April is a capricious month when it comes to weather. After a long winter, when April finally arrives a person wants to get outside and “do” something,-- rake, paint, plant a garden, take a trip, or even move to a new location. In all these various endeavors, a wearer of reading glasses may discover some unusual finds—specifically glasses long lost. Recently while raking leaves around a bush, I raked up a pair of my old reading glasses. They had spent the winter with buried acorns. After being washed, they worked just fine. Not long ago, my husband came in with a pair of glasses, holding it out as if it were a dead mouse. It was, indeed, another pair of my reading glasses albeit it bent and hinge-impaired. He had found it by the edge of the woods.
If I’m upstairs, I find I’ve left my glasses downstairs. If I’m in the basement, I discover I’ve left them upstairs. It’s always a rush to find them—glad they aren’t gone forever and relieved to realize I haven’t lost my mind regarding remembering where I left them.
I have at least ten reading glasses. Some are in pristine condition. Others have one eye glass missing or a bent arm or a repaired hinge. Each comes in handy when needed. The odd thing is I can remember WHERE I lost some of my glasses. Once at a diner, my glasses fell off the table, but not I nor the waitress or anyone else could find them. Wherever they landed, they must still be there. On another occasion, I was checking the mailbox by our driveway, and the glasses which were propped on top of my head—where I generally place them when not in use---, fell off when I leaned over to open the box. They fell into the rain drain, which is located almost directly under our mailbox although it shouldn’t be. Which begs the question: which came first, the rain drain or the mailbox? Who knows? Neighbors may have though us weird, when they saw my husband and me both with fishing poles trying to fish from the rain drain. We never could catch those glasses. Eventually they probably got washed into Cedar Creek and down the eighty-six mile stretch of the St. Joe River into Lake Erie.
I have a friend who swears she has twenty-two reading glasses. That’s like the little old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many children; she didn’t know what to do. Keeping track of one’s glasses can be time consuming and exasperating. But oh, how wonderful it is to be able to slip them on and read!
I think how desperate reading conditions were for many people before old Ben Franklin invented the bifocals in the mid- 1700s. The process of grinding glasses to magnifiers dates back to around the year 1000 in Northern Italy. The oldest pair of glasses, I learned from Wikipedia, was discovered in a catholic nunnery in Germany. They are dated circa 1400, and referred to as the Wienhausen glasses. They had no temples or ear stems but were kept on the face by clamping the nose between two lenses. The information includes the sentence, “With the advent of the printing press in 1450, the demand for vision correction was exponentially increasing as books became available to the general public.”
So, as mentioned, April is a capricious month when it comes to weather. On a sunny day, one may eschew the inside library, but on a cold, wind- whipped or rainy day, I suggest there can not be a better thing to do than to put on one’s glasses and read. Whether it is a nursery rhyme or a treatise about the renovation of the Sistine Chapel, reading provides insight, entertainment, and information. In this time of technology and visuals, there is nothing like a book. Emily Dickinson may have said it best, “There is no frigate like a book/ To take us Lands away.” Incidentally, April is National Poetry Month, as designated by the Academy of American Poets.
The following was sent to me, and I found it interesting and entertaining. I'm not publishing all of it, just the twenty examples.
For those of you who wonder why folk from other countries have a bit of trouble with the English language. This is a clever piece put together by an English teacher, who else?
Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.
You think English is easy? I think a retired English teacher was bored...THIS IS GREAT !
1)The bandage was *wound* around the *wound*.
2)The farm was used to *produce produce*.
3)The dump was so full that it had to *refuse* more *refuse*.
4)We must *polish* the *Polish* furniture.
5)He could *lead* if he would get the *lead* out.
6)The soldier decided to *desert* his dessert in the *desert*.
7)Since there is no time like the *present*, he thought it was time to *present* the *present*.
8)A *bass* was painted on the head of the *bass* drum.
9)When shot at, the *dove dove * into the bushes.
10)I did not *object* to the *object*.
11)The insurance was *invalid* for the *invalid*.
12)There was a *row* among the oarsmen about how to *row*.
13)They were too *close* to the door to *close* it
14)The buck *does* funny things when the *does* are present.
15)A seamstress and a *sewer* fell down into a *sewer* line.
16)To help with planting, the farmer taught his *sow* to *sow*.
17)The *wind* was too strong to *wind* the sail.
18)Upon seeing the *tear* in the painting I shed a *tear*.
19)I had to *subject* the *subject* to a series of tests.
20)How can I *intimate* this to my most *intimate* friend?
On the coldest day of January when a polar vortex blast brought a brutal minus eighteen degrees below zero to the Midwest, I gathered Ken’s papers to burn. . (I’ll call him Ken for privacy reasons, although he has been deceased for years.) Anyway, I met Ken at a gathering of writers and artists at some sort of Expo. He was an accomplished artist, selling paintings of airplanes, boats, landscapes, and portraits. I was there with my books. His display was next to my table so we chatted.
Ken was affable but a bit paranoid. He was pleasant but a bit cynical especially about matters such as technology and trade policies. He was ardent in his belief that the world soon was coming to an end, a “prophecy,” he said. He asked if I might review some of his essays. I said writing demanded time, discipline, and purpose. He said he possessed all three.
Over the next eight or ten years, periodically I would receive a letter or two from Ken. They were mini-essays, handwritten, long, and passionate about technological eves-dropping and American democracy being destroyed. He still was convinced the world was coming to an end and soon! He signed his letters, “Peace.” He wanted to know if I thought his writings were publishable. Because I did not wish to explore his subject matter, I mostly reacted to Ken’s writing style, his vocabulary, and his singular voice. He then would send me a note thanking me for my insight, and I would not hear from him for another year or so.
His essays and letters were interwoven with quotations, arguments, and prophecies he had copied from newspapers and various “prophets.” I placed them with the others and kept them on a library shelf. They have remained there ever since. I do not know why I find it so hard to burn Ken’s letters. They have nothing to do with me. They are strange, eloquent, and passionate.
I still see Ken in my mind’s eye. He was blond, fair-skinned, and somewhat like Picasso in stature. He generally wore a straw hat. He always looked a bit flustered but happy. He often wore sandals. He was not a young man. His wife of more than forty years predeceased him, and he had several adult children. He said they were offended by his opinions. I liked Ken because he was who he was and didn’t pretend otherwise.
On the coldest day of January, as I was preparing to burn Ken’s letters, I showed them to my husband who also was imprisoned inside the house because of the frigid weather. He had wandered the house, cleaned the kitchen stove, practiced his cornet, and worked on Claude Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” at the piano. Telling him about Ken’s writings, my husband remarked, “He sounds like a man who was a bit stretched out.”
I went to the window. A flock of blue birds landed on the tree and began pecking at some berries on a nearby vine. Three brown lumps against the snow turned and stood up, white tailed deer, ready to forage. Newscasters and meteorologists talked about the deep freeze across the Midwest. I went to the library and placed the packet of Ken’s letters back on the shelf. There will be another day. So be it. Peace.
I wrote the book some time ago-- JUSTIN WAS A TERROR. The other day I came downstairs to find my husband reading it. I was surprised. He looked up and said, “This is a really good story.“ He began to read aloud, and I was taken with my own words. The characters came to life again, and the wording of various sentences reminded me of how I’d chosen one word over another. As I listened to the story, it seemed the work wasn’t mine at all but a story that existed somewhere by itself. It lived. It was complete. It had humor and sadness and spoke of values and reminded me of a good old-fashioned Christmas card that wished everyone cheer and good will. I do not exaggerate, even though I am the author. Sometimes what we write seems to take on a life of its own. Here's the thrill—my husband keeps "reading" parts from my book to me. I've never had such an experience.
Sometimes the thrill is in the project, the means to an end; sometimes it's the result. I love to be in the process of writing, be it a play, a story, or a poem. I lose myself in the process of the dialogue, action, the intrigue. But two other unexpected holiday thrills occurred, one before Christmas and one after.
Before Christmas on a brisk Sunday morning, we drove to a nearby city to attend a service performed by the Wesley Choir, Orchestra, and Dancers of the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. The “Fantasia Noel” was under the direction of Marlane Sturm, Director of Music and Arts. The music was arranged and orchestrated by one Joshua Spacht, thus the title “Spachtacular Christmas.” We went because our friend and fellow author MLRigdon wrote and presented the narration. We did not expect anything other than a traditional service, but instead we were swept away by the music, -- so regal, elegant, soaring, and so professionally beautiful. It was not a quiet cantata, but a joyful and thrilling one.
The other unexpected experience: in mid-August, I received a phone call from a long-time friend, who invited us to attend a holiday dinner. ” Put it on your calendar,” he said, “December 29th." I said, “It’s August!” He said, “I’m thinking ahead.”
We along with a few other guests were served a festive and memorable dinner. After aperitifs, appetizers, and small talk, we were invited to experience the Christmas tree. Lights were turned down and the glory of the tree shone all around. Vintage ornaments, light reflectors, antique 1920s and 1930s candle sets and strings of colorful C-6 lights glowed. Tiny whirly globe lampshade turned, bubble lights danced, and candles flickered. Thomas Edison, inventor of the first practical light bulb, was the man who brought to life the first strand of electric lights. He would have approved.
But that was not all. Dinner was served, smoked turkey inside a turkey, and all sorts of delicacies. Then, after a lot of talk, shared memories, and a French chocolate gateau, we were invited to experience the tree again. This time all lights were put out, including Edison’s, and a myriad of beeswax candles (for real) were lit, one by one, until the tree was bright to behold. It was a scene reminiscent of Victorian England or ancient Europe. Martin Luther would have approved. It was a thrill, albeit we were aware a fire extinguisher was probably nearby. At least we hoped it was. We sat in awe, almost in reverence, before toasting the dazzling project our host said took him two weeks to complete.
We toasted him, the tree, and our hopes for good health. May the projects we tackle this New Year give us –and/or others—a happy peace.
On the last night of November in spite of a heavy fog enveloping field and stream, we inched our way along a back road to Garrett. The dense fog made the town’s main street and twinkling Christmas lights a fairy tale scene. We were there to view the opening of an exhibit entitled “From ‘It’ to ‘Thou.’” In classy little towns, one may expect to find upscale boutiques, galleries, and coffeehouses, but Garrett, with a population of less than seven thousand, is the divisional point for the Baltimore and Ohio on the Chicago route. What you may ask is an art museum doing in a rough and tumble railroad town with a no-nonsense attitude and fierce sports teams? That may be the charm of it.
The Garrett Museum of Arts, located in a former bank building, is ten years old. It has endured the ups and downs of any new venture, but one fact remains constant. The GMoA mounts quality art exhibits thanks no doubt to the efforts of director James Gabbard, a number of volunteers, and its board of directors. In the last year alone, we have seen exquisite paper art by Janice Furtner, Ober pottery, complex McArdle sculptures, as well as various photography club and student shows, and works by regional artists from area guilds and universities.
On this night, Gabbard who teaches photography at Purdue was exhibiting some of his own images, along with works of Peter Bella, professor of art and graphic design at the U. of Central Arkansas. The two collaborated on FROM ‘IT’ to ‘THOU,’ an art book about the simplicity and sacredness of nature—whether it is a leaf, a tree, a meadow, or a plant. The photographs feature the earth and forests sacred to Native Americans who believe in living in harmony with the world around them. The images are accompanied by reflective quotations about mythology and the quest for spiritual enlightment.
Using a ruling pen, Bella drafted quotations and words from Chief Seattle, Chief Luther Standing Bear, and other tribe leaders to express a thoughtful celebration of nature not as an “it” but as a “thou.” His artistic use of Sequoyah(S-si-qua-ya) of the Cherokee Nation, “which is argued the most famous Native American writing system,” gave the display dignity and a stark flair. He superimposed large block-like typography on English words such as “earth,” “sky,” “prayer,” “soul,” “river,’ and other phrases to depict elements, beliefs, and creatures of the earth.
Gabbard said he wanted “to foster the idea that everything is connected. A leaf lying on water or on the ground is used to promote the idea that rather than just a leaf on the ground, it will decompose and become nutrients for a nearby ter. This tree in turn will supply shelter to small animals and supply the earth with oxygen.”
Driving home through the fog, we decided the heavy grey cloud that enshrouded our world that night, to be a fitting tribute to an exhibit dedicated to the quietness of nature uninterrupted by man’s mad rush and the industry of modern reality.
The leaves on the dogwood tree behind our house have turned crimson, so I accept that autumn has arrived. Until those leaves turn, I stay skeptical in spite of weather, calendar dates, and fall festivals. I am thankful for my dogwood trees. If I had to specify, I probably would say dogwood tree are among my favorite trees. But, I adore oak trees, gorgeous maples, and sweet gum trees. I love pines that whisper, and the stately spruce. Recently when we were “up north,” I saw a grove of birch trees and swore they also had to be counted as favorites. I could name you a catalogue of trees and give each one its due. Yes, I am thankful for trees. I worry about the Amazonian forests, and how many of those trees are being cut down to make room for industry. Horrors! We need trees, tall ones, short ones, trees of all sizes, shapes, and varieties.
But trees can be dangerous. A huge tree fell upon our house last fall and damaged walls, windows, gutters, and the chimney. Alas. But I am thankful. This past month, the anti-lock system on my car gave out; the right click button on my computer mouse stopped functioning; the house hasn’t yet been completely repaired; the TV antenna on our roof got unhooked; and the basal carcinoma on my shin had to be surgically removed. There were other minor troubles, but I accept each as a testament to life being lived. As I say, I am thankful.
Given that this is November, the month we Americans dedicate to elections, football games, and thanksgiving, my thoughts seem timely. A friend told me about visiting a woman and thinking they would have a lovely chat. My friend said, “All that woman wanted to do was complain.” It made me think.
So, I am thankful for family, good neighbors, friends, books to read, a warm house, indoor plumbing, postal service, newspapers, a flag to fly, medicine, libraries, churches, arts councils, memories, theatre productions and concerts to enjoy, and letters. Boxes of letters. I don’t know what to do with all these beautiful letters I have received over the years from friends and family members. I can identify from whom they came based on the handwritten addresses on the outside envelopes. I love seeing those handwritten letters, the signatures, each demonstrating a special slant or flair. It makes me wonder if youngsters today have any clue as to how to write using a pen? Remember how we had to practice lovely cursive and round vowels and form the ups and downs of various letters? I digress. Since I am trying to decide how best to manage these boxes of letters, I am especially thankful for words and language, stories and plays, music and art. Yes, and for America, a country of many trees, and for people who value trees, plant trees, and use trees to make paper. I like paper and words ---especially on paper.
The card came in the mail and was followed up by a phone call. I was invited to join the former employees of the Auburn Rubber Company gathering in a nearby town. The venue would be a restaurant that featured railroads and Creek Chub fish lures. It would be a Sunday brunch. I accepted.
It wasn’t so long ago when almost every town had a Ben Franklin Five and Dime store where counters stretched from front to back displaying household goods for sale, from oil cloth, spatulas, curtains, and toiletries to records, pliers, nails, and fans. There would be counters of playthings such as rubber cap pistols, farm animals, tractors, toy soldiers, and vehicles of every make and model. Nothing was packaged in plastic, and youngsters could finger the vehicles or roll them along the counter. Most of these small-scale cars, sports figures, planes, motorcycles, wagons, horses, and barnyard animals were manufactured in the small city of Auburn located in the northeast corner of Indiana. It was a venture that catapulted the Auburn Rubber Company into the international toy market between 1935 and 1955.
Prior to that time, toy vehicles generally had been made of tin, cast iron, and lead. Celluloid toys existed, but they were too fragile for ordinary play. Auburn Rubber Company toys were brightly colored, four to eight inches in length, cast in a variety of molds, and made of hard rubber. The vehicles, tractors, and motorcycles featured details such as hitches, fenders, windshield wipers, door handles, and steering wheels.
The toys were inexpensive, durable, practical, and fun, treasured equally by children in rural farmhouses in Missouri and fancy California mansions. Children played with them in the dirt and sand, chewed them, and left them outside in the rain. Moreover, the toys were safe because the company used non-toxic paint.
Today there is a brisk market for Auburn Rubber toys. Internet sites and antique and flea markets offer a wide array of the old-fashioned rubber and vinyl toys for which collectors pay top dollar
The Auburn Rubber Company started out manufacturing tires in 1913, as the Double Fabric Tire Company. The company later changed its name to Auburn Rubber and in the mid-1930s, started making rubber toys. It was an economically lucrative move. By 1950, the Auburn Rubber Company was the largest producer of rubber toys in the world,
It was a shock to all its employees and to the dismay of Auburn, in 1957, when the company was sold to the city of Deming, New Mexico. By 1969, the company had declared bankruptcy and was out of business. The “fairy-tale” success story and the unfortunate ending of the Auburn Rubber Company reads like a well-written script.
The grand point about the reunion was to sit with people who had worked at the company and hear them discuss the toys they made, the collections they had, and the memories they shared.
Why was I invited? I wrote an article about the Auburn Rubber Company for TRACES of Indiana & Midwestern History that was published in 2009. Since that time, I have been invited to their reunions. The number of former employees has dwindled, but I love hearing their stories. Dave F. worked for four years as a “stock boy,” which entitled him to be paid by the hour, which in 1955, was $1.15. During the 1930s, his mother worked at Auburn Rubber for forty cents an hour. Betty W. said, “I worked there for nine years and loved every minute of it. I gave them the best years of my life. I was in my early twenties, and with my earnings, my husband-- he farmed-- and I were able to pay off our farm in seven years. We had been told we could never do that, but with my job and with the sale of wheat, we did it.”
Writers are always alert for stories, and every company has a story to tell.
When I was in the ninth grade, I won a scholarship to attend a conservation camp. I won because I submitted a short essay about why I’d like to go. I don’t why I did such a thing, but I did. Off I went to camp, where I fell head over heels in love with nature. My absolutely favorite book at the time was The Web of Life by John H. Storer. Its subtitle was “The World of Nature in Action.” A Signet Key Book, it cost 35 cents. I still have the book. Its pages are brown with age, and the cover is faded and has come unglued. By today’s standards, it would be termed a book about preserving our environment. Incidentally, after that success, I began to submit material to other competitions and was successful in many cases.
Rachel S. Roberts
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