Christmas Memories

Some years ago, my sister gave me a box of photos from our childhood. As the keeper of the photos, she had access to them and I didn’t have many in my possession, so this was a very sentimental gift. They are mostly from Christmas, and so what a great time to share these memories with you. Our “new” house was built in 1972. We moved in just a month before my 4th birthday, so I was always able to quickly figure how long we’d lived there by subtracting 4 from my age.

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother would read to us from an original copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have it now and although it has seen its years, it is still in great condition. The story goes that Grammie Hennie went over to Montgomery Ward (a long defunct department store) and picked up a handful of copies. They gave them away for free as a promotional item. I assume she gave one each to her kids, but I have no idea if any remain…Steve? Carey? Anyway, as the book became more fragile, we were more careful with it, one year Kathy even carried it on a really fancy pink tufted pillow that she had. :-) Today we use a reprint.

Somewhere, packed among my photo things, I have all the Christmas cards that my parents sent out every year from the time Kathy was 1 or 2 until she was 21. They are a fantastic study of clothing through the seventies and eighties! I’ll try to find those and share them as well. Until then, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joy to all.

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Growing Up OC: Atlantis Play Center

I haven’t run a Growing Up OC article in quite a while, but have had some brewing in the back of my mind. Today my daughter’s summer day camp went to Atlantis Play Center, and since that was one of the places I loved as a kid, I was delighted to discover it is still around.

As a kid in the 70s, Atlantis Play Center seemed like a magical wonderland. It’s most memorable feature for me was the dragon slide. How could you not love that thing? It seemed like it went on for miles and miles, through bushes and under trees.

Danny the Dragon

Danny the Dragon

As I remember it, there were shrubs all along the sides of the slide and the “big kids” would run through and behind the bushes from the bottom back to the top. There were little “trails” from where the gardeners walked, raked and cleaned the falling leaves, and these always made me want to sneak around in the bushes. We would play games of hide and seek, or just hide and surprise our friends. When I was younger, I envied the big kids who would go play on those trails. When I became a big kid – maybe a whole year later? – I was so excited to do exactly that.

During construction

During construction

Here’s a great image of the dragon slide during construction of the park 51 years ago. That’s right, Atlantis Play Center is 51 years old! All I knew was that it seemed like we drove forever to get there (we didn’t) and that the park was gigantic (it wasn’t). However, it is no slouch in the space department, being placed on 4 acres in central Garden Grove, CA. We often went with the neighbor’s, Leslie & Karen, Robbie & Timmy, other kids I can’t remember. I do recall we once had a picnic next to the Viking Ship.

Land, ho!

Land, ho!

In this image, you can see in the background right the bushes that used to cover the dragon slide. This is the Atlantis of my childhood memory. These days, there are splash pads available for fun and play. The entrance fee is only $2 per person with kids under 2 free. I’m sure for kids today, as for kids of days gone by, it still inspires the imagination and generates hours of fun!

See the City of Garden Grove for more details on Atlantis Play Center, including directions & FAQs.

As a funny side note, when I was in high school I played basketball and our team played in a scrimmage up at Bolsa Grande High School, which is right across the street from Atlantis Play Center. I ended up catching a ride from this one girl who I idolized. She had a junker old car, and as we made the left turn from the school onto Westminster Blvd, she accidentally drove on top of the narrow center divider – driver’s side wheels on one side of it, passenger side wheels on the other! We laughed so hard we cried! After that, she talked to me at school and made me feel like she “saw” me, even though I was pretty much a basketball dork, lol. I’ll never forget that aspect of growing up OC either…great memories of fun times with old friends.

Dory Boats, revisited

A few years ago, I wrote about a local fish “market” called the Dory Boats, down in Newport Beach. It is one of the few remaining places where fresh caught fish is sold, usually off the bow of the boat after it has bee hauled up onto the beach. As a kid, I went with my family on a number of occasions to pick up fresh caught fish for dinner. It was always better tasting than anything bought in a store. One time we went with my grandparents, and as I titled my previous blog post “An Old Man Feels Like a Young Boy,” my Grandpa Jim was right down at the boats, helping to pull them up across the shore. I knew there was a photo of this event and I searched for many years, but at the time of the post I didn’t have it. I could picture him clearly in his red & blue plaid pants and blue shirt. At the time he would have been in his 70s.

Recently, I found the photo.

Dory Boats, Newport Beach, CA

Dory Boats, Newport Beach, CA

That little kid is me, bathing suit bottoms and a tee shirt. I have no idea who I was talking to, probably just some guy. Grandpa Jim is at the bow of the boat, to the right of that fellow in the jeans & white shirt. Those men hauled the boat up the beach by pulling it across rollers. When the boat cleared a roller, someone ran the roller around to the front.

You can read the original Growing Up OC here.

Halloween 1973

I don’t know how I came to have this photo of Auntie Kat (on the left) and me (on the right) from Halloween 1973. We don’t have a lot of photos from Halloween’s past that I am aware of. It just wasn’t something we made the time for, I guess. It’s surprising really, when you consider we have pictures of roasted turkeys and dinner tables going back into time out of mind, haha.

Here’s Melody at about the same age as me in the picture above, ready to tackle the neighborhood and collect her candy.


What, me worry?

This is a post i wrote as a guest blogger when the OC Register had their Mom Blog up and running a couple years ago. The Mom Blog has moved on, so I thought I would share this with you here. The feelings are still the same!


I’ve been a mom now for just over two years, and I was starting to feel a bit more confident in my abilities. Until last week that is, when my daughter slammed a door on her foot resulting in an injury that looked a lot more serious than it really was. But, I didn’t know it at that moment.

At that moment, all I wanted to do was hold her and cry with her and make her feel better and not let her know how scared for her I was. Then I got a grip on myself and told her everything was going to be just fine. I stayed strong through the ER visit and the follow up at the doctor’s office the next day, even though on the inside I was crying. I worried she would be traumatized by the whole experience.

Moms in the 21st century really have a lot of worries to consider. Not that I lay awake at night thinking about these things (yet), but I am concerned that one day due to my own ignorance, I will allow my daughter to go to school wearing gang insignia; the school will be shot up while she’s in class; or heaven forbid, she will carry some ibuprofen in her handbag. Will someone snatch her as she skips down the street to visit a friend? Will I be able to handle it if something really bad happens to her?

My parents worried, of course, but there’s a significant generation gap between the things I worry about and the things that kept my mother awake at night. I asked my Mom about her worries while we were growing up in Orange County during the 70s and 80s. She told me she worried about smoking, drinking, our friends leading us astray, teachers influencing us in a way that was not consistent with my parents’ values, a little about drugs, and a lot about education.

Yet, we were still allowed to walk to school, bike to our friends’ houses,  and be unsupervised all summer long. My grandparents had even less to worry about comparatively. My Gram worried about my mother crossing the major street that was the boundary of where she was allowed to go (and doled out a serious reprimand when it was discovered that she had), finances, education, religious upbringing, good food on the table, and taking care of their elders. A lot has changed in 70 short years.

But bridging the generation gaps are the little things that just don’t change. They are consistent from mother to mother, generation to generation. We count our babies’ fingers and toes the day they are born and see the future in their eyes. We beseech whatever higher power we believe in for their health and happiness. We hide our fears and tears as best we can in the effort to provide a stable home. We help them with their homework, and in making the tough decisions about which birthday party to attend and how to gently give their regrets to the friend whose party they won’t be attending. We take care of scraped elbows and knees and hearts, and with tears in our eyes we might send them off to college or the military to become the men and women we hoped for on the day we counted their fingers and toes for the first time. Parents, especially moms, will always worry, and my Mom assures me the worry doesn’t end when your children are 21 or 30 or 50, married or single, living right next door or across the globe.

Maybe in the future, I will jump up a little faster when my daughter is playing with a door, or I’ll find a better way to divert her tears as she cries after falling from her bike. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, but I will feel confident in knowing I’m not the first mom to face that dilemma, and that moms throughout history have felt the same.

The birthday tablecloth

At the conclusion of Melody’s birthday party recently, guests were shocked when I asked them if their child would like to write on the tablecloth. What? Parents are continually trying to keep table linens nice, don’t encourage kids to write on them! But, this is a tradition that started when I was a little girl. Each guest is asked to write a birthday note, creating a memory for the birthday girl that will last a lifetime.

My mother started this tradition for our family. I asked her recently where she got the idea, and back in the 60s there was no Pinterest, so it was either a magazine or word of mouth. My dad thought it was Sunset magazine. She made a pink tablecloth for my sister and a blue one for me. We kids sat at the dinner table for cake & ice cream and pencils would be passed around. During the year following, my mom would embroider over the various little notes, memorializing them for all time. Each year she used a different color, creating a bright and colorful mosaic of birthday wishes. Some names are repeated year after year, others show up only once or twice. After I learned to embroider (badly, I must add) I took over the task of doing the embroidery and I have birthday wishes from my first through sixteenth birthdays.

Of course the cynic in me pictures unfinished tablecloths in the linen closets of America, abandoned when mothers ran out of time or gumption and lacked daughters willing to take over the embroidery task. I can say that I am glad my mother taught me to embroider so that I could complete my tablecloth. I just wish I had taken to it better, but my fingers just couldn’t manage the precise stitches necessary for really good embroidery.

Being seriously all thumbs in the needlework department these days, I knew I wanted to make a birthday tablecloth for Melody, but wanted it to be something practical. We are SO lucky fabric markers were invented! The ink writes directly on the fabric with very little hassle and once washed & dried, it is there forever. I just need to remember to make a note on the end of the tablecloth as to what color was used which year.


The tablecloth is made from 2 yards of 60″ wide cotton I bought online. Looking back, I might have gotten a poly-cotton for better wrinkle resistance but I can’t go back and change it now. The center of the tablecloth features “Happy Birthday Melody” in iron on letters which I stitched into place so that when the adhesive eventually gives out the letters won’t fall off. I put in a 1/4″ hem, then turned it and hemmed it again. Since I added the ruffle after 5 years, I stitched the ruffle directly to the back of that hem, but if putting it on during the hemming would be easiest and less bulky.

2 yards 60″ wide cotton or poly-cotton, tablecloth weight, solid color

Applique letters to spell “Happy Birthday” and your child’s name

7 1/2 yards gathered eyelet ruffle (optional)

Wash and dry fabric & ruffle. Lay out the cloth right side up and place the letters in the center in any formation you desire. Iron in place, then stitch over them. Turn up 1/4″ hem and stitch. Lap ruffle over the hem and stitch in place. Finish raw edges of ruffle so they won’t fray. Fray-check is your friend. If you are not adding a ruffle, turn up a second 1/4″ hem and stitch in place.

Supply one single color of fabric marker each year. On the end of the tablecloth, write the year in that same color.

Click the pictures for larger images.

Growing Up OC – The OP Pro, My Cousin and a Cop

Over the last weekend here in Orange County the annual pro surfing competition took place in Huntington Beach. It’s a great big event now, covered by local news and newspapers, but the one and only time I went to the OP Pro, it was covered by the news for a very different reason.

Back in 1986, my cousin George was either living out here in California or planning on living out here. He had joined the Navy and was planning on flying F-14s out of Miramar in San Diego. For that glorious summer in 1986, he stayed with us in Fountain Valley. My sister and I adored George like the brother we never had. He was about 10 years older than me and so grown up!

So, Geo and I decided one weekend that we would go down to Huntington to see what there was to see. We didn’t know the OP Pro was happening, but we were a little interested in it once we got there. We parked below 1st Street and eventually walked up to 8th Street before heading back to the car. Geo wanted to walk around town – which we did – and do a little sightseeing. This was all before the big “Main Street renovation” project, so the little shops and bars were packed with people, everything felt really charming and authentic. (Unlike now)

On our walk up the street, we wandered through the beach area, watching some of the crowds at the OP Pro. I was still a young teen, about 16 at the time, so George probably didn’t want me to be exposed to the rowdy crowds. This was the era of shocking day glow bikinis, plus lots of surfers and skateboarders who had been drinking all day. We saw some guys harassing a girl, trying to provoke her to take her top off, and so we left.

We had walked all the way to 8th street and bought some sodas at the little liquor store on the corner when we decided it was time to turn around and go home. It was pretty hot that day, as Labor Day weekend can be. Well, as we headed back downtown, we saw the smoke. Thick, black smoke. George knew in an instant that it was more than a trash can fire and he was carefully protective of me. As we got closer though, we had to walk through the parking lot in order to get to our car. It had taken about 20 minutes to walk that far and the crowds were rioting by that point.

This is pretty much what we saw as we got closer. I thought Maxwell’s was on fire, but in fact it was police cars, the mobil command center for the police, and an ATV. Those guys we had seen harassing the girl to take off her top? Well, they had moved on to other girls, and they had found some takers, but of course it got out of hand when the girls wanted to put their tops back on. It was drunken and depraved, and I was scared.

By the time we were in the parking area on the other side of the pier, the cops were out in riot gear. We were carefully and calmly trying to move away from them, and somehow the crowd swelled in such a way that Geo and I were suddenly right in front of those cops. I can clearly remember the guys’ face – completely pumped on adrenaline I’m sure – it was full of as much intensity as the rioters probaby were. He was shouting at everyone to get back, and reached out and shoved George out of his way with enough force that he knocked over the 6′ 1″ muscled Navy airman former football player. George rolled over but his glasses flew off, and he had to scramble to find them again. I was terrified that the cops would start beating him and I didn’t know what to do if that happened.

Fortunately, George was able to recover and jog over to me. We basically ran out of that place and down to our car. Our hearts were racing with fear and adrenaline. We got in the car (the ever popular Ford LTD station wagon) and took off. Within a block, we were making up a song about it and laughing in that release of fear and adrenaline that can only come after a moment like that. And that was a wonderful thing about George – he was able to turn that frightening experience in such a way that I can remember the laughing and singing in the car better than I can remember the fear and danger.

Our brush with the OP Pro of ’86 was brief, but enough. I will never go back. I still like to watch surfing. On TV.

I remember while we were wading through that crowd, something else that was more serious than the riot, which at the time seemed ridiculous – we were in the middle of a riot after all! It was someone on top of the camera tower, shouting down that two planes had crashed into each other in Cerritos. George and I didn’t know what to think, but when we got home, our excursion seemed so minor in comparison.

Growing Up OC – My first concert

The year was 1981.

I was 13 years old.

My Girl Scout leader organized a field trip and I surely begged my parents to let me go. It was going to be my first concert. I was a devoted fan of this band for easily 25 years and I was known in my troop to verge on obsessed with them. Who could this band be? Popular bands in 1981 were Hall & Oats, Journey, The Go-Gos, The Tubes and Squeeze. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved all these bands, and The Tubes would have been a strong contender for my first concert, but alas, they weren’t THE band that held my fascination.

You’ve got to understand, until I heard of this band, I listened to the Beatles and Elvis. I was voluntarily cloistered in terms of popular music, and Billy Squier was downright shocking to me! But I was taken, not with Squeeze, not with Journey.

I loved Oingo Boingo.

It could have had something to do with the enormous crush I had on a boy who also liked Oingo Boingo, but this band really changed my concept of the boundaries of music. I saw them for the first time on Halloween night at Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood. Typical of an Oingo Boingo show on Halloween, people in the audience were dressed up in costume. One guy came as the Pope – and continued to do so for another 10 years or more – and another person was dressed as a big Tylenol capsule with a cyanide warning on the side. My friends and I wore Boy Scout shirts. I was in heaven. Many years later I went to their final Halloween show down at Irvine Meadow’s Amphitheater and my friend and I had procured back stage passes. How times had progressed for us!

What was your first concert?

Growing Up OC – Scouting

Being as I had an older sister, and my mother was a Brownie leader, I was a Girl Scout at the tender age of 4. Back in the days before Mini Scouts existed, I was considered the troop mascot. There were very few things I didn’t do with the older girls. Meetings were held in our house and for quite a long time the “fly up” ceremonies were held in our backyard. The troop n

umber was 1309 and I think we were in Service Unit 4.

If there is any question of the impression Girl Scouting can make on a child, that is evidence that it can last a lifetime! For me and my sister both, Girl Scouting lasted through the 12th grade. We both loved the camping, field trips, and meetings with our friends. For me, it was great because I went to a number of different schools, but the Girl Scouts were consistent. Once I entered Junior High and didn’t have to change schools until High School, it was different, but I stuck with it. Part of the reason I could is that my troop by that point – a Cadet troop – was in a different school district.

I had a bit of difficulty with my peers (who doesn’t?) and felt very awkward and unaccepted. Looking back I realize there is probably some truth and some insecure falsity to that. Anyway, I loved Girl Scouting in a different school district because those girls didn’t know that everyone picked on me! They accepted me for who I was, for better or worse. While I definitely had friends at school who also accepted me as I was (Diane B, I see you out there!), it somehow built up my sense of self to just relax and not pretend to be someone I wasn’t.

While working on the never-ending garage cleaning project – which by the way I can confidently say will end by 2013 – I found my old badge sash with 25-30 year old insignia and a packet of other badges that never were sewn onto it. My friend Donna is going to try to get me the missing pieces of my insignia, and then, I think I want to put this together somehow that I can display it, along with the patches from my old patch jacket. I’m quite proud of my accomplishments as a Girl Scout, and proud of the fact that Girl Scouts helped me become the woman I am today. I will probably be a Girl Scout leader if Melody wants to be a Scout. I will happily take her camping and teach her how to make s’mores and sing songs like I’m A Little Piece Of Tin.

As an aside, I always admired the Senior girls who came to the local Sing-A-Long and actually knew ALL the words to the various Girl Scout songs. Wow, to have that memory, I thought! Now I’m the one who will be teaching them, I’m sure. I can still remember all the words to My Name is Ricardo and Fried Ham, Fried Ham. Should I forget, I can call on my sister, mother, friend Sarah, or of course, the Internet.

My sister earned First Class (the equivalent to an Eagle Scout) the last year they were offered, and after that the project was split into two separate awards – Gold Award and Silver Award. I felt a little discouraged and decided not to pursue it. Double the work for a less special award. It sounded so impressive to say “she’s First Class” but not so much “I’m Silver Award.” 

I will have more Girl Scouting memories to share in the future – it was 12 years after all!

Growing up OC – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Christmas is definitely the time for memories!

Back in 1939, my Grammie Hennie was just a relatively new mom with three small kids. She went down to Montgomery Wards one day, and they were giving away copies of their new Christmas story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Being who she was, she surely took a few copies, because our family motto of “if one is good, two is better” had to start somewhere. She might have read this new story to her own three kids.

Years later, she gave a copy of this story to my parents. Being fond of tradition, it became a ritual that every year my mom would read us the story of Rudolph before bed on Christmas Eve. I can not remember now if the hanging of stockings came before or after the reading. As the years wore on, the little book became more and more fragile. I can recall one year my sister carrying the book on a fancy pillow, partly in mock ceremony and partly in reverence, I’m sure.

My mother worked for a large company with numerous resources available to her, and she made a good quality photo copy of the book. Granted, it was black & white. Color copies were not around until 1990. We were each given a photo copy to color and I remember it being tedious work, because of course, I was a perfectionist and I wanted it to look as close to the original as possible.

Now the book has found its way to my home, and though I won’t be using the original, I plan to read the real story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Melody on Christmas Eve. I made high quality scans of the book, and I will have to put it away in archival quality storage. The old paper is terribly yellowed, brown in some respects, and the pictures of facing pages have created ghost-images of themselves on their opposite page from the high acid in the inks used way back when.

Since it will be a long time before this book finds a new family home, I took the liberty of sending a copy on to the Hall family, our closest friends. Burke and Cassidy are just the right age to begin enjoying the story of Rudolph, and I hope they find a tradition in there for their family too.

Happy 70th birthday, Rudolph. You are still bringing Christmas joy to every girl and boy!