Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

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.

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.

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!?

My birthday always falls after Thanksgiving – so that means a pizza dinner.

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.

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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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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In deciding which Surname I would begin my “Surname Saturday” posts, the only logical thing to do was start at the beginning – alphabetically!


Catherine AEDER is my 5th great-grandmother, born about 1750 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and died before March 31, 1835 in Carrollton, Carroll County, Ohio.  Her parents are UNKNOWN.  Catherine married John Peter STERN on July 30, 1771 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

It is reported that the couple had ten children: Barbara, Catherine, Christian (my direct ancestor), Elizabeth, John, Martha, Nancy, Polly, Sarah, and Susannah.

(Disclaimer: I do not have any solid documentation about Catherine Aeder. My information comes from the FamilySearch ancestry file. Do not take this information as gospel until documentation is found.)

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Here is a list of what I’ve been reading “around the web” lately (in no particular order).
Review: Finding Family by Judy Russell on the Legal Genealogist Blog. Judy reviews a book about the journey of an adoptee.

There are many blog posts and articles about the closing of the Georgia archives. If you google “Georgia Archives” – you are sure to find one of the many articles. This is very sad for all those who rely on the Archives for historical, biographical, and genealogical information. Update: Click here to read an update about this – it looks like the Archives will remain open! 
My Heritage Automates Record-Matching as Genealogy Wars Heat Up (Europe) from Gigaom. Interesting article about what the top two (according to the article) genealogy companies (Ancestry and MyHeritage are doing to compete technologically.

There have been several reports of people adding QR codes to their loved ones headstones and this is one of those. What do you think? Will the QR code be outdated in the next big wave of technological advances?

I also want to call your attention to a brand new radio show by one of my genea-friends in New England, Marian Pierre-Louis. She is hosting Fieldstone Common at BlogTalk Radio every Thursday at 1 p.m. (EST). Be sure to tune in! She’ll be giving away books!  The description for this unique program is: “Fieldstone Common is a radio show streamed live on the internet via Blog Talk Radio. Host Marian Pierre-Louis will introduce you to authors and historians who bring history alive! Topics focus on history and genealogy in New England and the Northeast.”

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John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J. Blazer

My maternal great-grandparents (on my grandfather’s side), John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J. Blazer, were married on July 4, 1883, in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana.  He was a few months over 22 years old and she was close to 19. Since both were “of age” according to the laws of the time, neither needed a parental signature.

The couple was just shy of celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary when Katie died on May 20, 1930 (trivia: my wedding anniversary is on the anniversary of her death – May 20!).

Below is a picture of the couple in older age.

(Source 1: Anderson, Madison, Indiana, 1880-1920, Book 1, Page 393; County Clerk’s Office, 16 East 9th, 2nd House, Box 19, Anderson, Indiana, 46016. FamilySearch – Indiana Marriages Database

Source 2: Glen R. Johnson, Sr., personal genealogy notes, in possession of Wendy Littrell, address for private use)

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So sorry that there has been a bit of a lag between Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. This should be the final chapter of what I call “My Trip Out West” – or as the title suggests – “Over the Rainbow.”  After all, I was only four years old – almost five. So everything about this trek from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean and back was magical!

In the last installment, Mom, Dad, and I were finishing up our time at Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Marine Land in California. From there we drove to Victorville, California which sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert in San Bernadino County.

We spent September 21 and 22 at the home of Captain and Mrs. H.B. Alexander, friends of my parents. September 21 was my mother’s birthday. I thoroughly believed my mom was 29 because as is common, once she passed a “certain” birthday milestone, she always said she was only 29. Wow – imagine my surprise a couple of years later when I realized that she was much older than 29!  I was also confused when I realized my grandparents were also in the area!  They were on a tour of the western United States as well and it was probably by design that they were able to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.


Leaving the Alexander home, we traveled to the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking, beautiful, scenic, awesome are only a few words to describe what a magnificent wonder it is. When we had left California, the temperature was over 100 but as we got to the rim of the Canyon, the temperature had a drop of over 40 degrees. I remember wearing a sweater as we stood gazing out over such a majestic sight.

Leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove northeast toward Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. We stayed with the R.G. Schuster family and toured the Academy.


While there we saw 1800 cadets marching in formation and the beautiful Chapel. It is one building I will never forget being inside. On September 26 our western trip was complete and we began the drive back to Ohio, arriving on September 28.

There are many things I remember very well about the trip – items that weren’t part of a tour or a national park or a wonder of the world. Mom had packed a hot plate because even though we were able to stay in the homes of so many family and friends, we were also in a lot of motels!  The hot plate enabled her to heat up oatmeal for breakfast or a can of soup for lunch.

A lot of my breakfasts (when not at a home or in a restaurant)   were Keebler Cinnamon Graham Crackers and milk (hey, I loved it and still eat it!!). I can remember restaurants we ate at or purchased food to go from: Jerry’s (I think it was like Denny’s), Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it went by it’s initials!), and Howard Johnson’s (which is a hotel chain but we’d eat at the restaurant). I remember laundry mats – and oh goodness, there were many laundry mats that Mom and I were at washing clothes. Well, she washed and dried, and I sat and watched. I believe a lot of them were a dime. Mom would always need dimes. I remember lying across the backseat of the Pontiac either sleeping or trying not to give in to my car sickness. Every once in awhile, Dad would rouse me so I could “see the sights” – something he knew that I just had to see!  Except for the accident. I don’t know where it was but we were bumper to bumper on the road.  As we got closer, and my parents saw the ambulance (back then, they looked like a hearse) and the emergency vehicles, my Dad realized that whatever it was – was very, very bad. He told me to keep lying down and not to look.  I think later after I was older, Mom told me that it was a fatality and there was lots of blood. I also remember the little Wet Naps we always got – especially at KFC. And guess what I thought those little sudsy napkins were for? Cleaning the car windows!!  That was a big mistake!  Those windows I so carefully “cleaned” were loaded with streaks and probably were dirtier than when I started!

Oh – and going over the rainbow? Yes, I feel as if I certainly did!  At one point, after my mother could not stand to listen to me asking if we were in Kansas and where was Dorothy’s house, she pointed to a run down farm house and said – “That’s Dorothy’s house!” I spent many years believing that I saw the actual house!  (Ok, then I thought that maybe it was the “actual” house from the film until Mom told me she just could not stand to hear me ask that question one more time!)  So I don’t know if we were in Kansas (which would have been on the way back to Ohio – so I think we were probably in Montana or Idaho when she did that!).  I was young enough to see Disneyland as a child would but old enough to be able to remember quite a bit about that trip. And I have tons of pictures to help me remember!

I hope you have enjoyed my Travel Thursday series of Over the Rainbow!  I hope to begin a new series soon!


Personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Wikipedia Article online for “Victorville California”, 27 July 2012.

Photo of Cinnamon Graham Crackers: Keebler.com, 2012. Kellogg.

Photo of Rainbow: Rainbow in the sky by Jonathon Coombes (Public Domain)

All Other Photos taken by Gene or Mary Amore, digital or original slide/print owned by Wendy J Littrell, address for private use. 

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog

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