Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Remembering What We’re Honoring


I believe that fiddling around with traditional holidays in order to make three day weekends was a mistake.  This has led to a diminishment of the individual holidays; confusion over what it is that is being honored, and co-opting by businesses for their own selfish gains.
Take the holiday, Memorial Day, just passed as a case in point.  Originally begun by slaves as a day to honor Union soldiers who were fighting for the preservation of the Union and abolition, it has evolved over the century plus since then.  The fallen from the United States’ subsequent wars have been honored on Memorial Day.  In many communities the day is celebrated as Decoration Day.  On Decoration Day friends and family decorate the graves of their ancestors and loved ones who have passed on.  Through all of these traditions there is one common factor—those being honored are dead. 
.  Memorial Day is becoming a Springtime Veterans’ Day as people us social media to thank the veterans in their lives, living and dead, for their service.  That cousin who served in Vietnam, but is still living ought to receive our thanks any day of the year, but his or her special day is on Nov. 11th, one of the few holidays that hasn’t begun a yearly migration around the month. 
When holidays were celebrated on a particular day, regardless of where it fell during the week, it seemed that the day held more meaning.  During the 1950s the meaning of the holiday was taught in school.  Today law dictates that schools have assemblies for Veterans’ Day and MLK Day, but the others are more like—well, meh.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, arguably our two most important presidents, don’t have their own days anymore, having been mushed together into Presidents Day and “celebrated” on a Monday for your long weekend and shopping pleasure.
When I was a child, on the rare occasion that it fell on a Friday or Monday families often took the opportunity to take a trip over the long weekend, but most years the day fell during the week or on a weekend day without extending the weekend.  In the case of Memorial Day ceremonies were held at cemeteries and flags placed on the graves of those who died fighting for the country’s freedom.  Over time flowers and flags were left for all veterans and for extended family members.  One thing that was never intended by those slaves during the Civil War was for Memorial Day to be about sales at car or mattress dealerships.
This moving things around has not only diminished the importance of the day, it has confused many folks about exactly what is to be honoredI am sure that if we returned to the traditional dates for National Holidays retailers and the tourist industry would put up a fuss.  I email retailers who send me sales notices for either Veterans’ or Memorial Day and have even gotten a positive response from Amazon.  What if we planned our three day weekends around some destination that tied into the holiday and made a conscious effort not to buy, buy, buy as a way of honoring our national heroes?  How awesome would that be.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Our Legendary Local
Writing About
Other Legendary Locals
Last Saturday, when I was done mowing my Ilwaco lawn and had showered, my houseguests and I drove to Ocean Park, at the other end of the Long Beach Peninsula, to attend a book signing at Adelaide’s Book Store. My friend Sydney Steven’s was signing her latest Long Beach Peninsula book, Legendary Locals book there.  We missed her book talk, but still got to chat with her.  My friends purchased two of Sydney’s books and I even picked up O is for Oysterville for my youngest granddaughter, Lydia, who had been quite jealous of my purchase of LegendaryLocals for her older sister Linda the weekend before. My friend Jo bought Dear Medora, one of my favorites, but then I love everything Sydney writes.  She may be a retired teacher, but she still has much to teach the rest of us about the history of Southwest Washington and does so in a very entertaining way with her pen, her blog, and around the dining table.
After Adelaide’s we went across the main intersection in Ocean Park to Jack’s CountryStore.  Jack’s is amazing.  It has been serving the Long Beach Peninsula since 1885 and if you can’t find it at Jack’s, you probably don’t need it.  Actually, when you shop at Jack’s you will probably find things you didn’t know you needed!  I knew what I was after.  Jack’s sells a wide assortment of patterned oil cloth by the yard.  Vinyl is all well and good I suppose, but for a table cloth that lasts and wipes down easily you can’t beat oil cloth.  I grew up with oil cloth on my grandmother’s kitchen table and besides being practical, it is homey to me.  I was happy to purchase three yards of lavender gingham, pick up a gallon of bleach and a half gallon of milk.
There isn’t room to list all of wares of this large rambling store, but some of the things we enjoy are their wide assortment of candy from our childhood and old fashioned toys.  This Spring Dave and I made a special trip just to get balsawood airplanes for our grandson Gabriel.  It used to be that you could pick them up at any store.  Now you find Styrofoam things that just don’t fly the same.  Last weekend I couldn’t resist purchasing two cloth bags to use as gift bags for my granddaughters.  They were just too charming and will hold some cupcake flavored chapstick I also couldn’t resist along with some books.  Ah, the life of a grammy. 
Next weekend we have a trip to the Oysterville Store where Sydney will be doing another book signing.  The store has recently changed hands and renovated.  I am anxious to see it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The End of an Era
Not there was any doubt in my mind, but it is official that I’m old.  The Bellevue School District is tearing down Sammamish High School where my husband and I, along with his six brothers, went to high school.  When my brother-in-law Tim, who is a reporter for KIRO radio in Seattle, sent out an email to the family with a link to the City of Bellevue’s office of land use pages telling of the two and a half year process the school district has planned for essentially tearing down the school in stages and replacing it will a three story brand new building I was gobsmacked.
My parents and I moved to Lake Hills, a post-war housing development in East Bellevue in 1957 where I started first grade in a not-yet-finished elementary school.  My classroom had 40 of the baby boom generation in neat rows.  Elementary schools weren’t the only ones being built.  During second grade my mother drove me past the building site where Sammamish was under construction.  “That’s where you’ll go to high school someday,” she said happily.  Like many of the greatest generation my mother was optimistic.  She was living the post war dream of living in a new, albeit modest, ranch house in one of the developments that sprang up when WWII vets returned, finished school, started careers and needed someplace to raise their families.  Bellevue, WA, a bedroom community to Seattle, fit the bill.
There was another side to the optimism of post-war America—the threat of nuclear war.  Because my father worked for Boeing Flight Test on the B-52 program he went to Eniwetok for six months in 1956 and again for five months in 1958 as part of the Boeing crew helping to test the atomic bomb.  Americans thought that the United States was invincible and that our superior technology could overcome all obstacles.  The Space Age was around the corner and the sky was the limit, but because of my father’s work the optimism was tinged with the reality that the Cold War was in full swing. 
Overt things such as my father’s plan for what to do in case of a nuclear attack told me that the world wasn’t such a rosy place.  Yes, I understood where to walk to at the lower edge of the elementary school grounds where my mother would pick me up.  She understood that she and my father would keep the tank of our 1952 Ford at least half full.  My father believed that we would have time to get out of range of Boeing, the Bremerton Naval Facility and Ft. Lewis, which he believed were potential targets, and we would be able to drive to my grandparents’ beach house on the coast.
There were things I wasn’t supposed to know about.  One of the networks (and I’ve never been able to track down which one or the name of the program) aired a television program of what to expect in the event of a nuclear attack.  I’d been sent to bed, but was able to see the television through the crack the door was left open and sat on the floor and was horrified by what I saw.  The grown-ups were going to kill us.  I became convinced of it.
So when my mother drove me past the building site for Sammamish High School in 1959 I paid scant attention.  She couldn’t fool me.  She might be my mom, but she was silly if she thought I was ever going to get old enough to go to high school much less grow up.  I don’t know if I’ve ever grown up entirely, but I did attend Sammamish High School from 9th to 12th grade, graduating in 1969.  The first year I still didn’t believe I needed to worry about growing up.  By my junior year it occurred to me that I might.  By my senior year it was panic time, but that’s another story.  Now they are tearing SHS down to make way for a fancy three story building.  The upside is I’ve outlasted it!