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 Obstinate J Rogue River Float 1962

We stayed at the Obstinate J Ranch from 1961-1979.  Our cabin was called Steelhead Point, and abounded in mosquitoes, and yellow jackets, which entered whenever we opened our hinged door.  Below us, the Rogue River flowed through a wonderful trout spot, and below that, there was an interesting rapid, which ended in a large hole and several steep waves.  The rapid disappeared after the 1964 flood, and I remember Obstinate J co-owner, George Pearson, driving his tractor in the middle of the river in a vain effort to bring the rapid back.  But the memories remain:  cooking barbecues along the river, finding my first calcite crystals lodged in a basalt boulder, watching numerous eddies twirl struggling leaves, starry, clear nights, Saturn Rock, beyond which you dared not go, and the many floats down the lower rapid.  In the video below, Dad rowed Grandpa Johnny, my sister Nancy and me through the rapid.

A Time For Carols: Some Of My Favorite Collections

One of my December traditions is to listen to Christmas carols.  They have always been a major part of my life, and have brought me joy and solace.  My sister  Nancy once founded a group, The Dolcian Singers, which specialized in carols, and I remember singing carols in our home.  Going to Yosemite during Christmas and singing carols in the Ahwahnee Hotel before a large crackling fire, is something I’ll never forget.  The outside falling snow, the magnificent peaks and falls, and the wonderful joy of everyone, made my trip one I will always cherish.  I’ve decided to share with you some of my favorite carol collections, giving tribute to a tradition that has inspired composers since the Middle Ages.

1.  My favorite, and the one I play first is Harry Belafonte’s, To Wish You A Merry Christmas.  My Dad had been an admirer of Belafonte’s vocal style, and never failed to purchase a new album.  However, when Dad bought this album in the 1960s, it became a tradition to play it every December.  Belafonte’s warm, soothing, rich voice is ideal for carols.  If you want to sit back and relax, and absorb the spirit of Christmas, this collection is for you.  The orchestration is excellent, and the conductor, Robert DeCormier(who has several carol CDs on Arabesque Records) has great insight into the mood of the carols.  One of the highlights is Belafonte’s interpretation of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, which concludes the album.  A wonderful, and thought-provoking piece of music it is!

2.  My second choice would be the 2CD collection:  Christmas with the Robert Shaw Chorale on RCA.  Acknowledged by many music critics to be one of the greatest choral conductors in America, Shaw brings out the very best in his ensemble.  Included in the extensive liner notes is an interview of Robert Shaw, conducted by Vocal Music Editor of the BMG Classical Music Series.  This bounteous collection contains almost 50 carols, mostly traditional, but there are some surprises as well.  A great way to celebrate the Christmas season.

3.  A New Met Christmas is a splendid way to celebrate the holiday season.  Outstanding singers from the Met’s past are featured in this inspiring collection.  My favorites include Benita Valente’s wistful “Silent Night”, and Placido Domingo’s moving rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  However, all selections are exceptional, and the CD is a treasure.

4.  A Scandinavian Christmas on Loft Recordings is a different undertaking altogether.  There is a quiet beauty in abundance, but little of the rousing, joyous spirit we associate with many traditional carols.  With David Dahl at the organ, director Richard Sparks encourages some lush, rich sounds out of the Choral Arts Northwest ensemble.  Many of the melodies are complex, haunting, and mysterious in their makeup, like parts of the Scandinavian landscape.  Definitely not a CD for traditionalists, but for those wishing to expand their horizons, this CD might provide an answer.

5.  Christmas Carols:  Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, England, Flanders, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Yugoslavia on Supraphon provides a collection of carols from selected European countries on one side(I have an LP), and Czech carols on the other side.  The Prague Madrigal Singers due justice to all the selections, and their conductor Miroslav Venhoda is a capable guide.  Notes are in English, Russian, German, and French.  There are a few traditional carols, but most of them the listener will probably not be familiar with.  A wonderful presentation of European carols, and the dance, folk character of Czech carols.

A Passion For Flowers

I must confess that I’ve had a lifelong passion for flowers with their assorted blooms, colors and shapes.  I think my love of flowers started when I bought petunia seeds at Armstrongs, planted them in the back corner of our lot and watched them grow.  Then I remember looking at a book of flowers with such intriguing names as zinnias, morning glories, larkspur, delphinium.  The color photos showed me a world of beauty.  Many years later, it was my privilege to walk through Mrs. Tucker’s wonderful garden at Rogue’s Roost with its fragrances and patterns.  And, it was no accident that I chose botany as one of my chapters in The Magicians of Form, and that I asked my interviewee, Dr. Frank Lang, to identify the plants and flowers in the riparian environment surrounding our home while we walked to the Rogue River.

I do have a fondness for roses and camellias and have taken hundreds of photos.  (Incidentally, my sister Nancy has won several awards for her roses.)  When it comes to landscaping, I am indebted to the helpful suggestions of the Medfords, who took the trouble to explain how to prune rhododendrons and roses.  Mr. Medford’s penchant for gardening is well-known, but Mrs. Medford possesses a fine eye for beauty and order.(I might also say that Mrs. Medford’s famous apple pies are just as good as they are reported to be.)  Also, my flowering dogwood is an inspiration to me, and azaleas are something to reflect on.  I offer you some photos of flowers that have a place in my heart.   

The rapid above Tucker’s: The Stair Steps

The rapid which my Dad called “The Rapid Above Tucker’s” was known locally as the Stair Steps or the Steps.  This rapid survived the ’64 flood, although it lost some of the sharpness of its drop since the river widened.  The rapid came after a series of narrow drops that were negotiated on the left, because there was a river wide bar.  Following the drops, the river turned right and the Steps began.  You followed a current on the right passing to the left of two boulders, then made your way to the center to slide over a ledge.  This was a tricky maneuver since the ledge was chock full of rocks, and you had a tight squeeze.  Once over the ledge, you needed to dodge a few boulders in the left channel, especially the last wave, which was a large hole.  The river dropped several feet from the top with the right resembling a falls.  Following immediately was a large bar with waves that tried to take you into the bank.  This was a rapid that I inner tubed many times with my sister Nancy and my cousin Gregg Turner.  It was always a challenge and great fun.  Just below was a famous fishing spot, especially for steelhead.

Inner Tubing Season Has Begun So…

It’s time to take those inner tubes out for a great float on the Rogue River.  For those of you who know nothing about inner tubing, here are a few pointers.  You have more control in an inner tube than you might think you do.  To achieve best balance, sit down in the water with your legs pointed in a line over the side.  Make sure your tube is large enough so your arms don’t scrape when pulling.  To go left, point your feet to the right, and pull to the left.  To go right, point your feet to the left, and pull to the right.  When making a directional move, try to line up your feet so they point in a line, and not at an angle.  When pulling, make sure your arms are a few inches under water to achieve maximum strength on your pull.  If you wish to slow down, pull upstream.  You can also combine the directional moves with a spin move to dodge obstacles faster.  Whenever you hit a wave, always hit it directly, and never broadside.  Also with certain waves you might want to hold on, especially at Horseshoe Falls, to avoid tipping over.  Remember that a tube can take only a certain size wave.  Beyond that size, you will be flipped over!  Always watch out for strainers, which are the most dangerous obstacles on the river!  Unless compelled to do so, stay away from the banks as tree branches are likely to be present.

With caution and practice of basic strokes, you should have a fun time on the river.  Of course, there are people like my sister Nancy, who throw caution to the winds.  My sister sometimes sat in one large tube with her friend Martha Brooks, and floated the rapids that way!

P.S.  Remember to wear life jackets at all times, and respect other boaters and fishermen.  Happy floating!