Shirley McMurtrie

Making Notes

Making Notes

So you think you don't have enough memories to write your life story? You are wrong. They just need to be brought out to the here and now. There is an excellent way to do it, take notes. It will take time, but you will see results.

There is nothing to stop you from writing your memories down on a note pad or in an exercise book. But memories rarely arrive in chronological order and when you start writing your book of life stories, you will be forever flicking backwards and forwards through the pages trying to find the note that you want.

Blackberries and Dumplings

Blackberries and Dumplings

I spent my early years in Michigan. The last thirty years I have been here. If I had known how wonderful Tennessee was, I would have been here long ago. Don't fault me for being from Michigan. We all have to be from somewhere. I will try to keep the secret of how wonderful East Tennessee is. After all, there is only so much room for former Yankees down here.

Spring Cleaning Windows

Spring Cleaning Windows

There was a day when spring cleaning was a real chore with a capital “C.” Let's start with the windows. After the house had been shut up all winter and the wood stove in the parlor and the cooking range in the kitchen spewing out smoke and soot all winter, the windows really needed attention.

Cheesy Pizza Bread

Cheesy Pizza Bread

The Pizza Parlor in Maynardville made good pizza. I worked there for a while as short order cook when they first opened. I prepped and made the salads as well as the spaghetti sauce. It was a time of learning for me. I had never before cooked ground beef in water, stirred to separate it and then drained before adding to tomato sauce to make a spaghetti sauce. Made that was, there was very little oil to skim off the finished sauce. Not enough to bother with.

Childhood Games

Childhood Games

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to tear our kids away from the TV and video games. It wasn't always that way. Back in the day, before TV, when all we had was the radio and our imagination, we played games with each other. No expensive equipment was needed. Let me tell you about some of them. If your children haven't heard of them, why not introduce these age old games to a new generation?

Ham Salad Sandwiches

Ham Salad Sandwiches

I'm in trouble right out of the gate. There is no ham in my Ham Salad Sandwich Spread. Nope. Just good old bologna. It sounds better than saying, "Bologney Sandwich. That means something else to me. I remember taking sliced bologney sandwiches to work. They would be warm by lunch time. Yuck! Those weren't happy memories.

Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive

How old were you when you learned to drive? Twelve or so if you grew up on a farm and learned to drive on the tractor. A man in our Memoir Class had a driving experience at the age of fourteen. That one took off the door of the family car. Not a good thing to do. My experience wasn't any better. I remember it well.

Next Memoir Writing Class

Next Memoir Writing Class

Who was accepted in the draft during World War II? Any man breathing without a wooden leg, or so it seemed. At the last class we learned of a man who was blind in one eye. He was drafted. Of course he didn't see combat, but he did serve in the motor pool at a base in Texas. The armed forces are much different now. I doubt he would be called to serve, if there was still a draft. The draft back then was more of a lottery. Numbers were drawn by members of the local draft board. Many a man waited anxously to see if his number came up.

Green Pea Salad

Green Pea Salad

There is a vegetable salad I have been making since back in the 70s. Green Pea Salad. When I think of Green Pea Salad, I think of my years in a sewing factory and that reminds me of Arlene. She was on a perpetual diet. Poor soul, she couldn't lose an ounce. It was a time when Weight Watchers was on top of the diet schemes. They are still around. Arlene very carefully ate every morsel of every dish she was allowed to have on their diet plan. I have watched her chase that one last green grape around her plate.

Shag Rugs

Shag Rugs

Name the hardest rug to clean. Did you say shag? If you did, you are right. Shag rugs are a bugger to clean. Eating supper in the living room while watching TV on your portable TV tray? Did some baked beans roll off your plate and onto the rug? Sorry. The pile will instantly snap them up. Watch where you step. Smashed baked beans are hard to find and hard to remove.

Deep Fried Catfish

Deep Fried Catfish

Catfish? That's not a panfish. I grew up eating sunfish, bluegills and such, really whatever Dad could catch. The closest we came to catfish were bullheads and suckers. There would be sucker runs in the spring near where we lived. As a fish, they left a lot to be desired with tiny barbed bones throughout the flesh making them difficult to eat. I didn't much care for bullheads, either. They looked like small catfish, same whiskers and skin. Yeah, skin. They had to be skinned. Dad had a flare for doing that. I never did get the hang of it. I preferred bluegills.

Memoir Writing Class

Memoir Writing Class

Our next Memoir Writing Class will be May 9th at 9:30 A.M. at the Senior Center in Maynardville. All are welcome!

Our previous class on April 26th was very interesting. Gertie Brummitt King, the author of “Alex Haley, The Man I Knew,” brought a copy of the book. It was good to listen to the experiences of a published author. We hope she continues to attend our class. Her input is welcome. Everyone is welcome. We all have to start somewhere. This Thursday would be just fine.

Canadian Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Canadian Hambuger Vegetable Soup

A number of years ago I found a cookbook at a thrift store that didn't follow the usual pattern for cookbooks. This one had Canadian recipes in it. How would that be different from any other cookbook, you ask? Well, for instance, it had recipes in it for carabou. Food City doesn't carry reindeer meat. There were also a few other exotic foods that we don't find in East Tennessee.

One recipe seemed to jump off the page, yelling “Try me!” So I did. It had a different name in the book, but I re-named it “Canadian Hamburger Vegetable Soup.” It is easy and delicious.

Trading Stamps

Trading Stamps

Do you remember S & H Green Stamps? How about Top Value Stamps? Or Gold Bond Stamps? The S & H Green Stamps stick in my mind. I have a few in a scrapbook somewhere. I collected them religiously. That means faithfully, constantly, conscientiously and with devotion. They had a sucker in tow. That sucker was me. If there was a special with extra green stamps I was there. Hopefully, it was for something I really needed, not just to fill out a book of stamps.

Radio Dramas

Radio Dramas

Today, radio programming consists mostly of music and talk shows. It wasn't always that way. Back in the day, the late thirties and World War II days, drama ruled the airwaves. In the movie, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” there is a scene near the end showing an elderly couple sitting close to their radio listening to the political rally our hero was participating in. That scene has an element of truth in it. That was what we did – sit near the radio listening to the dramas being presented that evening. You knew better than to utter a word while the story line played out.

Rhubarb Cream Pie

Rhubarb Cream Pie

I have always liked the taste of rhubarb. It is especially welcome after a winter of eating mostly canned fruit. Mother made rhubarb pie when the stalks were crisp and full of juice. We always had plants growing somewhere around the garden spot. Rhubarb doesn't demand much. Enough moisture to keep it alive during the hot summer months is about it. It is one of the first things up in the spring.

The Ultimate Diet

The Ultimate Diet

Some say there is nothing new under the sun. I disagree. There is always a new diet making the rounds. You can be sure that after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season the television will be overflowing with them. Old diet plans resurface with a new twist. Who do they think they're kidding? Those slim adolescent beauties were never fat. Put a fifty year old overweight mama of six kids on their diet plan and see if she is not a bunch of wrinkles. That is, if she is able to stay on their diet.

Box Elder Whistle

Box Elder Whistle

Lefty Frizzell sang a song about Saginaw, Michigan. He sang about the fancy houses the lumber barons of yesteryear built on Mansion Row. We didn't live in that part of town. We lived on the west side. Our house was the only one on a block in a working class neighborhood that never really took off. There was only one tree.

The tree wasn't a stately oak or a majestic elm. It was a young box elder tree growing near the driveway out near the street. No one planted it there. It just grew. That was a set up for trouble.

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