Seasons Greetings – December 2010

As we come to the close of another year and look forward to the Holiday Season, I like to reflect on the Christmas memories of my youth.


I don’t remember the trees we had when I was very young.  I assume they must have been the traditional kind with all the trimmings, lovingly decorated for my benefit.  My brother and sister being many years older than I, probably didn’t give as much thought to Christmas as they had as children, so I am sure I revived Christmas in my parent’s home.

I was born in Hollywood, California and at least 2 Christmases were spent there.  We moved to a ranch near Genoa, Nevada when I was 2, and 5 Christmases were celebrated there.  The summer I turned 8, we moved to Reno, so my brother, who had recently returned from the Korean Conflict, could attend the University of Nevada.  The house my parents purchased was only a two bedroom and I temporarily lived in the dining area while a new addition was being constructed for my brother, but there was room for Christmas

Christmas was my mother’s favorite holiday and her focus that December was on nothing else.  She was determined to make the holidays “perfect.”  It must have made her very happy to have all her children together that first Christmas in Reno; my sister was living there, married with her first child, my brother and me.

Later the next year, my brother moved back to California.  My mother was less enthusiastic about Christmas that year, but determined to make the effort.  She was a very creative person and an idea occurred to her  in the early fall for a new “Christmas tree.”  (I don’t know if she had seen this tree in a magazine or made it up.)

She purchased three paper bells of ascending size, red, white, and red, which when opened up and stacked on top of each other formed the shape of a tree.  My father constructed a pole in a wooden base to go through the middle for stability.  I remember not being very happy about the idea of not having a real tree, but my tone changed when I was encouraged to help her make the new ornaments.  Mother bought styrofoam balls, in several different sizes, packages of sequence and tiny pins.  We all spent hours decorating the balls with glittering designs and hung them around the edges of the bells with fishing line and paper-clips.  There was no top, however.  The metal angel who sat on a cloud of spun glass and who had graced the crown of previous trees was too heavy, and had to sit on the mantle-piece, instead.

After Christmas the tree was folded and carefully packed and stored.  But wear and tear on the paper for the next few years proved too much.   One December afternoon when I arrived home from school, there was a large box in the living room.  Hoping it was an early Christmas gift I begged my mother to open it.  She was excited with her purchase and eager to share her surprise.  (Frugal was my mother’s middle name and to spend money on something frivolous was very unlike her.)  I was puzzled about the fringed tin-foil fronds that were pulled one by one from their packaging; each set shorter than the next.  About half-way through this process I figured out it was some kind of Christmas decoration.  Then she brought out another box with an electric color-wheel and explained to me when the tree was assembled and the light was plugged in beneath, the shinny branches would reflect the changing colors.

That Christmas, the tree was a new novelty and convenience for a lot of “hip” families, but I still longed for the traditional kind.  When I complained it didn’t smell like a pine tree, my mother bought a can of pine scented air freshener.  When I complained that the Angel still couldn’t sit on top, she bought a new cheap top, shaped like a spire.  When I complained about not having regular lights on the tree, I was encouraged to see the benefit of having colors changing in a rainbow pattern.  To my mother, that tree meant there would be no more mess of needles and pitch on the carpet and no expense of buying a new tree each year.

Well, I thought, at least we could use the old ornaments that had been lovingly hung on the real trees of the past.  Those ornaments were not the shiny, or musical, or electric, or plastic, or craft-like ornaments we have today.  They were blown glass pieces in sphere and oval shapes of many different colors; some opaque, some clear.  Some were bells, others toy-like instruments, or birds, with spun glass tails and wings.  Those ornaments had hung on trees in her childhood, and though great care was taken each year to preserve them, some inevitably got broken.  They were not to be used anymore.  To replace them my mother produced a box of gold and glass costume jewelery.  She said the sparkles of the jewelery would better reflect the lights of the color wheel.  Instead of  foil icicles or garland, she had strung raisins and spray-painted them gold to look like gold nuggets.  (I have to admit that was a clever idea, but after a couple of years the raisins became rotten and the strands fell apart.)

That year I lost Christmas to modern times and housekeeping.  Though I would eagerly await Christmas morning each year there after, before I was married and had a family of my own, some of the magic was gone.  That tree lasted until my parents no longer celebrated the day.

When my mother died and we were clearing the house, I discovered the big box that held the parts of the aluminum tree.  I assumed it had been thrown out years ago, but it had been stored in the upper parts of the garage, forgotten by everyone.  I took it down and looked through the box one more time, brushing the fronds which had become dirty and dusty.  I took the color wheel from its box and plugged it in.  The light-bulb had burnt out.   A nostalgic feeling came over me and I waited for some happy Christmas morning memory to come to mind….

I took the boxes to the garbage and didn’t look back.  God, I was glad to get rid of that tree at last!



Now that I have shared a few memories with you, it is your turn.  Please send in stories to me and I will post them for you or you may do it yourself.  Time and memories slip away so fast, use us to post those memories for your friends and family members to read and share your joy of the season.



by John Stein

I never fully appreciated the extent of French and Spanish colonization and the importance of this knowledge on genealogy until I started researching the French ancestors of my grandchildren.
French territory once covered 3/4 of North America and both French and Spanish settlement preceded that of the English.
You will want to bookmark this: The links down the left side are where the good articles are at.  Good info throughout!
Under the French civil code, a woman’s legal name was her maiden name.
I never thought to look at the census-taker’s name for a clue on how the names might be phonetically twisted.
Or, even worse, a surname was often actually translated:  an English immigrant named Fisher who went into French territory could have had his name recorded there as Poissons.
Unfortunately, I have both surnames in my database and probably have the same woman listed as wife #1 and wife #2.


We have several new members this past months; three belong to Raymond Ware’s family, two of his sons and a granddaughter.  I hope they will share some thoughts and memories of their life with Ray.



Thanks go out once again to Raymond Ware for his creative writing and to Wayne Ware for two great stories; one about his boy-hood on the farm and the other about his summer Family Reunion.



by Cleo Holden

Dear cousins,
For those of you who have searched to find proof that Allan Ware’s wife was indeed a Dodson but have been unable to verify.  Please enjoy the attached.
Cousin Cleo
Click on to view.
Click on to view



Do you have a favorite Comfort-Food Recipe tied to a wonderful Christmas memory?  We’d like to know.

When I was a stay-at-home-Mom, getting ready for the holidays, meant baking cookies, lots of cookies and candies.  I would usually begin the day after Thanksgiving with recipes I’d clipped from magazines or been given by friends.  Tons of sugar and flour and chocolate and nuts and seasonings later, they would be packaged  in plastic containers and bags and temporarily stored in my refrigerator/freezer and my parents chest/freezer.  In a couple of weeks the packaging on trays and in colorful holiday containers and distribution would begin.  The last would have been delivered by Christmas Eve.  Today I work part-time in a chocolate store and with few friends and even fewer family members to receive my “gifts,” my kitchen is put to everyday use.  But the smells and the tastes of that time will always be in my memory.



I know as researchers of you family history, many of you read interesting books or travel to distant locations.  You take photos, spend hours in local libraries and talk with newly discovered “cousins.”  Please share some of your experiences; both the triumphs and the pitfalls.  Methods of researching family history is not an exact science and tips you use, might help someone else.  Or have you come across some information in your research that doesn’t fit, but you don’t want to discard it.  Send it to us and I can post it for you.  Our site is viewed all over the world, now and is very high on the Google list.  I recently had a comment to a biography from someone in Germany.

If you have read a book, send in a book report.  If you have photos we will gladly post them in album form in the Gallery.  If you have a favorite Historical Society Library or research historian, let us know so we may acknowledge them.

That said, I wish to gratefully acknowledge Marti Martin of the Woodford County, Historical Society.  Because of her tireless efforts as a  ”Volunteer” to the Historical Society, she has been nominated to the Board.  Anyone who has ever come in contact with her and required her research skills will realize how devoted she is.



Recently I posted the Obituary for Margaret Ware Parrish of Midway, Kentucky.  Margaret never married and had little family.  She was a long time member of the Board of the Woodford County Historical Society and volunteer.  Her legacy awarded 1/5 of her estate ,which was a size-able amount of money, to the Historical Society.



Sent to me by Charles Dreisbach

Take this test and pass it on to your more literate friends.  What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895…

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina ,Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society
and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS – 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,”play,’ and ‘run.’
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of   America byColumbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell, Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’ (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate inKansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa, Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..
8. Why is the Atlantic    Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.


Have a wonderful Holiday and I hope you create lots of memories.  Be seeing you next year and every one thereafter as long as my fingers and this computer hold out.



Seasons Greetings – December 2010 — 2 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh – I remember the color wheel too!!! That was definitely the “in thing” at the time.
    I am such an old sentimentalist that I still hang ornaments that date back from our very first married years together (almost 40 years now!) and even a few that my mom passed down to me from when I was a child. My favorite is a tiny plastic angel sitting on an equally tiny plastic shooting star. It is so cheap looking and simple compared to the beautiful ornaments that are available today. It wasn’t crafted very well, the colors were smeared, and the little angel’s facial expression is actually quite odd if you look at her too closely, BUT I still feel that breath of magic and anticipation when I see her hanging from the limb of my tree. It instantly transports me back to a time when, as a little girl, I would gaze at this ornament and think that surely there was never anything so beautiful in all the world!
    Everything seemed to take on such a magical glow at Christmas. I think back now to how excited I would get over finding walnuts and an orange in my stocking. No expensive gifts, no big “stocking stuffers,” – just a plain old orange and a few nuts. They were “magic” though and the fact that Santa brought them made me feel like I had been handed the crown jewels.
    Oh, to feel that wonder and innocence again!!!

  2. Thank you Vicki for this wonderful article remembering the Christmas seasons of your youth. This is a very special edition which you have so fondly prepared and presented. Thank you so much. Wishing you and yours a cheerful Christmas season also. God Bless.


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