We purchased our first Boston Terriier puppy in 1990. I had dreamed of owning an English Bulldog…but my supervisor, at the time, talked me out of it when he noted the Bulldogs’s, inherint health problems, and their…drooling!
He went on to tell me of the Boston Terrier breed and that they had the, bulldog face, but not the health problems or the…drooling.
Bruiser was born in Benton, Illinois…and he had trouble fullfilling his, macho, name.
After Bruiser came, Abigail, and she was purchased at a Pet Store in the mall at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She joined our family on the day that George H.W. Bush declared war on Iraq.
Now, Abigail, was a tough girl from Missouri! When she arrived at her new, Illinois home, she, immeadetly scratched Bruiser’s nose…and produced blood. She bloodied his nose!
Bruiser, forgave her and they produced a family of Boston Pups…and we sold; one to a, apparent, Mafia Don, and gave others away, and kept one called Rolly Bud.
Rolly Bud was larger than his father…and his dad was afraid of him…so after a year with us…we gave Rolly away.
We had a six foot privacy fence, for our back yard, in Elkville. Abigail could jump over it!
When we moved to Carbondale in 2001, Bruiser and Abigail came with us.
Bruiser passed away from an enlarged heart…and Abigail kept on living.
In 2004, a Boston Pup mamed Brody, came to live with us…and he bit Grandma Abigail’s legs…and she snapped at him…but could not see him well; due to her advanced age.
Now Brody is almost 15 years old. He still enjoys opening the houshold trash cans and pulling the refuse out of the cans and spreading out on to the floor.
He has alwasy enjoyed jumpoing on to our bed and snuggling with his mom. So, when he became to old to, consistently accomplish the jump on to the king size bed…we purchased him a set of doggy steps. Brody does not like the doggy steps and refuses to use them…so when he jumps for the, soft landing, of the bed…and misses…he blames us!
Now, Wallace T., came to us by a unique set of circumstances surrounding an eye problem that Mary Jane was having. We were travellling to an eye surgeon, in the Fairview Heights area, and had some significant concern regarding a, possible, detached retina. When it turned out that all was well…we knew a celebration was in order. We chose to celebrate at a resturant called, Lottawatta Creek, and they had Long Island Ice Teas…on special!
Jonathon and I…each had one, along with another drink, while Mary Jane had two…and felt no pain!
Afterward, we decided to go the the Fairview Heights Mall…to facilitate our sobering up…a bit…before making the drive home to Carbondale.
Mary Jane, announced, joyfully, ‘why don’t we go into the Pet Store to see if there are any doggy Christmas gifts that we can purchase for Brody?’
When I inquired as to whether or not they had any Boston Terrier Pups for sale…they answered that they did and that they had two. One was the traditonal black and white whild the other was, seal colored, and rare.
I proclaimed that I wanted to see the, seal colored one, ….and out came Wallace T.!
Wallace, was brown and white…with a, significalntly skrunched up face, even for a Boston. He had the sniffles and a, concerning, cough, and he was adorable! We placed, half of his purchase price of $700.00 down on him, on the spot, and returned to retrieve him in a few days…after the Pet Store’s Vet had given him a clean bill of health.
So, when we retrieved Wallace T. and brought him home and took him to our Veterinarian…we discovered that he was on the verge of Pneumonia and that he must not be taken outdide, in the bitter cold December weather, and we did not mention that the two days before we took him to the doctor…that we had been taking him outside to to do his business.
We were in PetCo in Carbondale…during the holiday season…and they had rescue dogs that needed to be adopted. I saw a, beautiful Collie dog, that, seemed to have my name written on it. I spoke to the Collie…on several occassions during the, magical time, that is between Thansgiving and Christmas…and Mary Jane went to St. Francis Resucue Center and did not find the, Coly, but did find a, black labrador, that had been thrown out of a moving vechcle and had her jaw, subsequently, broken, and had surgery and three teeth removed…and was…simply…and little black ball of fur with sharp…little teeth and a, pronouced bark!
Parker is the possesor of the most health problems that we have encountered in our 30 years of pets. She has, severe allergies, and must receive injections, monthly, for the alleviation of the allergic symptoms.
Between her first and second year of life, I believed that she was dieing one morning at about 3:00 A:M:…and I awakened Mary Jane to say goodby to her before her passing.
We telephoned an emergency Veternarian number for Parker…and were ready to drive her the, 60 miles to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to have her seen by a professional…when she…suddenly became quiet and docile…and went to sleep.
Parker is a large dog…that thinks she is a Boston Terrier!
Wallace T., named after the Long Island Iced Tea, that facilitated his purchase, stands on my chest, when I am napping…to communicate to me that he wants to go outside to do his business.
Our, three dog family, understands when we are not feeling well, and they empathize with us…when we are sad. They also rejoice with us…when we are happy!
When I come home, after being away as little as an hour, Wallac and Brody and Parker, greet me as if I have been on a long journey and that they feared that I might never return!
Dogs love us…unconditinally!
They, illustrate and model, the love that we should, strive for, for each other.
There is nothing more special or inspiring than a living creature that loves you…no matter your faults…no matter your flaws….blind to your mistakes and foibles and shortcomings….unconditional…pure love!
Our Puppies illustrate to us…how God loves us!
Yesterday was my, first born son’s, birthday.
Aaron is now 37 years old..and that is a neat trick when I am only 50, LOL!
We traveled to St. Louis, Missouri and shopped and saw a movie, about Nazi Zombie Creatures…and I enjoyed every minute because I was with Aaron and Jonathon and Mary Jane!
We visited a new resturant that is located on, The Hill, in St. Louis called, 58Hundred.
The, adult beverages, were delicious, and the apptiezers were both, savory and plentiful, and the entrees were to, ‘die for!’
As we were siting at the, packed, restaurant…I was reminded, once again, that it is the, special, moments of life, that make it unforgettable.
We had, a delightful waiter, who made our experience…exceptional. At the conclusion of our, nearly three hour feast, when he retrieved our payment for the, culinary delights, he inquired if we needed change, and we replied that we did not…or as he stated…’I have always believed that change comes from within.’
There are moments…when all is right with the world…and they are meant to be savored and not hurried and remembered…long after they are completed.
We rush and hurry through each, waking hour, of our existence. We worry regarding how we are progressing on the ladder of success, and how much money are we making.
I recall a, Black Friday, visit to Cunettos House of Pasta, which is just a couple of blocks down from 58Hundred, a few Thanksgivings ago. The restaurant was so full that I was standing, statuesque, in the cloak room…awaiting our drink order and my dirty martini. After about 30 minutes I caught the, nice, waitress’s eye and inquired if our order had been lost…to which she replied that the bartender was a bit overwhelmed and that he had not forgotten our order. Soon, the drinks came…and we had a memorable, Cunetto’s, meal.
Cunettos holds many memorable and pleasant memories for me as it has been our primary resturant for over 20 years.
Cunettos is the resturant that we had dinner in, with Mary Jane’s brother , Ron, prior to our flying out for a trip to Jamaica. Now I was anticipating our Jamica stay, as I had, just retired, at the end of December, 2010…and our Jamaica Vacation was in the second week of January, 2011.
I, still, could not conceive that I had, indeed retired and was, ‘free as a bird on the wing!’ It was trerribly cold that evening…and we spoke of the fun that we were going to experience and I noted…the great pleasure that I had in seeing Mary Jane with her brother and our happiness in being together!
Although, we lived in Elkville, Illinois…we often traveled to the St. Clair Square area, in our younger days, and enjoyed a, brunch, at Casa Gallardo. Not only did Casa produce a, memorable, brunch that was worthy of driving 80 miles for, but they had the most, unique and memorable, Cadillac Margarittas.
One Christmas Eve, I annouced that I was going to travel, by myself, to the mall in St. Clair Square, near St. Louis, for the express purpose of purchasing, suprise Christmas gifts for Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon. I, subsequently, did so…and I spent a lot of money. There was no one to tell me….no…and it was a Christmas Miracle!
For many years we travled to St. Louis to attend the animated Christmas Bears Display at the Famous Barr headquarters…in the city. The animitroninc miracle took up most of the seventh floor of the, massive store, and it was, throughghly, enjoyed by Aaron and Jonathon and me!
Mary Jane’s mom, Fernie, often attended the event with us. I think that she enjoyed it as much as the boys.
We made a St. Louis Safari with our friends, Jo Ann and Peter, in the early portion of the last decade. We stayed in the Hilton Hotel that is next to Plaza Frontenac and had dinner at our, then, favorite resturant on Hill, Leonardos. We were celebrating Jo Ann’s and Mary Jane’s birthdays…which fell, just, a few days apart in February. Jo Ann, wept, and stated that there was no place that she would rather be than with us on her birthday…and we had Aso Bucco…and, wonderful beverages. We spoke of the future and our hopes and dreams and the sadness of what had happened to, Jo Ann, at our University, SIU.
Our waitress, was so nice to us, although she had not been assigned to us that night…that I tipped her $20…out of respect for her consideration of us.
We had a champagne breakfast, at the Hilton, the next morning…but I had to drink all of the champagne.
Life is, chock, full of; wonder and mystery and mysticism ands sparks of joy…that occur, seemingly randomly, and, lifetime, memorable moments…that you do not realize are happening…until you look back on them!
We have 4 – 6 inches of snow forecast, beginning this evening and continuing until tomorrow evening. Jim Rasor, our local meteorologist, has said that some areas in Southern Illinois could receive, as much as, 8 – 10 inches. Now, this is a major, winter in the fall, event, for us! There are years that we receive little more than a few, dustings, of snow. There are other winters that we receive 2 – 4 inches…once or twice…and we call it a, hard winter!
I remember the blizzard of 1978. I was, extremely, interested in a girl named, Mary Jane, and when it snowed 20+ inches…I proceeded to the trailer that she and her friends, Faye and Robbin, shared…and I began to shovel their automobiles out of a snow…like I had never seen!
I worked, most of the day, and they had me inside for hot chocolate and praise of my accomplishments…and then I proceeded to shovel some more. I was 20 years old.
My buddy, Steve, and I worked for June’s Janitorial Service. One of our housekeeping customers was Ziegler Coal Company’s headquarters in Johnston, City. As the snow, dumped several inches per hour, on us…Steve asked if we should chance driving the, nearly, 20 miles to Johnston, City, and I answered that I was certain that we could do it and that it would not be a problem for us!
As we drove through the, total white-out, I could not ascertain if I was on the road…or where the road was? I asked Steve if he could stick his head out of the passenger side window and see if we were, still, on the road…or in a field?
Steve began to give me navigation instructions…turn left…turn right…hold her straight…and Oh NO…we are in the ditch!
I asked Steve if he could push us out of the ditch…and I would steer…and if we could succeed…we would head for home…and not look back! He pushed us out with his, herculean strength, and we subsequently turned around and did not look back.
I began working at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in October of 1978. In January of 1979…we had another, massive snowfall, that obliterated roadways and traffic and closed…virtually everything.
Faye heard that SIUC was closed…but I was so appreciative of my, new job, at SIU…that I was afraid not to show up for work. So, I proceeded to drive to the University…which was 20 miles from my home in Elkville.
There were no, demarcations, for highway #51. You simply had to trust your instincts. It was like driving in an open field!
When I, finally, arrived at SIU Building Services, I proceeded to attempt to enter the office, and discovered that the door was locked and that there was only a night light on. I, finally, understood, that, indeed, we were closed.
My colleague, Elbert Covington, drove up…and I was pleased that someone, besides myself, had made the, peril fraught trip! Elbert, walked to the front door of our office and pulled on the door knob and began to shout, ‘hey…hey…Brooks and Covington are here and ready to go to work!’
Elbert, was, finally satisfied that there was no opportunity for he and I to work…that evening. He, subsequently turned to me and invited Mary Jane and I to his house, in Desoto, Illinois…for hot chocolate. Now, DeSoto was 7 miles closer than my town, Elkville, and I thanked him but assured him that if I could make it back home…I would not be venturing out, again, that night!
Steve and I were the, on-call Sextons, for our little church in Elkville. I recall, vividly, being requested to shovel snow at our church to facilitate attendance at an evening service on Thanksgiving. Neither of us liked it…so much. After all…it was Thanksgiving and we thought that church should be canceled to facilitate families being together for the entire event. There was a lot of snow…and we wondered what the other, young men and young families, of the congregation…were doing…were they eating turkey…and mashed potatoes…and dressing?
Cody, the fine young man who, expertly, cuts my grass, has asked me if I want him to plow my driveway and shovel around my porch and walkways…and I…enthusiastically answered…yes!
I was honored to be asked to deliver, a few remarks, regarding what our church meant to me, yesterday.
As I thought about what to speak about…I was reminded of the kindness and kind words that many members of our congregation, who have now passed on, spoke to me in my early days at First Presbyterian.
I recalled how, Tom and Carolyn Jefferson, were so kind to greet me and Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon, as well as my mother, Neva June, in the early days of our church attendance. They were so loving and it seemed that they had known us for years…and they were always glad to see us.
David and Mary Rendleman, always had a welcoming word for my little family. Dr. Rendleman had been the surgeon that had operated on Mary Jane’s aunt Lauretta, and, years after Aaron and Jonathon had achieved adulthood, they continued to inquire about them and remarked, with wide smiles, that they had watched them grow-up.
On our first visit to First Presbyterian, Betty Darling, greeted us so warmly and when she heard that out last name was Brooks…remarked that before her marriage…she had been a Brooks!
Joe Cash, was one of the friendliest and considerate people that I have met. Joe went out of his way to make us welcome…and seemed to never tire of joking with Aaron and Jonathon and causing them to be included in the activities of the church. His deep and resonate base voice…I can still hear…during the singing of hymns on Sunday morning.
When, I was consumed with worry about Mary Jane and her diagnosis of Breast Cancer, Sarah Milford spoke to me and told me to tell Mary Jane…not to worry as she had experienced her first diagnosis of Breast Cancer, when she was a young woman, and that she had lived to, senior age, and was still going strong.
Sarah, ultimately, succumbed to the disease, but she never failed to have a smile and a word of cheer and a positive attitude regarding life.
Jonathon is working with Dede Ittner and she is an inspiration to him and to all she encounters. Dede treats him like a mother would treat a son.
Barbara Bennett has been an inspiration to me since 1998. I had no desire to serve on a church board, after having done so in every church that I had been a member of over the past 49 years. However, after her visit to me, along with our pastor at the time, Karen Star Terada, I accepted a position on the board of Trustees.
The chair of the Trustees, when I became a junior member, was Dorothy Baker…and her welcoming of me and her friendly demeanor…made me feel at home.
Even when I have not attended church, for some periods of time, Barbara Bennett…never forgot me.
Rob Jensen is such a cheerful and up-beat individual…he rubs off on all that he meets. He was my colleague during the three years that I served on the Stewardship Committee and his mentoring was invaluable to me.
I mentioned that one of my first impressions of First Presbyterian in Carbondale, Illinois was there dedication to doing, ‘Christmas right!’
From the midnight Christmas Eve service to the candlelight portion of the service to the, dynamic and dramatic, speaking of the minister, at that time,…the entire experience was a bit like being with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit!
Our church building is beautiful and historic…but it is not the Church. The Church…is the people that attend!
When attending church…and someone reaches out to you…with a kind word…or a smile…or demonstrated concern for you…it is as the scripture admonishes;
‘ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ Proverbs 25:11 KJV
Please enjoy a great Blog by, Jonathon Brooks.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another human being. It’s an excellent mark of character whenever an individual displays empathy. Caring and thoughtful people have this mark about them as they meet their fellow life travelers. Having the character trait of empathy makes life sweeter for the person who has it while also benefitting humanity as a whole. Apathy states that he doesn’t care, but empathy says she cares wholeheartedly.
Special moments for me happen when I share with someone else that I have bipolar disorder and I can see the empathy on their countenance and in their eyes. The person with empathy often proceeds to tell me about someone they love dearly who also has bipolar or they begin to reveal that they personally have bipolar. These moments, and these individuals who understand and care, have been some of the greatest moments in my…
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As I walked the SIUC Campus, today, I marveled at the majestic autumnal beauty of my surroundings.
After the, untimely passing, of chancellor Montemagno, our campus waits for the clarion call for renewal and revitalization of our proud institution of higher education.
One of SIUC’s greatest, natural assets, is the, profound, natural beauty of its’ physical location. With two woods on campus and a plethora of wildlife…it is a. learning laboratory, in the great tradition of; Emerson and Thoreau.
There are so many of us, countless thousands, that have received, not only our education, but life opportunities and lessons, regarding the beauty of inclusion and diversity…at our great university…that it is never far from our thoughts and our hearts.
The, unique, combination of the friendliness of the Southern Illinois region and the, natural wonders, of its’ environment…with the elite academic programs offered by SIU; has been a, compelling draw for students from across the country and around the world.
Over 40 years ago, when I became a member of the housekeeping department, Building Services, on Campus; I noticed that I soon became a member of the SIUC family. I, quickly, met students from Malaysia and Turkey and Japan and Africa.
I felt that I wanted to remain a part of the SIUC family…for the rest of my life!
I met and spoke with the Holocaust survivor and famous author and lecturer, Elie Wiesel.
I spoke with John Updike and Carl Bernstein.
I became friends with two of the nations most noteworthy historians, Peter and Jo Ann Argersinger.
I enjoyed the, unwavering, support of the, superior, Building Services staff…and I was humbled by their confidence in me…and their friendship.
Miraculous transformations occur…when you allow yourself to be exposed to people and ideas…that, at one time, you had not imagined!
‘ Thinking outside the box,’ leads to a stadium…which leads to an ocean…which leads to a planet…which leads to a universe…of ideas and acceptance and working together for the…human family!
‘A system of religious veneration and devotion toward a particular figure or object.’
‘A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.’
‘A misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. A cult of personality surrounding the leaders.’ Dictionary
Many times, I have witnessed the, supremely confident orator, sway people to his or her opinion.
We tend to listen to leaders who tell us what we, already believe, or what we want to hear.
Religious groups and ideologies are, abundant, throughout the world. When we think of cults, we think of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, who moved their church from Los Angles, California to Guyana, South America and subsequently drank, Kool Aid laced with cyanide…and over 900 of the parishioners died…at the instructions of their leader.
Or the, Heaven’s Gate cult, where 39 members participated in,’ mass suicide in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale-Bopp.’ Wikipedia
The Heaven’s Gate cult was led by Marshall Applewhite.
The reality of religious cults is much more endemic and profuse in the societies of the world.
Many of us are affiliated with a cult…and do not realize it.
When a religious leader is doing your thinking for you…you are in a cult.
If you are giving more money than you can afford to give to your, faith community, and it is not your idea, but rather the ministers idea…you are in a cult.
If your religious doctrine is centered around hate of others that are different than you and your fellow congregants….you are in a cult.
If your faith dogma is based in hate of other members of the human family….you are not in a Christian Faith…you are in….something else?
I remember, like it was yesterday, when Reverend Jerry Falwell was the minister at the Liberty Baptist Church and his sermons were televised, each Sunday. I watched him, most Sundays. He began speaking about his, initial concepts, of creating the Moral Majority…and attempting to have, fundamentalist christianity, have an influence on the political arena.
The concept sounded interesting…but the results have been devastating.
Of late, all fundamentalist standards of holiness and Christian ethics, have been set aside to facilitate the, unwavering support of the current chief executive.
Politics, over the past 50 years, has become; tribal and caustic and vile…and cultish!
We have morphed from a country that had many moderate senators and congressmen. Our founding fathers created a system of government that is based on compromise. Fifty years ago most of the south was Democrats.
Now we decide that if our friends and family do not see politics as we see it…something is wrong with our friends and family.
We do not believe the, mainstream news that we see on television, unless it is the news that portrays, only, our political point of view.
I, being an old guy, remember when the news did not contain, by and large, the newscasters political opinion. I recall, vividly, when cable news shows began to include, talking heads, who would argue the merits of each political or social issue.
Have you ever witnessed a Hitler Rally on an old newsreel?
Adolf Hitler, a failed artist, had a style of oratory that captivated his listeners. He began his speeches by watching the gathered, thousands of Germans, for several minutes…until many wondered if he was going to speak at all. He then started speaking, slowly and in a low and calm voice…and, systematically, began to raise the volume of his voice and the passion of his speech…until he had the audience…enraptured…and worshipful.
The eyes of the members of Hitler’s audience are, dilated and manic, and the logic of his points…were not examined by the throngs of spectators…who were in a religious-ecstasy…that promised them a relief from their suffering and a scapegoat for their problems.
How did an entire nation…sit idly by…while 6 million Jews were murdered?
How did an entire nation not say a word when Jews were taken from their homes and their businesses were vandalized and they were placed into box cars, like cattle…no, worse than cattle…to be taken by rail to…Aushcwitz and Treblinka…for the purpose of being…gassed?
Think for yourself!
Do not let anyone tell you what to believe or who to worship…or who to vote for!
I have written and spoken about the wonderful gift that all of us are afforded…the ability to think for ourselves! When something seems; wrong, or ‘fishy’ or not in concurrence with what our eyes have seen or our ears have heard or what we have understood by research of the subject, being disseminated,…beware!
The day is coming…and soon…when the United States will need all of it’s citizenry to be united against an outside force that wants to; capture us…and enslave us…and take our finances and our homes and our personal possessions…and they will no longer be afraid…because the poem of Emma Lazarus…no longer applies…and it is dry as cotton in our mouth…when we attempt to quote it.
‘The New Colossus’
‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame.
With Conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lighting, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
It seems that it was only, yesterday, that I was wishing those who I met…Happy New Year!
The next two months will, rapidly, fly by.
‘ Thanksgiving Day is a National holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest fest that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.’ Wikipedia
‘ A Proclamation’
‘I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do herby designate Thursday, the twenty-first day of November, 1940, to be observed nationally as a day of thanksgiving.’
‘In a year which has seen calamity and sorrow fall upon many peoples elsewhere in the world may we give thanks for our preservation.’
‘On the same day, in the same hour, let us pray:’ The American Presidency Project
Thanksgiving, for me as a child, consisted of the Macy’s Day Parade on television. Mom insisted that, due to the close proximity of Thanksgiving to Christmas…that she, simply, did not have the time or the energy…for both.
Now, the joys of Thanksgiving…were not lost on me, as we colored and cut out turkeys and pilgrims, at school, and there was usually a roast for the holiday dinner…and mom made, delicious, roast!
But, Christmas…was a different kettle of fish…as the old timers once said.
This was the time that we unboxed the aluminum christmas tree and placed the multi-colored light wheel next to it. It was the time of; christmas coffee cake and Laughing Santa and the Sears Catalogue Wish Book.
People seemed a little nicer…and there was the Lion’s Club Free Movie at the Orpheum Theatre and afterward a, large, basket of candy and toys…that every, hopeful child, received.
In financially secure years, when my mom and dad were still together…there was a plethora of toys and games and cowboy outfits and laughter and a lightness of being!
During the years when mom and I were going it alone…the gifts were fewer…but special.
Santa Claus came to our house at 116 West Street, the Christmas after mom and Earl got married. I could not believe, that the majestic man of the season, had time to visit me in Eldorado, Illinois. He not only knew my name but assured me that I would receive the gifts that I requested of him…and, lo and behold, I did!
After our boys were born, they throughly enjoyed Christmas in Eldorado…at Grandma and Grandpa Fitzsimmons.
On our drive to the big event, we passed, annually, a, spooky, three storied house that had one, lone, candle in each of the, many windows in the home. The candles were red and were accompanied by, black, banners that stretched from the roof to the ground. It was, much more, reminiscent of Halloween than Christmas.
Grandma Neva June had talked and talked about her grandsons seeing her Christmas Tree that she had, painstakingly, erected for the magical event!
When they arrived, they raced throughout the house to be the first one to see the Christmas Tree in all of it’s holiday splendor!
Finally…they exclaimed…where is your Christmas Tree…Grandma?
She pointed to a table in the dinning room that had a foot tall christmas tree with, tiny, christmas ornaments, attached.
During the latter years of our Eldorado Christmas Holidays, we enjoyed a glass…or two…of Franzia Boxed Wine. We thought ourselves wine connoisseur.
Grandma Neva June….served the red wine in 12oz water glasses…and she filled them to the top.
The, luxurious, red wine…enhanced the warmth of the holiday!
A Brooks, Halloween Tale:
It was a typical Halloween evening in the 1960’s. The air had the crispness of autumn and a light rain, almost a mist, was gently falling.
By the end of October, Chicago had jacket weather…and more often than not, a coat was in order.
Bradley was wearing his, Rod Serling costume, and, more than a little excited, regarding all of the candy that would be procured that evening.
Bradley was a Twilight Zone fan and the Rod Serling costume was easy, in that it consisted of a sport coat and tie and a, Fedora, for his head gear…completed by a, candy, cigarette.
Danny was going to dress up as Daniel Boone and Pauly, his brother, was going to portray, Marshall Dillon, from the popular television series, Gunsmoke.
Steve had agreed to put on a marionette show, with his Punch and Judy marionettes…and it was not only lifelike…but creepy.
This was before the days of, unbalanced people, placing razors in apples or poison in candy bars.
It was the day of popcorn balls and baked goods, such as cookies with pumpkins on them or skeletons or ghosts.
On Halloween night…you were on your own…in 1962.
Last Halloween, 1961, Bradley Jay had dressed up as JFK and Susie had accompanied him as Jackie Kennedy. Susie was older than BJ…and he liked it that way.
The Cuban Missile Crisis…had just ended on October 28th…and all of the parents were relieved. BJ’s mom had cried when she told him that they did not have a bomb shelter and that she, simply, did not know where we would hide…if the bombs started falling.
Pauly, who was usually laughing, cried when Steve had the puppet show. Punch, looked a bit like a demonic clown…and he kept hitting everyone with his stick…especially Judy.
They all carried little, hollowed out pumpkins, as a repository for the candy…and sometimes money.
Last Halloween, Neva, BJ’s mom, had became convinced that she would not receive any trick or treaters…if she did not put her porch light on. So, she did not purchase any candy for the big event.
About half way through the evening…a knock sounded at her door. When she went to answer, she found a little fellow, about BJ’s age, dressed up as King Midas. The little king was really, BJ’s friend, Jackie Brooks…with a fake beard…as he was only five years old.
Neva began to, frantically search for something for the king. She found several canned goods consisting of; peaches and apricots and pumpkin pie filling and navy beans, and she joyfully gave the groceries to the, perplexed, king.
There was a strangeness to the night…that exuded from the, just passed fear, that we all were going to be annihilated by nuclear war and the misty fog…and Punch and Judy.
Life was full of; Chubby Checker and the Twist and President Kennedy and the New Frontier and the threat of the bomb…and Leave it to Beaver on our black and white televisions.
We all knew that there was something that was behind the curtain, much like the Wizard of Oz, but we relied on Rod Serling to show us what that something was.
We knew that life was fun and fragile and terrific and tenuous.
Danny said, ‘would you look at this…they gave me 3 full size Snicker Bars!’
BJ intoned, ‘the last house that I visited gave me a dollar…a paper dollar.’
Pauly said, quietly, ‘I got a popcorn ball.’
‘Let’s go to the big blue house on the corner,’ said BJ.
Now, no one ever went to the blue house on the corner. It was an odd shade of blue…BJ’s mom had said that it was Wedgwood blue…and there was not another house that color in the neighborhood.
It was said that an old man and woman lived in the big, wedgwood, blue house…with their son…and that they seemed friendly…but were, rarely, seen by the other neighbors.
As the, little troop, marched toward the big blue house on the corner…they encountered a foggy mist that, for a time, they could not see each other…or, seemingly, hear, each other, and then they were in front of the large, forboding, home…and the porch light…was on.
BJ, followed by Pauly and Danny, proceed to the front door.
The house just looked different than any other on the block. It, appeared to have a balcony or some type of room in the top of the A frame that was located in the middle of the home…as well as a basement. No homes in the area…had either.
There was a, heavy stone, in the front yard that said 108, on it. Also, there was jazz music that emanated from the dwelling.
BJ, tentatively, knocked on the front door, and an large man, well over six feet answered and with a big grin on his face said…I have been waiting on you.
‘Mineo’s Pizza House in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, makes the best pepperoni and sausage pizza in the world.’
‘ Those were words to live by as a child growing up in the early 1980’s in the black neighborhood of Wilkinsburg, in Pittsburgh’s East End. The deliciousness of Mineo’s pizza made the five miles my brothers and I biked through the predominately Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill well worth it. But the sweet cheeses and fresh meats weren’t the only things that brought us back. We didn’t dare enter certain neighborhoods for fear of scrapping with white boys or not being served. Squirrel Hill was one of the few nonblack neighborhoods that would welcome a group of black boys.’ Why Squirrel Hill Is a Target for White Supremacists, by Andre Perry, New York Times
‘The 11 worshippers were shot and killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in what is thought to be the worst anti-semitic attack in US history.’ CNN
‘ Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburg;
Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross township, Pennsylvania;
Rose Malinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Pittsburgh;
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough, Pennsylvania;
Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54, of Squirrel Hill;
Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, a married couple from Wikinsburg, PA;
Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill;
Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill; and
Irving Younger, 69, of Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood.’ St. Louis Post Dispatch
When I was a teenager I attended a, small non-denominational, church, in Elkville, Illinois. During the, early, 1970’s a cavalcade of Jewish hippies began attending our church. They were from Chicago and had moved to Elkville and lived in an old farm house off the Royalton Blacktop road.
I made friends with; Michael Black and Michael Topple and Jeff Lestz.
I was still in high school, in Eldorado, Illinois and traveled to Elkville, a 50 mile journey, on the weekends to attend church service.
Often Michael Black would drive to Eldorado…to retrieve me and I would stay with him and his wife, Pam, on Saturday nights. Michael was so kind to me and considerate; Pam made me feel so welcome…that I felt like a member of the family.
I stayed at the commune, on several occasions, and was mesmerized by the inclusivity and love and oneness…that I felt in the group. I ate Gefilte fish and Matzos and felt…very Jewish.
Michael Topple is one of the kindest people that it has been my privilege to meet. He is one of those individuals that seems to be always upbeat and happy and caring for anyone that is in distress.
Jeff Lestz and I became friends over 45 years ago. He and Margo live in London, England, and it has been great fun to visit them on numerous occasions over the past few years.
I had the pleasure and honor of attending a seminar, that Jeff was conducting, near, York, England.
Jeff owns his own business and there were 75 – 100 people in attendance at the conference. I marveled and was struck with the, individual, care and time that Jeff spent with each attendee. These were people that were hungry for opportunity and in searching for a mentor! Jeff, joyfully, mentored these folks…much as he has done for thousands of people over the last 40 + years!
I was the chair of the Civil Service Council for 5 years at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. During that time it was my custom to have a guest, from university administration, for our monthly meeting. Although I attempted to have a member of the Board of Trustees as a guest…they seemed, to always be to busy. However, when Dr. Samuel Goldman came aboard as a Trustee…he accepted my invitation…immediately.
Sam was consistently engaged with the cares and challenges of the civil service community on our campus. He was the most accessible Trustee…that I have ever met.
Once Sam began coming to our meetings I invited him at least twice annually…or more…and he always…not only accepted…but left us encouraged and renewed!
Sam has functioned as the Rabbi for Congregation Beth Jacob for many years.
After his time as a member of the Board of Trustees, Sam became the chancellor of SIUC…and there has never been a better one!
Consistent with his openness and inclusivity…Chancellor Goldman spoke to me on a regular basis concerning the needs of the civil service community…and, even, took my advice, on occasion.
If I was told, today, that I had Jewish heritage…I would be ecstatic!
The only thing stronger than hate speech and acts of evil and oppression and genocide…is love!