Visual Storytelling. Social good.

Posts by Aimée Knight

Santorini – 36.3932° N, 25.4615° E 
One of the things I will always remember from Santorini is something that I couldn’t capture with my camera. We stayed at a Dominican Convent in Santorini – a home for 12 cloistered nuns of various nationalities. Although I never saw the nuns, I did hear them singing Vespers one evening; an otherworldly hymn that I first mistook for a professional recording. I will also remember the beautiful and serene energy of this place. It was palpable. We were the beneficiaries of these nuns who spend most of their days channeling grace through prayer.

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SYROS – 37.4385° N, 24.9139° E

Postcards from our month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling in COM 382 Digital Publishing.

When I look back on our two weeks on Syros I will be thinking about the blues. The seas, the skies, the bays, all in a range of that clear, impossible blue. If we can have that every day, perhaps it is enough. Maybe we don’t need as much as we think we need. That’s really the undercurrent of my time on Syros. The slower pace of life (except for the drivers!), the kindness of everyone we met, the three-hour meals with the waves lapping behind us, the raw beauty of the island, and the simplicity of its beaches. A towel and a tamarisk tree are all you need.

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My grandmother, Esther, lived to be 104 years old. Her funeral services brought my family together yesterday. She spent her last days full of grace, surrounded by her four children. She spent her life full of grace, too. Grace combined with true grit. Losing her parents at an early age, Esther’s stories are full of hardship, resilience, and determination. They remind me of how quickly, in fact, times do change. Here are some of the stories she told me about her early life in Michigan in the 1900’s.

The Early Life of Esther Schweitzer

I was born on November 19, 1914, in the family home at 726 N. Mason St. Saginaw, Michigan.  On my birth certificate issued on August 22, 1944 (at my request) it was stated that the birth was recorded June 11, 1915.  My parent’s names on this certificate were Frederich William Schweitzer, birthplace Germany, occupation boilermaker, and Anna Krause, birthplace Bay Co. Michigan, housewife. On other documents, I found Krauss was the spelling for the maiden name of my mother.

I have the marriage (Trau) certificate (Schein) of my mother and father written in German: The witnesses were Wilhem Schweitzer (my uncle) and his wife Friederike Schwarz.  It was signed Friedrich Menke, Pastor in a Lutheran Church. This certificate measuring 14” by 18” is in a glass frame. It was framed by a Saginaw picture-framing store. 

Dass Herr Friedrich Schweitzer

aus Kawkawlin

und Fraulein Anna Krauss

aus Tittabawasee

am  4 (ten) Februar 1903 in Tittabawasee

Early Memories of Life on the Farm

My father worked on the Beyer Farm in Saginaw County for $25 per month and that is where my brother Robert was born on May 6, 1906.  My father later worked on the Hackett Farm on the corner of Tittabawassee Road and Midland/Saginaw Roads. My father and mother moved to Mason Street in Saginaw where I was born on November 19, 1914. All births were at home back then.

Father worked for Jackson and Church Iron Works on the west side of Saginaw for 17 cents per hour.  In 1915 we moved to a forty-acre farm on Chip Road in Bay County west of Kawkawlin. This farm was purchased from the Weavers for $4700. Mr. Drescher, a neighbor, loaned my father $3100 to help pay for the forty-acre farm.  In 1918 during World War I, my father sold 400 bushels of white navy beans at $10 a bushel and he paid off the rest of the loan. Mr. Drescher was not happy about the quick payment.  Nevertheless, the farm was paid for.

My early memories of Chip Road, where I lived, were that it was made of shale mined from local coalmines—hence the name Chip Road.  At times, it was muddy because the shale was brittle and it settled in the mud.

Farm Buildings and Horses

When we moved to the Weaver Farm on Chip Road there were many buildings there: a house, barn, granary (which is still standing), outhouse, icehouse, and smokehouse.  The chicken coops came later in the 1920s.  The horses were kept in stalls in the barn and the cows also were kept with the horses in the barn where they were milked twice a day.  I remember that we had a wagon, farm sleigh, cutter and a McCormick binder to cut and bundle the wheat and oats. We also had a mower to cut the hay.  Farmers loaned or borrowed implements from each other.  There was always helpful camaraderie among neighbors.

When I was young we had two horses named Kit and Jenny. They were gentle brown horses, especially Kit.  One of my jobs, when we were putting hay in the barn loft, was to lead Kit out toward the road while she was pulling a strong rope to balance putting a huge fork into loose hay on a wagon on the barn floor. The purpose was to swing the fork loaded with hay up into the hay mow over the horse barn and release the fork section. This was repeated numerous times. One day while I was leading Kit in this operation she stepped on my bare foot. Kit wouldn’t get off my foot until my brother Robert came out of the mow to move her foot. Because Kit was usually such a gentle animal the incident ended well. Eventually, these horses died to be replaced by others and an Allis tractor was purchased in 1930. Then no more horses were needed.

Cows

In the summer one of the assignments I had was to watch five or six cows as they grazed on the sides of Chip Road and Fraser Road.  I learned that cows are unintelligent animals but smart enough to run away down the middle of the road.  Because we only had four acres of land, more pasture was needed and there was nice grass along the sides of the road and in the ditch.  I had to do this almost every morning.  I remember one of the cow’s names was Bossy. There was one reward with this job: I knew where all of the sweet wild strawberries were, and the wild blackberry bushes too. And of course, I ate them.

Threshing

Grain had to be cut when ripe by a binder. They were tied in bundles and leaned together in shocks in the field to dry. Then the bundles were either hauled into the barn or hauled out of the field to await the thresher with his large steam engine.  This engine which burned coal or wood provided power to run a threshing machine which separated the straw from the head of the grain.  Out of the back of the machine came the straw which was blown into a large pile called a straw stack. The straw was then used for animal bedding. The grain was caught by the men in a bag which they hauled over one shoulder to the granary which had bins for wheat, oats, and barley.

There were usually between eight and twelve neighbors who came to help carry grain and each expected all to come help each other in return.  When it was time for a break beer or water was served. At noon the men would wash up at a washtub filled with warm water that had been set out in the sun. Then they would gather at the kitchen table to the finest cooking the hostess could make, such as pies, cakes, roasts, mashed potatoes, gravy and garden vegetables. This meal was always a jolly occasion. The afternoon was then spent much like the morning until the grain threshing was done.  Then the threshing machine would move on to the next farm.

Hauling and Animal Food

Grain which wasn’t fed to the animals and dry navy beans had to be hauled to the elevator in Kawkawlin to be sold.  It was put in gunny sacks, tied and loaded onto a wagon.  My father would drive the team of horses to the village and sell the beans or whatever surplus we had on the farm. Corn was usually kept on the farm to feed animals and chickens. Chickens ate the cracked corn and anything they could find in the yard. We had a hand operated corn sheller. You put the corn cob in the receptacle and turned the crank and out came shelled corn. Oats and hay were fed to the horses. Pigs ate a mash often made of ground up grain, water and garbage.  Cows grazed on grass and also ate hay.

Coal was hauled in a wagon from the Number 2 Coal Mine of Fraser Road. Sometimes when the coal was sorted at the mine to be shipped by train some small pieces would fall out. You could pick up these pieces for $1.50 per wagonload.

Icehouse

When I was little we had an icehouse building near the back door. It had probably been there when my father bought the farm in 1915 from some people by the name of Weaver.  The icehouse was made of wood boards with an inch or so between them. My father and his neighbors would cut the ice blocks, maybe two square feet out the river with saws, load them on a working farm sleigh with four runners and then the horses would pull the load two miles to our icehouse.  They put the ice blocks in the icehouse between sawdust to keep them from melting and sticking together.  I remember that in the summer the icehouse boards were wet. We had an icebox in the kitchen and the ice had to be brought in by large ice tongs.  When the ice melted the water had to be carried out.  In later years when no ice was cut and the icehouse was torn down Aunt Lorraine hung butter in the well to keep it cool. The garage now stands where the icehouse was.

The Outhouse

We had an outdoor toilet—with two holes. It had a moon cut in the door to let in light, just like the ones you see in pictures.  We used the Sears & Roebuck catalog for toilet paper, avoiding the colored pages because they were harsh.  The walls were covered with discarded calendars to keep the toilet warmer—not necessarily for entertainment.  Occasionally lime was put inside to keep the flies at bay. I will never forget how the winter wind could blow up through the holes of the outhouse when the long underwear was unfastened!  Sometimes we kept a potty with a lid beside the bed.  Of course, that had to be emptied in the morning.

In the winter, a path had to be shoveled to the toilet from the house. Once, my 96-year-old grandmother, Krauss fell on the ice going to the toilet. She broke her hip and in those days that was the end of her life.

Early Memories

When I was a little girl I had large brown eyes and long brown hair.  After my mother washed my hair she would take a bunch of hair and wind it around a long rag.  She did this on six or eight bunches and when they were dry she would unwind the hair.  The hair would then fall in a cascade of curls.  Then she would take a ribbon, perhaps 4 inches wide, make a bow, put a clasp in the middle and clasp it to my hair in the back of my head.

Bathing

In order to take a bath, we had to carry the water in from the outside well to heat on the kitchen or “cook” stove.  Then we put the oven door down for warmth and filled the wash tub half full.  I was usually allowed to bathe first because I was the smallest in my family.  We all bathed in the same water. When we were done someone had to carry the washtub outside to empty it.  We bathed on Saturday night.

Washing and Ironing Clothes

I remember my mother making soap out of lye, wood ashes, and animal fat, boiling it on the stove.  When it cooled, she would cut it into bars.

My mother used a washboard which was corrugated metal on a form with a place for a bar of soap at the top.  She would put the washboard in a large washtub and scrub the dirty clothes one at a time with the soap.  She would then run the article through a wringer. The wringer was a contraption with two rollers with a crank at its side.  After the wringer, my mother would submerge the article in rinse water and put it back through the wringer once again. 

The white clothes were not bleached as we do today.  Instead, they were boiled on the coal or wood-burning kitchen stove in a copper boiler. The clothes were removed from the boiler with a wooden spoon and rinsed with bluing. In the summer the clothes were hung on the outside line.  Sometimes in the winter, the clothes were dried indoors, fastened to a line which stretched across the room.  Other times the clothes dried on clothes rack in front of the oven with its door open.

In the winter I remember wearing long underwear with a large part in the behind.  I wrapped the legs around to make them tighter. We changed the underwear once a week on Sunday.  All of our washing was done by hand on Mondays.

Ironing

My mother used a single flat cast iron called a sadiron which she put on top of the kitchen stove to heat.  There had to be five or more irons heating all the time because they rapidly cooled.  The iron was held by a wooden handle.  Often the ironing board was a homemade kind of wide board with multiple layers of cloth for a cushion.  This often was spread between two chair backs or laid on a table.  All of the ironing clothes were sprinkled and rolled up individually the night before so that the clothes would be slightly damp to iron the next day.  There were no wash and wear clothes…just wrinkled clothes.  Today I use my sadiron for a doorstop.

Dresses

My mother sewed my dresses on a treadle sewing machine by rocking her feet or ankles on a pedal to operate.  I remember standing on her chair behind her, combing her long hair as she sewed. When she was ready to hem the dress she would stand me on the kitchen table to mark the hem.  It seemed she was always “fiddling” with my knees—an exasperating feeling. It must have been that my dresses were knee length.  Her dresses were ankle length.

Preserving Food

It seemed to take all summer and fall in order to preserve enough food for the winter.  We had a garden with many vegetables and berries.  And how to preserve them was a problem.  We canned fruits in Mason glass fruit jars in a hot water bath (large kettle of boiling water). Carrots were sometimes buried in sand in a crock and put upstairs when there was no heat.

In order to preserve potatoes and apples for the winter, my father put down a thick layer of straw, perhaps ten feet across on the ground in the orchard.  Then he put perhaps 10 bushels of potatoes on the straw, then dirt 10 inches deep, then horse manure. The reason the horse manure was used – the horse manure was mixed with undigested hay and held together to make energy/heat.

Hams were smoked in the smokehouse, a small building with a stone fire pit.  The hams were hung by a cord to a rafter overhead.  Hickory or other woods were burned night and day to make smoke.  We ate field corn in the milk stage but didn’t can it.  Dry navy beans which we raised were good to prepare in the winter.

My mother laid out a window screen on saw horses to dry apple and pear slices in the sun in the fall.  We made sauerkraut out of shredded cabbage, adding salt and storing it in a crock covered with a plate with a stone on top.  We also made dill pickles—which we stored in a crock.  All these foods were put upstairs when there was no heat. Because we raised animals for slaughter we had veal, pork and of course, chickens. Eggs needed no preservation.  The meat was shared with neighbors who helped with the killing.

Stoves

We had a kitchen stove with four lids on top. It burned coal or chunks of wood. One could really get the top very hot.  This stove was used summer and winter to cook meals, heat the sad irons, and boil the clothes in a boiler and heat water.  The fire was allowed to go out at night and of course, had to be rebuilt in the morning with kindling and paper.  On the right side of the cook stove was a reservoir (an iron receptacle where water was stored to heat). It was my job to haul water by pail from the outside pump of later from an inside pump to fill the reservoir so that we would have warm water.  We usually caught rainwater off the eaves of the house and put this “soft water” in the reservoir.

The other stove that we had was at one end of the living room. It was more of a round, large potbellied stove which was taller than I was.  It had mica windows and burned coal or wood. We used a coal scuttle, a kind of pail, to haul in the coal from outside. The coal scuttle had a metal fender, a skirt of about six inches wide, all the way around it so that one didn’t get burned while warming themselves. In the winter this stove was not allowed to go out so it was “banked up” at night with fuel. Both stoves had a grate through which ashes fell and these had to be carried out as needed and dumped in the driveway.  This was not my job.  I remember going downstairs in a hurry to dress behind the heating stove in the morning.  The upstairs was not heated.

Lighting

The earliest lighting that I remember was the kerosene lamp made of glass.  The lower part held about a pint of kerosene and a wick made of cotton.  We were able to control the height of the flame so that the chimney of the lamp did not get too smoky. This lamp gave off a yellowish light.  Every morning it was my job to wash the chimney and trim the wick. Abe Lincoln read by the light of the fireplace and Esther read by the light of the kerosene lamp.

Later we got a gasoline lamp with a metal base which held about a pint of gas.  You pumped air into the lower chamber with a small pump, similar to a bicycle pump.  There were two mantles which gave off a very white light and a white gas globe.  Like the kerosene lamp, we put this lamp on the middle of the kitchen table and the family gathered around to read.  One time my mother broke the glass globe and she cried.  There were kerosene and gas lanterns to take to the barn as needed.  When I was upstairs, I read by candlelight.

Piano

This story is told by my brother Robert, nine years my senior. When my parents lived on the Hackett Farm in Saginaw County, before I was born, a man came by one day in the rain with two pianos on his wagon.  My father put the wagon in the barn and the horses in the stable for the night.  Somehow the next morning a deal was struck to buy one of the two pianos.  I’m sure that my mother was delighted because she knew how to play the organ.  She was the organist in a Lutheran church on Hospital Road in Saginaw County.  This is the piano on which my mother taught me to play.  I took many lessons from Mrs. Logan in Bay City and jazz lessons from a teacher near Central High. Robert plays this upright piano and goes out to play for Senior Citizens at various meal sites.

The Parlor

The parlor of the front room was where we kept the piano and our best furniture.  This was where we entertained guests in the summer, fall, and spring.  Certainly, it was not used in the winter except at Christmas time because it was not heated and the doors were kept shut.  We kept the Christmas tree in there because the room was cold.  The tree was a kind of fir cut from a neighbor’s woods.  It was decorated with strings of popcorn and not much in the way of commercial decorations except an angel on top.  Because we had no electricity, on Christmas Eve, we lit small candles into clips which fastened onto tree limbs. Fire was always a concern.

The parlor room was wallpapered on the walls and ceiling. There was a large bay window in front with small colored windows going across the top. We had a rag rug covering the floor. We cleaned it in the spring by wadding up damp newspaper and vigorously sweeping the rug with a broom. The damp paper kept most of the dust contained. Other rugs were put on the line outside and beat with a carpet beater.

I remember neighbors Anna and Martin Hanson coming to call on a Sunday afternoon and my mother playing the piano while I sang.  Most company would come on Sunday afternoon because it was the day of rest. Company would wither walk over or arrive by horse and buggy.

The front parlor later was remodeled into Uncle Robert’s and Aunt Lorraine’s bedroom.

Christmas

One Christmas I was given a warm, brown corduroy coat with a tam-o’-shanter to match. It came from Sears, Roebuck & Company in Chicago, ordered by mail and delivered by the rural postman who delivered it by horse and buggy. One Christmas that my brother Robert remembers, Uncle Charlie who lived on Bay Road in Saginaw, walked to the farm of Chip Road.  He was crossing the footbridge (which was nothing more than a wide board across the ditch in front of our house) and he fell in. Of course, he was inebriated. He brought a ball, bat and mitt for Robert and a doll for me.  The miss was still in the attic until my son Orville found it. Robert gave it to Orville.  Uncle Charlie was a jolly character who liked to drink. One time he came and stayed with us while he rebuilt the porches on the house.

Charlotte

One year when I was five I received a beautiful doll for Christmas. It was ordered from the Sears, Roebuck, and Company catalog and arrived by rural mail carrier. She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. She was nineteen inches tall with blue eyes that closed when I laid her down.  She had arms and legs that moved because they were attached to her inside torso by elastic bands. She had long red hair which I cut when bobbed hair came into style.  One day when I was playing with her, Charlotte fell off my lap and broke her leg. She was very fragile but I played with her anyway. Years later Charlotte wound up in a shoebox in parts without a leg. Her elastic had worn out.

After I retired from teaching I decided that Charlotte should have a life again so I took her to a woman who repairs dolls. She rebuilt Charlotte’s leg and adorned her in a new blue dress and bonnet with ecru lace. She also had new white bloomers and a white underskirt trimmed in lace, long stockings, and patent leather shoes.  She now has a full head of red hair which extends to her waist.

I gave Charlotte a new home. She now stands on my daughter Beth’s bookcase overlooking her office.

Travel

Our first two cars were black Ford touring cars and then a Ford coupe.  However, this mode of travel was useless in winter because of the lack of snow plowing in those days.  I remember neighbors getting together when Chip Road was blocked with snow and shoveling a track out by hand, and with horses and a scoop. (A far cry when in 1946 the Midland Road was blocked and a snow plow came by to open the road).

We had a cutter—a small two runner sleigh pulled by one horse.  When we went to church in the winter or my father took me to school, we used the cutter in deep snow. I remember that we had a bear rug or blanket to cover our laps. Sometimes we heated a stone to put on the floor to keep our feet warm.  We used one horse and a buggy in good weather—before we purchased an automobile. The horse had a blanket to put on when she would be “tied” for a while at church or visiting friends.  In summer there was a special harness to throw over the horse to keep the flies off.

I remember going to Bay City by horse and buggy taking butter and eggs to trade at Walthers Department Store on Water Street south of where Rosenbury’s Furniture was. To a little girl, the counter at Walthers seemed very long.  My mother would buy flour in a cotton sack (perhaps 100#) and sugar, and sundries like fabric to sew. The clerk got all of the items that you asked for and put them on the counter in front of you.  Sometimes he would climb the ladder which was attached on the top and rolled along to reach the items. The price for eggs or butter was subtracted and you had a “trade.” When the shopping was over, there was a long trip back home—about 20 miles. There was Maxwell’s Livery Stable on John’s Street.  He kept horses inside the building, watering and feeding them for a fee.

A visit to Toledo

My father and I took several rides from Bay City to Toledo, Ohio to visit my Uncle Seymour Zink and Aunt Mary Zink (my mother’s sister). We rode on an interurban, an electric trolley car, which skimmed through the countryside and cities via an overhead arm going to an electric wire strung overhead.  To a little girl, it seemed to go very fast.  My uncle Seymour would say when we arrived: “Here comes the Michigander and the Michigooser!” Aunt Mary kept a nice, clean house. I slept on a feather bed and ate good food—something I was not used to.  I enjoyed her hospitality very much.  I remember hearing the traffic making noise a block away from their house and compared it to a quiet farm on Chip Road.

Ford

My father took the interurban to Detroit or Dearborn to buy a Model T at the Ford factory and drove it home in 1920. It was a black touring car. The front and black seats had side curtains with isinglass windows set in. The car had a magneto in the motor which was not allowed to get wet. Thus the car could never be out in the rain. (The roads would turn to mud, anyway). There was no starter, just a crank in the front of the car. Sometimes the crank “kicked” or reversed with the result of a broken arm.

My father bought another black touring car a few years later, and then even later a black coupe.  Henry Ford said that you could buy any color car that you wanted but it would be black.  One time my father must not have used the lever and clutch right and the front of the car hit the back of the garage. As I remember the gas was fed by a lever on the steering column. We never put the top down.

Funerals and Parents

I remember my mother’s funeral when I was seven. In those days funerals were held at the house and not in a funeral home. The casket was put in the parlor on a pair of wooden sawhorses (a four-legged device like carpenters use). I sat on my father’s lap while the minister conducted the liturgy. My mother, Anna Barbara Krauss was born in Amelith on a farm in Saginaw County on March 11, 1875, and died August 14, 1922. I was told that she died of a change of life.  I don’t suspect that is the real cause of her illness. Perhaps she had cancer in her reproductive organs.  I remember she became very thin and bedridden. We took care of her at home.  My father, Friederich William Schweitzer, was born in Germany on August 3, 1879. He came to the United States on a boat when he was two years old. He was raised on a farm on the Kawkawlin River where Indians also lived and traded.  My mother and father married on February 4, 1903, in Tittabawassee Township in Saginaw County. When my father died on April 23, 1925, I inherited half of the farm which paid for my education.  Robert then owned the farm.

While growing up I often wished to have my parents there, like other people my age.  I wished for someone to talk to, take care of me and love me. Life became very lonely.

Banks

During the depression of 1930, I had money in the Kawkawlin State Bank.  This bank had mostly farm loans and when farmers could not make payments, the bank foreclosed and took the farm.  Evidently, they had too many loans out and the bank folded forever.  I lost some money there.  The Bay City Bank closed but opened a year or so later and paid some money on the dollar.  I didn’t have any money in a commercial bank in Bay City that Mr. Davidson owned.  But the story goes that people lined up in front of his bank and demanded their money. He told all the people that they could have their cash.  He went to Detroit and got the cash. But what were they to do with it? So, the people put the money back in the bank.

Electricity

In 1935 each farmer who worked on the mile our farm was on paid Consumer’s Power $65 to build an electric line. Walter Priem, my cousin, worked three days to put electric wires in the house and some of the outbuildings. This was in the depths of the depression and jobs were scarce. Walter furnished the wire and fixtures all for $65.  This was the year we bought our first electric radio.

Education

My mother taught me to read before I went to school.  So I was in love with school from an early age. I saw my brother Robert, who was nine years older than I, go to school. And I wanted to go too. So, I would run away—about ¾ miles to the Chip Road School. I did that a number of times.  The teacher kept me at the age of four and put me in the first grade. I remember the teacher writing my name or words on the desk with chalk and I would put corn kernels on the configuration.

The first school was a white clapboard one-room schoolhouse with one teacher who taught all eight grades and sixty students. We had a common drinking pail and dipper, two outdoor toilets and a woodshed. We played “anti-I-over” over the woodshed.  Later this school was replaced with a two-room brick school with a basement, furnace, indoor cloakrooms and chemical toilets. The building still stands on Chip Road, although now it is a remodeled house.  We had programs at Christmas and graduation. A stage was built with boards laid across saw horses.

Mrs. Agnes Rahn was my last teacher at the school. I remember that she came to write a seventh-grade test given by the state. The next year we wrote the eighth-grade test (handwriting). We were seated and given a written ten or twenty question test on agriculture, orthography, arithmetic, geography, and history.  The teacher would dictate spelling orally.  This was a daylong test and we would study for it, lest we would have to repeat the grade.  I remember on the way to the Webster School asking Mrs. Rahn what the Spanish Armada was.  Also, I didn’t know where Chosun was.  Another teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, took me home to her overnight after my mother died.

The walk to school in the cold was fierce on my feet.  I remember one of my teachers taking off my shoes and stockings and rubbing my feet to warm them.  It was called chilblains when the feet or hands were exposed to extreme cold.

I graduated from the eighth grade at age twelve and went on to Handy High in Bay City.  Only two of us went on to high school. The ninth grade was hard for me, especially algebra and Latin.  I boarded five days a week in Bay City with the Vogels, a mother, and two daughters who lived on Catherine Street on the west side.  Sometimes I roller-skated to school. I also took piano lessons at twenty-five cents per lesson from Mrs. Logan. I practiced at home on the weekends.  One time while I was walking to my lesson there was a very long train in my way so I crawled under the coupling of two cars.  Almost the end?! Anyway, I finished the ninth grade at Handy High and went on to Bay City Central High on the east side of the river.  I boarded and roomed with Mr. and Mrs. Steffer on Columbus Avenue, across from the school.

College

 I took a college preparatory course with English, Math (geometry made little sense to me), second-year Latin, Chemistry and second-year German. I wasn’t fond of required gym and swimming.  Even though I was not yet menstruating, when I didn’t want to participate I often told the gym teacher I was “off the floor.” One time I was “Asia” in a class play performed for the school of more than 600 people. Our 1931 class consisted of about 200 students.

I went onto Bay City Junior College when I was 16, still boarding and rooming with the Steffers, who had come from Germany in earlier years. I surely enjoyed her German cooking. Junior college was hard for me as I always felt that I was too young socially. I recall Geology was very difficult, as was third-year German. 

This was 1932 during the great depression and Robert had bought the half of the forty-acre farm from me and he wasn’t able to make the payments for me to go to school. Subsequently, I enrolled in the Bay County Normal at the Reigle School in Salzburg for my second year of teacher education.  I worked for my room and board at Strongs.  My job was to come home to a cold house, build a fire in the living room and stove and start dinner. I also had to wash the dishes and sweep the floor. I hated to come home to a cold house in the dead of winter.  Thankfully, that year was an easy year in school.

In the fall of 1933, I went off to Central Michigan College for my third year. I lived at Ronan Hall and worked alone in the commons small kitchen washing and cleaning the cupboards. I received 25 cents per hour from the NYA (National Youth Assistance). I remember doing practice teaching under Miss Heilbron in the “sheep sheds,” which were temporary buildings for elementary students.  The original buildings had burnt down in a fire.  In the summer of 1934, I received my Three Year Life certificate from CMC, one of the last “lifes” given and this certified that I could teach for the rest of my life.

I went to Mecosta to teach 3rd, 4th and 5th grades in one room for $60 a month. I wanted to teach just one grade so when James D. Connell from Beaverton was interviewing at CMC, I went. I was hired to teach 6th grade, which I preferred. I roomed with two teachers in an apartment until Orville and I married in 1936. Then he and I lived in a one-room apartment in the hotel. I went to CMC on Saturdays from 1935-1941 to work on my Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in geography and minoring in art. J.D. McConnell called that “blood and guts” education. 

In 1941 I retired from teaching, withdrew my $200 from the state retirement fund and bought a piano.

***

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artemis

COM 382 Digital Publishing in Greece May 24 – June 25, 2019

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Join us for a special COM course as we explore the islands of Greece.

syros

  • Fulfills upper-level communications elective for majors & minors
  • Open to all majors at Saint Joseph’s University, no pre-requisites
  • Travel and study in Athens, Santorini, Syros, and Crete and many other locations

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seitan

Spend a month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling. The wide variety of digital media tools and platforms available allows us to share observations, research, and personal narratives with global audiences online. Using a variety of digital tools including 360 photography, video, audio, and social media, we will create a portfolio of stories for publication.

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As we travel throughout Greece, we will develop projects for digital publication. Each project emphasizes skills essential to writing for the web: finding, framing, and pitching story ideas; research, reconnaissance, and field recording techniques; the appreciation for and acquisition of story context; tools for evaluating issues of ethics; an understanding of story elements, organization, and assembly; writing, revising and editing for clarity and purpose; peer review and constructive feedback on your drafts; and finally, publication strategies for your work.

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Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 4.18.25 PMSee the Center for International Programs for more course information. studyabroad@sju.edu (610)660-1835

 

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What we need now in this current immigration crisis are stories that speak from a place of love and compassion. Here are four films that do just that as they showcase young undocumented Americans.

In the first film, Kid Quixote, director Marc Cantone follows a group of Spanish-speaking immigrant children in Brooklyn as they translate, write, perform and tour their own theatrical adaptation of Don Quixote.

In the words of director Cantone, “the film isn’t just a backstage chronicle of the making of a show. It’s also an inspiring story of immigrants finding their place in a country that is not only becoming increasingly hostile to them but is also actively working to tear apart their families and way of life.”

A recent New York Times article features Kid Quixote in The Littlest Don Quixotes Versus the World. If you’d like to be involved and support the film’s post-production, take a look at the Indiegogo campaign.

KID QUIXOTE – A Documentary Film (2018) 

Directed by Marc Cantone – A documentary about immigrant children in Brooklyn using the power of theater to tell their stories.

THROUGH THE WALL (2016)

Directed by Tim Nackashi –  A short documentary about a family divided by the US/Mexico border. Abril lives in the US with her 2-year-old son Julián. They are undocumented. Julián’s father was deported back to Mexico for a minor traffic violation. In order to see each other, every Sunday Uriel, Abril and Julián travel to the border to spend time together through the wall.

 GEORGE AND GRACE’S STORY (2017)

Directed by Judd Ehrlich and produced by the National Immigration Justice Center – A short documentary film. George was tortured in a Ugandan military prison for his activism against a brutal and oppressive regime. He escaped and fled to the U.S. where he met his wife, Grace, who was also a Ugandan refugee. They started a family in Arlington Heights, Illinois and befriended many in the community. But like many asylum seekers, George was detained again and his family feared he would be deported back to danger.

AND WE ARE THE IMMIGRANTS (2017)

Directed by Catalina Matamoros – An intimate portrait of an arduous journey across hostile borders, presented in a fluid, hand-drawn animation.

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As a Writer-in-Residence at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, I was awarded a cabin for a week to write in peace and seclusion.

Dedicated “to the betterment of human relations” Wildacres is a wilderness destination and public foundation for nonprofit groups, musicians, artists, naturalists, and writers. The generosity of the dedicated staff makes the place feel like a second home.

Deep in the woods in Owl’s Nest, I spent most of the week binge writing, making progress on my book manuscript which details the work of the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative, where students lead digital research projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations.

There is no internet or cell reception in the cabins – which is the kind of isolation I need to get writing done.

A short hike up the mountain there is a thriving retreat center, where the Kumandi drum group convened for the week. I listened to their West-African rhythms into the dark nights. I heard their drums in my sleep.

Although Wildacres provides meals to all at the lodge, I mostly worked in seclusion and cooked in my cabin, living on spinach omelets and frozen cheese pizzas.

When I wasn’t writing, I hiked trails along the mountain ridges lined with rhododendron and mountain laurel. If all this sounds too pastoral, I also spent an inordinate amount of time killing stink bugs in my cabin. There were also crickets, black flies, bees, wasps, and giant wild turkeys, but no brown bears or snakes —  at least not ones that revealed themselves.

One muggy afternoon I headed to Asheville for a much-needed break. I had been charmed by Asheville a few years ago during an ACE Camp filmmaking workshop.

I arrived in Asheville without a plan, which was in the whole spirit of the week. However, I soon found myself following a woman in bright blue scrubs and her friend. The woman in scrubs was placing an order for lunch on her phone:

. . . I’ll have the avocado taco.

. . . Do you have plantains today? Those, too.

. . . Okay!

This has to be good, I thought. She obviously knows what’s what in Asheville. In anticipation, I followed them from a distance past the artsy shops and galleries.

Through a park.

Behind a brewery.

Across a parking lot.

Around a hotel.

Alongside a stream.

Through a pedestrian walkway.

Past a residential neighborhood …

Finally, as they moved toward an industrial complex, I wistfully gave up the mission.

Heading back the way I came, I sat for a while at a café and then perused Malaprop’s bookstore. An hour later, saw them return from their walk with two plastic shopping bags from Lowe’s. And no tacos.

All was not lost. I discovered 12 Bones Smokehouse and Wedge Brewing Co.

I also drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at every single scenic overlook.

In the cabin journal, past residents left their accounts of their week, each seeming to have an equally productive time.

I feel a strange, unexpected affinity to those who have stayed here in this place before me. Here are some snippets from the cabin journal:

“Dearest Cabin Dwellers, Collaborators – Welcome to the lineage and don’t worry about a thing. You made it here and the rest is gonna take care of itself.”

“This is a special place where time has the ability to stand still, where you have the ability to become invisible, like the animals and really become part of the forest.”

 “I think this was the most alone week of my life. Every bride should do this before getting married.”

“I left my journal entry in song. You can hear it in the creak of the wood floor, the acorn percussion on the tin roof.”

“I hope this solitude does its work in you and that you discover good and new paths to creativity and love of who you are.”

“Be open to whatever species chooses you as a friend. (ha!)”

“Look for GIANT TURKEYS. If your thoughts start getting too serious, they will appear.”

 “When I walked into this magical cabin, I totally felt like Ma Ingalls.”

“Laughed a lot at night – all alone.”

“I needed this week.”

“It’s a special place that cannot be described—only felt.”

The Wildacres Residency Program has my highest recommendation. Please let me know if you apply or have any questions.

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A commitment to community building and civic action offers faculty and students in our field opportunities to address immediate real-world needs in our own neighborhoods.

Join us for a half-day workshop on Thursday, May 24, 2018, from 9-12 at Computers and Writing 2018 at George Mason University. With John J Silvestro, Bill Wolff, and Aimée Knight.

This workshop features several models to involve academic courses in digital projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations. Learning to leverage digital media platforms to advocate for and with communities provides students a meaningful way to engage in designing communication for social change.

We discuss an array of research and creative projects that 1) serve the needs of community partners and 2) can be accomplished by students in one semester. We provide examples from completed projects in areas ranging from professional writing to digital production, including advocacy campaigns, social media audits, website design, digital storytelling, data visualization, video production, and social media content creation.

During three hands-on work sessions, we will provide guidance and support as workshop participants move through the process of designing and developing their own project or assignment that can be worked into a new or an already existing or a new course. Each participant will leave the workshop with a blueprint for a project which responds to community-identified needs and creates real-world deliverables that benefit students and communities. For more details, contact me @aesthetically.

 

 

 

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