Sunday, November 22, 2015


On November 1, 2015 a willful nine year old girl introduced herself to me, and asked me to write her side of the story. Reluctantly, I replied, “I’m afraid we’ve never met, and I’ve just signed up for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth with the goal of finishing a memoir that I began five years ago. I’m afraid you’ve asked the wrong person for help.”

She cocked her head to one side, looked me square in the eyes, and then tilted her head to the other side. “Nope, you’re the write person. I don’t know why I picked you, but my gut tells me that you can help me.”

“What is your name? I’ve taught school for decades and perhaps
we’ve met.” I offered.

“My name is Rebecca Kate Temple, and my friends call me Becca or Hound Dog.”  

“Hound dog,” I laughed. “I grew up with a little sister who once carried the nickname Hound Dog, and sometimes we called her “Stormy.”

I felt the determination grow in that little girl’s spine. She began poking at my side, making me laugh. “Come on, please write my story.  I need help, now.” For a moment I felt tears well up inside my old body. “Rebecca Kate, I will do the best job I can for you, but sometimes I get distracted and don’t finish things I start. I want you to know that upfront.”

“Are you saying that you are not dependable, or are you making excuses?” She asked with her arms crossed over her chest, and her right arm on top. “Young lady, did no one teach you to respect your elders.” I demanded.

Her head and shoulders dropped. I felt her strong spine and spirit weaken and shrivel up inside of me. Her energy began to fade, “No, wait. Don’t leave me, Miss Becca. You are right. I make excuses for things I’m afraid to do, for the things I don’t know how to do. I don’t like failure.” With that last word I felt a shiver inside of her, inside of me.

Meekly, her voice replied, “I don’t like failure either, but I have failed, and I bet you have too. Maybe if we work together we can make this story right.” I saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes. I nodded approval and sighed deeply, “Partners then Miss Becca. You may call me Letty. Now where do we start?”

Somewhat belligerently she retorted, “You’re the author. You figure that out. I will just tell you what happens along the way. Oh, if I forget something important can you go back and put it in the story?”

“I bet I can. I bet I can." I studied this deal, this idea for quite sometime while those green eyes starred at me.  "What shall we call this journey?" I asked and offered her my handshake.

“The first story is called Out of Step and the second story might be called SideStep, then there's always Step By Step and In Step. WE will just have to wait and see.”  Before I could take my hand back and argue, she reached out and took my hand, my heart, and my head. 

Thanks to NaNoWriMo here is what I’ve learned of Miss Becca since the first of November.

Naughty, nervy
Outgoing, outspoken
Willful, willing
Rambunctious racehorse
Imaginative, impetuous

11/1    2,438 words
11/5    6,723 words
11/9   11,729 words
11/13  17,247 words
11/18  23,333 words just 26,667 words to go by Nov. 30. Come on Becca help me out.
11/20  28,241 words. I'm getting there. Only 21,759 words to reach the goal of 50,000 words!
11/28  33,084 words.
11/30  35,380 words.  Didn't make the 50,000 goal but plan to finish this story.

P.S. I'd like to thank my person of "Inspiration," my cousin Patty. In her first year of retirement she wrote and finished her first novel. Six months later she published and sold it on, Thank you Patty for showing me commitment and determination.  This is the link for her novel                  The Habitant by P.L. Weaver

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pen Pals Lost and Found

Arriving home from a genealogy vacation last summer,  I returned to the search for classmates, notes, and connections to our 50th high school class reunion.  In a small pile of grade school pictures, I gasped in surprise, there in my hands was a wallet-sized photo

Susan Kuhlman, my pen pal from 5th grade.  I remembered exactly where we met, that July of 1959. 

My parents had taken a long weekend trip to Branson, Missouri to fish and enjoy the waters of Lake Taneycomo (long before it was the Branson of today).  Our small roadside motel had a pool for the kids, a boat dock and fishing dock. Best of all it was raw with nature and wilderness surrounding it. 

A large snapping turtle had been captured and placed in a four sided cement tank on prime property for kids to bend over and offer carrots or poke at it with sticks. In retrospect, I'm sure that turtle wasn't captured for us to tease, but at the time it seemed logical.

Susan and I met in the pool that week, and became the best of young friends. She had a little sister, as did I, so we shared our woes of always having tagalongs sisters on each adventure.  Her father was the principal at the Missouri Military Academy, and like my father he enjoyed fishing. Our mothers made the best picnic lunches that week, and our evening meals were hot dogs, or fresh fish from the lake.  

At the end of the week, Susan and I exchanged addresses and began a writing letter friendship that lasted until we both went off to college.  

The story might have ended, but my curiosity to know what happened pushed me to begin my search.  How simple it became, thanks to social media. First, I found her younger sister on
Susan Kuhlman 1963-64
facebook, and a few days later, I received a note and friend request from my Pen Pal.  Oh, we laughed and recalled those years and letters. Neither of us managed to save those letters, nor did I find any old postcards of Branson.  She said that she'd often thought of me and tried to find me over the years. Susan recalled that one summer her parents were on vacation and dropped her off to stay with me overnight. "You showed me your fallout shelter in the backyard, and I was overwhelmed.  I hoped no one would every have to use it. We played games and just caught up with lots of laughs and great friendship.  I remember your little sister, Jonya. My sister, Joyce, didn't spend the night with us." 

Interesting how a setting made for an Alfred Hitchcock scene, the frigid cold waters and bouncy waves of Lake Taneycomo, a stucco motel with a flat roof and gravely parking lot, provided a happy ending for two little girls, who still share those memories, and whose friendship has come full circle. 

In the process of writing this blog, we've begun to communicate again about memories, about our parents, and eventually we will arrive at today. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Class of 65 We Honor our Veterans

Over fifty years ago, 260 Miami Wardogs proudly wore their caps and gowns crossing the Civic Center stage in alphabetical order and graduating as members of the MHS Class of 1965.  In reflection, how innocent and young we were.  We couldn't vote, but we could go to war and serve our country in the Armed Forces.

In high school, I often looked forward to ABC order, because that placed me near some cute but ornery boys.  What lighthearted trouble Bill Smiley, Richard Spencer, and Johnny Stansell caused me over the years. Looking back at our
graduation rows, I now see men and women, who went on to serve our country. One classmate, a quiet boy by whom I often sat next to in class, Mike Standeford, lost his life in Vietnam. Within one year of graduation President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 400,000 US Troops to Vietnam, among them were our classmates along with older Wardogs who joined the service.  
In September 2015, our class reunited for our 50th graduation reunion.  On the last night together our gaiety turned somber, as we began the evening with a tribute to our classmates who had died. Outside under the blue Oklahoma
skies, we stood together, held hands, and cried as the names of fifty-four deceased classmates were read and balloons lifted in their memory.

Phil Chambers, Tony Palmer, Roy Underwood

Our Gala banquet followed with a tribute to our Veterans.  Bill Smith and Roy Underwood took the helm to guide us through
Letty and Bill Smith, "H" street memories :-)
a time in history: a time when we were each living apart, searching for meaning in life, asking "why" and "how" questions, attending college, beginning careers, starting a new life with a family, and committing to serve our country. We proudly honor our Veterans, not only today, but every time we vote, we speak, we write, we applaud, we Pledge, we sing...We say Thank You. Nearly 23% of our class or 59 of us, who tossed their caps that night in May, served in a branch of the Armed Forces.

Four women advanced their careers and lives with service and honor to our country:  Judy Delozier served in the Navy; Cheryl Storey served in the Air Force; Janice Hannebon Sprinkle joined the Navy; Andrea Anderson Juricic and her husband David both served in the Coast Guard.  Andrea became the first female cook in the Coast Guard

Thirty-one of our classmates served in Vietnam.  We honor all of you who served, who gave those years of your youth to keep us safe, and we respect your commitment to keep our country free:  
Arnold Able, Army, (deceased)
Glen Beauchamp, Army
Duane Benbrook, Army
Jim Bridgeman, Marine, Vietnam
Danny Burkhart, Navy, Vietnam (deceased)
Alan Campbell, Navy, Vietnam, Desert Storm  (deceased)

Phil Chambers, Army, Vietnam
George Cooper, Navy, Vietnam (deceased)
John Finley, Army
Clay Finnell, Army, Vietnam (deceased)
Jim Fraizer, Marine
Clark French, Navy
Bill Garvin, Army (deceased)
Doug Gosney, Army
Steve Gwartney, Army, Vietnam
Danny Harrison, Navy, Vietnam
Tom Haskins, Army
Steve Helmey, Army
Don Hilderbrand, Army, Vietnam
Mike Holt, Army, Vietnam  (deceased)
Richard Hopkins, Air Force
David Hunt, Air Force
James Johnson, Army
Jim (Eddie) Johnston, Army, Vietnam
Bradley Karnes, Marine, Vietnam
Fred Lemons, Army
Randy Loehr, Army, Vietnam
Danny McClure, Navy, Vietnam
Tony Miller, Navy, Vietnam
Dale Milliser, Air Force
George Newman, Navy, Vietnam
Dennis Nichols, Navy
Cody Nidiffer, Army, Vietnam
Terry O'Laughlin, Navy
Rex Oliver, Marine, Vietnam (deceased)
Tony Palmer, Army, Vietnam
John Parcell, Navy
Tom Perry, Army, Vietnam (deceased)
Doug Phillips, Navy, Vietnam
Randy Ransom, Army, Korea
Mike Rundell, Army, Vietnam  (deceased)
Mike Schmidt, Army, Vietnam (deceased)
Gene Shelton, Army, Vietnam
Bill Smiley, Army (deceased)
Bill Smith, Army, Vietnam
Jackie Smith, Army/Navy Vietnam (deceased)
Richard Spencer, Army
Mike Standeford, Army, Vietnam (KIA)
John Stansell, Navy, Vietnam
Jack Trask, Army, Vietnam
Roy Underwood, Army, Vietnam
Jay Dee Whitlock, Army, Vietnam
Pat Wilson, Navy
Darrel Wooldrige, Army (deceased)
Ron Wyrick, Army

Recently, the University of Oklahoma honored, Captain Cody Nidiffer as the Patriot of the Game during the OU vs West Virginia football game. (10/3/15)

Rita and Cody Nidiffer, Sheri Coale

Thank you ALL Wardogs from every generation who have served our great nation.

MHS Class of 65

Thank you Roy Underwood for this photo. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Postcards to Pen Pals

The sun came out and colors came to life.
We were on our way up I 44 toward St. Louis, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a green highway sign saying, "Mexico near." 

An arrow with a mile sign pointing to Mexico, Missouri caught my full attention, luckily Jack was driving, because I suddenly remembered a childhood connection to a Pen Pal who grew up in Mexico, Mo. Somewhere before we stopped for the night I shouted out, "Her name is Susan Kuhlman."  "What?" Jack curiously turned toward me.  "Tee hee hee," I laughed. "I just remembered my Pen Pal's name. I wonder where she is now?"

The Peters family
The trip to Monticello, Indiana, meeting a new family of cousins once removed and sightseeing, took my attention away from a lost pen pal.

Ironically, it was postcards from one hundred years ago that brought our distant families together.  My grandmother Pearl saved her postcards, and they eventually found their way into my hands and onto the web.  One by one Pearl's story in postcards united nearly all of the grandchildren from her sister's side of the family and her side, too. 
1909 view of Indianapolis
Her sister, Mae, died one hundred years ago, leaving behind three small children, who would be raised by a less than kind and loving step-mother and their father.  My grandmother's story was that of following the oil fields, as her husband was a geologist. 

The Boat House, Chicago, Illinois  1912
For four days in June, the Peters family, Jack and I shared stories of our lives and connections.  Genealogy is so much more interesting in person, rather than from the tombstones.  We realized that not only did the postcards connect us, but that four of us are librarians. Our
3rd st Bartlesville, Ok  1914
grandmother's would be so proud.  What great connections the past offers us, when we take the time to look back and begin asking questions.  

Two family stories that I discovered in postcards are already on my blog:   When They Were Young and  Consumed by a Story

As for my Pen Pal, that's another story.

What about the art of sending notes and sharing our lives through postcards?  Postcards are still being sold at state tourism departments and in a few old souvenir shops.  I still send postcards, do you?  Christmas is coming, how many of us will send Christmas cards with a note of happenings in our lives?  

So much to read, so little time.  Why not make it easy and send a postcard?

Check out these stories for more thoughts and pictures in postcards. The Postcard is Alive and Well: The Iconic Muse

Biloxi before Hurricanes Camille and Katrina.  Biloxi, Mississippi

History of postcards Smithsonian

***This is like Christmas, only early.  Look what just arrived in my mailbox from Dori and George, who spent some time this fall in Vienna.