Category Archives: Family History

Cherry Bounce Update #1

I wrote of my Cherry Bounce experiment where I am attempting to reproduce my father’s recipe here. Not having his original recipe, I used a modified version of a recipe attributed to Martha Washington.

What I did not mention in that post is I later added a second experiment using an old recipe from a friend’s French mother, although slightly modified to accommodate my available supplies. I will call that one my Roy Recipe in honor of Mrs. Roy. She used wild cherries from her own yard. Not having a cherry tree in my backyard, I used dried, tart, pie cherries. Her recipe called for vodka instead of whiskey or brandy and not cooking the mash. So I have two jars set aside to rest for three months.

Well, I couldn’t wait any longer. I know, it has been slightly less than two weeks, but I had to taste them.

I could drink them now, and probably will next week for Christmas. The Martha Washington recipe with the cooked mash and Sazerac Rye whiskey is rich in flavors and complex, much of which comes from the rye whiskey. The Roy Recipe is less complex due to the vodka but is still quite good. Without the MW version to compare to, you would like it a lot. But I think I much prefer the more complex Martha Washington version. I’m pretty sure that one or a version of it will be the basis of my next and larger batch I’ll make after Christmas.

I will allow others to taste both at Christmas and let you know what comes out of that.

Cheers.

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Cherry Bounce

My dad, Dr. MB Casteix, used to make cherry bounce. His foray into creating adult beverages began when he was quite young. Since he started college two years earlier than most, having skipped two grades, he must have been younger than 16 on his first attempt because he was still living at home with his parents. At that time they were living on Bourbon Street in the building that is now the Famous Door Bar. It was a pharmacy at then, and the family lived above it. I wrote about his cherry bounce escapades here.

I decided I would like to attempt to recreate MB’s cherry bounce, but I don’t have his recipe and have no idea how he made it. I did a search online and found a few recipes, including one that is attributed to Martha Washington.

I did know one thing about MB’s recipe, and that was that it evidently continued to ferment in the bottle. In that linked post above, there was a recalled incident of the top blowing off the bottle and scaring the hell out of our maid. The recipes I found called for adding bourbon, rye, or brandy to the cooked cherry mash then storing that for three months. The alcohol should prevent any further fermenting, I would think. But I have to go with what I have.

So…I created a modified version of Martha’s recipe in smaller test proportions and cooked up a batch. The attached pic is the cherry mash before adding the rye whiskey. Unfortunately, we will have to wait three months to see if it is any good.

So, stand by…

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“You going to wear that?”

I used to consider myself a pretty good dresser. (Note the past tense.) As finances allowed, I stayed up with the styles, especially when younger. While in school, we young men were careful not to make any fashion faux pas that might hurt our chances with the ladies. We would exchange the latest fashion trends amongst ourselves. (Surprised, ladies?)

I worked in a men’s store part-time while in college and learned many things about the proper gentlemanly dress from another salesman who was a VERY dapper dresser, and the women absolutely loved him. From that experience, I learned about proper trouser length, how much cuff should show from under the sleeves of your coat, proper color matching, NEVER mix patterns (which seems to be de rigueur these days, go figure), and other sundry dressing codes for young men.

This carried forward even into my military service. My uniforms were always starched with creases sharp enough to cut thick-skinned tomatoes into paper-thin slices. My sense of style even got me into trouble when I tapered my trousers. My CO obviously wasn’t as fashion conscious as I was, and he made me take the taper out.

Even though my business life after the service, I was required to wear suits to work and I even enjoyed it. As the years passed, the dress codes relaxed to allow just trousers and a nice shirt—but no jeans. Then dress-down Friday came along, and “nice” jeans were allowed. As I neared retirement, even jeans became acceptable every day. Ah, the times they were a-changin’. But that excluded wives.

Eventually, every married male will, at some time, hear that fear-inducing question from their spouse concerning whatever it is they have on when about to head out for the night’s festivities. It comes in three versions, representing ascending levels of both distaste and threats should the offensive behavior continue. Whatever the level of distaste expressed, they all come at that moment when the spouse steps out of the bathroom fully dressed to the nines and encounters innocent you standing there buttoning the last button on your shirt or tidying up the knot of your tie. Let me expand on this below.

Threat Level 1 – She steps forth from the bathroom and finds you standing there. She stops in her tracks. One eyebrow goes up and the other goes down in a questioning glare that begins at your feet and slowly makes its way up to the top of your head. The innocent (clueless) you look like a deer caught in the headlights of a car that is a half a second away from the impact. You very stupidly say, “What?”

Here it comes. In a tone that suggests only mild disagreement with your fashion choices, she casually tosses out (like a hand grenade), “You going to wear that?”

Gentlemen, let me clearly state that “yes” is the wrong answer. Don’t waste your time arguing. Whatever you have on must be changed immediately.

Threat Level 2 – Same scenario as above, but this time that question is asked just a bit differently. It comes out as, “You going to wear THAT?” Note the very strong emphasis on “that.”

Gentlemen, a “yes” answer will mean being sent to the couch for at least three nights. Don’t even think of going there, but tuck your tail and find something to wear that she approves of.

Threat Level 3 – Same scenario but this time the question becomes a command, “You are NOT going to wear THAT!”

Gentlemen, a “yes” reply here will ultimately involve lawyers and cost you lots of money—assuming you survive the night. Save yourself some grief and just let her pick something out, put it on, and shut up.

I don’t know what happened to our sense of fashion between our early years and retirement, but we obviously lost it along the way. At least, that’s what my wife tells me whenever I attempt to dress for some social event.

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My Tivo Is Possessed by the Devil!

I cut the cable some months ago, or more accurately, I broke the dish and got rid of satellite. In its place I got a very nice antenna which picks up about 40 stations, maybe 20 of which come in clear and I am interested in watching. I also bought a Tivo Roamio OTA DVR which records over-the-air (OTA) channels and accesses apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime among others. OK, now that you have the background here is the problem.

Janis recorded a movie recently off one of the OTA channels. It turns out to have been appropriately named Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington. I never watched it, and Janis got about ten minutes into it and decided it wasn’t for her, so she deleted it—or more accurately, tried to delete it. My Tivo disagreed with her decision to delete the movie and refused to do so. None of the usual methods of deleting something recorded on the Tivo has worked. It pretends to delete the movie, but it always comes back! I can delete other recordings, but not the Devil!

It gets worse. Janis called me in to see if I would have any better luck. Nope. After several and various attempts, the Devil would not go away. I decided to let it rest and try the next day as if that might make a difference. It didn’t. Repeated attempts to delete it failed. Each time I deleted it, the Tivo puts an “X” beside its name in the guide, pretending that it is about to delete it—and then deletes the “X” and puts the blue dot back—and, of course, the Devil in a Blue Dress is still there!

And—it gets even spookier. Forgetting my recent failure with the Sync Witch in my truck, I was determined that I was not going to let some stupid electrical device outsmart me. So I devised a very clever plan to delete the movie. There is a delete option I had not yet tried. You can set the Tivo to delete a recording on a certain date in the future. “That’s it!” I said in my eureka moment. With a sneering cackle, I set the Devil to delete in two days, August 12.

Two days later I checked and the Devil was still there—AND he had reset my delete date to August 14! “This is some crazy fluke,” I muttered and reset the delete date to August 16.

Well, it is August 17 as I write this, and the Devil in a Blue Dress IS STILL THERE and has reset my delete date to August 18!

I have no illusions that it will actually delete on that date. Once more I have been beaten by artificial intelligence. As a society, we are doomed. The movie “Terminator” was prophetic.

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The Honey Island Swamp Monster

The Honey Island Swamp is on the Louisiana/Mississippi border along the Pearl River in the “toe” of the Louisiana boot. The entrance to the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area often referred to as “Honey Island”, is located where I-59 crosses the Pearl. The WMA is a favorite hunting and fishing place for the relatively nearby New Orleans residents. It is mostly swamp and marsh laced with small bayous with not a lot of high ground, especially when the Pearl reaches anything approaching flood stage. Deer and squirrel hunting is popular in the WMA.

It is also reputed to be the home of the Honey Island Swamp Monster (HISM), Louisiana’s version of Bigfoot. My son Heath and I met the HISM many years ago on a squirrel hunting trip. Many years ago is something like 1985ish. It was just after dawn and we had settled into our stands in a grove of oak trees, taking a seat at the base of an old oak. Heath, being around 15 then on one of his first hunts, was sitting with me so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he hunted safely.

Must have been a spot that was hunted out, because we saw no squirrels. Not being an early riser, I was soon dozing off. That’s when we heard “him”. It was a baleful cry off in the distance as if the HISW had lost his momma and was calling out for her.

Heath poked me in the ribs. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Listen.”

It was obvious he was concerned, so I blinked myself into wakefulness and listened. Soon, I heard it, too. A long tone that changed pitch with no apparent purpose than to cry out almost as if in pain or calling to a like being.

Another poke in the ribs from my 15-year-old. “What’s that?”

“Ummm. Nuttin,” I replied.

Heath wasn’t buying it. “That sounded like something. What?”

We listened but heard nothing more out of our HISM and began to relax. We moved to another area in hope of finding squirrels and settled down again under another big oak tree.

And we heard him again, that long drawn-out cry, but this time it was a bit closer. “Dad, what is that?”

I fessed up. “I have no idea. Never before heard anything like that in the woods—ever.”

Then the unspoken was finally spoken. Heath looked at me and said, “Is that the Honey Island Swamp Monster?”

“Naaahh,” I assured him, but vacating the Honey Island Swamp suddenly seemed like it might be a good idea. “I’m getting hungry. How about we head back to the truck for something to eat?”

Heath readily agreed. We worked our way back to the trail we had come in on, which happened to be closer to the direction the HISM screams had been coming from. As we nervously headed for the truck we catch sight of movement in the bushes beside the trail and out steps a man with a shotgun. We startled each other briefly, and then he waved as he approached. “Any luck with squirrels?” he asked in Spanish-accented English.

“No. We’re giving up.”

“Me either,” he replied. “I’m trying to find my hunting buddy. You see anyone around…?” And he described how he was dressed.

“Nope. Haven’t seen anyone.”

“I’ve been calling to him with my bugle, but he doesn’t answer.” And he reached around his back and pulled out a beat up old bugle that hung by a cord across his shoulders. And I’m thinking we have found the Honey Island Swamp Monster. He must have noticed my questioning expression and said, “We use these down in (some Central American country) where I’m from to communicate in the jungle.”

Heath and I looked at each other and smiled. So much for our Honey Island Swamp Monster.

You can see a video taken in the 1960s that supposedly shows the HISM at this link.

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Eight Weeks Later

Remember back eight weeks ago I posted about my grandson going off to Air Force Basic Training? It is now eight weeks later and here he is.

Janis and I drove over to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, to be there for Blake’s graduation from basic training. It was a grueling trip that was supposed to be about eight hours that turned into more than ten with several periods of stop and go traffic—an hour and a half just to get through Houston! It was an intense and emotion-filled weekend as we joined his parents, his sisters, and some cousins as well as an aunt and another grandmother. Having done my basic training at Lackland back in December 1968-January 1969, I found it particularly moving. This was especially so because Heath, my son and Blake’s father, had also been there a few decades after me, in 1996, when he did his basic training at Lackland. Three generations of Casteix men in the Air Force. The three of us are in the pic below.

Blake will next be going to NAS Pensacola for training in “Non-Destructive Inspection”. That means he will be inspecting aircraft for structural integrity, and the testing involves non-destructive processes. It is a highly technical field. Interestingly, Heath has his own business doing aircraft airframe repair and then FAA certification of the repaired parts. He learned that trade in the Air Force. Later as a civilian, he took training in what Blake will be doing, and his business is also a FAA certified NDI inspection station which has more business than he can handle. That means Blake will have a job waiting for him when he gets out.

I guess you have figured out by now that we are all very proud of Blake.

A point I would like to make in closing is that “education” need not always mean college, and success and financial security need not require a college degree. Heath makes a lot more money than I did at this point in his life. I am of the opinion that many kids in college today are wasting their money and would be better served by military training or a good trade school. Unfortunately and incorrectly, that sometimes carries a negative stigma for some people.

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Memorial Day 2017

This one is kind of special. The reason why is that twenty-one-year-old young man in the photo, the one in the white shirt holding up his right hand. That is Blake Casteix, my grandson. That was Tuesday when he was in the process of swearing to “defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic”. He is now at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, for Air Force basic training. That will be followed by tech school at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he will be trained in cyber security. Sounds like a career field he can use when he gets out, assuming he doesn’t make a career of the Air Force.

His dad was also in the Air Force, where he learned a trade, one he is using today, as a civilian, to make a good living with his own business. Everyone thinks you must go to college to be successful and make the big bucks. Ain’t so. There are many career fields in the military where a young man or woman can learn a trade and make a good living at it afterward—or even use it as a springboard to attend college on the GI Bill. Sadly, not many young people are willing to do that. Instead, they whine about not having any opportunities. I am calling Bravo Sierra on that. If you want it, there are ways to get it, but you might have to work for it instead of having it handed to you.

I was also in the Air Force but after I graduated from college. I had my college handed to me by my parents. It took the Air Force to gave me maturity I did not get in college. There I learned to do my job in a way that reflected on the fact that someone’s life might depend on how well I did it. For that reason, I believe in universal military service. Unfortunately, that would open the military up to having a lot of people that will never “get it” and never appreciate what it can give them. And maybe it is better if it isn’t that way.

This Memorial Day I salute Blake Casteix and all those who have written that check out to the United States of America for payment “up to and including my life”.

The complete Oath of Enlistment –

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

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I’m retired?

No, the question mark in the title is not a typo. I have been officially retired since February 15, 2017 after 44 years with SPAR, Inc. Been there since 1973 after I got out of the Air Force. It was a fun ride while it lasted. I got to work on some truly wonderful, challenging, interesting, and rewarding projects. During those years, I had the privilege of working with some very talented people, designing packaging and product promotions for local, national, and international brands. My team at SPAR won numerous awards over the years: locally with the New Orleans Ad Club, nationally with the American Advertising Federation, and even some international design awards. Like I said, I had a talented team.

But all good things must come to an end. Upon reaching 72, I decided I needed to hang it up and go home. My expectation was that I would live the life of leisure after working since I was fourteen. So far, that has not happened. I intended to devote my “leisure” time to painting, writing, and Bible study. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. I have done some Bible study, but no writing and I have not lifted a paint brush yet. Instead, Janis has had me digging holes in the yard to plant stuff in and running a chain saw cutting other stuff down. Seems rather contradictory, doesn’t it? I mean planting and then destroying?

I’m having to take more doses of OTC pain killers these days, and a good bourbon on the rocks in the evening feels mighty rewarding after a day swinging a shovel or a chain saw—and feeling it. I’m hopeful that this period of physical exertion I had not previously associated with retirement comes to an end soon—before it kills me. Otherwise, I may have to go find a day job so I can get some rest.

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Boy Scouts in Kenner

boy-scoutMost of my friends were in the Boy Scouts when I was a kid. Henry Legasse was the Scout Master when I joined, and that position was later taken over by Mr. Hansen and Mr. Carter.

We joined when we turned 11 and some of us were even in the Cub Scouts prior to joining the Boy Scouts. I joined because I liked the outdoors, and the Boy Scouts were all about the outdoors, plus I was into uniforms then, especially if they looked military. (I played army a lot.)

Boys like to go camping, and the troop had a supply of WWII pup tents, also known as “shelter halves” because two halves were put together to make one tent. We used these tents only once as I recall. Our Scout leaders, most having recently served in WWII, had had their fill of camping and anything remotely related to the Army. And pup tents and sleeping on the cold ground certainly fit that bill.

Instead, they took us places where there were cabins and real (alleged) beds, like Camp Salmon and Fountainbleu State Park group camps. The latter was probably a bit emotionally triggering for them because the buildings we stayed in were surplus Army barracks. But they had a roof instead of pup tent canvass and real beds with alleged mattresses.

Manard Lagasse was not what I would call a “momma’s boy” but every “camping trip” we went on, he puked all the first night and had to be taken home the next day by his dad. Frankly, the rest of us were glad, because it was hard to sleep and listen to Manard’s “Oommmoooogggg!” followed by liquid hitting the floor.

We played games and worked on merit badges on these trips, and learned Army stuff, like: fall in, ah-tennn-HUT, count off, parade rest, and other nifty things that would come in handy less than ten years later when many of us went into the military.

On one trip to Fountainbleu, we begged our adult leaders to take us on a hike. They weren’t into hiking either, having recently hiked all over North Africa, Italy, and Europe. They decided to break us of that desire and took us on what more resembled some sort of death march rather than the leisurely stroll we had in mind. They took us into a swamp—into muck up to our knees—and we could barely move forward—and they urged us on deeper into the swamp, and some of us lost our shoes. When we came out, we were covered with stinking swamp mud, and we never asked for a hike again. And I don’t recall them ever offering to take us on one, either.

Once when we were on a winter campout at Camp Salmon in the little buildings with (alleged) real beds, we had a giant pillow fight, which, unfortunately, went badly. At least one of the pillows quite literally exploded, resulting in a blizzard of chicken feathers. That was a mess to clean up!

One of our favorite games was “infiltration” which we always played at summer camp at Camp Salmon. The objective was for all the scouts, under the cover of darkness, to sneak up on the campfire area along the bayou. Success was just about impossible without taking out a few of the camp counselors, but cutting throats was not then allowed. The scouts would blacken their faces with charcoal, dress in dark clothing, and crawl around in the woods infested with briars, snakes, spiders, ticks, and red bugs and attempt to sneak up on the campfire ring. We actually believed we had a chance of succeeding. I don’t recall anyone ever succeeding.

At summer camp, they were very strict about littering. They even had a rule about it. If you bought any candy at the little camp “trading post” and tossed the wrapper on the ground, whoever picked it up could charge you, and you had to buy them the same thing. It is amazing how many kids toss their candy wrappers on the ground. Some of us (punks) saw potential in this and formed a “vigilante” group. We hung around the “trading post,” and when we saw some kid eating candy, we followed him until he dropped the wrapper—and we pounced. I gained weight that year at camp. Yes, I know. I’m ashamed of myself. But hey, they needed to learn a life lesson about littering.

The last night of summer camp at Camp Salmon was the big campfire when we sang Kumbaya, did skits, and received awards. We would dress as Indians, and the costumes were pretty lame. We used towels as loincloths held on by our scout belts. Having that wad between your legs was pretty uncomfortable, and I don’t recall anyone taking a shower after that.

There was a priest there who somehow managed to attach himself to our troop. He was from some foreign country and spoke broken English. When he saw us dressed as Indians, he flipped out. I think the “skimpy” towel loincloths did it. We tried to reassure him we were pretending to be Indians just for the night. His reply was a pleading, “NO! Christians!” We went in our crotch-irritating loincloth towels anyway. He remained behind prayed for our lost souls.

And I must not forget the meals on these camping trips. Almost always we had access to a kitchen and lots of surplus Army aluminum pots, but every once in a while we got to actually cook our own meals over an open fire. That usually meant foil stew. Done right, foil stew can be very good. You simply make a pouch out of two layers of aluminum foil and place in it chopped potatoes, carrots, onions, bell pepper, and some kind of meat cubed up. Throw in a little seasoning and a dash of water, seal the open end well and toss that puppy onto a bed of hot coals and scrape a few on top. Cook it for about 20 minutes. Retrieve from the fire and split open the foil and enjoy. Later in life, we would make foil stew on hunting trip camp outs, only being older and wiser then, we used steak instead of the cheap of meat cut our parents gave us as kids and substituted beer for the water. Yuumm! And no pots to wash!

The weekly meetings at the Kenner VFW Hall were always the high point of my week. I really looked forward to them and getting together with kids I saw only then. We worked on merit badges and different scout projects. I never did learn Morris Code, however. The biggest event was the “Court of Honor” when we received our merit badges and promotions to the next level of scouting. It was all rather formal with everyone in uniform with candles glowing softly as the ceremonies played out. We scouts received our new uniform decoration and our proud parents stood by smiling and applauding.

Those were some good times.

I encourage readers, especially former members of Troop 176 in Kenner, to post their experiences in the comments section below.

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Fifty Years Ago Today

wedding-leavingToday, 21 Jan 2017, marks fifty years of marriage for Janis and me. Yes, fifty years ago I watched her father escort my weeping bride down the aisle of St Rita Church in Harahan. Why was she weeping? I don’t know, and she doesn’t either. I asked. “Emotional moment” was the best she could come up with. It was so intense I don’t remember much about that day, the weeping bride being one of only a few things, but let me try to relate some of what I do remember.

I remember my friend Sam showing up at my door thoroughly confused about the workings of the bow tie on the monkey suits we wore. Gads, but they were stupid looking suits. “Does the tie go inside the collar or outside?”

I remember standing in a reception line for about a week. At least, it seemed that long. We survived only because my best man and a few frat brothers kept us supplied with food and adult beverages. Thankfully, they don’t do reception lines anymore. The bride and groom can now enjoy their reception.

At the end of the “week,” we were rushed from the reception line for the cake cutting, then the dance. Or was it the other way around? Then change clothes and leave for the honeymoon. We went to Hot Springs. (I know what you are thinking, but try to ignore that. I am referring to the place in Arkansas.) It was all we could afford, and I don’t recommend it for a honeymoon.

We visited the chicken circus where chickens do tricks. Whoo-hoo! I even have pictures of that somewhere. We visited an auction where I was suckered into buying a diamond ring. No one was bidding on the cheap diamond ring being offered, and the slick auctioneer asked me, “Would you give $125 for this ring, sir.” I think the “sir” impressed me because I replied in the affirmative never thinking he was asking for anything more than my “expert” diamond appraising opinion.

“I have a bid of $125. Do I hear $130?” He didn’t. “SOLD for $125 to the gentleman with exquisite taste in jewelry.” And I was the proud owner of a diamond ring, and my bride was looking at me like I had two heads. We immediately went and had it appraised. It was worth maybe $65. We went back to the auction house and complained and got some of our money back. The diamonds were chips, and Janis later had them reset and the ring melted down for its gold value. We actually made out on the purchase, but it took about thirty years.

Enough of that…

Our relationship goes back way past fifty years. We started dating when I was sixteen and she was fourteen, some six years before the wedding. She followed me wherever I went. I went to USL (University of Southwest Louisiana now ULL, University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and she followed. After a year or so, her dad asked while writing out a tuition check, “Tell me again why you are going to college in Lafayette.”

wedding-janis

Janis lived on Minor Street in Kenner. I lived on the intersecting Sixth Street (now Toledano), and since there was a vacant lot between my house and her house, we grew up within sight of each other. But I never noticed her until the hormones kicked in. Among many I have one very vivid memory of that time. It is of her walking home from the Airline Highway bus stop in her Mercy Academy uniform complete with saddle oxfords and white bobby socks, clutching her books to her chest, and her long ponytail dancing behind her head to the rhythm of her steps. In retrospect, I think that was when I fell in love with her.

After school and marriage, it was the Air Force for me, and of course she followed. Our oldest son was born in the base hospital at George AFB in Victorville, California. It was a difficult delivery that ended up as an emergency cesarean. She was in the hospital for nearly a week and got no real food until near the end. When I checked her out, I had to pay $14 and some change for her meals. She wanted me to go back and ask for a refund. “I didn’t eat that much.” I figured $14 for an emergency caesarian is pretty cheap regardless of how much she ate, but Janis was and remains very frugal.

In all that time, our only separations were the time I spent in basic training, tech school, the occasional short TDY assignment, and the eleven months I spent at King Salmon AFS, a remote station in Alaska.

Then came discharge in ’72 and buying a house in ’73. We had to borrow the down payment for the house. That money came from Janis’ grandfather in Oxford, Mississippi. When told the house was costing us $24,500.00, he asked, “What are they buying? A mansion?” I gather you get a lot more house for your money in Oxford. It was a two bedroom one bath little 1,100 square foot house built in the thirties. Son number two came along in 1975, another caesarian but planned this time. We moved into a larger house in ’86, and we are still there.

So two boys, five grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and fifty plus years later, we are still married.

I’m thinking about keeping her.

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