All She Wants for Christmas

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story just for this Christmas season, All She Wants for Christmas. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘blade.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Ruth Ann Spoke’s life in Glendora, California in 1941. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

1941_2.jpg

All She Wants for Christmas

Glendora, California

December 1941

“Pardon me, boy, is that the….” Frances sang loudly and more than a little off-key.

“Jeepers creepers! Can you stop singing that song already?” Ruth Ann threw her hands over her ears as if to drown out any further stanzas.

Frances tucked an errant rolled curl back in place before she plopped back on the divan and glared at her best friend. “You know I love that song. Chattanooga Choo Choo is the best song ever.”

“So now I suppose your heart is all aflutter over Glen Miller?”

1941_4“Of course not, you silly goose. You know I only have eyes for Bing Crosby. He’s been the love of my life since Road to Singapore came out. He was just so dreamy, I could watch him all day long. I think I’ve seen that movie six or seven times since it came out.”

Ruth Ann rolled her eyes and sighed. She shook her head as she leaned over and cut a slice of cheese from the cheddar log sitting on a wooden cutting board. “You big goof ball. He doesn’t even know you’re alive. And of course you’ve seen it that often. Working at The Beacon Theatre. Must be nice. But…speaking of that…the love of your life…are you coming over tomorrow night to listen to ‘Kraft Music Hall’ with me?”

“Yeeeees. You know I wouldn’t miss it. Two hours to listen to that voice? I’ll be here.”

Tossing the current issue of Modern Screen on the coffee table, Ruth Ann shook her head and glared at her friend. She picked up the cheese knife and used the blade to stir the remnants of hot chocolate in her tea cup before she drained the last of it and sat the empty cup back on a delicate coaster with tatted edges. “But you did miss it. For months you didn’t come listen to the program with me. You acted like I had leprosy or something like that.”

“Yes I missed a lot of shows. You were all hot and heavy with Walter right then. He was calling on you every night before he enlisted. Even on the nights when Kraft Music Hall was on. I didn’t want to be a third wheel and sit around watching you two mooning over each other.”

Ruth Ann’s eyes filled with tears. She cupped her hands around her chin and dropped her head into her palms. “And now he’s not here. He’s stationed down on that base clear down in San Diego and I can’t see him. I’m hoping he gets to come home on leave soon. But most of all, I really hope that the war is over soon and our Country can stay out of it.”

“President Roosevelt is trying. He’s working on a peace treaty and trying to do what he can from his elected office to come to a peaceful resolution.”

“That’s all I want for Christmas this year. I want the war in Europe to be over. I want Walter to be safe and finish his tour of duty. And when he comes home…I want to be Mrs. Walter Cooper.”

“That’s all? That’s an awful lot to fill a tiny stocking.”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Advertisements

Amana Rag Balls – The End

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘crazy.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls

Fraulein swatted at the air in front of Elsie’s face. “Nonsense. You want to learn to weave. You will. Just be patient. We learn one step at a time. Just like life. Now…see what I’m doing here with these threads?”

Bridgett called out from where she sat, throwing her shuttle back and forth while her feet raised and lowered the harnesses. “If Fraulein can teach me, she can teach anyone. Don’t despair little Elsie.”

Elsie bit the inside of her cheek and focused her attention back on her tutor. If I fail here, I’ll be sent to the kitchens for sure. I must buckle down and learn. I will.

Gradually, day by day, Elsie began picking up the repetitive motions. The process began making sense. A few weeks later when she was setting up the loom with very little coaching from her friends, she yelled out in jubilation. “I did it! It’s not crazy after all. I did learn how to do it!”

With time, she became more proficient, her skills surpassing those of her Bridgett and Karin. She came close to matching Fraulein’s weaving, but never quite matched the elder weaver’s mastery. It didn’t matter. The satisfaction she received from producing fine quality goods was enough.

Many years passed and during the ensuing years Elsie created thousands of rag rugs, each one more precise than the one before. When the community voted to disband its communal society in 1932, Elsie remained living in Amana, in a house overflowing with her woven creations and indigo rag balls.

**************

The history of the seven Amana Colonies and their origins in Germany, to Buffalo, to Iowa is true. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, hundreds of thousands of visitors a year visit this Iowa area where the community thrived from 1855 to 1932.

Was there an Elsie, a Herr Klein, or a Fraeulein Helga? Maybe not specifically by those names nor in those roles. However, fourteen year old girls were assigned work in the gardens, the laundry or the kitchens. Most 14 year old boys were designated work on the farm, in the craft shops, or were sent to college to be trained as teachers, doctors and dentists.

The Amana Calico Mill was built in 1861. It grew from one building to eight buildings at its height of production in the 1890’s. At its peak, the mill produced up to 4500 yards per day. The British naval blockade during World War I interrupted the import of the German dyes used in the calico production. Not able to maintain the quality of the product they wanted, the community closed the factory. Today two buildings remain, the fire and printing houses, which are used by the Amana Furniture Shop.

Originally, fabric was purchased from the south and shipped to the Print Works, where it was then dyed and processed into “blue print”. Yardage was sold locally and further out by salesman traveling the countryside with sample books. Some calico was cut into strips, wrapped into rag balls and used to make rag rugs. These balls were found in an attic in Amana. From there they ended up in an antique shop in Bedford, where I discovered them. I brought three of them back to Texas with me, as an Iowa treasure and remembrance of a special trip.

Who cut them into strips? Whose hands touched these, as they worked with the cottons and rag rugs? How did they get stashed in an attic to sit for eighty to a hundred years? These answers we’ll never know. The people have long passed on before us, taking the mysteries of their lives with them. We can see and hold the rag balls they once touched, and only imagine a fictional story of the women or people behind these pieces of the past.

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Amana Rag Balls #14

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘tragic.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

weaving-mill-3778834__340

Elsie scooted out the door as dawn’s first light barely broke across the Iowa terrain. She scooted along the dusty road at double speed, anxious for her first day working on a loom. As she passed Herr Baker’s farm, she didn’t even flinch as his early morning potshot echoed from his back acreage. She didn’t even wonder what game he was aiming at. Her weaving lesson was forefront in her mind and she had scant attention for the rest of the world around her.

Her hurrying seemed for naught when she approached the weaving hut and darkness in all the windows greeted her. She tried the door and frowned when she discovered it locked. Shifting from foot to foot, she awaited the others. When Fraulein appeared at the end of the walk, Elsie resisted the urge to run up and embrace her boss in a huge hug.

Fraulein’s smug grin seemed to acknowledge that she knew how excited her young trainee was. “Guten Morgen, Elsie.” She unlocked the door and motioned for Elsie to enter.

By the time Bridgett and Karin arrived, teacher and student were already deep in the midst of Elsie’s first lesson in learning to warp a loom. After Elsie uttered several frustrated groans when she missed a heddle and would have to back up. “Argh! Heddles, reeds, shafts, castle…I’ll never remember all these names,” she wailed.

“Patience, little one. It will come. Why, look at Bridgett and Karin. Do they even have to think about what they’re doing?”

“No. At least it doesn’t look like they do.”

“Do you have to think about how to dress in the morning?”

“No. But what does that have to do with weaving?” Elsie’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“That’s how weaving will be for you soon. It will be like dressing in the morning. You’ll just do it and not even think about what you’re doing. Yes, it will take some time before you reach that level of skill. But you will get there. I have no doubt.”

Elsie eyed the intimidating loom in front of her. “I don’t know….”

“Come, child. Finish this section and tie it off in an overhand knot. Then we’ll start tying off to the apron rod.”

“Maybe I’m not ready for this. Maybe I should go back to making rag balls.”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Amana Rag Balls #13

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘tragic.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

loom-2901943_960_720 pixabay.jpg

Karin laughed and threw a grin in Bridgett’s direction. “Sister, you’d better watch out. You have some competition for master weaver.”

The smile on Bridgett’s face was reflected in her eyes. “I’m not worried. There’s room for both of us on an eight harness.” Her feet kept the harnesses lifting and dropping without losing a beat and the shuttle flew from her fingertips back and forth without any hesitation.

Elsie watched Bridgett’s flying shuttle, her eyes glowing with fascination. “You make it look so easy. I don’t think I’ll ever be that good.”

Bridgett’s hands stayed in motion as she replied, never losing a beat to her rhythm. “It’s all in the touch. You’ll get there. One day. Probably not by Thanksgiving though. Its baby steps. Learning one step at a time.”

A shadow fell across the girls as Fraulein appeared and stood quietly next to the loom. Elsie glanced up, saw the stern look on Fraeulein’s face, and dropped her head as if waiting for the reprimand.

Fraulein’s soft spoken words were a contradiction to her countenance. “So…our little apprentice is getting the itch? You’d like to try your hand at weaving?”

“Ja…I mean…yes…I would…” Elsie stammered, not yet sure where she stood in Fraulein’s regard.

The ruler of the small weaving hut tipped her head and squinted her eyes as she gazed furiously at Elsie as if trying to see through her. “You’ve finished wrapping the warp for Karin’s next project?”

“Yes, ma’am. Right here.” Elsie held up the cotton loops, neatly tied at the crossed sections as she’d been taught.

“You have a full basket of rag balls?”

“Yes, ma’am. Three of them. Almost overflowing. There’s naught room to add any more.”

Fraulein turned and glanced at the clock ticking away on the mantle. “All right. There should be time to warp one more board. Get that done before you leave tonight and set it and a basket of rag balls by that empty loom over there.” She nodded in the direction of a large two harness barn loom in the corner. “Tomorrow we’ll start on your next lesson and we’ll get you to weaving.”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Amana Rag Balls #12

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘tragic.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

weaving

Feeling buoyed by a pleasant lunch with her personable new friends, and a leisurely stroll back to work past the apple orchard, Elsie felt refreshed and ready to tackle her new assignment with vigor. The indigo strips seems to respond to her new enthusiasm and began cooperating. Elsie felt like her hands were getting the hang of the wrapping and twisting and didn’t have to chase any more errant rag balls across the room. At least for the afternoon. She soon learned that an occasional runaway was part of the weaving experience and regarded it as just a minor blip and not a personal affront.

The days turned into weeks and soon the fruit was gone from the orchards. Elsie was an adept pupil and learned each new task and Fraulein didn’t have to repeat many of her instructions. Of course, with Bridgett and Karin on adjoining looms, there was always someone to ask if anything was unclear.

One morning Elsie was hard at work on her newest task, wrapping linen around a warping board so Bridgett could set up a loom for a new series of rag rugs. “I’m so glad the Elders assigned me to come here instead of a kitchen – or even the calico mill like I wanted to work at.”

Bridgett stopped humming the hymn she usually sang while sitting at the loom. “I’m so glad you didn’t get assigned to the calico mill. I’m happy they aren’t done with the new weaving building that is supposed to open next year. Then they’d need a lot of workers there and Karin and I wouldn’t have met you.”

Fraulein Helga piped up from where she sat in the corner, where she was tying the ends of a completed rug. “You girls ought to be especially glad you don’t work at the woolen mills. Too dangerous there. I was working at the woolen mill in Middle Amana the year of the first fire. 1874. It was tragic.”

“That was two years before I was born, but I still remember people talking about it, even years later,” Elsie said.

“It burned twice. Then, and again in 1881. That’s why I’m so happy to be in charge of this small little weaving hut here.”

“Was anyone hurt? Why’d the mill catch on fire? It won’t happen here, will it?” Elsie glanced around their small workroom in a mild panic.

“No one was hurt. No one knows exactly what caused the fire. They said either spontaneous combustion or a worker was smoking and was careless. Although, a few years earlier the Board of Trustees had banned burning kerosene in the factory, and also banned smoking in any of the craft shops, saw mills, or barns.”

Karin looked towards the newest apprentice in the group. “You don’t want to stop weaving now, do you Elsie?”

“Not a chance!” Elsie quickly tied off the warping board with a flourish like she’d been performing this chore for years. “No with so much to learn. I need to learn to warp the loom still. And then learn to weave. And tie off the rugs. And then…I want to graduate to the eight harness loom like Bridgett.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Amana Rag Balls #11

New TT bannerStep inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt of our choice. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

TT_102218

After getting over the shock of discovering that her two new friends, completely different in physical characteristic, were indeed birth twins, Elsie dug back into her plate. Despite the tasty goodies her mother had sent with her to abate any early hunger pangs, the added strain of learning a new skill and meeting new people fueled Elsie’s appetite.

When the girls finished their noon day meal, Karin looked at the clock ticking away on the wall. “There’s still a little time left. Let’s go back the long way.”

“The long way?” Elsie was perplexed.

Bridgett clapped her hands with glee. “Yes! It’s my favorite path back to the weaving house. A little longer, but well worth the extra steps. We pass by the edge of Herr Kaufman’s apple orchard. Sometimes there’s fallen apples at the side of the road that are in perfect condition.”

As the girls reached the edge of the orchard, Elsie paused and inhaled deeply. “I love how the ripe apples smell this time of year!”

Bridgett and Karin didn’t seem to pay any attention to her words. They were busy scouring the side of the road in search of scarlet treasures.

Elsie stood admiring the view, her eyes taking in the scene with a different mindset than ever before. When Bridgett and Karin returned to her side, hands full of plump edibles, Elsie threw out her arm and brushed it through the air. “Wouldn’t these colors make the most glorious rug?”

Karin’s chest jiggled with her laughter. “Look at her. One day as a future weaver and she’s already seeing designs in nature.”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

Going from ‘The Big Idea’ to a Manageable Project

Vintage Daze (2)

Going from ‘The Big Idea’ to a Manageable Project

When we think of writing the entire family story, it can be a daunting thought. Thinking of the years to cover, the many lives that are interwoven into our family fabric, and how much we need to research and discover, let alone write, can halt our progress before we even get started.

But our family tales don’t need to be that extensive. Granted, there are some sagas out there that cover three generations. But I’d hate to venture a guess into how many years went into the research and writing. It’s better to break the mammoth task that may never get done down into manageable pieces that have a better chance at seeing completion.

The Family History Writing Studio talks about carving up a pumpkin idea (i.e. her mother’s life) and finding the seeds (the smaller specific stories in her life.)

That’s what happened when I started writing Fat and Sassy a few years ago. Grandma Jones died a month shy of her 86th birthday. That’s eight and a half decades of life to cover – much of which I didn’t know a lot of background. Much of the background stories that I had, from conversations with my mom, related stories and details of my mom’s years growing up in Glendora.

gma_gpa1Grandma Jones’ life of 85 years was the ‘pumpkin’ – the big idea. The stories that I had of the dresses she sewed for the girls, her cooking on a cast iron stove, her going to the spring in Arkansas and carrying buckets of water to do the weekly wash – those were the ‘seeds.’

It becomes much easier when we gather piles of small seeds, move them around to create a cohesive timeline, and then write the larger tale from these small stories.

Using Grandma Jones for an example, she would be the ancestor I want to write about.

Looking at Grandma’s life, I could break it up into smaller subtopics, such as:

The Arkansas girl before marriage
Starting a family and traveling the country in search of work
The early War years and settling in Glendora
Retiring to Missouri
Life after Grandpa’s death

Stories would fit into each of the subtopic areas, such as:

Meeting Grandpa when he came to Arkansas to get moonshine from her dad, Papa
Moving back to Arkansas after Pearl Harbor, to get away from the California coastline
Sending Mae downtown to buy 3-cent stamps, pushing younger brother Alvin in the stroller
Sewing dresses for the girls out of parachute fabric that Mae’s teacher, Mrs. Ogg, gave to the family.

 

You give it a try. Choose an ancestor that you want to write about. Use the following as a worksheet to create your own beginning outline.

I want to write about ____________________________________________________.

Their life segments that could be the subtopic areas, along with stories for each phase are:

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES ABOUT THIS PHASE OF THEIR LIFE:
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________