Tag Archives: Chowchilla

Spirit of Christmas

scrooge-1My father could have been a double for Scrooge’s in A Christmas Carol—minus the greed. Both scoffed at the hectic holiday hubbub that floated like fresh snow. Real snow never fell in Chowchilla, our small San Joaquin Valley town, but it glistened on Sierra mountain tops looking north from Robertson Boulevard. Downtown merchants became amateur artists and created snowmen from spray cans on front display windows. They painted a tophat, a plaid neck scarf, and brown twig arms. They daubed eyes and a row of coal black buttons on the white globes.  Merry Christmas in glistening red foil stretched above the winter scenes.

A few local Scrooges dampened the community Christmas Spirit, my father vying for the top position. His Bah, Humbug! list of no’s at Christmas was longer than Scrooge’s. No Christmas tree. No Santa. No gifts. Mama agreed to skip the decorations, but she silently put gifts on layaway each spring to be opened before our family meal at noon.

One December Saturday, Papa agreed to go with us to the lighting of the community Christmas tree. Anticipation built as darkness approached. The walk downtown was an easy ten blocks in the warm summer, twice as long in the winter chill. Papa bent into the fierce wind and pulled the brim of his black felt hat down over his forehead. Mama tugged the ties of her headscarf tighter and turned up her thin coat collar against the cold. My twin and I skipped along the sidewalk too excited to feel the cold.

Christmas TreeAt the City Hall, we sipped hot cocoa from paper cups while we waited. The mayor activated the lights. Colors glowed from the lowest branch to the star on top of the live tree that reached upward toward the roof of the one-story building. A siren sounded and Santa arrived, sitting high on a blazing red fire truck. Papa stiffened and cast his eyes downward, away from the smiling red-suited man waving at us. We each received a brown paper lunch-size bag filled with an orange, an apple, a handful of unshelled nuts, and two or three pieces of hard candy.

Back home, Papa sent my twin and me to bed without a word about the magical evening. I had pleasant dreams that night because he had abandoned his Bah, Humbug attitude and celebrated the spirit of Christmas.

Merry Chistmas Vintage

 

Ebenezer Scrooge, Bah Humbug, Chowchilla, California, San Joaquin Valley, Christmas, Violet Carr Moore

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Wanted Dead or Alive: Stephen’s Elementary Students Identified

Sherlock Holmes Pipe and Hat

Sherlock Holmes Pipe and Hat (Courtesy Wikipedia)

My mystery bones associate “Identified” with the John and Jane Does in handout or online flyers, or the homicide victim in Next of Kin, my crime fiction novel in progress. A real-life mystery is solved with the IDs of first grade students in Mrs. Mabel Buffington’s 1945-1946 class at Stephen’s Elementary School in Chowchilla, California. Everyone is accounted for because Keith’s Hollister’s mother had the foresight to write each child’s name by rows on the back of his class picture seventy years ago. (Can you believe we’ve kept these photos that long?)  My thanks to Keith and his wife Doris who shared this complete list.

 

 

 

First Grade Mrs. Buffington

 

FRONT ROW: Seated left to right: Betty Lee Green, Viola Carr (my twin), Judy Green, Jean Younglund, Esther Lee White, Norma Eaton, Violet Carr (Me), Mary Wood, Pearl Sheaon (Shahan), Eva Cherry, Margaret Ann McGowan, Donald Roy Robinson, Lawrence Ashcraft.

SECOND ROW (L-R): Carlin Gene Lawrence, Kenneth McPherson, Keith Hollister, Ralph Shelton, Danny Shepherd, Mack Wade, Eva Bailey, Loretta Jay, Lauralee (Laurali) Pittz, Joe Lester Nix, Joe Lataski, Eugene Bryant, Charles Bollinger, George Brewer.

THIRD ROW (L-R): Mrs. Mabel Buffington, Donald McPherson, Jackie Pittz, Vern Pickrell, James Eaton, Donald Fountain, Harold Stinson, James Odell young, Delbert Carson, Gene Hillhouse, James Allen, Jerry Kirsey, Leonard Smith.

Now, 70 years later, these students are wanted―dead or alive. If you see yourself, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, anybody you know, please email current information to info@carrtwins.com.

Questions for all Violet’s Vibes blog followers:

  1. Do you still have your first grade class picture?
  2. Are the names on the back?
  3. Do you have contact with at least one classmate in that photo?

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Wanted – Dead or Alive

Should I have created a more genteel title? Okay, how about “Looking for class of 1945-1946?” Misleading because it sounds like a graduating class.  Maybe, “Looking for Stephens Elementary first-grade classmates?” There were nearly one hundred first graders back then and only 39 in Mrs. Buffington’s class of 1945-46. (Did I say only 39? That was a huge class with no teacher’s assistant.)

How about this title?

Wanted Dead or Alive

Mrs. Buffington’s first grade class of 1945-46

While my twin, Vi Parsons, and I prepared for our March 10th book launch of Double Take, our stories of growing up in Chowchilla, California, we dug out childhood photos and memorabilia to display at two hometown authors events. Well, not exactly our hometown since we were born hundreds of miles southeast of Highway 99, but the town where life unfolded for us like purple morning glories on a spring day.

We compared first grade class photos, but they were different. Mine is the original with Mrs. Buffington dressed in her schoolteacher black dress, hatless, with 33 students looking like World War II refugees. Somehow, she wrangled a second photoshoot to include all 39 students after she donned her Sunday best hat and frock and prepped all of us to dress a little less like ragamuffins.

First Grade Mrs. Buffington

That’s me, front row, dead center, sitting between girls I don’t remember. My twin is second from the left between Betty and Judy.  I also recognize Necia, Eva, Pearl, Margaret, and Donald, maybe Lawrence in the front row. The second row stretches my sketchy memory cells with positive IDs for Keith and Loretta and Lorelei. In the back row, I recognize Philip and Gene, but a couple of others look familiar.

My twin and I are planning to organize a reunion of the “live” bunch and gather memorial information for the others. If you or family members are in this photo, or if you recognize a friend, email me at info@carrtwins.com.

 

P.S. Double Take by Vi Parsons and Violet Moore, published by Carr Twins & Co., is available from Amazon and www.carrtwins.com.

 

DOUBLE TAKE FRONT COVER 2014

 

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Christmas Candy

Shopping CartAt Red’s Market, Papa selects a few groceries, writes each item in a pocket size notebook, and places the food into the shopping cart. A silent moment, as if thinking, follows after he totals the amount. He dips a metal scoop into an open bin of a new crop of walnuts. He carefully inspects each nut and discards those with damaged shells. He weighs the remaining walnuts and pours them from the metal bin on the hanging scale into a small brown paper bag. He calculates the weight, multiplies it by the price per pound, and writes the total in his notebook.Lard can

After each of the infrequent grocery trips, the food is put away in the kitchen, then Papa goes into the cellar. From the dining room, I hear the scrape as he drags out the metal can and a distinct pop when he opens the lid. Then the familiar sounds of the lid snapping back in place and noises of pushing the heavy can back under the steps.

Chocolate-drops

On the next shopping trip, Papa hesitates at the open bin of chocolate drops. He scoops, then pours the confections into the smallest paper bag. He weighs it, calculates the price and enters it into his notebook.

Papa’s favorites are the white centers. His second choice is pink. The pink tastes strong to me, more like soap or bubble bath than candy. The plain are good, but I like the lemon yellow or maple brown fillings.

small-brown-paper-bag

At home, Papa follows his ritual as he carries the tiny bag of chocolate drops toward the cellar door. My mouth waters. I ask for one. “No” is his stern reply. I watch him pull open the trap door and descend. I listen for the familiar metal scrape, the air pop, and the returning push that seals his answer. No chocolate today.

PieThe next day, aromas drift from the kitchen throughout our small house. Mama is cooking chicken and dressing, baking sweet potatoes and making pies. While she works, Papa disappears into the cellar numerous times, returning with treasures from the cans, then closes the trap door.

I plead for the chocolate drops. Mama intercedes, and surprisingly, Papa agrees. One chocolate drop is offered to each of us twins. The aroma of my carefully chosen nugget is stronger than pungent sage and other spicy smells from the stove. I close my eyes and bite slowly into the candy, hoping for the luscious taste of lemon or creamy maple. Ugh! The soapy taste of pink! I swallow it in disappointment.

Glass candy dish with lidPapa fills the lidded glass candy bowl with chocolate drops, off limits until Christmas. No more pink for me. Tomorrow, when no one is watching, I will prick the bottom of each chocolate drop with a toothpick searching for lemon yellow fillings.

Tomorrow is Christmas.

Merry Christmas-Snowman

 

Excerpts from “Christmas Candy” from Double Take (Released December 2014) by Vi Parsons and Violet Moore. Purchase AUTOGRAPHED books from Carr Twins & Co. website, or buy from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0978923642 .

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