Archive for the ‘Guest Writer’ Category

Stan Remembers Valentine’s Day at age 8, when girls were ‘yucky’!

February 14th, 2017 1 comment

 Guest Writer: Stanley Hicks

P1010067-1Valentine’s is the day of love and romance, taught to us since very young. The day we are to do, say, buy, and show in some special way, our love for that special person.
As a child in grade school we spent many art classes making what seemed to be thousands of hearts in all sizes and then covering the hearts with paper doilies.
Then, we made a decorated box to put on our desks, where the chosen mail person could put our valentines in our own box.
We were instructed to make sure every one in the class got one from you. Now, we all know there is always a yucky girl or two in your class that you sure didn’t want them to think that you loved them. What to do now?
Mom always took care of buying the valentines, and times being what they were back then, my packs of cards never had but just the count you needed, with maybe one extra. The cards, a couple of times, came on a large sheet and you had to punch them out along the perforated lines. No doubt they were the economy packs.
I remember looking at all those cards over and over trying not to send one with  kiss, hug, or be mine to those yucky girls. (It was just more drama than a third grade boy should have to do.)  By the way, not signing the card was not an option.  I tried that and got caught. Moms and teachers are on to that one.
The Valentine class party, as I remember, was always fun and the room mothers always supplied plenty of good things to eat and drink.  Those yucky girls I talked about?   Well, guess what . . . they seemed to always send me some of the nicest cards.  Sorry Jeanne M. and Joanne H…. Lesson Learned!

A Daughter Remembers:The McGintys from Dublin, Ireland

January 7th, 2017 Comments off

Guest Writer: Fiona Engler, first posted March, 2011

It is an honor to tell you about my wonderful, remarkable parents, The McGintys, from Dublin, Ireland.

My mother, Mary O’Grady,  was from a lower to middle income Catholic family, and the oldest of six children.  My father, James McGinty (Jimmy) the youngest of ten, was born on the north side of Dublin, six months before his father was killed by a train in the railroad yards.  His father was Protestant and his mother was Catholic.

Intolerant to religious differences, his father’s family refused to acknowledge their marriage .   My great grandparents were wealthy, owned Old Town House and all surrounding land.  It would be equivalent to owning the Getty Mansion in Malibu and all the land into Santa Monica.

Unfortunately, my grandfather  ‘got into it ‘ with a Mr. Warren in a bar, and lost everything. After his father’s death, my paternal grandmother was left  to raise ten children alone, at the age of thirty-one.  She cleaned homes, was a money lender on Moore Street, and even ran guns for the rebels. (Under the bottom of my father’s baby buggy.)

These were turbulent times in Ireland;  the Black and Tans reeked havoc on the Catholics.  My father remembers a rebel in his hallway who had been shot.  Granny fixed him up and  he was helped over the back wall to safety.

Out of necessity Dad stopped school at the fourth grade to ride a delivery bike in Dublin. Later he learned a trade in upholstery. Mom went to the eighth  grade before she was forced to quit.

When Mom and Dad met at a dance hall in Dublin, they fell in love. (From all reports Jimmy McGinty was a spectacular ballroom dancer.) They married in 1941.

Dad went to war with the Royal English Air Force during World War II while Mom lived with her parents in Dublin.  He became a pilot, training in Africa.  When he began flying missions from England, Mom moved to London.

My mother survived the Blitz in London , although several  blocks around her were leveled.  Conditions were very bad in Ireland so they made the difficult decision to immigrate.  In 1956.  sponsored by his cousin in Pennsylvania, Jimmy came to America.  A year later Mary arrived with their three children, a sister, and her mother-in-law in tow.

The McGintys moved to Southern California to be near his half sister.  Dad’s career began in Draperies, with The Hollywood Broadway Department Store.

The McGintys – Life in America

January 7th, 2017 Comments off

Guest Writer:  Fiona Engler

On Saint Patrick’s Day 1962, eighteen years after James (little Jimmy), twelve years after Jacinta, and eight after Thomas . . . I arrived!

My poor mom  was forty-four years old with a newborn!  Lucky for her, my dad’s mother, Nanny, was with us.  Mom went back to work as an insurance adjuster and Dad continued with Broadway, as Operations manager.  They became American citizens.

Daddy Grady, my grandfather, visited us several times. Sadly, he  had a stroke and passed away in California. I remember vividly how my mother and her two sisters prepared him to return to Ireland.

After that we visited Ireland  every couple of years. Mom appreciated America, but she missed ‘home’.  She was an American citizen and loved her new country, but in her heart she was always an Irish woman.  My father loved both places and was happy as long as mom was happy.

Mom and Dad were exceptionally bright people who valued education. They managed to put all four of us through college, and ended up with three teachers and one defense guy.  We all worked and contributed what we could, but there was no question that we were going.

My parents were connected to the Irish community in Los Angeles.  Their Irish club held social events, like dances and fairs. We were surrounded by the music and stories of Ireland.  We thought Mom was kidding when she said we were directly descended from King Brian Boru through the O’Grady side, but when we researched it, we found out that the O’Grady clan is directly linked to King Brian Boru!

Jimmy and Mary never had the chance to have all the fun that we kids had in college, but boy did they make up for it after they retired! They  moved to Oceanside after I married Larry,  and began what we called, their college years. From 1988 to 2001 they were fortunate to travel the world together with frequent stops back home in Dublin. We joked that we needed an appointment to see them, since they were always on the go.

One of my last  memories of my mom was at her 60th wedding anniversary.  She was surrounded by those she adored: four children, ten grandchildren, five great grandchildren, family, and friends. When she went to cut the cake, my dad looked at her like she was that twenty-four year old he had married 60 years ago. I will never forget it.

Mom passed away twenty-four days later on Christmas eve.  To this day, I still have to stop myself from wanting to call her and tell her the latest news about the kids.

My father was devastated. I wasn’t sure he would make it without her, but nine years later,  at 92, he’s doing great.  He still drives (although a lot like a fighter pilot) parties constantly, and has a ton of friends.

Dad was never interested in anyone after mom.  As he said – “I had two strong women in my life, your nanny and your mom.”

That’s Jimmy McGinty! Thanks for everything Dad, I love you. Fiona

Thank you, Fiona, and Happy Birthday!

Update: I am happy to report that Mr. McGinty has just celebrated his 98th birthday!

Cindy Bratcher Remembers ‘Home’ in New York

December 30th, 2016 Comments off

Guest Writer: Cindy Bratcher

153 Morris Ave RVC-1



Hi Mary Etta,  here is a photo for your “snow site”.  It was taken about 60 years ago, but snow hasn’t changed a great deal since then. I love reading the stories about your house on Burrow St. Your feelings about your childhood home so closely parallel my own.

This is my childhood home in Rockville Centre, NY. My bedroom was the one on the 2nd floor with the bay window. The middle window of the bay had a radiator in front of it and often, on a cold winter night I would put a quilt over the radiator, sit on it and watch the snow falling in the dark night. 

What a beautiful sight and memory it was. My home is still in the family–my sister Nettie lives there.  I have not been back there in a while..  The house is still the same house, but everything has changed inside.  But the memories linger on and my home will always be as I remember it in the 40s and 50s.


Thank you Cindy for sharing such a beautiful memory with the rest of your cyber family.  Wonderful. ( first posted in  Jan. 2010)   I’m happy to report that Nettie now lives near Cindy in Arizona. I’m sure they both miss the family home but are happy to be together again. Blessings on  both sisters are sent today.

Mary Etta


Carolyn and Stan: The Spirit of Christmas Starts in the Kitchen!

December 2nd, 2016 3 comments
   Guest Writer: Stan Hicks, St. Louis, Missouri
This time of the year starts Carolyn and me planning for Christmas greeting via snail  mail and Christmas cookies.
Our Christmas letter started many years ago and we would try and have it ready to mail ASAP after Thanksgiving. It seems each year this becomes more and more a challenge to keep it short,with children  and grand children bragging to a minimum.  
It is also written to keep everyone up to speed as to our goings and comings, good news, bad news, a thank you to our military, and  a wish to all for a Blessed Christmas Season.  
 Baking Christmas cookies is not taken lightly around the Hicks Home. Due to careful pre-shopping for sale items, it looks like the cookie deal is on for another year.  Carolyn’s first fear was when the cost of nuts just  about doubled, along with flour , sugar,  and most all baking supplies. The  cookie recipient list is around 12 to 15  which is a bunch  of  cookies and candy . A tray  is 3 to 4 dozen cookies dozen pieces of home made candy or coated fruit. All on a beautiful wrapped tray. 
I think if Carolyn didn’t get to send the cookies she’d be more upset than those who didn’t get them. I could be wrong, because I’m sure they look forward to them.  I get to eat the rejects which there isn’t a lot of,  by the way.  They sure are good!
What a wonderful way to show your love at Christmas time.  Carolyn, I bet you have the best smelling kitchen in all of Missouri!  Yummy!

Stan Recalls Memorial Days Past

May 30th, 2016 1 comment
An email from Stan Hicks:  (I posted this the last two years and  want to print it again , thanks Stan )
Good morning Mary,
I am sitting here at the computer, which I do more than I should. I just read an email telling about a family’s plans for Memorial Holiday.    The letter was good and full of fun things, good food and drink , boat rides and swimming .
It does sound like a fun weekend; but like other holidays, it seems we have lost the real reason for them.  I remember in days past how important this holiday was to my family. Days before the holiday we would have cemetery clean up and then the making of flower arrangements was started.
First the containers saved from previous years were cleaned up, repainted or recovered. This was a while before stores started stocking all of the beautiful plastic that we have now and that sort of thing was not in our budget  .
We would use fresh flowers if available at the time and would place them in a container of water on the graves. Also there were lots of home made flowers made from crepe paper and dipped in wax,  as I remember they were mostly made in the shape of tulips.  I guess they were the easiest to make. 
The small American flags were lovingly saved from year to year for our military folks . We spent a good part of the day  visiting different cemeteries –  laughing praying, crying and remembering.  After that then we would do the fun things. My dear mother was always good at taking care and visiting the grave sites. I have now taken over that responsibility and I enjoy it.
 I  remember how for years I would be walking with my Grandpa and he, while standing by Grandma’s grave, would take his cane and place it on the grave and say, ” You kids will be looking down at me next year”.  It was several years after that before we did look down at his grave.
Lots of memories, lots of emotions when I think of those who have gone before us.  

Guest Writer – Jim Welch

November 15th, 2015 Comments off

Vivid memories like a mother’s kiss on a spring day, a soft breeze forever old and absolutely new. Memories whispering to a summer storm when twilight lends her hand to dawn and the midnight sings in release, dark with no sorrow.
Memories of “Autumn Le
aves” while at a pond near Southwestern, I experienced a sunset and remembered that song.
Today, the sunset is more than a sunset, the pond is greater than a pond and the song is a memory shadow of another place transcending time. Vivid as then but much more.
A similar Fall afternoon and Carlton Earp shared a quote with me.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
T.S. Eliot.

Guest Writer: Melissa French-Jones

October 11th, 2015 Comments off

11025814_10152726824496593_7962185025635786841_nIsn’t it amazing how God will sometimes use the very person that he sent you to help to be the same person that he uses to help you??

A while back I invited a friend/customer to church at Central Baptist. I forgot to tell her that we usually attend the 11:00 service so she unknowingly attended the 9:30 service. She had been battling depression after going through divorce and he death of her mother. She had even tried to commit suicide. Her wrists were all bandaged up when she came to talk to me. She was desperate and I knew I had to help her.

She came to a cookout we were having after church and I asked her to come to a room where we could talk and pray privately. I didn’t know if she was saved or not, so I wanted to find out first before we went any further. She said she was saved. I said long ago was that? She looked at me like an innocent little child and replied “this morning”

She was saved at church that morning and I missed it. I had nothing to do with her decision to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior, except for inviting her to church. I’ve taken people by the hand and walked them to the front of the church many times, but is that even necessary? If we can get them there, God can take care of the rest. 

Anyway, this friend has continued in her faith, and is doing great. She went to watch the movie “War Room” and told me how she cleaned out her closet and made it into a prayer room like the movie. 
Yesterday she said she was praying in her prayer room, and the Lord told her to send me a scripture. She doesn’t have Facebook and therefore knew nothing of the drama I was going through. Here’s the scripture:
Psalms 37: 7 Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Diane Tollefson Remembers Her First Day of School

September 3rd, 2015 Comments off

46650_1603878265287_6243089_nYesterday was the first day of school at our local elementary school. As I passed the Kindergarten play yard, I could see all the brand new back packs hanging on their ranks and all the kids in their new clothes and shoes. I remember my first day at school….it was a little scary because some of the children were crying, but I knew all about school because I had an older brother. I loved the little chairs …just right for our size…and the big blocks, and the easels and little pretend kitchen area. I also remember new shoes…and the wonderful smell of those shoes. I remember going to the shoe store and having my feet exrayed to see that the shoes were not pinching my toes…. Buster Brown and his dog Tige lived in my shoes. That was September of 1947….Budlong School in Los Angeles near Slauson and Vermont. Happy School Days to all the new students… good in school, listen to your teacher and enjoy the wonderful years ahead of you.

Melissa’s Trauma . . . Mammogram Results!

August 2nd, 2015 Comments off

11025814_10152726824496593_7962185025635786841_nGuest Writer: Melissa French-Jones

My phone rang at 7:53. Not recognizing the number, I let it go to voice mail. It was St. Bernard’s Imaging Center telling me to call for the results of my mammogram! 

Realizing this was the same number that had called early Friday morning,   I instantly went into panic mode and picked up the phone.  

“Pat,”  I cried, “The Imaging Center is trying to reach me! I’m supposed to call them back!”

My friend/employee Pat, who is a cancer survivor,  answered. “Oh no, that’s not good”.

What to do? I began googling!  Every single thing I read about mammogram call-backs, I mean EVERY one, said the same thing: Most women get an unnecessary scare when they receive a LETTER, but women should know that if there’s anything worrisome they would receive a PHONE CALL instead!!

Now I’m really freaking out… Too scared to call them back… Too afraid to hear those frightening words…I got my bible and started praying… but fear was causing me to tremble and I felt like I was going to throw up.

My husband Brock kept saying I should call them back before I started freaking out. He  put on his boots, “I gotta get out of here, I can’t handle this crap”.  

 “Oh my God!” I cried, “I can see how supportive you’ll be if I ever have to go through anything serious”!

He insists, “Melissa, you are over-reacting!”  

I call back, “Something serious might happen to you someday and then you’ll  know how it feels!” 

With that I grabbed my phone,  stormed out to the front porch to call  Brandon. My son always knows exactly what to say to me and doesn’t make fun of me for freaking out over things (which I’ve done plenty of times!) 

He calmly reminds me that God ALWAYS takes care of me, and that every time I’ve had a crisis, He’s always helped me through it. He assured me everything would be ok, and that he would go with me if I needed more testing.  Then he prayed for me. 

I wiped my tears, swallowed the lump in my throat, and called the Imaging Center. The receptionist sounded scary to me with her soft, kind voice… “Mrs. Jones, I will need to transfer you to someone who will talk to you about the results of your mammogram”.

My heart is beating so fast and my hand is shaking so much I can barely hold the phone. Thoughts race through my mind: Why did I wait 4 years since my last mammogram? How am I going to deal with surgery/treatments/work? I want my mommy!!

Finally the nurse is on the line.  I take a deep breath.  She begins, “Mrs. Jones, I was calling to let you know that the results of your mammogram were normal, but you’ll still receive a letter in the mail.”

I was speechless, felt like fainting, relieved but couldn’t express any joy.  With my hand trembling the phone at my ear,   I managed to muster a small “Okay”.  That was it. I remained sitting on the front porch, feeling absolutely numb.

Brock walks out. “Well? Did you call them back?”

 I didn’t want to tell him anything, knowing what he was going to say. Yeah, he had been right, I freaked out for nothing, but I’m sure he was relieved too.

Oh my goodness, I have a throbbing headache from the emotional roller coaster ride!  Believe me folks, it was no fun!

And how was your Monday?





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