Something To Think About: A World’s Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S.  However, I would like to offer a post for a World’s Thanksgiving.  I would like to offer a tribute to Stanislav Petrov, a Russian, whose calm, rational thinking prevented WWIII in 1983.

An anti-ballistic warning system issued several alarms, indicating that the U.S. had fired a missile towards Russia.  Petrov kept his cool and reported the warnings as false alarms.  Later, it turned out that a cloud clover had caused a malfunction in the system.

Stanislav Petrov is no longer with us, but we can be grateful and proud that such a man was there at such a critical time.  Let the whole world give thanks to this Russian hero.

Hello! Hello! Hello!: Remembering The Cottage Kitchen Ladies

Carolyn Kelsey(seated), Allyn Goss, and myself at 12 in a familiar setting.

Carolyn Kelsey(seated), Allyn Goss and myself at 12 in a familiar setting in 1965.

One day Grandma and I were looking for a good luncheon stop.  And we found one, just a short walk away from the Obstinate J Ranch where we spent our summers.  A large blue and white sign declared:  Cottage Kitchen.  We decided to give the place a try.  When we opened the door, a voice rang out “Hello!  Hello!  Hello!  And how are you folks today?”  And a friendship began that lasted for many years.

Mrs. Carolyn Kelsey was a tall lady, somewhat bent over that liked to smile and talk.  Miss Allyn Goss was just the opposite;  she was short, taciturn and rarely smiled.  However, you could tell that these ladies respected each other, although they did get angry with one another on occasion.  “Dear, you forgot to turn on the stove!”  “I’ll try to be more careful, dear!  And they would scowl.  But usually they were the best of friends and each had her own tasks:  Mrs. Kelsey made the shakes and Miss Goss cooked the burgers.  Raisin pie was their calling card and every two weeks or so they would make delicious chocolate tarts.  They also kept their shelves full of home-made jams and jellies prepared from the finest fruit available.  During the Holidays, they enjoyed making bread for their neighbors and friends.

Cottage Kitchen became our favorite place for lunch and also for snacking after dinner.  We used to tell the ladies about our river trips and would often enter in quite informal attire.  They didn’t mind, though, and would listen to our latest inner tubing or rafting adventures, hanging on every word.  And Mrs. Kelsey would add her boisterous enthusiasm to Grandma’s.  However, one thing we didn’t like was Snoodle.  He was a mixture of a schnauzer and a poodle and inherited the worst traits from both breeds.  Whenever we wanted to use the rest room, which was behind a screened door, Snoodle would race up to the door, barking furiously and had to be restrained by Mrs. Kelsey.  He certainly was a great watchdog for the two ladies.

The years I spent at Cottage Kitchen were among the happiest of my life.  However, time started to creep up like a shadow and soon the ladies lost their agility.  It became harder and harder for Mrs. Kelsey to walk, so Mom insisted that we help her serve the meals and wait on customers.  Eventually, Mrs. Kelsey couldn’t work at all and Mom took her to her heart doctor.  On the way and back, she was complaining and fretting.  This was certainly not the Mrs. Kelsey I knew, and she died soon after.  Suddenly, a part of my life folded into unpenetrable darkness, and the doors of Cottage Kitchen closed forever.

The following description of the story of the ladies of Cottage Kitchen is excerpted from a 1965 article by A.L. Day in “Trail Tales”, a column of the Mail Tribune:

These two(Carolyn Kelsey and Miss Goss) met in 1925 in New York City where both were receiving instruction and training in the art of food preparation at Schraft’s and later at the Consumer’s Cooperative.  Both of these institutions are considered tops in the U.S. for their superior courses in food preparation, and its supervision.  Upon completion of their schooling, they decided to go into business for themselves, and have operated restaurants at some of the best spots on the Old Boston Post Road, from Darien to Lime Rock, Conn…

After the war they decided to combine a sightseeing trip of the West with a visit to Mrs. Kelsey’s daughter, who lived in California.  So, selling their restaurant in Beaver, Penn., they pointed their car 270 degrees and headed for Crater Lake, which neither had seen.

Leaving the lake they headed south on 62, toward their original destination, but nightfall caught them at Riffles on the Rogue where they rented a cabin for the night.

So impressed were they with the view of the river and the scenic beauty of the surrounding country, that Mrs. Kelsey says she suddenly spoke out, “This is it,” and they both liked the location so much they decided in less than an hour that this would be the site of their future home and business…

No tastier palate pleaser compares with the Cottage Kitchen old-fashioned tomato preserves from an Old New England family recipe, and don’t overlook those jars of pie cherries, cherry marmalade, pear butter, and apple butter.  It is a delightful gustatory experience just to read the labels.

The ladies made one emphatic point regarding their goodies, and that was that they used only the finest of locally grown wild fruits, berries, and sugar;  and the best obtainable vegetables, spices and vinegars–no additives, no preservatives…

These are two very happy people;  justifiably proud of their accomplishments, pleasantly reminiscing the past, certain of the present, and with a cheerful attitude toward the future…

Remembering Ralph Turner: Conservation Pioneer

Most of us take ecology as a given.  It has become the basis for one of the high school biology texts connected with the BSCS(Biological Science Curriculum Study).  This is a change from the past.  When I went to high school, BSCS offered two books, one dealing with molecules. amino acids, and the double helix, the other featuring a descriptive, classification biology.  However, a biology book devoted totally to ecology was still unknown in the 1960s.  During the period of growth that led to an increased awareness of conservation and ecology, it is easy to forget the pioneers that took the first bold steps in changing the education of natural science to include the interconnectedness of all living organisms.  In two previous posts, I discussed the innovative ecological approach of Crater High’s Hans Smith.  In this post, I’m going to go back further in time, to the 1960s.

A young tall man with wiry frame and a restless manner was applying for an administrative job in the Los Angeles Public Schools.  Ralph Turner was bursting with ideas when he entered the administrator’s office, carrying a briefcase stuffed with concepts and future plans.  Mr. Turner adjusted his glasses while putting his thoughts together.  During the waiting period, his mind drifted.  He saw himself at the ranch that he had built with his brother-in-law:  the green water tower, the pipes that required fixing every weekend because of vandalism, the bright yellow of lemons glistening in the sun, the nearby gully that was usually dry.  “Mr. Turner”, a voice boomed out.  Ralph took out the papers he had put together for the bold new venture, his eyes sparkling with excitement.  And Mr. Turner gesticulated and expanded on his notion of a science center that would enable students to view, learn and experience the importance of conservation.  “Very interesting,  Mr. Turner.  I’ll think about it.”  A short time later, Ralph had a look of triumph:  the Monlux Environmental Center was born and he would be the director!

Mr. Turner’s famous book, Conservation In Miniature, described the steps needed to maintain a conservation center.  Paul F. Brandwein, President of the Center of Study of Instruction, realized the importance of Ralph’s fledgling center.  “The major thrust in American education is to enrich the world of the child…   And it is to this end that the Monlux Environmental Center was developed…The next decades will see whether or not we can heal our environment, whether or not our culture can maintain an environment to sustain those who live-or will live…Thousands of Environmental Centers–to assist millions of individual and group efforts–need to be born.  The Monlux Environmental Center furnishes an enviable model of one such center.”  And so, in 1962, Mr. Turner’s dream project was realized.

There was much work to do:  culling volunteers, creating riparian environments, collecting animals, preparing mini- informative talks for the thousands of children that would visit the center.  Ralph was tireless in his unbounded enthusiasm, racing here and there to make conservation known throughout Southern California.  He went to visit schools with sets of slides, showing the effects of erosion, possible ecological disaster, but telling his stories with a sense of humor that encouraged questions from his eager young listeners.

And children did visit the Center.  Busloads and busloads came to hear about the importance of conservation.  But not only to hear, but to see, to touch, to smell.  Their minds flew from ancient geological formations to recent sedimentation.  They learned how to grow crystals, how to take care of animals, what a watershed meant, how to preserve the landscape and what the threats to ecological destruction were.  Children began to see their world in a different perspective and new concepts and ways of thinking filtered through their questioning minds.

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, Evelyn de Wolfe, had this to say about the Center:  “Children who are bused to Monlux are taught how to conserve water, soil, plants, and wildlife, how to guard against devastation through fire and flood, and learn how Los Angeles gets its water, saves it and delivers it.”

Mr. Turner watched his center expand and the ideas of ecology and conservation sprinkled the speeches of legislators.  Ralph had set the wheels in motion and his experiment was spreading ever further and encompassing ever greater spaces.  But he continued to work, improve, rethink, redesign, according to newer and newer discoveries of science.  And, when he retired, his analytical mind continued to help dozens of students with suggestions,  problem solving and honing the perception of their surroundings, and, of course, ideas about conservation.

Ralph was one of conservation education’s pioneers.  His twinkling eyes. light-hearted humor and zest for rivers and fishing will be missed.  But he would be gratified to know that conservation and ecology have become essentials for high school biology–that one of his major goals was achieved– and that the search for the understanding of the interconnectedness of all life forms goes on.

 

Down Memory Lane: My Mom’s 1971 Tour De Force

1971 was a very special year for our family;  my father’s parents(Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny) were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  For the occasion, Mom did extensive research into the era of the early 1920’s to try to recreate the wedding in the period’s special style.  To do this, she hired a barbershop quartet, set up Johnny’s Speak-Easy for drinks and created Lil’s Candy Corner.

Cecil Ross with the barbershop quartet

Cecil Ross with the barbershop quartet

Period songs were reinterpreted by Aunt Cecil, the family’s clever lyricist.  For “Frankie and Johnny”, for instance, she made the following change:  “He’s still her man.  For fifty years they can’t be wrong!”  Seven years earlier, Cecile Ross had changed “Hello, Dolly!” to “Hello, David!’ for Grandpa David’s 85th birthday to great acclaim at the El Caballero Country Club.  We all sang her revised lyrics:

from left to right: Donald Yorkshire, Nancy Weiss, Heidi Yorkshire, me, and Wendy Yorkshire is in the foreground. The Yorkshires were the children of my Mom's brother, Buddy, and her daughter-in-law, Analee.

From left to right: Donald Yorkshire, Nancy Weiss, Heidi Yorkshire, me and Wendy Yorkshire is in the foreground. The Yorkshires were the children of my Mom’s brother, Buddy, and her daughter-in-law, Analee.

Grandma and Grandpa were picked up in a 1920’s Hupmobile, and taken to our backyard where the party commenced.  The first thing they saw was our ten-year-old basset, Peter:

Grandpa Johnny with Peter

Grandpa Johnny with Peter

Then, they approached a board that was covered with events from 1921:

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny in front of a board depicting events from 1921.

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny in front of a board depicting events from 1921, including pictures of Nancy and me.

Among the many guests that came, we were honored and fortunate to have my great-grandfather, Irving Turner:

Great-Grandpa Turner with Nancy Weiss

Great-Grandpa Turner with Nancy Weiss

But the highlight of the party was the reenactment of Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding ceremony.  Cantor Brown was chosen to officiate instead of a Rabbi.  Great-Grandpa Turner made a brief speech about the approaching ceremony:

Dad with Great-Grandpa Turner and Cantor Samuel Brown

Dad with Great-Grandpa Turner and Cantor Samuel Brown

The wedding ceremony followed, and emotions flowed freely:

Grandpa Johnny and Grandma Lillian stand under the chupah(the wedding canopy).

Grandpa Johnny and Grandma Lillian stand under the chupah(the wedding canopy).

“You may now kiss the bride!”:

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny do just that as Mom and Dad look on.

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny do just that as Mom and Dad look on.

Then, a happy meeting with Grandma Lillian’s father and brother:

Grandma Lillian with her father and brother Ralph

Grandma Lillian with her father and brother Ralph

To this day, we are all grateful and astounded by Mom’s Tour de Force:  her special theme-oriented party for Grandma Lillian’s and Grandpa Johnny’s 50th anniversary.

Note:  This blog is not static, and previous posts are often revised,  with photos or videos added.  I welcome your visits and comments!

Remembering Robin Williams: Mork And Mindy’s Window Scene

Mork and Mindy was a popular American show from the late 1970s.  The opening theme was a series of clear melodies with a soothing harmony.  Quite a contrast to My Favorite Martian’s, disjointed, unsettling theme from the 1960s.  America had changed and its view of alien beings had changed.  The world of the 1970s was one of unprecedented freedom, acceptance and the belief in the unlimited potential of a human individual.  Suddenly, discrimination diminished.  All ethnicities, religions, people of various sexual orientation flourished.   Julian Beck’s Living Theater was thriving on the streets and experimental art became the norm.  To be sure, the 1960s began the reform movement on TV and beyond;  Bewitched(in 1964) was the first TV sitcom to show a couple in the same bed and was redolent of intimacy and passion.  Poetry of Richard Brautigan and others were gaining prominence. The generation gap was getting wider.  But the 60s was an explosive age, an eruption from the stale, too-well role-defined, authoritarian world of the 1950s, while the 1970s was an age where the rebellions and upheavals settled into a new, but still discernible pattern.

Mork and Mindy took the American audience by storm in 1978, when a young, short, athletic, comic actor cavorted as an alien from the planet Ork.  He was juxtaposed with the more refined, careful, Mindy McConnell(Pam Dawber), who worked in her Dad’s music store in Boulder, Colorado.  Together, their slow evolving relationship of mutual discovery and respect, formed the main subject of the show.

Mork comes from an emotionless planet and has been sent by leader Orson to observe earth habits.  Mork communicates his observations to Orson through his brain and these comments usually conclude the show.  They are often quite provocative and thought-provoking.

Through Mindy, Mork gains an appreciation of emotions and their consequences, reaching an apex with the manic “Mork’s Mixed Emotions.”  His first love is a mannikin named Dolly whom he worships and reveres.  However, Mindy teaches him that there is something rather special about a woman’s touch that Dolly does not have.  And so begins the growing intimacy that Mork and Mindy share in their developing awareness of their mutual feelings.  The episode blends slapstick humor, exaggeration, sadness and wistfulness in a blend that only Robin Williams could deliver in his quiet innocence.  And he provides this special mixture throughout the series.

The famous Window Scene from “A Mommy for Morky” epitomizes Williams’s capacious artistic talents.  Mindy has met an old boyfriend, who once broke off an engagement.  However, she is attracted to him, and agrees to go out with him to various restaurants, causing Mork to blurt out:  “Is this the guy you’ve been eating around with?”  Mindy tells Mork that she’s serious about her boyfriend, with marriage a distinct possibility.  Mork  is jealous and sad, but cannot admit these feelings.  Mindy’s boyfriend is anxious to have children, but Mindy questions what kind of mother she’d be.  Mork has never had a mother, only a Nanny computer that attended to his needs.  Since Mork has a time machine that will transform him into a three-year-old(which he sets for 10 minutes), he decides to use it for such a purpose; so that he can experience a Mommy and Mindy can experience what it’s like to be a mother.  Before our eyes, Robin becomes a three-year-old with tantrums, irresponsible playfulness, and seemingly inexhaustible energy and Mindy learns how difficult it is to be a mother.  When Mindy leaves with her boyfriend, the scene turns dark, and we can feel Morky’s despair at being left alone.  With tears in his eyes, he runs toward the window, shouting:  “Mommy!  Mommy!’  As he looks through the window, we see the tear-streaked face of a lonely child.  Suddenly, as if by an unseen magic, Mork changes back to a young man, and his:  “Goodbye, Mindy” is delivered in a subdued, sad, almost resigned manner.  The young boy’s dependent need for his mother has been juxtaposed with a man’s growing dependence on a love he, too, cannot do without.  It is a piece of TV magic that only Robin could have brought off, because throughout his life, the child never departed.  It often raised its head  in its sheer innocence, playful exuberance, and delight in its surroundings.

At the conclusion of the episode, it was usual to hear Mork stating to Orson:  “This is Mork signing off.”  Alas, forever, Robin.

Some Notes For The Future And A Photo Of Tribute

Many of you must realize that I changed the domain of this blog to discovery and wonder.com.  The primary reason was to include audio files and extended video files.  However, I also decided to split the About page into two parts:  one dealing with the purpose of the site itself(a work in progress) and the other dealing with me and my family.  I thought this would be a far more effective way of presenting the site.  I am also introducing two new categories:  Something to Think About, and  Just for the Feel of it.  The former category will offer selected quotes or sayings, which I hope will be of interest.  The latter category will offer brief excerpts from heretofore untranslated Russian children’s stories and novels.  I must say, however, that I have suspended The Writer’s Friend, and the corresponding blog.  I am working on The Fence and The Field:  A Writer’s Gateway to Self, which includes some of the exercises from that blog.

In concluding, I would like to thank my 86 followers for looking at my posts and offering thoughtful comments.  May this be a year of peace and discovery for all.  And thanks, Mom, for the memories.

Mom and I celebrating Mother's Day 1954.

Mom and I celebrating Mother’s Day 1954.

A Special Holiday Card Gives Tribute To Black Oaks And Donald L. Donegan

Have you ever heard of Black Oaks?  No.  Then, I’ll tell you.  Black Oaks is a beautiful estate consisting of a main house, whose deck spreads out to embrace the swift waters of the Rogue River, and a series of smaller dwellings, each with their own features.  There are black oaks on the property, but it got its name from Captain Black, who lived there in the 1930s.  Since then, the estate has witnessed several owners, including Harris Allen, director of the Rogue Valley Ranch School, a private academy for troubled youths.  But that was many years ago.  Now the Donegan family are the watchful owners of the estate and the llamas have replaced the cries of wayward boys. I remember driving out to Black Oaks along Pine Gate Way, being sure to keep to the branch which led to the river.  Don, a bluff man with light hair, of Irish vintage, would lead me to the deck which his wife, “Pammy”  had already furnished with glasses of cold lemonade and an inviting platter of chocolate chip cookies.  Lively conversation would follow, with Don taking on an authoritarian air, exuding the confidence of a CEO used to being in charge.  I listened carefully, not always agreeing, but imbibing the wisdom of this successful businessman.  And so  we talked, while we gazed out at the rushing river so resplendent in its blue dress, not noticing the time which was also rushing by.  One visit followed another until one day the table was vacant, and Don’s voice had disappeared among the pine…

“As usual the Rogue River flows past our doorstep and presents a wonderful autumn aquacade, which rivals the best of Hollywood’s Esther Williams productions for our viewing pleasure.  Lithe silver bodies cut and turn through the water, acrobatically jumping, churning and thrashing as scores of the huge salmon jockey for the best spawning spots in the clear, gravelly shallows.  After years of traversing the oceans, they return from hundreds and perhaps even thousands of miles to deposit their own offspring from the same spot they originated.  Quite a sight to see, and a vivid, turbulent reminder of the Cycle of Life! Generally, autumn announces its arrival at Black Oaks with a magnificent splash of vibrant orange, yellow and red leaves fluttering in the breezes.  But this year has been a little different.  One of our showiest past performers just off the corner of Don’s home office had to be removed this past spring because of damage the roots were causing to the walkways and septic system.  And somehow the other surrounding trees and shrubs seem to have taken note of the loss and are presenting a more subdued mien in their attitude of mourning. Perhaps this is fitting as this particular autumn lacks its usual sparkle for me because Don is not here to share it…  Don passed away on September 16 after several years struggling against the erosion of time, physical failure and the odds against living forever.  For someone who was not expected by the doctors of the time to live beyond his twenties, he took great pleasure in trying to make the most of each day of his life and he experienced a certain glee.. after he reached 80… One close friend… reminded me of our younger days in California when Don and three other inseparable comrades loved to play gin rummy, hunt and swap stories over cocktails.  Because Don had chronic health problems…  the other fellows thought Don was sure to expire first, but like the good card player he was, he turned the table one last time and was the last to fall…”(Holiday Card from Pam Donegan)