Our Ford Econoline Van

I was driving our 12-passenger, Ford Econoline silver/grey van  around Rolla last week, doing the weekly groceries shopping, stopping at the bank to deposit our working teens’ paychecks into their savings accounts since they were still in school and couldn’t get to the bank as easily as I could, and suddenly, I became all weepy!

There wasn’t a sentimental song playing on the radio.  No touching radio ad or news story had hit my ears to bring about the tears.  I simply started dwelling on our van and how many ways it had been a great vehicle for our family. The flood of memories, I think, just hit me at the right moment and the tears sprang forth.

It was Autumn of 1999 and we were a family of 6 when I went to the doctor to confirm that baby #5 was on his or her way.  That afternoon at the doctor’s office,  an ultrasound showed not one but two hearts beating!  After I got over my initial shock, I told husband and he, after realizing I wasn’t joking about expecting twins in April said, “We’re gonna need a bigger van!”  Up to that moment, we had a Ford Windstar mini-van, which worked fine for our family.  With my brother being an  employee of the Ford Motor Company, it was a  no-brainer to find out what Ford offered for those families that were too large to fit into a mini-van.  That search led us to the Econoline.  It’s the same size as those church or a daycare vans that dot our roadways in the U.S.  We eschewed the 15 seater and went with the 12 seater and we placed our order with our local Ford dealership.  We learned that part of our new van was going to be made in Canada and then those parts would be shipped to Loraine, Ohio and the final assembling of the vehicle would be finished there, but not until November of 2000, some  months after our twins would be born.  So until we were notified that the van had arrived at our local Ford dealership,  we were a two vehicle, caravanning family.

The day arrived and the kids were all excited about getting inside of this behemoth vehicle.   The twins were oblivious but I think they sensed the excitement of their older sibings!  The kids burst into the van, bouncing around on the bench seats, each claiming their spot, and the twins car seats were placed on the bench seat closest to the driver and front passenger seats.  It did take me a while to get used to driving it around town, to not feel like I was taking up the entire lane of traffic.  I finally did get used to it, so much so that whenever I rode in a “normal” sized vehicle, I felt like my seat was going to drag on the road!  The only detriment, we learned, is that it’s impossible to really see out the back of such a large, long van.  Hence, whenever parking it, we always, always look for a spot that we can drive forward out of, or park in a spot where there isn’t any place for anyone to park behind us.

Ford Van

Memories came flooding last week: the numerous trips to St. Louis Zoo, or any of the museums in Forest Park, or any of the homeschooling field trips we went on through the years, hauling the kids and their friends to Koch Water Park or Bangert Pool, or Fritz’s, or to a mall, or helping to drive kids from church out to High Hill Christian Camp.    Vacations taken via our van: Disney World, Busch Gardens, trips to OH to see the grandparents and other relatives, a trip to MI, a trip to NC,  a trip to Texas when it looked like we might have to move there, and trips now back and forth from Rolla to St. Louis or Rolla to Springfield, to Branson and back.

There are also  the times the van has been extremely handy in hauling stuff: concrete and paints, mulch and plants, wood, tools, for various home improvement projects, new pieces of furniture.   Hauling college daughter’s myriads of stuff to the dorm and back again for school breaks.  It has also proved valuable on Cub and  Boy Scout campouts;driving scouts and equipment to and from camps.   Two summers ago, while on a Cub Scout camp out with our youngest, we were at Camp Arrowhead, about 40 minutes east of Springfield, MO.  A strong thunderstorm had been predicted to hit the second night of our camp out.  I told my Webelo son, that to be on the safe side, at 9:00 pm, we were going to move our gear from the platform scout tent to our van and sleep there for the night.  I was so thankful I thought to do that as a fierce thunderstorm did hit, the rains flooded the campsite, but my son and I were safe and dry inside our van.  I know some scouting parents would insist on “roughing” it during a thunderstorm but I fell back on the motto, “Be Prepared” and to the van we went!

The Econoline has another family vacation to take us on this summer.  It will again take our oldest daughter and all of her stuff  back to her college for her Senior year.  The van is starting to show it’s 15 years of usage, but we still aren’t ready to trade it in for a newer vehicle.  We’re hoping it can hang on through the August of 2016 when child #4 will be moving to his college for his Freshman year.

One weekend when my husband and I were highschool sweethearts, he related to me that as his parents were opening up their pop-up camper it was discovered that during the winter, water had somehow gotten inside of the camper and mold had grown inside and  ruined the interior.  He went on to tell me how sad his mom was, and that she actually broke down and cried about it.  When I asked why she had gotten so upset about a camper, my wise husband explained to me that their family had gone a lot of camping trips in that pop-up and that she was sad they wouldn’t be able to continue making memories with that camper.  At the time, I was a high school kid and didn’t understand my future  mother-in-law’s tears.  Driving around last week and dwelling on our reliable, yet old van’s travels, I found that I now do understand the tears.

Memories are made, families grow and change.  The trusty vehicles age and according to some law of Physics, the repairing over and over again will all be for naught.   Maybe it’s part of a mom’s heart to tear up at memories, to recall with fondness, smiles and wet eyes the passages of time via their childrens growth; the need for car seats of various sizes, then just a booster seat, then the seat belt, to the child driving the vehicle on their own with their own driver’s license.

Chalk it all up to memories and a mom’s heart, I guess, as to the reason why I was emotional as I drove around Rolla running errands.   I guess as I tool around town in my giant silver/grey van, I will need to keep a kleenax box handy, especially as our kids continue to grow up and time marches on .

 

The Major and The Minor: For National Classic Movie Day Blogathon

Today, Saturday, May 16th,  is National Favorite Classic Movie Day.  Since every day of the week nowadays seems to have a special attribute assigned to it, why not a day in which to remember with fondness a favorite classic movie?  I signed up to participate and this fun blogathon  is being hosted by Rick over at Classic Film and TV Cafe.  Please visit his site to read other bloggers’ choices as to which classic film is their favorite.

My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon 2

For my favorite film I chose 1942’s romance/comedy The Major and The Minor.  It has a lot of pluses and few minuses: written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, directed by Wilder, lead actor is Ray Milland, lead actress is Ginger Rogers, supporting actors and actresses are all good in their roles, too; Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn, Edward Fielding, Frankie Thomas, Raymond Roe, Charles Smith, Larry Nunn, Billy Dawson, and even a bit part played by Ginger’s mom, Lela Rogers!The Major and the Minor

Billy Wilder had come to America, via Germany and France, having found successes in the fields of screenwriting and directing.  With the rise of Nazism,  he left Europe behind, and decided to pursue his filmmaking talents in Hollywood.  In 1939 his work paid off with his screenplay for Ninotchka, the film that showed the world that Greta Garbo could laugh!  That film was quickly followed with two more screenwriting successes for Wilder: Hold Back the Dawn, and Ball of Fire.  In 1942 he got permission from Paramount Pictures to make his American directorial debut with The Major and The Minor.  I am so glad that Paramount gave him the green light for this delightlful movie.

Ginger Rogers portrays Susan Applegate, a midwestern,  small town gal who came to NYC in order to make it in show business.  She had saved up her money each week for train fare home as she promised herself to give it one year in NYC and if she didn’t make it, she’d take the train and head for home.  She finally has had her fill of NYC, and her year is up, but at the train station she discovers that the money she saved isn’t enough for an adult fare as the price has risen.  Dismayed, she gets an idea when she watches a mother at the ticket window purchase a child fare ticket for her daughter.  Susan realizes she has enough money to buy a child’s fare ticket.  Off she goes to the lady’s restroom to turn herself into 12 year old “Susu” Applegate.

Susan entering the ladies restroom, and Susu emerging!

Susan entering the ladies restroom, and Susu emerging!

Susu gets her ticket, gets on the train, but when  she goes outside onto a viewing platform to sneak a cigarette, the conductors, who are suspicious about her being a “child” catch her.  She flees from their clutches and dives into the first overnight compartment she can find and it belongs to Major Philip Kirby, ably portrayed by Ray Milland.

Susu meets Major Philip Kirby.

Susu meets Major Philip Kirby.

Major Kirby is itching to get into WWII.  He badly wants to serve his country.  However, he’s stuck teaching at a Boys Military Academy.  He had been in Washington D.C. to see if he could get his military status reactivated, without his fiancee knowing of his plan.  His fiancee,Pamela- a real schemer-played by Rita Johnson, and her father, Colonel Hill, principal of the Academy, -played by Edward Fielding, have no idea that Kirby wants to be on active duty.

Once the Major meets this minor, he feels protective of her.  Susu is immediately attracted to the Major but she keeps up her ruse of being a child of 12, and lets the Major treat her as he would a niece.  He lets her sleep in the lower berth of his compartment and during the night, unbeknownst to them, the train has to stop its travel due to flooded tracks further down the line.  Pamela and her father manage to drive in to rescue Major Kirby and it’s quite a funny scene when Pamela bursts into his compartment and finds Susu there in her nightgown!

Susu has to keep this act going as she gets a ride back to the Academy.  Due to the flood, Susu will have to stay at the Academy until her family can come and get her.  It’s decided that she’ll bunk in with Pamela’s younger sister, Lucy. Lucy figures out  quickly that Susu is really Susan.  Lucy and Susan make a pact.  If they can get Major Kirby’s status activated, then he won’t have to marry Pamela, who Lucy thinks is a “stinker”.  She doesn’t want the Major to marry her sister.

Lucy doesn't fall for Susan acting 12.

Lucy doesn’t fall for Susan acting 12.

Susu meets Pamela's little sister, Lucy.

Susu meets Pamela’s little sister, Lucy.

Susu is also the new “catnip” on campus for all of the cadets and there is a hilarious montage of different cadets trying to kiss Susu while giving her a tour of their campus.  If anyone ever puts an arm around the back of your neck and clutches one of your  shoulders, then describes the “Maginot Line” with their other hand watch out!  It’s a clever way to grab you and pull you in  for a kiss!

Susu has a lot of fans at the Academy!

Susu has a lot of fans at the Academy!

There’s another fun sequence at the school dance, which Susu has to attend, and the guest girl attendees all try to look like Veronica Lake, peekaboo hairdo and all.  Robert Benchley, who plays a cad at the film’s beginning and  tried to make a pass at Susan, happens to show up at the Academy’s dance because he’s the father of one of the cadets!  Susan has to avoid him as he could spill the beans as to her true identity.

Major Kirby has by  now realized he doesn’t want to marry Pamela, and there’s something “funny” about Susu that he can’t quite put his finger on.  Milland does a really good job of playing the caring Major without coming off as a “creeper” to put it in my twin daughters’ vernacular.

Like all good romance comedies, this film has a happy ending.  The Major and the Minor is such a fun movie: charming, witty dialogue, clever plot development, I highly recommend it!  If you are fortunate to have loved ones in your life who were teens or young adults in the 1940s, and they’re still sharp as a tack, you should rent this film and watch it with them.   I bet they’ll enjoy that time with you and they can explain some of the pop culture references made in the 1940s, too!  Here are a few more fun pics from the film.

The "Veronica Lake" hairdo-so popular at a school dance!

The “Veronica Lake” hairdo-so popular at a school dance!

Ginger and her mother, Lela, who plays Susan mother in the film.

Ginger and her mother, Lela, who plays Susan mother in the film.

Studio still of Milland and Rogers

Studio still of Milland and Rogers

Another studio still of Rogers and Milland

Another studio still of Rogers and Milland

 

The Major and the Minor poster 2

Kate Remembered for the Katharine Hepburn Blogathon

Last year, blogger and classic film fan Margaret Perry decided to host a Katharine Hepburn Blogathon around the late actress’s birthday, which was May 12th, 1907. The blogathon was such a success that here is the second one and I am participating but not with a Hepburn movie review. I decided to take a different tack, and write a book review of a book I read 9 years ago, A.Scott Berg’s excellent, Kate Remembered. Be sure to visit Margaret’s site to read all of the other outstanding contributions to this blogathon!    KH bLOGATHON

Writer A. Scott Berg, a native and inhabitant of LA, in the early 1980s,,  was busily working on a biography of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn when Esquire magazine contacted Berg about contributing a piece for their upcoming 50th anniversary issue.  Berg immediately agreed if he could write about a Hollywood icon, Katharine Hepburn.  He had to go round and round with the editors and assistant editors because they insisted they didn’t want any articles about Hollywood;important Americans was their topic, and Berg countered that Hepburn was the lone actress still at work, in her seventies, who had done it all and done it well:stage and film and 4-time Academy Award winner.  Reluctantly, Esquire relented and Berg began his task of contacting Ms. Hepburn in order to interview her.     book KR

Fortunately for Berg, when he was a college student at Princeton, he had written his senior thesis on editor Maxwell Perkins.  After graduating, Berg decided to expand his thesis into a biography of Perkins, and the finished book, Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius, won a National Book Award.  During his research on Perkins, he found out that Perkins and his family lived next door to none other than star actress Katharine Hepburn!  Berg had always been a fan of Hepburn’s, and having written to the actress for any info she may have had about Maxwell Perkins, being that she was his neighbor for years, she did write Berg back, showed interest in his book about her former neighbor, so it was a natural plan to approach Ms. Hepburn again about letting Berg interview her for the Esquire article.

What began as several meetings at the actress’s brownstone home in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan, and at the family’s seaside home in the borrough of  Fenwick, part of  Old Saybrook, CT. grew into a friendship of 15 years, right up to the passing away of Hepburn.

The book explores Katharine’s  early life in Hartford, CT.  Her father, Thomas, was a doctor and her mother, Katharine, or Kit, was a busy homemaker with 6 kids to raise, but she also found time to devote to causes: Suffragist Movement and Family Planning.  Katharine was the second child in the family, she had one older brother, Tom, two younger brothers, Richard and Robert, and then two little sisters, Marion and Margaret.  From Berg’s writings, I learned that these younger siblings were all in their teens and preteen years when their big sister was becoming famous due to her movie career.  Sadly, her older brother, Tom, committed suicide at the age of 15 and Katharine was the one who found his body.   Katharine loved her older brother very much and his death was a shock.  Due to her parents extreme views on political issues, they didn’t have many friends in Hartford, and this attitude also spread to the way peers treated the Hepburn children.  Sadly, her brother’s death added to the alienation, so the Hepburn family turned towards one another, were each other’s booster club, and Katharine shared she was so grateful that she had such a supportive family and she really believed that that love and support helped her reach her acting successes.  Katharine finished up her high school years homeschooling, with a tutor, and then it was on to Bryn Mawr for college, her mother’s college alma mater.

After graduation it was on to the stage and eventually, on to Hollywood.  Katharine’s first film, A Bill of Divorcement, was a star vehicle for John Barrymore.  Katharine was cast to play his daugher in the film, George Cukor directed; he became a lifelong friend of Hepburn’s.  A funny anecdote about Katharine and that first film, she was taking the Super Chief train from Chicago to LA and on her first night on that train, she went out onto a back platform to see the stars and something flew into her eye.  Immediate pain, redness, and swelling in that eye made the rest of the trip miserable.   As soon as the studio personnel met her at the train station in LA, she urged them to find her a doctor for her eye.  First, the studio folks told her, she had to be whisked off to the studio to meet Cukor, costumers, make up , and John Barrymore.   When she was introduced to John Barrymore, he assumed her red eye was due to too much alchohol and he offered her some eye drops that he often took for that very reason.  Hepburn tried to explain that she hadn’t been drunk and that something blew into her eye while on the train trip, but the Great Profile didn’t believe her!

Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorce

Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement

The book looks at a lot of her films; early successes, especially Morning Glory and Little Women, and then  how she was box office poison until The Philadelphia Story.  I love the slapstick, screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby and had no idea it had bombed at the box office in 1938!   There is also, of course, the section of the book that covers her long relationship with actor Spencer Tracy.  Hepburn shared with Berg that with Tracy it was “the first time I truly learned that it was more important to love than to be loved.”  Hepburn and Tracy were together for 26 years, 1941-1967.  MGlory

Little Women cast: Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Katharine Hepburn, and Francis Dee

Little Women cast: Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Katharine Hepburn, and Francis Dee

Hepburn with her 3 leading men in The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant, James Stewart, and John Howard.

Hepburn with her 3 leading men in The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant, James Stewart, and John Howard.

Hepburn with Cary Grant and "Baby"

Hepburn with Cary Grant and “Baby”

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

As the book nears its end, Hepburn is sadly nearing her mortal end, too.  I liked the book for it’s actual discussions with the great actress, her insights, her looking back at  her life.  I found it quite a touching book to read.   Two more anecdotes that I found charming and wise: Author Berg had been trying for months to get an interview with Irving Berlin for a book on Samuel Goldwyn. Berlin kept refusing, so Berg turned to Katharine, who had said she’d try to get Berlin to agree to an interview.  One day Hepburn walked out of her brownstone and went just a few buildings over to Berlin’s brownstone.  As she was explaining to Berlin’s maid who she was and that she wanted to visit him, she heard 100 year old Irving Berlin call out of a second floor window,”Kate, is that you?”  To which she replied that yes, it was she.  Berlin invited  her in  for a wonderful afternoon of tea and talk.  Later that same day, Katherine told Berg that she got in to see Berlin and that they had a wonderful 3 hour chat, but she couldn’t remember anything that they talked about!!   Wise words: Katharine sharing with Berg her thoughts about stage acting:”Nothing is as generous as an American audience…I’m always amazed at movie stars, especially those actresses who hit their 40s and 50s and complain that Hollywood isn’t writing any parts for them anymore, don’t take to the stage.  If Broadway is too scary, there are hundreds of wonderful theaters all over this country who would be thrilled to have them.  Actors should act.”

If you enjoy books about famous actors or actresses, written with their input, then seek out Kate Remembered-I highly recommend it!

Star in the Night, an Award Winning Holiday Short

jennifromrollamo:

This post from Dec., 2014 is my contribution to Movies, Silently’s wonderful Shorts: A Tiny Blogathon Be sure to visit Fritzi’s sight to read about more of these pithy, witty, some funny, and some more serious-minded short films that were shown by movie theaters before the featured attraction.

Originally posted on portraitsbyjenni:

With Christmas Day right around the corner, two meals to prep for, gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff,  and more goodies to bake, this will probably be my last post until January 2015.  I decided it would be right and fitting to write about a short film that I saw on Turner Classics last year in December, Warner Brothers 1945 Star in the Night.

Star in the NIght

Star in the Night, is a modern(1945 modern) re-telling of the Nativity story.  It was written by Robert Finch and Saul Elkins, produced by Gordon Hollingshead, and directed by Don Siegel.  It was Siegel’s first film to direct and it touched so many audiences and the Motion Picture Academy that it won the Oscar for Best Short Subject in 1946.  Siegel went on to direct more films, including the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers, several Clint Eastwood starring movies, such as Dirty Harry, and John…

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Really, Bubble Guppies?

I care for  a preschool aged child a couple mornings a week.  A tv program the preschooler likes to watch is Bubble Guppies.  If you don’t know what the tv show is, don’t worry, you’re not missing much.  It’s a cartoon where the viewer has to throw logic out the window.  It is about  a group of half-fish, half- child creatures, more like “mer-children” instead of true guppies, that swim around in their undersea location, and they learn lessons about life: sharing, caring, some educational lessons once in a while, at their school taught by their beloved teacher, Mr. Grouper, who is an actual fish character.  He does have a catchy song that he sings to get the class to line-up in order to go outside and I do find myself singing along to that tune once in a while!

Bubble Guppies

A week ago the show happened to be on while I was folding laundry, my preschool charge enraptured with the episode.  I noticed that the episode was all about Mr. Grouper, the guppies beloved teacher being absent for the day and their being a substitute teacher in their classroom.  “What’s a substitute teacher?”, one guppy nervously asked another guppy.  After the definition was given, in swam the substitute teacher.  He was the blandest colored fish the show has ever shown.  He had a frowny face, and his voice was a boring monotone!  To every question from one of the cute, colorful guppies, he gave a negative answer:”No, we cannot go outside, it’s too cold.” “No, we cannot get out the puzzles, they’re too difficult.”  “No, we cannot paint today, it’s too messy.”  On and on this nonsense went and I became a bit teed off at this show aimed at preschoolers!

I have been a substitute teacher.  When mu husband was laid off for 16 months, I dusted off my teaching certificate and was hired to substitute for the Hazelwood School District.  It’s not at all easy being a substitute teacher and I resented a silly preschool cartoon show making fun of substitute teachers.

Hazelwood had their subbing system nicely set up online for the planned teacher/staff absences they knew they’d be having for each upcoming week.  One could stipulate in the subbing contract if one was willing to sub at only the elementary, middle, junior high, or high school level, or if one wanted to sub at all the grade levels.  However, I often got a call the night before a job when a teacher had become ill, or even an emergency call to come in half an hour before a school day was to start, or a call at 11 am to come in for an afternoon, for an emergency reason.

The teachers would have a folder for me in their desk, outlining the day, tips were given for handling the class, and the assignments were usually planned out.  Also a note to  not use the “Smartboard” which usually made the students groan as they liked to play class games of Sudoku on it.  I subbed for regular classroom teachers, resource teachers, pe teachers(a fun day!), inschool suspension teachers(really shocked me that an elementary school had inschool suspension, but it did), preschool aid, aid at the special needs school, and librarian( my favorite subbing post-all of those books to explore!)

When subbing, you are mostly unknown by the rest of the staff so lunch time is a bit lonely.  Eating in the teachers lounge as sort of the person non grata; the other teachers talking amongst themselves about various topics, but not including you as they don’t know you.  The students, most behave themselves, but the typical troublemakers, you know, the Usual Suspects, will be especially sure to misbehave.  Then there are the rules one has to follow in the school and make sure the students follow them too, and for an independent minded homemaker like myself, I had to watch myself and not make comments outloud about rules that I found confusing or nonsensical.

It’s not an easy job being a substitute teacher, and one bonus is that I didn’t have to take home all of those worksheets and grade them!  So, hey, Bubble Guppies, stop airing the episode that denigrates substitute teachers!  Stop putting nonsense into preschool tots heads that substitute teachers are downer, negative individuals to be feared.  Stick with the lessons on caring and sharing, colors, counting, and the ABCs.  I can ignore the illogical premise of your program, but I can’t ignore the recent disparaging of substitute teachers!  I challenge any of you that make this tv show to try subbing sometime, go on, I double-dog dare you!!

Moms Weekend & the TSA

In January I discovered that Ohio University, where our oldest attends college, was hosting their annual Moms Weekend in April. I announced to husband and our oldest, a son, that I was going to attend! Son urged me to stay in Missouri and not attend;hubby began to figure out the costs of gas if I drove. He decided that it would actually be cost effective if I flew to OH for this fantabulous experience so the ticket was bought through Southwest Airlines and the date was circled on the calendar. I was going to Moms Weekend!!

I don’t fly a lot and airplane travel makes me nervous. I know, I know, it’s safer to travel by a plane than to drive in one’s car, I’ve had those statistics recited to me ad nauseum. While plane travel is faster than driving oneself somewhere, there isn’t as much hassle in the travel process if driving oneself. Pack your gear, throw it in the trunk of the car, have funds for fuel and food and overnight accomodations, and off you go!

To make my flight to Columbus, OH I had to rise early, 4:30 am, to be ready to drive to St. Louis’s airport by 5:15 am.  That morning I missed the days when we only lived 20 minutes from that airport! Appreciate how geographically close you are to that airport, North St. Louis Countians!! I arrived at the airport and found the long-term parking lots. I was feeling confident at this point for I had driven in from Rolla in pouring rain and successfully got the car parked in the correct lot and had my parking ticket, and found the correct shuttle which whisked me to Terminal 2 and Southwest Airlines.

Upon entering the Terminal I checked my suitcase in order for it  to be put into the luggage hold of the plane. Hubby had counseled me to just take it on the plane with me and place it in an overhead compartment but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to gracefully lift that suitcase over my head and place it into an overhead compartment so I opted for the baggage handlers to deal with it! I am glad that I did!

After the suitcase was on its journey,  I glanced to my left and my mouth fell open. The long line that I saw made me gulp-it was full of fellow travelers, all looking bored, or stressed, or both, and I had to join them in that line to await the TSA checks. I was really shocked by how long that line was. I noticed that the TSA agents at Lambert-St. Louis don’t smile. They all had those electric royal blue uniform shirts on with black vests and blue examination latex gloves on. I watched passengers ahead of me so I would know which forms of ID the first agent was wanting to see. Then I got into the next line and saw the travelers ahead of me all had taken off their shoes and put their laptops, purses, carry on bags, etc. into bins so I followed their example. I had purposely worn my Nike tennis shoes in case I had to run from the plane or airport in case a disaster struck. Now I was mentally upbraiding myself for not wearing my flip-flops! As the traveler in front of me was entering a scanning booth I moved to be the next person to enter the booth when the TSA agent near the booth’s entrance barked an order at me:”Madam, attend your purse!” I looked at him and froze, with a deer in the headlights look on my face. Again he barked at me:”Madam! Attend your purse!!”, getting louder and glaring at me. I still didn’t comprehend what he was asking me to do. Was my purse moving around? Why did it need attending? As I was about to say that I didn’t understand his order, he changed his choice of words and said, “Madam, please stand next to your purse.” I immediately jumped away from the scanner booth entrance and stood next to my purse only to have to jump back again as it was my turn to enter the booth. From there on I was the perfect traveler and gave no other TSA Agents a reason to bark at me. Note to TSA Agents at Lambert-St. Louis, when giving nervous travelers orders, use the simplest vocabulary possible, okay?

On my trip back to MO, I noticed that the TSA Agents at Columbus’s airport were much friendlier, more relaxed but still on guard. They also announced several times that travelers ages 75 or older could keep their shoes on. “How considerate and nice!”, I thought. TSA Agents operating with common sense!

Ohio University, not Ohio State as some friends in MO always think that’s the school our son attends, is located in Athens, OH. The  Appalachian Mountains are very near as West Virginia is only 30 minutes away. I grew up in the flatlands of NW Ohio so a trip to Athens is always a revelation to me that there really are such gorgeous areas of OH. The University had a lot of activities planned for visiting Moms and the dutiful college students who would be the hosts escorting their Moms around campus. My son, after his initial reluctance about my visit, was very glad that I came. Luckily for me, my dear mother-in-law also lives in Athens as does husband’s older brother, his wife, and a married niece and a nephew, so a visit there is also a bit of a reunion, which is always a plus. My son took me to his on campus office, Veterans Affairs, which suits him to a t as he is a veteran.

He introduced me to his co-workers and revealed he might be in a student made film about a veteran who is a college student feeling the pull to go back overseas to rejoin the war. My son said the student filmmaker wants to shoot a scene at OU’s Veterans Affairs office and  my son might be in that scene with others trying to talk the college student out of his idea to return to the war. I also toured the “Chocolate Fest” on campus: local bakeries and candymakers selling their wares and giving out samples. I have to give a shout out to the Athens Bread Company-a local bakery that made the best ginger snaps I ever had-very gingery and full of “snap” as the proprietor told me; it had taken many batches for him to get that just right ginger snap taste. My son and I also toured a state park that the OU students like to visit for hikes, fishing, etc. My husband’s sister-in-law went with me to a Native American Art and Jewelry Show held at the nearby The Ridges-a former Ohio State Hospital for the Mentally Ill that was built next door to OU’s campus and is now not in use. The buildings on the property are stunning, a bit eerie as one can see the bars on the windows; the numerous buildings standing  high on a ridge overlooking Athens and the campus. If any fledgling film maker needs a new setting for an eerie movie, The Ridges would be a perfect setting! I also made the requisite visits to two college bookstores to buy OU stuff for the family back in Missouri, sister-in-law expertly guiding me around the downtown.

Fast & Furious 7OU logo

Wide shot of Ohio University

Wide shot of Ohio University

Ohio University

Ohio University

 

 

My son may have been at first reluctant for me to attend Moms Weekend at OU because over the past 10 years, some of the moms who attend don’t act very “motherly”. They use the visit as an excuse to try and look like college girls and to hit the downtown bars and get rip-roaring drunk;cougars on the prowl!! I reassured my son that I had no plans to visit any of the downtown bars and the first night, as I was relaxing at my mother-in-law’s home, we heard police sirens go by and she said, “Uh oh, I bet their going to arrest someone’s mom!” OU also hosts a Siblings Weekend and a Dads Weekend but for some reason, Moms Weekend has grown in local infamy.

Another reason to visit OU was to finally meet our son’s girlfriend. This was an entirely new facet of the mom-child paradigm for me and for my son. I was admittedly a bit nervous to meet the young lady who has caught his eye and his heart but once I met her, I could see why he loves her. A very nice, kind, and sincere young lady. I couldn’t have been more pleased to meet her and to put her at her ease as I am sure she was probably very nervous to meet me. With this texting age, after our first meeting at lunch, he told me what his girlfriend thought of me and vice versa: all good opinions we had of one another. The next evening, I also got to meet the girlfriend’s mom, who had also decided to attend Moms Weekend. The four of us had a very nice dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and again, our texting college students let the other one know that we mothers had a mutual like of one another. Phew!

I would sum up my OU visit as very nice and it was beneficial for my son to tell me several times during my stay that he was very glad that I did attend. That was worth the nerves I endured in flying in for the weekend, dealing with one grumpy TSA Agent, and meeting his girlfriend and her mother. Onward and upward, to next year’s Moms Weekend at OU.

The Great Villain Blogathon: A Look at “Ma Jarrett” in White Heat

Those wonderful classic film loving bloggers: Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin, and Silver Screenings are once again hosting this fun and interesting look at villains in classic films.  My post today is one of many for this, the last day of their blogathon.  Please be sure to stop by their sites and read about other famous movie villains and the incredible, and possibly indelible performances by the actors and actresses who performed those infamous roles.

White Heat, made in 1949, a Warner Bros. production, is a tense crime noir film.  It starred James Cagney, doing what he did best, playing an evil criminal.  However, what makes his portrayal of Cody Jarrett different is that this time, Cagney’s criminal is crazy, aka psychotic and a lot of it is due to his overwhelming attachment to his “Ma”.

White Heat poster 1

In researching the background for White Heat, I found out that it was first an original story by Virginia Kellogg, who had been a reporter for the LA Times and may have been influenced by actual criminals she heard about while working for the newspaper.  There was also a theory that she based her criminal Cody Jarrett and his Ma on a real life crime family of the 1930s, Ma Barker and her sons.  While the FBI claimed that Ma Barker was an evil, criminal mastermind some of the people who knew her said she couldn’t organize a family breakfast so there were some doubts as to how much she was involved in her sons’ criminal activities.  Ma Jarrett, however, in White Heat, is in on the robberies, doesn’t blink an eye when Cody decides to “plug” someone,  and is  full of advice as to how he can avoid the “coppers”.

We first meet Ma(remarkably played by Margaret Wycherly) as she is fixing some food for Cody and  his gang.  They’ve just gotten back to their hideout from a train robbery-yes, a train robbery in 1949!-that has made the national headlines.  We also meet Cody’s stunningly beautiful wife, Verna(excellently played by Virginia Mayo) as she is snoring in one of the bedrooms.   In a foul mood, she gets up when Ma asks Cody to order Verna to help her.  We immediately see that the two main women in Cody’s life don’t like each other.  It’s not a loud, shouting match form of dislike but an icy relationship with bickering between the two women.  Suddenly, Cody begins to whimper, grabbing at his head, and stumbles to the floor,  Verna and the gang watch helplessly but Ma knows what to do.  She quickly gets Cody up, gets him to a bedroom, has him lie down on the bed, and begins to massage the back of his neck and head, murmuring to him all the while to be still and to calm down.  Ma’s care does the trick, and Cody comes out of his severe attack.  He even sits on her lap like a small boy would do, but the censors had that scene cropped to only shoulder and head shots of the Wycherly and Cagney.   Ma pours him a shot of whiskey which he drinks.  She toasts him  as he drinks that shot, “Top of the World, Cody!”  That toast becomes a catch phrase  throughout the entire movie.  Here’s a clip of Ma caring for Cody during his attack.

More of Ma in the film:  after the gang has moved to a Motor Court to live at, and despite Cody ordering none of them to leave, Ma  disobeys by driving to a Farmer’s Market to buy her “baby boy” some strawberries.  Her car is spotted by an undercover cop who is in contact with the Federal authorities stationed in LA and he puts a “tell”, a white rag around the back bumper of Ma’s car, so the Feds and local law enforcement will be able to follow her back to Cody and the gang.  What the cops don’t know is that Ma is very sharp-eyed and soon knows she is being followed.  With a lot of  turns and using her wits, she is able to dodge the police.  However, they eventually find the car at the Motor Court and there is a shoot out as Cody, Ma, and Verna escape in one car, leaving the rest of the gang to scatter.  At a drive-inn movie, Cody hatches his plan to escape the cops, and with Ma’s agreement, he flees.  Ma takes over when she and Verna are interrogated by the Feds, feeding them the pre-planned false alibi to keep Cody out of jail for the train robbery.  One key thing I noticed in this section of the movie is that Verna, eyeing a suitcase full of train robbery cash, coos to Cody how they could spend that money and that she’d love a full-length mink coat.  At the Motor Court, when we see Verna again, she is admiring herself by standing on a chair, in order to see her full self modeling her mink coat.  Cody comes in and asks her where Ma is.  Verna flippantly tells him that Ma is out shopping for strawberries for him.  For her snarky answer, Cody shoves Verna off the chair!  Fortunately she lands on the bed, shocked he’d do that to her.  Then we see Ma at the market and she too, is wearing a full length mink coat!  How telling that the one thing the bad guy’s wife wants he also gets for his ma!

Verna, Ma, and Cody making final plans while hiding out at the Drive-In-note Ma always sits between her son and his wife.

Verna, Ma, and Cody making final plans while hiding out at the Drive-In-note Ma always sits between her son and his wife.

Ma Jarrett knows she's being followed by the coppers

Ma Jarrett knows she’s being followed by the coppers

Cody’s false alibi is to claim that he was in Springfield, IL the same date as the train robbery, and that he committed a hotel robbery in Springfield.  Cody is sentenced to 3 years in the State Penitentiary in Joliet.  What he doesn’t know is that the Feds don’t buy his alibi and have planted an undercover cop in the prison, Fallon(great performance by Edmund O’Brien) to become pals with Cody and find out about the train robbery.  Before Fallon arrives at the prison, his boss Philip Evans(John Archer) fills him in on Cody Jarrett’s mental make-up.  Cody’s father was also a criminal, went insane, and had to be locked up in a mental institution where he died.  The same fate happened to Cody’s older brother.  When Cody was a kid, he’d fake severe headaches to get his Ma’s full love and attention.  Sometime in his late teens, the headaches became real.  Ma is the only person in the world that Cody trusts and loves;she is the force in his life.

Ma makes a drive to IL to visit Cody in the stir.  She tells him that Verna has run off with Big Ed(Steven Cochran) one of the gang members.  Ma knows this info will hurt Cody, but one gets a sense that she is pleased to tell him, to reinforce her opinion that Verna is no good for her son.  Ma vows to get Big Ed for Cody, but Cody, sensing doom, warns Ma to leave Big Ed alone, but his warnings fall on deaf ears.  Here’s a clip of one of the film’s most famous scenes, when Cody, at a prison meal, goes berserk when he finds out news about his Ma.  This is a spoiler alert if you’ve not seen White Heat so skip this scene’s clip in case you want to see the movie without knowing all about it beforehand!

More Spoilers!  Two more key scenes about Ma,  though she’s not in them.  Cody reveals to Fallon, after they’ve broken out of the state prison, that he walks around a lot outside at night due to insomnia and the only thing that soothes him is to talk outloud to Ma-he feels her presence though she isn’t there.   In the film’s fantastic climax, Cody’s plan to rob a chemical plant’s payroll has gone horribly wrong, the cops have him cornered, his gang is dead, and he climbs atop one of the chemical holding tanks.  He is defiant, not caring that what he is standing on top of is flammable stuff.  Fallon  decides to be the one to shoot Cody down but not before Cody has shot holes into the various pipes fitted into the top of the chemical tank which causes flames to shoot out and upward all around him.  Before the final fatal shot from Fallon and the literally explosive ending, Cody yells, “Top of the World, Ma!”  That scene’s clip is here.

Being a mom myself, to 7 kids, ages 12-23, I feel I know a thing or two about motherhood.  Mothers develop a close bond with their babies, but over time it has to change for the sake of the kids;so that they’ll be able to succeed in the world on their own, and hopefully start up and maintain their own successful families.  In studying this film and Ma Jarrett, I saw a mom who hadn’t lessened her bond with her son.  Instead of trying to plead with him to stop his bad life choices, she joined him!  She is somewhat of Cody’s Greek Chorus in the first two-thirds of the film: telling him what he could do, warning him about Verna, the gang members, how to avoid the cops and prison time.  Cody is the only person she really displays her emotions to.  Everyone else sees a cold-hearted mom who can think logically, albeit in a criminal bent, as to what the gang’s next steps should be.  Only Cody gets to experience the loving nurturer.

Margaret Wycherly is excellent as Ma Jarrett.  Wycherly was a former stage actress, appeared in some silent films,  she is best known for two roles as moms: in 1941’s Sergeant York, where she did get nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing Mother York to son Gary Cooper as Alvin York, and then as Ma Jarrett to son James Cagney, as Cody Jarrett in White Heat.

White Heat is often lauded as one of director Raoul Walsh and actor James Cagney’s best films.  It is available on dvd and I nabbed my copy from our local library.  It airs from time to time at TCM so keep a watch for it to be on the schedule in the future.  For a look at a criminal and his villainous Ma, seek out White Heat!!

 

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