Sunday, December 30, 2012


((I posted this in December, 2010. I like the sentiment. ))

A Facebook friend, Cheryle Hoover Davis, found this quote from
one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, at the City of Lights Bookstore
site. I had the good fortune of meeting Neil at the Lauriats Bookstore
at the Silver City Galleria  in Taunton, Ma where he signed copies of
Neverwhere. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Anywhere, it's a great quote, and what I wish for all my friends and
family in the coming year:

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good 
madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who 
thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write 
or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere 
in the next year, you surprise yourself." -Neil Gaiman

And a Happy, Healthy New Year to all of us and our families!

Friday, December 28, 2012


We've come to the end of another year. Time to set my genealogy goals
for 2013! But before I do, let's review my goals for 2012 and how I
think I did with them. My comments are in red italics:

1.Work more on my maternal lines
Plan: Try to get into Boston and find the divorce record for my Mom's parents,
Send away for my McFarland great grandparents' death certificates and any
other documents which might definitely establish their place of birth
Results: This was my greatest success of this year. Not only did I obtain
the death certificates, I also was contacted by a White cousin and his father.
through this blog. I now know more about my Mom's side of the family. 

2.Continue researching my paternal lines
Plan: I'm hoping to have the Ellingwood collateral lines done by midyear and
continue working on the others. The more recent Barker, Dunham and Coburn
lines in particular. As in last year, I need to get out more to the NEHGS and the
local Family History Center. And I still haven't made it into the Mass State Archives!
The trips to the local cemeteries have turned up family connections so I'll be
continuing those. I also hope to attend the Ellingwood Reunion again this year.
Results: Mixed. I still haven't made it to the Mass. State Archives and didn't
get into the NEHGS again this year. I am further along on my Ellingwood lines
but haven't finished them yet because I hadn't factored in how much I would be
involved with indexing the 1940 Federal Census starting in April.

3. Break down that John Cutter West brick wall!
Plan: Same as last year: "A series of visits to the town halls and historical societies
of towns here in Plymouth County seems to be the only approach possible to
this mystery. The cemetery visits might also prove useful in this."
Results: Disappointing. I never made those visits to the town halls and local
historical societies, and  a Y-DNA test failed to turn up a connection with
any of the established West DNA haplo groups.

4. Join a local genealogy or historical society.
Plan: I'm ashamed to say I still haven't done this. I hope to change that soon. Work
schedule is no longer an obstacle.
Results: Fail. But the year isn't over yet.

5. Continue with Find A Grave activities

Plan: Get back to visiting the local cemeteries, taking pictures and posting them to
Find A Grave. This is a bit hindered right now by my lack of transportation but I
hope to have that taken care of by the end of this month.
Results: Good & Bad. I did take quite a few photos over the Spring & Summer
before Ping the Wonder Car's ultimate demise in August. But by and large  I've
yet to post most of them at Find A Grave.

6. Trim My Tree
: I am paying the price of heedless gedcom downloads from FamilySearch
from when I was a clueless newbie ten years ago, Multiple entries for one person
and more remote ancestors of dubious connections need to be removed. I made
a start of this in 2011 and must continue do so. The flip side of this is to be
more vigilant in adding new names and remember to cite sources.
Results: Fair. But there's still a lot left to be trimmed.

7. Write more.
: Continue blogging and try to equal if not surpass my output of 2011. I had
248 posts on West in New England, and 42 on The Old Colony Graveyard Rabbit.
I enjoy sharing the stories that I've discovered in my research.
Results: Fail.Only 168 posts here on West in New England and just 1(!!!) on the 
Old Colony Graveyard Rabbit so far this year. Again, the Census Indexing had an 
effect:I wrote a total of 36 posts here from April through July during the period
I was indexng. This is my lowest productivity since I first started blogging in

8. Organize, Organize, ORGANIZE!!
: Same as last year: JUST DO IT!
Results: Doing a bit better but can still be improved.

9. Scan, scan, SCAN!
:  See #8
Results: Not as much done as I'd hoped.

Last year I said that a lot of what I would accomplish would depend on my health.
This year I'm happy to say I don't see my health as an obstacle. Transportation has
been a problem for the past few months but I'm hoping to have Ping the Wonder
Car back on the road soon.
I did get Ping back on the road and as I said, did visit many local cemeteries last
Spring & Summer. But Ping went to the Big Graveyard in the Sky and as yet I
haven't replaced him. 

But as it has been in previous years, my biggest goal in my genealogy research is
to keep having fun with it!

 And I did!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


 ((Originally posted in 2007))

Christmas Eve was sometimes hectic in our family, especially
those years when we lived in Dorchester, because Mom and Dad
would drive around to Mom’s cousins’ houses to drop off gifts for
the kids. Sometimes my sister and I went along but as we got
older and more responsible we’d stay home while the gifts run
was made.

Then there where Christmas Eves where we were all home
and spent the night wrapping presents for each other or other
relatives. I think I liked those quieter nights best.

The past two decades or so Christmas Eve is spent at my sister
and brother-in-law’s house. Gifts are given out and opened and
my sister’s youngest son Mike(now in his twenties) often ends
up with the handing out the gifts duties since he’s the youngest
family member. Then there’s food served buffet style. At that
point, I am just trying to stay awake because I’ve been dealing
with the last minute shoppers at the store all day and a good
meal on top of that makes me want to take a nap. And next
day I go back over for dinner.

All in all Christmas Eves over the years have been good ones,
sometimes saddened by losses of loved ones but we all enjoy
being together and relaxing after the end of the Christmas rush.

2009 Update: A new tradition began last year with the Christmas
Eve festivities moving to the home of my niece Sarah and her
husband Steve. And this year I am actually having a day off on
Christmas Eve, so I won't be so tired and sleepy!

2010 Update: Christmas Eve will be at my sister's this year and I'm
looking forward to some lasagna. I expect that Michael will be helped
with giving out gifts this year by my 2 year old grandnephew Noah!

2011 Update: Christmas Eve will again be at  my sister's house and
there will be lasagna! One change this year: since the bookstore closed
I haven't been working the Christmas shopping rush so I may not fall
asleep as early as I have in past years!

2012 Update: Christmas Eve was at my sister Cheryl's house with her
family and my brother Phil and his oldest son Phil. It was a great evening
and much lasagna was eaten. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012


((I first posted this three years ago in 2009. Working in a bookstore 
at Christmas could be hectic but there were times that made it worth
it. This was one of those times. Borders Books is gone now, but I 
still miss that store and staff. ))


We're in the midst of the Christmas shopping rush at the bookstore
and let me tell you folks, it can get pretty hectic at times, as it was today.

I was at the information desk looking up a book for a customer when
an older lady who was waiting nearby asked me if I could just point
out where she might find the new book about the Baker Chocolate Factory.
I told her it was on a display next to the local history section, that it
was a great book, and that if she couldn't find it I'd be glad to help her
after I finished helping the other customer. She thanked me and moved
off to find the book.

About twenty minutes later I was on my way up to help at the registers
when the same lady stopped me to tell me I'd helped make her day. I
thought she was referring to finding the Baker Chocolate Factory book,
but it turned out it was something else.She'd found the book alright, but
afterward she browsed my local history section and found the Images
of America book about the history of the Milton, Ma. fire department.

And in that book, she found a picture of her great-grandfather.

Now, she already had a copy of the picture in the book, but it was
a group photo and uncaptioned,so she hadn't known which firefighter
he was. But the copy in the book was captioned, and now she
could point directly to the man on the page who was her ancestor.
She teared up a bit but smiled when I told her how great that was
and that I knew how she felt because I'd had similiar moments
researching my own family history. She thanked me again, we
wished each other a Merry Christmas and then both of us moved
on to the cash registers, me to ring sales and she to purchase her books.

It was a long, hard, tiring day. I was very tired by the time my shift
was up, and my legs were aching and stiff.

But when I started to write about this encounter I found myself smiling.

I might have made that lady's day, but she made mine as well!


((First Posted in 2011))

Dear Genea-Santa,
I've had a pretty good genealogy year and thought It would be nice to share
some of that good luck with my fellow genealogists, So I've got some ideas
for genealogy gifts that you and the elves might be able to whip up in the

1, The Brick Wall DeSTRUCTomatic:  You plug this little gadget into your USB
port on your computer, open your genealogy program, and BAM, it seeks out
and destroys those brick walls and provides you with the information you've
hunted for years on some elusive ancestor. Oh, by the way, you say the name
with emphasis on the "Struct" part. Trust me, it will sound good in the tv

2. The Flying Sourcer: This works like a combination GPS and Roomba Robot.
Before you visit a repository, library, or  cemetery, you plug it into the USB of your
computer and feed it the list of what record or grave you are looking for at your
destination. When  you get there, you turn it on and it flies right to the item you
want  and then calls you tio the location.  I'd recommend a Borg's voice: "Records
found! They WILL be assimiliated!"

3, Super Re-Citer: A computer app that automatically writes correct citations for
your online discoveries and then recites them. I think if you get James Earl Jones
or Sean Connery's voice it would be a winner. But definitely include a Gilbert
Gottfried option for laughs.

So there they are. I think we have a hit on our hands. I'd recommend once you
have the bugs worked out, you outsource them to Ronco....or Whammo. And we
should list them in the Acme Genealogy Answers Catalogue!

I don't want any monetary compensation , but when you get them ready for gift
giving, I'd like one of each! After all, I still have some brickwalls of my own to
break down and I think that the Ronco Brickwall DeSTRUCTOmatic would help!

Thanks, Santa!

Friday, December 21, 2012


((originally posted in 2007))

Every Christmas Mom would break out the Andy Williams
Christmas Album to play on the stereo. There was also a Nat
King Cole album and a Mitch Miller “Sing Along With Mitch”
Christmas edition. But for me, even rock and roll dinosaur
that I am, it’s the Andy Williams album that “feels” like
Christmas to me. I need to hear that "It's the Most
Wonderful Time of the Year."

As I’ve gotten older and my musical tastes expanded, I find
myself listening to New Age and Celtic Christmas music. And
Josh Groban just put out a holiday album that we’ve played at
the bookstore since Thanksgiving and it’s easy on the ears.

As for caroling, well, there are some things that one should
never do in public and in my case, singing is one of them!

2010 Update: I splurged this year for the "Now That;s What
I Call Christmas Essentials Collection." It has the Andy Williams
song and Nat King Cole's version of "Christmas Song" on it,
and I plan to play it Thursday afternoon on my day off!

2011 Update Now that Borders has gone out of business and
I avoid the radio stations doing the "All Christmas, All the Time"
since mid-November, I haven't burned out on Christmas music
as early as previous years. But unfortunately, I am now tired of
"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". Staples use of it
in the back to school ads was funny. But this year, the song has
been overused by retail stores and car dealerships so much
that it's like beating a dead reindeer! Bah, humbug!

2012 Update: My favorite piece of Christmas music this year
is this performance by Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, and Mariah
Carey. It makes me smile.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


This was originally posted back on 25Jul 2007. I thought I'd repost
 it again because of Christmas:

This the first in a series of posts which are my transcriptions
of 13 handwritten pages. They were written by my Aunt Dot
 (Dorothy West Bargar) and given to me yesterday when we attended
my nephew Paul's wedding.

Some explanations of the names mentioned: Phillip was
Phillip Jonathan West, Dot's grandfather and my great
grandfather. Hazel was her older sister and Flossie(Florence)
the youngest.

"Dingle" is a new term to me and sounds like a shed.

"Our family lived on Back Street in Upton from about 1830 to
1927. I have a picture of Bud and Hazel, taken Aug., 1926 that
was given me by Pop’s cousin Louie West (his dad was great
uncle Paul -Philip’s brother). This was the first I heard that I
ever lived in Upton. My birthday was in April of that year.

From conversations, I think I remember we probably moved
to Magalloway for a short time, then to Wilsons Mills. Phillip
stayed in Magalloway.

The first place I remember living was in a little square cabin on
the shore of Azichoos lake back a trail from the dam house.
There was a wagon trail past an old stone quarry and a foot
path along the lake shore. The quarry was home of the bear
that we always looked out for. The cabin was partitioned off in
one corner-a room big enough for a white iron double bed and a
built in double bed with a bunk (half size) up under the eaves.
There was a path between the beds wide enough for a dresser.
The remainder of the cabin was one L shaped room (except the
L was upside down & backwards) (end p.1)

The back door opened to a covered walk that led to a dingle

where we kept outdoor tools and dry wood for the fire. The
space from the door to the dingle was about the width of a
standard sidewalk. I have always remembered the dingle
because that is where the bag of toys that Santa brought was
kept. I only remember one Christmas that we received presents
and must have been when I was three because Flossie was not
yet in the family.

Don’t remember what Hazel & Mother got. Pop got a necktie,
Bud got pocket knife. (he would have been 5 years old) and I got
a pull toy -it was a green platform with red wheels & a red pull
string and had a white celluloid lamb on the platform. We also
got a tiddle wink game, which at my age was a great failure at,
but liked it anyway. That was probably 1929.

In years later we always decorated the house and had fun
making our decorations from newspapers and magazines. For
many years we had carefully saved the few fold out paper
Christmas bells and a few pieces of red & green rope that had
come with the family before any time that I recall."(end p 2)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


...these are the rules I'd make.

Christmas sales and advertising would be banned until the day
before Thanksgiving.

BlackFriday would start at 9am local time sharp. No midnight
madness. No lines at store doors at dawn. People would instead
spend more time at home with their families and store personnel
would not have to leave Thanksgiving gatherings early because
they need to go prep the store for opening.

Shoppers would behave in a mature, civilized and orderly fashion.
If the store has run out of some item the shoppers would not
treat the salespeople as if they have suddenly become the spawn
of Satan but instead would move on to the next items on their
shopping list.

No national chain stores open on Christmas Day. Christmas is
Christmas, period. Forget about sales for one day and let your
employees enjoy the day with their families. Mom & Pop stores
can open but half the day only so that folks who run out of milk or
butter can get some quickly and easily.

People would hold doors open for other shoppers and give up
their bus seats to senior citizens. Young children would not throw
temper tantrums and older children would not curse at their

Everyone would have someplace to go to and someone to be with
on Christmas Day. No one would be alone and no one would be
cold or hungry.

Drunk drivers would be unable to start their cars and so have to
take cabs or other means of transportation.

All our Armed Forces would be home to safely celebrate the
holidays with their loved ones.

There’s much more that could be added, I’m sure. But I’d be
happy with these for starters.

((First published in 2008))

2012 Update: I've added a new one:
There'd be no commercials using Santa to sell cars.

And no commercials with Christmas carols sung badly and loudly
off key for supposed "comic effect". (Are you listening, Target?)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


 ((First posted in 2007. I've added a bit to this that is in italics))

It’s been a long time since the last time my Christmas stocking
was hung up for Santa.

When I was small we didn’t have a fireplace so I’m not sure
where we hung them. Perhaps stuck to a doorframe with
thumbtacks? Although one year we had a cardboard red brick
light-up fireplace that I hadn’t thought about in years until just
now. And on Capen St. in Dorchester I think we hung them on
the “windowsill” of the wall mural my Dad made. Mom picked
out some large picture of Cypress Gardens and it was hung on
the wall, framed by a wooden  picture window frame so it
looked as if you were looking out at all those flowers! ((Dad
even wired it with a lightbulb inside the frame to light it up
at night. This worked well until the plastic model of a bird
I'd placed on the sill fell in and melted against the lightbulb.))

The house in Abington had a real fireplace (and a real picture
window) so the stockings were hung by the chimney, etc. and a
new one was added for my kid brother. A year or so after that
we hung one for the pets as well. But over the years as we
moved one place or another there would be Christmases where
no stockings were hung at all because we couldn’t figure out which
box they’d been packed away in during the last move. 

As for what was inside, as I mentioned once before there was
one year I got a lump of coal, but for the most part it would be
candy canes and an orange or apple. One year there was the new
wristwatch my folks bought me.

I’m not sure where those stockings are these days. My best guess
is that they are downstairs in my storage bin packed away with
the few Christmas tree ornaments that have survived!

Update 2010: The Christmas stockings and those few old
Christmas ornaments have gone to the great storage bin in the sky
during my latest move.


((First published Dec 2011))

It may not snow every Christmas but there is one thing of which we can be
 certain:  the 24 hour "A Christmas Story" marathon on cable tv. Now some
folks might be tired of seeing the movie but to me it is like looking back at
my own childhood. No, Dad didn't win a Leg Lamp(and no way our Mom
would have let him put it in her living room if he had) but there are certain
things in the film that bring back memories for me:

1. Ovaltine- Yes, I drank Ovaltine when I was a kid, but by the time I came
along in 1948 Little Orphan Annie was no longer the big radio hit it once was.
In fact, when I was Ralphie's age it was Captain Midnight who was telling us
to drink our Ovaltine in the secret decoder messages.

2. The cars- There were still many of the older model cars around well into
the mid 1950's with cool things like running boards and rumble seats. The
nursery school I went to in Malden, the ABC Nursery School, used to pick up
students in a big old car with a rumble seat and I dimly remember riding in it.

3. The clothes- Here's a picture of me with Santa. As I've said before, stick a
pair of glasses on it and I could be Ralphie. And in the picture of the car above,
that's me and my cousin Winnie (Winifred).  While I can't recall if it was hard
for me to get around in a snowsuit, I do remember it seemed to take HOURS to
get in and out of them. And Randy looks a lot like one of my younger White
cousins trying to walk around in it once he was bundled up.

4. The school- The first elementary school I went to was the Linden School in
Malden, Ma which was a new building and very modern for the times. But when
I was eight years old we moved to Boston and I went to the Frank V. Thompson
Elementary School, an older building, and the classrooms looked very much like
Ralphie's: the blackboards, the shelves of books, the desks, even the windows!

5. The Lifebuoy- I told fibs when I was a kid. Several times I got the Lifebuoy in
the mouth punishment.  It tasted soap.  Blecch. No, I didn't go blind.

6.The BB Rifle- I don't recall hearing Red Ryder on the radio when I was a kid and
I don't remember ever seeing the tv series. It may have been on at the same time
as one of the other shows I would watch, like the Lone Ranger or the Cisco Kid.
But I do remember seeing the ads in the back of the comic books for a Red Ryder
BB Rifle from Daisy. I wanted one badly. Hey, with a last name like West, a guy just
had to dream about being a cowboy! And just like Ralphie, I heard the same
warnings from my Mom about shooting myself(or someone else) in the eye. Now
my Dad had grown up around guns and was a bit more sympathetic. After all,
he hadn't lost an eye (although he did shoot himself once in the foot with a .22).
So eventually my parents reached some sort of compromise and I got a bb rifle
either for Christmas or my birthday but my Dad was the keeper of the BB
pellets. Eventually the novelty of shooting a rifle that didn't actually have
ammunition wore off and the rifle ended up in the closet. It and the pellets
did, however, make a reappearance a few years later when we were living
in Abington and Dad used it to drive off the more persistent male dogs who
were uh....paying our female dog Brownie.

So that's why I like watching "A Christmas Story" every Christmas!
At least once, anyway.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


(originally posted in December 2007))

Ah, fruitcake! The Food. The Myth. The Legend.

We’ve never had any of the perpetual fruitcakes hanging about
for weeks or months in our family. We’re a practical bunch. If it
tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn’t, well, out it goes!

I have, however, invented a mythical fruitcake named Margaret.

Like distant cousin Tim Abbot over at Walking the Berkshires I
have been a role-player for years although mine has been online
instead of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. One of my characters
is an eccentric Scotsman and last Christmas he gave Margaret
the Fruitcake to another character as a Christmas gift.

It seems it was baked by a female relative who passed away
while doing so and the Scotsman believes (he says) that her spirit
inhabits her final fruitcake. Margaret has been exchanged
between family members each Christmas but last year it was
given to a young squire. Various adventures ensued including a
jailbreak where Margaret was used as a weapon and then the
disappearance of the haunted fruitcake sometime around

Yeah, I know.

I’m nutty as a fruitcake

2009 Update- Margaret's location is unknown at present, although
rumors persist that she is being used as a curling stone by a team
of dwarves.

2010 Update: Margaret's present location is still unknown. The
most prevalent rumor is that she was recently employed as a 
battering ram at the Gates of Mordor. 

2011 Update: Margaret's whereabouts still remain a mystery. Rumor
has it she is presently being used as a doorstop by a giant at
a certain school for young wizards.

2012 Update: Rumor has it that Margaret is now being used as 
ballast on The Flying Dutchman. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I've written before about contacts I've made with relatives through this blog.
The latest instance of this happened about a week ago. I've done posts about
my Mom's parents and how after their divorce there had been no contact with
my grandfather Edward F White Sr or his family.  We had no pictures at all of
any of them because either my Mom or Grandmother Agnes threw out any
pictures at some point after the divorce.  Acts of genealogical kindness from
Michelle Robilliard and Pam Hatton I was able to find where my grandfather
was buried and contact one of my uncles by his second marriage.

Then about two weeks ago I received an email with this photo of my great
grandmother Pauline Offinger, Edward's mother.

The sender is my second cousin, a descendant of my grandfather's older brother.
I sent him my phone number and a day later we had a great phone conversation
and exchanged information. He mentioned I should talk with his father, and
the next day I did.  it was another great talk, and we made plans to meet for
lunch at the Chinese restaurant down the street from my apartment.

So today I met my first cousin once removed for the first time.(I haven't used
either cousins' names for privacy reasons). I was a bit nervous about it but
he is a nice guy and east to talk with. He brought some family pictures and
in one I noticed a family resemblance between one of my great granduncles
and my Mom and her brother. There was no pictures of my grandfather, though,
because apparently he didn't keep in touch very often with the rest of the
family either. We both agreed that it was too bad the division between our
two sides of the family had gone on for so long, and I hope to meet more
of my white family relatives soon.

And we might never have met if I hadn't written those posts about my
grandfather here in this blog!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It's become a Geneabloggers tradition to join our friend

footnoteMaven in the annual Blog Caroling Event, and as in

the previous editions, I'm warbling my favorite, "I Saw Three Ships".

fM will post the list of bloggers joining us in song on December 14th

and you can take a tour of their blogs.

So, without further adieu ....a one and a two...and....

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?

And what was in those ships all three,

On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,

On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

O they sailed into Bethlehem,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

And all the bells on earth shall ring,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

And all the souls on earth shall sing,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

Then let us all rejoice again,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

Monday, December 10, 2012


(originally published in Dec 2007))

It’s funny how some Christmas memories fade and some endure,
especially when it comes to gifts.

We weren’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either when we
were young. Santa’s gifts were often determined by budget
concerns but he always managed to leave us clothes and some
toys. (although one year I got a note with the other gifts:
“Dear Bill, I owe you one telescope. Santa Claus”)

Ads for a forthcoming movie brought back more memories. One
Christmas Eve my sister and I could hear Alvin and the
Chipmunks “Christmas Song” play over and over while our
parents laughed. When we asked why the song kept playing we
were told it was the radio and to get to sleep before Santa came.
(of course by now I already knew the Awful Truth). It turned
out Santa had left us a portable record player along with a copy
of the record!

I still have the gift my sister gave me one year: a wooden chess
set, the kind that doubles as a box to hold the chessmen. It’s
over thirty years old now.

As I grew older I learned that giving gifts was as much fun as
getting them. We didn’t have a color tv so one year when I was
working at the toy warehouse I put a portable Magnavox color
tv on layaway and gave it to my folks for Christmas. That tv lasted
for years, even after my folks got a larger console set. It migrated
from bedroom to bedroom passing from my kid brother to my
sister’s kids back to my brother’s kids until it finally gave up the

And then last year, I got a gift from a group of great friends, the
computer that I’m using right now to preserve these memories.

Oh, yeah! I eventually got the telescope!

2010 Update: When I moved here from my old apartment I had
to give up my desktop computer from my friends due to space
limitations. But my family had given me Sheldon the laptop
computer for Christmas last year, so I'm able to sit here in
the living room and do my blogging and research in my
comfortable chair. And the year before they gave me the
digital camera that lets me chronicle my road trips in pictures.
I'm very grateful for these and other gifts from them.

So Genea-Santa has been very good to me over the years!

Sunday, December 09, 2012


((originally posted in 2007))

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I once worked several years
for a New England based toy store chain. At the end of the
Christmas Party my first year there(this would be the year before
the incident with the car and the tractor trailer box)I was called
into the warehouse office and told that they didn’t need me there
after the holiday but they could use me at the Dedham
warehouse where they stored all the returned damaged toys.

So the week after Christmas I found myself in a small warehouse
amidst stacks of Chatty Kathy’s and See and Say’s and Barbie
dolls. Sleds that just needed to have a screw or bolt replaced
were broken up with sledge hammers.

It seemed like such a waste when I found out the other toys
would be returned to the toy company for credit. Couldn’t the
sleds be repaired and given to kids?

No, I was told. I won’t tell you the reason I was given because it’s
pretty disgusting but given the nature of retail it’s not surprising.

So I went from being a Santa’s helper to being the Grinch’s

Eventually I was sent back to the main warehouse. A year later I
left the company and found another job.

And the toy store chain? It went out of business a year or so

I like to think of that as a cosmic lump of coal in their corporate

2011 Update: That reason that the company person gave was
that if people got the repaired sleds free they wouldn't be spending
their money at our stores to buy new ones. When I pointed out that
a lot of people couldn't afford to buy a lot of gifts I was told that
parents would find a way to spend money on their kids so they'd
have a good Christmas, including folks on welfare. 

The only good thing I can say about that whole conversation was that
it took place long after the Christmas holidays so it didn't ruin the
Christmas spirit for me that year.(That came years later when I
started working in retail on the sales floor.)


My Mom was a working mother for much of her life so she wasn’t
one for major cooking projects except on weekends. Most times
cookies were created with the help of the Pillsbury Dough Boy
although I do recall some forays into Christmas tree shaped sugar

Cookies at Christmas time usually meant the Italian cookies
served at my Aunt Emily’s with that light frosting and the red and
green sprinkles. As an adult I buy them at the supermarket only
around this time of year.

But while my mom wasn’t really into cookie baking, she did like to
make coffee cake and sponge cakes. And when we were living in
Dorchester she learned how to bake mundel bread from our
Jewish neighbors. She also made cupcakes and cornbread.

There was one other dessert dish Mom made and I’m not sure
if it was something that her mom Aggie had done during the
Depression. Mom would send me down the street to the store
on Milton Ave to buy a box of Jiffy Bake Mix and she’d make
biscuits, then would top them with strawberries and whipped
cream. I didn’t care for the taste of the biscuit so I’d make sure
the strawberries had really soaked it before I ate it!

2010 Update: Due to my medical needs I don't eat cookies
much anymore. However, I may cheat  a little if there are any
served over the holidays!
2011 Update:I forgot to mention last year that my favorite
holiday cookies are the ones with the big "Hershey's Kiss" in
the middle. Yes, I know you can get them year round but the
only time I usually ate them was at the holidays. I might cheat
with one or two if any are around this year!

Friday, December 07, 2012


I don’t recall many holiday parties from my earlier childhood. In
our family folks were too busy working or shopping at Christmas
time. And when we lived in Dorchester the apartments weren’t
really big enough to hold large parties in, although there might
have been one or two. If so, they would have followed the rules of
other adult parties my folks had: after saying hello to the adults,
my sister and I would be sent off to our beds to eventually fall
asleep while listening to the adults in the other room laughing
at Rusty Warren records. We wondered what "roll me over
in the clover" meant.

As an adult, most of my Christmas party experience has been at
work, including one at a now defunct toy chain warehouse(more
on that job later) when I was in my early twenties. It snowed
when I left for home. My car at the time was an Olds 98 and
being in a hurry to get home, I didn’t completely clean the rear
windshield. I backed up, turning the car around….

….and smashed my rear windshield by backing the car up under
a tractor trailer box front end as if it were a big rig hooking up.

The good news was, my Dad worked in the auto glass repair

The bad news was I had to call him and tell him what I’d done.

It was an …umm…interesting conversation.

((First published in December, 2007))

Thursday, December 06, 2012


As you can see, I had a very formal relationship with Santa
No laps for me. A simple solemn pose would do, thank you,
for the photo-op.

Formal attire was also worn when visiting Santa’s Village up in
New Hampshire. A sports jacket was de rigeur for the feeding of
reindeer but one was allowed to be more casual when posing with
the sled and full team. The girls are my cousin Terry and my
sister Cheryl.

Actually, I think we might have been there on a Sunday. We’d
have attended Mass in Berlin and probably continued on home
with a stop to visit the Village.

But by the time those pictures were taken, I’d fallen from grace.

Yes, I no longer believed in Santa Claus.

I’m not sure how I figured it out but I do know I must have been around
six or seven years old because we were still living in Malden in the two
family house that my folks and my aunt and uncle co-owned. I know this
because when I found out there was no Santa Claus, I shared my
knowledge and heard about it for years afterward.

Yes, I told my cousins who lived downstairs. I think that was the
year I got a lump of coal in my stocking (but there were still
presents under the tree).

I’m not sure if I told my sister the awful truth later or if she
found out some other way. I do know I didn’t tell my kid brother.
After all, I was an adult of 17 by then and I had a greater appreciation
for what Santa meant to little kids!

But there it is.

I squealed on Santa.

Originally published in Dec. 2007. I've added the picture with Santa
to this update.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


My family was fortunate in that we never lived in the sort of place
where Christmas outdoor decorations becomes a blood sport.
Yes, people strung lights in their shrubbery or along their house
gutters but there was never anyone determined to turn their
front yard into the North Pole’s Southern Branch Office.

Now for light shows back then you went to someplace religious,
like Our Lady of La Sallette Shrine in North Attleboro or the local
cemetery with it’s entrance lit up, or even just cruised a stretch
of highway to look at the neighborhood lights that might be seen
from a distance as you drove by.

We didn’t really have outside lights ourselves until we left Boston
for Abington. Up until then the only lights other than on our
Christmas tree were the electric candles we put on windowsills.
But at the house Dad did the obligatory shrubbery and gutter
displays as well as one other spot: the apple tree in the front yard.

Dad had experience both with wiring and tree climbing so putting
a string of lights up in a small apple tree was a piece of cake. It
was the taking down part that didn’t seem to work at least for
the tree. One year, long after the other outside lights were down
and packed away, the lights still were hanging in the apple tree.
I’m not sure exactly when he took them down but I do know it
was well after Spring had sprung. I think they were even plugged
in one or two nights. I don’t know the reasons why they were
still there: my Dad’s sense of humor, perhaps? Or maybe an
instance where Dad’s Maine stubbornness and the Irish
stubbornness of my Mom brought about some impasse on the issue?

On my way home the other night from work I noticed at least
three of those large hot air snow globe scenes on front lawns.

Those families must have big electricity bills!

(originally published in Dec. 2007)

2010 Update: As I discovered in 2008, the apple tree  in
the front yard of the house is long gone. But a news report
the other night made me think of Dad. The holiday
lighting ceremony at Braintree has been postponed a week
because squirrels had eaten through the wires,

The lights had been left up all year since last Christmas!

2011 Update: The big snowstorms last winter had one
interesting effect. Some of the homes with heavily
decorated outside yards remained that way until
the snow melted. One home in particular had an inflatable
Santa and other decorations buried under snow drifts
and you could  just see the tops of them as you drove by
the house. I think they were there until mid-March!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I don’t get a lot of Christmas cards, mostly because I don’t send
out a lot myself to begin with. I get some from the family and a
few from friends but since I’m not much of a social animal there’s
no more than perhaps a half dozen each year sitting atop my tv.

In years past the amount of umm…cardage…fluctuated. When I
was a kid there were a lot of cards, usually taped to the
doorframes much the same way that Terry’s Mom did at their
house or sitting atop tables.

When we moved to Abington they were displayed across the
mantel piece or taped around the edges of the mirror above it.
The years when my folks were actively involved in the VFW
brought the highest number of season’s greetings. Mom would
spend a few hours herself signing and addressing cards to be
sent out. But as she and her generation of family and friends
grew older the flood of Christmas cards dwindled. Several years
Mom even had some unused cards left over when she finished.

I tend not to like sending “mushy” cards so I usually try to find
something funny. Although this year I may be giving people a
look at a certain dancing elf via e-mail!

2010 Update: I'm going to see what sort of selection we have at
the store tomorrow and hopefully find something funny, although
last year I sent out cards that were more... umm ...
"New England-y"

 2011 Update Since Borders has closed I'm going to have to take
a long walk over to Target soon to get some boxed cards!

2012 Update I'm waiting for my box card order from B&N
to arrive.

((Originally posted in 2007))

Sunday, December 02, 2012


When I was a kid the holiday dinners rotated between our place
and my Uncle Ed’s and Aunt Emily’s. If Thanksgiving was at our
house, then Christmas would be at theirs. Since Emily is Italian
the holiday had an extra element for the dinner. We’d eat all the
traditional food: turkey, stuffing, veggies, and then after that was
cleared, Aunt Emily’s mom Nonnie Cappadano would bring out
the Italian food: lasagna, meatballs, stuffed sausages, and other
great dishes. To this day at Thanksgiving there is usually lasagna
served along with the turkey and I had leftovers of both sent
home with me here afterward.

Since we now usually gather at my sister’s for Christmas Eve to
open gifts and eat, the food is a bit less formal, sometimes buffet
style with meatballs, cold cuts, and salad. Then Christmas Day
comes another big meal.

And that’s how an Irish Catholic family eats a lot of Italian at
holiday time.

2010 Update: I've had some health...umm...adventures this past
year which required I change my diet habits. On the good side,
I've lost 100 lbs. But boy, do I miss Italian food. So I'm
looking forward to Christmas Eve  at my sister's or niece's
house when I can have some lasagna (albeit in smaller
portions than in the past) and maybe one or two of those
cookies with the chocolate kisses! 

2011 Update:  Christmas was at my sister's house last year and
the food as usual was great. But then again it always is on Christmas

wherever it may be!

((first published in 2007)

Saturday, December 01, 2012


You know that part of the movie A Christmas Story where
the family goes out to buy the tree and the parents have a little
argument over it? Well, I laugh every time I see it because
like so much in that film it echoes my childhood.

Every Christmas when I was younger either we’d go shopping
for a tree or Dad would buy one on his way home from work.
Now as regular readers of this blog know by now, my Dad was
from Maine. But even more than that, he had experience in trees.
He’d helped his father cutting down trees, and he’d worked for a
landscaper in the Boston area when he’d first come home from
the war. Mom would remind Dad of his experience every year
when the tree was fixed into the tree stand, the rope cut from
the branches and the inevitable big empty space was discovered.
Usually the problem was solved by rotating the tree so the empty
spot was in the back facing the wall. The lights were strung(and
here we differed from the film. We never blew out the fuses.),
then the garlands, the ornaments, and the icicles. Finally the
angel went up on top of the tree and we were all set. With
judicious watering the tree would last us until around “Little
Christmas” at which time it would be undecorated and deposited
curbside to await the dump truck.

Of course our tree paled in comparison to the giant my Mom’s
Uncle Tommy and Aunt Francis had in their home down in
Milton. It was so big they cut the top off and the branches didn’t
taper at the top. They were all the same size: large. I could
never believe they'd gotten that big a tree into the house in the
first place!

Then the first artificial Christmas trees hit the market and Mom
began vowing she was going to get one as she vacuumed up pine
needles from the rug. Eventually we did but that provided us
with new challenges, such as assembling the tree.

As we all grew older the prospect of trying to get the tree
together became less enchanting and so it too was replaced, this
time by a small ceramic musical tree that was lit from within by
a light bulb. I used that tree myself for several years after Mom
died although I felt no great urge to wind it up for the music. It
lasted until a few years back when I dropped it and the base
cracked. It sits now in a box in a shelf in my living room closet.

Its replacement is a small artificial tree that I bought at work with
my employee discount along with a garland. Last year some
friends sent me some snowmen ornaments for it. I haven’t put it
up yet but think I will this weekend. It fits on top of the tv.

And at some point over the holidays I’ll see that scene from A
Christmas Story again and grin.

2009 update: I bought a small string of battery powered lights
to add to my tree last week!

2010 update: I lost my Christmas stuff in my move last April so
I'll be picking it up another one at work soon.

2011 update
I bought another teeny Christmas tree with lights and ornaments
at Borders. Since the company closed, it will remind me of my
store when I set it out each year.

2012 update
I haven't put up my teeny Christmas tree yet but plan to do it this weekend.

Originally posted in 2007.