Archive for April, 2013

Getting a College Degree in Today’s World

college capsWith a large family,  I knew that college and its costs would be the big bugaboo in our family.  My husband’s philosophy is that if the kids want a college education than they’ll find a way to pay for it themselves, and urging them not to do it with loans, as it isn’t very fun or smart to graduate from college with a lot of debt hanging over one’s head.  Aim for great ACT scores, have good grades in high school, and hopefully some academic  scholarships could come their way.

Our oldest decided to serve our country for four years, and then use the G.I. Bill to pay for college.   As his last year in the service is now upon him, he is evaluating  colleges he might want to enroll at.  Some of the states charge the “out of state” tuition rates to veterans and some don’t, which has been a nice surprise for him.   Our second child was accepted at College of the Ozarks which has the  nickname of “Hardwork U”.   Our daughter  works for the college while taking the required courses for her  degree, and that pays for her tuition.  Some scholarships were also earned by her during her senior year at Rolla High, so those have paid for her room and board.  Her only expenses were for books and supplies, which was manageable  for our family’s budget.  Child #3 will be a senior at Rolla High this coming Fall, and he doesn’t want to pursue a career that requires a 4 year degree.  He is looking to gain his training via the Community College route, which again, will be easier on our family’s budget.  There are still 4 more kids to raise and educate, but their college careers are not in the immediate future, yet.

Looking over our first 3 childrens’ choices for higher education made me start musing about earning a  college degree  today.  Tuition costs have been rising steadily and they don’t look like they’ll be slowing down in the near future either.   I read an interesting article by Richard Wolin, for the July 2, 2012 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Wolin pointed out that college tuitions have been rising since 1986, at an increase of 500%!  He also shared some startling statistics: A household that earns $90,000 or more, the children of these households stand a 50% chance of attending college and earning a bachelors degree by the age of 24.   A household that earns $60,000-$70,000 and the odds fall by half, only 1 out of 4 children will earn that degree by the age of 24.  A household earning $35,000 and that odd increases, to only 1 out of 17 earning that degree.  Wolin also pointed out that in order to offset the rising costs of tuition, low and  middle-income students are graduating with tons of student loan debt.  The average debt owed is $23,000.

I then recalled a blurb of news I had heard on the radio last week about a legislator in Missouri telling the State’s  Department of Higher Education that perhaps degrees should be offered that will lead to students finding jobs, and less degrees should be offered in careers that aren’t very lucrative and have high rates of students who remain unemployed after graduation for far too long.   That blurb got me to researching for some more information: The 12 Worst College Degrees, meaning that those who graduate with these degrees have a very hard time finding employment,  and they don’t earn much pay, which would make paying off those student loans very difficult.  Here are those degrees:  English, History, Sociology, Graphic Arts, Drama, Physical Fitness & Parks and Recreation, Music, Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Fine Arts, Film& Video& Photographic Arts, Anthropology, and Archaeology.  I found those two lists from Forbes magazine online and Kiplinger online, so it is a combination of their Top Worst Degrees lists.

Next, I decided to find the Top 10 College Degrees, the ones where graduates find jobs, and find jobs that pay pretty well for beginning employees.   These degrees are: Information Science and Systems, Construction Science and Management, Civil Engineering, Finance, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Engineers.  If those trends continue, then American public schools need to focus on mathematics and sciences!

Not all students are drawn to careers in such technical fields.  College educations are increasingly expensive.  Students and parents need to really examine carefully what the student wants to pursue for his career field.  There should be no shame in working a year or two out of high school, saving one’s earnings, and really evaluating what degree a person wants to attend college for.  Far more economical than launching off  to college with a major of  “Undecided”, and waste a year of money, or two, in trying out one course of study and then having to change it in mid-stream.

At the end of Wolin’s article, he pointed out how in the 1960s and 1970s, colleges were pushed and/or pressured to allow more students from diverse backgrounds to enroll at their campuses, students  who in the past wouldn’t have been considered “appropriate”  for college.  He warned that with today’s exorbitant tuition costs, colleges are once again shutting out the students from lower-income households, and colleges are becoming what they fought against in the 1960s and 1970s, exclusive places where one can attend if they are from an upper middle class or higher level of income family.

It seems to me that if one wants that college degree, then one should:  work very hard in high school to get those top grades, take the college entrance tests whether it be the ACT or SAT, research all of the scholarships out there that one can apply for and apply for them,  research the schools where the desired degree can be earned for the least expenditure from the parents’ pockets, if a college is close to one’s hometown then consider living at home and being a commuter student,  if one works a part-time job in high school, sock that money away for that degree.  Be very sure of what you want to go to college for, work hard and earn that degree, work a part-time job while earning that degree(I did that, working for one of the on-campus cafeterias),  and try your hardest not to graduate with loads of debt hanging over your head.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Odd Couple

When I came into the living room this evening, my husband was viewing something on his laptop computer and he kept chuckling and laughing.  I finally asked him what was so funny?  He told me that he was watching The Odd Couple, that Netflix Streaming had it on their movie list as of today, April 25th, 2013.   I was so glad to hear that this film was now available for streaming and our seventeen year old even chimed in with the comment that he would like to see it too.  The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple, was first  a comedic play written by Neil Simon.  It opened on Broadway on March 10th, 1965 at the Plymouth Theatre and then moved to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and remained there until it closed on July 2nd, 1967.  The play’s director was Mike Nichols, and the two main characters were played by Walter Matthau, as Oscar Madison, and Art Carney, as Felix Unger.   Since the play had been such a huge hit on Broadway, it was a no-brainer that the playwright, Neil Simon, would write the screenplay for the  film version of his play.   In 1968 the movie, The Odd Couple,  was released by Paramount Pictures.  Directed by Gene Saks, with Walter Matthau reprising the stage role of Oscar Madison and Jack Lemmon cast as Felix Unger.

This delightful comedy deals with two men, friends, both divorced, who decide for a time to share an apartment.  The comedy revolves around the clashing of their personalities.  Both Oscar and Felix are newspaper men.  Oscar is a sportswriter and Felix is a television news writer.   They have a weekly poker game on Friday nights and the movie begins with a depressed Felix wandering around New York City, contemplating suicide as his wife Frances has kicked him out of the home that evening.  Meanwhile, back at the weekly poker game, Oscar and his friends are getting worried as Felix is uncharacteristically  late for the game and after a phone call is made, they learn about  Felix being kicked out of his home.  Wondering outloud what they should do, worrying that this could drive Felix over the edge, in walks Felix, who breaks down in front of everyone  and tells them of his plight, that his wife Frances wants a divorce.   His friends try to cheer him up and Oscar suggests that Felix move in with him.   Felix cheers up and agrees to Oscar’s plan and tells Oscar to not be shy in letting him know if he is getting on Oscar’s nerves.

Trying to cheer Felix up.

Worrying about Felix!

The Poker Game Buddies

The Poker Game Buddies

The comedic moments begin to flow rapidly as we see that Oscar is a slob, with a filthy apartment, spoiled food in the kitchen, dirty dishes stacked in the sink, and messy clothes lying all over the place.  Felix, it is quickly revealed, is a neat freak, a gourmet cook, who loves to keep things neat and clean and organized.  These two friends begin clashing immediately and it leads to comedic gold.  The two friends begin to nag at one another in the way that long-married couples might do!  There are two British sisters, the Pigeon Sisters,  who live  in the apartment above Oscar and Felix’s apartment and the attempt to date the ladies ends in much sympathy for Felix and nothing but frustration for Oscar.  A visit to a diner leads to one of the film’s funniest moments when Felix has to clear his sinuses while the patrons in the diner are trying to eat their meals.  As Felix snorts and hums and makes ridiculous sharp, loud noises in his sinus clearing efforts, Oscar grows more embarrassed and angry as all eyes in the diner are on them!

Tears for Felix to Oscar's dismay!

Tears for Felix to Oscar’s dismay!

The Pigeon Sisters from upstairs

The Pigeon Sisters from upstairs

Many more antics ensue, but by the film’s end, the friends have truly come to terms with each other’s personalities and quirks.  Besides the two leads, the other characters in the movie are: John Fiedler, Herb Edelman, David Sheiner, and Larry Haines as the poker playing buddies, and   Monica Evans and Carole Shelley as the Pigeon Sisters.

At one point during the  talks about making the film version of the play, it was suggested that  Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason  play the parts of  Felix and Oscar!  I am very glad the movie was cast with Matthau and Lemmon.   The movie was a huge hit, one of the four top grossing movies in America for 1968.  Neil Simon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing- Adapted Screenplay, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture-musical or comedy at the Golden Globes, and both Matthau and Lemmon were nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture -musical or comedy at the Golden Globes.

Felix clearing his sinuses!

Felix clearing his sinuses!

The movie was so successful that it led to a television series, in 1970, that ran for 5 seasons and aired on ABC.  It starred Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison and Tony Randall as Felix Unger.  I hope that Netflix Streaming will begin to air the televison version of this great comedy too!

Land of the Free,Home of the Brave

When I began my blog I decided to use WordPress for my work and  publishing site, and it has been a great support system for me in my blogging adventure.   One feature  that WordPress has  is a section called “Stats”.   I can click on the Stats button  each day and it will show me with bar graph displays  how many times that my blog was looked at or “visited” on any given day.  Even more interesting to me is a map of the world to show me   the countries where visitors to my blog  are from.   I shared with my husband that the other day I had visitors from Germany,  the United Kingdom, and Australia.  All of these visitors to my blog, from around the world, gave me my idea for today’s blog offering.Our flag

What is the view of the United States from someone in another country?  My husband’s niece and her husband live in Kenya and from what they have told us, our President is very popular there due to his father being a native of Kenya.   From my son living in Japan for 2 years, I have learned that the Japanese people are extremely polite, curious of western culture, and would never wear ill-fitting clothes or garish outfits in public, like our son saw when his plane touched down in Seattle a couple months ago.    From a humorous article I read last week, we are a puzzle to our fellow English speaking allies  in Great Britain for our habits of : flossing our teeth, baking brownies and cookies, yelling out whoo-whoos whenever we’re excited about anything, and hugging everyone in sight.

The week that just passed was a horrible week for our country, especially for the city of Boston, Massachusetts and its suburbs.  The two brothers who set off the two bombs that killed 3 and injured over a hundred during the 117th  Boston Marathon,  were found.  One brother was killed in a police chase, and the second brother was found the next evening, hiding in a family’s boat in their backyard.  All of the questions and speculating have begun and with our national media’s efforts, will probably keep on going for quite a while.

One thing I hope that the rest of the world witnessed was that despite this terrible act,  examples of  goodness and courage  happened  immediately.  Marathon runners  began taking themselves to Boston’s hospitals in order to donate blood, which would be needed for the bombing victims.   The police: city, state, FBI, military, national guard, firefighters, all worked quickly and well and thoroughly to find those responsible for the bombings.  As a child of a police officer, now retired, I knew that my dad dealt with people making bad choices on a daily basis, that his work had the potential for harm befalling him, but I guess I just didn’t dwell on that fact.  I just knew that my dad would do his best at keeping the citizens of our Ohio town as safe as he possibly could.  Many of my friends on social media began to post prayers they were praying, or reminders for all of us to pray for the people in Boston; the power of prayer and faith in God must never be downgraded or demeaned.

I hope that the rest of the world  recognizes that our country was begun by a grand experiment, if you will.   The colonists thought it quite unfair that they should pay ever increasing taxes to the British government with no say in the matter: no one in Parliament represented the colonists voices, whether yay or nay for these taxes.  Having a very large ocean separating the colonies from their starter/sponsoring country of England also helped in providing a buffer for the burgeoning colonies when protests against the taxations began.   The Founding Fathers (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton), and the other 50 men who signed the Declaration of Independence  all knew that by  signing their names it  would mean death for them if they were caught by the British forces during the American Revolution.Trumbell's painting of the Declaration of Independence

America has been called a “melting pot” and that has been true for hundreds of years.   We are a young country and when the colonies began forming in earnest, many of them were set up expressly for various groups: Massachusetts was for the Puritans, Maryland for the Catholics, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island for anyone who wanted to live in the New World.  America has always been this, a land holding promise of a new start for those willing to work hard and to work wisely at making their dreams come true.  My own ancestors decided to leave Germany and France for America.  I think about that now and then  and I am so very glad that they did.

In summing up, we Americans may be without royalty, we may be too loud, too coarse, too rude.  Our entertainment culture boarders on trash and crosses over into trash at times.  (For that I am embarrassed for our country!)    We have societal problems, political problems, economic problems, but despite all of that and the horrors of last week, we Americans stick together.  We come together in times of tragedy and offer our help, our knowledge, our faith, our prayers.  It is still the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave, as the song’s lyrics proclaim.

For the Terrorthon: 1953’s House of Wax

When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s, we had a great cable television station to tune into, Channel 50, which  beamed into our northwest Ohio home via Detroit, Michigan.   On Saturday afternoons  at 3:00 p.m., Channel 50 would air Chiller Theater.   My brother and I would tune in regularly and that is where I saw a horror movie that truly gave me a scare: 1953’s House of Wax, starring the wonderful Vincent Price.   Warner Brothers distributed this film, directed by Andre de Toth and produced by Bryan Foy.  Price’s co-stars were Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson, Carolyn Jones, and Phyllis Kirk.  House of Wax was a remake of an earlier Warner Brother’s  movie, 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum.   This newer version was the first film to combine technicolor with the 3-D filming technique.House of Wax

Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent  Price)  is  a creative, artistic genius when it comes to making wax sculptures of people.  He and a business partner, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts)  have opened up a wax museum in New York City.  One evening, Burke visits the museum to appeal to Jarrod to make displays that depict infamous and evil people, to lure in more paying customers.  Jarrod refuses to make such exhibits.  He is an artist and doesn’t want to make such macabre displays!   Burke then  announces that if the  museum were to burn in a  fire, they would collect the insurance money.  Jarrod is horrified that Burke would suggest such a thing, decrying the plan because that would mean destroying “his friends”; it is at this point that the audience  knows that Jarrod is  a bit crazy, as he refers to his statues as if they are real, treating them with kindness and respect as he displays them.  Burke, ignoring Jarrod’s protests, sets the skirt of Marie Antoinette on fire and when Jarrod tries to put out the flames, Burke starts setting other exhibits on fire.  He and Jarrod have a fist fight and Jarrod is knocked out, falling onto the  Joan of Ark  display.  Burke then finds a flammable liquid to toss around the museum, and he also turns on the gas lights so that  natural gas will fill the place!   Jarrod awakens, tries to stop Burke, who does manage to flee.  Jarrod tries to stop the inferno, but a part of the building collapses on him and after the fire is over, his body isn’t found.    Seeing those wax figures begin to melt, to burn, to see their eyes pop out of their heads, to see their heads break off their bodies, and to see the bodies crumple in the flames,   to me as a child, that was a very, very  creepy scene!

So scary to me: Melting wax figures!!

So scary to me: Melting wax figures!!

Admiring his Marie Antoinette.

Admiring his Marie Antoinette.

Time marches on and the film focuses on the two ladies in the story, Cathy Gray(Carolyn Jones) and Sue Allen(Phyllis Kirk).  The ladies are good friends, they room at the same boarding house,  and it just so happens that Cathy’s fiance is Matthew Burke!  Sue, herself, has a boyfriend, Scott Andrews(Paul Picerni) who just happens to be a  sculpter for a new wax museum that is opening under the direction of Professor Henry Jarrod!  Jarrod did  survive the fire, but his hands were permanently damaged, so he has had to turn to new artists to help with his sculptures, including another new assistant, who is a mute, Igor(Charles Bronson, but the credits will have his real name listed, Charles Buchinsky.)   Jarrod is also in a wheelchair, as the fire  damaged his legs.  One evening as Cathy is getting ready for a date with Burke, the camera cuts to Burke’s home and a dark, shadowy figure wearing a large hat  and a black cape sneaks into Burke’s home and strangles him!   Burke’s death by a sinister figure dressed in black, who sneaks in and out of the shadows, striking at night, that really  scared me as I watched the film!!   The police are called and Lt. Tom Brennan(Frank Lovejoy) and his assistant, Sgt. Jim Shane(Dabs Greer), are called to the scene of Burke’s murder.

The police are starting to ask questions about the Professor and his museum.

The police are starting to ask questions.

Strangely, bodies begin to disappear from the morgues in New York City, including Burke’s murdered body.  Professor Jarrod has new exhibits being made ready for his museum.  Taking  his late business partner’s advice, the new  exhibits focus on  gruesome scenes of torture or death, some exalting horrible  people.   Sue  visits the museum with her  boyfriend, Scott.  Professor Jarrod is introduced to her and he is immediately drawn to Sue, saying she reminds him of  his Marie Antoinette figure.   It is obvious that upon meeting  Jarrod,  Sue has an intuitive dislike of the man and his museum, but she is tactful about hiding her feelings.  Days go by and one evening  that creepy, shadowy figure in black sneaks  into Cathy’s bedroom and murders her!  A couple nights later, that same shadowy figure steals  Cathy’s body from the morgue.  The shadowy figure happens upon Sue one night as she is walking home alone.  Sue senses she is being followed and with a glance over her shoulder, she sees the creepy figure moving quickly in the shadows, stalking her.  Fortunately she arrives safely to her destination.  The stalker tries to also harm Sue as she is sleeping, but her screams successfully drive the fiend away. Oh how those scenes worried me!!

Stealing Cathy's body from the morgue.

Stealing Cathy’s body from the morgue.

Sue being stalked by the creepy, shadowy figure!

Sue being stalked by the creepy, shadowy figure!

Sue's screams scare away the stalker!!

Sue’s screams scare away the stalker!!

Sue visits the museum again in order to wait for Scott to get off of work.  As she walks around, she notices that the Joan statue in the Joan of Ark exhibit looks a lot like her dead friend Cathy!  Sue shares her fear with Scott and they decide to go to the police.    Sue bravely decides she must find out what has happened to Cathy’s body so she goes alone to the museum and plans to hide there  to explore the Joan of Ark exhibit  after the museum  is closed for the  evening.    She discovers that the figure of Joan of Ark is really Cathy’s dead body!!!!    Professor Jarrod discovers Sue in his museum and with the help of Igor, catches her.  As Sue confronts Jarrod, hitting him with her fists, his face crumbles off in bits and his true face is revealed: a horribly scarred, burned visage is shown, and we know that Jarrod has been the shadowy figure creeping at night finding victims to murder and then putting them into  wax to be  sculptures for his museum!!!  Sue faints at the horrible sight of Jarrod’s face, and he orders Igor to take her below to the wax works.  We next see Sue, waking up from her unconscious state, to find herself chained inside of a long, wooden box with four, high sides.  Her wrists are chained down to the box’s bottom as are her ankles.   Jarrod explains that his plan is to cover her body in extremely hot wax, she’ll die, and then she’ll live on as his Marie Antoinette.  The tension builds as time will be running out for Sue as the wax increases in temperature and begins to flow through intricate tubing where it will soon empty on top of her!   Back at the police station, the officers and Scott and wondering where Sue is, as she didn’t meet them as planned.  As the wax gets hotter and hotter, the police finally get to the museum!  In the nick of time, the good guys arrive, break into the museum, rescue Sue, deal with Igor, and Jarrod gets his own hot wax treatment, by accident.

Cathy's body is the Joan of Ark Statue!!

Cathy’s body is the Joan of Ark Statue!!

Examining the Joan of Ark statue.

Examining the Joan of Ark statue.

Sue sharing her suspicions to the police.

Sue sharing her suspicions to the police.

As I pointed out earlier, this film was  a remake, of sorts, to an earlier Warner Brothers horror film, 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum.  I discovered in my research that the 1953 film is  available on a double-feature  dvd,  with the 1933 film.  Some more interesting factoids I discovered were that Jack Warner was reluctant to green light this project, but he finally did and the movie was made in 28 days at a cost of $618,000.  It made a great profit, $23,750,000!   Andre de Toth, the director, was legally blind in one eye, so 3-D effects he couldn’t see and yet for a 3-D film, it is one of the better ones.  Midway through the film is a famous scene of a paddle-ball player showing off his talents and talking right to the camera and aiming his paddle-ball there, one of the 3-D aspects of the film.  This was also the first horror movie Vincent Price starred in, and he did such a fantastic job with the part, that more and more horror parts started coming his way and through horror films he made a name for himself.   Carolyn Jones went on to famously play Morticia Addams in the television comedy The Addams Family, and Charles Buchinsky famously renamed himself Charles Bronson and went on to stardom in many action movies.

Professor Jarrod's real face!

Professor Jarrod’s real face!

Telling Sue how she'll die!

Telling Sue how she’ll die!

Vincent Price is excellent as Professor Jarrod.  Before he suffers from the fire, we can see his love for his art, his politeness to all he is in contact with, we see his decency as a person.  When the wax figures are first threatened with fire by Burke, we start to see the slight madness of Jarrod through his reaction to the threat.  It is a subtle turning of Price’s character, and he performs it so well.  The eerie scene of melting wax figures that seem human-like, the creepy, dark figure sneaking into people’s homes at night to kill them, the stealing of dead bodies at the morgue, the stalking and attempted harm to Sue, all of these elements helped to make 1953’s House of Wax a horror movie that truly scared me as a child.

A publicity still  for the 3-D effects for House of Wax.

A publicity still for the 3-D effects for House of Wax.

The Terrorthon is Coming!

My usual” Classic Movie Pick”  post for Friday  will be posted on Saturday, April 20th as I volunteered  to write  for a blogathon: “Terrorthon!”,  hosted by My Love of Old Hollywood and Wide Screen World.  Quite a few  classic film fans will be posting their   blogs  about a horror film that scared them as a child.  Don’t worry, my film choice is considered a “classic” and not one of those awful,  slasher films either.  Running from April 20th -April 24th, be sure to visit either My Love of Old Hollywood or Wide Screen World to read the great posts!

Ode to Large Families

During the movie The Sound of Music, the nun-in-training, Maria, is told to go to the Mother Superior’s office.  There, Maria is told that she is not quite fitting in with the Abbey’s ways and that for a time, she will be sent to a family in the nearby city of Salzburg, Austria and be a governess for a widowed Naval Officer’s children.  Maria takes the news pretty well, and then asks how many children are in the family.  The Mother Superior replies that there are seven children in the family and Maria, her voice rising with incredulity and shock, keeps saying over and over, “Seven??  Seven Children??!!”  That scene always makes me laugh because  I am a mom and I have seven children.  That admission sort of sounds like an introduction to a support group meeting, doesn’t it?  7 sound of music kids

When my husband and I married in June of 1988( we will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year!), we had discussed children as a part of our future life together.  We  thought three would be a nice number.  Babies one through three arrived in 1991, 1994, and 1996.  Before we sat down and re-evaluated our plan of only having three children, we found out that baby number four was coming, and would arrive in 1998.  Again, before we sat down to discuss if four children was our limit,  we found out babies five and six(twins this time!), would be born in 2000.  Baby seven arrived in 2003.  Our children now range in age from 21  to 10.  We have had a few young married couples ask us how did we do it when our kids were small so I thought I ought to write a post about life in a large family.

With only one child, life would seem much simpler and easier and probably less-costly at times, but from a sister-in-law’s perspective as she was  an only child, if a sibling can happen, let that sibling happen for  being an only child can be so lonely at times.  With two children, when out and about, or in the home, Mom can deal with one of the children  while Dad deals with the other one.  However, once the number of children in the family surpasses two,  that means  mom and dad will always be outnumbered with child related tasks.  Being outnumbered doesn’t mean being outwitted, let’s make that clear right away!

Large families mean larger vehicles.  When we knew twins were on the way, my husband thought ahead and realized that nine people wouldn’t be able to fit in a minivan at all.  Ford Econoline van, here we come!  It does help to have a relative who works for the Ford Motor Company(my brother), so the “family discount” was quite helpful when we went giant van shopping.   All of those who want people to get rid of their gas guzzling vehicles and get electric cars?  Those types of cars won’t work for a large family.  Also, the friends of kids in a large family always think that getting to travel around in a giant van is very cool!

Large families, when visiting museums, or zoos, or amusement parks have to pick and choose and plan ahead as to what exhibits, rides, or  snacks they’re willing to pay extra for.  When we visited Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry about 7 years ago, it was cheaper to buy a year’s family membership to get in for a lower admission rate.  At the St. Louis Zoo, my kids knew we wouldn’t be riding the trains or the carousel as those rides mean an extra fee has to be paid.  It is great that the zoo is free, but it is also a challenge to try and find a free parking spot for a giant van in Forest Park, so sometimes I would give in and pay the zoo parking lot fee.  Food items cost a lot at these sites so a large family will tend to pack a picnic lunch for all, and bring along water bottles too.  Aaround the table

Sam’s Club or Costco, are nice for large families. because many items used by a family are sold in bulk amounts.  Aldis is also a boon for large families.  If you don’t have one near you, I feel very sorry for you!  Aldis, a German-based grocery store chain that has hit the U.S.( and is making a dent in Wal-Mart’s sales), is a bag your own groceries type of  store.  Some name brand items are sold, but more often than not, items sold are Aldis brand.   Items are priced much lower than similar products sold at a full-service grocery store, and those lower prices are very helpful  for large families.

Larger families believe in hand-me down clothing.  Luckily for us, our boys have all had the same build and it’s been easy to pass the clothes right on down the line.  Same for the girls; a few fashionable styles have been outdated from big sister by the time they got to the twin sisters, but just a few items.  Shoes, haven’t been passed on as easily, except for snow boots, so Pay Less Shoe stores have been also helpful for our large family.

Large families get stared at, a lot.  When we go out to a restaurant(not a common occurance, eating out in restaurants), we have to wait for a table for 9, and often we have to agree to two booths next to one another.  We take up an entire church pew.  When I would do the grocery shopping with two carts, a twin in each one, the oldest child pushing one cart, me pushing the other cart,  and the other children trailing behind me, I would usually get the question, “Are they all yours??!!”  I would just smile and say yes and go right on with my shopping.  What I really wanted to say was something very sarcastic, such as, ” No!  I just found them all in the parking lot and decided to bring them in the store with me!”6 happy kids

Large families are loud, at home, of course.  Lots of kids are hard on the furniture, walls, carpets, windows, their toys, etc.  However, before I make you think our house is pure bedlam, there are also many, many moments of laughter, and shared jokes, and love.  Big brothers and sisters learn to pitch in and help with the younger siblings.  Help dress them, help them with bandaids, help get mom or dad for someone, help read someone a story, play with someone, teach them to play a board game or a card game.  I have greatly enjoyed listening in as my older children would  sit down  and tell their younger siblings what junior high or high school will be like.    Older siblings helping with younger siblings is good preparation in how to be a parent.  Lots of children means lots of training on house care chores and yard care chores.  I am guilty of letting my kids not do as much as they can, since  I can do some tasks much faster and to my satisfaction, but I  have been making more of a daily effort in having the five we still have at home help more and more with the chores.  After all, one day they’ll have their own homes and they have to know how to care for them.

LIfe would have been easier if we had only had three children.  If that were the case, we would only have one child at home now, as the oldest two have left the nest and are flying quite well on their own.  We would be facing the “empty nest” after August of 2014.  Finances wouldn’t be quite as tight, probably.  Then I look over the younger four and I cannot imagine life without them.  In 8 years we will finally experience the “empty nest” so until then, I will rejoice in my large family, feeling very  glad and thankful for the blessings that my children are to my husband and I; they help to keep us young, he once told me, and he hlarge-families-2as been quite right in that statement.

My Classic Movie Pick: My Movie Alphabet

My Movie Alphabet blogathon Mettel Ray Movie Blog is a site devoted to the love of movies  and an interesting challenge was posted there last weekend : Make an alphabetical list of your favorite movies, or actors and actresses, or directors, or all three topics.  I found it a fun and challenging list to make, and decided to focus on classic films that I think teens and young adults should see.   I  recently heard through the family grapevine  that my grown nieces and nephew, ( and a couple of nephew-in-laws) don’t like old movies because they’re too boring, so  I chose my list to challenge that opinion!  What follows  is My Movie Alphabet:

A-All Quiet on the Western Front- 1930 Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Director, Lewis Milestone.  Produced by Universal Studios.  Based upon the  novel by Erich Maria Remarque.    Starring Lew Ayres, in a star-making turn as a student who rushes to join the German army to fight in World War I,  only to gain disillusionment from the horrors of war.  Excellently told and a very moving film.  allquiet

B- Bringing up Baby- 1938 screwball comedy produced by RKO Studios.  Directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, along with a leopard, aka the “Baby” of the title.   Madcap, rich lady chases around a shy, studious paleontologist; love and marriage are heavy on her mind.  Fast-paced,  hilarious film.  Did I mention the leopard??                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Bringing up BabyC- Captains Courageous- 1937 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel by MGM.  Directed by Victor Fleming.  Academy Award for Best Actor for Spencer Tracy.  Co-starring child actor Freddie Bartholomew.  Spoiled, rich brat falls overboard from an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing vessel.  Before the brat can be returned to his father, the  brat learns about hard work, ethics, and life.  All of these elements turn the brat’s attitudes around for the better.

D- D.O.A.- 1950 film noir produced by United Artists.  Directed by Rudolph Mate.  Starring Edmund O’Brien and Pamela Britton.  An accountant is poisoned and has only 24 hours to find his killer.  Taut, suspenseful film, very well done noir.  Did I mention that there is no antidote for the poison??

E-The Enchanted Cottage- 1945 fantasy romance produced by RKO Studios.  Directed by John Cromwell.  Starring Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young.  Narrated by Herbert Marshall.  A veteran of World War II, his face disfigured, runs away to live in a secluded cottage near the New England coast.   He meets the homely, young woman hired to clean the cottage.  Will love bloom?  A very sweet, tenderly-depicted love story.

F-The Four Feathers-1939 British film based upon the novel by A.E.W. Mason.  Produced by London Films and distributed by United Artists.  Starring Sir Ralph Richardson, John Clements, and June Duprez.    During Queen Victoria’s reign, in 1895, a British officer decides to resign his commission and his 3 best friends send him a white feather apiece, calling him a coward.  His fiancee dumps him.  ( Her refusal to defend him is the fourth feather.)  He vows to regain their trust and make amends.   Great action and tale of redemption.  Filmed in technicolor and on location in the Sudan.  Better than the Heath Ledger version!!!

G- Gone With the Wind-1939 historical romance film produced by Selznick International Pictures and based upon Margaret Mitchell’s very popular novel.  1940 Academy Award winner for : Best Picture, Best Director(Victor Fleming), Best Supporting Actress(Hattie McDaniel), and Best Actress(Vivien Leigh).  Also starring Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Haviland.   Technicolor, with a glorious musical score, it’s the depiction of one lady’s romances, heartbreaks, and schemes, set before, during, and after the Civil War; set in Georgia.  Especially heartbreaking is the scene at Atlanta’s train depot with all of the wounded and dying soldiers lying in the dirt, a tattered Confederate flag waving in a breeze.  imagesGone with the Wind

H-Harvey- 1950 comedy produced by Universal International Pictures, based upon a Pulitzer Prize winning play, written by Mary Chase.  Directed by Henry Koster.  Starring  James Stewart and Josephine Hull.  Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a kindly, middle-aged gentleman who has for a best friend, a 6’3 and 1/2″ tall rabbit, named Harvey.  Only Elwood can see Harvey, and this is distressing to his sister and her daughter, as this is keeping them from joining the society of their community.  What will the ladies do to achieve their goal?  What will Elwood and Harvey do??  A fun story, well acted by the entire cast, including Harvey.  Harvey

I-The Invisible Man-1933 horror film based upon H.G. Well’s novel.  Produced by Universal Pictures.  Directed by James Whale.  Starring Claude Rains and Gloria Stewart(she was the “elderly Rose” in Titanic.)  I am including this film for it’s excellent special effects in depicting someone becoming invisible.  Brilliant scientist creates a concoction that makes him invisible.  Unfortunately, it messes with his mind and makes him diabolically evil, ruining his future with his fiancee.  Will the police and Scotland Yard catch him?  Will he go on terrorizing Great Britain, and possibly spread his plans of ruling the world?  Rains does a great job in his part and it put him on the path to stardom.

J-Jane Eyre- 1943 version of Charlotte Bronte’s  gothic romance novel, produced by 20th Century Fox.  Directed by Robert Stevenson.  Starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles.  Mr. Welles has such a rich and resounding voice and  that makes his portrayal of Mr. Rochester my hands-down favorite of all the Mr. Rochesters that have been portrayed in all the other Jane Eyre films.   Poor, orphaned Jane grows up and gets employed as a governess for the ward of Mr. Rochester, a rich but very moody and brooding man.  Love blooms between Jane  and Mr. Rochester, but at the wedding, a terrible secret is revealed!!

K-To Kill a Mockingbird- 1962 adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee.  Produced by Universal Studios.  Directed by Robert Mulligan.  Starring Gregory Peck, in his Academy Award winning performance for Best Actor.  Co-starring child actors Mary Badham and Philip Alford.  Look for a pale Robert Duvall as Boo Radley.  If I didn’t include this movie on my list, my own mother would probably refuse to speak to me!  You may have  read this book for an English class,  and you may have had to watch the movie, but watch it again for your own betterment and insight.  Moving story of a brother and sister, growing up in the segregated South during the 1930s, when their father accepts to take on the courtroom  defense  of a partially- crippled black man, accused of raping a white woman who herself, is from a dirt- poor family.  Honest in it’s portrayals of racism, misunderstanding of the mentally ill, and parental love.

L-The Lady Vanishes-1938- suspenseful  espionage British movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, before he moved to Hollywood.  Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and Dame May Whitty(the Lady of the title).  Rich, young, society gal boards a train for England, after vacationing in Europe.  Has a lovely chat and some tea with an elderly lady on the train.  After a nap, society gal can’t find the elderly lady.  Employees of the train and other passengers say they never saw an elderly lady on the train!  Society gal is determined to find out what is going on and a handsome music professor agrees to help solve the mystery.

M-The Maltese Falcon-1941 film noir  produced by Warner Brothers, based on the book by Dashiell Hammett.   Directed by John Huston.  Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre.  A man is murdered.  A beautiful and frightened woman turns to private eye Sam Spade for help, as she is trying to locate her sister and a  statue of a bird, known as  The Maltese Falcon.  Two other men appear who also want  that statue.  What is so important about a statue that someone is willing to murder for it?  Someone isn’t being honest with Spade and he’s bent on finding out the truth.  Excellent, twisting story line, great acting, and Huston’s first directorial debut.  The Maltese Falcon

N- Notorious- 1946 suspense and romance film produced by RKO Radio Pictures.  Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains.  American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy agrees to work with a U. S. government agent in order to become part of a group of Nazis now living in Brazil.  The daughter and the agent fall in love, but she has to join that Nazi group!  Then she has to let the leader of the group fall in love with her and marry him-yuck!!  Next, what is it about the wine bottles at a dinner that her husband hosts that the sight of the bottles drives one of the dinner guests to hysterics?  What might be hidden in the wine cellar?  Can her first romance with the agent be saved?  Great story line, well acted, and  Claude Rains as the Nazi leader,  he manages to make the audience feel sorry for him!

NotoriousO- Oliver Twist-1948 British film version of Charles Dicken’s novel and produced by the Rank Organisation.    Directed by David Lean.  Starring Robert Newton, Alec Guiness(before he was ever Obi Wan Kenobi!!), Kay Walsh, and child actors John Howard Davies(Oliver), and a young Anthony Newley(The Artful Dodger).  This is my favorite version of Oliver Twist.  The cinematography is wonderful, full of grays and shadows amid the black and white.  Newton is sinister as Bill Sikes, and Alec Guiness is so good as Fagin; acting all sweet to Oliver, yet dangerous if crossed.  The only thing I don’t want to know…how did they get Bullseye, Sikes’s dog, to shake so much after Bill murders Nancy?  I mean it, don’t tell me!!!

P- The Parent Trap-1961 comedy drama produced by Walt Disney Studios.  Directed by David Swift.  Starring Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, and child actress Hayley Mills, portraying identical twins.  I have seen both versions of this clever film; this one and the  Lindsay Lohan version.  The latter one is good, and I liked it.  However, my favorite version is the original 1961 film.  As a mom of identical twin daughters myself, I just love the whole concept of this movie.  Twin sisters separated as toddlers when their parents divorce, are accidentally reunited at summer camp.  They make a promise to “trap” their parents into falling in love with each other again.  A fun, satisfying film.

Q- The Quiet Man-1952 comedy drama produced by Republic Pictures.  Academy Award winner for Best Director(John Ford) and Best Cinematography(Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout).  My late father-in-law recommended this movie to me and I am glad he did.  Filmed in lush technicolor, many scenes filmed in Ireland.  Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Arthur Shields, and Eileen Crowe.  Not a western, which Wayne is usually noted for.  He plays an American boxer, who has decided to leave America and live in the Irish town his parents were born and raised in.  He buys his ancestral cottage, angering a local squire who happens to be his new neighbor, and who also has a beautiful sister.  Wayne’s character wants to marry the girl but her bully of a brother says no.  Will love grow and a marriage happen?  Will the Squire learn to stop being such a bully?  Will Wayne’s character’s secret reason for leaving America be discovered?  A charming film.

R- The Adventures of Robin Hood-1938 actioner with romance and adventure, produced by Warner Brothers.  Directed by Michael Curtiz.  Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Haviland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains.  This is the best Robin Hood movie ever made!  Forget that version with Kevin Costner(Robin with an American accent???!!!)   In technicolor, with a gorgeous musical soundtrack.  Flynn is dashing as the Saxon hero, out to save King Richard’s throne; Richard, while returning from a  crusade, gets  kidnapped on his journey across France.  His conniving,evil, younger  brother,  Prince John,  wants to take over that throne.  Claude Rains is Prince John and he has a field day with the role.   Basil Rathbone is excellent as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, full of malice and hatred  towards Robin; their sword fighting scenes are epic and well-staged.  Olivia de Haviland is beautiful, the perfect Maid Marion.  Let this version forever erase the Kevin Costner one from your brain!!

S- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers-1954 musical produced by MGM.  Directed by Stanley Donen.  Starring  Jane Powell and Howard Keel.  The oldest of the seven Pontipee brothers goes to their nearest Oregonian town to buy supplies and to get a wife.  He succeeds but forgets to tell his new wife  that she’ll be sharing the cabin with him and his seven younger brothers.  The new wife is horrified as the brothers are rude, uncouth and unkempt.  She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work, cleaning up the cabin, cooking wholesome meals, teaching the brothers table manners, insisting that they clean themselves up, and teaching them how to court a girl.  On the next trip to town, the seven brothers see seven lovely ladies they would like to court.  Will the ladies’  town boyfriends allow this to happen?  Big brother, happily married, comes up with a crazy plan based on a story by Plutarch about the Roman soldiers and the Sabine Women, as a way for his heartsick younger brothers to catch their ladies.  This is a funny and  lively musical, filled with  great songs, and the dance at the barn-raising scene is a must-see.  Seven Brides for seven brothers

T-The Thing from Another World-1951 science fiction/horror production by RKO Radio Pictures.   Directed by Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks.  Starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Douglas Spencer, Robert Cornthwaite, and James Arness(before he was ever Sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke).  Often known as “The Thing”, the plot concerns itself with an  Air Force crew and a group of scientists at a remote Arctic research station, forced to defend themselves from an alien creature who’s ship has crash-landed nearby.  The creature needs mammal blood for survival, whether that blood is from sled dogs or humans, it doesn’t care.  Survival and destroying the creature become of the utmost importance, but that pesky head scientist keeps insisting that he can reason with the creature, that it’s intelligent, and that they can all just become good friends.  Ha!

The ThingU- Up the Down Staircase-1967 drama produced by Warner Brothers, based upon the book by Bel Kaufman.  Directed by Robert Mulligan.  Starring Sandy Dennis.  Good story about an idealistic, young teacher and her first job, teaching in a New York City public high school.   As a former teacher myself, I think all young people should watch at least one movie from a teacher’s point of view!

V-Vertigo-1958 suspense & romance drama produced by Paramount Pictures.  Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes.   A San Francisco police detective is forced into an early retirement due to his developing vertigo and a clinical depression.  A wealthy man hires the detective to work as a private investigator and follow around the man’s beautiful wife, who is acting strangely.  The wealthy man claims his wife is possessed, possibly by the spirit of her deceased great-grandmother.  Is the wife possessed?  Someone or several of the characters are untruthful.  Will the detective get well? Will he discover the truth?  A well-acted movie with a lot of twists and turns.

W-West Side Story-1961 musical based upon the Broadway hit.  Produced by Mirisch Pictures and distributed by United Artists.  Directed by Robert Wise.  Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn.  Romeo and Juliet, retold and set in New York City.  Instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, we have the warring gangs, the Sharks-immigrants from Puerto Rico, and the Jets-immigrants from white Europeans.  Well-acted, lively dancing, beautiful songs with moving lyrics, and fast-paced songs with clever lyrics.  Even if you had to watch this in high school English class when you studied Romeo and Juliet, you owe it to yourself to see it again, at least once!

X- X the Unknown-1956 Science fiction/horror film produced by Hammer Studios, in England.  Directed by Les Norman and Joseph Losey.  Starring Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern, and Anthony Newley.  What could have been a mess of a movie is actually a well-acted one.  There is a mysterious radioactive ooze in the ground in Scotland.  The army is called out to investigate, and unfortunately the ooze is killing people or causing burns which eventually do the victims in.  It is up to a group of scientists to stop the ooze, and many of their plans are proving unworkable or uable to halt the stuff.  How many more people will become victims?  At times tense, a bit gross in depicting the victims, and the actors taking their parts seriously, all of these factors  make  a very good sci-fi/horror yarn.

Y-Old Yeller-1957 drama produced by Walt Disney Studios, based upon the book by Fred Gipson.  Directed by Robert Stevenson.  Starring Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, and child actors Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran.  A family striving to make a living on their Texas ranch post- Civil War.  One day a stray, yellow dog appears and soon is proving its worth around the ranch, even saving the little brother from a bear attack. The oldest boy grows to love that “Old Yeller” dog.  However,  one night Old Yeller is  attacked by a rabid wolf while defending the family.   With dad away on a cattle drive, it will be up to the oldest son to make the hard decision as to what to do with Old Yeller.   A rite of passage film, movingly told.  Keep the kleenaxes at the ready.   My only complaint is that the part of the little brother is so annoying in the movie, I wouldn’t have minded if the bear had got him!  Old Yeller

Z- Zulu-1964 action/drama produced by Paramount Pictures and Embassy Pictures.  Directed by Cy Enfield.  Starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsen, James Booth, and Nigel Green.  Narrated by Richard Burton.  Based on the  actual Battle of Rorke’s Drift when an outnumbered  group of 150 British soldiers fought valiantly to defend a mission outpost against an army of 4000 Zulu warriors.  This was Michael Caine’s first starring role and he is great in the part.  Stanley Baker is also outstanding as the engineering officer who is forced to take charge of the situation and use his brains and common sense in order to hold the mission.  An excellent, excellent film.  Zulu

KTTR, You’re Growing on Me!

When I lived in Florissant, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, I listened a lot to KMOX radi0.    I had the station  on in the mornings while preparing  breakfast for the family. In the afternoons I would  listen to talk radio programs or Cardinals baseball games.  I even listened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to the old radio shows they would play, such as Lionel Barrymore and Campbell Soup presenting “A Christmas Carol”.   Our move to Rolla, Missouri meant no more KMOX, and  I would have to find a new radio station to listen to.  (KMOX, claims they are 30,000 watts of power, but they’re nothing but static in Rolla, during the daytime at least.  I’ve tried streaming the station in on my laptop, but it isn’t consistent, and  the signal cuts  off a lot.)  KTTR

Playing around with the radio dials, I discovered a station on the fm dial, 99.7, KTTR, and I began my odyssey of discovering a new radio station.  The early morning hosts, Bill Bates and Lee Buhr, who call themselves the “Morning Mayors” start the day out with weather reports, when I tune in at 6:30 a.m.  Mr. Buhr reads the Regional Record, a  list of obituraries in the area, and Mr. Bates reads off community events and area school lunch menus.  There is also a snippet about Missouri history that coincides with today’s date.   ABC Radio carries the national news at the top of the hour, then there is Missouri Net News for state news, and then after a stacatto, beeping tune, Rolla news is reported by Mr. Buhr.  After all of those items have been commented on, the Morning Mayors get down to business, sort of, and they discuss topics of interest to them, once in a while having a trivia question and callers can win tickets to a community event.  They also mention the birthdays and anniversaries that callers have called in weeks before in order to have them announced on the special day.  Breaks are ended with songs by musical artists as varied as Garth Brooks and Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra  to  Five for Fighting’s 100 Years song.   I know what some might think, that listening to a radio station that actually reads obituraries outloud?  I will say it was odd when I first tuned in, but then I thought about it.  Rolla is a smaller community, with even smaller communities ringing it, and it is a service to read those announcements for the listeners.

The Morning Mayors also have citizens join them on the air.  Small business owners, charity groups, spokespersons for the area hospital about classes being offered, or new doctors who are in town and what they specialize in.  One weekly guest is the Ford Dealership owner, Denny Ford Lincoln, and after the banter is over, Mr. Bates always comes up with a poem about saving money and getting great deals at the dealership.  Every week, the poem is brand new, and usually has a reference in it about the season of the year, or a current event.  I really don’t know how he comes up with those rhyming poems  so quickly!  

On Friday mornings at 9, a local business owner, Mr. Dave Weinbaum, comes on the air, to host a one hour talk show, airing his conservative, political views.  The callers make it interesting, as a few  number of conspiracy theorists always  call in.   I have heard  some very interesting conspiracies, to say the least!  Mr. Buhr stays nearby handling the calls for Mr. Weinbaum, and once in a while, Mr. Buhr will let his opinion out, which is usually not in alignment with the host’s, and that makes for some interesting and amusing radio discussions!

One show that always makes me shake my head is the half-hour, Monday through Friday Garage Sale.  From 10 am – 10:30 am, people can call the radio station and list items they are wishing to sell, buy, or barter for.  One can’t call in and sell property, animals, and a couple of other items, but one can call in and sell guns!  I shake my head at that because that would never fly at  KMOX!!  It just illustrates to me that South-Central Missouri and the  St. Louis Metro area march to different drummers’ beats!

The afternoon talk radio shows the station carries are hit and miss with me, as I am busy with homeschool lessons with my youngest three kids, and they appreciate the radio  being off while they are working.  If it’s a Cardinals baseball game, I will leave the station on and that doesn’t bother them.  There is a one night a week local sports talk/call in show on Mondays from 6:00 – 7:00,  hosted by two great guys, Justin Renaud and Bryan Rush, both who also attend the same church our family attends, Greentree Christian.  Their  show is a fun one to listen  to and it is obvious that they are both knowledgeable about sports and not afraid to share their differing opinions to one another and to the callers.

There is a Saturday morning Green Thumber show hosted by Huffman’s Garden Center, a business located   in neighboring St. James.   A show about troubleshooting computer owners computer  problems, hosted by a local computer business,  airs after the gardening show.  Then there are  several hours of bluegrass music, hosted by a local bluegrass musician and sadly, my family only tolerates the bluegrass music for about an hour, and then requests begin to filter to me to please turn that radio off!  I am alone in our family  in liking this style of music.

So to radio station KTTR, I say, keep up the good work that you do for Rolla and all of the listeners from the surrounding communities.   Did I mention that they also carry high school sporting events like football and basketball games?  It is a nostaligic feeling I get when I tune in to KTTR, I guess, as I did grow up listening to WOWO radio out of Fort Wayne, Indiana-the station my parents liked to tune into every morning in our Defiance, Ohio kitchen.  I think it’s in my blood, to tune in to the local radio station and listen in as the day goes by.


One of KTTR's slogans.

One of KTTR’s Slogans.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

My classic film pick is one of the wackiest, funniest, romance-comedies ever made.  The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was  First movie poster for TMOMCwritten and directed by Preston Sturges, and released by Paramount Studios in January of  1944.  This movie has  a couple of surprising  plot twists and  when I first watched the film I was surprised that one of those  twists had made it past the censors!

The excellent cast includes:  Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, with guest cameos by Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff, as well as a myriad of great character actors and actresses who were usually in Preston Sturges’s movies.

Betty portrays Trudy Kockenlocker, a high school graduated working girl.  She works at  Morgan Creek’s music store, helping shoppers listen to the latest records that have come in, and we meet her doing a funny lip-synch to a song sung by an artist with a very low,  bass voice.  A group of soldiers who  have stopped by the store  find Trudy’s lip-synching hilarious and they invite her to attend their farewell dance that night.  She assures them that she’ll be there and that she’ll be ready for all the fun.  As the soldiers leave the store, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken)arrives.   Norval is a nervous guy, very polite, and it’s obvious that he is in love with Trudy, but she just considers him a good friend.  He asks Trudy to  go to the movies with him that night, but she tells him that she can’t because she has already planned on going to the soldiers’ farewell dance.  Trudy then remembers that her dad, Constable Kockenlocker(a great, grumpy performance by William Demarest), has forbidden her going to anymore of those soldiers’ parties.  Trudy really wants to go to the dance, and as Norval loves her, even though it’s not reciprocated, he agrees to pick her up that night, so that Trudy can tell her dad that she’s on a date with him.  Trudy’s plan is that she will drop  Norval  off at the movies and she’ll drive on to the dance.  When the dance is over, she’ll drive back to the movie theatre  and let Norval drive her home, arriving according to her dad’s curfew.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Trudy goes to the dance, and she jitterbugs the night away, but unwisely, she decides to drink a lot of champagne, and during one jitterbug number, she is lifted too high and hits her head on a light fixture!  Time jumps ahead to 8:00 a.m. and  poor Norval has waited patiently for Trudy to arrive at the movie theatre!  Norval takes over the driving duties as he can tell Trudy is slightly hungover and confused as she can’t recall why she didn’t pick Norval up as planned.  When they arrive at Trudy’s house they are  greeted by a rampaging dad who races out the front door.  Constable Kockenlocker wants to throttle Norval for keeping his daughter out all night.  Trudy tries to calm her dad and tells him that they were at the movies, which doesn’t help as he knows the movie theater closes before midnight.  As he tries to grab Norval and beat him to a pulp, Trudy and her kid sister Emmy(Diana Lynn) grab their dad, and force him to the ground and pin him by sitting on him so Norval can escape!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers' party!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers’ party!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Later that day, Trudy starts to recall to Emmy bits and pieces about her fuzzy evening experiences.  Trudy recalls a wedding ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace, but that she didn’t use her real name and she can’t recall who the groom was, just that he was a soldier!  There is also a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand.  A few more weeks go by and Trudy discovers that she is expecting a baby!!  Norval comes to the rescue, not knowing that Trudy is expecting another man’s child, but as Trudy decides that she will need a husband, she encourages Norval’s love for her.  Then, she actually does fall in love with Norval, but she doesn’t want him to marry her when her first marriage is still legally binding, so the two of them hatch a crazy plan.  Trudy thinks the soldier she married had the last name of Ratzkiwatzki.  Norval, who is 4F, agrees to wear a relative’s old World War I uniform and then he and Trudy will drive 25 miles away to the Honeymoon Hotel and have the Justice of the Peace marry them.  After a week or two, Trudy can file for divorce from “Ratzkiwatzki”, and then she and Norval can have a proper wedding ceremony.   Simple plan, right? Wrong!  Norval messes up when signing the wedding license and writes his real name, not “Ratzkiwatzki” and the Justice of the Peace catches the mistake.  Police are called, Trudy has to fess up to her father about the soldiers’ party, the marriage, the baby on the way, that she really loves Norval who wants to marry her.  I won’t reveal the solutions to this crazy situation or even what the “miracle” is but if you do find this movie and watch it, I guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable time!

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.

2nd movie poster for TMOMC

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace's home.

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace’s home.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek cost Paramount Studios $775,000 to make and earned them a nice box office profit of $9 million.  Audiences loved this nutty film and Sturges was nominated in 1945 for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.   In 2001, the movie was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it was #54 on the American Film Institute’s List of Top 100 Comedic Films.    It was put on dvd in 2001 so one can purchase it via Amazon or Turner Classic Movies Shop TCM which is on their online site, and it is available to view through Netflix.  Turner Classic Movies also airs it so check their schedule, also on their online site.  Lastly, a kind soul put up some clips from the movie on Youtube.

Where Has Common Sense Gone?

Last week while perusing the daily news from around the country I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read one headline: The Windham  School Board in New Hampshire had decided to ban dodgeball!  Dodgeball???  I loved to play dodgeball when I was a kid growing up in the 1970s.  I was a pretty good player, at the dodging part, at least.  As I read the particulars of the report many questions came to my mind.   A handful of parents, it stated, had gone to the school’s administration with concerns about bullies misusing the game to pick on their children.  The dodgeball games were happening during gym class.  Had the parents gone as a group to talk to the PE teacher?  Where was the PE teacher when these dodgeball  games were happening?  As a former teacher, it isn’t too hard to observe and figure out in any classroom  who the smart kids are, who the popular kids are, who the loners are, and who the bullies are.  A teacher worth their paycheck would find a way to curb the bullies’ antics in a PE class.   There are rules  in the game of dodgeball, such as all the throws  of the ball have to land below the waist to avoid hits landing on  students’ faces or heads.  Had those rules been explained?  Were those rules being enforced?   If the rules had been explained to the students  and were being broken by one or several students, if I was the PE teacher, I’d make those students who had thrown a ball that made a non-allowed hit to sit out a round or two.  The article said a  handful of parents had complained.  A handful?  That’s not a lot of parents, honestly.  If 15-20 parents had complained, that would be  a lot, and it would be pretty easy to come to a conclusion that there was a problem in the PE class.   At the school board meeting, where this ultimately ended up, were the parents who had no problem with dodgeball allowed to speak?  The report didn’t say.  It did mention that a couple years ago the traditional red, rubber balls that the Windham schools used for dodgeball were replaced with softer, foam balls.  So the kids were being hit with softer balls to begin with!

School girls playing dodgeball.

School girls playing dodgeball.

At our daughter’s college orientation, there was a meeting for the incoming freshmen students’ parents.  The college President spoke to us and he was not mincing words when he said our children were the first generation to have experienced “Helicopter Parents”.  He didn’t mean we were a large group of secret helicopter owners and flyers.  He meant that we, the parents,  were notorious for hovering too much around our children.  We tried to protect them from all hazards in the home when they were learning to crawl and walk.  I can attest to laughing at a “Protect Your Child Forever From Every Bad House Hazard” type of catalog that I somehow got on the mailing list for when I saw a product being sold: knee pads to protect those  crawling babies tender knees.  That product  made me laugh out loud.  It’s a wonder I ever learned to crawl as I know my parents didn’t have knee pads to give me in 1965!   Not only was my generation of parents guilty of overprotection of our children from dangers in the home, we were guilty of protecting our children from anything negative.  Junior gets a poor grade, confront and blame the teacher.  Demand that Junior be allowed to re-take that test or earn extra credit!   Junior didn’t get that award at the spelling bee?  Give every child a trophy for participating in it!  

 Thinking back to the President’s words and to the news story about dodgeball last week caused me to think that when parents try to protect their children from all negative experiences, it just sets the children up for a harder time when they’re adults and have  to deal with those negative experiences life  throws at them.  Kids have to learn how to deal with some of life’s difficulties without always having  mom and dad stepping in for them,  trying  to take or soften  the blows.

Before I wrote this blog, I did a bit more reading about the school and its ban.   Fortunately for the students who attend schools in the Windham School District, those students  will have other opportunities to play dodgeball.  Neighboring school districts have told the press that they allow dodgeball and don’t plan on banning it.  In fact, two area high schools told a reporter that dodgeball remains one of the most popular of the intramural sports that their schools offer!  Those two high schools near Windham, Pinkerton Academy and Londonderry High, have a charity dodgeball tournament each year, where they play against one another.  Perhaps in the near future, those two high schools will invite Windham students to join them?  That sounds like a winning plan.  dodgeball is good

kids playing dodgeball