldest daughter, who lives with me, loves to celebrate birthdays.  This is what I found on my kitchen table on Wednesday morning.

Another passion of mine – harness horses.  My father was a trainer/driver and I was co-owner of several horses back in the 1960s.  This is a lapel pin with a medallion from the Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen, NY.

Countdown Day #1

Countdown Day #2

Countdown Day #3