We Got Tools For Christmas!

If you’ve seen one Santa, you’ve seen a mall.

Dang… It’s that pesky trip to the doctor again hoping for good news but alas, not so much.  We did the x-ray early this week and Sue had another 1 cm kidney stone in the other kidney.  This time we are blasting it with sound, lithotripsy.  All should we fine but we need to discover why this is happening!

Did You Know? Kidney stone disease, also known as urolithiasis, is when a solid piece of material (kidney stone) occurs in the urinary tract.  Kidney stones typically form in the kidney and leave the body in the urine stream.  A small stone may pass without causing symptoms.  If a stone grows to more than 5 millimeters (0.2 in) it can cause blockage of the ureter resulting in severe pain in the lower back or abdomen.  A stone may also result in blood in the urine, vomiting, or painful urination.  About half of people will have another stone within ten years.

So, we are already at 1 cm which is 100 millimeters so something has to be done now!  We are going back to the hospital next Thursday to get it taken care of…damn!

We decided to go home and eat left-overs.  Sue concocted up a great lunch for herself and I decided ham, bacon, and eggs was needed to tide me through the day!  I actually fired up the griddle on our stove which we have not used in a while. Worked pretty well.

We did some chores, I finished up the Huntington Library Adventure on the website and then we watched a Christmas moved called “Sign, Sealed, Delivered: Christmas”.

Great series… We love to watch the interaction!

With a duty to deliver every last letter before Christmas, the beloved quartet of post office detectives—Oliver (Eric Mabius), Shane (Kristin Booth), Rita (Crystal Lowe) and Norman (Geoff Gustafson)—are working around the clock to redirect Santa’s mail just as Oliver runs into his former Sunday school teacher (Marion Ross). When they receive an emotional last-minute plea not meant for Saint Nick, but instead written to God, they must delay their own travel plans to make sure one little girl doesn’t lose her Christmas joy—something Oliver and Shane are also struggling to find as they each face painful holiday memories. With a little guidance from a mysterious post office volunteer, Jordan (Rob Estes), the Postables are more surprised than anyone to discover they’ve been a part of more than one miracle on this Christmas Eve.

Christmas Memory #14 – Tools From Dad

Dad we quite a gifted mechanic, carpenter, plumber, electrician, and any other professions yhou could image.  I watched hime and learned all my life and it came upon Christmas one year and Dad said “It’s time for you to have your own tools”.  I did not know what to expect but Christmas morning, there was 50 small presents under the tree beginning with a small tool box that I still have to this day.  Over the past 65 year, many of the tools were lost but I still have a brace and bit, several chisels, a hammer, some glass cutters, and screw drivers/ pliers!

When Dad had a project, I would proudly bring my tools to the party.  I was too young to have a Skill Saw yet but I could match dad tool for tool everyplace else.

I assisted in building our patio and in fact was sent up on the roof to pound in the special nails that held the plexiglass onto the wooden structure…why, becuase I was still a light weight (that would never happen today).

The next year I got an electric drill…which I still have to this day…it was a Skill drill as I recall.

Dad taught me a lot with those tools over the next many years and I passed that along to my son Joe.

We then headed for Garden Grove Elks arriving there about 6:30 PM and meeting up with the Zaitz and Finch’s.  We dined, talked, and danced until 9:30 PM when we headed home…big day tomorrow.

At a holiday masquerade ball, fledgling event planner Angie Wells and wealthy playboy Nicholas Karmichael, who needs to marry to retain his inheritance, meet and fall for each other anonymously. While Nicholas tries to locate the girl of his dreams, Angie must choose between pursuing her lifelong dream of running a business or following her heart.

We finally crashed about midnight after having our tookies.  TOmorrow more Christmas traditions get underway with our family…love the family activities. 

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A Christmas Also Alone…Almost!

Did you hear about the dyslexic Satanist? He sold his soul to Santa.

We rested up last night knowing full well we were going to be walking a lot today and indeed, we did.  Off to Huntington Gardens for a walk in the gardens and a spot of tea…make that two spots!  But first, a Christmas memory.

Christmas MEmory #13 – Alone & Not Alone At Christmas

Like many before me, I was divorced after many years of marriage . I lived alone for a year in an apartment in Downey adjacent to Rockwell. Sue and I began to talk soon thereafter and in was 1987 when we first got together in a serious sense…although I knew her from 1974 from the Avionics Development Laboratory in Downey.

She and her mother invited me to Christmas Eve at Sue’s home Christmas dinner at Rita’s home the next day. I will always cherish those moments. The three of us watched movies, drank hot chocolate plus perhaps someting a little harder!!! Going back to the apartment Christmas Eve was pretty hard but I had the next day to look forword too.

I was pretty lonely missing the kids but Sue and Rita made up for it in being kind, understanding, generous, and loving. (I am happy to report nothing has changed in 30+ years!!).

This year, my Mother joied in on the celebration making it even better. My mother really really liked Sue and her mother so being together was not like beoing on pins and needles the while time.

That’s when I started to learn how to bake as Rita barked the order “Get your apron on young man…if you are eating here, you are cooking here”. For several years thereafter, Rita and I would bake bread and other delights. One dish comes to mind and that was “Mushroom Pie”…it was fantastic! Rita taught me how to make many things and sometimes I would tear out a picture of something that looked good and say to he “Let’s make this”.

Mom and Rita really hit it off…amazingly so as Rita was a college graduate from New York and my mom was an 11th grade dropout from Oklahoma. You might think this would be a receipt for disaster but it was a receipt for love instead!

One time we did a steak tasting evening. Sue could not partake of it but I bought six different steak and we cooked them and ate them…by the end of the evening we had absolutely no idea which on weas what…we laughed about that for years!

That Christmas we discovered the Candlelight Dinner Theater in Claremont and have been going ever since. We did the English Pub Restuarant at the beach and even did Sir Winston’s on the Queen Mary.

It was very memorable and I thank by bride of 30+ years and her Mom, who has departed this Earth, for the helping hand in a time of sadness.

Today we headed north to Huntington Library for tea and a walk in the gardens! The Rose Team Room is quite nice featuring many little foods and a wide selection of teas. It was wonderful. Please join us!

About to have tea!…We walked around the rose garden!

In the tea room we laughed and giggled the whole time.  Sharing each other’s tea, we got to taste spicy Aztec to pumpkin!  Of course the teasing evolved around the foods.

Then, we were off for a couple of hours walk through the gardens.  We began in the cactus gardens and wondered through the New Zealand/Australian forests and then up to the Japanese and Chinese gardens, The weather was terrific and the colors spectacular. Take a gander at this tree:

We are walking serious gold here!

It was approaching 4:00 PM and the Sun sets at 4:40 PM today so we high-tailed it back to the entrance so we could get on the freeway at 5:00 PM!

Great fun with friends! We are amazed at how much we can laugh in a period of a few hours and just enjoy learning more and more about people!

As they say in the UJ “Smashing!!”

While going home we decided we needed a drink at Old Ranch and they happened to have carolers but Brian and I were pain a pretty-penny NOT to join them…so we sat still and were good except for the fact we discovered we both loved the old Science Fiction movies!

Meet our good friend, Robby the Robot!

He was a good guy!

After arriving home, we watched TV for a while and then crashed as we have an early doctos appointment in the morning.  We watched some NCIS-LA and then it was lights out.

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Wheels Nuts And Other Such Things!

Christmas is a holiday that we celebrate not as individuals nor as a nation, but as a human family. – Ronald Reagan

Up and at em… We are off for a 9:00 AM appointment to see the vascular surgeon.  We gave him the CT Scan disc and he returned after seriously stroking his beard with the pronouncement that he recommended doing nothing!  The left side is totally blocked but the right side is doing well and does not need to be looked at for another year but he wants to keep an eye on it.  We were relieved!

Just like the Apollo and Space Shuttle…We have redundancy!

When one of the arteries leading into the Circle of Willis gets blocked, the other arteries usually enlarge over time to carry more blood flow. … So, while it is true that once a carotid artery is 100% blocked, surgery is almost never recommended, but it doesn’t mean that all is hopeless.  

The arrangement of the brain’s arteries into the circle of Willis creates redundancy (analogous to engineered redundancy) for collateral circulation in the cerebral circulation.

If one part of the circle becomes blocked or narrowed (stenosed) or one of the arteries supplying the circle is blocked or narrowed, blood flow from the other blood vessels can often preserve the cerebral perfusion well enough to avoid the symptoms of ischemia.

We popped home for a few minutes and then headed for the Old Ship Restaurant to celebrate Jan’s birthday!  She is officially older than me for the next four days and then we are equal again!  We sat around the table dining of an English breakfast and Sue found some great veggie samosas.

I asked the waited to make sure Jan got a candle…just one…NOT one for each year… we did not want to burn the place down!

The had to put whipped cream and a candle in her beer!

After dessert and some more conversations, we headed for the door and on our way home.  Sue and I were both full! The breakfast was scrumptious and Sue said the veggie selections were nummy!

Just us! Thank you Brian

Bob Zaitz joined us as he lives right around the corner from the restaurant.  We had a great time laughing and giggling and solving the problems of the world! Now we have to face reality…such a horrible word!

But first, A Christmas Memory!

Christmas Memory #12 – Nuts And Wheels!

So, Colleen and her husband Pete stayed with us on and off for years based upon Pete being deployed by the US Marines.  One Christmas time they were staying with us and it got to be late at night Christmas Eve (translation: time for the parents and grandparents to put together the toys).

Since we were not out, Pete had his Jack and Coke while I emptied a bottle of eggnog assisting Peter i emptying the Jack Daniels!

Pete was overly mechanical so I insisted he read the instructions.  Well, this tricycle, for Jon, required the axel caps to be pounded on (no screws or nuts, simply friction).

OK, all is well…hammer in hand Pete pounds the caps onto the axel and all seems well.  Pete takes a whirl around the house on the trike (wished I had a picture of that but the image is burnt into mu mind and it will live in my mind forever).

In the morning, Jon is so excited…he raced into our room and yelled “Grandma, Grandpa…Santa was here!”.  We jumped out of bed and watched Jon galloped for the tricycle. Pete and Colleen were right behind us!

With the world biggest smile, he mounts the trusty steed and takes off.  Around and around he goes, tooting the horn and ringing the bell.  The colorful plastic strips from the handlebars stand at 90 degrees. Within 30 seconds, we hear a crash!  Expecting to see he and the trike head of heals after hitting furniture….or the wall!

Nope!  Didn’t happen!  There is Jon, sprawled out on the floor and the trike, with only two wheel attached, is laying beside him.  The other wheel apparently flew off and rolled clear across the living room crashing into the fireplace. Splat!!

Pete had a sheepish grin on his face!

We knew he was not hurt but we laughed until we hurt and for years thereafter we teased Corporal Charter about his mechanical skills!

It’s movie time and tonight we started with “A Puppy For Christmas”.

After adopting a cute puppy, Noelle’s world is turned upside down when her boyfriend breaks up with her.

We thought the boyfriend was a loser and he was!

After accepting an invitation to spend the holidays with a co-worker, she is surrounded by the Christmas cheer of a happy family and soon sparks begin to fly. We likes sparks! It was true loved in the snow. The old boys friends really lost out!

The puppy was CUTE reminding us of our first baby, Valentine!

We watched another Christmas Story before going to our regular series.

It’s Christmas and once again, Dale Landis places a tree on his roof and ends up in court. No one in the small town knows why he continues the practice, but idealistic attorney, Sarah Wright is determined to give Mr. Landis his Christmas wish and keep him out of jail. Judge Conner has different ideas when he puts Sarah and and aggressive prosecutor John Keaton together to figure out the mystery behind the rooftop Christmas tree. The two must come together to find a solution and in the end find out more not only about Mr. Landis, but about each other.


We had our tookies and then decided to watch ‘Bull” which was interesting.  Tomorrow is going to be a long day so we decided to pull up the rug at 11:25 PM this evening.

We really enjoye dthe movie. 

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From The Smallest Kitchen Came The Greatest Meals

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”  ? Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today we are off like a rocket…Sue goes to the barber promptly at 10:00 am and then we needed to get an x-ray so clever me, I called to get an appointment.  Just enough time to cut the har, dine at Gourmet Pies, and dash to Total Care. 

Lunch was amazing…Sue devoured an entire sandwich!  I had a large burrito and we both asked for “to-go boxes”…we didn’t fill them…instead we filled us! Lookit this puppy!

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!

Speaking of cute…. the sandwich-chomper is really enjoying the meal.  She finished the whole thing!

The restaurant is also a bakery and the bread looked wonderful!

After lunch, we headed for Total Care and got the x-ray the doc wanted…he is looking for the formation of kidney stones.  We had a CD we will bring him on Friday.

After lunch, we both took a nap and it felt really good.  When I woke up, I ran tot he store, got gas, and passed by the cleaners.  Fall is in all it’s glory.  I stopped on our street and took the following picture. Who needs to east coast to see fall foliage?

Christmas Memories #11 – Little Kitchen – Large Meals

We were not wealthy growing up with Mom being from Oklahoma having finished the 11th grade and Dad from Arkansas hacing finished the 6th grade, their careers were somewhat limited.  Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked hard in the dime store.

Our extended family was the same…my uncles were glaziers, mechanics, and coal miners…my aunts were seamstresses, secretaries, and dental assistants.

At Christmas for Christmas Day we would drive to PAramount California and all the ladies would go into the small houses (my two aunts lived next door to each other and their houses were about 600 square feet each) and work in the kitchen.  I have no idea how they did it as the kitchens were about the size of our master bathroom today!

They would sing, talk, yack, and carry on while creating the most beautiful and great tasting dishes ever made.   Magnificent turkey and ham and prime rib, incredible ambrosia salads, awesome home made cranberry sauces, baked potatoes, and much more.

We would eat all over the tiny houses as one room would never handle the family.  Saying grave was an honor bestowed upon the oldest of the family and that fell to “uncle” Otis and Aunt Alma.  BTW, they were boyfriend and girlfriend back in Arkansas in the 1920’s but married other people in the late 1920’s and became close friends again ion the 1950’s!

Dessert was also astounding as those women could make cakes and pies to die for…born natural bakers!

Left to right: Cousin Kat, Aunt Edith, Uncle Claude, Aunt Opal, Georgia (Mom), Paul (Dad), and Uncle Jim
They are all gone now…This was in 1950 standing in front of the little house in Paramount! 

After getting back from the stores, we watched TV…three Christmas movies to be exact!

Cancel Christmas” gave Santa a challenge.  Santa Claus discovers children have become too greedy and must prove otherwise before his favorite holiday is canceled. Santa’s mission is to teach two incorrigible children the importance of charity.

Angels and Ornaments” Three suitors pursue a hopeless romantic after she makes a wish to find true love before Christmas. Although she is still upset from a recent breakup, Corrine (Gilsig) happily prepares for her favorite holiday: Christmas! A gifted musician, Corrine auditions for a solo in a community Christmas concert and plays Christmas carols on the piano to patrons of the music store where she works with childhood friend Dave (Abbey). Her holiday season gets an unexpected dose of romance, when Harold (Di Zio), a mysterious new coworker, tries to form a love connection between Corrine and Dave. With Harold’s help, Corrine begins to view Dave in a new light, though she questions Harold’s intense interest in her love life. Unbeknownst to Corrine, Harold is on a Christmas Eve deadline from a higher power to fulfill this holiday fairytale! As the clock ticks down to Harold’s fairytale mission deadline, Corrine must decide if she will open up to Christmas love.

Baby’s First Christmas” was cute! When a pair of feuding colleagues, Kyle and Jenna are thrown together after their siblings, Jim and Trisha fall in love, they have to learn to get along in time for their nephew’s birth on Christmas. Realizing Jim and Trisha have major money troubles, Kyle and Jenna band together to help and end up on a snowy New York adventure that will prove miracles really do happen at Christmas.

Needless to say we are movied-out so we crashed at 11:30 PM as we have a 9:00 AM appointment with the vascular surgeon tomorrow!

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The Train Station Talked

What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa? A rebel without a Claus !

For those of you who know me you should know that one of my favorite tunes is Amazing Grace and I ran across this rendition on Facebook this morning…eerie and beautiful!  Enjoy!

Soulful Amazing Grace on Bagpipes ???

Absolutely lovely. ???Featuring —–> The Snake Charmer ft. Barcelona Pipe Band Follow her, and The Music Show!

Posted by The Music Show on Monday, November 5, 2018

I went walking this morning and did four additional miles through the wildlands of Rossmoor.  BTW, later on today I got a text from Zachary and he passed my while I was strutting down the avenue and he honked the horn…guess I was listening to the radio and did not see him OR I thought it was just another car full of women who found my strutting irresistible and had to honk??!? (Yeah yeah, I know… the car with the women had a Braille Institute sign on the side).

Over 1,000 miles this year!!!  Life is good!

Just a few more pictures are needed.  This frightening beast was hauling Christmas presents away from the house.   I knocked on the door and talked to the nice lady but, for some reason unknown to me, she thought I was a bit off the ol’ rocker!  Hey, I warned her!

Remember, I said “Wildlands”… That Reindeer looks pretty mean!

After the walk,  we relaxed enjoying the afternoon and preparing for a problem solver (Translation: Drinks at Melanie’s on the bay!) around 4:42 PM (when the sunset occurs). 

We went to Melanie’s and the beach seemed to be socked in! Dang…No sunset tonight then all of a sudden…the sky was set ablaze with magnificent lights…you just never know!  We sat there and described the formations and colors to each with with extreme alacrity,

Click to see full-sized image

It was just amazing…I texted several people showing them the photos.  The color right after the red was like Lapis Lazuli.  The clouds were amorphous.  We watched it for about 20 minutes and the Sun sank into the west and the colors dramatically changed from orange to red to purple to dark gray. Whoda thunk?

After getting home, we visited with each other and then I took off at 8:30 PM for an MRI of the shoulder…it is getting worse and I have to do something.  I did not get home until 10:15 PM so we watched two episode of “Blue Bloods” before crashing at 11:45 PM.  The MRI wasn’t too bad but the bench they had me laying on was a torture rack in its previous life!

You ask about “The Christmas Memory”…Thought you would never ask…

Christmas Memory #11 – The Talking Station

I did love and still love trains and, as a spoiled child, ai had a train layout that was 20′ by 15′.  With great help form Mom and Dad, we had trains everywhere!  Mountains, lakes, rivers and no train station?  This was circa 1953 or 1954.

I saw the “creme of the crop” train accessory, a talking train station,  in a catalog but it was way too expensive for this family.  $39 in those days was a fortune!  The American Flyer catalog was my version of the Sears Catalog!  Just the button for that train station that made it play sells for $19 on eBay today!

It was Christmas Eve and we headed to Ralph’s Christmas Party (see previous memories) and when they passed out the presents, they was one from the Lebowitz’s.  I knew it was an expensive sweater..I just knew it!

Well, to my amazement, when I opened the box it was an American Flyer TALKING TRAIN STATION. See the video below.

I wanted to leave the party immediately but alas, I had to wait until I got home.  It was absolutely amazing.  It was a long long night.

That station was the centerpiece of my train layout for years and years!

Thank you Ralph, Carolyn, and Paula for a wonderful memory!

While researching my memories on-line, I ran across this YouTube video and it was exactly what I had 60 years ago..amazing!

To make the station talk, that is, make the announcement one had to push the button.  I had this mounted right next to the transformer and it got pushed a lot.  I used it so much it broke and I replaced it with three door bell buttons so anyone watching the trains run around the tracks could make the train station jump to life!

Those were good ol’ days…I wish we had them back with the medical advances we have today…it would be perfect. 

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Hey.. It’s Won’t Rust

What goes “oh oh oh”? Santa walking backwards.

It’s the eighth and just a few days before Christmas…time is flying!  ISue and I are on our bestest behaviour cause the lbig guy is surely watching to make sure who is being good and who is being bad!

Today is a full day as you will see but first a Christmas Memory  (I am a poet and I know it, because, my toes are Longfellow’s!)…please Santa, don’t mark me down because of that!

Christmas Memory #8 – No Rust Here

Fads come and fads go, some should have never came! It’s 1958 and Mom, being an avant guard artist bought this horrible thing…an aluminum Christma tree.

An aluminum Christmas tree is a type of artificial Christmas tree that was popular in the United States from 1958 until about the mid-1960s. As its name suggests, the tree is made of aluminum, featuring foil needles and illumination from below via a rotating color wheel. The aluminum Christmas tree was used as symbol of the commercialization of Christmas in the highly acclaimed and successful 1965 television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which discredited its suitability as holiday decoration. By the mid-2000s aluminum trees found a secondary market online, often selling for high premiums.

A 1937 issue of Popular Science advocated spraying aluminum paint using an insect spray gun to coat Christmas trees causing it to appear as if “fashioned of molten silver”.  We were ready to find some old buy spray if it would keep the aluminum mess out of the house!

So Mom puts this horrible thing up in the living room next to the tiny front window…it was kinda like the leg-light in “A Christmas Story” but this time, dad was the one embarrassed by the alumunim tree.

Mom even dug out some of the large silver balls (see previous memory) that she made years earlier to adorn this metal nightmare!

To add insult to injury, she also bought the stupid color wheel which was even worse…creek,,,squeek,,,grind….creek…snap!  The whole night while the wheel “turned” sounded like an auto crash was happening in the front of the house!

We frowned at the “tree” and all it did was smile back in many changing colors!

We had a real tree in the den (back of the house) and that’s where Dad and I put our presents.

We were happy on Christmas Day when the tree came down and it was packed away hopefully to be lost during the next year.  Mom put up that travesty one more year and we teased her as much as we could get away with.

I have no idea where it went but I can guess Dad had something to do with it!

Ratchet forword 50 years and on eBay the stupid thing we bought for $20  is selling for between $250 and $500 depending upon the condition… Can you believe it?

Horrible was a nice description of this thing!

Winter Wonderland time!  Old Ranch throws a “shin-dig” with Santa, bouncy houses, snow, and lots to eat.  We go every year with Joe and Amy and the boys.  Amy’s Mom and Dad also join us making it a great brunch!

On top of the mountain of snow!
Grandma Michele keeps an eye on the varmints… Especially Alex!

Every time we get together, Amy thanks me for letting me know what she is in for with Joe and the boys!  Alex, Joe, and I are look-a likes!….and act-a likes!  Maybe not a terribly bad thing?

So we head for home only to return after a two hour nap for an evening with the gang having dinner and dancing at Old Ranch!

The love of my life!!

We depart Old Ranch again about 9:20 PM and head home to watch a movie and then a Madam Secretary before crashing.  No tookies tonight as we have been around food all day!  Enough is enough!

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Ridin’ The Ol’ Step Van

Are people who are scared of Father Christmas Claustrophobic?

Today is a big day because it’s the annual Christmas Play at the Bollinger Candlelight Dinner Theater in Claremont and we are taking 80 of our family and friends to see “A Perfect Christmas”.  We arrive at 11:00 AM for a delightful, and filling, brunch followed at 12:30 by a unique Christmas Musical, always different.  This is our 30th year of going and we started two years after the theater started…quite a run!

Christmas Memory #9 – The Ol’ Step Van

Dad worked in a dime store…OK, he was the general manager of a chain of dime stores started in the 1930’s called Ralph’s 5, 10, and 25 cent stores.  In the mid 1950’s, they had about eight stores as I recall…not big but also not small. 

Ralph david Lebowitz was the owner and dad was his right-hand man and probably best friend.  Ralph was a great man but not very mechanical…driving a stick shift was a challenge so Dad got the driving jobs…which Dad loved!

They had a central warehouse on Pico Blvd that had a basement and upstairs to store the stock for the right stores and of course needed a truck to deliver to the stores.  There was no parking readily available for the truck at the Pico store so Dad volunteered to drive to truck to/from home everyday…only about three or four miles from the warehouse.  So, our family was living in high-cotton…we had a company “car”…OK, truck!

A big truck was not needed and a small truck/station wagon would be too small so they decided on a “step van”.   These where quite popular in the 1950’s with new businesses popping up everywhere!

“Multi-stop trucks” (also known as walk-in delivery or step vans) are a type of light-duty and medium-duty truck created for local deliveries to residences and businesses. They are designed to be driven either sitting down or standing up, and often provide easy access between the driver and goods, hence the name “Walk-In Delivery” van.   It was the forerunner of the UPS and FedEx delivery trucks of today!

Well, at Christmas time sales at the stores was always wild and the warehouse would get calls about “running out of this and that” so we would fill the orders as best we could and go delivering.  Friday night, two trips on Saturday and even on Sundays.  The van was filled from top to bottom and sometimes the cab was loaded leaving me a precious few inches to tuck myself in!

Some of the stores were in the Valley…Van Nuys and Chattsworth…and we would drive this over-stuffed step-van loaded with Christmas goodies over Laurel Canyon Drive which in those days was two lanes of very twisty road going from the LA Basin to the San Fernando Valley. We are talking hair-pin curves!

I remember vividly riding atop the motor (see the pictures below) and having to bring a blanket to sit on because the engine was hot.  We careened through the canyon to get to the stores many times during a week.  Sometimes, Dad would come home at 5:00 PM with the truck loaded and we would grab a bite to eat and off we would go…it was like Santa delivering goodies but in a step van!  Without the Ho-Ho-Ho!

Coming home that ol’ van was so noisy…no boxes to muffle the sounds of the tin-can noises created as the air rushed by the thin steel siding.  We were riding in an echo chamber…we tried to drown out the noise with the low quality AM radio but it was always on the blink (before the days of transistors).

I should tell you than one day, we decided to cut down the tree in the parkway…it was a horrible tree.  Dad and I dug and dug and ran water into the hole hoping to loosen the roots.  Dad had this great idea, why not tie a chain to the ol’ step van and putt eh tree out.  Well, we did and the only thing we succeeded in doing was ripping the bunper off the back of the step van!

We rode the wild west in the ol’ step-van!
The flat spot was mine right over the engine as I admired how dad could maneuver this vehicle through the canyon roads! He mastered the manual transmission making it fly!

Did You Know? The Laurel Canyon Freeway was to have been a north-south freeway in Central Los Angeles and its suburbs. It derived its name from Laurel Canyon, the proposed route by which the freeway would traverse the Santa Monica Mountains. 

However, the emerging popularity of Laurel Canyon as a movie star enclave in the 1960s ultimately doomed the project. The only portion of the freeway that was built was a small section of La Cienega Boulevard through the Baldwin Hills district of southwestern Los Angeles.

I grew up next to La Cienega and always wondered why it was made so large through the Baldwin Hills and stp[[ed near our house.  I just discovered why writing this blog today!

OK… we now be off for the 45 minute ride to Claremont.  We had Nancy, Carri, and Greg with us and there was Zero traffic…OMG, we are going to arrive right on time!  We had a super time gabbing about a myriad of topics during out freeway adventure.

Our “immediate and wonderful family”

Mrs. Santa is holding Remington, our latest GREAT grandson.  Either side of the Claus’ are the grandparents… us and the Vallari’s who are Amy’s Mom & Dad.

Back row is Grandson Nick, Son-In-Law Bob , Son-In-Law Pete, Pete’s bride Lisa, Son-In-Law Mitch, Daughter-In-Law Amy, Son Joe, Grandson Zack, Grand Daughter-In-Law? Becca, Grandson Connor, Connor’s better half! Kerrick, and (Son-In-Law) Franklyn.

Middle row left-to-right is Daughter Michele, Paul, Sue, Santa, Mrs. Santa with Remington, Amy’s parents Michele & Tony, and Daughter Robin.

Front row are grandsons Theo and Charlie, great grand-daughter Lllly, and grandson Alex!

The only ones missing are the New Hampshire gang… Daughter Colleen, Son-In-Law Mark, Grandson Jon, Graddaughter-in=Law Sarah, Granddaughter Cassie with Great Grandson Callan and Great Grand Daughter Logann plus Granddaughter Jackie.

Then we have the gaggle… other other friends.  Some of them had to leave early and missed the picture as it is Christmas time and days are busy!

We are a crowd!
The stars of the get together!!! Alex, Lilly, and Charlie!

We headed home about 4:00 PM and rested for a few minutes before going tot he GG Elks for dancing and chatting.  We met up with the Branders and visited wit them for a while. W We decided we had had a long day so we departed about 9:30 PM and came home to watch a Christmas movie.

We watched “Holiday Breakup”.

A young couple breaks up and faces the prospect of the holidays turning into one long pity party. Their solution: pretend they’re still together.

We then watched a sitcom before crashing at 11:00 PM.  Too pooped to pop!  I looked at the Christmas Play pictures but decided it was too late to do anything to them!

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Poof! In A Could Of Smoke!

Why do programmers always mix up Halloween and Christmas? Because 31 OCT = 25 DEC!

December 7th!  What a day for us to remember that fatal attack on Hawaii by the Japanese. It’s quite amazing that we look forward from that day 70+ years and the Japanese are a strong ally of the US. When we go dancing, I often ask our older friends (yes, we have older friends) about that day and we get interesting stories.  Bernie, who is 97, remembers being int he army during WWII…we need to store these memories now as they will soon disappear as that generaton gets older!

I plan to walk today after three days being couped up because of the rain and the bathroom scale, that lying mechanical device, says 206!  How can that be?

But first a Christmas memory form days gone by:

Christmas Memory #7 – The Roaring Fire
Dad was a buyer for the dime store chain, Ralph’s 5, 10 and 25 cent stores and every year he would get gifts from various salemen.  I remember that one saleman would send a crate of grapefruit and oranges from Texas to our home.  The fruit was Texas sized and pretty good.  The frit would be packed in excelsior packing material.

Wood wool, known primarily as excelsior in North America, is a product made of wood slivers cut from logs and is mainly used in packaging, for cooling pads in home evaporative cooling systems known as swamp coolers, for erosion control mats, and as a raw material for the production of other products such as bonded wood wool boards and used as stuffing for stuffed animals.

So it was a cold day and we had just finished off the contents of the box and Dad gets a bright idea… why not put the entire crate into the firplace…save buring our wood, save a trip to the trash, and save the effort of having to break the crate into pieces.  Wonderful.


I remember Mom in the background shaking her head provide sage advice, somehting like “Are you crazy???”

Well, into the fireplace the crate goes barely fitting and in fact a little bit sticking out.

Dad decides no kindling will be needed and no newspaper was needed to start the fire…he just got up close with a match.

WHOOOOOF!  All of a sudden the air is sucked out of the tiny living room as the excelsior disappear in a ball of flame and all the oxygen with it.  To this day I can see the flames jumping out of the fireplace, hiding the hearth in a orange blanket of flames, and flames/smoke lapping up the brick fireplace facing, hiding the mantle in flames and touching the ceiling of the small living room.

Like magic, Mom took off like a shot, drags in the garden hose, which was fortunately right by the front door adjacent ot the living room, and hands it to Dad,  Mom runs back outside and turns on the hose bib.  We all watch as dad has the hose spraying water into the firepalce in our once beautiful, ableit tiney, living room!

Me,,,worried…duh!  The whole wall is flames but my Dad, my hero, the dsavior od the house, is there to protect us!  Within a few seconds, the excelsior is gone…the flames die back to a dull roar…and Dad is hosing the crate with a steady stream of ice cold water!

Neighbors came over as they saw flames shooting ten feet out of the chimney lighting up the neighbors yard and halk the neighborhood.  Stories would be told for years about dad’s Christmas fire!

Mom was not a happy camper.  We were lucky we kept the Christmas tree in the den and NOT in the living room cause if it had caught fire, we wcould have lost everything!

Fire is out…Mom is boiling…but we had some good results!  Mom got a new living room rug, the living room was repainted, and Dad’s fire permit was permanently taken away!

Mom was not a happy camper.  We were lucky we kept the Christmas tree in the den and NOT in the living room cause if it had caught fire, we wcould have lost everything!

Fire is out…Mom is boiling…but we had some good results!  Mom got a new living room rug, the living room was repainted, and Dad’s fire permit was permanently taken away!

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The Levee Broke And The Water Came In!

Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter!

It’s a dark damp rainy day… just like London!  The Brits are here and we called them and accuse them of bringing the weather.  BTW, I enjoy the rain as everything seems to grow better with rain water! Sue, not so much!  She had all the rain she ever wanted growing up!

 I ran to the store first thing to get needed supplies…berries, ice cream, beer…the staples of life!  Blackberries were on sale for $2.00/double-box! These berries were outstanding and I use them every morning on cereal or with dessert at lunch time on yogurt!  Do not laugh…since I have been doing the shopping, I look at the adds and I signed up for Ralph’s on-line!

But first, the Christmas Memory!  This memory is kinda sad in a way as it involves a terrible act of nature but ends with families becoming closer!

Christmas Memory #5 – The Levee Broke

It was a rainy year in California adn the northern part of the state was getting hit pretty bad.  It was December 23rd 1955 when we got the call from Aunt Kaye…her and the kids along with Ray, her husband, had just enough time to collect some paperwork, some clothes and leave before the levee totally gave-way and broke.  They lived adjacent to the Stanislaus Slough which was tied to the American River and the slough could not take the pressure then the river went over the banks.

We saw some after-the-fact pictures and the house and all the contents was sitting in six feet of water…everything remaining was destroyed.  NO Christmas presents this year.

Mom and Dad told them to head south.  As I recall, Aunt Kaye and the kids joined us for Christmas and we shared all of our gifts.  Poor Gayla, she had to share some of my “Boy’s” gifts but at least she had something to open!

They stayed with us about a week before going back to sift through the remains.  Ray stayed up in Stockton to keep an eye on the place.

It was a sad and happy time…sad at their loss but happy to spend a Christmas with family so close!

They never returned to that house and I believe it was torn down s the water damage made it irrepairable.

I departed for a CT Scan of the next at noon and returned about 1:30 PM.  I have the CD in hand and will be seeing the doctor on the 12th for the reading and plan of action.

Typical internal carotid artery of 65 year old male with some blockage… The doctor gets to see my pictures next week!

We did lunch and more of the take home delights has disappeared.  I did in the Chicken Tikka and my tongue is starting to taste again!

It rained most of the afternoon finally starting to show signs of stopping about 4:00 PM.  We decided to watch some Christmas movies beginning with White Christmas!  In today’s goofy world I am surprised it is not banned!  It remains a great movie and we both ended up with tears!

White Christmas is one of those movies you can just enjoy without having to think about why the characters act the way they do. The plot is very thin, and seems to be written just to hold the musical numbers together, but it makes for a very enjoyable movie indeed. Viewing this film has become a holiday tradition in my family, and it is great fun to quote memorable lines and sing along with Bing, Danny, Vera-Ellen, and of course, the incomparable Rosemary Clooney.  White Christmas is just a fun movie, and I highly recommend it for holiday viewing. The Irving Berlin songs, the dance numbers, and yes, the “schmaltz” are just the right combination to put even the Grinchiest person in the Christmas spirit.

Hunter Toys CEO Drake Hunter turned his father’s company from a cozy quality manufacturer into a ruthless, profitable business. After denying his staff any festive generosity again, the scrooge is suddenly and magically transformed into Kris Krandall. That forces him to work as a Santa in Norm Dobson’s toy store, with weird would be-actor Sebastian. Drake reassesses his values and priorities in life.

After the Christmas movies we had our tookies, watched two episodes of NCIS and one “Young & Hungry” before crashing!

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The Brits Have Arrived!

When I was a child, my family was so poor that at Christmas we exchanged glances.

Brian and Jan are flying today and likely will land late tonight so we will not see the whites of their eyes until Friday…jet lag you know!

It is Robin’s birthday today so we are going to try and celebrate.  We had planned to go to Disneyland like we always do but the rain put a kibosh on that plan…we are too old to walk around in the rain!

Our bIrthday girl with her family

Memory #5 – The Noisy Lights?

Growing up I was a ham radio operator I loved to listen to far away stations which in the city was tough because of all the electrical  noise (interference).  It was especially bad at Christmas because of Brownie (yes, Brownie Claus).

Mae and Brownie always put up a large Christmas display complete with Santa and Reindeer on their roof.  As part of the decor, Browie would hand lights around the front of his house of his house but he was NOT satisfied with a single color nor different color bulbs.  He was ahead of his time.

He was a senior cameraman at MGM in Culver City and he had the “guys” build him two mechanical electrical switches.  The first, as most noisy, was fabricated from a six inch diameter wheel with four electrical contacts on the edge.  The wheel was turned by a small electric motor. 

Around the circumference of the wheel was more contacts each of which were connected  to a string of lights…one red, one green, one white, and one blue.  In the day time it looked odd to see so many lights around the edge of the house but at  night, as the wheel would turn, with each revolution the four sets of lights would turn on and off in sequence.  Neat effect for 60 years ago!

The second switch was simmlar but it was connected to Rudolph’s nose and as the wheel turned, contact was broken many times with the circuit feeding his nose and of course it flashed.  Each time it flashed, electrical inteference was generated all over the radio spectrum. Good bye ham radio!

Today the same effect is accomplished with LED’s…a scientific concept unheard of in the 1950’s! In 1962, while working for General Electric, Nick Holonyak, Jr., invented the first visible-spectrum LED in the form of red diodes. Pale yellow and green diodes were invented next.

Problem here? YES!!  Everytime the electrical contacts were made or broken, it would create a spark and that means electrical noise.  When Brownie’s lights were going, ham radio…at least long distance reception…had to stop!

I had to wait until they went to bed…glad they were old…so they would turn off that crazy contraption and the noise would stop! 

It should mentioned that my Mom and Dad knew the problem well because when they backed out of the garage at  night with the radio on (we only had AM radio in those days),the radio had to be turned off as the speakers in the car would krakle and sputter and make horrible noises!

We had breakfast and then headed to the neurologist’s office to get Sue’s EEG done.

Did You Know? Electroencephalography (EEG) is an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain. It is typically noninvasive, with the electrodes placed along the scalp, although invasive electrodes are sometimes used such as in electrocorticography. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current within the neurons of the brain. In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain’s spontaneous electrical activity over a period of time, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp. Diagnostic applications generally focus either on event-related potentials or on the spectral content of EEG. The former investigates potential fluctuations time locked to an event like stimulus onset or button press. The latter analyses the type of neural oscillations (popularly called “brain waves”) that can be observed in EEG signals in the frequency domain. 

Paul studied this and thinks he might be pregnant!??

After the test, which took about 30 minutes, we went home and then off to Old Ranch to finalize the New Years Eve party arrangements and await arrival of Mitch.  After a drink, Mitch called as was too tired, he heade directly for home.  Miss Charlotte joined us which is always quite nice.  She is a good friends and a nice person… plus quite beautiful!

Six years ago after a round of golf!

We got the flyer for the party and modified it accordingly.  We had to make sure people knew it was a PRIVATE PARTY held adjacent to the banquet facilities at Old Ranch.  We have about 106 friends and family joining us this year…seems it is pretty popular!

This is our second year of sponsoring a “Real New YEars Eve Party” turning back the clock to the a940’s and 1950’s… Popular with the dancers!

After a visit, we stopped by home, grabbed our secretary clipboard and headed to Santa Ana to meet up with the Zaitz and the other board members.   We had no idea about the traffic so we ended up getting there early which is a good thing as visiting Bob is always fun! The meeting went from 7:00 until 8:30 PM.

We were planning another stop of the way home but at 74 on a dark wet rainy night, we thought better of ourselves and headed home instead.  we’re old and cool and smart.

We did NOT watch a Christmas movie tonight but, instead, watched two NCIS’s plus Sue’s cooking show.

We crashed at 11:30 OM listening to the sound of the rain!

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