Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Summertime Fun!

summer sun

Summer days are in full swing, children are out of school, families are taking vacations, and swimming pools are seeing an increased use in warmer parts of the country.


As a child, the end of school marked the end of early bedtimes, vacations, spending all day in our backyard pool, and annual family reunions. My parents would try to have our pool open for the season by early May if possible even if the temps were still in the low 70s. Memorial Day signaled the beginning of summer with an outdoor picnic. Mom would make her famous potato salad and my Granddad would bring a fresh watermelon. It was time to kick off the shoes and run barefoot through the grass. We kids would savor popsicles and ice cream bars on the patio steps.


During the month of June, I found the rhythm of summer days. Up by 7 or 8 a.m. because Mom didn’t believe in “sleeping your life away.” Normally there were chores that I had to do before I could start playing. Riding bikes through the countryside, visiting friends several streets away, inviting my friends over for lunch or snacks, and swimming. In those days I was like a fish – always in the water. I was so tanned that even by winter time my tans lines were still there.  We drank kool-aid by the gallon and slurped fresh well water from the garden hose. We stayed out past dark and ran through the unfenced backyards catching lightning bugs and looking at the stars. Weekends were also spent hanging out at local theaters watching movies after the parents dropped us off.


By July anticipation was in the air as we readied for our annual trip to Coshocton, Ohio and the big family reunion on my dad’s side of the family. We would normally stay with my dad’s oldest sister, my Aunt Gertie, in Zanesville over the reunion weekend. During the reunion, I stuck close to a couple of my cousins and my aunts and uncles. I had fun watching the men play horseshoes. By the time I was in 5th grade, I spent a week in July at church camp each year. That necessitated another long drive usually accompanied by the sister and her kids so my mom didn’t have to drive home all by herself.

reunion 11

Amore Sibling Reunion, Detroit, about 1966

August brought another trip for another reunion – this one for my dad and his siblings and their families. Many times it was in the Detroit area as two of my dad’s brothers lived there. If we were in Michigan, we’d usually head over to Battle Creek to visit my mom’s brother, too. Once we went to Chicago – my brother and his family following us. We all used my walkie-talkies to communicate. A time long before CB radios or cell phones. In the summer of 1968 while the West Coast was heating up with riots after the Summer of Love, the reunion was held at our house. The last reunion of my dad and his siblings I attended was in the early 1970s (71 or 72). My parents were already separated and I spent a week with my dad that summer during reunion time. He had it at his place by the lake in St. Mary’s, Ohio. That was the last time I saw my aunts and uncles and some of my cousins.

By the time August drew to a close, school was right around the corner, and it would be time to go to Sears or Elder-Beerman or Rike’s to shop for school clothes. I knew that swimming season was getting shorter and would usually end by mid-September as the temps in southwestern Ohio began to drop. Then when Labor Day arrived, our last outdoor picnic of the summer, bed time was moved back to an earlier time in preparation for school beginning that Wednesday. There were several times that sweaters were needed in the morning or evening by Labor Day.

Does your family have a summer time tradition? What were your childhood days of summer like?

(Sun image courtesy of Squidoo)

(Images: Our Swimming Pool; me and two of my friends about 1967; Coshocton Fairgrounds for Amore Reunion – July 1968; Amore Sibling Reunion at my Uncle Paul’s home in Detroit, Michigan about 1966-67 – all photos digital and original slides/photos owned by Wendy Littrell)

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  1. Susannah Stern: 1823 Carroll county, Ohio



  1. Hamilton L Goul: 1902 in Coffeyville, Kansas
  2. Eugene Pidgeon: 1922 in Sebring, Ohio



  1. Henry Alexander Goul and Mathilda Kaziah Bates: 1894 in Boise, Idaho
  2. John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J Blazer: 1883 in Anderson, Indiana
  3. Martha Ann Blazer and John Noonan: 1887 in Anderson, Indiana
  4. Hiram W Jennings and Sarah Wilden: 1888 in Coshocton, Ohio

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While we were on vacation in Missouri, my father-in-law took us on a cemetery tour. We visited the graves of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, grand uncles and aunts, and collateral relatives. Before we left to return home, I realized that we hadn’t been to the family cemetery in several years. This three person graveyard sits on land that used to belong to my husband’s 2nd great-grandfather, George Washington Littrell. After he died, it eventually ended up belonging to my husband’s paternal grandfather’s brother.  After he passed away, it ended up going into a bank sale and another resident of the rural community purchased that plot of land where the cemetery was located. Missouri statutes explain that even though a cemetery might sit on private land, and even if it doesn’t have a drive that takes it directly to the cemetery, family members are not to be blocked from gaining access during regular daylight hours. There really has never been an issue with us visiting the Littrell cemetery. The gravel road goes right up to the barn and corral areas and the cemetery sits just outside of that.  I wrote a blog post awhile back about our experience when we visited the graves a few years ago that you can read here.

As we pulled up, I looked in horror at the following scene.


Someone – or several someones – had just placed whatever those things are (they look like steel sawhorse type of things) right inside the cemetery! I was mortified! And the steel cable “rope” that had cordoned off the graves was bent and pulled away from the corner posts. If the person who rents out the land knew about this, I know he would make sure the men who work for him would remove it and not ever do it again so I’m very hopeful that after my father-in-law speaks to him all will be taken care of. It’s just so sad that whoever did this, a) didn’t even realize this was a cemetery or b) didn’t care.  You may also notice that the stone on the right has been shifted as well.

And just to make a comparison – below is the picture of what it is supposed to look like.


Let’s hope this sacred family cemetery – small as it is – where George W and Kitty O (Blakely) Littrell are buried along with their very young daughter, Annie Elizabeth – will soon be properly cleaned of the equipment and I can breathe a lot easier.

(Photos by Wendy Littrell)

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The Donkey

At the farm is a planter where my mother-in-law had lovingly planted many types of flowers over the years. Sadly, with her passing, there won’t be any more flowers planted in it – at least not in the foreseeable future. The planter looks like a little cart being pulled by a donkey. All of the children have been fascinated by this farm fixture, and they’ve all wanted to “ride” it. When they’ve been very small, someone has held them on it to get a picture.


Baby O – summer 2010

chris donkey2 july 02 chris donkey july 02_2

Baby C – summer 2002

donkey on farm

Donkey as of June 2013

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(My grandson next to the Mickey statue at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum)

Where did Walt Disney get his idea for Main Street USA in Disneyland? Perhaps from the small, rural town in Missouri where he lived for several years during his impressionable childhood. My grandson and I had the opportunity to visit Marceline, Missouri during our vacation. Marceline is about 17 miles away from my father-in-law’s farm and driving down the main drag, conjurs up all sorts of ideas and thoughts about what many small towns in rural America are like. There’s a corner café where the food is out of this world and owned by a local resident. If you arrive during regular meal time hours, you might find Ma Vic’s standing room only – but don’t leave – a table will soon be available!  Down on the corner is Zurcher’s. Close to the old train depot is Ripley Park.  The park includes a Santa Fe railroad caboose and a steam locomotive as well as a gazebo.


Near there is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum where I took my grandson during one of our excursions while on vacation recently. The museum is open April through October and is only $5 for admission. It is well worth that! The tour begins in the first room where a guide provides a very rich and detailed history of not only the Disney family, but the Santa Fe Railroad and the city of Marceline. She was eloquent, personable, and very knowledgeable. Very large panoramic photos are displayed in chronological order around the room and at one side is Walt’s original school desk from Park elementary which he rescued on one of his visits to Marceline before the school was torn down. During the summer the desk is on loan to the museum from Walt Disney Elementary school and if you go, make sure to notice the large WD that Walt carved into the desk (which is how he knew that it was his)! There is a sign outside the museum which restricts the use of photos or videos, however, we were informed that photos are allowed because so many people are posting them to Facebook and of course, free advertising doesn’t hurt!

Most of the artifacts, especially in the several rooms on the first floor, were donated by the family of Walt’s younger sister, Ruth Disney Beecher. There were letters, photographs, objects – even the TV that Walt made sure Ruth had in order to watch the opening ceremonies of Disneyland because she didn’t like to be in big crowds. On that television set was the original special broadcast of those ceremonies which you can stand and watch. In another room was information, posters, records, videotapes, DVDs, and news clippings about the 1956 Disney movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase” with Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. The movie is playing on a screen and anyone is welcome to pull up a chair to watch it.  Another room is the “Train” room and has many displays of Walt’s trains. There are cases filled with letters among the Disney family members, a phonograph (which is playing on a recording) of Walt interviewing his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. In another room is a large screen and several chairs where a visitor can watch The Man behind the Myth hosted by Dick Van Dyke. My grandson and I watched about ten minutes of the documentary, and I wished we had more time to watch all of it.  My grandson also enjoyed the ten minutes of “The Great Locomotive Chase” so I will be on a mission to see if our local library has a copy to borrow. Upstairs, is a large room dedicated to a scale model (not complete) of Disneyland. Since I had visited the theme park as a very young child (see my series of Travel Thursday posts: Over the Rainbow Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5), I pointed out to my grandson the areas I fondly remember. There were several local news articles about Disney and artifacts elsewhere on the second floor. Downstairs, adjoining the large front room where we began the tour, was a room dedicated to the only ride that operated outside of Disneyland – the Midget Autopia. There is a car on display from that ride. Since there are 70 trains that run through town each day – the museum is located in the former train depot – we were able to look right out the window to watch them go by – another highlight for my grandson!

Exiting the museum through the same door that Walt would enter when he rode the train into town (Amtrak only stops in Marceline for groups of twenty or more with special arrangements), there is a smaller building toward the back that is the Railroad museum. That was very interesting as well. Even though the ladies who run the tour explained that if we wanted to leave for lunch and come back – our ticket would be valid all day – our time was very limited. Perhaps on another visit, we would be able to do just that and spend more time. In particular, I think I would have found the correspondence between the family members pretty interesting. We were told that on the north side of town, we should visit the “Dreaming Tree”, a cottonwood tree that grew on the Disney farm and where Walt and his baby sister, Ruth, would sit under while Walt would daydream. The Tree of Life at Walt Disney World represents Walt’s tree from Marceline. There are other spots around town that were pointed out as places to visit – Walt Disney Elementary School, the park with the flagpole that Walt gifted the city with during one of his trips back, the barn that used to sit on the Disney property, and even the Disney home (which is now a private residence, but people do drive by to look at it). Though the main drag of Marceline is on Kansas Street, the street sign downtown reads “Main Street USA” and resembles the famous mouse ears that Walt made famous!

I recommend that if you are within a 50-75 mile radius of Marceline that you drop in during the times the Museum is open – especially if you or your family are fans of anything Disney – or trains!

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I’m proud to introduce you to Trey, our newest family member! He was born just before we left on vacation and his mother, our second daughter, was more than ready to “evict” him! Weighing in at a little over 8 lbs, he immediately stole the hearts of not only his parents, but his other set of grandparents (he is their first grandchild), his aunt and uncles, cousins, and parents’ friends!

(photo of Trey was taken the day after his birth; photographed by my daughter and texted to me while we were on the road for vacation)

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Vacation at the Farm

barn on farm

Recently, my family and I spent almost two weeks in Missouri at my father-in-law’s farm. Mornings of clear blue skies over acres and acres of corn and soybean fields with a nice cool breeze blowing the tree leaves. Some days the wind whipped the tree branches, and I gave up thinking I could just hairspray my hair to stay out of my face! Besides the sounds of birds singing, an occasional car or truck churning up the gravel roads, were the train whistles. About 70 trains a day run close to where we were – far enough I didn’t see one from the house – but with no other environmental or man-made noise – I could hear that mournful sound. We would wake with a general purpose for the day. With my mother-in-law’s passing just over a month ago, my father-in-law was learning a new path in life that didn’t include his beloved wife of almost 65 years. He grew up in a time when men in that part of the country took care of the business end of the farm – and the home – and the women took care of the rest – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and nurturing. We knew he was looking forward to someone else besides just him roaming around the large home. So each morning – even though it was vacation – we set our alarm in order to get up and have breakfast on the table by 7 a.m. My husband and I took turns fixing breakfast. Most days, not only did I cook the evening meal but I fixed a decent sized lunch – smoked sausages, a beef roast, or stew. Sometimes my husband and grandson grilled burgers or steaks. My sister-in-law deep fried catfish one evening and ordered pizzas another night. Besides the meals, there was the washing, dusting and vacuuming. My husband and grandson spent time helping my father-in-law clear brush and vines as well as mowing the grass. There were electrical issues in the shop to take care of and accompanying his father on two long drives (over two hours each way) while we were there. Our days were filled with “helping work” but not so packed that we didn’t have time to enjoy ourselves. For the first few days, I helped my sister-in-law in her quest to put together three scrapbooks of photos. After church services on Father’s Day, my father-in-law treated us to a delicious lunch at a nearby (eleven miles!) restaurant. He is a visitor and talker so as we ate, several folks dropped by the table (you know you are in “small town America” when that happens!) to chat. Unfortunately for him, by the time he was done talking with the two or three folks who stopped by, only half his lunch had been eaten and it had gotten cold. Before we left, he made the rounds of other tables.  It was good to see him out and about and chatting with folks. A few days after we arrived, all of us piled into his mini-van and set out on a cemetery tour.  Since it’s a rural area, there were miles and miles between one cemetery and another so we spent the better part of four hours in the car. However, unlike the last time we had done this (many years ago), we did stop several times and get out so I could take pictures of the gravestones belonging to my husband’s great-grandparents, great-uncles, and various other family members. My grandson was able to stroll down to south pond (the farm boasts two stocked ponds except one now has a herd of cattle – mainly bulls – on that section of land) to do some fishing. Each evening ended with the daily television show on their local PBS station – “Cook’s Country”, then “The Doctors”, and then the 9:00 news from Kansas City. About halfway through that, my father-in-law would head to bed, and the rest of us would watch my grandson’s new favorite “old” show “That 70s show”(!), followed by Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” (yes, we saw the episode with a young David McCallum before he was NCIS’ Ducky and a young David Carradine). Then the next morning we began all over again. I took my grandson on some fascinating excursions for two consecutive days before we left (but that’s for other blog posts). It was very difficult – especially for my husband – to leave knowing that his dad would be alone as my sister-in-law (who lives across the street) was out of state for over another week. Now we are home again and standing out on the front porch here is just not the same as being able to see miles and miles in the distance with the train whistles the only loud sound to break the silence.


(Photo above: barn on the farm, photographed by Wendy Littrell, June 2013)

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