Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cards - 1969 to 1973


Next year we're going to get organized ~Here it is Christmas week, and the family pictures I bought the film for in November ~ didn't get taken 'til December, that's par but, then the the flash wouldn't work, the printer couldn't ~ anyway Christmas is here, 2 weeks early again this year.
The whole trouble is Rae Marie's fault.! In past years she'd start hinting about Santa right after Labor Day ~ Now that she's a sophmore, on the honor roll and working at the library we only see her on Sundays & holidays and her hinting is for cars and college, rather than Christmas or candy.
 LouAnn, the freshman speech major could have told me even if Rae was too busy ~ all she has to do is stay on the honor roll, babysit, help mom, serve on the youth council and take organ lessons while she dreams of horses, or is it cowboys?  I don't know.
 Say Scott, our 4th grader has got the spirit.  He's making Christmas decorations and gifts for the family in Cubs this year.  'Course it's a secret.
 Now you take Barbara, please.  She's sweet, sassy, seven with a heart of gold and a sense of logic that'll keep you awake nites.  The good tooth fairy finally gave up after finding the same front tooth under her pillow 5 nites in a row.
Over the protests of his teenage sisters, Kelly had his haircut.  At 2 1/2, Joan's got him trained to do two things: clean up spilled milk and wash the windows.  He does them in that order with the same milk-wet sponge unfortunately.
Speaking of Joan, she's upstairs addressing your Christmas card right now, so I best close.  Let me just add that the Lord has blessed us real good this year, with health, happiness, and a deeper understanding and empathy for our fellowman.
I'd go on and tell you about my new job selling blacktop, but I hear reindeer paws on the roof....
Merry Chistmas, Rollie & Joan

By the year 1970, the family pictures were finally put aside and the family poem became the norm.

The card for 1971 had not yet turned up, but I'll continue to look through the pictures and see what turns up.  1972 found this little number:

By 1973 it was "Merry Christmas Found"

He couldn't have said it better: "Now that we've found ours, We hope yours is a "verry, verry" merry one!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas cards -1968

Christmas cards - the late 60's

Christmas 1966
     I have to smile when I think back on the making of the Christmas cards for our family.  It became such a stressful time, not unlike today for others.  In this photo card sent in 1966, we stopped having matching outfits, the tree (again white, flocked!) had blue ornaments which were not part of a coordinated effort that was put into earlier years.  There were a few (2) small presents under the tree (which by it's location would have been in front of the entryway into the room. Scott had no shoes on, and Rae, judging by this photo had either a very short dress on, or was missing her pants!  Dad was never available as he had been elected to the State Senate, Scott had just started kindergarten, Barbara was still underfoot and Mom was expecting her 5th child!  No wonder it was so stressful!

Christmas 1967
A letter (written presumebly by the baby, Kelton) accompanied each card.  It read,

"Hi Folks!

     First chance I've had to formally introduce myself since I arrived at the Glewwe's July's Kelton Edward Glewwe...friends call me Kel or Kelly, and I weighed in at 7 lbs, 3 oz. wringing wet.  Joan (that's my Mom) says I'm still wet most of the time but she loves me anyway.

     I can't quite sit up yet, but it's my job to keep track of the activities and goings on that make things pretty hectic around our house.  Prior to my arrival, Dad was in session at the Capitol (whatever that means) so some of the chores around the house were put off 'til this summer.  But now that the kitchen has a new coat of paint and the beds have been shuffled around for the fifth time, I've managed to squeeze in and share a room with my big brother Scott--he's seven and breaks things.

     My oldest sister, Rae Marie, is 13 and she's out babysitting for the neighbors most of the time.....that's when she's not taking care of me, playing records or doing the things older sisters do around the house.
     LouAnn (she's 12) and Rae catch the bus for Junior High every morning so I don't see them most of the day.  I kinda miss's so quiet when she's gone...but at noon all that changes when my kid sister (she's 5 years older then me) comes home from school and tickles my belly.  Everybody calls her Barbie and Daddy says she can twist him around her finger like a piece of string.

     We had a lot of excitement around here lask week when Aunt Barbara (that's Mom's sister) got married...never saw so many people peeking and poking at me; I thought I was back in the hospital nursery.
     In September Dad got his hair cut short (Mom doesn't like it that way) and went back to college to get a degree in business administration.  When I asked him how his marks were he said, "Well, they know I'm not cheating."

     Mom spends most of her time washing, ironing, cooking and correcting the spelling of her school-bound boarders.....Sometimes after everyone's gone and things quiet down, she sneaks a few minutes and plays a song for me on the organ.  I like "O Holy Night" the best.

     Oh! Oh! It's time for my nap and here comes Mom.  Just one more line before I go,



P.S.  Happy New Year too!

Christmas Cards - the middle years

     As the final few days before Christmas come to an end, the stockings are hung, the cookies are cooling, the cards have been sent......that reminds me of the other cards that were sent out years before.....

1963...  Rol and Joan and family.  Rol was the produce manager at Glewwe's Food Market and Joan was a stay-at-home mom with four children, the youngest, Barbara, a year and a half.  The picture window in the living room was painted for the season, and we kids were in matching outfits (all home-made) as was mom's dress.  The oil paintings of Scott and Barbara, which hung on the walls at home for many years, were done with these outfits.  I still have the blue velvet dresses, with their white underslips, up in the attic.

By 1964, Mom had gone to work for Mary Adams, a women's dress shop in town and the homemade clothes came to an end, but not the matching outfits.  Our white dresses had matching blue, velvet ribbon ties and we coordinated with the rest of the family.  Notice the painted window and the white, flocked tree.  The picture was taken early in the season, as it was not yet decorated and the sofa was out of its usual location.  Scott recently had stitches above his left eye and Rae had finally cut her long, straight hair.  Who knew that it was so curly, just waiting to be released.

By 1965, Mom and Dad have had some experience with campaigning, signage and "over-the-top" presentations. Both being in retail, presentation was everything.  They decided that this would be the year they would silk-screen their cards.  Their lack of experience was made up by their "can-do" attitude.  They produced over 100 cards in jet-black ink.  Little did they realize that the finished cards needed to be put into a 400+ degree oven to set the ink.  They tried to get them to dry by hanging them all over the house, both downstairs and up.  Some dried, but many did not, and in the end, others were made by stencil with the words "Color us Merry! "
Season's Greetings!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cards - the early years

     I don't know why picture Christmas cards became so popular?  Was it because cameras became smaller and easier to use, developing of film became cheaper, flashbulbs became built-in on the camera?  A combination of all the above and more, I'm sure.  The picture below is my favorite of all of the Christmas cards that my dad took of us kids.  This one dates from 1960.  I loved the setup of the picture and I remember wondering why the presents were here when we took the picture but then disappeared by the next day.

   I can't find a card from 1961, but this was the year of the photo below (judging by the size of Scott).  The blue snowsuit that he has on... the hat is still floating around in the attic.  I don't remember cutting this tree down, but by looking at the branches that are pointing up and the lack of other trees, I'm sure this one was purchased at a tree lot.

   The first of the color pictures that were set up for Christmas.  This one is from 1962.  My sister, Rae, and I and had matching dresses. I like to think that they saw "The Sound of Music" stage production and these dresses reminded my mother of it.  This dress was "One of My Favorite Things" for many years.  The beagle's name was Suzie.  All I remember of her was that she was Rae's favorite and ran away a lot.  We were always running down the street, chasing after her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent Calander - Christmas Tree

   What would Christmas be without the tree?  We used to have a simple life in a simple house with simple decorations.  Then came the sixties.  I remember when I was a child that our trees were the envy of all my friends and kids in the neighborhood.  We used to have one down in the basement for us kids to decorate and one upstairs in the living room for my mother to dress. 

   Downstairs we had decorations made from school, sometimes popcorn strung around the tree, but almost always with tinsel.  Long, silvery tinsel that she would supervise us putting on so that each branch had many strands, but none of them touching each other and each one hanging from just one end so that it would be as long a strand as could hang without falling off. 

Oh Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches........
   But this was not the tree that would bring the envy in their eyes.  No, it was the WHITE, FLOCKED TREE with coordinating bows and balls that would grace the living room upstairs on the main floor.  The one that would sit in front of the picture window so all who passed by could view it from outside.  One year it would be red, another royal blue and yet another that olive green that you found in kitchen coordinated colors from the 60's.  The balls were the satin kind that looked like spun thread and sparkled in the lights (only white on this tree).  And the bows were all handmade from Minnesota, Mining & Manufacturing (3M) ribbon, "Sasheen".  (We still prefer Sasheen ribbon today, even though they have discontinued making it for many years.  Love finding it at estate sales.  Makes the best bows.)

   But one year, sometime in the late 70's, a respected monsignor mentioned that "one shouldn't have to go find Christmas", it should be found everywhere and the forest of trees began to grow. It started with two trees, to a few artificial trees and a few small trees to many artificial trees and one live tree. Today we have trees in just about every room in the house. 

   There is the 11' tree in the "big room" with its red, velvet ribbon garland and red, shiny ornaments and other ornaments from around the world.  It stands majestically in front of the center window so that all who pass by can view it from outside.  (People still ask if I live in the house with the 'big tree'?) 

    There is the small, silver tree with white lights and antique ornaments from the 1950's in the dining room, as well as one that hangs on the wall with miniature ornaments and figures.  In the hall, one can view another small tree, lit with white lights and different birds and fruit and vegetable ornaments.

  In the parlor (we call it the old living room) there is the Victorian-style tree with its gold berry garland, white lights, silky white or soft pink balls, white poinsettia's and icicles hanging from every branch. It too stands in front of the living room windows for passersby to see.

   The bathroom sports a miniature tree with bows and birds and the downstairs bathroom used to have a white feather tree, until this year when newly married daughter took it home to her new place.

   And in front of downstairs windows stands the only living tree.  It is not unlike the trees from my childhood that stood in the basement.  It has the only colored lights, covered with ornaments from my children's elementary school years and those ornaments not "cool" enough to make the upstairs cut.  The only thing missing is the tinsel!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cookies

  Today's blog on the Advent Calendar is Christmas cookies.  I don't remember making a lot of cookies when I was small.  Sure when I had small children, we would occasionally try our hand at making decorated sugar cookies, and when they would bring home a gingerbread house made with graham crackers around a small milk carton, we would marvel at the skill.  My grandmothers always made cookies and would share their bounty with us.  But set aside time to make a lot of cookies for Christmas;  I have no recollections of this, until my husband, who has a penchant for all things sweet, started to make cookies for Christmas.  Now the list has grown by the dozen and there are some varieties that we must have on hand every year.

   First are the meringue cookies that my Grandma B made.  With chocolate chips.  Lots of them.  Enough so I can sneak some and no one is the wiser.  I think they are still my favorite.

   Then there is the Mexican tea cakes that Grandma G made.  I never cared much for them until I got older.  Now they never make it to the cookie plate on the Christmas table.  You have to make one batch and watch as they disappear, then a week or so later, make them again so as to have some for the party.  I think my dad likes these the best.

   Of course, if there is time, one has to make date-filled sugar cookies.  Again another favorite of my Grandma B and one which brings back many memories of her.  Every time I've tried to make them, though, the filling is not as smooth, the cookie not quite as good.  Still, I'll keep a tryin'.

   I've given up on making Spritz cookies.  Whether I use butter or margarine, I can't seem to get them out of the cookie press in a decent shape.  I will leave these for others to make.

   My favorite candy, though I don't remember eating it for Christmas exactly was Penuche.  My aunt would make it when we would spend the night at Grandma's house.  It is brown sugar fudge candy.  At least that's the way I remember it.  Another tradition at Grandma's was her version of Plum Pudding with lemon sauce.  You know the kind that you bake in a small coffee can.  I wonder what people use today, now that coffee cans are made of plastic or come in a bag?

   Then my husband brought his family traditions to the table.  His favorites are creme de menthe bars, German chocolate caramel bars, lemon bars and his grandmother's favorite, rum or brandy balls.  We don't have a Christmas season without these family favorites.

Rum Balls or Brandy Balls

1 10oz box of vanilla wafers, crushed and rolled fine.
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped fine
1/2 cup rum or brandy
3 tablespoons corn syrup
granulated sugar

Mix the rum and corn syrup together.  In a larger bowl, mix the wafers, sugar and walnuts together.  Add the rum/syrup mixture and mix.  Shape the dough into small balls about the size of a quarter.  Roll the balls in granulated sugar and put into a quart jar.  Cover and store in the refrigerator.  If they start to dry out add more rum to the container and shake to distribute evenly.  (I prefer using brandy.)

Now that I've brought them all to mind, I better start baking!

Christmas 1957 & 1958

Came across another picture of my sister and I, back during the Christmas season, 1957.  My mother would dress us in matching dresses, a tradition I continued with my children when they were small.  I laugh when I look at the decorations that are atop the piano.  The candleholder was a white birch log with two holes drilled into it.  We used it for many years.  I think if I were to look for it in the attic, I may still come across it.  And the stuffed animals.  I hope the small plant did not take the place of a Christmas tree.   I loved that piano.  It was black mahogany and I learned how to play the piano on it.  My folks traded it in for an electric spinet organ back in the middle 60's.  Today I own a mahogany spinet upright piano.  I played it for years until we got a baby grand piano.  Now the old upright sits forlorn in the basement.

Our folks sent out picture cards for many years early in their married life.  Because my father worked for the family grocery store, loved marketing and has a  "presentation is everything" mentality, he would set up photo sets to use for their Christmas cards. 

Christmas Card 1957

There are many shots of this setup, some of us singing, some of us laughing and some of us looking at the lamppole which looked like it was about to fall.  The following year brought about the decorations used at the store....

 Christmas Card 1958

"A Visit With Grandma"

     Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I think about my favorite Christmas movie, Frank Capra's  "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946).  It was on the television the other night and it still makes me cry at the end when all of George's friends and family gather in the front hall singing "Auld Lang Syne" and a small bell starts to ring.  Immediately my memories take me to the funeral mass of my grandmother, Hazel Brossoit.  Not because of the similarities of Grandma B and George Bailey and/or his wife Mary, but because of the angel, Clarence.

This eulogy written by my father, Rollin Glewwe, was given on October 20, 1994.

A Visit With Grandma Brossoit

     "Mark, Barbara, Joan, Bette, and Marvin thank you for sharing your mother with the rest of us this past 86 years.  Omer, thank you for letting us share our memories of Hazel today and for helping us to relive some of the joy you must have known over the years, a joy each of us holds dear, as we say goodbye.
     Hazel was everybody's Grandma...and yet, she had that rarest of qualities that let each one of us know that we were special to her.

     She never had to make a list of her 17 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren...she knew each one and called each one by name.  In fact, Grandma knew and called just about everybody by name.
     For those of us who were fortunate enough to marry into Hazel's family, we soon discovered that we had a very special friend cheering for us while never interfering with us.  Her grace and charm easily won our hearts and not surprisingly, the hearts of our parents and brothers and sisters as well.
     I know that Hazel felt a deep kinship to Maggie's folks and was saddened at their passing.  Hollis' mom and his sister and brothers all count themselves as friends of Hazel, she was awful easy to like.  Marvel's folks picnicked, visited, played 500 and made Hazel and Omer part of their did many of us.  When Bud and Bette got married, Hazel made sure Ollie, Bud's sister and her family were included as part of the Brossoit circle.  Hazel's extended family was never limited to was always treated as family.

     Most folks are content to plant or be a branch of their own family tree.  Not Hazel, she planted an orchard of family trees...look're sitting in Hazel's orchard this morning.  The evidence of her skill as a master gardener is not limited to her prize roses and begonias, but to each of us in this room as she nurtured us, held us in the hands of her gentle heart and helped us all to grow.
     Grandma's life-time partner and best friend, Omer, bought her one of the first television sets in South St. Paul.  A 1950's 12" Philco as I recall...I think Omer still has it.  One of her favorite programs in those days was "I Remember Mama", and Sam Levenson.  Sam was a storyteller and Grandma always loved a good story.  Being of Danish descent, she especially like 'dose about dem Norvegians, Sven and Ollie.'
     Grandma's story is an 'I Remember Mama' Classic.  Born into  a family of eight, Hazel's mother died when Hazel was only eleven.  Her dad, the Stephen, Minnesota Postmaster and her older brothers and sisters raised Hazel themselves for the most part.  They lived by the Tamarac River and many a wintry morning, she and her brothers and sisters would skate to school.  Hazel liked school, did well and attended Bemidji State Teachers College where she was awarded her teaching certificate.
     Her teaching career ended when she married, which was the rule of thumb in those days, and she and Omer started their family.  Economic opportunities were so limited up north, the young couple were forced to move to the cities to look for work.  Relatives and friends put them up until Omer could find a job, save a few dollars and get started.  First he drove truck for Ajax along with his brother-in-law, Bill Anderson.  Later he drove for Armours and then transferred to the loading dock where he reigned as head checker until his retirement.
     Raising a family on $0.325/hr and working about 22 hours a week meant short rations for all.  Rather than complain, Hazel nursed her bedridden father for 7 years while at the same time bearing, raising and nurturing her own family.

     She not only raised her family in those early days, she raised chickens, produce and berries to stock her cupboard for winter.  Canned pheasant and duck were table staples as were fresh-caught fish and home-pickled herring.  Hazel baked fresh bread twice a week, made apple dumplings that were the hit of any luncheon party or special occasion.  Hazel's fried chicken and potato salad recipes have no equal.  To that list someone will add Hazel's headcheese, then another and we'll be here all day.
     Hazel could not only sew on buttons, she could make buttons.  Elegant evening gowns in various stages of creation were often draped from the Jim Dandy ladies torso she kept in the corner of the bedroom.  Oracles of the Royal Neighbors Life Insurance Company took their annual meetings very seriously you see...and a gown was the order of the day.

     Grandma knitted the perfect dishrag, just the right size, just the right weight.  They can even be used left-handed as Joan pointed out to me early in our marriage.  One size fits all she said.

     Experts figure Grandma used over 33 miles of yarn, the equivalent of shearing  100,000 sheep to knit the array of afghans and dish rags she produced over the years.  That doesn't count the number of sheep it took to knit me a pair of size 15 wool socks.

When did she find the time?  Grandma loved to travel and she did.  She was just as at home in the Florida Everglades and the Arizona winter sun as she was in the snow atop the 10,000 foot peaks of Sun Valley, Idaho. A Sunday afternoon at Marvin and Marvel's was always special or a lazy stopover at Mark and Maggie's gazebo eating strawberries and sipping soda or her favorite, iced tea.

     One of her favorite places to travel however, was up to Bette's on Lake Marion.  It was there Omer and Hazel parked their step-van camper, a model of gracious lakeside luxury in our minds, and they challenged the world record by seeing how many relatives, grandchildren, friends and neighbors they could pack into it for a late night game of 21 or just carefree conversation.

     Late mornings and early evenings would find Grandma out on the lake with Omer, slapping sunnies into the boat with one hand while hooking frisky northerns to a stringer with the other.  Fair skinned and susceptible to the sun, Hazel had a collection of fishing bonnets that even the Queen of England would envy.  Grandma loved pets and always had a dog, cat, bird or both with her or close at hand.  Marcoe, her cat visited her in the hospital Sunday and purred goodbye...he knew.

     Civic duty and a love for children won Hazel a string of pearls when she retired from the Washington School PTA.  After serving as Resident President, Official Piano Player for the PTA Rouser and spending 21 years as a Grade School Room Mother, she earned every last one of them.  Twenty one years as a room mother is a school record by the way and it will stand forever . . . they tore the school down last year.

     Grandma was always a Girl Scout and her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters are walking in her moccasins. 

     Right up there with her string of pearls is her South St. Paul, Mrs. Fixit Trophy.  In this fierce competition she hammered, wired and glazed her way to the top in record time.

     Known lovingly as the Bookmobile Lady, Hazel never read a book or met a young reader she didn't like.  Reminiscent of when she rode with her father in the mail sled, Hazel delivered news to the neighborhoods each week through her book selections, periodicals and requested reading materials.

     Hazel loved old photographs, slide shows, sending tapes overseas, Christmas, birthday parties and big family gatherings.

     Hazel loved baseball.  The old Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints counted her as one of their most loyal fans.  She would take any Twins loss personally.  She had little time for umpires, whiners, and rug merchants who got to the estate sales before she did on Thursday mornings.  Although she wouldn't tell me to my face, Grandma was suspect of people that didn't get up, pack their lunch and go to work every morning.
     Speaking of lunch...for several years now Hazel and Omer have enjoyed eating their noon meal at the local Old Country Buffet.  They made many friends a on these daily outings and some of the Country Buffet staff is with us today as we say goodbye.

     Grandma Hazel was never a scold, never cross, always forgiving, always long suffering....I have it on good authority that the phrase 'Minnesota nice' was coined to describe her demeanor.

     Mrs. Brossoit...Hazel...Grandma...Grandma Brossoit...Grandma B...a friend, mother, mom whatever you called her, you will have to agree: though she may not have been an angel she sure came close...and I'd like to think that Monday, October 17, 1994 at about 8 PM...having said goodbye to her family and her wings."

Friday, December 2, 2011