Butler Family Meet up – 2013

Butler Family Meet up – 2013

About the beginning of the year, Don and I mentioned that for our 40th anniversary in June, all we really wanted was to have all of our family together.  Well, the kids took notice,  picked a date that worked for all of us,  and early in July made their way by land and by air for a proper Butler family gathering.

Group at dinner
The only group picture – minus the babies who must have been sleeping, Mike who hadn’t yet arrived, and Nikki who was thoughtful enough to document the moment.  But it’s the best we’ve got!

While the kids were all making travel plans, Don and I worked on the back yard.  Knowing our group is large in number – we total 20 now, and the grandkids span a huge number of years – including two one-year-old toddlers and one 17 year old high school senior with a variety of ages in between, we decided that the back yard had to be the attraction.  No house is big enough for all those people – especially one that’s only 2300 square feet with no air conditioning!

We hit up the thrift store on half-price Saturday and found a badminton net for $5.00 and 6 racquets for $.50 each.  We felt like we’d hit the jackpot!

And during the week we spent hours in the back yard.

On a day trip to the mountains we discovered a great multi-generational hiking spot.  The Lily Lake trail, which some of our more experienced hikers were afraid would be just another walk in the park, proved to be easy enough for the littles and interesting enough for the bigs.  Definitely a hike we’d do again.

 

Other highlights of the week included lots of water, crazy jumping and bouncing, and even a little bit of fire.

Slip and sliding through the wall of water
Slip and sliding through the wall of water

 

3-D Shrek in the 5th wheel theater
3-D Shrek in the 5th wheel theater

 

What?  You don’t have a bounce house in your family room?
Thanks to Mark & Kate for supplying the bouncy fun!

Bounce house beginning to take shape
Bounce house beginning to take shape
They loved it!
They loved it!

 

Only one old grill was harmed in the making of these s’mores.

 

And then they all said good bye and took to the road and the sky once again.  And we were left with

The aftermath
The aftermath

which cleaned up very quickly and reminded us of the great week we had spent together.

Thanks, kids, for making it happen.  It was a celebration 40 years in the making, and you did it up splendidly!

 

A huge highlight of the week was the anniversary dinner at an authentic Iranian restaurant.
So memorable for us that it deserves a post of its own.

 

Early Memories

Early Memories

My first childhood memories are connected with our home at 1117 Phelon Street in Saginaw.  In 1956 we moved to that home from our little country house and lived there until 1958.  For most of us, any memories from our preschool years are vague, but a few things have stayed in my long term storage – perhaps only because I’ve heard my parents tell those stories.

David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957
David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957

I have a fuzzy memory of the front porch of this house.  Did we play there?  Sleep there in the summer?  I can’t recall details, but it’s interesting that the porch is the only part of the house that I remember!  Our landlords were Bea and Murray Muellerweiss who lived around the corner from us, and with whom my parents remained friends for many years after we moved away.  I recall that they had a long, tall wooden stairway leading to the second story of their home.  Maybe they rented the upstairs to another family?

My most significant memory of this house and neighborhood still has an impact on me today.  One day while outside with my mom, a large – maybe German Shepherd – dog came bounding towards me. He was not vicious, just happy, friendly, and looking for a playmate. Because of  his substantial size, my skinny little body was no match for his energy, and he knocked me to the ground in his excitement.  His enthusiasm to play was obvious as he licked my face all the while jumping around and wagging his tail!  I can only imagine my shrieks of terror, but Mother has described them as loud, long, and impressive.  When she was finally able to get to my rescue, in probably only a matter of seconds, she pulled me to safety and assured me that I was fine.  I suffered no cuts, bruises or scrapes – just a little dog slobber on my face!  But to this day I have a “healthy respect” for large dogs and avoid them whenever possible!

As a child in the 1950’s, I spent many  hours playing outside.  Because of my naturally darker skin tone (and the lack of sunscreen), the summer sun tanned my skin to a deep shade of brown.  My elbows and knees were particularly dark, and no amount of scrubbing with Comet cleanser would clean them up!  Mother had to resign herself to the fact that I just looked a little unkempt during the summer.  However, in the mid 1950’s segregation was still an issue, and one of the neighbor girls refused to play with me, because she didn’t want to play with “that little colored girl.”

1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan
1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan

August, 2010
August, 2010

This house now sits in a run-down and somewhat questionable neighborhood, but after 50+ years I guess that’s to be expected.

Out in the country

Out in the country

5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan
5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan

From my dad’s personal history:
“In the spring of 1955 we moved [from 707 Michigan Avenue] to 5606 Swan Creek Road, which was a few miles out in the country.  The rent was cheaper, and we thought we’d like to be out away from the city.”

5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010
5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010

The little house has aged well - August 2010
The little house has aged well - August 2010

It’s a small, white, cement block house sitting on a large lot.  Even today, 55 years after we lived there it is still “out in the country,” and it almost looks like time has stopped.   The surrounding trees that have grown and matured and the new[er] model car in the driveway are the only outward indications that many years have passed.  To the curious passerby, the house looks very much the same today as it did when we lived there when I was a year old.

Having been raised on a farm in North Ogden, Utah, I am quite certain that Dad loved living in the wide open space out of town.  But as I look at these pictures,  I wonder if Mom loved living out there, or if it was a huge inconvenience.  The surroundings were green and peaceful with no background noise from neighbors or traffic.  I could see plenty of room for rowdy preschoolers to run around.  And surely the pace of life was slower and more relaxed out there.  But my mom has always been a city girl, and maybe she missed the noise and activity of a downtown neighborhood. Maybe she worried about her three little children running out to the road.  Maybe she hated having to drive 5 or 6 miles to the grocery store.  Or maybe it was a toss up . . .

Yvonne - Lynnette - David
Yvonne - Lynnette - David - Fall 1955

Those three little children on the front porch look perfectly happy with their country home.  (But why do I have on a snowsuit and my siblings are just in short sleeves?)  Because I have no memory of our time there, I can simply wonder and imagine about that year.  I picture it as cozy, comfortable, and a great place to chase after a young family.  And I hope my mom did too!

Lynnette - 18 months old
Lynnette - 18 months old
Teaching Little Fingers to Play

Teaching Little Fingers to Play

My first - and last - piano
My first - and last - piano

As a little girl, I had an insatiable interest in playing the piano.  My sisters and I loved to play Sunday School, and I was always the piano player.  I don’t remember if that was okay with them, or if they would have liked a turn at the imaginary keyboard, but it didn’t matter – I was playing the piano.  Our family did not have a piano at that time, and I was too young to know how to play one anyway.  But whenever we played Sunday School, I took my place at the window sill, propped a book against the living room window and “played” the songs with great enthusiasm while the others sang along.  I also played the table tops, the arm rests in the car, the kitchen counters, and any other available surface.

As a result of that kindergarten passion and eagerness to perform, when I was about 6 years old, my parents bought a used piano.  My memory is that they paid $200 for that piano, but that seems like a huge amount of money for 1960. I started taking lessons shortly after that. Sharon Reeve, the oldest daughter of my parent’s good friends, was my first teacher.  Sharon was young, cute, and fun, and I loved learning how to play a real piano with her on the bench beside me.

Formerly Miss Briggs' piano studio - August 2010
Formerly Miss Briggs' piano studio - August 2010

After a while with Sharon, I started taking lessons from Miss Clara Briggs – a professional piano teacher, I suppose.  She was kind of a cranky old maid, and I was quite intimidated by her.  A demanding teacher with very high expectations and little tolerance for children who didn’t practice, she taught in downtown Saginaw on the second floor of a building which was a couple of doors down from the movie theater on Court Street.

Up those stairs . . .
Up those stairs . . .

To get to her studio we entered the building through a glass door on the street, and then had to climb a long, steep stairway that always smelled kind of dusty and unused.  On weeks when I knew I hadn’t practiced enough to get her approval, my feet dragged up each one of those steps dreading what was ahead.  The studio door was wooden, with a big milky glass window in the middle on which gold lettering announced something like, “Clara Briggs – Piano”.  On that same floor were several other offices, I suppose used by lawyers or other businesses.  I was curious, but I don’t recall ever exploring the area beyond Miss Briggs’ domain.  As an eight year old girl, I imagined the whole building as kind of an unknown land for grown ups, and I was a little nervous that I would encounter one of the other occupants and maybe get yelled at for being someplace I didn’t belong.

The piano studio was a large room with very high ceilings.    It was sparsely furnished with a sofa and a couple of chairs for waiting pupils.  Decorative crown molding bordered the top of the walls, and the hardwood floors echoed with our footsteps announcing our arrival.  An alcove opened off the main room, and it was there that the the pianos were located – both of them!  I was amazed and impressed that my teacher had two pianos.  In my young mind that added to the seriousness of the whole piano lesson experience – two pianos were proof that she was obviously a very important teacher.  The pianos were heavy, dark uprights and could be inviting or intimidating depending on how well prepared I was.  Sometimes Yvonne and I played duets on those pianos, and sometimes Miss Briggs would play along on one as I played the other to show me how the piece was supposed to sound.

A favorite duet book
A favorite duet book

Miss Briggs was quick with her criticism and tight with her approval, so if she did praise me, I knew I had done well.  Yvonne and I often argued over who had to have the first lesson.  Some weeks I wanted to go first, anxious to demonstrate my amazing progress!  And other weeks I thought making Yvonne go first would make up for my lack of practice, but of course it was just delaying the inevitable.  It was while taking lessons with her that I started playing music from the well known composers such as Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.  After our  piano recitals, each student was rewarded with a plaster bust of one of those composers, and Yvonne and I accumulated quite a collection.  They decorated the top of the piano for several years, until after time they got broken, lost in moves, or discarded in a cleaning frenzy.  I don’t remember that even then I  saw much use for those small statues, but I knew they were important to my teacher and therefore they were important to me.

Although my memories of Miss Briggs are colored by her stern personality and her no nonsense approach to music lessons, she was an excellent teacher and gave me a very solid foundation for my subsequent piano training.  After leaving her studio when we moved from Michigan,  I was taught by a variety of other piano teachers until I stopped regular lessons at age 16.  I have never aspired to be a performer, but my piano know-how has served me well.  I’ve played for church services, weddings, funerals, and most importantly, for my own enjoyment.  I’ve certainly gotten my parents’ money’s worth!

The black keys are very worn, but they still make music
The black keys are very worn, but they still make music

I still have that piano today.  I think it became mine by default, because Michelle and Lorin didn’t want to move it to Salt Lake City when they left Greeley a number of years ago!  Mom and Dad had it refinished in the early 1970’s, so it still looks pretty good.  And now I’m teaching lessons on the same piano I learned on.

Teaching Little Fingers to Play – the title of one of my first piano books.

“Home is where one starts from” – T.S. Elliot

“Home is where one starts from” – T.S. Elliot

1707 N. Michigan Avenue - side view
1707 N. Michigan Avenue - side view

Even though I have no memory of living there,  I recognized the house almost immediately as we drove down Michigan Avenue in August 2010.  The overgrown yard and faded, peeling paint presented quite a different picture than the one in my mind, which was a composite of old family photos and stories related by my parents.   I envisioned a gray clapboard house surrounded by a well kept yard, and I was disappointed to see “our house” abandoned and neglected.  1707 Michigan Avenue was the address I came home to after being born in Saginaw General Hospital on Mothers’ Day – 9 May 1954.

We were sad to see the neglect - August, 2010
We were sad to see the neglect - August, 2010

Of that house my mom writes in her history:  “We moved to Saginaw, Michigan in the early spring of 1954, into an old house at 707 N. Michigan Avenue which was quite nice.  We had 3 bedrooms and a bath on the second floor with a good sized living room, dining room and kitchen down, along with a big old basement with a huge coal furnace.  It was so much more room than we had been used to having that we felt very lucky.”

Memories for Dad - August, 2010
Memories for Dad - August, 2010

My dad remembers that the rent was $75/month which was 20% of his salary of $375/month or $4500 annually.

David - Lynnette - Yvonne -- Christmas, 1954
David, Lynnette, Yvonne -- Christmas, 1954

And I don’t remember anything, because I was so young.

I think I’m up to the task

I think I’m up to the task

I've got lots of resources . . . maybe too many!
I've got lots of resources . . . maybe too many!

I’ve accepted this challenge! I’m going to make a concerted effort to record stories from my personal history.  I don’t expect they’ll be in any specific order, but I’m excited to write my memories.  So watch this blog . . .  we’ll be traveling from Saginaw to Saudi, Uniopolis to Isfahan, and many places in between.  We’ll meet a lot of people along the way and learn a little of their stories also.  Because really, our personal histories are greatly influenced by those who have come before and after us.

The challenge is for the month of February.  I’m hoping to continue throughout the year and maybe even have something to publish by early next year. . .