Friday, April 17, 2015

Flashback Friday

Last month I wrote a short essay on my experience in a fraternity.  One of the fringe benefits was having an association with one of the local sororities.  Naturally, I don't remember a great deal of these pictures, but they had something to do with an initiation of their newest ranks into our ranks.  

You will see mostly smiles in these pictures.  It was an annual event and the only requirement was to have fun.  Good clean fun.  Maybe a little beer, maybe some trepidation from the new ones, but that;s part of these things.  Good, safe, clean fun.  

The Beta's were our sister sorority, and when they had new recruits they had an initiation kind of like our Hell Week.  Sometimes these things are done unannounced and participants don't even have time to take their curlers out.   In the above picture we are trying to keep the ladies in the room but RB and Nick are having some trouble getting that accomplished.  Of course it doesn't hurt when you send out Betty, who could have been a linebacker for the IWC Tigers football team.  Betty, one of my favorites on campus was one of the sweetest, funniest girls I've ever been around.   


One of the more juvenile aspects to these things (I didn't say we weren't above acting like children) was the ever-popular sleight of hand with food.  A little pasta masquerading as worms, a few potato chips disguised as glass, and so on.  

More attempted escapees?

The old vets and the newer initiates then having a fun celebration and a welcoming into the brotherhood and sisterhood.  

I'd also like to say at this juncture, my fraternity Hell Week was the old fashioned, old school type.  The next years after they were modified, and yes, diluted into more fan-friendly type rituals.  In fact, the name itself was changed from Hell Week to Help Week.  I'm sure I had an opinion at the time, but it is lost now in the ether of time.   But looking back I'm sure I was delighted with the change and opportunity for constructive character development.  But there is always a price for change.  Always.  On one hand you gain the opportunity to shape, yet lose tradition and the best of the past.  Progress isn't always progress, and change isn't always good.  

We couldn't see it back then, but the end was just around the corner for us all.  Administration moves to bring all Greeks back onto campus was just the first blow.  Dwindling enrollment and a change in attitudes for Greek system all contributed to the demise.  The Phi Delts, my fraternity, was the last one to survive, and it closed in 2009.  Go to the IWC website and under Greek Life you will see a this statement:

"The Iowa Wesleyan Greek community has a long, rich tradition of supporting student involvement and development.  We are currently in the process of rebuilding, offering four opportunities for Greek Life at this time.  We have a national sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, which is the oldest active chapter of their organization, and three local chapters, Theta Sigma Rho and Pi Delta Chi, local sororities, and Zeta Psi Mu, a local fraternity." 

I don't know what that means, really.  But OK.  I don't know what "process of rebuilding" means.  In my day there were 8 National fraternities and sororities.  Now there is one.  And I haven't a clue as to what a local fraternity is.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On the Road To Tybee

Old friends Jeff and Carol Sutor live on Tybee Island, along the Atlantic coast of southern Georgia.  Twelve miles to the west is Savannah, a place to experience if you've never been.  We returned to this historic and scenic area a couple weeks ago.  Like most times, getting off the beaten path will reveal hidden treasures you just can't appreciate or see from the Interstate. 

Off the beaten path we ended up on a road that was more sand and small rock than anything else.  Out in the middle was this turtle, in no hurry to get across, but certainly in harm's way.  As soon as I got up close it decided to go inside.  A little gentle lift to the side of the road hopefully saved this guy for future road crossings.

Not far from Cross Creek we came upon a cemetery by the name of Antioch.  Seems I'd seen during the home tour of Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings that that is where she was buried.  This wasn't where she wanted to be buried but the driver of the hearse made a mistake and went to the wrong place.  However, because of all the people in the funeral party they couldn't turn everyone around and go to the right one.   So, while here, we wanted to find her gravesite.  It wasn't tough - the yearling statues on the grave made it easy. 

Our destination out in the sticks was this vineyard, the Island Grove Wine Company.  The Sutors wine connoisseurs, as they make their own.  We make it a point to find various Florida wine and give it to them as a small token of our thanks.  This was a real-life vineyard  with acres and acres of grapes out in the middle of no where.  Technically I think the address is Hawthorne, but the winding road out here was great fun.   Now, me and wine.  I never acquired a taste for it, and likely, never gave it a chance.  And a bit like the cough medicine we had as kids:  oddly comforting taste but it wasn't something you really enjoyed.  I am to wine as a snail is to an astronaut.  But the interesting thing is: I always feel smarter drinking it, kind of like Frasier Crane at his wine-tasting club, without the arrogant pomposity.  You should have seen me talk to the wine person when she asked me what type of wine I required.  So much for me feeling smarter.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings - Part 3

Coming out of the bedroom area you walk along a covered outdoor porch area.  From here you can see the garden Marjorie used to grow her produce and the flowers that decorated her home.  It is the same size and is tended now by a local Master Gardener.   Prevalent on the farm were pecan trees but she got rid of them because she didn't like them and replanted orange trees.   

To the right of the garden is the outhouse that was in use at least until the new toilet was installed.  The red flag was used to let others know the facilities were in use.  Strangely, the front was screened and spray painted a zig-zag to give the user a modicum of privacy.

This is a view from the back yard from the garden.   

This is the dining room.  Marjorie loved to cook and actually wrote her own cookbook, the Cross Creek Cookbook.  She once wrote that she would prefer to prepare a perfect meal more than writing a perfect paragraph.   All of this furniture and things were Marjories and you can see the ever-present flower that she insisted on having in every room.  

I took this picture because this is where Marjorie would sit in the nearest chair (more on that later) and have her guests sit around the table.  Whenever Robert Frost, one of her dearest friends,  would visit they would read poetry to each other: Marjorie in closest and Robert in the one to her left.  They would read till the early hours or until Marjorie passed out from too much alcohol.  

These dishes were made especially for MKR.  They depict scenes of her life at Cross Creek.  The lower one on the left is the neighbors pig that she shot after it wandered over too many times.  She told the farmer the she was going to if it escaped its pen again, and danged if she didn't.  To her credit, this was excuse again for another party - she invited the neighbors over for a hog roast.  The owner of the pig didn't attend.     

Now the reason Marjorie didn't let anyone sit in that one chair at the dining room table was because she thought it rude to have guests sit where they had to look out on the outhouse.  

Fascinating piece of furniture.  

This is a closeup of the plate resting on that table.  Marjorie, a lush herself, probably reveled in this plate, which shows a guy in a traditional Friar's robe guzzling some wine.  

This is the kitchen where she loved to cook.  

This is an icebox that sits outside in a porch area where veggies were processed.  Once when everyone was outside a raccoon got in the box and when the ice man opened the door it gave him such a fright that he never delivered again.    

This is the bell with which Rawlings would ring to alert the neighbors that she needed them.  Along these same primitive ways of communicating, we also learned that the train that went through this are would communicate with the people through use of their horn.  Apparently there was a code with number of whistles that would relay pertinent info regarding weather, especially hurricanes and other things of importance to people in small-town Florida. 

 As we leave Marjorie's home I thought I'd include what greets you before you enter the farm.  Marjorie must have been a hoot to be around. Hard drinking, hard eating, hard driving lady but who could write something like this - as gentle and melodic as a hummingbird in flight.   I can't wait till The Yearling is on TMC again.  And Cross Creek with Mary Steenburgen and Sam Shepard is in my Netflix queue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  The Florida summer heat is starting.  This is when you most certainly don't want anywhere near this penis of a state.  It literally sucks the life right out of you.  From now until September we will be enclosed in some form of air-conditioned cage. 

2.  Norah is coming up with all kinds of interesting things to call me when I say "no".  Among the best are:  "You're weird", "Fine! I can't believe it", "Dude", "You're so annoying" and just the other day, "Jesus freak".   It's kind of funny because when she hurls these little bombs at me she immediately looks up to see if she has crossed the line.  Hey, Norah, Papa's line is that barely distinguishable thing way out there.  

3.  Speaking of Norah...

Learning How To Manage Difficult Foodgroups

4.  Over toward the West last week I saw this wonderful example of a cumulus lenticular cloud formation.   I have said in the past that the huge cloud formations down here are something you won't see in Northlandia very often.  Must have to do with sea-land configurations, but the size and beauty of many cloud formations is awe-inspiring.  

5.  I saw The Imitation Game over the weekend.  I recommend it, it was very good.

6.  Seen on a recent trip to Target:  

This is Junior, ugly as sin, hung, and 2 years old.  

This is, well, I'm not sure what is going on here, but I think that's enough for one day.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings - Part 2

Turning right from the living room takes you through a foyer and into the bedroom and bathroom area of the house.  This part of the house was brought in on skids after she had bought the main part of the house.   I don't usually find the need to photograph tubs but decided to include this because, as you will see in the third photo below, this room included a toilet.

The toilet was installed after the tub and sink, and was one of the first inside toilets in the area.  Miss Rawlings, never needing much reason to have a shindig, decided to celebrate.  She filled the tub with ice and adult beverage, placed finger food on a sliver tray and placed on the sink (below) and put flowers on the newly installed toilet.  Then she invited all the neighbors for a toilet installation bash. 

I should also point out that the linoleum was ordered from Sears and is the original.  Surprising that the amount of foot traffic hasn't worn it out by now.  

Marjorie loved flowers all around her so had fresh cut flowers placed in every room, every day.

Guests slept in this bed.  It's hard to imagine Gregory Peck sleeping here because the bed is terribly short.   Peck was here during a visit to Miss Rawlings for the filming of The Yearling.    

This suitcase is at the foot of the bed of where Ms. Rawlings slept.  It is her suitcase and if you look close enough you can see her initials.   

This is Miss Rawling's bed.  

Kudos to the group that cares for the house.  They have not replaced anything with "period" pieces.  This is the actual place as it was.  It does receive new paint every year to protect the it from he elements but the interior is all original.

The roll remains where it was 62 years ago. 

Another view of the Sears linoleum.  This second bathroom off the guest bedroom looks just like it did when Marjorie died in 1953. 

More Wednesday. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Flashback Friday

Here I am at home with Magic, the great boxer we had.  I don't have much to say about this picture as I have no info on the date, who took this pic or if anything special was going on.  I will say just a couple things before I let you go on this Friday.  If pinned on a time I'd have to say sometime in college but I really have no idea when.  And that is probably the most Mona Lisa-esque look I have ever seen on my face.  

The first thing I'd like to say is the near perfect original quality of this Polaroid.  I have mentioned before that I my first couple of cameras were Polaroid instants.  The high cost of film was somewhat mitigated by the instant picture.  It may seem a bit odd, but film developing in the 70's and 80's wasn't necessarily the slam dunk it is today.  Back then there were limited places to get film developed.  I really can't remember the place to get film developed in Aledo, maybe Johnny Johnson's place, or maybe the drug store.  In G-Burg there was Midwest Photo.  Nowadays with digital cameras and memory cards all you have to do is stick it in your computer and that's it.  Back when this picture was taken there were occasional reports about how Polaroids would fade, discolor or even become invisible.   I didn't enhance this in any way.  Note the rich dark greens and blues of the shirt as well as the brown fur on Magic.  This is much older than the 25 year life-expectation of Polaroid film they forecast.  

Secondly, look at my right hand ring finger.  Yup, my high school class ring.  The stone was black onyx.  Sharp looking thing, but alas, I really wasn't much into rings, neck chains and that sort of thing.  I no longer have the ring.  I honestly have no idea where it ended up, but I have a best guess.  And that guess may be way off, but best i can remember, I was working at MDH and back then, in my early years, the staff was responsible for cooking on weekends. It wasn't really as daunting as you may think, really.  We bought food in bulk form and if we had hamburgers all you had to so was double the number of kids and throw the frozen burgers on a large grille oven we had.  Same with most everything else.  I do remember a couple of disasters: once when I did a horrible breakfast (sausage was burned, eggs were green, and biscuits were screwed up as well.  When I took a tray of this stuff down to one of the lock-ups, the kid asked, "Who the Hell cooked this shit?"  All I said was, "Our new cook, stay out of trouble."  Another disaster was when Pat and I tried making homemade doughnuts.  I can still see her walking out into the kitchen with her arms out with flour all over her from head to toes.  Damn those electric mixers!

Anyway,  I recall having to fix meatloaf one weekend and this was generally pretty fun.  Throw the crushed crackers in along with eggs,  Worcester's and spices and then roll up your sleeves and play frontier veterinarian with it all in a large bowl.  I believe, that my ring came out in that batch of meatloaf.   If so, someone gnawed on that baby and probably decided this was a treasure best kept to themselves.  If that is what happened it wouldn't be impossible to sneak it out, our full body searches were more thorough coming back in.  Can I say with full certainty that's how I lost it?  No, but that is what has been ingrained in my head all this time.   

There was an obscure movie I saw many years ago.  A narrator at the end says something to the effect,  "I found a diamond in a mountain of glass."  Probably what the guy who bit into my meatloaf thought, too.  Just goes to show you how easy it is to make.  You can throw anything in it and it still tastes good. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On The Road To Tybee - Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings

Friends Carol And Jeff Sutor live in Tybee Island, Georgia.  Most of you will remember a trip last year to see them and a side trip to Savannah.  Another trip to this gem location about 6 hours from Bedlam seemed like a great idea, particularly since we were invited. 

Getting there is almost as much fun as being there.  I quick trip up to Ocala on 75 through Tampa, and then veering off into the Florida scrub country magically gets you away from the traffic and cement of the city.  Once you get past this long stretch of small towns and much to see on either side, then you approach Jacksonville and then back into interstate driving.  But that interior stretch is mesmerizing - it is like seeing the real Florida, past the modern rush into a slower more majestic Southern aura that is fetchingly hospitable yet mysterious as well, perhaps with a tinge of danger. 

Nestled in the heart of this region is a small home along the road that we passed at first, then turned back to investigate with some more depth.  It was the Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings home.  MKR was a Pulitzer Prize winning author of such novels as The Yearling,   The Sojourner and Cross Creek.   Besides her literary skills, she was also a hard-drinking,  cigarette smoking independent lady who carved an existence in the Florida wilderness.   Born in Washington D.C and educated in Wisconsin, she adopted Florida and grew to love it.  

The next few days will focus on her home and the Savannah trip.  

It is a fairly long walk from the parking area to her home.  The main road, on Route 301, now paved was dirt in the  30's and 40's. She received an inheritance from her mother and she and her husband, a Mr. Rawlings bought this 70 acre orange grove out in the sticks.  

This typical Florida cracker-box style house was on stilts to allow for a breeze to cool the underside.   It remains virtually unchanged from when MKR occupied the place last in the early 50's.  

This is the front of the home with the road running in front.  The porch was not screened in her time, however, which is one of the modifications, along with a wooden roof, which was originally metal.  

All of the furniture on the porch and inside were hers.  Not much has been changed since her death in 1953.  It should be noted the car is not hers, but is similar to one she drove.  By the way she never met a speed limit she obeyed.  because of her fast and often wild driving she need up stuck a lot of the time.  When she needed help from the neighbors she had a bell out in the yard she'd ring and they'd come to assist her.  

The porch dining table was original along with the typewriter, ash tray and pack of Camel's.

All of the books you see inside in the living room were Marjorie's, as well as the furniture.  

When she moved into this house, MKR hated the single lightbulbs hanging from the ceilings.  There was too bright so she went into the kitchen and got a series of mixing bowls and used them as soften the lighting.  

This is the other side of the room.  It looks cozy and nice.  Another strange feature, I thought, was that there were several fireplaces in the home.  There is no heating in the home, and there are times, even in Florida in winter, when it can get pretty cool.  

Mr. Rawlings and Morjorie divorced shortly after Marjorie bought the orange grove.  He couldn't stand Florida and the scrub country.   More on this fascinating home and lady, in upcoming posts.