Saturday, June 23, 2018

Friday Night Camp Outs

We are WELL INTO 2018 Grandma Camp. I usually have Warren on Monday afternoon, Lilly on Wednesday afternoon, then both kids Friday afternoon. overnight, and all day Saturday. YIKES...we're doing this....

The one thing that has remained the same is the Friday night sleepover. They've been doing this for a long time. But I wanted Grandma Camp to feel special...and I remembered when my boys were growing up, how every Friday night I'd let them sleep in the living room...

At the time, we had a sofa/bed -- and the boys would open it up, and make a fort using the cushions...
So, I decided Lilly and Warren should blow up the air mattress...and they made a fort using sheets and chairs....for our Friday Night Movie, with popcorn.
Frank wanted to get in on the action...(he's a big fan of both movies AND popcorn)
The kids love learning how to do different things...and blowing up the air mattress is easy. They bring it up from the basement, flip the switch, and it blows itself up in about 3 minutes. But now it's something they look forward to doing every week.

We go to the library to pick out our movies.  Last week, Lilly and I watched Hidden Figures...IT WAS AMAZING.  This week, Warren picked another Harry Potter movie...

There are many other activities happening...
Remember this fabric starched wall in their room?  The kids sprayed it with water, and removed all the fabric.  They're going to PAINT it next...and we have another art installation planned...
Lilly looked up a recipe fdor homemade marshmallow fondant.  She has this DOWN PAT now...
And Warren?  Hummm...

Friday, June 22, 2018

Clint Heavenor

So -- who was Clint Heavenor?

The only person left to ask was Aunt Glad.  In 1994, she was a widow, living in McCausland, and the boys and I would often go to her house for supper.  (John worked second shift, and she was alone).
When I mentioned the name “Clint Heavenor” -- Aunt Glad knew EXACTLY who he was.

During the Depression,  it was common practice for farmers to take in orphans who worked for room and board.  Aunt Glad said Clint Heavenor was an 18-year old orphan from Peoria who briefly lived on the Soltau farm, and she remembered him well, because she had a big crush on him. 

But, at first, she was adamant that he couldn't be Glenn's father.  She said, “my mother would have told me.”

I said, “would she?  You were seven years old when Pearl married George.…did you even realize she was pregnant?”

Then, Aunt Glad got really quiet…and she recalled this one vivid memory…

Clint Heavenor gave an Easter gift to Pearl.  It was one of those elaborate sugar eggs, with little bunnies and green grass in the middle of a hollow chocolate eggshell.  Gladys had never seen anything like it, and she used to sneak into Pearl's room to look inside the egg.  Pearl caught her one day, eating the sugar bunnies -- and all hell broke loose.  Pearl was hitting her and chased her through the house…

So, if Gladys was 7 years old when that happened, Pearl would have been 16.  The Easter Egg memory puts Clint Heavenor on the farm in the Spring...and that was the summer Pearl got pregnant.
When she thought about it, Aunt Glad did come to believe Clint Heaveanor WAS Glenn’s birth father.  And it explained some things.  Why Pearl basically gave her baby to her mother for the first 6 years…The harsh way George treated Sonny…their unhappy, hostile marriage...

We have no idea whether or not Clint ever knew Pearl was pregnant.  Aunt Glad doesn’t remember when or how he came to LEAVE the Soltau farm. But, once he was gone -- it's easy to imagine that Pearl's pregnancy created quite a “situation” for this prominent family. 

Meanwhile -- another local orphan, George Little, was working on the farm as a day laborer.  And it’s likely that Pearl’s father presented him with an offer too good to refuse.  Marry my daughter and I’ll give you a farm.  We'll never know exactly how it happened.  But we do know Pearl and George got married in December and Glenn was born three months later. They set up housekeeping 2 miles down a dirt road, on a sandy piece of property with a shabby white farmhouse.
George getting the farm in exchange for marrying Pearl is conjecture, of course.  But Aunt Glad believes that's what happened.  “they were bitter and unhappy, and I never understood it.  I see now that George was punishing her every day…”

I showed the picture of Clint Heavenor to Dad, and explained what George said -- and also, what Aunt Glad told me.  I thought it was important for him to know, and I also thought it might explain a lot of the hurtful things that had happened to him over the years.  Dad got tears in his eyes.

When I asked if he wanted to look for Clint Heavenor, Dad said, “No, honey. I’ve never really had a father and I don’t need one at this point…”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dad's Family Secret

To get to the secret, I have to go back a bit...

To review:

Before she married George Little, Dad’s mother, Pearl Soltau, was the oldest of three children. Pearl, Elmer and Gladys. Until he was six years old, Dad lived with Pearl’s parents at the home place. Uncle Elmer and his wife Aunt Leone also lived in that big stone home, and they took care of Elmer's mother (who was a widow for 15 years) and farmed the farm.

Gladys was 9 years old when Glenn (Sonny) was born, so she was more of a big sister to him. According to Aunt Glad, Dad had a miserable childhood. George and Pearl were eeking out a living on a poor, sandy farm in the Wapsi bottoms.  They were always in some kind of argument with their neighbors, and they never spent an unnecessary nickel. The boys didn't get presents at Christmas or for their birthdays.

According to Aunt Glad,   Sonny was expected to work like a man from the time he was 6 year old and George made Sonny cry every single day.

Pearl and George's house was a shabby, unkempt mess -- when you walked into the kitchen, there wasn’t a spot on the table where you could put a cup of coffee. (not that they would have offered).  They were hoarders before anybody invented a word for it.
When Minnie Soltau died, the family farm was left to their THREE children. Even though Elmer had lived there and farmed that farm his whole life, and taken care of his parents, he could not afford to buy out his sisters. Dad was doing good in the construction business by that time -- so he offered to buy out both Pearl and Gladys (so Elmer could stay).  Gladys thought it was a great idea -- but Pearl refused. After a year of bitter argument, Pearl bought out her siblings (seems all that frugality created a nice savings account), and she kicked Elmer off the farm.

Pearl and Elmer never spoke again.

It took Dad a long time to get over that…but eventually,  he did.

In the 1970’s, after I got married, Grandma Little and I exchanged letters every week. That’s how I know that when she was sick, Dad was the one who visited her every day in the hospital. She wrote about Dad putting up a new Morton building for them. And in June of 1974, she wrote about how delighted she was that Dad hung modern cabinets in her kitchen and installed a new floor. Much later on -- we realized that during the summer Dad was remodeling their kitchen -- Pearl and George went into town to see their lawyer, and they wrote him out of their will.

Of course, nobody knew that happened until Pearl died. Dad was stunned. He had no idea…but, because of the shoebox full of my dated letters from Grandma Little -- I was able look back to see what was happening with George and Pearl the week they wrote Dad out of their will....

After Pearl died, Dad’s relationship with George was finished.

So -- fast forward…in 1994, my cousin Linda was visiting Grandpa Little, who was doing poorly. He was throwing away a bunch of photos -- mostly of our family. She knew I’d love to have those pictures, and she asked him if she could take them?

He said he didn’t care what happened to them…. As she was picking them up, there was a sepia tone picture of a tall, dark haired young man standing in front of the Soltau home place.

Linda  asked, “who’s this?”

Without hesitation, George said, “That’s Clint Heavenor. Glenn’s real father. Helluva nice guy…”


Remember the part where George and Pearl got married in December, and Glenn was born in March?

YIKES. So -- George was NOT Glenn’s biological father?

This was quite a shock. Nobody had ever hinted at such a thing.


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.