Category Archives: Hodgepodge

Roy Hodge, Columnist - Roy began his career at The Fulton Patriot in February of 1959 as a linotype operator.  During his long career, he performed every newspaper job — from paper delivery to editor and publisher. He has entertained readers with tales of his family’s antics and many interesting Fulton residents in his long-running “Hodgepodge” column. Roy retired from The Fulton Patriot in June of 2010.

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Call the Doctor

I remember when Milton Berle, Red Skelton and Pinky Lee were on television.

And not only that, I remember when doctors made house calls.

“Wow, you are really old. Did they come by horse and wagon?”

Well, not quite, but they came to our front door carrying their little black bag.

Dr. Ostrander and Dr. Thornton were the two who came to our home during the 40s when I was “too sick to go to school.”

I can remember both of them, but especially Dr. Thornton, who was my mother’s doctor when she was growing up.

The thing I remember most about those two doctors was that “little black bag”  they carried with them. Several tools of their trade were in that bag.

I was fascinated by the instrument that the doctor used to listen to my heartbeat, officially known as the stethoscope. I remember Dr. Thornton letting me listen to my own heart ticking.

There were always some little pills in the doctor’s bag, one for the patient and one for his little brother. We looked forward to that little pill when we discovered  it tasted a lot more like candy than like any kind of medicine could have tasted.

I especially remember a particular visit by Dr. Thornton. That day I had told my mother that I was too sick to go back to school after lunch. It wasn’t the first time she had heard that; she told me I would feel better when I got back to school.

“I think he’s really sick this time,” my friend Tucker told my mother, saying I had a hard time walking home from school.

Later in the afternoon, my mother called Dr. Thornton. After checking me over, Dr. Thornton told my mother I had all the symptoms of appendicitis.

Later that evening, he returned and Dr. Dyer, a surgeon, was with him. They had trouble finding a hospital room, but they finally did. They scheduled surgery — the next day my appendix was removed.

Dr. Ostrander was familiar with my father’s family for a long time. I don’t remember my father ever going to a doctor when I was growing up but if he did, it would have been Dr. Ostrander.

I went to Dr. Ostrander’s office when my grandfather was in charge of getting me to a doctor. I remember his white hair and I thought he was old. And, of course, I remember his “little black bag.”

TV game shows

I hadn’t watched a television game show in many years until a couple of weeks ago. We were at a pub/restaurant and the room was full of men who stopped after work for  liquid refreshment.

They were all involved in watching “Wheel of Fortune” on TV.  They were shouting answers, cheering and having a good time.

A few days ago, while visiting friends, we were watching the Wheel and Jeopardy on their new digital television set. I hadn’t watched either show in many years, except for the short time with the men at the restaurant last week, but I fondly remember watching “Jeopardy” every week night several years ago when visiting my mother.

Mom rattled off the answers quicker than the contestants, while I just sat and watched.

While watching my friends’ television set I discovered that I still don’t know the answers, and when I do, I forget to put them in the form of a question.

I was glad to see that Alex Trebeck, Pat Sajak and Vanna White are still going strong. I thought that Vanna looked particularly good on digital TV.

40 Winks

I do a lot of the writing that I do while sitting in the most comfortable chair in the house. While thinking about what I want to write and how I want to write it, I often begin to get sleepy and soon drop off for 40 winks (or even a few more than that).

Sometimes, when I open my eyes after a short (or not so short) nap, I seem to have gotten new ideas while I was “resting.” Other times I have no idea what I was thinking about and have to figure out where I was going with the half-finished thought that I left behind on paper.

This is a fairly recent development created by the fact I am now categorized as a “retiree,” and as part of that designation I have also officially become a “napper”.

A good sermon

As the father of a minister, I shouldn’t be telling minister jokes, but here’s a couple I couldn’t resist.

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.” — George Burns

“The best illustration of the value of brief speech reckoned in dollars was given by Mark Twain. His story was that when he had listened for five minutes to the preacher telling of the heathen, he wept and was going to contribute $50.

“After 10 minutes more of the sermon he reduced the amount of his prospective contribution to $25.

“After half an hour more he cut the sum to $5.

“At the end of an hour of oratory when the plate was passed he took $2.”

 

. . . Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Christmas in the White House

In 1834, President Andrew Jackson held a “frolic” for children of his household.

The party included games, dancing, a grand dinner and an indoor “snowball fight” with specially made cotton balls.

There’s an 1880 reference to President John Tyler hosting a children’s party in the 1840s at which there was a Christmas tree with gifts.

The first White House Christmas tree, decorated with candles and toys, was placed in the second floor oval room in 1889 for President Benjamin Harrison and his family.

In 1895, the Grover Cleveland family strung electric lights on their Christmas tree.

President and Mrs. Theodore Roose-  velt, an avid conservationist, did not approve of cutting trees for decoration.  However, his son Archie smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and hidden in a closet.

President Teddy Roosevelt and his family would pile into the family sleigh (later the family car) and travel to a Christmas service at Christ Church in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Following the sermon Teddy would deliver one of his “sermonettes” on the meaning of Christmas.

Official Tree in Blue Room

The official White House Christmas tree is decked out annually in the White House Blue Room. The first tree in that room was decorated by President William Taft’s (1909-1913) children.

President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to preside over a public celebration of the Christmas holidays with the lighting of the National Christmas tree, in 1923.

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover established the tradition of presidential wives decorating an official tree in the White House in 1929.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt would set up and decorate a tree on Christmas Eve, gather the family together, and either read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, or recite it from memory.

In 1953, the first White House Christmas card was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an artist in his own right.

A 50-year tradition

Having the First Lady choose a theme for the White House Christmas tree is a 50-year tradition established in 1961 when Jacqueline Kennedy decorated the Blue Room Christmas tree with gingerbread men, snowflakes and small toys from her favorite holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

In 1977, First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s tree featured ornaments made from pine cones, peanuts and eggshells.  In 1980 she highlighted a Victorian theme.

Nancy Reagan, in 1988, hung ornaments from previous Blue Room trees, including hand blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower White House and flower-themed ornaments from Pat Nixon.

First Lady Betty Ford’s tree was decorated with homemade ornaments.

Over her eight White House holiday seasons, First Lady Hillary Clinton displayed talents of America’s artistic communities.

First Lady Laura Bush included the theme of “All Creatures Grand and Small” in 2002 and a patriotic “Red, White and Blue Christmas” in 2008.

This year, Michele Obama’s tree is filled with photos of military families and their homecomings. She also had kids living on military bases create cards shaped like their home states.

Traditionally, the tree in the Blue Room is the official White House Christmas tree, but generally there is more than one Christmas tree in and around the White House.

For instance, in 1977 there were 36. In 2008 there were 27.

Just so you’ll know

Clement Moore wrote his famous “A visit from St. Nick,” which is better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” in 1824.  There is some thought that the true author of this poem is Major Henry Livingston, Jr.

Gift giving became a tradition in 1857, and in 1897 Francis Church wrote his famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in The New York Times.

The song, “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.

The first Christmas postage stamp was issued in Canada in 1898. The first Christmas stamp issued in The United States was the four-cent “Wreath and Candles” stamp in 1962.

Happy New Year!

A new year has started, time for a new routine.

Just look at the calendar, it’s two thousand fourteen.

When the new year comes, it’s nice to make changes.

Maybe try to be more patient, nicer to strangers.

Say you’ll be nicer, eat less and exercise more,

Resolutions we have all heard before.

As the old year ends, look back with gratitude,

Enter the new year with a positive attitude.

Good luck and much happiness – you know what I mean.

And remember — when writing checks, it’s 2014.

 

. . . Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

I received a special Christmas card this year, sent to The Valley News by Bea LaClair.

I knew that Bea wouldn’t just sign her name; I was sure that she would write a few lines. And she did.

Bea, who now lives in Liverpool, wrote, “The Fulton Patriot may be out of business, but your column is still going. You still write a good story and bring back memories. I hope you will continue for a long time.”

Bea, who wrote that she is now 85, also had praise for my son, Jeff, now known as “Rev. Jeff”.

Bea must read each week’s paper very thoroughly. In a recent column I wrote that plum pudding “is composed of many dried fruits and is held together by eggs and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses.”

Bea asks, “What is treacle?” Bea, my dictionary describes treacle as “a mild mixture of molasses, corn syrup, etc. used in cooking or as a table syrup.”

I have known Bea LaClair for many years, but before I met Bea I knew her mother, Angie LaClair, who was known to everyone in Fulton as Gram, and likely is still remembered by many.

I met Gram when two of my sons and two of her great grandsons were in Cub Scouts at State Street Church in the 60s.

She was Gram to everyone, and I wrote in a column in 2006, “The neatest thing about Gram was that she was always willing to sit down at the old piano in the church basement to get the group of young boys and their parents singing.”

I continued, “Later on I got to know Gram as Angie LaClair. I was around many times when Gram would keep an old piano in this room or that hallway busy, and someone was always willing to join in on the song.”

I heard from my friend Bea after the column featuring Gram.

“I loved the column,” Bea said, “but you got one thing wrong — I forgot to tell you that our name is spelled with an a, as in LaClair, not with an e, as in LeClair.”

Bea explained, “When our family came to Canada many years ago from France our name was spelled LeClair as that is the French Canadian spelling of the name.”

Bea said when her father, Edmund, moved to the United States from Cornwall, Ontario he wanted to honor his new country by using the American spelling. “So he had his name legally changed from LeClair to LaClair,” she said.

Thanks for the card, Bea. And thanks for the memories.

‘Tis the season for cookies

An important part of the Christmas season for me and those around me through the years — wherever I have been hanging around — is making, eating and sharing with other people those wonderful morsels of holiday cheer — the cutout, decorated cookie.

For the uninitiated — if there is such a thing — that would be the flat, shortbread-y (new word) cookie of many holiday shapes, covered with colorful frosting and “sprinkles,” baked by the dozens — and eaten the same way.

We have a large jar full of cookie cutters in many, many shapes. Some of them definitely fit into the holiday scene – Christmas trees, Santa’s boot, and yes, Santa himself, along with stars, bells, angels and a gingerbread man.

Most of those shout “Merry Christmas” right back at you, but there are many other cutters of many different shapes in that jar.

When is the last time that you saw a pig in your Christmas stocking? Wait a minute — could that be in honor of Christmas dinner?

Also in the jar are a hippopotamus and an elephant. Forget about Christmas dinner for those two. There are a couple of mooses (or is it meese?)  Well, wait a minute — we could have a couple of different relatives of Santa’s reindeer here.

Mrs. Pringle’s cookies

I wrote about Mrs. Pringle’s cookies in December, 1985:

Mrs. Pringle was the mother of one of the girls who worked in my wife’s office at the telephone company in Syracuse more than 25 years ago.

My association with Mrs. Pringle during the past 26 years has been once a year during the holiday season by way of a recipe in our Christmas cookie file.

For years, I guess I never questioned the genealogy of our Christmas cookies. On Sunday, with the holiday cookie baking process getting underway at our house, I discovered the true story behind how Mrs. Pringle’s Christmas cookies made their way into our cookie jar.

I was told on Sunday that when my wife was growing up, one of the expected treats of the season were the cookies baked by her grandmother – the kind shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, angels and bells.

Grandma probably inherited the recipe from her family in Germany, and turned the holiday favorites out by the hundreds every year. Grandma probably never gave a thought to the fact that the ingredients list started out with five pounds of flour and a dozen eggs.

The problem came after the new bride asked for Grandma’s recipe. No one could figure out how to turn five pounds of flour and a teacup of this and another teacup of that into just enough cookies so we wouldn’t still be eating them at Easter time.

That’s where Mrs. Pringle came to the rescue. It seems that Mrs. Pringle’s family had passed along the same prized recipe and someone along the way had translated it into cups and teaspoons.

As a tribute to the holiday season, Grandma Seils, Mrs. Pringle and the hundreds of those cookies I have eaten over the years here is the recipe:

Grandma Seils’ Christmas Cookies

3 cups flour, ½ tsp. baking powder, 1½ tsp. salt, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg, unbeaten, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup margarine.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat margarine and sugar thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

Gradually stir in sifted dry ingredients until well blended. Roll small amounts of dough 1/8 inch thick.  Shape with cookie cutters.  Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.  Ice with different colors frosting

Okay, we’re ready.  (You could let the frosting dry.) Chomp happily away … and Happy New Year.

… Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Dear Dad

First there was a note on my dresser with a message – Dear Dad, see page 242 in the Christmas catalog.

That subtle missive led me to a check mark in the Christmas catalog next to something called “Radio Controlled Fat Wheels.”

A couple of days later copies of an intricately prepared 15-item Christmas list began appearing around the house. Lest prospective readers of that list be discouraged by its length, asterisks led to a supplemental listing whereby each item was given a yes, no or maybe, denoting its importance.

Not surprisingly, the yes column held a healthy lead at last look, strengthened by number 13 – money, with its yes in capital letters.

Another sure sign of the approaching season – a few days ago we were asked for Grandma’s address. No doubt, in a few days Grandma will be receiving one of her annual letters reading something like this: “Dear Grandma, how are you and Grandpa? I am fine. Here are some things I would like for Christmas this year.”

Then will follow Grandma’s own copy of the hallowed list. And, if she’s lucky, it won’t even be a carbon copy. But the crayons will be getting dull by then.

I think I may have found something useful in all of those catalogs and TV commercials, though. Someone is advertising a durable 42-key toy typewriter. Could that lead to a much improved, neater Christmas list next year? Maybe even double-spacing.

-Hodgepodge, Nov. 20, 1979

Other Christmases

I started writing “Hodgepodge” in 1979. In December I wrote my very first “Christmas column.”

That year I wrote about people watching at airports, about letters kids wrote to Santa, and about one special letter I was given to mail that year: On the outside of the envelope was the following note: “Dear Santa (or Dad) please send a copy of this list to Grandma.”

The following year 1980, I wrote this column:

It’s a well-known fact that television watching is down this week before Christmas. I also read somewhere that people, this week when they are deeply involved with last minute holiday preparations, will just browse at the ads and the headlines in the newspapers.

That’s okay with me. If the readers are too busy to read, the writers won’t have to write. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Since I’m not going to write a column this week I won’t have to interrupt watching the 54th television special of the Christmas season.

I’m glad I’m not going to write a column this week. Instead of laughing at and cleverly detailing this last hectic week before Christmas, I can just ignore it and relax.

If I were to write an article this week I’d probably have to think of something cute to say about that last Christmas shopping expedition; the one you make a couple of days before Christmas – long after you have vowed not to spend another cent. That’s when you find yourself face to face with a sweet old grandmother who could probably go eight rounds with Ali and you’re having a tug-of-war over the last pair of stockings in your wife’s size.

Since I’m not doing a column this week I won’t have to go into detail about those Christmas letters we receive from our friends every year. The ones that go on and on about the many accomplishments of themselves and their kids and make you ashamed to look at your kids or into a mirror for a week.

Another good thing about not writing this week: I won’t have to agonize any further by telling readers about my annual five-hour bout during which I transform a beautiful tree growing freely in the great outdoors into a poor bedraggled heap of needles standing in the corner of my living room.

And best of all, if I don’t write a column this week, I won’t have to re-live in type those horrible hours spent every Christmas Eve assembling this year’s new toys.

It’s a real load off my mind now that I decided to take a vacation from writing this week.

If I were writing this week (but I’m not) there is one positive thing I would say:

Have a Merry Christmas.

No “Christmas column”

So for the next several years I didn’t write a “Christmas column” — my column the week before Christmas was about my pledge not to write a Christmas column. But I did and that week I wrote my last “I’m not going to write a column this week” column.

From December 22, 1986:

Some traditions aren’t all that easy to get established, but then again, they don’t die off without a fight either.

A few years ago I started what I thought would be a long standing tradition during the week before Christmas. I decided to write my Christmas week column about how I wouldn’t be writing a Christmas week column.

The problem is that some opposition seems to have grown up around that concept.

“Don’t tell me that you’re going to write that same old column about not writing a column.”

So, it’s time for a change in strategy. This year I’m not only not going to write a column; but I’m certainly not going to take the time to write a column about not writing a column. And that’s final.

Good advice from Dickens

Several years since then I have ended my Christmas week column with this:

Charles Dickens, who wrote and said a lot about Christmas said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

. . . Roy Hodge

 

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Last week I picked up a quote from Patriot friend and columnist, Grace Lynch, from a Christmas time Patriot of many years ago: “The Christmas song says that Christmas comes but once a year – yet it comes with a flood of Christmases long gone by.”

Grace was speaking from experience, and she knew what she was talking about.

Last week when I was unpacking our Christmas decorations and spreading them around the house, there were hundreds of memories packed in the boxes along with the ornaments.

“No decorating before Dec. 15”

My mother loved the Christmas season but she had strict rules about decorating our house at Christmas time.

“No decorating before Dec. 15,” she said.  It was OK for us to bring the boxes of tree ornaments and other decorations downstairs from the attic and put them in one of the upstairs rooms, but, “no decorating until the 15th.”

Mom was even more strict about when the Christmas tree was put in place in the living room each year. For many years my father bought the Christmas tree and on Christmas Eve he put it in its stand in a corner of the living room. My mother decorated it after we kids went to bed – (and, finally, to sleep).

Going with my father to pick out the Christmas tree was a learning experience for us kids – and we weren’t necessarily learning to follow in his footsteps.

My father would go to the tree lot, pick out the first tree that he saw that looked right for our space and start negotiations with the tree salesman.

There were years when, even after all of Mom’s efforts at hiding missing and scraggly branches, Dad had to drill holes in the tree and put branches cut from the bottom of the tree in the empty spots.

A bucket of coal

In later years, Mom let me help her trim the tree that my father had put in the stand in the living room. For many of the earlier years the “stand” was a bucket filled with coal.

My father said the coal in the bucket held the tree firmly in place, and a little water mixed in with the coal kept it fresh.  Maybe, but what a mess if the bucket was dumped over. It was also Dad’s job to put the strings of lights on the tree.

Each year when we brought the decorations down from the attic and after my mother had told us that we had to wait to decorate, she had a little ritual of her own.  She would look into each box, take out several ornaments, and one at a time she would tell us the family history of those ornaments.

She knew which ones were on the tree when she was a young girl – a two or three year old in Ohio – and that was only part of the detailed report.

Many of my mother’s Christmas time and Christmas tree memories were from the years after her mother had died. She came to New York when she was three years old to live with her aunt and uncle.

A place for every ornament

My mother’s Uncle Than particularly enjoyed the holiday season and its customs. He spent many hours each year putting up the family’s Christmas tree. My mother said she was pretty sure that each ornament – many of them had been on many family trees in earlier years – was put in the same spot on every year’s Christmas tree by her uncle.

Unfortunately, our family’s genera-tions of children, along with the various cats and dogs which were part of the family, weren’t always kind to Uncle Than’s ornaments. However, some beautiful ones survived and are on our tree every year.

My mother had a unique way of finishing the tree decorating process each year – by throwing a layer of the tinsel strings that we called icicles on the tree.

And, she really did throw them on the tree, taking the box in one hand, several strands of the icicles in the other hand, and literally throwing them at the tree – and without any help from the younger members of the family – they really did, along with the lights, add a very festive look to the tree.

Each year our Christmas tree was the highlight of our festive holiday season – until Christmas morning when Christmas presents were piled high around it, spreading throughout our living room.

A history lesson

In addition to helping draft the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris which marked the end of the Revolutionary War, founding father Benjamin Franklin contributed many other things to our American culture.

For instance, Franklin had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking his glasses off and putting them back on, so he figured out a way to make his glasses let him see near and far.  He had two pair of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame – today’s bifocals.

After his kite-flying experiments he invented – not electricity, but the lightning rod. He invented the Franklin stove and the odometer – as postmaster of Philadelphia he needed a way to keep track of distances.

When Ben retired he wanted to spend time reading and studying. Having difficulty reaching books from high shelves he invented a tool called a long arm (a long wooden pole with a grasping claw at the end) to reach the high books. He also organized the first lending library and the first volunteer fire department.

After purchasing “The Pennsylvania Gazette” he was elected the official printer of Pennsylvania. He invented a musical instrument called the glass armonica.  Beethoven and Mozart both wrote music for the instrument.

“Poor Richard’s Almanac” was an annual almanac published by Benjamin Franklin.  He adopted the pseudonyms of “Poor Richard” or “Richard Saunders” for that purpose.

Among the many proverbs printed in “Poor Richard’s Almanac”:

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

“Now that I have a sheep and cow, everybody bids me good morrow.”

Remember, a couple of weeks ago I told you about an idea of Ben’s that didn’t make it past our new nation’s other founding fathers.

“Ben was pushing hard to make the turkey our national symbol. Yes, Ben had some good ideas, but I am thankful to wise minds on this one.”

. . . Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

There are many things that I have learned, or at least remember one more time, by looking through some of the columns that I have written at Christmas time:

One of the worse things about the week after Christmas is seeing that almost all of the gifts that you purchased are now on sale.

You may not care (maybe because it is too late to send a card now) but lost in the shuffle between Christmas and New Year’s is Woodrow Wilson’s birthday on Dec. 28.

Did you know that there are no plums in plum pudding?*

I haven’t had cookies and milk for a bedtime snack on Christmas Eve since the kids have grown up.

This is the time of year that you start wearing lots of different ties — perhaps two a day if possible — so everyone will be convinced that you don’t need any more.

Almost every advertised price this holiday season, regardless of how lofty it may appear to us, is preceded by the word “ONLY.”

Why is there always some kind of a bill mixed in with the last of the Christmas cards?

How much time do we spend each year before Christmas trying to find the end of the Scotch tape roll?

Gift giving became a tradition in 1857.

Santa Claus is the American adaptation of St. Nicholas, a legendary European figure who brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. The name Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch “Sinter Klass.”

‘Tis the season to realize how wonderful it would be if our world could fulfill the eternal wish of the season —“Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

And this, from one of the late Grace Lynch’s Christmas columns: “The old song says that Christmas comes but once a year, yet with it comes a flood of Christmases long gone by.”

*No plums in plum pudding?

Despite its name, plum pudding contains no actual plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums” as a term for raisins or other fruits.

The pudding is composed of many dried fruits and is held together by eggs and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses. It is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and other spices.

The pudding, also known as “Christmas Pudding,” is traditionally served on Christmas Day as part of the Christmas dinner.  It has its origins in medieval England.

The pudding is aged for a month or even a year. It can age for a long time because it has so much alcohol in it and never spoils. The mixture can be moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol.

Some recipes call for dark beers such as mild, stout or porter.

Cheers!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

President Franklin Pierce had the first Christmas tree in the White House in 1856. Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees. President Theodore Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House for environmental reasons.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.

The tree became a temporary victim of World War II and in 1941 there were fears it wouldn’t be lit due to post-Pearl Harbor security concern, but it was eventually lit.

The 1942 tree wasn’t lit at all to conserve power and to adhere to wartime restrictions. The tree wasn’t relit until after the war.

In 1948, President Truman lit the tree by remote control from his home in Missouri. The tree was also lit by remote control in 1955 after President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack.

In 1963, the National Christmas tree wasn’t lit until Dec. 22 because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1979, the National Christmas tree wasn’t lit except for the top ornament.

There is a story behind the absence of lights on the tree in 1979. When President Carter’s daughter, Amy, went to light the tree only the star on top of the tree lit up.  President Carter told the crowd that it would remain that way until the hostages were freed.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in in 1933.

A total of 77 million Christmas trees are planted each year, and 34 to 36 million Christmas trees are sold each year.

… Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

I always think of Ben Franklin when Thanksgiving draws near.

Ben had a lot of good ideas and did many great things for our young nation. But at Thanksgiving time, I am always thankful that at least one of Ben’s proposals didn’t get past our founding fathers.

Ben was pushing hard to make the turkey our national symbol. The possible impact of what may have happened to our traditional Thanksgiving dinner if that proposal had been accepted always hits me at this time of the year.

Tell me what respectable American family with even a thread of patriotism would sit down on Thanksgiving Day and stare across the table at our national symbol in all his glory on the platter.

The alternative? Stuffed eagle with all the trimmins’ anyone?

Yes, Ben had some good ideas, but I am thankful to wise minds on this one.

–From The Fulton Patriot, Nov. 30, 1993

Ben Franklin’s 5 & 10?

Thinking about Ben Franklin takes me back to a time when maybe my knowledge of American History wasn’t so good and I thought that Ben Franklin owned a five and 10 cent store a few blocks from my school.

Anyway, there it was, the Ben Franklin Store and since I could go there from school without crossing busy intersections, Mom said it was okay as long as I told her where I was going. I liked to buy my mother presents and there was one time when I thought my purchase was really special.

It was getting close to Christmas and I found and bought something for Mom that I thought she would think was really special. It was a Christmas tree ornament and I was sure she would like it even though it was sparkly and orange instead of the usual red and green. I had enough money with me to buy two of them.

When I got home, as always when I bought something for my mother, I wanted to give it to her right away. I didn’t wrap my purchase; I just handed it to her and told her to look inside the bag.

When I gave it to her and she opened it there was a surprised look on her face.  I was young and inexperienced enough that I couldn’t distinguish between a happy surprise look and a puzzled surprise look.

She looked at the bag’s contents for a while before I said, “They’re Christmas ornaments.” When I said that Mom smiled with what, I’m sure now, was a big smile of relief.

She told me many years later that when she opened the bag and saw the two orange objects that looked to her like small, stubby, misshapen carrots she thought that they were the ugliest earrings that she had ever seen. And what made it worse was she knew she would have to wear them so as not to hurt my feelings.

I’m not sure that they were ever hung on the Christmas tree – maybe way in the back – but I do know that they never made it to my mother’s ears, and I’m pretty sure it was a Merry Christmas.

Just wondering!

Are all the cowboys who wear white hats really good guys?

Why does it matter if your pocket has a hole in it if you don’t have anything to put in it anyway?

Is spinach really good for you?

Why is one end of your shoelace always longer than the other?

Why is it that one sock of every pair gets a hole in it?

And why doesn’t your mother (or wife) buy socks which are all the same color and pattern?

Why are you doing your best sleeping of the night when the alarm clock goes off?

How does anyone really know that there aren’t two snowflakes alike?

Why is baloney spelled like bologna, but macaroni isn’t spelled like macarogna?

How come when you ask your kid, who has been outside with his friends running up and down the street all day, to go down to the corner store for you he can’t because all of a sudden he is too tired?

Why is there always more blanket on my wife’s side of the bed than there is on mine?

If hot dogs are really hot why do we keep them in the refrigerator before we cook them?

Why can’t you play a tune on a shoe horn?

Was the short fortune teller who escaped from prison really a small medium at large?

How come the sun is shining outside the window of the radio station that you are listening to when you wake up in the morning, but it is raining at your house?

How come there are no horses or radishes in horseradish?

Why is it that no matter how long we have to get ready for winter, we’re never ready?

“I don’t understand – this shirt fit me fine two months ago.

Why am I asking all these silly questions?

 

                             …. Roy Hodge

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

A-choo! A-choo!  And may God Bless You!

The sneeze – that sudden outburst from within that lets everyone around know that you are alive and well.

“Where,” you may sometimes wonder, “did that come from?”

My dictionaries are for the most part in agreement as to the definition of “sneeze.”

From Webster’s Scholastic Dictionary: “To emit air through the nose (and mouth) by a kind of involuntary convulsive effort.”

From The Random House College Dic-tionary the primary definition is quite the same. A second explanation is for the term, “nothing to sneeze at.” “Informal, to treat with contempt. Scorn (usually in negative construction):  ‘That sum of money is nothing to sneeze at.’”

Sneezing has been linked to sudden exposure to bright lights, a sudden drop in temperature, a breeze of cold air, a particularly full stomach or a viral infection.  There are sneezes to fit every person – every personality.

Some medical authorities think there are sneezing patterns, that is, in the number of times we sneeze and in the particular way we do it. This may be hereditary and vary in different families.

I seem to remember my mother sneezing only once at a time but making quite a production of it, finishing up with a scream that scared the wits out of everyone nearby.

I don’t remember my father sneezing.  If he did he may have done it quietly into a handkerchief, but in my memory he more often used his handkerchief to clean a spot off of his shirt, to put a quick shine on his shoes, and for various other reasons, but almost never to blow his nose or quell a sneeze.

I fondly remember my Uncle Les. At least once during every time we saw him, while in conversation with my father or someone else, he would go through all the motions of getting ready to sneeze.

His face would get bright red, he would get excited, bend over, make some loud noises as if he was going to sneeze violently. But instead of sneezing he would laugh hysterically and pound his knees. And that was our entertainment for that visit.

Unlike my father, I do sneeze – often four at a time. Recently, I have had bursts of up to 15 sneezes spread over a few minutes.

The nose is the proper channel for the air we live by, and our brain is so constructed that when anything interferes with that channel we breathe it out violently through the nose, and that is a sneeze.

Sneezing cannot occur during sleep; however, sufficient external stimulants may cause a person to wake from their sleep for the purpose of sneezing.

Sneezes move fast

In case you don’t know as much about the mighty sneeze as you should, read on.

*Sneezes travel at about 100 miles per hour.

*Exercise can make you sneeze.

*The longest sneezing spree is 978 days, a record set by Donna Griffith of Worcestershire, England.

*Sunshine may make you sneeze.

*The custom of saying “God Bless You” when someone sneezes was adopted by the Christian world from Pagan practices.

There’s more:

*It is good to sneeze while reading.

*It is lucky to sneeze while beginning an argument.

*It is lucky to sneeze while going to bed.

*If anyone looks at you when you want to sneeze you can’t do it.

There have been suggestions of how to cure sneezing.

One suggestion is to shoot off a revolver or anything to produce sudden fright.  It might be a lot less scary if you follow the second suggestion, which is to press your upper lip hard while reciting the alphabet backwards. I’ll get you started: zyxw.

Sometimes a sneeze can be stopped when we feel it coming by pressing on the nose, halfway down, just where the bone ends.

The following superstitious lines are still widely believed:

“Sneeze on Monday, sneeze for danger.

“Sneeze on Tuesday, kiss a stranger.

“Sneeze on Wednesday, receive a letter.

“Sneeze on Thursday, something better.

“Sneeze on Friday, sneeze for sorrow.

“Sneeze on Saturday, see your lover tomorrow.

“Sneeze on Sunday, your safety seek, or the devil will have you for the rest of the week.”

And, finally, this from A. A. Milne’s “Now We Are Six”: Sneezles

Christopher Robin had wheezles and sneezles,

They bundled him into his bed.

They gave him what goes with a cold in the nose,

And some  more  for  a  cold  in  the head. . .

All together now – “Ah – ah – ah-Chooooooooo!

I hope you covered your mouth and nose and tried to get away from innocent bystanders.

“Gesundheit!”  (And, by the way, I discovered some of the above information in Claudia De Lys’s fascinating book, “8,414 Strange and Fascinating Super- stitions”.

“Oh, No!” Colton

We sent our great grandson, Colton, a photo of our Halloween pumpkin sitting on our deck covered with four inches of snow.

When Colton, who is two and lives in North Carolina, saw it he said to his mommy, Courtney, who is our granddaughter, “Oh, no, there is snow on that pumpkin; where’s his coat?”

                                 . . . Roy Hodge