Monday, August 27, 2012

Lies Grandma Told

I was recently looking at some photos of my brother, sister and I as kids, with Grandma Lill's cockatiel, Charlie, sitting on our shoulders.  All of us had our heads cranked straight ahead, but were looking at him out of the corners of our eyes.  I realized that all of our pictures with Charlie were like that - because Grandma always told us if we looked right at him from close range, he'd peck our eyes out.  I don't know if that's true, or if she thought it was true, or if she didn't want to take a chance on it being true, but I'm still scared to look a bird in the eye at close range 40+ years later.

Are you happy, Grandma??

I started thinking about some of the things she told us as kids - "If you swear, rocks and dirt will come out of your mouth, but if you talk nicely, flowers and sweet things will come out of your mouth instead."  I wondered briefly what rocks and dirt would taste like, but then decided that a flower in my mouth probably would not taste much better, so I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and crawled up to the mirror above the sink, and very cautiously said the first bad word I could come up with.  Shortly thereafter, I started to wonder if Grandma was full of... well... baloney.

Being a woman small in stature, and having charge of the three of us all day while my mother worked and Grandpa was out at the farm, she needed an Equalizer - and I think she found one in her little white lies.  For a long time after the "Rocks and Dirt" story, we talked nicely.  When I discovered that her attic was filled with wonderful old things to play with (without permission) she told me the floor was bad in spots, and if I stepped in just the wrong spot, I'd fall in between the walls and even Grandpa would not be able to get me out.   I never went up in the attic again without her.

She told me about her classmate at school, who squeezed a pimple on Friday and was dead of blood poisoning by Monday.

She told me the man across the street was a policeman, and if I left the yard without permission, he'd see it, and he *could* arrest me if he had a mind to.  Not saying he would, but you never know.  He doesn't like it when kids leave the yard without permission.

But she was right regarding a lot of things in life, and despite the occasional bamboozling, she taught me a lot. "Don't always trust whoever you're doing business with, they may not have your best interest at heart."  "Never quit your job until you have another one lined up."
When someone is talking trash about you, "consider the source."
Don't brag up your boyfriend to your girlfriends.
And, "If you have leftovers, you know everyone at your table got enough to eat," followed quickly by "Grind up your leftovers and put them in the meatloaf."

Love ya lots, Grandma, and miss you every day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Original Party Animals

The year was 1963, New Year's Eve.   Over the decades, I've brought in many new years, some of them tremendously fun, some of them awfully dull, some of them not feeling so well, and I've slept through a few of them, but none of them were healthier or happier than this one.

To be honest, I don't remember a lot of the details of our party.  We likely watched Guy Lombardo on TV, and ate yummy munchies that Grandma Lill had prepared .  Lill, who was behind the old brownie camera that took this picture, had a stash of little tiny hats with elastic bands to hold them on, and a box of various noisemakers - some you twirl, some you blow in, others you just shake.  It was a fascinating collection, which we only saw once a year, and then, briefly.    We donned our garb, and for about a minute - no more - we were allowed to make as much noise as we could with our noisemakers, and then they were collected, put back in the box, and hidden in places unknown until the next New Year's celebration.

I was nearly four years old in this picture, my brother just days away from turning two.  We had an inter-generational party, with our grandparents and great-grandparents, and "warm fuzzies" like we'd never have again.  We had one more year with both sets of grandparents, before my great grandfather, Will Knutz, developed stomach cancer.  But on this particular year, we gathered, we loved, we celebrated, and we made memories.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Short Life of the Unpopular Bonnie Posy

The year was 1965.  Yes, that’s me, with my new Christmas present, Bonnie Posy.  Despite the obviously pleased look on my little face,  I have no recollection of ever owning that doll.  Don’t remember playing with it.  Don’t remember picking it up off the floor.  Don’t remember what ever happened to it.

I’ve had a lot of luck learning about old toys through Google and eBay, most impressively through the Ugly Baby posts.  I never thought I’d know so much about that doll.  But for some reason, Bonnie Posy is proving to be a more difficult subject.

The only information I was able to find on this doll was through a couple of newspaper ads, circa 1964-65, one of which appears below:


The above advertisement was from the Milwaukee Journal, December 4, 1964, courtesy of Google News.  While it vaguely resembles my doll, it’s obviously not the same; but the doll in the ad is the 1964 version, and mine made her appearance the following year – perhaps a newer model.  At any rate, with Cootie games (remember those?) selling for ~$1.50, the $4.99 price tag on this doll would suggest that it was a much-coveted item on the wish list of little girls of that era.

So why don’t I remember this doll?  The only other ad I found was for these dolls on “clearance” in 1967, so perhaps Bonnie Posy was a “flash in the pan.”  Apparently mine was!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Ninety percent of the time I spent at my Grandma Lill's house was fantastic - helping her bake, learning to sew, and when I was old enough, she let me watch her "stories" (soap operas) with her.  But that other ten percent of the time, well...

I was a little kid with goofy hair.  It was fine, but thick, and Grandma hated looking at it.  To call it "unruly" would be an understatement.  Most of the time, she let it slide, but one day, she decided to show me how nice it could look with a "little" work.

So she stuck my head in the sink, towel-dried my hair, and gathered up her "makeover kit" - a comb, a container of rollers, and, of course, her jar of that miraculous green goop, Dippity-do.  That stuff still scares me to this day.  After she got my hair combed out (anyone who had long, thick hair as a child knows the pain that combing entails) she would part off a section, slather it with a generous dip of Dippity-do, roll it up, and proceed to the next piece of hair.

To stop my incessant complaining ("that stuff stinks," "I want to go watch TV," "Stop it, Grandma!" and, of course, "OW!!") she let me play with a few of her rollers - we called them Spaceship Rollers, but the real name for them is Spoolies, probably for more obvious reasons.  These were soft, pliable, rubbery curlers.  A section of hair would be rolled in the middle, and then each end would flip back toward the middle, creating a spaceship sort of shape, and securing the hair.

It seemed to take forever for her to finish rolling my hair - actually, it probably did take forever.  We used every one of her Spoolies in all that thick hair, and she had a lot of them.   Between all those curlers and Dippity-do, the sheer weight of my head hurt my neck to the point of having to lay down, but resting my head on anything hurt worse.  One valuable lesson I learned that day (besides RUN when Grandma gets the curlers out) was to not stress her out while she was rolling my hair, or the curlers would be tight - really tight!

Hours later, she finally took all those miserable little spaceships out of my hair.  I was left with a head FULL of curls so tight and crispy that neither brush nor comb would get through them, and hair bigger than any 1970s rock star ever had!  Grandma looked a little shocked - I started to bawl - and when my mother came to pick me up, I hid on the floor of the back seat all the way home, and immediately stuck my head back in the sink to rectify this terrible situation.

On a positive note, Grandma Lill never tried to fix my hair again.  Instead, she turned her attention to my little sister, who was not nearly as fast as I was after that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I recently discovered this old photo of my grandfather, Adolph Hammer, from one of his trips back to Norway.  I did not recognize anyone else, and wondered if these ladies were his relatives, or those of his wife, Lise Klungseth Hammer.   But before I had that thought, my eyes immediately made their way to the photos on the wall in the background.  I have found more treasures in the backgrounds of photos than anywhere else.

Thanks to high-resolution scanning, I was able to get a much better look at the faces in the back.


To the left is the top tier of photos – the fellow in the oval frame resembles Lise’s brothers - thankfully there is a strong family resemblance between many of those siblings.  Being the largest photo and placed at the top, it could be probably safely assumed that the man in the photo is the head of this household.  Perhaps it is his wedding photo and an anniversary photo flanking the larger photo.


The second tier of photos looked very familiar – these are Lise’s parents, Bergitte and Edvard Klungseth.  I have copies of these particular photos in my files, positively identified as the Klungseths, leading credence to the theory that this is the home of one of their sons.  The photos of Bergitte and Edvard were taken ~1920.

The picture at the bottom is somewhat of a mystery.  I don’t recognize the face, and am not certain if this is a man or a woman.  The placement of the other photos with the more current generation at the top, and the parents in the center, might suggest that perhaps this is another generation further back, perhaps a parent of either Edvard or Bergitte.  However, the style of the photo and the apparent age of the subject doesn’t seem to support that idea.  

I did go back through my files to see what photos of the Klungseth sons I have; I have pictures of all but Kristian and Torleif.  Torleif died the age of 24; and while the man in the oval frame could be about that age, the positioning of the wedding portrait next to it suggests that it is of the same man; Torleif did not marry.

Perhaps the women seated with my grandfather are Kristian’s wife and daughter.  Perhaps not.  But this seems to be the most likely conclusion to the mystery, thanks to the clues in the background.    Now – who is that person in the bottom tier of photos??