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!

The Journey Continues…

“Assume 1 exists.  Now prove 2 exists.”–Thomas D. Hedden’s cynical concept of mathematics

Numbers always fascinated me.  I remember going down to the Rogue River bed to construct numbers out of stones.  I liked particularly the shape of 4.  In fact, when I turn the TV off, I always leave it on channel 4.  4 has seemed to me the “perfect” number.  And when I was a child, I wanted to see 4 and feel the stones that formed it.  3 has been a troublesome number; I had difficulty forming 3s in my writing and the oddness of the number disturbed me.  The mirror twins of 6 and 9 were also troubling.  I enjoyed looking at 1, but felt I didn’t understand it.  0 was a special number, but my multiplication cards somehow excluded it.  I did my times tables from 1×1 to 12×12.  There was no 13.  I’ve felt there is something malevolent about 13, and perhaps the makers of the multiplication tables did as well.  To this day, I mark all my checks that end in 13 VOID!, and shred them.  My accountant doesn’t like the way I handle checks, but how can you deal with such an irrational person as I?

The cabins at Diamond Lake fascinated me.  I would follow one cabin marked 12, and try to construct the whole number sequence.  I remember looking through bushes, circling trees and hills, in an effort to complete the sequence.  78 record albums were also a source for numbers.  In my grandparents’ home at Amesbury near Griffith Park, I recall seeing records of South Pacific on the floor.  I saw 5, 9, 10, 4, but the others were missing.  I was quite disappointed.  However, I made up for the loss when Grandma bought me the complete Columbia album of South Pacific many years later.  Motels, of course, often proved an exercise in futility, because some would start with 100 or some other number.  Still, I considered the number of the motel I stayed at quite special and have the key with its number to one of them!

Multiplication by 0 was intriguing;  What is President Obama x 0?  But division by 0 was even more bewildering.  Common sense tells us that if we divide an object by nothing, we are not dividing, so the result should be the object unchanged.  Look!  I will divide this chocolate cake by nothing.  See this knife!  I will hold it up in the air.  Now everyone, dig in!  But in mathematics, if 5/0=5, then through cross multiplication, 5×0 should equal 5, but that contradicts the way we originally defined multiplication by 0.  What can we do?  Simple! We’ll take the easy way out and say that division by 0 is undefined.  I must admit that multiplying a chocolate cake by 0 is something I cannot fathom!

Xs and Ys hurt my eyes.  Ys and Zs no more please!– childhood verse about algebra

I remember algebra only too well.  The subject inspired my first story, The Tale of the Brilliant Xaquenta Qualzifaz Xitg and the Birth of Algebra.  Xaqenta falls in love with Yakshwe Reginald Yorkes and they meet at a special place called the origin.  At that point, they decide to form a family.  There was a communicative law, so that all members could recognize one another better and an associative law to improve family relations.  The eternal optimist, a small man on stilts called absolute value, was never far away.  But the story faded into fractal dust, and so it has remained.  At the time, I decided there were other worlds to explore. And so, armed with my protractor and a straight edge, I was ready for whatever shapes and symbols I might encounter.

Some Family History And A Little Wisdom.

I have a family tradition that each year I go through our scrapbooks to renew memories and make sure pictures haven’t fallen out.  I love to look at the photos, because they take me to places that were special.  I enjoy seeing photos of the Rogue River as it changed over the years and study faces that no longer exist.  Such an experience makes me aware of the transience and unfathomable mystery of life.  Playing in the snow in the Angeles Crest, following the stories of record readers, remembering when a simple table could provide hours of entertainment, trying to create a miniature golf course by digging up the lawn in our backyard, Grandpa David pulling out yet another Hershey bar from his “secret” closet,  all these memories flow into an ever changing and ever beckoning past….

Murray Weiss:  Around 1940, we purchased a 12 acre ranch above San Fernando.  It came with two horses that I used to ride.  There were also groves of lemon and orange trees, and a barn for the horses.  The water came down from a spring in pipes.  I would drive up there at least two or three times a week and give the horses bales of hay and feed them.  But, after awhile, the horses figured out how to get out of the gate and would wander around San Fernando.  I would often get a call from the Dog Pound in the middle of my medical practice:  “We have one of your horses.  Please come and pick it up.”   And, it was really kind of a mess.  I would attach the horse to the back of my car, and drive slowly up the streets and put it back.( In 1966 the ranch burned to the ground in the Pacoima Canyon Fire.)

Geraldine(Jerry) Hilton:  My mother(Grandma Lena) dominated.  Any time we asked Dad if we could go some place, he would say no.  My mother would say: “Let the kinder go.”  When it came to gifts, my mother was very generous.  She’d say:  “Give it to them.”  My mother loved to buy stuff wholesale and she would always have a stock of silver-plated platters and trays in case she needed to give a gift for somebody.  She had a whole warehouse in the closet.  As long as it was wholesale, she would buy it.

Twyla Weiss:  When the earthquake of the early 30s happened, I was playing hide and seek, and I was “it”, and I had my face against a house that completely collapsed.  I became absolutely panic-stricken, and I would not go back into our brick apartment house.  I stayed in our big seven-passenger Buick all night long, and I remember my sister, Cecile, stayed with me.

My mother was a warm person, but had a volatile temper.  She would slap you, get angry, and the next minute not remember it at all.  My mother was not a homemaker, even though she loved to cook and bake, but was a very bright, astute woman, who had little formal education.  She was always trying to learn to drive a car and get a license.  She often smashed the car, and one of our admonitions was:  “Oh, be careful!  Watch out at the corner!  Mom may be coming down the street!

Boris(Buddy) Yorkshire:  Grandpa Yorkshire did the driving in the house.  He had a glass eye in one eye and was almost blind with a cataract in the other.  How he drove, I don’t really know, but he did.  The day he had his cataract removed, he said up till then he never realized what things look like.  He really wasn’t even sure what his children looked like!

I can’t understand why we fight wars.  I haven’t quite figured that out, except that there are good salesmen there at the top that want to own a little bit more of the world.  I think being tolerant is probably the most important thing you can be.  Be tolerant of the other guy, and try to understand his feeling, too.

Grandma Lillian as a teenager.

Grandma Lillian as a teenager.

Grandma Lena and Grandpa David.

Grandma Lena and Grandpa David.

Grandpa Johnny and I at my Bar Mitzvah.

Grandpa Johnny and I at my Bar Mitzvah.

My Dad enjoying himself at Casey's Auto Camp in the 1930s.

My Dad enjoying himself at Casey’s Auto Camp in the 1930s.

My Dad today at 90, engrossed in American History.

My Dad today at 90, engrossed in American History.

Mom at 88, reading a biography of Elsa Maxwell.

Mom at 88, reading a biography of Elsa Maxwell.

A Train Of Thought

This is the time of year when I go through the 45 family albums and check that all photos are still in place.  Invariably, I have to use double scotch tape to put in some photos that have fallen out.  Memories inevitably arise, and particularly of trains, because they have been a major part of our family’s history.

My Grandfather Johnny(Nathan) had a great love of trains.  Perhaps it was his journey across the ocean from Eastern Europe to New York in the early 1900s that inspired his wanderlust.  Or perhaps he was born with an insatiable curiosity to explore.  We will never know.  But something propelled him to leave his family in New York, hop onto a train, and head for California.  For Johnny, trains became a symbol of freedom and a means of escape.  In fact, when Grandpa Johnny was angry at Grandma Lillian, he would threaten to go a train and leave her.  Grandma and I would usually find him walking to the nearest bus stop(he never drove) and we would pick him up.  However, once we had to drive to Union Station in Los Angeles, and he was sitting in the lobby.  Grandpa Johnny really must have been mad at Grandma!  But they made up, and returned as a harmonious couple to the San Fernando Valley and their home in North Hollywood.

Trains have a special meaning for me, too.  In my early childhood years, I lived on Rowena Street rather close to Griffith Park.  My mother, Twyla, was always a master at organizing theme-oriented birthday parties and she utilized the trains at Travel Town for a few of my parties.  I remember climbing the steps of a train to greet my guests.  It was a jolly time!

In 1959, I received a Lionel train as a holiday gift.  I set it up in my bedroom, and spent hours and hours watching my eight cars speed along the tracks.  The train still exists and I run it for friends who drop by in Medford Oregon.  The cardboard tunnel has long since disintegrated, but two new tunnels grace the tracks.  The train whistle still announces departures.  The station master runs up the stairs of a plastic building. Smoke pours out of the top of Mom’s Diner and another train of thought begins…

A Pool Of Memories

My Grandma Lillian’s swimming pool provided a treasure of childhood memories.  Since my family lived next door to her, summer visits to the pool were frequent.  I recall the flashes of brown and green as fins dropped to the bottom.  Later, these fins served as bats when we played pool baseball.  If you hit the rubber ball over the diving board, you were given a home run.  Any ball hit on the side was ruled a foul ball.  To throw a swimmer out, you needed to hit the designated base before the swimmer.  In those halcyon days, energy didn’t seem to be a factor.  And when we did get tired, we were usually rewarded with hot dogs, and paper cups of cold, sparkling lemonade.

The right side of the pool displayed a jacuzzi-like effect, because that’s where the recycled water shot into the pool.  I remember water spurting all over my skin.  The left side of the pool provided another attraction:  the filter.  I remember Dad dropping in a colorful display of liquids, and the flushing sound as the filter went about it’s business.  I also recall Dad holding a large jug of chlorine, which later burned our eyes and got into our lungs.

When our basset hound, Peter, was around, we’d take him into the pool area, because his brother, Adam, lived on the other side of the wire fence.  It was amusing to see the dogs approach each other and look into each other’s deep, doleful eyes.  The bassets continued to meet until Adam was poisoned.  Peter looked for him, but never found him.

A jump in the pool was just the thing to dispel thoughts of ringed atolls, complex numbers, and future exams.  These thoughts washed way in frolicsome play.  Water became the main focus and doing laps via crawl or frog kicks was just the thing.  And lying flat on your back or grabbing some object to float on was the order of the day.  Time was never thought of, but  was present nonetheless.  High school, which seemed like a distant vision, had become only too real as well as college, which was approaching.  Soon, unbeknownst to me, the gates to Grandma Lillian’s pool would never admit me again.  And when the gates would open, they would belong to another family, building their own pool of memories.