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After two+ days of labor and delirium, Mary gave birth to her first born child (no, this isn’t THAT story!). The baby boy weighed over 10 lbs and came into the world on January 2, 1940.  His mother was just a mere eighteen – still a child herself. He was the first grandchild for his maternal grandparents who doted on him and cared for him when his mother was working.  In fact, he met his great-grandmother in Oregon before his mother had met the woman!

When he was five and a half, he found himself an older brother to his newborn baby sister.  The family lived in a state far away from the grandparents he loved dearlyjim picture new camera. He made friends with the neighboring family’s children.  As a young teen, he found himself – along with his mother and sister – on a sjim&sandykelso001hip headed to Japan to join the family patriarch who had been stationed there with the United States Army Air Corps (the forerunner to the U.S. Air Force). He made friends, participated in the Boy Scouts, learned to be a photographer, and tried to be a dutiful son and big brother.  Since they were so far from family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – they sent many letters back to the States.  After a few years, they went back to their home state of Ohio, but then once again found themselves back in Japan again. He graduated from the American High School and joined the Air Force. Unfortunately, due to his eyesight and other physical issues, he was discharged before too long.

In February 1961, he married a woman that he met at work.  Soon after they were married, he heard that he was going to be a big brother again!  He and his wife took the new little sister under their wing, and she spent many weekends with them. As his baby sister grew, he found himself in a role that he never expected – being torn between being her big brother and confidante and a father-figure when their father moved away. At the same time, he was enjoying new fatherhood for he and his wife had just adopted their own little boy.

He had found his niche working for a printing company in Dayton and assumed he would be there until retirement. He and his wife had finally found a home they were fixing up and happy with that wasn’t that far away from both of their mom’s. He was an officer with the local Fraternal Order of Eagles and enjoyed the friendships and community service he found within the organization.

There were a series of losses – his beloved maternal grandmother and then grandfather and close friends.  After his son graduated high school, hardship struck when the printing company closed the doors. Dayton was experiencing a major downturn in the jobs market and he had a very hard time finding a job right away so he went to work for a cousin. He and his family moved to another home and proceeded.  Every so often he would find he and his mom on the outs – he avoided confrontation like the plague, and she sought it out.

thanksgiving98_3He found a new love in a far off state.  For a short time, he was remarkably happy. Then his health began to deterioriate. The worst part was that no one could tell him exactly why or what to do about it. By the time the doctors had discovered the pancreatic cancer, it was much too late. He only had a short time left. Too short of time for he and his mother to reconcile – although she tried to tell him while he was comatose. His two sisters were also grief-stricken but tried to remain strong for their mother – who should not have had to see her son succumb to his illness.  Far too soon and far too young, he passed away on the last day of August before the world fell apart and terrorists held the world hostage in horror.

He was survived by his wife, his mother, his father and step-mother, his three sisters and their husbands, his son, many nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends.

Today, he should be turning 73, and I should be able to call him on the phone and say, “Happy Birthday, Jim! I love you!”

 (Photos: Mary and Jim, 1940; Jim and Sandy Kelso – 1945, photographer: Gene Amore; Jim at Christmas in Japan, photographer: Jim Amore; Gene and Jim Amore, Thanksgiving 1998 in Arkansas, photographer: Wendy Littrell.  All photos – originals and digital images held in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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As Thansgiving 2012 ends and the Advent season is a week away, I thought I’d reflect on what transpires in between. First up is Black Friday. While many get excited when this arrives – even plan routes, stores, and means of “attack” – I have only braved the early (early!) crowds once. Yes, that means one, uno, singular.
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Yesterday, I shopped but not at some inhumane time! I did some online shopping very late on Thanksgiving and went to three “bargain” stores mid-afternoon Friday.
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Second, the annual Christmas movie watching. Our family began by watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas” on Thanksgiving. Friday we watched “Polar Express.” There will be more viewing opportunities to come as we settle in to watch “Prancer,” the Santa Clause movies with Tim Allen & especially “It’s a Wonderful Life!” Is the original “Die Hard” considered a Christmas movie!?
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My birthday always falls after Thanksgiving – so that means a pizza dinner.
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This year the annual Ohio State vs. Michigan football game falls after Thanksgiving. My family has a long history with the Buckeyes and being from Ohio, I will be cheering for the boys in red.

Next Sunday – December 2 – will be the first Sunday of Advent. Our church Christmas Tree will be decorated and traditional Advent hymns will be sung. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, our home Christmas tree will be set up. When my children were little, they all decorated it while we took pictures. As they’ve grown up, the decorating has fallen to grandkids and which ever kids are here. It always is magical to watch the ornaments being selected and locating just the right spot for it amongst the branches of our artificial tree. Then it’s my job to pick out the garland. We’ve had tinsel, strand garland of gold or silver, pearl strands wound around the tree, and ribbon. Normally, an angel rests on top of the tree or a star. The year I used a giant red velvet bow was not looked upon fondly so I won’t do that again! By Christmas Eve the tree is ready for Santa’s visit.
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As I reflect upon our family’s activities and traditions, I wonder what my grandparents and great-grandparents experiences were. I’m pretty sure at the heart of the holidays was family – just as it is for mine.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d take you on a photo tour through many years of “dressing up” for the holiday.  Disclaimer: some of the following photos of me were not taken at Halloween – they were taken at times I just felt called to dress up (my children may either get a kick out of these or be horribly embarrassed)!

I was three – not quite four – when I was a “Chipmunk” for Halloween. I can remember that Mom and Dad drove me over to my grandparents’ house to Trick or Treat. They “hid” while I went up to the door. Somehow I still think that my Nana and Grandad knew who I was!

This is one of those times that I just created my own “look” and it wasn’t Halloween!  I call this being a “movie star” because of the hat and sunglasses!  I am not sure why I was pretending it was very sunny, yet still had a rain umbrella!!

Scary witch, anyone? I can’t believe I had on a “dress” type costume because it was usually pretty chilly at the end of October in Ohio.  There were many times that Mom and I argued over whether I should wear a coat to trick or treat – I did not like that my costume would be covered up!

I am “Little Red Riding Hood”!  This was taken just before I turned six. School age kids would not only “beg” for treats but they would carry UNICEF boxes to collect money.  I did the same thing when I was in elementary school. The money was taken back to school after “beggar’s night”.  Do you remember doing that?

 

This was my attempt at dressing up as an “Old Lady” for Halloween – complete with my mom’s wig, an old ’50s style skirt, and a stick I made into a cane!  What strikes me as insanely amusing is that I sure didn’t look “old” (I was almost ten) – in fact now I am the age I was trying to “look” back then and I don’t think I’m even pulling it off now!

Somewhere I have another photo that shows me with my hair all tied up in a scarf, rock star make up on my face (in the style of KISS), with a pair of purple tights under shorts!  And that wasn’t for Halloween – that was just me being me – at about fifteen!

Even as an adult, the thrill of wearing a costume for Halloween has not left me.  I’ve dressed up as a witch, a fortune-teller, a pregnant gypsy (I was pregnant with my youngest child at the time!), a hippie, and a “madam”.

As the years have gone by, I’ve watched my four children get excited at Halloween and talk about what costume they will be wearing for weeks before “Trick or Treat” night.

    

Now I get to see the three grandsons all dressed up!  (Picture on far right was taken by my daughter: Teresa Sumner)

Image of Jack-o-lantern Pumpkins by Petr Kratochvil

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This picture is of my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, with our two dachshunds (Bridget and Gretel) in his lap. this picture was taken in 1971.  Every holiday or family get-together, he would sit in this chair (or whatever chair was in this spot) and hold the dogs.  Many times they would all nap together in the chair. Whenever I remember the holidays as I was growing up, this scene comes to mind!

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As a young child in the 1960s, my parents made sure that I was never to be deprived of Amusement Parks. For several consecutive years, they took me to Fantasy Farm, located in Middletown, Ohio (that link will take you to a page filled with photos, videos, and all sorts of interesting information about this park).

The picture above shows me (not quite five years old) during the spring/summer of 1966 riding in “Santa” on one of the power rides.  The picture below shows me making friends with a sheep – I’m happy but the animal looks bored!

And here I am in a “blur” going around and around on another “power ride.”

And here I am again – I’m surprised the Three Bears allowed me to share their space after what that horribly behaved Goldilocks did to them!

(On a side note – I guess I wasn’t the only one who always seemed to get their thumb, fingers or hand in the camera lens while taking a picture. I have scanned several photos today with that familiar “shadow” or “blur” at the right side of the picture!)

From The History of Fantasy Farm the person instrumental in starting the amusement park for children was Edger Streifthau. The park was operational by 1963 and closed in 1991. To read all about the demise of this child-friendly place please click on the link at the beginning of this post.

As for me, even though I wasn’t very old, I do remember some of the times I had here and wish that more “child-friendly” places like this existed in the area I now call home.

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Yoshie (hopefully I’m spelling that right!) – was my parents’ Japanese maid while they were living in Japan. I have heard a lot of stories about her. I do know that I heard everyone talk about her fondly. For many years, she and my parents exchanged Christmas cards and letters. I wonder what happened to her and her family.

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WELCOME TO BREMERHAVEN

My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany in 1950 (before the Army Air Corps became the Air Force). Upon arriving at the Port of Bremerhaven aboard the Gen. Patch on July 20, 1950, the U.S. Band greeted him and my grandmother, Vesta. Wikipedia says that Bremerhaven means “Bremen’s Harbor” in Bremen (which was in the free Federal Republic of Germany).

The ship – USNS General Alexander M. Patch (T-AP-122) (picture of it as it is berthed at Bremerhaven in 1950 can be found here – exciting to think that this might just be at the same time my grandparents had arrived!) was named after the General who took “command of the Allied Forces in New Caledonia” in 1942 (from NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive; 2012; NavSource Naval History)

Luckily, while they were in Germany, they were able to take side trips to other places on the weekends. The picture above was taken on August 5, 1950, when they went with another lady, Mrs. Mulligan, along with a Bavarian guide to see the Nymphenburg Castle, Home of the Bavarian Kings.

Besides all of the photos, I also have several years’ worth of letters my grandparents wrote my parents. Those letters detail all the little trips around Europe they took as well as their day to day life in Wiesbaden.

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