1985, Age 42-43, Part 2 of 2

Continued from: 1985, Age 42-43, Part 1 of 2)

A late season, major winter storm
The week following our cross-country vacation  brought absolutely beautiful Minnesota winter weather. The little snow that had been on the ground when we returned home had completely melted by the February 28, leaving us to experience early April-like temperatures.

While the long-term normal average daily high was 29°F and the average low, 8°F, we were enjoying temperatures that were 10°F  above normal, as seen in the table below:

Fri 2/22 Sat 2/23 Sun 2/24 Mon 2/25 Tue 2/26 Wed 2/27 Thu 2/28 Fri 2/1
     30 42 42 37 30 35 54 47
     20 28 30 30 15 7 28 30

Thursday, February 28
We heard a weather report discussing an atmospheric disturbance in the Rocky Mountains, the disturbance was turning into a winter storm, but neither its severity or track could be determined yet.

Friday, March 1,
It was another beautiful day. We’d completely forgotten about that chance of snow forecast for Saturday through Monday and went to bed Friday night under clear starry skies with the moon shining in our bedroom window.

Saturday, March 2
We awoke to cloudy skies and cooler temperatures than experienced over the previous few days.
Just before lunch, Donna and I walked down the driveway to collect our mail from the mail box beside the county road. When we came out of the woods and encountered a stiff wind, coupled with very chilly temperatures, we decided to check the latest weather forecast. During lunch we listened to the weather radio and found that previous forecast which had called for “…the possibility of snow…” had now been upgraded to, “…chance of significant accumulations from a rapidly developing, potentially severe winter storm.” It was thought the storm would track to our south, possibly through northern Illinois.

Sunday, March 3
I awakened at 2:30 AM to go to the bathroom and saw from the bathroom window that the ground was lightly dusted with snow. When I got up at 5:30 AM, the ground was covered with snow, there was blowing snow and a strong wind. Neither of us were particularly fond of snow, so we turned on the weather radio to hear the latest forecast.

To our dismay, the National weather Service office in St. Cloud was saying,

“…travel may well neigh become impossible…snow depths could easily reach a foot or more…there is the possibility of the development of towering drifts…”

Hearing the news and seeing the conditions outdoors, we snapped out of our morning stupor and immediately went into action: I made sure that we had a several day supply of firewood in the rear addition. Meanwhile, Donna started the electric generator to make sure it worked, then began trickle charging the batteries on our John Deere tractor– we wanted to make sure everything was in fully operational order.

At 6:30 AM there was an inch and a half inches snow on the ground.

Since I hadn’t recorded a snow storm for my journal and this was going to be a major snow storm, I decided to write a follow up in a notebook, then transfer the story into Journal 7: A Sideways Glance. As the day passed, I wrote up the temperatures and events leading to the present.

Donna and Jane read and played together then did some work about the house.

Meanwhile, outdoors, weather conditions deteriorated.

Strong winds, light snow and blowing snow continued throughout the day, leading to a rather modest three inches accumulation of fresh snow. By 3:00 PM the National Weather Service was reporting,

“..Winter storm warnings are in effect for this afternoon through Monday…in the St. Cloud area wind gusts have reached thirty five mph…Locally some areas will probably get twenty inches snow by Monday evening… This exceptional storm will continue to produce winds of twenty to forty mph with gusts over fifty mph through Monday. Traveling will be extremely difficult in south and central Minnesota as more snow becomes available to blow around. Most likely very little travel will be possible in central and southern parts of the state tonight and Monday as drifts get higher and blowing causes low visibility…

Before dusk, snow and blowing snow had reduced our visibility to about three hundred feet. The local news had begun announcing that highway ramps were becoming impassable and in some areas, snow drifts two to six feet high were being reported. During the day, we often looked out the window to check the storm’s progress; by evening we saw that it was beginning to snow harder.

Monday, March 4
We awakened at 6:00 AM. Through the illumination provided by our outdoor security lights (nicknamed, Supernova) we could see that it had continued blowing and snowing over night. Curving around our buildings were graceful looking, wind sculptured snow drifts standing about two feet high. Across the flat portions of the yard were undulating snow ripples with an occasional snow embankment standing a foot higher. A sheet of snow was plastered against the west side of the garage, while a gravity defying partial snow bridge had formed almost reaching from the roof of our heat pumps cold frame to the trailer. Suddenly, we were startled by a nearby clap of thunder.

As the morning progressed, we periodically listened to the local news and the National Weather  Service. The reports said,

“We have received eleven and a half inches snow and an additional  six to seven inches can be expected…the Wind Chill Index is -10°F…all school are closed…”

Other reports stated,

“The storm has shut down highways and airports in the southern one-third of the state, thousands of travelers are stranded around the state…three hundred persons are stranded at the Minneapolis International Airport where five hundred flights have been canceled…visibility in many areas is near zero…”

If there was one thing I didn’t like about snow storms, it was being ‘drifted in’ and cut off from potential emergency services. Almost every year, we were engulfed by between one to five winter storms that cut us off from any chance of seeking help or escape should an emergency situation have arisen. Our primary concerns were with the remote possibility of personal injury and loss of space heating due to a power outage. In either case we would be unable to get out to the county road or to town if a major storm was in progress. Also, we were experiencing one of those rare storms that deposited so much snow– there were reports of house roofs collapsing in South Dakota. Since we lived in a mobile home, whose structural integrity was less than that of a regular ‘stick’ house, we were alert to and concerned with the potential for excessive snow loads.

Usually, when there were snow storms accompanied by strong winds, the county snow plows were pulled off the rural roads, to wait until the brunt of the storm had passed.

During the day, I was amused watching Jane’s tricycle slowly disappear beneath the snow. The handlebars were still above the snow in the morning, but gradually became covered, and by afternoon even the highest little red hand grip was submerged in a deepening blanket of white.

I took late afternoon snow depth measurements about the yard and found the snow ranged from fourteen to seventeen inches deep.

We were surprised, and happy to find, that at our 8:00PM bedtime, the full moon had begun shining in through the bedroom window.

Tuesday morning we awoke to find the sky clear and that there’d been no new snow over night. I promptly bundled up, started the tractor and cleared our driveway. There was so much snow to push that it took a record hour and a half to clean out a spot in from of the garage and the center of the 800 foot driveway.

And thus ended our first and only real snow storm of the winter season. In a brief two-day period, our environment went from barren ground with mild spring-like temperatures to, snowdrifts, -10ºF wind chill temperatures and having received over seventeen inches of snow.  Whoa! Minnesota!

[Above, a photocopy of my Journal drawing, The Rune: Keys to the Rune. ‘Want to play a game? Look in here. Coded treasure map directions made clear.’ J7_911.jpg. A coded Rune alphabet, simply entered in one journal, allows deciphering of a treasure map found a 1000 pages and several journals away, which in turn leads to a secret location where 800 year old Anasazi treasures may be found. If the journals have not been read consecutively and directions not followed the several  times  they’re given, the necessary combination of  1) the reader’s memory and 2) the provided code keys will not unlock the directions provided in the map. This page is one of the directions.]

Porky, the parakeet, died on Easter
Ever since returning from our vacation and bringing home Porky from Bobby and Arlene’s, the little birdie was sniffling and shivering. We found that during our vacation, his cage had been set near a floor register where he was apparently exposed to a more or less continual draft. Undoubtedly he caught a cold and couldn’t get rid of it.

On April 7, Easter day, around 12:30 PM, just after our lunch, I had returned to working on my journals at the kitchen table when Porky hopped out of his cage and fluttered to the kitchen floor. I watched questionally, as he walked rather wobbly into the corner beneath his cage, fell over and expired. I called Donna into the kitchen. We crouched beside his cage, looking down at his small still form and  feeling very glum. We said ‘Good bye’ to our little feathered friend, but let him lie where he died for an hour or so until Jane awoke from her nap; we wanted her to see and understand what happened to our pet.

With tears in our eyes, we laid little, “Pork-u-punt” and his favorite toys in a small box. We buried him about four hundred feet southwest of the mobile home, outside the west yard gate, down by the low land. When we left, there were two small, side by side graves in that location, our first parakeet, Icabod P. Tailfeathers and Porky. That was another one of those sad days we had at Nightstar*– saying ‘Goodbye,’ and burying our pets when their lives had passed. Both graves, were in their own time covered with rocks, and then with moss and forest leaves…

[Over the following decade, I occasionally cleaned the leaves off their diminutive resting places and recalled loving thoughts and fond memories of these two playful, little parakeet pets, and of Alexander R. Little, who flew off into the woods and was never seen again.]

My unemployment benefits expire
My extended Federal unemployment benefits expired in early April, at a time when Donna had only five weeks to go on hers. Although Donna’s compensation still was bringing in $129 per week our expenses were $229 per week. We were becoming concerned, but not overly so, because, during the previous few months, we’d bought three one ounce Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins and put $1,000 in Series EE Government Savings Bonds.

Besides these recent investments, we previously had stashed away, some other liquid assets.[edited].

Selling our new Ford pickup
As the weeks passed, my Federal Unemployment Extension benefits, then Donna’s Unemployment and her Federal Extension benefits expired. We were living quite well and making ends meet while we received at least one person’s Unemployment compensation, however, with neither of us drawing an income, our good times appeared to be rapidly coming to an end.

During the latter part of May, we put an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times newspaper Classified Ads Section attempting to sell our one year old, tan, Ford pickup truck.  It was our intention to sell the truck and use the proceeds to pay off the bank loan, thus reducing our overhead.

We still had the Toyota and at that time didn’t need two automobiles.

Our newspaper ad simply stated:

“FOR SALE: 1981 Ford F-100 1/2 ton pickup, 6 cyl., 36,000 miles, exc. cond. Ph 387-2675”

Immediately after the ad was printed in the newspaper, we received a call from a local farmer who said he ‘might be interested,’ that he’d ‘be over to look at it in a few days’. His ‘few days’ turned out to be three weeks. Never-the-less, when he saw and drove the vehicle, he could tell we’d taken good care of it. We transferred the title to him for $4500, which we used to pay off the bank loan. We were out only the down payment and the monthly payments we’d made since purchasing the vehicle. The down payment was the price reduction we received from trading in our old GMC pickup, the truck we used when moving to Minnesota. The monthly payments we’d made, could be seen as cost of renting or leasing the vehicle for the period we owned it.

Donna finds employment at True-Value Hardware
During the middle of June, Donna applied for and was accepted into employment with the St. Cloud True-Value Hardware store. She was hired as the store bookkeeper, with a beginning pay rate of $5.50 per hour and after thirty days a pay raise of $0.50 bringing her hourly rate to $6.00 per hour. Although she was paid less than at Landy Packing, her work conditions at the hardware store were a lot more pleasant. Her boss, W, once an employee in the business, was buying the store from the previous owner.

In order to realign our family’s finances with our current income, we first sold the Ford pickup truck and paid off the associated bank loan. Next, we cashed in our Series EE Saving Bonds and paid off a loan on our heat pump and several small revolving credit lines with Sears, Visa, etc. These actions reduced our weekly expenses from $229 to $151. In mid July, when Donna got her first pay raise, she was bringing home $180 per week, leaving us a weekly savings of $31.

Early in the AIDS epidemic
During early August, I ran across an odd, half page news story stuck in the middle of the news paper,  it’s headline stated: ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome — A Medieval Plague For Modern Times.’ Because there is so much sensationalism in the news media, I began reading the story with half-hearted enthusiasm. Finishing the article, I sat back in my kitchen chair as a sense of apprehension swept over me. I’m a fairy educated person who keeps up on the current news through weekly news magazines, the newspaper and television, yet this was the first I’d ever heard about a disease called, AIDS.

I was surprised to find that there were already thousands of people in the USA with the AIDS disease and perhaps up to a million who had been already been infected. What’s more, the method of transmission, via homosexual behavior and sharing drug needles, promised to keep the disease in the population for a long time. I realized that our permissive culture, which almost seemed to cater to deviation, would be an excellent medium for the disease to propagate and spread.

I became immediately concerned with  AIDS because, we modern people, with our culturally defining streak of egalitarianism, would allow the disease amongst us and into our homes. I sensed that our way of thinking would bring about a pandemic, no different from what was brought about by European ignorance of germs and vectors, during the Bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages.

It seemed that immediately after the AIDS news article hit the nations news papers, that the national TV news media and weekly news magazines carried the story. At first, there were quite a bit of AIDS related information in the news, but in a short time new stories diminished and over the next few years one heard less and less about the disease. After initially being washed with the diseases statistics, we became desensitized, after all,  AIDS only affected criminals who shared drug needles and men who were morally deficient homosexuals.

Classic denial spread amongst other nations as well, particularly in the Far Eastern countries, where they ridiculed Western society as perverts. These nations announced that such a disease could not spread in their country, because they didn’t have homosexual problems nor intravenous drug users. Meanwhile, in Africa, the disease was running rampant among heterosexual tribal members and was spreading along transcontinental highways by truck drivers and widespread prostitution. The hand writing was on the wall…

Jane’s learning curve goes geometrical
Jane’s happy, friendly and loving personality, coupled with her good looks and rapid mental growth made her a very special child to us. We knew she was well above average because when asked to get something, or to put something away, she understand and accomplish the job, though still barely even able to talk.

As her second year approached and passed, some of the important things Jane learned or discovered included:
•  Household belongings have a certain place and go back in that place after use.
•  Keys were small, but very important items, they were used to unlock doors and needed to start some equipment.
•  How to operate and thereby ‘control’ a radio, which was somewhat similar to operating a television.
•  That our food ultimately comes from a garden. Some of the things growing in the garden were ‘food’ and therefore good, while some were called ‘weeds’ and were not good.
•  Clothing had to be washed and dried and household items need to be maintained. Concurrently, she began learning how to fill the wash machine with clothes and soap.

During August, when Jane was   1 year-9 month old, I printed out each letter of the alphabet and the numerals one to ten on separate, three-inch by five-inch white poster board cards, using a red marker. Thereafter, every time Jane needed a diaper change, I’d lay her on the bathroom sink counter, make the diaper change, then show her about ten to fifteen of the written symbols, while repeatedly pronouncing the letter or number to her. Jane would imitate me and try to pronounce the letter or number.

We had a good time doing our routine and before long Jane was pronouncing the letters and numbers aloud with only occasional assistance. Of course, when we read her children’s ‘beginning reading’ story books, I’d point out some of the letters she had already learned. The reinforcement showed her that the letters we looked at and learned to pronounce in the bathroom, made the sounds that told the story in the book. Jane quickly grasped the concept that letters and their associated sounds became words which in turn told stories.

Purchasing a used Ford Grenada
On August 30, right after Donna began working at True-Value Hardware, we decided we needed a second automobile. Anything could  happen while Jane and I were at home, Donna could have car troubles in St. Cloud, the Toyota could have a break down at home, in any event, we needed a second vehicle. We found an interesting advertisement for a used car in the St. Cloud Times.

After work one Friday evening, Donna went to look at the car. She came home with a glowing report. The car, a 1977, two door Ford Granada with hard brown vinyl roof, looked and drove as if in very good condition, despite having 87,177 miles on its odometer. The owners wanted $2,400 for the vehicle, a price she thought could be lowered.

Saturday morning, Donna and I returned to St. Cloud to look at the Ford. The owners weren’t home for the weekend, so we were able to look the car over in their driveway without disturbance.

Monday morning, Donna took some time off work to do some dealing on the Ford. She took the car for another test drive and stopped at our auto repair shop to have the mechanics look at it. The mechanic looked the car over, listened to it run and put its electrical system on an oscilloscope. He said there were a couple minor problems that did not need fixing, i.e., the vacuum tank was sucking air. Donna returned to the owner with her short list of problems and complained about the price. The owner caved in agreeing to sell the car for $1,650, we paid his new asking price and closed the deal. That evening Donna drove me back into town in our ‘new Ford’, where we picked up the Toyota and returned home.

The Ford Granada was a nice car with a lot more leg room than our Toyota Corolla, it’s best feature however, was an air-conditioner. In all previous years we’d driven about and simply suffered under the summer’s heat, but with the Ford’s air-conditioner, we learned a whole new level of luxury and were instantly spoiled.

[Panorama of the upper yard,  five years after  moving onto Nightstar*. The 1.5 acre yard with the pond, 14 ft x 70 ft mobile home, 26 ft x 27 ft garage, solar cold frame (center-left), 12 ft x 16 ft   rear addition, outhouse, generator shed, storage shed, garden, compost bins and fencing.]

An afternoon at the Benton County Fair, August 1985
Around August 1st, Donna and I took Jane on her first visit to the Benton County Fair in St Cloud. Jane wasn’t two years old yet, but could see from the activity, the gay colors of the tents and happy music emanating from the various attractions, that this must be a fun place.

We walked through the Broadway looking at the displays, watching people play games of ‘skill and chance’, we saw Cupie dolls, teddy bears, older preteens running around together, lots of children with their parents. There were fair employee ‘barkers’ calling out to people, ‘Step right up and win a doll…Take a chance…Try your skill…”
[Photograph at right: Looking north across the Broadway, from atop the Ferris Wheel.]

The Broadway, consisting of booths, food stands, etc., were grouped together at the north end of the fair, while the amusement rides were located at the south end. As soon as we walked past the last tent in the Broadway, we entered the area where the ‘rides’ were set up. The first ride we encountered was the Pony ride, where for 50¢ or a dollar, a youngster could ride a pony. Jane had seen horses on television and in movies, but this was the first time she’d seen and touched one.

When I recommended she ride the ‘horsey’ and that, “Mom will help”, she was momentarily apprehensive. By the time she’d gone around the track once, her nervousness dissipated and she was reveling in the experience. That afternoon, before we left the Fair, Jane requested to ride the ‘horsey’ two more times. What a pleasant memory.

After riding the ‘horsey’, we all rode the Farris wheel. The ride was a little scary to Jane, being so high off the ground, as a matter of fact it was scary for Donna and me too. Yet we could look all around from an elevation and perspective Jane hadn’t seen  before. Over the next couple hours, we rode several rides, stopping back at the Horse ride ever so often; we had soda pop, cotton candy and sweltered in the extreme heat and humidity of the August summer afternoon. We  walked amongst the Fair exhibits, and stopped at the Barnyard Petting Zoo. [Photograph at right: Jane’s first ride on a horse, Donna assists. A fun day for all.]

During this, Jane’s first visit to the Fair, I had just turned forty-three years old and was more of a grandfather in age than the typical father’s age. Jane’s excitement and the fun we had, was always a highlight of the day for me. Her youthful spirit and our adventures of exploration gave me a second glimpse of childhood. The same can be said for Donna, who was in her late thirties; Jane gave us of her expansive vitality and continually made us a proud and involved parents.

Within a couple of years, Jane was old enough and eager to ride the larger ‘really scary rides’ by herself. Sometimes, an older child or young teen would share a seat with Jane as the contraption swung, spun, rotated, rolled, rocked and gyrated. Donna and I stood back in the shade and watched, no longer as hearty as we once were.

Hahaha. There was the time in our younger lives, when the both of us rode similar rides at the with glee,  and ‘threw up’ from motion sickness. Those days were passed by the time we reached our early twenties. These were Jane’s days; when she was having fun, it was fun for us too.
[Photograph at right: Looking south-west across several amusement rides, from atop the Ferris Wheel.]

Dissatisfied with our furnishings and clothing [2]
When Donna and I first moved to Minnesota, our minds were filled with the dream of developing a homestead in a rural setting. Literature such as, The First Time Farmers Guide, Mother Earth News magazine, various ‘back to the Earth’ and survivalist literature fed our minds with agricultural and ‘do it yourself’ technologies, which in turn directed the spending of our discretionary income.

A decade after moving to Minnesota, we had accomplished all of our original dreams: we purchased a mobile home, thirty-nine acres of raw land, installed a driveway, well, drain field, garage, large garden and had thousands of dollars invested in peripheral equipment. By the middle of 1985, we’d come to find that we didn’t need a large electric generator, flour mill, dehydrator, and the one thousand gallon underground gasoline storage tank. Other things, such as our old driftwood bookcase-stereo stand and my huge stereo speakers, once prized possessions, seemed dated and tied to a much earlier time and phase of our lives [3].

It was at this time that a sense of dissatisfaction began creeping into our minds. The mid set that brought us to Minnesota, which fueled our imagination and kept us working on homestead projects, began to fail our current needs. Over the years, we were required to save all of our excess cash in order to purchase the items associated with the homesteading mind-set. Habits die hard, because even when we finally accomplished and paid for everything we wanted, we continued saving every extra dollar. Meanwhile, in our front room there were compound bows and archery equipment hanging  on the walls. The couch was thread bare, our coffee table was banged, bumped and dented. Elsewhere in the house, the bath towels were worn and frayed, our pillows had lost much of their stuffing, and our clothing, even when new somehow just wasn’t right.

On several occasions we walked through the trailer appraising the things we lived with. The synopsis was, ‘Something is wrong.

We rationalized that as soon as a certain plateau was reached in our cash savings, we’d buy a new couch and coffee table. As the summer of 1985 slowly passed, we came to realize that the thread bare couch and well used coffee table were not the source of our dissatisfaction, they were symptoms.

I don’t recall the moment, but it was during late summer when we finally arrived at the consciousness that verbalized our thoughts, the essence of which were as follows:

‘The house doesn’t look or feel like someone LIVES here, it looks like people STAY here.’

Such personal conclusions are difficult to reach oneself. With the words expressed, we knew a major project was both required and drawing near.

The concepts of taste, style & class
Since my layoff at Landy’s and Donna’s return to work, I’d taken over the role of ‘house Daddy’, as such, I had time to do research. During August I checked several books out from the St. Cloud Public Library and  began to study Basic Home Decoration and Basic Principals of Interior Decoration. Important points from the books were copied and outlined for future reference.

In September, we bought a variety of home decoration magazines,so we could study the pictures and see how the decoration principals worked in real life. Among the magazines were several monthly issues of House and Garden, Home and Garden, Town and Country, Country Living, House Beautiful, and a few others. While studying the contemporary photographs in each magazine, we found a basic decorating theme running through each. We did not find these principles at work in our house. At even the most basic level, our front room lacked both a conversation grouping of furniture and good illumination. On one visit to the St. Cloud Public Library, I borrowed, Classic Styles in English Homes and Traditional American Homes; both books were filled with glossy photographs.

Finding the flaw in our decorative style
A strange thing occurred… While studying the book and  magazine illustrations, I became aware of a previously unrealized subtlety. Although all of the portrayed furnishing styles adhered to the proper decorating principles, there was a difference. The difference wasn’t directly related to the standard decorating principles, there was some other factor at work. 1) Generally, the house with a small yard and new, gasoline efficient automobile parked in plain view, also had Country or Contemporary style furniture. On the coffee table was seen the hint of a TV Guide or National Geographic magazine. A frosted, glass unicorn, or photographs of the children sat on soft end tables. The happy, broadly smiling owners were cleanly dressed in sports clothes. 2) Larger houses with their larger lawns and shrubbery, also had large dogs or a hint of horses. In the background could be seen a dark-colored Chrysler or other larger American automobiles. Many of these house interiors were furnished and decorated with sets of traditional style furniture. The interior of these houses looked considerably more tasteful and expensively decorated than the smaller houses discussed above. If the husband and wife were shown indoors, they were seen seated on a floral print couch and dressed in evening clothes; if photographed outdoors, they wore leisure clothes, but with ear rings, scarves, rings, white buck or boat shoes. 3) In the third decoration theme, material goods such as automobiles and horses were neither seen nor alluded to. Photographs of the house exterior showed large trellises and expansive flower and rock gardens, terracing and woods. The house interiors were furnished with museum grade furniture from the 19th Century or earlier, original cloth wall hangings and old, original oil paintings adorned the walls. Photographs of the owners were seldom included in these articles.

Each magazine targeted a specific ‘social class’. I’d always mistakenly thought that a family simply bought the style of furniture they just happened to like, the more discretionary money a family had, the better grade furniture that they bought – in that style.

Reverence for the old and antique
Donna and I grouped the magazines according to display of social class. As social class increased , there was an associative increase in reverence for the old and antique, for the non mass-produced, the beautiful.

Conversely, as the magazine’s target subscription population decreased in social class, decorating styles changed toward the contemporary and the new.
•  Televisions were more prominently displayed as you went from upper to lower
•  Paintings were replaced by reproductions and lithographs, then by wall decorations such as brass swans and colorful tin butterflies, etc.
•  Built in bookcases, filled with books in the upper classes, were replaced by standing bookcases, then by wall units which held plants and selections from Reader’s Digest.

At first, income seemed to be the important variable, but on closer observation income was not all that important. If every family had the same taste and values, but their income varied, then mass-produced furniture and furnishings would simulate the more rare tasteful and quality items. This reasoning was not seen in the magazine photographs. Indeed, each social class tended to have their own values and tastes, so that decor was more related to family values than income.

Our furnishing’s reflected our upbringing
It struck us as odd that we hadn’t realized that there were time-honored principles involved in household furnishing. How could we have missed seeing the relationship between class values and the household furnishing style? In order to answer this question, we had to look back at several generations in both of our families.

Both Donna’s father, Don, and my mother, Hazel, were raised on working farms. In any  American farm community of the 1920s and 1930s, there was a fairly heterogeneous population of people whom, for the most part, shared a common heritage with their neighbors.

Don was from a predominately German farming community in southern Indiana. Hazel was born into a Swedish-German farming community in Michigan. Both families had the values, incomes and education common to farmers in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. Being somewhat isolated from the rapid urban progress of the times, these farm families continued to blend expediency, frugality, and their own semi impoverished traditions into their household furnishings. Of course, the life style one learns and lives with during their youth, are models for the perceptions passed down to the next generation.

The story was different with Donna’s mother, Eulah, and my father, Robert.

Eulah’s father, James, was a successful concrete contractor in the early 1900s. For health reasons, James took his wife Maude, (whom was ill), and young Eulah to Arizona. In the first decade of the century he gained title to about four hundred eights acres of territorial Arizona land. A few years later Maude died of an infection. Soon afterward, James was shot to death by Maude’s sister’s husband, who was said to have owed James money[4]. At that time, and being in her mid teens, Eulah was left alone with just her younger brother. At age fifteen, Eulah married a commercial photographer and became the mother of five children. Over the next several decades, Eulah owned and operated the Hickson photographic studio in Yuma, to support herself and her five children. Although Eulah’s maternal great-grandfather, a) Francis,  had been a medical doctor; b) her grandfather, Theopholas, an accomplished music teacher who played five instruments; c) and her mother, Maude Dorr raised in a genteel Southern life style; d) time and circumstance had reduced Eulah to a small business owner and ‘working Mom’.

At the end of World War II, when Eulah met and married Don, she’d already raised her children to adulthood; there had been little time or money for travel, the arts or the finer things. After their marriage, Don and Eulah seemed to have moved every couple years, never really setting down roots or becoming part of the community they lived in. They were not a shiftless family, but Don did seek various employment opportunities, and was required to move due to job transfers; he tried to move into situations where he could hobby farm as well as carry a regular full time job.

My father, Robert, was raised in an educated, suburban Chicago household during the 1920s and 1930s. His mother, Elsie, had been a teacher and even a high school principal for a while. His father, Glen, was a licensed mechanical engineer and teacher. Robert was married after completing two years of college. Over the next four years, the family had three children, of which two survived. Robert was drafted into the military and served in the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II. During the next decade and a half, the family moved several times across the country. Moving ever so often doesn’t allow time to become established in a community, while the expense of moving and being unemployed several times kept the family from buying quality household furnishings.

As I entered my teens, Mom and Dad turned to religion and Dad subsequently returned to college. There simply was never enough concern for worldly goods in our household to think about ‘style’.

As a result of our parents backgrounds, Donna and I grew up in homes where furnishings, decorative style and related values were unimportant. Our parents did what they could to raise and train us in what was important to their household’s mind set. In both of our childhood homes, the necessity for frugality and expediency, coupled with frequent moves all played together to eliminate concepts of style, class consciousness and a reverence for the old and unique.

For all of our lives and up to this point, Donna and I were unaware of the relationship between household furnishing, family values, and social class. Unaware of the nuances that streamed about us, we lived in the world with a freedom allotted only to the naive and ignorant.

Learning of style and class
Abruptly awakening into the realization that household furnishing was related to one’s social class, I decided to inquire further into the  concept. I borrowed the book, Class, form the public library. Class promptly answered the question I had in the relationship between household furnishings and social class.. There was not only a relationship between household furnishings and class, but between other factors as well, such as clothing style, house style, pets, beverages, foods, money, where in the country one lived, lifestyle, and more.

Many thing that we’d previously referred to as ‘trashy’ or ‘good’ now fell onto the somewhat ill defined structure of social class. We became rudimentarily aware of the subtle nuances of preference and symbols. At the same time, we began seeing our personal belongings and those of our friends, acquaintances and even stranger’s in a new light of understanding.

Starting over, starting right[5]
Having begun to look at our furnishings with new eyes, we understood that nothing less than a complete overhaul would be required. We had already realized that our household furnishings were not an extension of our personalities, interests or tastes. The dissatisfaction we felt stemmed from the incompatible nature of the various incongruent furniture styles and symbols we’d surrounded ourselves with. We didn’t feel at home in our own house. Having studied house decoration and furnishing styles from proletarian to lower upper class, we found our likes and tastes near and perhaps just below the upper middle class.

Using concepts of Basic Home Design, magazine photographs, and the ideology expressed in thne book, Class, we set about remodeling our living environment. What followed was a tidal wave that swept through the house. For awhile it was difficult to let go of some of the familiar items we’d accumulated.

Our banged up coffee table and driftwood bookcase-stereo stand were chain sawed into kindling for the fireplace.
•  We sold some of our unused hobby farming equipment,
•  bought oriental style throw rugs for uncarpeted floors throughout the house,
•  we reupholstered the couch,
•  replaced the archery equipment that hung on the wall with lithographed images that were related in some way to our ancestral family history.
•  We bought traditional style furniture made of Fruitwood with brass fixtures
• We bought new drapes and curtains for the entire house,
•  Replaced all of our towels and wash cloths, bed sheets,
•  Bought a large set of Revereware pots and pans,
•  two standing bookcases.
•  All of our electronics, except for the TV were moved out of the living room and into a 3rd bedroom newly redefined as the Activity Room.
•  Our  library was moved out of the Activity Room into the living room. The process continued and expanded in scope through the winter and into the spring of 1986. Renovating our household furnishings cost over $5,000, which largely came from a small amount of gold bullion coins we had accumulated.

[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Our livingroom’s south wall, picture taken from the kitchen entry; antique rocker, curio cabinet, wood burning   stove. Photo on right: the livingroom’s north wall. My journals on bookcase top shelf, Alladin lamp at right.]

[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Jane’s bedroom: Jane with Ducky, Rabbit and host of doll friends, cherry finished wood bed frame and nightstand. The south wall in on the right. Photo on right: Jane’s bedroom, south wall on the left. The dresser bought with money from  my parents, Donna’s childhood rocker is seen at lower right.]

[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Our master bedroom, southwest  corner at left: Brass bed; a quilt Donna and I made, the leather trunk I refinished while at Ted’s house in the early 1970s,  1928 portrait of  Eulah Snyder hanging on the wall. Photo on right: Master bedroom, looking toward the southeast corner. Seen here the two antique dressers that  I bought 11 years earlier from my friend Ted in  California. Photographs of our 19th & 20th Century ancestors cover the dresser tops.]

Return to SRAPO[6]
During June, as Journal 7: A Sideways Glance to Other Horizons neared completion, I turned my attention back to my old SRAPO hobby (Stellar Radii And Planetary Orbits). SRAPO was one of the great and interesting hobbies of my life. Thinking within its parameters led me into abstractions and  ‘minds eye’ visualizations that have been extremely enjoyable and a labor of love to explore.

During  Summer and into the Fall, I reworking an accumulation of SRAPO notes and previously written text. I added descriptions about planetary surface features that we as visitors might see, if we could actually journey to those theoretical worlds.

In October, I began writing and transferring the entire SRAPO project into Journal 8, SRAPO. The old graphs were updated and carefully redrawn, new images and charts were added and SRAPO was again ‘finished’, at least for the present. In its mere one hundred twenty seven page journal length, were the keys and information necessary to draw deep conclusions about surface conditions on any planet we might one day find or consider that carried intelligent life.

The study was terminated with ‘data templates’ that allowed the reader to follow the study in two directions: 1) You could create an imaginary set of star-planet relationships, then find the planetary surface conditions and general adaptations life must make to exist under those proposed conditions, or; 2) you could propose the general characteristics of an intelligent life form’s morphology then back track to the planetary surface conditions he might have come from, an environment favoring the proposed characteristics and morphology. Thus answering the question “What kind of environment would a ‘gray’ alien come from, if they in fact did exist?[7].

Although it was possible to move from hypothesized star-planet relationships to planetary surface conditions, I do not think the reverse is possible. General life adaptations on a planet frequently relate to surface temperature, gravity etc, but do not specifically relate back to the parent star’s spectral classification. If you knew the star, planet size and its location in the ecosphere, you would be able to carry the study  to a basic planetary environment and have a fair assessment of and intelligent  and advanced tool using life found there.

I only worked with SRAPO a few times, each encounter separated by about a decade. After each encounter with the hobby, I put all my reworked notes and records away in the file cabinet, awaiting their next expansion. After years passed, I would again pull out the old paperwork for another enjoyable and exhaustive four month study. During each of these periods, all the information, wisdom, and insights that were accumulated since my last study, were integrated. The entire project was then rewritten with its new, increased understanding and perspectives.

SRAPO has been like an artist’s canvas,  filled with the still life images of other worlds. Each decade when I’ve painted, the image of those other worlds has become clearer and more focused.  (Click the SRAPO tab at the top of 4dtraveler blog page to check the progress of converting the study into this public media. Also see Categories in the right column of this blog, the entries are labeled in order:
0 SRAPO: Introduction
Chapter 1: Water
Chapter 2. Average Planetary Surface temperature, etc.

Changing our wardrobe styles
As previously mentioned, there was something disagreeable about the clothing style we wore. Even when we purchased a new shirt or blouse, stockings, shoes or jacket, something was vaguely amiss with the article, something we were unable to fathom.

One day while browsing through the newspaper, I read a review of the recently published book, Color Me Beautiful. Simple stated, the book was designed to help a woman determine her  ‘complexion category’ based on variations in her skin color and tone, hair and eye color. The book then went on to help determine the colors of clothing and accessories that most complimented her given complexion category; at the same time, assisting the woman in organizing her basic wardrobe. While Donna read Color Me Beautiful, I read Color For Men, both books by the same author. In this same period of time, I also read The Official Preppy Handbook, which dealt specifically with upper middle class behavior and their preferred clothing styles.

What we learned was– as with household furnishings, there was a relationship between clothing styles and social class. The distinction did not derive as much from cost, as it did from a combination of color, style and texture. We found that clothing, 1)  made from natural fibers with a traditional or suggested English or Scottish style, 2) that were understated and non legible, had class; clothing made predominantly 1) from man-made materials, 2) with French or modern styles, 3)  that had glossy colors, 4) and were legible, had the least class.

Using the principles derived from the ‘Color__’ books and The Official Preppy handbook brought several pair of blouses and slacks. During the winter of 1985-86, she began wearing, on alternate days,  the new then the old clothing styles. She also began wearing a slight amount of cosmetics, and accessorizing with scarves and earrings. Not only did she feel better about the style change, she looked better! Since the style change worked on a limited basis, we progressed into a major wardrobe overhaul.

One weekend day, we took every item out of our closet and gave it the ‘color-style-texture-legibility test’. Over 90% 0f our combined wardrobe failed and was summarily discarded. In the period of an hour, we filled several large garbage bags (subsequently donated to Goodwill) and about a half dozen paper grocery bags (for burning) with clothes being discarded [8].

Over the next few weeks we upgraded Donna’s wardrobe. One evening she related an interesting observation: Since the upgrade in style and while shopping, she occasionally received quicker, friendlier and generally better service. At first I was surprised to hear this, but recalled that this same phenomena was discussed in  the book, Class. Continuing to reflect on Donna’s observation brought me to the realization that one’s social position is not inherent, it is ascribed by others. If you understand and exhibit the time honored symbols of value within your society, other people will reward you with the appropriate amount of deference and respect.

Shaving my 13-year-old mustache
One day during November, I asked Donna and Jane if they’d like for me to shave off my mustache. The girls surprised me by simultaneously and resolutely stating, “Yes!”. Gosh! Suddenly, I became aware that my thirteen year old mustache was out of favor. The twosome went on exclaiming how much they “…want  to kiss a smooth-faced Daddy.” A few minutes later, we gathered in the bathroom, the girls flanking me and looking on with great interest. I lathered up my face and shaved off that old mustache and have maintained a clean-shaven face ever since.   :-)
I’d walk a mile for a bunch of extra kisses, wouldn’t you?!

Jane’s development by her 2nd birthday
Jane’s second year was filled with travel, adventure and new experiences, including:
1) The wonder and merriment of the blinking lights on the Christmas tree and all the amazing toys that came from those brightly wrapped boxes beneath the tree.
2) Our trip around the western United States aboard Amtrak.
3) Her first meals at a restaurant.
4) A trip to Minnesota Zoological Gardens to see all the large and small animals, and the Children’s Petting Zoo.

By November 30, Jane’s second birthday , she was able to recognize and pronounce each letter of the alphabet and numerals, one to ten – all from her stack of three by five-inch memory cards.

Ever since Jane and I began this learning process, I realized our working together would undoubtedly develop her reading skills, but never dreamed that before she was two years old she’d already be ready to start reading!

Almost daily, Jane and I spent a two fifteen minute sessions sitting together on the couch, where I read stories to her. Periodically, I’d ask her to identify a shape, a color, or some item on the page. Sometimes, I asked her the page number or what letter I was pointing at. Sometimes, I read fast, sometimes slow, often stopping to point out an easy one syllable word, then have her pronounce it along with me. Right after her second birthday, Jane began to learn how to read in earnest.

[Photocopy of drawing from Journal 6: The Travelers Guide To People and Places, entitled, Principle of the Conservation of Genetic Similarity. Relates to the journals genealogical context at,  J6_762.jpg]

Observations regarding toddler age children
Babies and small children have a tremendous learning capacity.  Compared to a young child, adults learn slow and seldom make insightful jumps in understanding. Adults tend to feel that since the toddler is unable to speak they are also unable to understand, this is totally in error. It may take several days for a concept to sink into a tot’s mind, but when it does, the concept becomes a building block in their life’s world view.

One morning , I showed Jane (two year one month old) how a mirror reflects sunlight. The next morning before sunrise, Jane came into the kitchen with a small hand-held mirror, got Donna’s attention and pretended to reflect sun light at her.

What’s on TV tonight?
•  My favorite programs in 1985.
•  Local Evening   News
•  National   Evening News
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Movies attended during the year included:
A View To Kill  with Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones
Back To The Future with Michael  J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Cocoon  with Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume  Cronyn, Brian Dennehy
Ladyhawke with Rutger  Hauer, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer
Murphy’s Romance with Sally Field, James Garner, Brian Kerwin
Out of Africa  with Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer
Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass
Prizzi’s Honor  with Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, Kathleen Turner
Summer Rental with John Candy, Karen Austin, Richard   Crenna, Rip Torn
The Trip To Bountiful with Geraldine Page, John Heard, Carlin Glynn
Wierd Science  with Anthony M. Hall, Kelly  LeBrock, Bill Paxton
Witness  with Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas

[1] Our savings: [edited]
[2]  See Journal 12, Point of View, page 1932, “Of Growth and Change”.
[3]  The driftwood bookcase and stereo speakers both came from that period of time when I lived with my ‘little hippie family’ in a cabin on Fickle Hill Road, Arcata, CA, just prior to the time when Donna and I met.
[4]  James was said to have had a relationship with his wife’s sister, infuriating her husband who came over the Roberts house and shot James through the screen door.
[5] See pictures the house after refinishing at the end of this chapter: Living room, Jane’s bedroom and the master bedroom. The pictures show what our homes interior looked like from 1985 through 1996.
[6] See SRAPO in this 4dtraveler blog.
[7]  The idea for this direction of thought was to allow someone who claims to have seen an extraterrestrial intelligent life form to use the information from his sighting to back track to a similar, but generic home world. This information does not point out what star the alien’s have come from, but tells something  about their biology.
[8]  See also Journal 10, Index, beginning on page 1583-1594, household clothing inventory. [This footnote refers to a handwritten journal entry, information that may be converted into a blog ‘Autobiography Appendix’ in the future.]

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

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