Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Dad vs. the City of Princeton

After Dad developed the Homestead Addition (my house is there, along with about 20 other homes)…the City of Princeton decided to come out to annex us. It was the 80’s, and 20 brand new houses looked like a nice addition to the City Tax rolls.

Dad was ticked off, and they had to bypass THREE large farms to get to us. Obviously, being in the city would mean paying more taxes.

Dad was preparing to fight the annexation -- when he realized there were some big benefits to being part of Princeton. Like -- STREET maintenance, snow removal, garbage pickup, etc.

So, Dad decided to let the annexation happen.  However, forcing Princeton to deliver their city services became Dad’s full-time job. He attended many City Council meetings, and he became a huge thorn in their side. The County Board of Supervisors forced Princeton to take possession of our streets and they reluctantly agreed to pick up our garbage.

The one thing that did NOT happen was cable television service. That fight went on for several years. Princeton said it was up to Mediacom, who said it didn’t make economic sense for them to run a line for only 20 customers.

Dad went to more meetings, pointing out the fact that the Mediacom contract was with the City of Princeton -- and we were, after all, part of the city… Besides, the Mediacom cable line went RIGHT PAST the Homestead Addition…

The Mayor told Dad he didn’t know what he was talking about, as the Mediacom cable did not go past Homestead…but, instead, came in from the other side of town.

The next day, Dad went out to the corner of the addition, set himself up with his rifle, a cigar, and a lawn chair (this could take some time). Eventually, he shot down the cable line in question.

Turns out, Dad was right. The Mediacom line does go right past Homestead on it's way into town.

It was only a matter of days before every house in my housing addition had cable television.


Tomorrow, I'll write about Dad's family secret...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My favorite Dad-at-work-story

My Dad was a gruff, no-nonsense supervisor who always had the big picture in mind...and he saw through bullshit instantly. Everybody in his construction-business-life called him ”Spike”.  (Supposedly, he got his nickname because he could drive a 16 penny nail completely in with one strike of his hammer.)

Eventually, he got his entire family into the construction trades. His brother and brother-in-law became bricklayers, his nephews worked their way through college as laborers.  My brother Calvin became a plumber.  Well -- you get the picture.

At his funeral, everybody had a Spike story to share.  My Uncle Melvin told this one....

Fry Construction was finishing up a large project -- Smart Junior High in Davenport, Iowa. The architect was coming through for a final inspection, along with the Superintendent of Schools.

Unfortunately, there had been a major mistake during the finishing. The floor subcontractors laid the floor before the lockers were installed. When the lockers were placed, they did not line up with the seams of the expensive terrazzo floor tiles. Although it was strictly a cosmetic mistake, this error stuck out like a sore thumb, and it made the main corridor look off-kilter.  The cost of fixing it would be colossal…

Spike knew the Architect could hold them responsible…and that guy LIVED TO FIND PROBLEMS.

So, when the day of the final walk-through came, Spike had the crew place scaffolding around the front door -- to set the cornerstone above the entrance. (a job he deliberately put off until this day). The bricklayer in charge (Uncle Melvin) was told to set the center stone OFF BY THREE BRICKS.

With Spike leading the way, the architect and Superintendent walked up the main sidewalk, with their punch-list clipboard in hand. Spike stopped, and then bent down to tie his shoelace. He fumbled for a bit…waiting...while the architect and Superintendent took a good look at the building.

Then it happened… The Architect saw the off-center stone and he went nuts. He pitched a fit, called Spike an incompetent idiot, wondered how stupid any mason could be to make such a terrible, sloppy mistake… Spike hung his head -- took the abuse....and apologized for missing this important detail...

The Superintendent was appropriately impressed with the Architect’s powers of observation… Spike acted chagrined and disappointed in his crew…promising to take care of this horrible issue ASAP…assuring them the problem would be handled, at no additional cost, of course.

Satisfied that he’d done his job, the Architect, head held high, walked through the building -- and never noticed the floors. The only thing on the final punch-list was the masonry above the front door.

The stone was put back in the proper place.  Because it was still wet cement,  it was a simple 5-minute job.

Uncle Melvin said, "how did you know that was going to work?"

Dad said, "I didn't. But I figured it was worth a shot..."

Tomorrow, I'm going to write about how Dad dealt with municipal issues...

Monday, June 18, 2018

My Father's Story

Father's Day made me think about my Dad.  So, today, I’m going to tell Dad’s story…

Dad was the oldest of four boys; Glenn, Wayne, Dean and Larry. His parents, Pearl and George Little, owned and worked a poor farm in the Wapsi Bottoms, just outside of Princeton, Iowa.

When I knew them -- my Grandma was a short, completely round person…around 300 pounds, I’m sure. Grandpa was a bent-over skinny man who always wore bib overalls and seldom smiled. They were two sour, crabby people...and their tone with each other was, at best, snappish.  They were well-known skinflints (is that still a term?)...and they never had a neighbor they liked.  They seemed to believe  people were going to take advantage...or rob way or another.

Pearl Soltau was the oldest daughter from a well-to-do family who lived in a big stone house on Bluff Road. But George was an orphan who lived with his uncle in a boarding house in Princeton, Iowa.  Pearl  married George when she was 16 years old, and Glenn (my Dad) was born 3 months later. (I did that math when I was 13).

Dad’s fondest childhood memories came from the time he lived with his Soltau Grandparents. They loved him, and called him “Sonny”. He adored them, and his Uncle Elmer (who farmed the home place) was a loving influence in his life.

He lived with his grandparents (and Uncle Elmer and Aunt Leone) until he was 6 years old. At that time, he was considered old enough to real farm work. So, he went to live with his parents.  Pearl and George -- and they hired him out to local farmers. He did whatever chores a strong 6-year old boy was capable of, mucking out barns, baling hay...

George kept the money Glenn earned (35 cents a day). Dad loved school, but there were no books in his home, and his formal education ended after 6th grade. It was the Depression, and there were no jobs. Dad was a farm laborer, and the future was bleak.

Then came World War II.  Dad enlisted in the Army Air Corps. His Uncle Elmer drove him into town to get on the train that would take him to Basic Training. His parents didn’t come to say goodbye. He served in North Africa, France and Europe as a navigator on P-51’s. When he came home, he met my 17-year old mother at the local roller skating rink. Mom (a senior in high school) dropped out to marry him. Dad became a carpenter apprentice, and worked his way up to be the outside Superintendent for a large regional construction company.

Dad could look at a set of blue prints, and figure out the number of bricks in his head. He was a prolific reader, and had opinions about EVERYTHING. As newlyweds, Dad bought a garage on a side street in Princeton and turned it into a two bedroom house. He was one of the original house flippers -- and every time they moved, it was to a bigger, better house. And there was usually a new baby on the way.

By the time they had four children -- they were living in a large farmhouse that sat on a 160 acre farm. Although Dad never actually farmed, he owned several of them. Dad had a knack for business and did well with his investments. He bought rental houses, and at one time owned three laundromats.

Eventually, they had six children.  A big part of growing up was our "go to work with Dad" day.  He drove a company car (he got a new blue station wagon every other year) and we loved playing with the short wave radio.  When we visited the various job sites, you'd get to wear a yellow hard hat.  For me,  the highlight of the day was eating lunch with Dad,  sitting on a stool at the counter of a drug store in the west end of Davenport.   

When he was 53 years old, he declared himself a millionaire and retired. His last big project was the housing development John and I live in. Dad paid $100,000 for a 300 acre farm, with a  dilapidated 100-year old brick house sitting on it.

He quickly sold off 80 acres of tillable land for $100,000. Then, he developed a large portion of the wooded area into building lots. The ½ acre lots sold for $5,000 -- and he sold about 20 of them. He split off 20 acres to build his own house. Eventually, he sold the remainder of the property to a sophisticated developer who built gigantic houses, on very private, wooded 3 or 4 acre lots.

When John and I moved back to Iowa in 1978, Dad sold us one of those lots and helped us build our house.  Just like he'd helped my brother and my sisters.  Dad wanted all six of his children to graduate from high school.  Which we did.  And he wanted all six of his children to own their own home.  Which we do.

Tomorrow -- I'm going to write about my favorite Dad-at-work-story...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Portland Quilt Market ROCKED..!!

I haven't even scratched the surface of the Portland Spring Quilt Market. There are so many talented people is the most inspiring time and place you can imagine. The classes, the fabric designers, and, of course, the quilt makers.

For me, it's an opportunity to get together with old friends...and make some new ones.


Friday, June 15, 2018

It's time for STRAWBERRIES..!!

So many of the best traditions in life revolve around food. Every special occasion has it's own food reward, y'know? Birthday cake, Christmas cookies..  But maybe the BEST FOOD TRADITIONS are those that come with the seasons.

It started here about a month ago.  SPRING means morel mushrooms and fresh asparagus from the garden....

And -- one of my favorites?? STRAWBERRIES. Who doesn't love FRESH PICKED STRAWBERRIES..??!!

On this day, we had the strawberries, but no time to bake shortcake. NO WORRIES...I am prepared for just such an occasion...
Homemade waffles out of the freezer!!
We toasted the waffles...added a scoop of ice cream, and the fresh berries.
Lilly did the assembly of our DELICIOUS, but simple dessert.
Cool whip (DUH!).
Lilly's final touch was a few berries on top...
It's a very good thing to have an emergency dessert in your culinary filebox...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Ya Ya Sisters Do Portland

It's Spring Quilt Market..I'm in Portland, Oregon, working the show for Schmetz Sewing Machine Needles. I've been to classes...walked the show floor, met with vendors, interviewed fabric designers, and visited with many, many friends.


So, picture this.   It's Saturday.   Mary and I decided to sneak off for a couple of hours to see what the Portland Saturday Market is all about!!
We tried to get Rhonda to join us -- but she had MEETINGS, of course!!
Hey -- it's all about getting some Ya Ya inspiration, right??
There were hundreds of booths.
Lots of artists are selling their wares...
I especially loved this booth.
Another great time, Mary.  YOU ROCK!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Frankensew-ed Blue Jeans

This is not going to be a surprise -- but I buy WAY TOO MANY THINGS at thrift stores. I simply cannot resist a good bargain. And when I found a pair of designer jeans (Jones of New York) for only $2....I grabbed them. Five years ago. lol...

Guess what? THEY FINALLY FIT ME...!!

And -- hey -- because they've been hanging around in my basement for the last five years -- I can afford to experiment....

I cut some holes and slits...and washed the jeans several times to get the fabric to fray...
 I LOVE these little sewing themed charm squares...
But, of course, to sew those pieces on the inside, I have to open the leg seam...
There is no future in trying to pick that seam with a ripper -- so I just cut it away.
The trouble is, when I sewed the inner seam back together -- the pants were TOO TIGHT. Darnit...Well, I could wait until I lose another 10 pounds...
OR -- I could just cut open the side seams and add 1" of contrasting fabric...
This part had slits instead of an open square...but another cute little sewing motif fabric...
I'd been fringing a pair of knee high shorts for Lilly.
I decided to rob Lilly's fringe and put it on the bottom of my Frankensewed jeans...Maybe I'll just do the fringe on ONE leg...