What’s in a Name?

I enjoy giving names to things, and this became particularly apparent today as we continued our search for a replacement of my car—the one which was part of the big betrayal by Volkswagen. It finally dawned on us that many of the gadgets in the new cars have already been given names by us. So as we search for the perfect car, we have a checklist of required options.

When we sit in the back seat, I look to see if there are cup holders, aka “The Bryce,” which we named because three-year-old Bryce’s favorite must-have is a backseat cup holder.

Next Dad asks if the car comes with pre-collision breaking—“The Bill.” This feature will slow the car down if a driver in front of you unexpectedly applies the brakes. This was named after he rode in a car driven by one of his Bill friends (there are several Bills in his life), who was driving a car at a high rate of speed in the rain while Dad sat nervously in the back. As another car passed them at an even higher rate of speed, that car sent copious amounts of water onto the windshield, temporarily blinding Bill to a third car positioned in front of them, which had slowed down quite unexpectedly. Fortunately, Dad lived to tell the tale, because the car was equipped with the very cool brakes, which slowed the car down, thereby avoiding Dad’s untimely demise.

Today we went for a test drive. As the car swerved a bit to the right, we heard a sound. Dad asked what that was and I answered “The Wendy.” Having ridden with my friend Wendy many times, I was acquainted with “lane departure and sway warning,” which sounds a pleasant chime when your car drifts outside your lane.

On the highway, Dad was accelerating over a ridge in the road caused by recent partial paving. I referred to it as “The Geoff,” in honor of the accident Geoff had while accelerating onto Route 80 while riding his motorcycle. The sign which warned of “rough pavement ahead” came too late, and as we know, Geoff ended up at the hospital where he thankfully made a full recovery.

The rear doors on SUVs now open and closes automatically—“The Dad” or “The Grandpa—in memory of the time I knocked Grandpa to the ground when I hit him on the head closing the back door. I will think of him every single time I press the button to automatically close the door.

I will say that not all my names are car-related. I will close my ramblings with a description of “The Jim,” which is our name for the closed-captions on the television. This name was born when our friend Jim was visiting us, and we were watching a show where we had turned on the closed captions because the characters were speaking in garbled whispers. Jim asked us to turn off the closed captions, which is when “The Jim” became our official name for those little helpers at the bottom of the screen.

Do any of you have any cute little names for non-animate objects?




Grandma and Grandpa: The Early Days

I write these stories so you all have the opportunity to get to know your family before you were born and to reminisce about your past. It is my hope that you learn something new, maybe laugh a little, or even shed a tear or two.

Today I began to flip through one of Grandma’s photo albums containing pictures taken in 1950 before she and Grandpa were married and continuing through their first year of marriage. It’s difficult to imagine her at a time when she was younger than any of you, particularly as I see her now at the age of eighty-seven, having trouble accepting that she is an old woman living in a nursing home. Trust me, in our minds, we are always young at heart.

They were engaged in August of 1950, about six weeks after the beginning of the Korean War. That summer, the two of them made several trips to the Jersey Shore, some with Grandma’s sister and twin brothers, and other times with friends. Just look at them. Grandma was 21 and Grandpa was 31.


Here they look so happy, yet in a short time, Grandpa would be headed to Fort Hood, Texas, where he was recalled to serve in the Army during the Korean War. I wonder if they knew then that their time together would be ending so soon.

grandma-fall-1950 grandpa-fall-1950









By November, the two of them were separated by the war, but luckily, Grandpa never left the states. I found several photos taken their first winter apart, labeled “Glamor Shots for Martin.” I believe that fur coat is around somewhere. I tried it on a few years ago before Grandma moved from her house. She truly does look so glamorous!





They didn’t know when they would be married. It all depended on when Grandpa would be given a leave. In the meantime, her girlfriends, Weezie and Geri, gave her a shower in February 1951. The table decoration was labeled “A soldier and bride.”


soldier-and-the-bride shower-with-bffs



They stopped in many states along the way, beginning first at a Civil War museum in Virginia, then on to the rolling hills of Tennessee, across the Mississippi River to West Memphis Arkansas (just like we all did back in 1995), and finally arriving in Texas where they lived for just five hellish months–according to Grandma. She really hated the Lone Star State. (As you may notice, Grandma completely ignored Delaware and Maryland.)

She and Grandpa played army, as shown in the next two photos.
korean-soldier grandma-and-tank-copy







They had time for fun when Grandpa was not doing army work. Just look at that rather risque outfit on your grandmother.  Wow!


The return trip took them through Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, and our nation’s capital. The trip was slow, because that car they drove did not travel the same speeds we are accustomed to today, and the road system with all those multi-lane interstates did not exist at that time.

Soon they were back in Boonton–the home of Grandma’s people.





A Peek Back in Time- Part 2

What did you think about and worry about when you were ten? You all had the same fifth grade teacher who you all liked. Did you worry about school, did you think about current events, did you think about your future careers, or did you and your friends talk about love, marriage, and children?

In 1940 and 1941, Grandma and her friends wrote primarily about their future as wives and mothers. Are you all horrified that this topic consumed more pages than any other subject?

July 1: Jean now/Jean forever/Carey now/But not forever-Your chum Phyllis (Phyl)-                     Don’t you just love the use of the word chum? Does anyone ever use that term in reference to a friend anymore? Maybe we should try to resurrect that word in the same way Aunt Ellen and I are trying to bring back “feeling groovy.”

Eleanor Crane


June 26: May you live long and be happily blessed/With twenty children/Ten on each knee.-Eleanor Crane

I need to do Eleanor Crane’s family tree and see just how many children she ended up having. Fortunately, Grandma ignored that advice.


Arlene- 2


Undated: Aunt Ar just can’t keep her paws from Grandma’s book. Lucky for her, she grew up to be the best daughter of us all.

2 in a car / 2 little kisses

2 weeks later/ Mr. and Mrs.



Barbara Merchak


March 10, 1941: First comes love/Then comes marriage/Then comes Jean/Then a baby carriage.—Barbara Merchak  

This is a classic. I believe I used to jump rope to this cute little rhyme.





Carlyle Breiding (1)


July 1, 1940: When you get married/And your husband gets drunk/ Come over to my house and sleep in a trunk—Your pal, Carlyle Breiding

This is a shocking statement, based upon their ages! Oh, Mom! Did you know what a poor example you are setting for your future grandchildren?




May Anne Avallone


June 9, 1941: When you get married to your husband/Do not work too much/ And don’t get sick or drink too much.–Goodbye sweetheart see you next September—Your friend May Anne Avallone

There they go again! These fifth graders are certainly interested in drinking! Little did these innocent children know that just 6 months lafter these words were written, many of their older brothers would be going off to war.


June Ratley


June 26, 1940 (Morristown, NJ): Hair was made to comb and curl/Cheeks were made to flush/Eyes were made to flirt with boys/and lips were made to “Oh hush.”–June Ratley

I will discuss at a later date, all the boyfriends Grandma had as a high school student just four years later. Based on this book, it is not at all surprising.




Barbara Morrison


June 26, 1940: To have enough room in this book for you and your lover/  Poor little me has to write on the cover.—Barbara Morrison

Notice the telephone number: “0437W”- 5 characters — That’s it! Now we need to dial ten in so many places. (Not at my house yet!)





June 20, 1941: May God and His Blessed Mother protect and bless you now and always.

I will have to ask Grandma if she has any stories about sister Caritas. Some of the nuns she was quite fond of. One sent her off to deliver a note to another nun, and I believe that Grandma peaked out it. Uh oh!


When these words were written in this book, no one knew how much their world would be changing in a very short time—rationing, war, death. I am glad they had this time of innocence.


Button Button Who Has the Button?

Dad and I were returning home from our road trip to Maryland. We were approaching our last hour when I noticed trouble ahead—a bridge under repair and an accident. Rather than face sitting in traffic for who knows how long, we switched our setting on our GPS to “avoid highways” and exited the interstate before the trouble would begin.

As we meandered through Bishopville, admiring the beautiful farms and old houses, I noticed a small sign begging us to go down another road. I told Dad I wanted to make that right turn and do a little spontaneous sightseeing, but he was too tired by then. “This is what I have been talking about,” I explained. “My idea of a fun trip is having a start and a finish but also including random unplanned stops along the way.” Sad to say, he did not buy it.

What we did not do that day, but what I hope to do with my friends on another (with lunch and a glass of wine thrown in of course), is a trip to this very fun-sounding museum known as the “The South Carolina Button Museum.”

According to the sign along Route 1, this was not your run-of-the-mill button museum that we are all familiar with. No, girls. This was “the SC Button Museum”–one of our state museums!  Who knew?

Further research showed that this very fun place was born when its founder, a man named Dalton Stevens (currently 86 years old), began to have difficulty sleeping. Back in the days when there was not twenty-four hours of television, Mr. Stevens needed something to do to pass those late-night hours when insomnia got the best of him. His solution was to sew buttons. First it was a suit, which he filled with 16,333 buttons. This project took nearly three years to complete.

He moved onto cementing buttons onto an outhouse, car, hearse, piano, and two caskets. (One of which he plans to be buried in. He is my kind of guy!)

His project gained him fame, so much so that he has been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Letterman Show, and several other local and national news shows as well as featured in Star Magazine.

He eventually opened his museum, and I am very fortunate that it is a mere forty-five minutes from our house. I will be sure to follow up and let you know about it after my visit. Are you all jealous?

By the way, I got the photo of the casket from a sight that I didn’t know about—Roadside America. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/about/   (I have heard of it but never explored it.)

Check it out. See what unusual sites exist in your area. I, for one, cannot wait to visit the monument to the father of gynecology right here in Columbia.

button casket

Leading Lady and Inventor

After college, I began my professional career working as a computer programmer at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill and then in Whippany. My first was job was as a hacker. Did I ever tell you that? It fits my personality, don’t you all agree? I was given an office and told to try to break into the computers of some of my coworkers using what I knew about them to try to determine their passwords and usernames. As a new employee, my personal knowledge of them was quite limited. I had to be creative, so it was both a fun and boring job. I recall little else of that job and soon moved on to my assignment in Whippany in the cell phone group.

I shared my office with two other people: a woman not quite old enough to be my mother who also worked as a programmer and an engineer named Ed who was about Grandpa’s age—Old—but very nice. He instructed me on day one to call him Ed, and said that if I ever met the CEO, I was supposed to address him by his first name as well. That was a difficult concept to accept, but since I never met the man at the top of the organizational chart, I only had to deal with learning how to call Ed by his first name.

Cell phones were in their infancy then, so my job was to take data gathered in field trials and write programs to make various charts and graphs, something now done by Excel.

We had a lot of young people in the organization, and I was invited to join their lunchtime bocce ball team. The company encouraged these games and even had regulation-sized courts on site.

I was the “leading lady” of the group, which meant I was the one to throw out the little ball known as the pallino followed by the first regulation-sized bocce ball. It was a nice way to relax after a busy morning of heavy thinking.

After our games, it was not uncommon to go out for lunch and a few beers. I always felt a bit awkward taking such long lunches, but everyone did and no one seemed to care. Our team was quite good.

When I moved to New York, my team took me out to lunch and presented me with a creative keepsake, which was quite thoughtful and funny. It was a rectangular board with a bocce ball glued onto a pyramid of beer bottle caps. It was tangible proof of what went on during lunch. Below the beer caps was a small engraved plaque which said, “Leading Lady.”

I brought that trophy to our home in New York and displayed it in our family room for quite some time. It was a great icebreaker when inviting our new neighbors to our home. Sadly, I think it met its demise in our trash. It’s such a shame. I think you all would have enjoyed seeing it.