Saturday, October 2, 2010

Paper cutting and More

Recently I got a real eye opener when I saw photographs of the paper cutting work of artist Christine Winkler Rayroud. This work is unbelievably intricate and is done with fingernail scissors. How the patterns were worked out beforehand and then followed defies my limited knowledge. Check out her page and see if you want to get out your fingernail scissors and start creating.

My mother entertained me with her paper cutting at Valentines. As I recall, it was all done by folding the paper so that the finished work consisted of identical facing sides.  She would cut the simple winged hearts and some series of connected hearts which I thought were rather cute. She also cut a heart tree that was just that---a tree with a elongated heart trunk and covered with heart leaves. Can you imagine how special that would be to me at this time had I managed to save some of these. All she used was her sewing scissors and scrap advertising fliers for paper.

At that time the ads were printed on only one side, leaving a nice blank page for drawing or writing a  list or as in this case, doing paper cutting. Most of my paper dolls and their clothes had a printed underside and many a childish crayon picture was drawn on those blank sides. Even a special item in our home, the poem, Come Little Leaves, that my mother reconstructed from her early school days was written in her Palmer Method handwriting on the back of some advertising matter, decorated with a watercolor border of falling leaves and framed for a gift to my father.

Her recall and reconstruction of that old poem/song was made at least sixty years after she and my dad had read this 5-verse poem in their old McGuffey  reader. That woman didn't need a computer-just give her time to think and she'd have the answer.

Today, information about that poem is readily available on the Internet: thirty years ago even the Dear Abby column could furnish any information! Today, information on every imaginable subject can be found if you ask the right question.

Following a link brought me the information about the wonderful paper cutting mentioned earlier. Other links have shown things of nature, art, archaeological interest--even the latest heart-stopper showing the dizzying climb up a 1768 foot tower !

Email sometimes does the same. Although some are forwarding posting of real interest, some are questionable as to the veracity of their content. Some of my favorites are the humorous ones and although these may be old to you I hope you get a second chuckle when reading them today.

For the Southerner:  
A true Southerner knows that "fixin: can be used both as a noun, verb, and adverb.
A true Southerner grows up knowing the difference between "pert near" and "a right far piece."
Even true Southern babies know that "Gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the middle of the table.

For those who sometimes think they can write:

A little girl was diligently pounding away on her father's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. What is it about?" he asked. "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."

A college class was told they had to write a short story in as few words as possible using three things:
The following received the only A+ in the class:

"Good god, I'm pregnant;  I wonder who did it.

Two more thoughts:

If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody. 

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two Room School at Toto

Most rural schools were very similar; well-built box styles, divided into two rooms by a  folding partition. There was a front door opening into a cloak room provided with a wall of hooks for outer wear and a shelf for lunch pails and other bulky items. The back door may have been located by an indoor coal or wood storage room or have been near an outdoor shed. The two sides of the building were lined with large windows; remember there was no electricity so open windows were vital for air circulation and for light. The windows were far enough from the floor to discourage a lot of outside gazing at any distracting activities, but many kids did a lot of day dreaming while gazing at the clouds and tree tops on a drowsy spring day.

We moved from the Moss district at mid-term when I was in the fourth grade, and Toto was my school until the end of the eight grade when most of the two room schools were consolidated with larger schools in the district. That meant busing for the kids who had been tramping a mile of more along roads that were often muddy and sometimes rough with frozen ruts made by some passing vehicle.

Generally the walk to and from school was not too bad. It was a little over a mile for me but being a newcomer, with no protecting brothers or sisters, was being the target of all the teasing and devilment that ten or twelve year old boys can devise when they have access to rocks and acorns, old shingles and switches, and puddles of water along the roadside.

The years went by and we became grown-up friends and before that, friendly enough by high school to make my boyfriend husband-to-be a tad upset when I accepted their offer of a horseback ride one morning when walking the seven miles to school (you read it right). It seems that he'd have been a much happier young fellow had I walked the remaining three miles to school. He sulked all day! The problems of growing up! This was all in the future, four years later, when transportation, although a challenge, was usually available.

Toto school was much the same as Moss. Classes were arranged in rows. Our teacher, Miss Jewel Frazier, was a nice patient woman who never displayed any of the temper red hair is so often associated wit--but she did keep discipline and sent many wiggly, giggling little kids to face the corner.  She was dating a young man in a nearby community and they were married the next year. when she became Mrs. Buddy Ellis, she could no longer teach school because at that time, married women were not allowed to teach.

When I became a member of the "big" room, our games expanded to include softball and volley ball. Another favorite was something called Dare Base, that had two teams spaced far apart, the object being for players to leave their base and dare the other team to tag them and place them in the inevitable mush pot.  It was a Yah,yah, yah sort of game and we loved it, especially on cold, misty days. When the bell rang for classes to resume, we all rushed for the water pump and gulped down our drinks, either from cupped hands of the one cup that hung by the pump. Water splattered our feet and legs but we hardly noticed as we raced inside before the second bell.

We played with jacks with all the versions that we knew, each one going from the onesies through the tensies: eggs in a basket, chickens in a coup, horses in the stall, around the world, and many more.  The game of jacks is ageless, as is that of marbles, and when the weather was hot, we played marbles in the cool shade on the north side of the building.  We girls were allowed to outline playhouses out of stove wood and bring dolls to school. Of course, we couldn't leave them there so that was an extra load to tote home.

James Harper was over the upper grades and he encouraged us to compete in the Interscholastic programs of the time: art recognition, spelling, speaking and scores more, plus all the racing events. He'd load us into his old jalopy (all cars of that time and place were jalopies) and bring us into Weatherford. The sports events were held where the 9th grade center is now--on South Main--and once the location of Weatherford's second high school.  At that time this was a baseball field surrounded by a tall board fence. The scholastic events were held in the high school of that time, where the city hall sits today.  It was an exciting event for kids in those depression days and we were very keen on competition.

Each year there were school pictures but I have none. Other things were needed more than pictures; things like groceries and shoes---or more likely, new shoe soles.  When shoe soles wore around the edges, wearing out the stitching, Dad would get out his shoe lass and little tacks and fit the shoe over the metal lass and tack the shoe sole back in place, the metal of the shoe lass bradding the point of the tack so it wouldn't have a sharp point to stick one's foot---usually, but not always! When the old shoe sole had a hole worn through, there were half soles to apply to get some more wear. Duke and Ayres and other dime stores always had a hardware section toward the back and always stocked these half soles and glue to stick 'em on with; stuff with a very potent smell that I'm sure denoted some substance that would be illegal today!

When these patched together shoe soles once more separated while we kids were walking home form school, there was a special step that we soon learned to keep the loose sole from becoming totally ruined.
People of my age remember it; step with the foot wearing an undamaged shoe, kick with the foot with the floppy sole before putting it on the ground, and repeat all the way home. The kick made the loose sole lay straight on the shoe instead of hanging loose and getting doubled under as you walked. We did it so often that we hardly noticed our peculiar gait.

When the Toto school was established, the school house was built on an acre of land in one corner of property owned by the Robeson family. It was generally understood that the land had been donated to the school for their use and would revert to the family.  After the school closed it sat deserted for years until it was finally purchased  from the school district and occupied for years. Neither the Robeson family nor the purchaser's heirs were able to lay claim to the property as a result of muddled deeds or handwritten agreements. The building is gone, its foundation sits alone among a few scattered trees, all that remain of the ones we played under.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

School Days in the Two Room School House.

Moss school in about 1934;
Miss Geraldine Goulson, teacher. 

My first school was Moss, a two-room school located on what is now the Springtown highway. Then it was a gravel road leading to Springtown. There were about six school children in a small no-name community several miles east of Moss and we walked the distance in a scattered group in the mornings - a closer group in the afternoons.

No- it was not five miles in the snow and uphill both ways! It only seemed that way. It was probably less than two miles along a county road that had one section that had become impassable other than by foot or horseback, and travel by either of those means was questionable. By today's standards the entire road was impassable but this part crossed Willow Creek, a rather awesome waterway back in the days before government dams caught much of the rainwater before it gathered into a powerful run-off.

When the road had been maintained as an active roadway, the creek had a sturdy bridge with iron rails, but it was never sturdy enough to hold its own against the water that roared down Willow Creek after a heavy rain.  The rushing water filled the creek and overflowed in a brown foaming lake of water extending far beyond the creek's banks, and rearranged everything in its path. The old bridge was always left angled precariously and its repairs were usually done by man power and four-legged horse power. Until then, once it had been determined that the bridge was not going to completely collapse, our group of school children found the spot where the bridge still touched the creek bank and walked across the caterwauled structure.

Each year at the end of August, the men of the community would take teams and plows and go to the impassable section and plow a path through the tall Bermuda grass and weeds to enable us to walk without getting soaked from the morning dews and to be relatively safe from whatever might be lurking in the weedy growth. As "bottom land" land enriched by years of overflow, the Bermuda grass grew almost knee high and Johnson grass and Blood weeds were head high.

Foreseeing that there would be a time when a heavy rain during the school day might make the creek rise to a dangerous level, my mother made arrangements for me to spend the night safely with a family near the school. It did happen, and I was put to bed wearing my classmate's long-johns. How we kids had perfect attendance records is a puzzle, but unless you were ill, you went to school, rain or shine. In all those years I remember only a sprinkling of snow!

There were no fancy backpacks in those days; those were Depression years and we were fortunate to have shoes much less anything as fancy as a purchased carrier for books. Instead, there were homemade book satchels, usually made of canvas and having a wide shoulder strap to ease the burden of a load of books.

I suppose the school building had wide folding doors dividing the "little",  room from the "big"  room, (little referring to the first four grades and big to the next four). School buildings were used for both school activities and those of the community. School plays and monthly community singing, plus Sunday School and church services were part of the buildings double life.

There was one teacher for each room of children. Each class was arranged in rows across the room and the teacher moved from row to row, teaching each class their reading, writing or arithmetic-and spelling. Spelling was livened by spelling bees and winning made the student the proud owner of some dime store
doodad. Pretty things such as a barrette or tiny doll or a ball could be bought for a nickel or dime and the teachers of those days were the same as those of today - they dug into their own pockets for special treats for the kids. Until recently, I still had a small china elephant pin cushion that I once won.

I remember the Bob and Nancy readers and being an avid reader even at six years, I rushed through the entire book, making the reading class boring. We had flash cards for numbers, Big Chief writing tablets and a long wall of blackboards. My mother tried to teach me to write the way she was what was known as the Palmer Method. In that system, the writer rolled their writing arm on its underside, swinging the writing hand to form the letters. No cramped hand movement was allowed. One's letters were supposed to match those on a transparent writing chart. I failed all her efforts, hated handwriting in school and still do.

As the diphtheria vaccine was successfully reducing the illness, there was a special campaign to vaccinate all school children before school started in my first year of school. I expect that was a public health service throughout the nation, as in the '20s thousands of children were dying of this disease.

As a child, recesses and the noon lunch time seemed much longer than those in later years. We had time to choose sides and play team games or to swing or play on the see saws. All games were very active ones, often sending us home with badly skinned knees that scabbed and got hurt again and again. Looking back, scabbed knees appear to have been constant companions the same as those of missing teeth.

The games we played are mainly unheard of today and although we generally escaped serious injury, I'm sure many would be considered too dangerous for todays youngsters. There was Wolf Over the River, a game that involved a player attempting to break through a line of hand holding kids; there was Pop the Whip, a game of a line of running youngsters attempt to "pop" off the end of the line player, usually making that person fall, (another skinned knee). We played Hide and Seek and another hiding game called Sheep Board Down that involved knocking down "IT's" leaning board with getting caught and having to stand in the "mush pot." Please don't expect me to explain these names! Their meanings and/or pronunciation were probably corrupted by several generations of children before I even heard the words.
A few tamer ones were also popular. Drop the Handkerchief and Flying Dutchman and a blindfolded name guessing one were a few.  I doubt if the cold ever slowed us much but a heavy rain surely confined us inside with marbles, and jacks and that very best part of school--drawing paper and crayons!

In one of the running and hiding games, I remember fondly being "adopted" by one of the larger boys in the "big" room and carried on his shoulders as we raced around the building. It may have been the tall fellow in this photograph, a fellow who years later became a neighbor, or it may have been a boy I remember as being Robert Moore or maybe Maughon--- that was many years ago. I remember the Woodle boy who also swooped me up during running games. In later years one of his daughters was in my first Scout troop and I was saddened by his accidental death.

The school rooms seemed large then, even larger in cold weather when the huge cast iron stove could not produce enough heat to reach the rooms far corners. I'm sure the stove was at least five feet in height and probably had a diameter of three or four feet -- maybe more at it's pot-bellied widest spot. Each of the three schools I attended was heated by this type although heated is an exaggeration of the  rooms winter temperatures.

The old Moss school building still stands a short distance outside the city limits. Many years ago the property was sold by the school district and the building converted into a residence. Our old school obstacle course of a road is now paved and a modern bridge crosses the once mighty Willow Creek.
The little creek that had a bridge with no rails, permitting one of the older girls to swing me out over the edge in devilment, is hardly noticeable and the hour-long (kid time) walk home takes only minutes by automobile.

Politics, Voting and the Fear Factor

    Do you have a feeling of utter confusion as you are bombarded with "facts" about this senator or that. about our president, or about the Tea Party, the Coffee Party, the shortage of oil, the tremendous supply of oil,  or a pending bill or proposition?  At this point I have serious doubts that future historians, with access to all that's been written, will be able to give an account of the true state of affairs in our country.

So what do we do? No thoughtful person will deny that voting is important. Neither can it be ignored that the existence of of politics is vital. Politics consist of a force that makes decisions, politics direct what is is to happen in the work place, what our children learn, the amount of taxes we pay and, in fact, the majority of things that affect our lives.

Think about this:
     Those who are adept at fear mongering exert a tremendous amount of influence.
     Those who are equally adept at spoofing at such influence create their own followers.
     Each are promoting their own beliefs, or fears, or very often, their own hatreds.
     It is impossible that each of us can be well informed on every issue, whether Islam or oil reserves.
It creates a problem doesn't it?

Recently I came across an article that appeared to be promoting the idea that Americans were a fearful people.  My early impression was that the author felt that our citizens were rather foolishly seeing bogeymen all around; that we were running from our own shadows, that we were behaving like silly, giddy people, jumping at the slightest noise. Irritated, I did not finish the article. I should have and then formed an accurate opinion of the authors point of view. The part that I did read, however, set some thoughts in motion.

My first thought concerned the use of the word, "fear." My feeling is that there is a lot of fear...justified this country right now. The certainty of saving enough money to provide for our old age has evaporated. Those who believed they had adequate savings are no longer sure. The Social Security Fund is almost depleted. Workers who have built their lives and future on their workplace have seen the entire national job market change to the degree that their ability and willingness to work is no longer an issue, because the worker is not needed. Mechanical or electronic systems may have eliminated the worker's position or worse, the job may now exist in another country. All this results in a very justified fear concerning the lack of security.

Then I thought of our early ancestors who surely had fear as they left their homes, probably because of some type of fear concerning their livelihood and faced what had to be a fearful situation in traveling to a strange land and surviving there by only what they could provide with their own hands. Others who have come here in later years, often came because of fear: fear of starvation, of imprisonment, or fear of death for themselves or their families.  It would appear that experiences such as those would create a renewal of fear whenever their new lifestyles began to feel unstable. Having at one time lived in fear, fear of similar conditions developing is certain to exist. These people were fearful but they were not cowards. They were braver than many of use have ever been.

So fear exists and it is neither cowardly or shameful. It is a natural reaction to the unknown and to possible danger. Wouldn't we be foolish to have so little fear that we never took precautions for our safety? If we are considered a fearful people, perhaps our fear will keep us safe. Don't hold up our fears in ridicule!

Back to politics: Is fear a factor in our elections?  Considering the above thoughts  concerning financial security and the terrors of some of the conditions many immigrants have left behind and what many see as dangerous changes in our own government, and  the answer must be  a resounding "YES"!

We need people who govern this country to understand that people can and should do for themselves if given the opportunity. We need people who understand the consequences of debt and waste, and who realize that it is not necessary to satisfy all their wants (and ours) at one time. We need people who speak straight from their knowledge and experience about what is possible and what is necessary, instead of making glib speeches that are only words meant to influence voters into giving this person a job.

How do we determine who these people are? I wish I knew a sure-fire method! We absolutely must start doing our homework of reading opinions, editorials, listening to interviews and even studying body language! Perhaps there will be enough information to point us in the best direction.  Before the day we cast our vote we may have found enough solid dependable information to guide us. Otherwise, to state it very inelegantly, we will need to depend upon our "gut" feeling....and that feeling, that intuitive reaction, may be a good way to go if you've listened to the candidate, seen pictures and watched that body language!