New Beginnings

This week we celebrate new beginnings. Twenty-four years ago my son and his cousin, my goddaughter, were born on Thursdays, five weeks apart. I am having a hard time believing how quickly the years have gone by, but I am not surprised at the amazing adults they have become. This week they both start the next chapter in their lives. A week of new beginnings.

Last week we spent the week packing, driving, unpacking, and again driving. My son had accepted a job in Rhode Island, over 1000 miles distance from his current home in DeKalb, Illinois. It is a real grown up job. Now don’t get me wrong, the job he left was a real job, and a fantastic opportunity, but he was ready to move on. Have you been to DeKalb? While it is a college town, it is not a place that could offer an amazing social life for a young adult. My childrens description of the city is “the town that gave up.” So Monday, February 20th we drove to DeKalb, and started packing. We picked up the truck on Tuesday, and packed the 16’ box truck that we had reserved. Wednesday morning dawned foggy, but we got an early start, caravanning our way east, my son in his pickup truck in the lead, my husband and daughter next, and me following in the truck. We made it to Utica, New York that night. The next afternoon we were unloading the truck into his new home. By Saturday noon we were finished, even the stacking washer and dryer were humming away with loads of laundry. Sunday we were on the road early, heading back to Wisconsin. Tuesday he started his new job. We were blessed by unseasonable weather for February – 50s and 60s, and little to no wind. No winter coats were needed during the mad rush of the week. Today, March 1st, we are in the midst of a snowstorm with blustery winds. I do believe that a bit of intercession was made on our behalf, and for that I am truly grateful.

My goddaughter went to college in Virginia, and it was there that she met the man who she will be marrying this Saturday, March 4th.  Unlike her cousin, who went to school here in the Midwest, and has moved east for a new job, she went to school in the east, only to find herself moving back to the Midwest for a new job. And a new life as a married woman.

New beginnings, new lives. My hopes and dreams are that these coming days and years are full of faith, good fortune, and much happiness for both of them.

May joy and peace surround you, 
contentment latch your door, 
and happiness be with you now
and bless you evermore!

An Irish Blessing

Housing Elephants

The news that the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus would be shutting down after 146 years, reminded me of this story. 

The Tapper home on Ann Street. The garage is just visible on the right.

One year while visiting my grandparents in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana, my brother and I went with our grandfather, Roland Tapper, to run some errands. We must have driven near where the family home used to stand on Ann Street, as it triggered a memory for Grandpa, and he told us that his father used to house the circus elephants in their garage. Sadly, that is where my memory of this conversation ends, but the story stuck with me. 

Anton H. Tapper Sr. moved into his new home on Ann Street, in August 1908.1 Anton had chosen property directly across the street from the new Masonic Temple, whose cornerstone was laid May 1, 1907. The three story red brick building was built in the Gothic style, and boasted 65,000 square feet of space, which included an auditorium large enough to host a circus. Sadly the temple was torn down in 2009, having been abandoned by the Masons in 1999. Time and a leaking roof had taken its toll. Pictures of the temple at the time it was torn down are available online here: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jordannicolette/sets/72157620768953484/ 

Roland Tapper, age 13. Confirmation Photo taken 23 Jun 1923

In November 1922, when my grandfather was 13 years old, the Shrine Circus came to town, and set up in the Masonic Temple. The circus was held Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 18th. Two performances were held daily, one at 1:30, and the second at 7:00 p.m. Amazingly this full circus was held inside in the temple’s auditorium! The “regular thirty foot circus ring, with dirt foundation and sawdust, [was set up] just like it’s under the big canvas top.” “The ring was laid out on the floor in front of the auditorium stage. [Pictures of the auditorium are included in the link above]. The seats which used to be there have been removed and circus seats put on the stage. First a heavy plank flooring was laid. It was covered with tar paper. Then tons of clay were packed on this foundation until a firm surface had been provided on which the elephants will perform and the galloping horses cavort.”2

The elephants arrived Monday, and after a quick tour through downtown, were enlisted to help pack down the clay that had been laid in the circus ring. That evening, they moved to their evening quarters in “Tony Tapper’s garage.”3

The Masonic Temple was located where the Hammond Academy now sits.

 As if the circus being in town was not exciting enough for the children of Hammond, Tilly the elephant celebrated her 107th birthday on November 11th, and they were invited to her birthday party. In 1922, 11-year-old  Margaret Hagedorn was in sixth grade. She was living in her grandmother’s household with her mother, and 10 year old sister ,at 11 Rimbach Street. As girls of that age often do, she wrote about Tilly’s birthday party, and her account was published in The Times on November 20, 1922.4

So while I don’t have a first hand account of this time from my grandfather, I do have Margarets memories. She states that “Such a party I never expect to witness again and I am writing this out so that I can always remember it as I believe I will never go to a party quite like it again.”

“The elephants were quartered in Mr. Tapper’s barn, which is just across from the Masonic Temple, and as we live less than a block from there we became very well acquainted with the elephants and their keepers and we used to visit them several times a day. The keepers were kindly men and told us many interesting things about these wonderful beasts.”5

If Margaret was visiting the elephants several times a day, and was tolerated by the keepers who were “kindly men,” I can only imagine that my grandfather was also spending time in his father’s garage with the elephants. After running our errands, and returning to the apartment that day many years ago, Grandpa continued reminiscing about the circus, and told the story that he and his brothers had fun taking the elephant, umm droppings, and throwing them around the yard. Which brings to mind what a mess four elephants must have left behind.

The Masonic Temple, circa 1921

The highlight of the circus was celebrating Tilly’s birthday, and thankfully Margaret wrote about the party in detail. She described the table that was placed in the center of the ring and covered with a white cloth, and where “good crisp cabbages cut in halves and loaves of bread” were placed. On a separate table was placed the cake. “Such a cake!!!. It was five feet across and made in tiers thickly frosted in white with festoons of chocolate and pink frosting.” She was amazed at how the elephants, Tilly, Clara, Tony and Pitt, sat “down on tubs in front of the table just like human beings at a feast,” and waited for a signal from the keepers before beginning to eat. When they had finished the first coarse, the cake was cut into large pieces. Margaret’s favorite memory was how the elephants ate their piece of cake. She writes: “Each elephant was given large share [of cake]. Tilly, Clara and Tony behaved very nicely and lifted their piece of cake with their trunks to their mouths, but old Pitt opened his mouth wide and acted as though he expected to have the whole cake shoved in.”6

What a party this must have been! What an exciting ten days it must have been for the children of Hammond! And what a smell must have been left behind in the Tapper garage when the elephants got back on the train, and headed to the next city. I am grateful that Margaret wrote about the event “so that she would remember this occasion always.”

Sources:

  1. “Change Residence,” The Lake County Times, 7 Aug 1908, Friday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
  2. “Circus is Loading for Hammond,” The Times, 4 Nov 1922, front page, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  3. “Orphans of Region to be Greeted,” The Gary Evening Times, 6 Nov 1922, front page, col. 5; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  4. “The Shrine Circus At Hammond,” The Times, 20 Nov 1922, page 6, col. 6; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid

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The Road Trip

Twenty years ago this week, wait, what? Twenty years ago? How is that possible? Anyway. Twenty years ago this week, I went on a road trip with my in-laws to Rochester, Minnesota. To be more specific, to the Mayo Clinic. What triggered this memory? Hanging the ornament that both Marie and I fell in love with, and purchased for our Christmas trees. I remember laughing with her, saying that no one will ever know we own the same ornament.

Marie had been experiencing some pretty intense pain in her back, and it was felt by her doctors here in Appleton that she should be examined at the Mayo Clinic with the hope that they could help her.

Appointments were scheduled for December 3-4, and 9-10. I believe we were able to re-schedule the 9-10 appointments, as I know we were not there over the weekend – and most importantly in Rochester for Butch’s birthday on the 8th. The next decision to be made, was Butch, who was just about to turn 84, up to the task of making the drive in unpredictable December weather? I don’t remember how the decision was made, but I was appointed chief driver, and appointment monitor, while Gary stayed at home wrangling our 7 1/2 year old daughter, 4 year old son, and continued to work full time.

We left on Monday, December 2nd, and as I recall the drive to Rochester was uneventful. Marie sat in front with me, and Butch sat in the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, taking in the rare view from rear seat of his car.

Marie’s appointment schedule was not heavy, and while tests were time consuming, we found time to wander the Apache Mall, and do a bit of Christmas shopping. We also enjoyed having dinner like “old people” at a restaurant that served a cheap, early bird menu. Eating at 4:30 was perfect, as we were always starving by this time of day. Time for real meals were few and far between due to the doctor appointments. Butch thought that fact that we were eating this early was doubly funny. Here we were laughing about eating with the old people, when, well, he was old!

It’s funny, I thought I remembered this trip so clearly, but in reality, it is a series of highlights. One doctor appointment in particular sticks out. Marie was asked to reach as far as she could toward the floor. She promptly complied, bending in 1/2 and laying her palms flat on the floor. The doctor almost fell of his stool. He was not expecting this from a 74 year old woman, who was there to see him for chronic back pain.

As the appointments ended and we prepared to return home, the weather took a turn. Marie and I headed out that evening to get gas so we wouldn’t have to do it the next day. Neither of us had filled up the Town Car before, and we stood laughing in the snow, trying to figure out how to open the fuel door. We finally got out the manual, figured it out and pumped our gas.

The weather had further deteriorated the by next morning, when we headed cautiously out for home. Approaching a stop light, just turning green, a car decided to make a mad left turn in front of us. I held tight, and pushed on the brakes. From the seat next to me was heard “Sh*$T!” while in the back seat, “DA*@&#N” as an involuntary “F#()#@@K” came out of my mouth. Luckily the breaks held, the car stopped, and we didn’t hit anything, and nothing hit us!

As the snow continued to fall, we made our way east on what is mostly two lane state highways. At one point, it became clear that I was going to have to pass a semi who was being extra cautious. Finding my moment I headed out and around, holding the car to the road as we hit the slush and snow. The comment from the back seat. “I always knew you were a good driver!” Reaching Oshkosh though, Butch had had enough. He needed a break, and a meal. OH! We were so close to home. But we stopped and had a quick bite to eat before getting back on the road and on our way to Hollandtown.

Unfortunately the trip to Mayo brought no miracle relief for Marie. She was given meditation tapes, some new medications to try, along with some exercises. Ultimately she learned that she needed to slow down a bit, take care of herself, and when it came to housecleaning, she didn’t need to throw the sofa across the family room all by herself, she could ask for help.

Each year as I put this special little blue bird on the Christmas tree, I think of this trip, the laughter, and even the fear of what the doctors may find. And this year, like I have for the past three years, a second blue bird is hung on our tree. They now hang in the same household. And I want everyone to know it.

Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving 2016The day after Thanksgiving allows me the time to sit and reflect. The food has been prepared and consumed, the dishes done, the house is quiet. Yesterday marked 30 years of Thanksgivings that Gary and I have spent together. The way we celebrate the holiday has certainly changed over these many years – three decades!

29 years ago I spent the day at my new in-laws home. In those days it was a dress up occasion, complete with pantyhose and heels. My mother-in-law roasted her turkey in a Nesco so that she could free her oven for the rest of the meal. Feeling a bit useless as the meal was getting on the table, I wandered into the utility room where my father-in-law was carving the turkey. I have no idea what we talked about, but as I stood there watching him, I snitched a piece of skin. He looked at me, snuck a peak into the kitchen, and helped himself to this forbidden treat. As partners in crime, he continued carving the bird, and we brought it to the table. 

1989 was the first year that I prepared the meal. My daughter was almost six months old. One of the traditional sides for my side of the family was a sweet potato dish that my grandmother made, a take on the stereotypical sweet potato side. That year using canned sweet potatoes, and baking them in a toaster oven, I added butter and brown sugar to the dish, and then took it into the living room to see how I had done. Bringing the casserole dish to grandma, i asked her if there was enough butter and sugar. More sugar, she said. So I headed back into the kitchen to add additional sugar. Then headed back to the living room. This back and forth went on a few more times, until she felt that I had the correct amount of sugar added to the potatoes. 

1990 was celebrated at my sister-in-laws. Knowing that Marie would have prepared pies and other things to bring for the meal, we stopped at the house on to see if we could help with anything. Butch happily greeted Kate at the door, and had to put her up on the counter to have a look at her. As she had only been walking a few months, she was still a bit unsteady on her feet, and she promptly sat down on a pumpkin pie. Thankfully, for both the pie and her coat, the pie was wrapped in plastic wrap.

In 1993 we had grand plans to host Thanksgiving here in our “new” house. But the summer rains held us up, and when Thanksgiving rolled around, the house was not ready for hosting. It was barely ready for our family consisting of a four year old, and a one year old who had decided to learn to walk the week before we moved in on November 19th. Without real clearance from the city, and with workmen arriving every day at 7:00 a.m., we were in no position to host. In fact, the house was barely ready for Christmas! 

The 90s were filled with big family gatherings around our table, as girlfriends, and an occasional boyfriend joined us along with Gary’s older brother and his family. Many times my parents joined with the Fassbenders at the table, swelling the seating arrangement to 20. My dad bonding with Butch’s older sister, and Gary’s godmother over the “joys” of taking prednisone. Or conversations about a dream of traveling to Australia with a favorite nephew. It was during these years that I started to cook two turkeys instead of one large bird. That way there was plenty of dark meat to go around. Thanksgiving day Marie would arrive with a large casserole of her famous stuffing. A bread concoction that she spent days making as it required dry bread, chicken, ground beef, celery, onion, and an apple ground in the meat grinder, and then mixed together with sage, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and three eggs, and the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken. My mothers, also famous, wild rice stuffing, also a bread stuffing, but using fresh bread combined with celery, onion, sage, thyme and five eggs – and we can’t forget the three sticks of butter in which you sautéed the onion and celery, filled the cavity of the birds. Tapper Salad fulfilled the role of a sweet side. An old family recipe of marshmallows, Queen Anne cherries, pineapple, and whipping cream. Marie taught me how to make jellied cranberry sauce. Having only made whole cranberry sauce up to this point, she told me to strain the sauce, put it back in the pan, add an additional cup of sugar and boil for another 15 minutes. Voila! The table in those years groaned with homemade goodness. 

The new century brought another change as family dynamics changed, in addition to losing both Gary’s dad, and then my father So our table shrunk to six. Then to five when we lost Gary’s mother. This year we were a joyful ten as Gary’s nephew and his family joined us. The table has a different look these days. While the two stuffings/dressings are a constant, our tastes have changed. I no longer make the Tapper Salad. The marshmallows you can purchase in the stores today are just too sweet, and it pains me to spend $10 on canned cherries when we were not really enjoying it anymore. I plan on making homemade marshmallows and trying it again – maybe a 1/2 recipe. As for my grandma’s sweet potatoes, this year I roasted the sweet potatoes to a natural sweetness, and if you wanted a little extra, we put brown sugar on the table for sprinkling. And i put bourbon in the pumpkin pie.

What hasn’t changed is the blessings of family, and the joy of spending time together around the table. Not only on Thanksgiving, but every night that we are together. This time at table is just what our family does. It makes us who we are. A family sharing the blessings of being together and sharing a meal. 

Trying to Find the Words

I have to be honest, I have not felt much like writing lately. I love words, and I love to put them together in such a manner that they say something, and hopefully speak to people in a positive way. But now, every time I log into the internet I am bombarded by hatred. Words used to promote emotion, but not in a positive way. People publicly resenting family members. People hating Trump, hating Hillary. News agencies creating huge headlines with leading words aimed at their target, hoping to get everyone riled up. People disrespecting our country, and each other. Words used to hurt and to attempt harm.

People are using social media for their platform of tunnel vision opinion. Whether it is politics, or just family, they have the “My way or the highway” attitude. The highway includes deleting “friendships” and blocking that person from ever being your friend again. On social media anyway. What happened to conversation, give and take, sharing of opinions and expertise?

We were taught at a young age to say the chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” According to Wikipedia, parents have been teaching this to their children since 1862. The problem is, is that words do hurt. 

As we move towards the final days of this campaign period for president. I wish more than ever that people would sit back, and take a genealogists approach to what is being bandied about the web. I wish that they would treat the articles that are so freely shared, as hearsay, until proven otherwise. Research the topic till all records have been exhausted, then publish the findings with fully sourced documentation. Educate people so that at least their opinion is based on some fact. 

Words. Words are powerful. Words have always been used to attempt to force an opinion, but have also been used to express love. How many letters have been written then thrown away because the physical act of writing gave the author time to reflect, and give what they were saying a second thought? Posting on social media, responding to social media, is too quick. Too instant. The words have reached the target, and caused hurt, in less time than it would take to lick an envelope. 

I am trying to write again. Trying to put words onto “paper.” But as I will with this post, I walk away, come back, proof read it. Make adjustments. Wanting to assure that I cause no harm, and that my words will not hurt. But also that my words will evoke an emotion, a connection, and a response.

Family Reunion 1996

Twenty years ago we were in the final countdown to the 1996 Fassbender Family Reunion.

My husband and I planned and held a family reunion back in the early days of home computers, before home internet was common, and “You’ve Got Mail” was the welcome message. Using Creative Writer, a program our children used, and whatever word processing program we were using at the time, I started creating reunion documents.

The Date Has Been Set!

The Date Has Been Set!

Never having planned a party of this magnitude, and having no idea how large the task was that we were taking on, Gary and I jumped enthusiastically into planning. The reunion was to celebrate the children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, etc., of Henry and Ida Fassbender.  51 letters were sent out to the families descending from this couple and their eight children: Harold (Fat) b. 1907, Laurine (Ena) b. 1909, Norbert (Red) b. 1911, Bernard (Butch) b. 1912, Mildred (Hunce) b. 1914, Hubert (Cub) b. 1917, Ann (Hank) b. 1921, and Rosemary (Rosie/Foos) b. 1926. 21 responses were returned, and with that, the date was set: July 20, 1996. With the date selected I got busy creating a cute “reunion t-shirt” note using a Creative Writer template, and developing a survey to be included in the mailing. What was asked in the survey? I sadly do not have a copy. But my mother-in-law thankfully saved the t-shirt page.

Schedule of Events

Schedule of Events

With the date set, we reserved the Hollandtown Community Park and pavilion, a photographer was asked to take group pictures, we finalized the activities for the kids, the tour of White Clover Dairy, the place to share photos and memories of past reunions, and the dinner which was catered from Van Abels. Chicken, ham, German potato salad and rolls. The family was then broken up into two categories, one group was to bring dessert, the other a snack/munchie of their choice. As the surveys and reservations came in, I diligently worked on compiling the information that I received, into  a family directory, preparing to have a copy available for every attendee. Looking back, I am amazed that my curiosity about family, and desire for a sense of order were apparent even then. I color coded the name tags by family, seven different colors adorned the tags, and helped cousins who in some cases had not seen each other in years, quickly identify, and recognize old friends.

Directory Cover

Directory Cover

As the event drew closer, Butch and Marie, Cub and Dolores, Hank (Ann), and Hunce, the four remaining siblings, and Stella, the widow of Red, began to make their plans. Cub and Hank were coming from out of town, and would stay for the weekend; making it a true reunion, and allowing lots of time for chats and memories. And a bit of cheese and crackers with their evening beer. 

We planned the best we could, but sometimes the “best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” On July 5th  Butch not feeling well, went into the hospital, and it was discovered he needed surgery. The surgery was successful, but his tolerance for the morphine they gave him for pain was not. He ended up falling out of bed and breaking his arm. This set his homecoming back a few days. His younger sister, Hank, who had been battling cancer for many years, still was planning on driving up for the reunion. Sadly, she passed away, Saturday, July 13th. Her funeral was held July 16. 

The date was set, the planning complete, and these events rocked our world a bit, but we moved forward towards reunion day. 

Kids Activities

Kids Activities

The day was a perfect July day. While we only had 21 people respond with an opinion as to the choice of a date, we had almost a 100% RSVP a response of “yes, we are coming!” The day went off without a hitch, and Butch, just home from the hospital, was able to attend for a short period of time. A good time was had by all. For that I am thankful, because I am not sure I would do it again. But I do have to say, looking at the materials that were saved, we did an amazing job. 20 years later, we surprise ourselves. 

 

Siblings

Siblings

First Cousins. Most of them are pictured here.

First Cousins. Most of them are pictured here.

A tired family, ready to go home.

A tired family, ready to go home.