Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sunshine Inn Menu

Greetings, friends! It’s so dreary today, I decided to share a little “sunshine” with you—in this case, an old to-go menu from the Sunshine Inn, a wonderful vegetarian (well, mostly vegetarian) restaurant that used to be one of the best reasons in the world to visit St. Louis’s Central West End. It opened in 1972 and quickly became a landmark. Plants in the windows. And rather plain, but somehow quite elegant decor. Cloth napkins.

Ahhhh . . . the Garden of Eden Salad; the house Creamy Sesame dressing. The quiches. The Great Harvest dinner rolls. Cream Cheese on Date Nut Bread. I used to like their egg salad sandwich, served open-faced, with cheese. Let’s not forget “RZOJ,” iced Red Zinger (Celestial Seasonings’ hibiscus blend tea) with orange juice, and the Viennese coffee (they were serving that waaaay before there was a Starbuck’s on every corner). And, joy of joys, the Golden Lion—the Sunshine Inn’s signature vegetarian burger.

It closed in 1998, and ever since then, the earth has always been a little off-kilter. Losing restaurants like this are a prime reason I needed to learn how to cook.

This to-go menu was printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper, and I’m pretty sure it dates to the late 1990s—I wish I had one from the late eighties, which was when I went there the most. (Alas.)

I’m posting this because I know there are other people out there who pine for the Sunshine Inn perhaps more than I do. Of course, I mean no copyright infringement. I’m keeping the files kind of big so you can hopefully read the type better. (Remember: you can click on the images to see them larger.)

I see value in old menus like this—what were the main ingredients of a dish you liked so much. What things went well with other things. Ideas for reconstruction and inspiration for new construction. I’ll bet there are restaurants you miss like crazy, too.

If you’re someone who misses the Sunshine Inn, I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me which menu items you loved the most.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lois Update

Lois the kitten is becoming Lois the cat. She’s about two months shy of her first birthday, and she’s finally showing signs that napping is something she enjoys as opposed to something that comes upon her suddenly and arrests her playing.

Also, as she’s grown older, she’s gotten fluffier and fluffier. We had no idea that she would be a long-haired cat. But there you go. Long-haired, silky, and fluffy. With a long, amazingly luxurious tail. What a surprise!

Here’s another item: Lois likes to go sight-seeing with us in the car. Ever since we rescued her from her “wilderness” ordeal last summer, she’s been okay with being in the car. We’ve taken her to the vet’s only once (to meet our vet and do the follow-up for the vaccinations she got at the shelter), and we leave her carrier open in the room with her all the time, so she doesn’t necessarily equate her carrier and the car with being poked with needles.

So, on random weekend afternoons, we’ve been taking her out for drives. We call it her “enrichment activities.” One Saturday afternoon, we drove her clear to Brazito and back! We stopped at the Burger King drive-thru and got a cheeseburger (plain, with nothing but the cheese on it), and shared some of it with her. Guess what—she liked it. (Duh. Cats have a thing for cheeseburgers, right?)

I believe that’s what behavioral specialists call “positive reinforcement.”

I’ve taken her to Columbia a few times to “visit Grandma and Grandpa” when I have something to drop off or pick up at my parents’. I close the bedroom doors so I won’t have to spend time trying to get her out from under a bed. (Though maybe my parents would like her to do a little dust-mopping while she’s visiting; she’s a really great dust mop!) And she loves their screened-in porch, with its excellent wide railing, which is perfect for watching the birds and squirrels that visit their backyard.

One afternoon, we drove with her to the Mari-Osa Access, east of town off Highway 50/63. We parked in the lot, with a nice view of the Osage River, and stayed in the car with the windows down just a little bit. We had a little picnic, with cheese, crackers, and fresh and dried fruits. It was so exciting when a grizzled old dog from the nearby trailer park trotted near our car as he performed what was undoubtedly his routine inspection of the perimeter of the lot.

Yesterday, we drove up Route 179 to the Marion Access to the Missouri River. Lois and I enjoyed the sunshine in the car while Sue walked down the boat ramp and took photos of the river. On this curvy road, Lois got experience in keeping upright as the car veered back and forth, up and down.

Today, we drove to Tebbetts and back. On the way out, we headed east on Mokane Road, just to give her experience with bumpy gravel roads. Hey, no problem! And there was a small herd of black angus munching on corn crop residue just off the little road we took north to 94. I stopped for a few moments to let Lois see them, and they started to approach the car (just an electric fence between them and us). They probably thought we’d throw them a bale of hay or something. And boy, this was exciting for Lois, too!

When we drive with her, we leave her cat carrier open in the back seat. She goes in and out; it’s her safe space. When she gets tired of looking out the windows, she rolls around in her carrier.

So, maybe someday Lois will travel with us in the car somewhere. Like, on a weekend trip. I think that’d be pretty neat. We should probably also get her used to a leash and harness. Meanwhile, these excursions are getting her used to the car, and not terrified of going for rides. And they’re giving her the excitement she craves! Weeee!!! . . . And we have fun, too.

(Photos, except for the "cheezeburger" pic, are by Sue. She sits in the back seat and keeps an eye on Lois, while I focus on driving.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Potato Soup

If ever there was an opulently opossumish dish, this is it: It is humble, it is sublime. I have based my recipe on a few versions of it that Sue’s mom has provided. I feel justified in offering my own rendition because Sue’s mom has tinkered with the recipe plenty herself.

This is a perfect supper for a cold wintry night! So comforting and warm!

I encourage you to improvise your own version, too. After my version of the recipe, I’ll provide two of the potato soup recipes just as I’ve received them from Mrs. Ferber, so you can get ideas for alterations, substitutions, and shortcuts.

Julie’s Potato Soup

2 pieces of bacon
1 onion (white or yellow), chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces (Yukon golds are good)
3/4 tsp. salt (or to taste, remembering that bacon adds saltiness)
1/2 tsp. pepper
water or chicken or vegetable stock
1–2 tbsp. cornstarch, mixed into a pourable slurry with about 1/2 cup water
1–2 tbsp. butter
parsley (or other herbs—summer savory? basil? oregano?) for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or soup pot, fry the bacon until crisp. Put it on a paper towel to drain and set aside. Pour off the grease into your grease jar. (You do save it, right? I mean, you’ll need it later when you want to cook kale!) Don’t clean the pan; leave the cooked bits of bacon and some grease at the bottom.

Put the onion and carrot into the pot and sauté them in what’s left of the bacon grease. As moisture comes out of the onions, scrape the bottom of the pan to liberate the bacon goodies. You might add a little water to help the process. When that’s accomplished, add the potatoes, salt, and pepper, and cover with water or stock. Cook on medium, covered, until the potatoes are done.

While the potatoes are cooking, crumble up the bacon—it will be a garnish. This is the time to make the cornstarch-and-water slurry if you haven’t already. Also, get out the saltines (or Chicken in a Biskit crackers; both are traditional), pieces of cheese or summer sausage, pickles, and whatever else you’ll be having. Set the table. Get the drinks ready.

Once the potatoes are cooked, stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook to get it really pretty thick; then stir in some butter, and thin it out with milk to get the consistency to your liking. Make sure it’s heated through, stir in any parsley or other herbs you want, and then serve. Garnish with the crumbled bacon.

Betty Ferber’s Potato Soup (Version 1, her preferred way)

2 nice-size Idaho potatoes (or less)
1 onion
coarse-grated carrot
salt, pepper
chicken stock (or water)
margarine (Parkay)
crumbled bacon (optional garnish)

Peel and dice about 2 potatoes. Chop the onion. Add carrot, salt, pepper—cook until done in water or chicken stock. Thicken with cornstarch—get it really thick—then add milk to get consistency right. Add a hunk of margarine. Garnish with crumbled bacon; serve with saltine crackers.

Betty Ferber’s Potato Soup (Version 2, as of Dec. 2006)

1 onion (white)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
about 5 lbs. (4 large) potatoes (Irish) (or more)
1 stick butter or equivalent of “I Can’t Believe”
cornstarch (note, as of 2015: Mrs. F says you can use some instant potato flakes instead of cornstarch)
crumbled bacon (optional, for garnish)

Chop onion and add to soup pot. Cover onion with water; add salt and pepper. Peel and dice potatoes, cover with water. Add parsley to make it pretty. Add thickener (cornstarch)—get it pretty thick, then add milk to make it the right consistency, and add the butter/margarine. Garnish with bacon crumbles. (Sue likes to ladle the soup over some crushed saltines in the bowl.)


. . . And now, a bonus related recipe from notes I made during an Ohio visit during Christmas 2013: it’s very, very easy to make, though the sodium is probably frightful. Still, when you’re both disabled, can’t drive anymore, it’s cold out, and you’re eating out of the cupboard, this hits the spot! It’s probably from the back of a scalloped potatoes box.

Corn Potato Chowder

3 tsp. margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 box scalloped potatoes (yes, including the seasoning packet)
2 cups hot water
2 cups milk
1 can of corn (drained)

In a saucepan big enough to hold everything, sauté the onion in the margarine. Then add the rest of the stuff and simmer, covered, for 20–25 minutes.

Thanks Mrs. Ferber, for letting me share your recipes, and thanks much more for sharing them with me! (Susan says thanks, too!)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Here are a few pictures of our "front hall," including the aluminum Christmas tree and the ornaments I hang in the front window. They always look so nice when the sun shines in!

Best wishes you for a joyful and blessed holiday!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sue's Great Aunt Margaret

Now that you’ve seen the Christmas tree we associate with her, I’m going to share more information about the story of Aunt Margaret—whom I never personally met, by the way. But as I sit here in the evenings, enjoying her Christmas tree, I ponder her life and her connections to Sue, to her family, and by extension to me.

Berlin Heights, Ohio
, is a small town with a deep and fascinating history. And Sue’s great aunt Margaret seemed to be an interesting, intelligent woman. You want to read more, don’t you?

Margaret Armina Ferber Nottke, born in 1903, got her unusual middle name from her “Aunt Miney,” Armina Baumhart (pronounced with a long i: ar-MY-nuh). Aunt Armina was profoundly deaf. Sue says Aunt Margaret told her about how, when she was young, her Aunt Miney would come to visit and would sleep with Margaret, her namesake. When they were both nestled into the bed, with the covers pulled up and the lights out, they would “talk” by tracing letters on the palms of each other’s hands. (Isn’t that an interesting story?)

Here’s a portrait of Armina Baumhart.

Sue described Aunt Margaret as no-nonsense, direct, opinionated, and very smart. And although she was not extravagant, she recognized quality.

Let’s start this story at about the turn of the century.

Margaret was the baby of her family. Her father was Henry Ferber (seated) (Sue’s great-grandpa). Margaret had five brothers and sisters, including Sue’s grandpa, Nelson (standing in front of his father). Her sister Mabel Ferber (more on her below) is standing at far left. Margaret’s sitting on her mom’s knee.

The backdrop of that photo, by the way, is the side of the Ferber family homestead, a building still standing. Nelson would begin farming there in 1928, renting the land from his widowed mother at first. (Read on.) (Apologies for the poor quality of these images; I took snapshots of a framed photograph, so they’re skewed and blurry.)

Sue thinks Margaret was probably the only one of her siblings to go to college. (Ohio State—go Buckeyes!) Her higher education was cut short, however, when her dad (Henry Ferber) died in 1923, and she had to go home, back to Berlin Heights.

If you look at a map of Ohio, the northern edge forms a shallow U shape. About four miles inland from the very bottom of that U is Berlin Heights (pronounced BURR-lun). Here’s a picture of BHOH we took from a jet in 2006. At the top is Lake Erie/north. Ohio Route 61 runs down the middle of the image. There are two prominent east-west highways. The one toward the top, with the visible exit ramps where Route 61 bends, is Route 2; moving down, the other east-west highway is the Ohio Turnpike. Berlin Heights is the buildings and homes clustered on both sides of Route 61 just south of the turnpike.

Margaret’s story is closely connected with that of her brother Nelson (Sue’s grandpa). Nelson pursued farming, like his dad and grandfather. Nelson and his wife, Mabel (Sue’s grandma), rented the family farm in 1928, then bought it in 1929.

Here's a portrait of Mabel Ferber, Sue's grandmother, and Margaret Nottke's sister-in-law.

Are you ready for a sad story? In July of that year, 1929, the Ferber farm’s enormous barn caught fire and was destroyed (along with the horses in it). Sue’s aunt Nelly, the eldest of the couple’s three daughters, was the first to notice and sound the alarm, and she witnessed the entire thing. Absolutely devastating . . . but wait, it gets worse.

The decision was made to rebuild the barn—a majestic thing—at great expense, with huge 8 by 8 beams joined together with wooden pegs. It and the big old Ferber farmhouse are still standing, east of Berlin Heights, on the southwest corner of East Main (Rt. 17) and Wright Road (Rt. 138). You can just see it from the Ohio Turnpike.

. . . How many things might have turned out differently if they had not incurred this debt?

So Sue’s grandparents had the loan for rebuilding the barn as well as the mortgage. They couldn’t have picked a worse time to go into debt: Black Tuesday was October 29 of that year. Farmers all over America were devastated by the Great Depression, but it was extremely hard on this family. Mabel Ferber’s diary from 1932 is heartbreaking, in large part because she spent so little time writing about her feelings. She mainly wrote about all the hard work they did—and only occasionally commented on the hopelessness of their situation.

Though they toiled fiercely to bring crops from the soil and to produce livestock to sell, they found rarely could sell for reasonable prices. After months of describing their hard work and accomplishments, on May 16, Mabel noted that a 255-pound calf had sold that day for $12.75, five cents a pound—by my calculations, that’s about a third of its value before the depression, and certainly not enough to cover the expenses of raising the calf. The usually stoic Mabel—in perhaps her most poignant statement in the entire diary—in three simple words expressed the utter despair of their situation: “Everything worth nothing.”

So, as the depression had deepened, the couple finally produced a son. Sue’s dad was born in February 1932. Though “Sonny” struggled to gain weight at first, he finally pulled through . . . But the family's challenges were overwhelming. That winter, they all kept getting colds, but they all kept working anyway. And then Mabel died in December of that year. (I told you her 1932 diary is a poignant read; you can’t read it without knowing that its writer was experiencing her last year of life.) By then, the foreclosure was already in process. By the end of that winter, Sue’s grandpa Ferber and his four children had left the farm. The man who had loaned him the money to rebuild the barn—a cousin, in fact—foreclosed on him in early 1933.

Aunt Margaret and Uncle Stub are mentioned a lot in Mabel Ferber’s diary. The family was close, and during the depression they were all pulling for each other. After Mabel’s death, the four children, including Sue’s father, an infant, didn’t have a clear place to live. Here's a photo from 1933, taken sometime after they'd lost the farm.

Their dad was focused on finding work. So in the first few years of his life, Sue’s dad, in particular, was cared for by a variety of relatives—on his mom’s and dad’s side.

For example, he was often cared for by his aunt Mabel and uncle Clarence Nottke, who had a mom-and-pop grocery store in Florence, on the southwest corner of the intersection of East Main (Rt. 17) and the Florence-Wakeman Road. That building’s still there, too. I guess it’s an apartment building now.

The names are confusing, aren’t they! Get this! Two brothers married two sisters: Great Uncle Stub Nottke and Great Uncle Clarence Nottke were brothers; and Great Aunt Margaret (Ferber) Nottke and Great Aunt Mabel (Ferber) Nottke were sisters! And there are two Mabels in this story, too: Sue’s grandpa’s sister Mabel (Ferber) Nottke, and his wife, Mabel (Johannsen) Ferber; also, there are two Nelsons: Sue’s grandpa Nelson Ferber, and Sue’s dad, also Nelson Ferber. (WHEW!) (Also, in case you’re not sure how to pronounce it, Nottke is pronounced NUT-kee.)

. . . Anyway, here’s a fun aside: So, Aunt Mabel and Uncle Clarence Nottke often cared for Sue’s dad when he was a little boy. They lived above their store in Florence. Sue’s dad remembers that when he would stay with them, they’d sometimes cut off a small wedge of cheese to eat as a snack before bedtime. . . . Sue wonders if even today—when the humidity’s just right—that building might still smell of cheese, milk, and dry goods.

Back to the story. Eventually, Margaret and Stub started caring for Nelson full-time, apparently when he was about three (or before he started school, anyway). They never had any children of their own.

This picture, by the way, was taken in front of Clarence and Mabel's store in Florence.

But Stub and Margaret didn’t officially adopt their nephew Nelson; and they didn’t let him forget who his real dad was. He never called them “mom” and “dad.” At holidays and in summers, he went to stay with other relatives.

Sue’s grandpa Ferber was forced into new work, first farming near Vermilion, later becoming a logger and lumber seller. He worked with a team of draft horses and a big wooden sled for hauling boles out of the woods.

He remarried rather soon after Mabel’s death, and no one seemed too fond of his second wife, Cora. I guess that was because she wasn’t warm to her husband’s family. And Grandpa Ferber himself had grown increasingly, um, crusty. He’d always been short-tempered, and the disasters he experienced certainly didn’t help his disposition.

So Sue’s dad grew up with his aunt Margaret and uncle Stub, and Sue and her sister and brother grew up with a great aunt and great uncle who were, more or less, their paternal “grandparents.” They were certainly emotionally closer to them than to their father’s own father.

What did the Nottkes do? Well, for about one year, they had a dry goods store at the center of Berlin Heights, on the northeast corner of Main and Lake streets, where the town’s U.S. Post Office is now. Maybe they did this with the encouragement of their siblings/in-laws, Clarence and Mabel, who had the store in nearby Florence. Anyway, they got out of that business; apparently they just didn't care for that kind of business.

So mainly, Uncle Stub worked for the Lake Shore Electric interurban railway line, which went through Berlin Heights through what is now the field behind Sue’s parents’ house. Stub must have been employed in some form of maintenance—either of the cars, the line, or the station. The interurban was a big deal in its time, offering people in small towns fast, convenient travel to Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit. When the interurban declined and closed in 1938, Uncle Stub found other employment; Sue remembers him working for Ohio Edison—as a lineman, she thinks.

Here they are in 1956.

And Margaret worked, too. She worked for many years at the Berlin Fruit Box Company, which all the locals called “the box shop.” For more than 150 years, this basket factory was the town’s main industry. It started in 1854 making bushel, peck, and pint baskets, crates, ladders, and other items needed for harvesting and shipping apples and other fruit and vegetable crops.

The basket factory, at 51 Mechanic Street, was just up the road from the Nottkes’ home at 13 Mechanic Street.

In fact, “the box shop” continued, under sixth-generation ownership, as a small factory called “Samuel Patterson Baskets,” named for the company’s founder. They made extremely high quality, durable, “heirloom” baskets until just a few years ago, when they closed. (Sadly, they sold the awesome vintage lathe and cutting machines, so the business really is d-e-d dead.)

This was their lathe/veneer-making machine; Sue took the photo in November 2004 when we took a tour of the then-revitalized factory.

Although the basket factory is closed, the town of Berlin Heights still has its annual Basket Festival, with funnel cakes, a parade, and a “Basket Queen.”

The 2010 Basket Queen:

The famous Giant Basket in the center of town, and the sign inviting everyone to visit the first week in August:

The basket theme still fits, since the community has a thriving orchard-based economy, including Burnham Orchards, Quarry Hill Orchards, and AB Phillips & Sons Fruit Farm.

So as Uncle Stub worked at the interurban and at Ohio Edison, and Aunt Margaret wove together thin strips of wood and stapled them together into baskets for the region’s produce, Sue’s dad grew up kind of a latchkey kid.

Maybe to help make up for not being home all the time, Aunt Margaret was rather stern with her nephew, her young charge. Apparently she was a stickler for manners—sitting up straight, behaving appropriately at the dinner table, cleaning your plate, and so on. (For ever after, Sue’s dad, I guess, never did feel very comfortable at fancy places, where there were cloth dinner napkins and tablecloths!) Margaret wouldn’t tolerate shenanigans from Sue and her siblings, either. If they started misbehaving, she’d send them right home. But they loved her anyway.

So, now you know a little about Sue’s great aunt Margaret, who is forever remembered with this beautiful aluminum Christmas tree. If she was a little stern, if she was opinionated and direct, if she had a low tolerance for nonsense—you just have to remember what she went through, and what she witnessed.

One more fun fact about Aunt Margaret: a favorite treat for her was to eat a bowl of vanilla ice cream with soda crackers—she’d eat the crackers with the ice cream the way most people would have cookies with it. Crackers and ice cream! . . . Or, if she had them, she’d pair ice cream with cashews, for the same salty/sweet deliciousness. (You’re going to have to try it, now, aren’t you!)

Somehow this tidbit seems to encapsulate what I know of her personality. A kind of opulence amid an ingrained frugality. Taking mundane ingredients and making something unusual and pleasurable out of them. I can get behind that!

Cheers to the memory of Great Aunt Margaret Nottke!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Aunt Margaret's Aluminum Christmas Tree

Greetings, and merry Christmas! I’ve already received one of my wishes: We put up Sue’s great aunt Margaret’s aluminum Christmas tree!

It hadn’t seen the light of day for several years—I can’t remember the last time we put it up. I bet it’s been fifteen years (I know we put it up one year soon after buying my grandma’s house). Like all old Christmas trees, it’s fragile.

And because the Weihnachtspyramide is such a big deal with my family (who live around here), and it “goes with” this house, it always gets priority. After all the cooking and baking, there’s never time left to put up the aluminum tree. And usually, we’re out of town at Christmas. . . . But we’re here this year, and I’ve put cookies on the back burner. (So to speak.)

(By the way, in this post I'm including pictures of the aluminum Christmas tree, its boxes, and its shiny ornaments, many of which are "new" but which we haven't seen since we last put it up, since they're in a box of "our" ornaments as opposed to my Grandma's boxes of ornaments.)

(See? MODERN! I'd totally forgotten about my purple fishie!)

But I’ve really missed Aunt Margaret’s tree!

Of course, there’s a story. And you want to hear it, right?

Aunt Margaret—Margaret Armina Ferber Nottke—was Sue’s great aunt, her dad’s father’s youngest sister. She was born September 23, 1903. She and her husband, William Hartman (“Stub”) Nottke, lived at 13 Mechanic Street in Berlin Heights, Ohio (where Sue’s sister, Lynn, and her family live today)—it’s just around the corner from Sue’s parents’ home.

To Sue and her siblings, “Aunt Margaret” was pretty much like a grandma, since she and “Uncle Stub” had been the primary guardians and parent-figures to Nelson Ferber, Sue’s dad. (More on that situation in my next post, if you’re interested.)

Because Margaret and Stub lived so close nearby, they could be close in many other ways, too. Here she is on the Ferber's side steps with Prince and Cinders.

So, back to the Christmas tree: Apparently, Sue’s mom and dad bought it in about 1964, when Sue was 7, Lynn 5, and Mark 2. I asked Sue where they got it, and she had to think. “I’m not sure! Maybe at the Giant Tiger? Or maybe at an appliance store. Or they could’ve bought it at a grocery store—grocery stores used to sell Christmas decorations like that. But probably they got it at a discount store . . . or Penney’s or Sears.”

And they got a super-duper box of shiny, lightweight ornaments at the same time—perfect for the tree. We still have that entire thing. I think only two ornaments are missing.

The ornaments have an unusual hook system.

And you can see why we really don't like to even touch these ornaments; they're so fragile.

So, we use mostly "modern" ornaments now:

Anyway, with such a delicate, fragile tree, one that can only hold lightweight, shiny, breakable ornaments, and whose branches can fall out if you merely brush against them . . . and with a mechanical spotlight spinner that went with it, and its fragile colored gels—this Christmas tree really wasn’t a good fit for a house with three young kids.

Can you imagine Sue’s mom trying to take care of three kids, make dinner, bake Christmas cookies, clean, AND tell the kids over and over not to touch the tree—?

At that point, Margaret and Stub weren’t putting up a Christmas tree (that Sue can remember, anyway), so Sue’s parents gave the tree to them. And that’s how it became “Aunt Margaret’s Christmas Tree.”

Sue says she always had it on her sunporch (which is now brother-in-law Gene’s TV room/library), just off of the living room. There was good morning light in there, with all the windows.

So if your de facto grandparents lived around the corner from you, you’d have some really sweet memories of their Christmas tree! And that’s how Sue and her brother and sister think of this tree: Aunt Margaret’s Christmas tree!

Their great uncle Stub died in early 1970s, but Margaret put the tree up every year until she went into a nursing home in the early 1980s. After Margaret’s death, Sue’s sister and brother-in-law bought Stub and Margaret’s home, which has put them in arm’s reach of Sue’s parents all these years. Their lucky daughter, Kaitlyn, got to grow up on the same block as her maternal grandparents!

Margaret had kept her Christmas tree and its ornaments in her attic. After she passed away, there was the inevitable process of “who wants what?” Apparently Lynn and Gene were wanting to clear out the attic. Sue wanted the tree, and I guess no one else expressed an interest, so it became hers.

Sue was living in St. Louis at the time. At this point, she can’t remember if her parents brought it to her on one of their visits, or if Sue herself drove it back after a visit to Ohio.

It’s a well-traveled tree! Sue remembers that once, in late 1980s, when she was working at Maritz in Fenton, the tree decorated the hallway of the South-Central Performance Improvement creative department. And she also displayed it in her house on 7542 Warner Avenue in Richmond Heights. I remember when she showed me a photo of it, soon after we met. Even in black and white, it looked spectacular.

So, when Sue joined me in Montana, the tree moved with her. Then, when we moved back to Missouri, the tree moved back with us. I know we set it up one of the years we lived in Columbia. (We were alternating: one year with a real tree, the next with the aluminum one.) Next, it made the trek from Como to Jeff City, where we put it up one of the first years we lived here, but then we either lacked the energy to put it up, or else we weren’t going to be here over Christmas, so why bother putting up TWO trees?

And between “squirrelly Early” (Earl was our hyper Russian blue) and Genji (then a rambunctious young puss-puss), it was just like the scenario at the Ferber household in the early sixties: we didn’t want to be constantly yelling at cats.

So, I got one of my Christmas wishes this year: We put up Aunt Margaret’s Christmas tree!

So far this year, to supplement the original spotlight spinner, we picked up one of those “shimmering effect” LED motion projectors, which people often use outdoors to beam groovy colors onto their homes. The original spotlight spinner is another nifty artifact from another time.

We’re being nice to the old spotlight by mostly using the new one on the tree, and it looks pretty nifty! We can “choose from 6 color options”! Red, red and green, blue, blue and red (which just looks pinkish to me), green, and green and blue (which makes me think of an aquarium). The gizmo even comes with a remote control, so I can sit in my chair and make it change colors.

Would Aunt Margaret’s like the new color projector? Who knows. . . . but I'd like to think she'd love it!