Home for the holidays

By CARYL CLEM:

Festive holiday surround sound

Familiar refrains, bells and chimes

Baby, its cold outside, travel back to past times

Looking forward to being snowbound

Visiting with friends and family, staying warm.

Masterpiece art forms, radiant ornaments

Reflecting light and past traditions

Packages waiting for childlike astonishment

Glistening stars and snow, sparkling companions

Adorn the skies, trees, translucent accents.

Dine and enjoy once a year treats

Symbols of heritage and past sweets

Made with love and secret ingredients

While baking, unforgettable scents

Blend treasured old memories with new ones

Tell stories that tickle everyone’s funny bones.

Rejoice in the love that is shared

Stand united promoting everyone’s welfare.

Hold on to the holiday cheer through the New Year.

Chicago’s Navy Pier

My childhood memories of Navy Pier were just that, a pier that was cold, dark and gloomy. A pier that was falling apart, in transition, and far from the dazzle we have today. In fact, the last of the World War II generation remembers it as a training ground to fight. Over the decades, Navy Pier has demonstrated a variety of purpose.

Navy Pier was designed as a municipal pier in 1916 and host to a prison for draft dodgers during World War I. It was named Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to navy veterans who served in the first World War. In World War II, the pier was used a center to train pilots and according to Navy Pier’s current website, over 200 planes can still be found at the bottom of Lake Michigan. During these training years, tens of thousands of boys that were drafted used the facility and could also exercise in a huge gym, cafeteria and theater for entertainment.

After the war in 1946, Navy Pier hosted students from the University of Illinois for a two year program though they did have to finish their four year degree at the home campus in Champaign/Urbana. Finally to complete a degree at one campus, Chicago’s Circle Campus ( an new annex of the University of Illinois) was born in 1965. At that time, Navy Pier needed a new face lift.

Since the 20th Century, Navy Pier has been transformed into acres of parks, fine dining, fabulous cruises, a ferris wheel that holds 300 people, and much more. As a result of much to do at the Pier and year round events, Navy Pier proudly holds the number one tourist attraction position in the Midwest. Cruises on the Odyssey, Spirit of Chicago and Mystic Blue offer special holiday festivities and great ideas to spend New Years Eve with your loved ones.

Besides taking a cruise, some of the restaurants can provide a great eating experience and waterfront views. Some of the favorites are Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Big City Chicken, Frankie’s Pizza, and Tiny Tavern where you can stop for a cocktail.

Presently, the Fifth Third Bank is sponsoring Winter Wonderfest at the pier Friday, November 30, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019. featuring 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, giant slides, holiday-themed activities, and Indoor Ice Skating Rink, and more.

Celebrate your Chicago New Year’s Eve. Book your tickets to the 7th Annual Chicago Resolution Gala. The Resolution Gala is the top Chicago New Year’s Eve party going down this year. Every year up to 3,000 guests gather inside of the Grand Ballroom to ring in their New Year. Celebrate your night with food, drinks, a top live DJ, and the perfect intro to 2018 in Chicago!

 

Sno-caps, Raisinets or Junior Mints?

A second grader approached me one day and was telling me about her trip to the movie theater. She wasn’t a big popcorn eater but how she loved Sno-caps candy. When I was exactly her age decades ago, it was Sno-caps for me instead of popcorn. A lot cheaper too! Prices have jumped over 600 percent to buy candy at the movies; a dollar, however, would do it during my time. My best friend always chose Raisinets. If all else failed, Junior Mints was the final choice.

We also talked about how we never had that candy at any other time but at the movies. These were the movie candy choices, I suppose.

So, of course, I went to the movies with my adult daughter a week later and had to try out Sno-caps. Unfortunately, the sprinkles got between my teeth and I did not experience the same nonpareil satisfaction as before. My teeth are certainly not the same either. Though, I did save the box and shared with the second grader that I truly enjoyed my trip to the movies.

Sno -Caps have been around a long time. The candy was introduced in the late 1920s by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Ward Foods acquired Blumenthal in 1969. Terson Company bought the product and Nestle finally acquired the candy in 1984. Sno-caps are bite sized Nestles chocolate, covered with white sprinkles.

Chocolate-covered raisins are still popular and Raisinets are currently made by Nestlé.  They come in all sorts of packages, sold around the world and come in special movie theater boxes today. The raisins are from California with fruit antioxidants and thirty percent less fat. An important choice for splurging at the movies!

Junior Mints are a candy brand consisting of small rounds of mint filling inside a dark chocolate coating. The product is currently produced by Tootsie Roll Industries.  The product was launched in 1949 and named after a series of articles that was produced into a Broadway play, Junior Miss. However, the play had closed six years before the candy was introduced. In 1945, the play was adapted to a film and radio show. Over 15 million Junior Mints are produced daily in large theater boxes.

I am going to the movies today and I have a taste for popcorn! Today, cinemas have moved beyond the original popcorn, candy choices and sell burgers, quesadillas, and pizzas. Even beer and wine is an option.  Some classic films are paired with specific fine wines…..hmmm.

Maybe, I will just try some Junior Mints.

Just Thankful

Thanksgiving’s historical beginnings belong to the Pilgrims and the Winnebago Indians who celebrated the harvest festival. For us, it is a day of remembrance that we spend with family featuring fine foods such as turkey, giblets, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and a variety of pies, pumpkin usually being the first on everyone’s list. Good food, though a part of the Thanksgiving history, is always a priority and excuse for any holiday here in the US.

However, another added tribute to Thanksgiving is football in America as the male counterparts of the family gather in front of the set, stomachs ready for the game ahead though in some households many try to make that annual attempt to toss their own ball in the back as the women wait to see who will be the first injured player. But that is ok, it is tradition.

As families prepare for the festivities gathering the necessary ingredients for the grand table, many do find some quiet time to evaluate the year and decide what they are truly thankful for during the holiday season. And the list can vary from the joy of being a grandparent to even finding a close parking space on Black Friday. But, thankfully, Thanksgiving encourages the lists of thanks for the simple pleasures, wonderful people, and maybe just another year of life to spend with those we love. Gratitude is taught and hopefully remembered throughout our days beyond the yearly celebration where we can truly reflect on how lucky we are in our own light.

So here it is again, my list of never ending thankful moments and surprisingly, with the exception of new personal introductions of family and friends, it always focuses on the same.

  • I am thankful for time and not wasting it.
  • I am thankful for great books, hobbies and the word bored that is not a part of my vocabulary
  • I am thankful for logs in my fireplace and the fire starters that really work.
  • I am thankful that I refuse to give up on my dreams.
  • I am thankful that I will never be too old.
  • I am thankful that my daughter bakes better pastries than me.
  • I am thankful that Len does all the cooking
  • But I am thankful for my son who gave me a instant pot to try to cook once again and I love it
  • I am thankful for all my classroom children that teach me how to be a child again
  • I am thankful for Gladys Knight and the Pips my favorite recording of “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” because it honors so many in my life.
  • I am thankful for our service men and women who courageously fight today and sacrifice their own desires
  • I am thankful for my pet, who is always waiting for me
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to choose my words carefully; my pet always knows what I mean.
  • I am thankful that my mistakes have guided others.
  • I am thankful for all of you who so faithfully read my articles and for those out there that always bounce back when life seems to curve so dangerously without warning and inspire others to charge ahead with positive anticipation and grace.

And, finally, as my personal collection of years keep passing me by, I am truly grateful that my gratitude list richly grows for without the essence of being grateful for so much, nothing else can make a difference.

Originally published in Grand Magazine http://www.grandmagazine.com/2012/11/what-to-be-thankful-for-this-thanksgiving/

Talking turkey

By Caryl Clem:

Coastal Thanksgiving festivals

Feature local stars to dance unto tables.

Juicy duets of cranberry and apple

Bacon flavor veggies with caramelized onion.

Russian Salmon Pie and Salmon Mousse share room

Pumpkin or squash cream cheese couples.

Dixie land Spoon Bread, Johnny Cake

Competes with rich Pecan Pie to partake

Or Southern favorite Shoofly Sweet Potato Pie.

A sweet tooth finds impossible to deny.

Dressing the turkey, bread and shored oysters

Blend taste sensations of land and waters .

Texans deep fry the turkey in the finale

Served alongside steaming hot tamales.

Mid-west maple or cider  marinated turkeys glazed

Empty plates to earn words of praise.

Kicked up with Southwestern hot chili pepper

Cranberry/Orange cinnamon spice sauce flavor

No matter what your family consumes

Relax, enjoy relatives tasty customs.

Generosity

By Caryl Clem:

Kindness and empathy spin

Words that make you grin.

Spreading mental sunshine

Spiritual goldmine.

 

Physical evidence of  caring

Charitable donation sharing

Multiple systems, non-profit versions

Human generosity, busy repairing

Play it forward, ease another’s burden.

 

Victims of major disasters crushed

By any Mother Nature’s devastation

Homesteads damaged or  broken

Victims feeling lost without protection.

Americans have a network to trust

Courageous trained rescue organizations

State to State Red Cross volunteers

Join Fire and Police Service workers

Create then secure a new beginning,

Human lifelines determined on winning.

 

I am thankful for educator’s ingenuity

Encouraging every student’s identity

Inspiring, planting the seed

Every student has the power to succeed.

 

Thankful for the spirit of generosity

Living on in human acts of charity.

Thankful for copy machines

Once again, I have to call the specialists from the main office. While I am copying away on colored paper, two sided and stapled, it digitally informs me that there is a jam somewhere in the monster of the machine. It happens quite alot for me sometimes asking for permission to go on…strange commands…that even the jam specialists are not sure what they mean….time to re-set.

And believe it or not, during my first year of teaching, it was Mrs. Johnson, a senior teacher, who taught me how to copy classroom material on the good old mimeograph machine, or a ditto machine; that many of you may never have heard of before. I was terrified and I had to watch carefully…many times. It had become an art for her. All staff at the school watched her turn out perfect copy. I don’t think that happened for me.

There was also a distinctive smell with the freshly printed paper. The ditto machine used an alcohol-based fluid to dissolve some of the dye in the document, and transferred the image to the copy paper. The smell came from the ditto machine’s duplicating fluid, a mix of methanol and isopropanol.

Mimeographs, along with spirit duplicators (ditto machines) , were a common technology in printing small quantities, as in office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. It was widespread and cheap. In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, mimeographs, spirit duplicators, and hectographs began to be gradually replaced by photocopying. But photocopying machines were extremely expensive.

It wasn’t too long after that we experienced our first Xerox machine. Xerox became so successful that, in North America, photocopying came to be popularly known as “xeroxing.” I still say it. And the training was so intensive even though collating, colored paper or stapling was not an option.

Now, its a commercial, digital or analog copy machine. And Xerox is still around..quite the giant… though there are several brands. The average office copy machine cost $1,500 with higher grade copiers reaching $12,000 and beyond depending on printing speed, quality, and advanced features like stapling, scanning and faxing options. You may rent or lease them as well.

This time I did not call the jam patrol. I decided to take a deep breath and not be so afraid of making a situation worse. Now, the arrow points to exactly where the jam is and it was where the paper fed into the machine. Typical, but I did not see anything. I removed the paper,re stacked the paper and closed the drawer. I hit start and I couldn’t believe it…..it worked! Wow, maybe I will try this again sometime!

 

Thankful for birthdays

Birthdays! The joy of a new life, a truly momentous occasion for all ages, a new beginning, a new pleasure or just thankful you have lived another year.

Assisting in the kindergarten, the children’s birthdays are the most treasured day of their young lives. In the 1960s, I felt exactly the same way. Even though I can watch my home movies Dad took of my parties in the finished basement and see the real thing, I understand the same feeling the little ones experience today. I remember that incredible nervous feeling waiting for my friends to arrive for my day with presents for me…….no one else. I was extremely fortunate that my parents planned great parties with plates and napkins that matched, a bakery birthday cake decorated with my choice of theme; one year was a carnival cake.  Sometimes, we had noisemakers, hats or bubbles as favors. And always ice cream!

But birthdays lost their sentiment through high school, college, until the dreaded legal one though I don’t remember getting drunk. Throughout my 20s, I taught high school and again..classroom parties were few and far between until I turned 30. That was the age I  finally seemed credible…even as a teacher.

In 1988, my one year old son cried terrifying tears while several guests sang happy birthday to him. It was the first time I had ever seen a child uncomfortable at birthday time. Strange, he still does not like that kind of attention in his 30’s. But it did improve with the birth of my daughter who treasured theme parties to plan such as The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and parties reserved at places like Let’s Dress Up.

When she was about 10, we passed out tickets, rather than invitations, from the White Star Line to travel on the Titanic where they ate in the Grand ballroom and experienced a surprise sinking of the ship during a sleep over. My son and I handed out life jackets and we told the girls that they had to climb into plastic boats in the backyard. On a beautiful summer night, we drenched them with a hose. They didn’t complain and after drying off, they watched the new movie.

This month is my birthday. It is actually marked on the classroom calendar. November 21 is the day, the day before Thanksgiving this year….a day off of school. One girl asked me how old I was and she was confused. She couldn’t count that high!  Those numbers are still foreign to her. Me too! But she doesn’t care as long as I can still sing and dance. Certainly I have more birthdays behind me than ahead, but I am thankful. I am truly grateful.

And I will celebrate; making my own page for my birthday book in class. We have shared many coloring techniques together and I love to color. They can still sing happy birthday to me without the cha cha cha. They can still give me a hug, a high five, a special handshake,  a completed, detailed job coloring their own birthday artwork for me or just a warm smile. And another wonderful day will be spent with the kindergarten class who still helps me out when random aches and pains strike and they know its time for a chair. Many will sit with me on a bench in the playground during recess. Not afraid to become too close.

And probably the best birthday of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Words

By Caryl Clem

Standing while singing the Star Spangled Banner

By the last lingering note, I shed a tear

Overwhelmed by the sheer determination

The United States Armed Services has shown.

Once summoned to protect their land

Overcoming any obstacle, our best women and men

Risking everything to face danger head on

Bravery, loyalty wrapped in a uniform.

 

For the hours of dedication

For leaving your families behind

For the safety of our nation

5 word summation

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

You are the strength that protects our future

Guardians of what America stands for.

The Ghost Army: Honoring our veteran heroes

Unfortunately, my father passed away in January 2014 before I discovered the Ghost Army  World War II PBS Documentary, which was released in May of 2013. A couple years afterward, I started to hear there was a committee looking into honoring the brave men of the 3132nd and possibly 3133rd with the Congressional Medal.

It was around 1998 that Charles Weingate, my father,started talking about his time in the war with the Ghost Army. I recall him telling my brother and I about running the wire all night long and in the morning, tried to get some sleep. He was suddenly awakened by another soldier telling him that the German Army had just surrendered to them shared by Diana Weingate.

Its existence was finally acknowledged in the mid-1990s, when it was declassified. The Ghost Army, the 1,100 men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, was finally able to share their personal experiences. Consequently, they were able to share the fascinating battlefield illusions they created whose American purpose was to fool Hitler with fake strategic games and theatrical events leading more than 20 missions and saving the lives of thousands.

These disguised missions were composed of inflatable tanks and false radio transmissions. Giant speakers were used to broadcast the sounds of men and artillery to make the Germans think that the units were larger and deflect their concentration from other battles. Painters designed hundreds of rubber tanks, jeeps and aircraft. Aircraft could be inflated with gasoline fueled air compressors that looked authentic to Nazi military. They were told never to tell anyone about their war experience even after the war had ended.

Les Gates, 95 from Arkansas, spent the better part of three years with the 3132nd and 3133rd signal service companies. I got to the 3132nd from the A S T P program when it was dropped. The 3132nd was the first organization that started training in the art of sonic deception at Pine Camp, N Y . We were all ushered into a room with guards outside the door and we were told we were not to speak to anyone about this. I developed appendicitis at Fort Slocum-Port of demarcation and “missed the boat” and was transferred back to Pine Camp to join the 3133rd. The 3132 operated in the European theater .

The 3133rd went on to Italy and operated there until the end of the war. Both units were reported to have been VERY effective in their operations. 

Diana Weingate was able to read a previous article about the Ghost Army that I wrote about the story of Les Gates’s participation in the Ghost Army and who currently lives in Arkansas. She contacted me and Les Gates by email. She was able to to talk to Mr. Gates on the phone and felt honored to hear his stories, bringing her even closer than ever to her father. Diana and her family are organizing a media push to find out more about The Ghost Army Legacy Project where you can donate and send letters to help support the campaign in awarding a Congressional medal to the unit. Her father is in the picture;standing on the left.

After investigating the Legacy Project, head over to another site which is ghostarmy.com and you can learn more about Rick Beyer, the award winning documentary filmmaker, best-selling author, and long-time history enthusiast. He produced and directed the award-winning PBS documentary The Ghost Army, and is the co-author (with Liz Sayles) of The Ghost Army of World War II.  Rick Beyer is also president of The Ghost Army Legacy Project.

Please feel free to contact Les Gates or Diana Weingate at lesgates@suddenlink.net or Diana at razmuth80@yahoo.com.