Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading my blog!  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year!  

This is just to let you know I'm taking a brief holiday.  Please look for my next post on Monday, January 5th!


Tante Marianne

The Christmas Pickle

Christmas had always been wonderful, but one year, the year of Our Lord 1901, it seemed that all the extra money went for doctor bills.

We lived in Bountiful, Utah.  I was ten years old; Edgar and Cynthia were older than I; then there was Newton, Annie, Eudora, and Edna.  Edna had large blue eyes and light brown hair which hung in curls around her shoulders.  The summer after Edna turned two she hardly saw a well day.  

How mother prayed to her Heavenly Father to bless her to live to womanhood!  In August, another darling dark haired sister was born, named Letitia after her Great Grandmother Jones.  What beautiful babies they were!  But now mother had neither the strength nor time to sew or fix for Christmas as was her custom other years. 

The Storyteller: A 15 year-old Lydia.
She was 10 years-old at the time this story took place
She told us Santa wasn't coming to see us this year, but as Christmas drew near, Edgar wouldn't believe that could be possible.  On Christmas Eve he began to hang the stockings under the mantle in back of the cook stove, in the nice large room which served as our living room as well as our kitchen.  Mother stopped him and told him, "Santa won't come here".  But he answered, "Of course he will.  He's just got to come."  

When she saw that he wouldn't give up, she said in desperation, "Edgar, instead of hanging your stockings up, put a plate on the table for each of you."

Edgar dropped the stockings and we put the plates on the table.  For some reason this gave me hope that we would receive something, and I went to bed happy.

The Parents in this story: Edgar and Cynthia Tuttle
Christmas morning, Edgar was awake first and woke the rest of us.  We hurried and dressed.  Mother got up with us, but Father said, "No, I just can't."  We all went into the room, excited to see what gift Mother had put out for us.  

On each of the plates was a large pickled cucumber.

Tears of disappointment filled my eyes and those of my young brothers and sisters.  I was ten years old, too big to cry, but the tears were there anyway.  I turned to go into the bedroom and hide, when I heard Mother's voice saying, "Children, children, I didn't have anything else, and I just couldn't bear to leave the plates empty."  

Her lovely voice broke, but she went on bravely, "We have a lot to be grateful for."  As she picked up Edna from the baby carriage, the toddler smiled at all of us and Mother continued, "See, we still have Edna who is getting well, and we have another lovely baby sister."

The oldest Tuttle Children:
Edgar (left), Cynthia (right), and baby Lydia (the author) in the chair above them
Just then Father came in carrying Letitia in his arms, and she waved her hands and laughed aloud at us as Father said, "Yes, children, your Mother is right.  We do have a lot to be thankful to our Heavenly Father for, these two lovely babies and plenty to eat, and we are all well.  Mother is regaining her strength and Edna is improving every day."

We just couldn't stand to see Mother feel bad, and all of us went to comfort her.  As she smiled through her tears, ours were forgotten.  "Come, we can be happy anyway," she encouraged.  "A cucumber is better than nothing.  Let's play a game with them."
The oldest, Edgar, who found the dime
The merriment almost became a rough house, and one of the children bumped into the table.  

As Edgar grabbed for his plate so it wouldn't fall to the floor, he cried out, "Who says Santa didn't come.  LOOK!"  

And there on the table by his plate lay a dime.  He picked it up and ran for his coat, hollering, "Be back soon.  I'm going for some candy!"

Of course the stores were all closed, but Jed Stringham's Grocery Store was by his home.  

Edgar knocked on Jed Stringham's door and Jed himself opened the door.  Edgar looked up at him and said, "Forgive me for disturbing you this Christmas day, but all Santa left was this dime, and I hope you will open your store and sell me a dime's worth of candy so I can take it home to those little ones."

Jed closed the door behind him and said, "You bet I will.  Come."

The Jed Stringham Grocery Store
Jed Stringham (left) and one of his sons (right)
We had the morning work all done and everything ready for dinner by the time Edgar returned.  He came in holding a bag of candy high above his head, his eyes shining as he exclaimed, "Look, Jed took a scoop from each tray of his candy, from hard tack to his very best!  He gave it to me saying, 'Take this dime's worth home to those little ones, and enjoy some yourself. Mother, he was great!  I wouldn't have received that much if it had been just hard tack."

I heard Mother say, "God bless Brother Stringham" .

Jed Stringham
After dinner, we cleared the table and all sat around to listen to Mother tell the story of the First Christmas.  Letitia was on Father's lap and Edna with Mother.  Edgar put a nice handful of candy by each of us.  Mother was a wonderful storyteller, you could just live the story as she told it.  She told us that since that First Christmas, we celebrate Jesus' birth by giving gifts one to another and calling the day Christmas in memory of the Christ child.  

For a few moments all was quiet, the babies lay asleep.  Father rose with Letitia and laid her in her bed and told Edgar to take Edna and lay her down for Mother.  

As they returned, Mother's voice rose clear and sweet as she sang the Christmas song we all loved..."Silent Night!  Holy Night!"  

Lydia as a grown woman, mother and grandmother
Then she turned and said, "Now Father, come sing this with me."  

It is the only song I remember Father singing, although he followed well with Mother on this one.  They sang the first verse of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."

A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer Nay. 
I had not power to ask his name
Whereto he went or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love, I knew not why.

When they were finished, we turned our chairs in a circle and Father led in family prayer.

While the babies took their nap, the rest of us children went out on the frozen snow for a sleigh ride, knowing it had indeed been a wonderful Christmas.

The First Christmas Present: The Christ Child
Merry Christmas to all my Darlings.  

May your Christmas be wonderful, and may your testimonies [of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ] grow each day, and may we walk in the straight and narrow way all our days.

- Lydia Tuttle Atkin

This account was abridged from all the versions of the story in Lydia E.T. Atkin's personal history and other writings, by her granddaughter, Donna G. Littleford Ramos.  It was recently told in abbreviated form at the 2014 First Presidency Christmas Devotional by Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the current Young Women General President, and a descendant of Jed Stringham.
#LDS, #Christmas, #ChristmasPickle #Bonnie Oscarson, #Jed Stringham

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Big Bird and the MoTabs

Big Bird with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square
December 11th through 14th a very special event played at the Conference Center on Temple Square, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square welcomed renowned artists Santino Fontana and The Sesame Street Muppets for a wonderful Christmas Concert.

Santino Fontana seranading Muppets Bert and Ernie
If you don't know who Santino Fontana is, my guess is you'll remember his voice!  He is the speaking and singing voice of Prince Hans from the popular animated film Frozen.

The Count Counting the 12 Days of Christmas!
The Choir's Christmas Concerts are always a treat.  Having the Muppets there made the concert even better!  I mean, who doesn't like Big Bird?

Here is a little taste of the concert:

My friend Don, who sings with the choir, issued this invitation a few days before the concert series began:  "Please come standby to the Muppet Concert.  It's worth standing in line for!"

Santino with Big Bird and friends Cookie Monster, Elmo and Abby Cadabby
This is the first time the Choir has been joined by an all-puppet cast.  I wish I could have been there to see it!

My friend Don is seated just above Big Bird's head
This concert was a total sell-out!

Choir Member Don and friend
Sadly, the rest of us will not be able to see this delightful production until next year.  The Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert airing this year on PBS stations (It premiers on December 19th, check your local listings) will be last year's concert featuring American operatic soprano Deborah Voight and famed Welsh Actor John Rhys-Davies, who is perhaps best known for playing the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the charismatic Sallah from the Indiana Jones films.

Don posing with cast members
Now, here's a view you don't often get to see!  The concert venue from the choir's perspective:

A view most people never get to see!

Bert and Ernie perform with (my favorite) Elmo

The entire cast and crew
I love the Muppets.  Making them a part of this concert was a brilliant idea.

Don posing with a concert promotional poster
Don is a lucky duck to get to participate in these concerts, although I can only guess they are hard work and quite exhausting as well.

Dancing children cavort onstage 
These productions are so professionally done, and so lavish in concept and design, you forget that, with the exception of the professional guest stars, they are performed entirely by non-professional artists who volunteer their time and talents.

Elmo and Abby Cadabby
Elmo and Abby (above) were startled to learn that the Tabernacle Choir members and the musicians of the Orchestra at Temple Square, do not get paid!  I, for one, appreciate that they share their talents with us at this time of year.  I love the MoTabs and I love the good feelings that their music brings into my home.

Thanks, Don, for sharing with us!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Old Friends at Yuletide

Jana in Reindeer mode
Old friends are the best.

We had a little mini-reunion over the weekend.  It was just me and three friends I have not seen for a very long time.

Randy and his antlers
I love these folks.  They are a lot of fun to be with!  Jana, Vicki and I used to sing together and performed all over the southland.

Vicki has since moved to Arizona, and I don't see any of them often enough.
As I get older I value more and more the things money can't buy, like spending time with cherished friends.  I hope this holiday season brings you in touch with people you love, too.  Good friends and family are great gifts that can't be purchased or exchanged - merely treasured for ever.

Goofy friends are the best, aren't they?
Only three more days until Christmas!  Ho Ho Ho!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas is Coming!

Look what we got, Mom!
You can tell that Christmas is around the corner.  We're all getting excited as packages and cards arrive in the mail!

It looks like it's from Aunt Kirsti and Uncle Jay!
Jack is excited about Christmas, too!  He knows that he's getting something special from Santa this year!

I hope he likes it!
Do you think there's anything else out there from the mailman?
It doesn't stop him from growling at the postman, though.  My brave boy growls at anyone who comes up our sidewalk!  Then he bravely runs and hides in the bedroom.

My hero!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Baby Tree

A couple of years ago, our company stopped putting up a real evergreen tree at Christmas, and bought a fake tree.  I really have no major problems with this, as I am allergic to the real ones and they plug up my nose and make me sneeze.

My chief objection to this is they bought a tree that was rather pathetic.  It's kinda scrawny and not very tall.

This year, a co-worker came up with a brilliant holiday plan to make this pathetic tree more interesting. 

In response, management sent around a notice to all the employees that work here in the corporate offices, asking everyone to submit a handmade ornament.

The ornament had to have certain characteristics, though!

It had to contain a baby picture of the employee!

What a great idea!

At first we didn't know if anyone would respond.  The tree sat empty of any decorations for days.

Then, slowly, the tree began to fill up with handmade ornaments bearing photos of some adorable kids.

It's now become a game to see if we can figure out who everyone is!

There are some cuties in this line-up!

Oddly enough, when you find out who is in some of these baby pictures you invariably go - wow, you haven't really changed at all, have you?

It's been a lot of fun!

Hope you are enjoying this wonderful season too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Party!

Holiday Scene on the front lawn
Every year my friends up in North Hills have a lovely Christmas party.  It is packed with people and full of good food, good cheer and good conversation.

This year was no exception.

Bliss Lights at the front door
There were beautiful lights and holiday decorations to greet us as we arrived.

There were three separate tables set up with goodies of all kinds.

I managed to get a whole meal out of various pasta salads and sandwiches, and that doesn't begin to mention all the delicious things that were available to eat!

The house was decorated to the hilt, and a cozy fire was crackling in the ... well, the TV.  It doesn't matter, it may not have been warm, but it was delightful.

The tree was just marvelous

There were tons of people there.  Some people I hadn't seen for a long time!  Some people who were new and fun to meet.

It was a great evening.

As we get closer to Christmas, I hope you remember to enjoy yourself!

Please note: The top 2 photos are by J. Edwards

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Stetson Stratoliner

Back in the day when men wore hats on a regular basis, those hats were often named after really cool things.  That is the case with the Stetson Stratoliner, a hat named after one of the most advanced operational airplanes of its time.
An article about the Stratoliner airplane from Aero Digest, Circa 1940
Boeing's 307 Stratoliner entered into airline service in 1940.  It was immediately dubbed the "Flying Whale" for its chubby dimensions.

The Stratoliner at the airfield
This plane was remarkable, though. It's appearance ushered in a whole new era in avionics. It was the first in-service pressurized airplane and airliner. That's because it's cabin pressurization, air conditioning and heating that enable today's high altitude passenger jet airliners to fly above the weather and turbulence, where thin air and sub-zero temps could potentially kill passengers within minutes if they were unprotected.

The Stratoliner in flight
Only 10 of these remarkable aircraft were built, but they were so solid one was reported to still be carrying passengers in 1986!

The Stratoliner hat:  It's fun having a high-style husband... for a change!
The wide body airliner featured a luxurious 33-passenger cabin.  It was pressurized, air-conditioned and heated.  It had passenger compartments and sleeping berths with windows!  It also featured individual reclining sleeper seats, large seat windows (12 x 16 inches or so), men's and women's lavatories with skylights and a galley with a skylight.

An artist's conception of the Stratoliner interior
Howard Hughes had a special model built just for himself.  It featured more powerful engines and extra fuel tanks for a planned around-the-world flight.  This wonderful trip was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

After the War, Hughes' plane was outfitted with a luxury interior, including a bedroom - and earned the nickname "The Flying Penthouse".

Boeing's Stratoliner factory
According to one website, it cost $12,000 for passage on one of these planes, and that was merely a small flight to the middle of the country from the Coast.  That $12,000 is the equivalent of a whopping hundred thousand dollars in today's money.

The Stratoliner men's hat was named after this amazing airplane.  It was produced by Stetson in the 1940s.   It had a classic style, and a wider brim than the popular urban fedora.  It also featured a lighter, quality fur felt construction made from a thinner, softer felt.  

The Stetson company decided to name the new hat after the Boeing Stratoliner, taking advantage of the press from Howard Hughes' purchase of one of the luxury planes and his association with TWA, the airline that flew the Stratoliners.      

A Vintage Stratoliner hatbox
In 2011, Stetson re-introduced the Stetson Hat using the same hat blocks used for the original.  They immediately discovered there was a lot of enthusiasm for this "retro" hat and that there were many collectors that were interested in it.

Enter my brother, the hat aficionado!

Did you know a real men's fedora - even a Stetson Stratoliner, comes without a 'bash' in it?  Here it is straight from the factory:

The Modern Stetson Stratoliner straight from the factory
 You have to steam it and shape it yourself:
The Stratoliner after shaping
And then you get a dashing man to model it for you.  That's an important part of the equation!

My handsome brother wearing his new Stetson Stratoliner
Hey (to quote the earlier ad), a High-Style Brother... for a change?  Naw! Not at all. He's always a class act in my book! 

Thanks for sharing the history of this very cool hat, Jay!

Thanks to the Fedora Lounge Website, and too!