Mondays for Me #57 ~ In the Garden

When we moved from the desert of Arizona to the lush, green State of Missouri, I was what could be called “gardening ignorant”. It was difficult to learn much about growing fruits or vegetables in the extreme heat of the Southwestern summers. I was 12 years old and I had never grown anything except cactus.

My parents bought a small house in Independence that had ½ an acre for the backyard. To me it was enormous! My Dad was so excited to plant a garden, and I was anxious to help. That first summer it was a “small” garden, at least by my Dad’s perspective. He and I dug up the ground and made the rows for the various vegetables that we were going to plant. We sowed carrot, cucumber, lettuce, radish, peas, corn, and green bean seeds. We made a trip to the nursery, and we came back with tomato plants and some blackberry bushes. I really had fun with the entire process.

Over the summer I helped to hoe the garden and tie up the tomato, peas, and green bean plants. I can still remember how excited I was when I saw the first little vegetable growing on the vine. I was a little confused when my Dad took me to the grocery store and told me we needed to find a bag of potatoes with lots of “eyes” on them. We had always avoided that type before. When we got home he showed me how to cut the “eyes” off and plant them in the ground, and he told me we were going to grow new potatoes. Yeah, right! We also had three large, well established peach trees standing side by side in the yard. I was fascinated with their bright pink blooms that smelled so good. Everything was coming to life with very minimal effort. In Arizona my Dad planted two peach trees and one apricot tree. During the summer they had to be watered every day and fertilized often. In the twelve years we lived there, we only got six peaches and one apricot from the trees.

June came and the backyard was full of things to eat. The first things to ripen were the peaches! Each tree was hanging low with fruit in different stages of ripeness. We picked so many for us, and I probably ate the majority of them. I just loved them. We soon had some of our relatives come over and pick as many as they wanted. Then my Aunt Margaret came and helped me pick enough to can. I had never done this before so it was a treat. Finally, my Dad put a notice in the newspaper for “free peaches”, and after several people came and picked what they wanted, we still had fruit on the trees!

We also had an abundance of other vegetables that could be canned. Again, my aunt came and taught me about each requirement for the various ones. We spent several days canning and talking. It was a very special time. It also felt good to have contributed to food stored up for the winter.

The potatoes where the last crop we dealt with. I was amazed at how many had grown from those little “eyes”. It was fun to dig in the dirt and not get yelled at! My Dad loaded the potatoes into the bed of the truck, and we drove them into Kansas City to my aunts home, and we stored them in her basement covered in lye. We all had potatoes for the next 9 months. This was a good experience for me. I learned a lot about how to plant and grow anything I wanted and I learned both patience and hard work.

When Autumn came and the temperature got colder, I missed the excitement of gardening. One day I was waling in the yard and I noticed a lot of hard round balls laying under a very tall tree on the south side of our house. I really never paid attention to it, it was only a tree! I picked one up and brought it to my Dad. He told me the tree was a black walnut tree. He and I then went outside and picked up a few of the balls, and we used a knife to open the outer casing of the nut. Once that was done, we had a walnut in a shell like I had seen in the grocery stores. To be honest, I didn’t like the process. It seemed like too much trouble, especially since walnuts were not my favorite nut at the time. My Dad did enjoy sitting in his chair and coaxing the nut to come out!

The next year we did the same, only this time the blackberry bushes gave us an abundance of fruit. Because of this, and the above mentioned peaches, these two became my two favorite fruits.

When we had to sell our home and move to California I felt so bad for my Dad. He seemed to thrive in this environment and I knew he would miss it. When we left Missouri, we were able to leave a lot of the produce with our relatives. This two and a half years were some of the best of my childhood!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Winter ~A Time for Sweaters ~ 52 Ancestors Week #51

Overheating in a sweater on Christmas Eve

I think I was 12 years old before I got my first coat. We always wore sweaters during the winter time because Southern Arizona rarely got cold enough to warrant anything heavier. I would watch in awe at the movies or commercials that had a winter theme, and the children would have on heavy coats, gloves, scarves, and hats. I was a little envious of the coats that had fur around the hood and sleeves. To me this looked so sophisticated! I remember getting a bicycle and a swimsuit for Christmas when I was 11 and I put on the suit and went riding around the neighborhood on the bike. This was the type of winters we had, and at the time I thought everyone had the same kind.

Snow in Missouri

You can imagine the shock when we moved to Missouri and my Dad took my sister Mary and I to Sears to buy coats and gloves. I didn’t like the way they felt, they were too heavy and bulky. Once the temperatures began to drop, my attitude changed. I suddenly fell in love with these wonderful items that kept me warm! We only lived in this State for two years and I discovered that I really loved the snow. I would throw on my coat and gloves anytime it snowed and I would go outside to watch it fall. I had fun sledding, having snowball fights and building snowmen.

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

From here, we moved to Santa Monica, California. Once again, owning a coat wasn’t a necessity. We lived 7 blocks from the beach so we did experience cool air coming off the ocean, however, it wasn’t cold enough for my Missouri coat or gloves. I got a thin cloth jacket which worked great for me. I enjoyed walking on the beach during the winter because it wasn’t crowded. I was totally amazed at how different this time of years was in each place we lived. We spent 5 years in California, and we moved 4 times. Each time we moved further inland, and we eventually ended up in Hollywood. No matter where we moved the temperature was mild from November until April.

Our house in Nashville, TN

I have lived in seven States over the course of my life. Each one presented its own unique winter weather. Colorado and Missouri made driving difficult, and as an adult I discovered that I did not like snow! In Tennessee there was very light snow and in Mississippi and Louisiana it had very mild weather. I really liked living in each State and experiencing the seasons while there.

As I get older, I can no longer tolerate the cold so Arizona will be my home from here on out. My family that is scattered throughout the Midwest and on to the East Coast think I am crazy when I tell them, winter is my favorite time of year!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me #44 ~ My First Date

Because of my upbringing, I was left with little knowledge about life outside my family. My sister was 4 years older than I, but she had never had a boyfriend nor been on a date. If you have read any of my other personal life blogs, you would know it was because she was so mean. My only glimpse into the life of a teenager was what I viewed on TV.

We were living in Independence, Missouri. I was 13 years old and in 8th grade in Junior High. It was near the end of the school year and the School was having a dance to celebrate. I loved to dance. I would spend hours with my friend Bonnie making up dance routines. We would spend our Saturday’s watching American Bandstand and practicing the moves. We even took dance in gym class during the second semester.

When I heard about the dance, I never dreamed I would get asked to go. Bonnie was seeing a guy named Ted, and he had a friend named Brad. They were both 9th graders. When Ted asked Bonnie to the dance he asked if she thought I might want to go with Brad, and we could all go together. So it was set up that we would go on a double date. I was so excited. Brad was a tall 15-year old with blonde hair and green eyes. I could barely say “yes” when he officially asked me out. None of us had a drivers license so Ted’s sister offered to drive us.

Friday night came quickly, and I was a bundle of nerves. There was one problem that I had not been aware of, Brad was a Mormon, and he didn’t dance! When we got to the school, I found myself standing on the sidelines watching all the dancing. This was a genuine sock hop because everyone entering the gym had to take their shoes off. Then I noticed that Bonnie wasn’t dancing either, and she had a look on her face that I am sure was a mirror of the one on mine. She walked over and said “Let’s show them how it is done!”, and she grabbed my hand pulling me out to the dance floor. We spent the next hour and a half dancing and having the best time.

At the end of the night we met back up with the boys, and we got into the car for the drive home. Ted’s sister suggested we stop at the fast food drive in where the boys bought us a burger and onion rings. I had never had onion rings before, and I was hooked. I don’t remember the conversations but I do recall the knot I got in my stomach when Bonnie leaned over and asked me if I was going to kiss Brad goodnight. Suddenly, I felt sick! When we got to my house Brad got out of the car so I could get out and I hurried to the front door with him fast behind me. I said thank you for the nice time and tried to open the front door, but it was locked. I started to panic, I did not want to kiss this guy! So I started pounding on the door and I could see my mother peeking out the window, and she was laughing. I just stood there knocking and pulling on the door handle. Finally, my Dad came and unlocked the door and let me in. When I turned and looked out the door I saw the car pulling away. I was angry and humiliated by what my mother did, but because of her mental illness I new not to mention it.

A girl never forgets her first date, especially when they are as strange as this!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ My First State Fair

Sedalia FairThe year was 1968 and our family was living in Independence, Missouri having moved there from Arizona the year before. They were having the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, and we were going. I was so excited, I had never been to a state fair before and I had no idea what to expect. It was an 80-mile drive, so I sat enjoying the scenery and listening to my parents’ talk. After a couple of hours, we pulled into the parking lot, and I was astounded! There were people walking around with their farm animals on leashes, there was music in the air and you could see the large Ferris wheel located in the middle of the fairgrounds. As soon as the car stopped I jumped out of the car, ready for a long day of fun.

It is odd the way most of the day is a bit fuzzy for me. I remember watching the judging of the sheep and pigs. For a girl who was raised in the desert, this was fascinating. I had always thought that a sheepDog at fair was a sheep; I had no idea that there were so many varieties of breeds. I can still smell the smell of the livestock pens. I remember the man who walked around with a tiny Chihuahua who had a hat on, and he had a little pipe in his mouth. Of course, I have a picture of this to help with that memory! I played a few of the games trying to win a prize. I did win a purple stuffed poodle by throwing darts at balloons. I remember riding the Ferris wheel and the Hammer, screaming and laughing. I remember my sister, who because of her weight had to ride the Hammer by herself, and she got sick and vomited while in the air. How bad am I that after all these years I still find this extremely hilarious?

rsAfter my sister got cleaned up, it was time for lunch. We found a seat under a canopy as my Dad went to get us hamburgers. While we were eating, a cover band took the stage to the right of us, and they began singing “Jumping Jack Flash” from The Rolling Stones. The teenage kids around us got up and began to dance. My Dad was horrified. I wanted to dance but he said “NO!” So I sat in my seat and moved with the music and sang along as loudly as I could. I loved it.

I don’t remember much else about the day except after the fair we visited some relatives who lived in Sedalia and my Dad repeatedly proclaiming “How can they play that jungle music in public?” and “How can anyone call that music?” for the next few weeks.

Now every time I hear that song I am transported back to that sunny day in Central Missouri dancing in my seat and having a great time.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ Independence, Missouri ~ Bristol Elementary School 1968

mo_oak_grove mapMy family moved from the deserts of Arizona to Oak Grove Missouri in April of 1967. It was a small town east of Kansas City and I had relatives who lived there. Because we moved before I finished 6th grade I had to finish my grade here. The school was one long building that held all of the 1st through 12th grades. I had played clarinet since 3rd grade and I wanted desperately to continue here. They didn’t have a band for elementary school so I had to play in the High School Band. That was quite an adventure. Especially the end of the year concert in the park where they placed me in the middle of the front row and people were pointing at me and taking pictures because I looked like a midget compared to the rest of the band members! Things were definitely different here.

After school was out my parents bought a house in Independence, Missouri. I was soBristol excited to be starting Junior High because, after all, I was 12 years old now. Things were sure to be better in the bigger city. Imagine how crushed I was to discover that 7th grade was still held in the Elementary schools. Junior High was 8th and 9th grade. My old school was barely in the city limits and it was surrounded by desert. It was a single-story building that had 3 separate portable buildings for the 6th graders. Here in Independence, the school was huge! It was 3 stories high and the “playground” was almost all cement. There was a large gym on the bottom floor and that is where we got our exercise.

One thing I thought was odd was once a week a teacher would come to the class to teach Spanish. First, it was odd because there were no Hispanic children in the entire school of about 800+ children! I was raised in a neighborhood and attended a school that was 75% Hispanic. We never took Spanish classes there. Second, with the deep mid-west accent of the teacher, only a few words were pronounced correctly. There were many other things that I found different and one was they offered home economics for us. I had fun learning how to cook as my mother never taught me anything in the kitchen except to clean it.

1960s sewing machineDuring the 2nd half of the school year, I got to take a sewing class. I was so excited. Growing up my mother made about 60% of our clothes. I would watch her cut out the patterns, then cut the cloth and then sit at her machine and in the end there was a garment of some kind. My sister had no interest in learning to sew but I did. I asked several times if she would teach me but the answer was always no. My dad took me to the fabric store and we purchased some rose-colored material that would eventually be a pair of shorts. We picked out a corresponding zipper, buttons, thread, and the pattern and I couldn’t wait for class.

My best friend Kathy and I were in the same class so we teamed up to share the sewing machine. On the first day of class, we were told that all shorts had to be knee-length. Anything shorter would get you an automatic F. We were not happy because the new “style” was shorter shorts. It took about 4 weeks to finish the project. Not bad considering we only went to class 2 times per week and we had to share everything. When everyone was done we all marched downstairs to the girls’ bathroom and put on our shorts. They fit well even if they were longer than we wanted. After the teacher measured the length of each one we had to change back into our regular clothes.

In most schools in 1968, girls could not wear pants or shorts to school. Only dresses orme and bristol 2 skirts were allowed. We were told that for the last day of school we could wear our shorts as a reward for our hard work. Kathy and I went to her house and we “adjusted” the length of the legs. When we showed up to school everyone was staring at us. It was only a half-day but we still got called to the principals’ office. We were threatened with not being able to pass to 8th grade and having our parents come to pick us up but in the end, she just sent us back to class.

Several of us brought cameras and we ran around taking photos of our friends and getting our class picture signed. We had cake and punch around noon and then the class was dismissed. It turned out to be a great day.

Class photo 1968
I am 3rd from the left in the front row

I never really learned to sew well enough to make complicated items. I sewed maternity tops for me and baby nightgowns for each of my 3 children. I really do wish I had maybe tried harder to learn the skill. Then again maybe I wasn’t meant to be able to sew.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.