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Archive for nostalgia

collect . My Childhood Christmas in Vinyl

I don’t remember us having a record player at our house until I got the little green and blue kids version from Santa one year. He brought my eight-track cassette player with the removable speakers too, and my first stereo. The turntable took a back seat to the double cassette deck in that one. But as far as vinyl goes, Christmas music was synonymous with the big white record player at Grandmother’s house – and the small collection of classic Christmas albums we kept there. I can clearly remember lifting the cover of the record player, choosing the speed, moving the arm, and hearing the scratch of the needle, an experience practically lost to my children and their digital world. I’m slowly trying to pique their interest these days with our little orange Crosby.

We’ve been at Mom’s this week, making merry with an updated set of traditions. But, yesterday I pulled out the records from Grandmother’s and found so many of my favorite songs and memories staring back at me. In fact, some of my first memories of music center around this collection of Christmas records. Each year growing up, we spent about two weeks at Grandmother’s house on the farm, and the records served as the background score for a lot of holiday traditions and fun. They are an odd mix of unnamed choral singers, big band crooners, and old school country – with a little pop and folk thrown in, courtesy of Aunt Betty. Most are classics now. Some were already classics in the second release versions we had. And not only the music. The album covers! Like favorite book illustrations, they instantly send me back to childhood Christmases.

The Little Drummer Boy (late 60s?) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) compilations — those illustrations! I don’t know the singers, but I’m pretty sure this is where I learned most of the Christmas carols I know.

No Christmas is complete without Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 re-release of 1957 classic) and the classics, “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his one and only style. I think everyone in the family took a turn as background singer on this album each holiday season. I’m betting this album is also why I know my mom saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair before he reached iconic status. Stories just seem to abound around old Christmas albums.

I attribute a lot of my love of show tunes, crooners and the big band sound to Saturday evenings at Grandmother’s watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on E-TV… and to The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966). For sure, it’s the reason why I sing ” Marshmallow World” every time we make hot chocolate! My grandmother loved the Perry Como (1961 reissue) and Bing Crosby (1973 reissue) albums, with their rich voices. My favorites were “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and Bing’s iconic rendition of “Adeste Fidelis”.

My Aunt Betty loved records. She always brought new ones home. The old John Denver and Olivia Newton John LPs she handed down to me where my favorite childhood songs. I have most of her records now, but her love of classic country music didn’t really stick. I’m sure she’s responsible for the country and folk albums that were part of our Christmas collection… Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas (1971), Glen Campbell’s That Christmas Feeling (1968), Christmas in My Hometown (1970) from Mississippi-native, Charley Pride, and Emmylou Harris’ beautiful Light of the Stable (1979). I love Tennessee Ernie’s version of the Negro Spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, along with Charley Pride’s “They Stood in Silent Prayer” and Glen Campbell’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”. I also remember thinking as a little girl how cool The Partridge Family Christmas Card (1971) was, since it was so obviously a younger sound. I felt like I was a girl in the know listening to it — even though it was really before my time!

Memories, memories! When I look through the issue dates on all these records, I realize what classics many of them already were before I ever heard them in my 70s childhood. I realize it every time one pops in my head in response to some family activity. It’s fun to think about what the sounds added to how we celebrated Christmas. I’m already humming them again!

go . Sugarplums from The Peanut Shoppe

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The holiday season isn’t complete without a few visions of sugarplums, right? It was drizzling on our last morning in Memphis during the recent Nutcracker trip, but we didn’t let that stop us from ducking into what’s become one of our favorite candy, nut and snack-attack spots! The Peanut Shoppe on Main Street — under the big “Peanuts” sign — has been around since 1949 when it was an official “Planters Peanuts” store. Mr. Peanut still graces the sidewalk sign out front and sits atop the 1929 antique peanut roaster, but the owner for nearly the last 25 years, we learned, has been Mr. Ridda and his wife. That’s his first name, and when he introduced himself, he explained it was pronounced, “Ree – DAH.” I was so thankful for the time Mr. Ridda gave us that morning and the wonderful Memphis experience he shared with us.

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The shop is only the width of one long aisle next to a series of display cases filled with nuts and candies, and what seems like barely enough room for popcorn makers and the nut roaster. The walls are filled with old photos, posters from various Memphis events, “Go Tigers” memorabilia and tins. You would think that a tiny spot like this would be more conducive to a quick pop in and out, but it usually seems like folks want to linger.  We did!  I guess it’s the warm smell of roasting peanuts and buttered popcorn, or maybe the wonder of so many spice-sprinkled or chocolate swirled nuts and shiny, sugary candy varieties.

Mr. Ridda was engaged with another family when we came in, which gave us a little time to narrow down some of our candy favorites (ha! narrow down was a bit unrealistic). When they left, he turned his attention to us. He learned each of the children’s names and promised to get their help with some roasting before we left. Our first selections were buttered and cheddar popcorn, so he demonstrated how to work the popcorn maker and showed us how he dripped the butter in. While that finished up, he showed us the antique roaster.

Mr. Ridda brought out a tall narrow black metal bucket filled to the top with peanuts in their shells. He let each of the kids grab a handful and then opened the peanut hatch on the front of the roaster and poured the rest of the bucket in. When he closed the hatch again, he showed us a small circle opening where he let each of the kids drop their peanuts in one at a time. We left them to roast, and he told us we had helped him make the peanuts that another customer later that day would enjoy! Mr. Ridda’s reward for peanut roasting… suckers for each, of course! We went on to finish out our selections, and Mr. Ridda — who I think will now forever be known as the Peanut Man in our family — made us promise not to eat any of the treats until after breakfast.

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We left The Peanut Shoppe with a near ridiculous variety of popcorn, nuts and candy, candy, candy. Our purchases? A bag of buttered popcorn, boxes of cheesy popcorn, ring pops, and carefully measured pouches of gummy bears, sugared fruit slices, jelly beans, yogurt covered pretzels, cinnamon pecans, sugared pecans, spicy pecans, and of course, peanuts! And, we left feeling that a unique part of historic downtown Memphis had become our very own! Sorry, Mr. Ridda… we didn’t keep our promise. We sampled some of these “sugarplums” right away!

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collect . Merry and Bright

The holidays are full of traditions. It’s one of my favorite parts of celebrating. On my mom’s Christmas tree, we have a combination of ornaments from my childhood and from hers. Now, we’re adding my own kids’ memories. Every year I enjoy looking at the older glass ornaments with their discolored spots and chips — the evidence of many years of Christmas joy. They remind me of home. Here’s a look, and merry Christmas to you and yours!

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go . Main Street Trolley

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I’m excited to share the first post of photos and images from our recent Fall Break trip to Memphis. We’ve visited Memphis several times, mainly to enjoy the zoo and Mud Island, but we’ve always stayed on the outskirts. This year, I decided I wanted to give the kids a little more of an urban downtown experience. So, I booked our rooms at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites right on Main Street at Court Square (I definitely recommend it). One of the big draws for me in choosing that hotel was the back door access to the Downtown Trolley. The backyard of the hotel is the Court Square park space — another plus, but I’ll share more evidence of that later.

The Memphis light-rail Downtown trolley system has operated since the 1993. The system runs as the last line of Memphis’ original streetcar system, which closed in 1947. The vintage trolleys are from around the world and are each over 40 years old, but have each been restored with brass seats, transom windows, antique fixtures and hardware. The restoration makes for a sufficiently rickety and ambient-filled ride through the Downtown area. We spent our trolley rides on the Main Street line moving up and down the thoroughfare with the sound of bells, wheel lurches and cranking metal. Dark wood, rotating seats, brass window latches and watching for our stop, it was enough like an old-fashioned train ride to intrigue the kids. When we chose to walk instead of ride, the fun came in watching for the trolley and trying to gain the driver’s attention to elicit a beep of the horn. We all cheered when several drivers obliged.

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collect . woodland nostalgia

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When the kids and I took this trip to our farm earlier this year, they began a mission to create some kind of natural history “exhibit.” It’s possible “exhibit” was one of their reading class “amazing words” and thus produced a keen interest in it’s meaning. I can’t really remember, but they set about scavenging the spring walks for items to include in the exhibit. They even scoped out a newly cleaned out (but ancient) barn to house the exhibit. I’m sure when we return to the property later this fall, more work will be done on the project, but meanwhile, their idea has been fermenting in my brain ever since.

I love the idea of exhibit specimens. Those random, but highly detailed objects that seem to catalog and document one thing or another. They are closely akin to collections, which I also love, and I’m sure they are the ultimate reflection of the truly obsessive pack-rat spirit.

Since I tend to have one of those obsessive pack-rat spirits, I seem to have acquired a huge trove of “specimens”. A recent weeding through of my parents’ attic confirmed that these pack-rat tendencies go way back. In fact, to this day, I firmly believe that anything created or acquired prior to 1980 should be kept as sacred. Further, my role as serial collector extends to all manner of ephemera found here and there.

The specimens…

1. Oyster shell gathered from Long Beach, Mississippi

2. Buffalo wooden nickel — printed on back with “Southern Trailer Dist., Inc. – Recreational Vehicles Pas Road Biloxi”
I can’t be sure, but I believe it’s circa sometime in the early 1980s

3. The youngest baby deer in a 3-sibling set of porcelain figures

4. 39¢ Indian Corn U.S. stamp dated 2006

5. Blue Jay feather discovered this spring in our back yard

What do YOU collect? And, if you have any of these same treasures among your specimens, I hope you’ll let me know.

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inspired by . Saint Nick

I *might* be a packrat. In my defense, I get it naturally from my mother who is actually the one who kept these Santa specimens. Each year when we unearth the hoard of Christmas boxes from my attic, I search down all kinds of yellowed pages like these. They are infused with memories and wonder that have been layered since I was a child. I pulled a few to display in my office last weekend and I’ve been inspired by the nostalgic illustrations this week — ca. 1969-ish. Enjoy!

[Programming note: If you are connected with the Pond through my Facebook Page, you may have read about the changes in our lives over the last three months. I’ve taken a hiatus from Plop! and many other things as we continue to adjust. As we move into 2013, I hope to get back to posting with more regularity and to see with fresh eyes the inspiration that comes from simply living. I cannot express how my heart has been blessed by the support and patience of so many of my business colleagues. I’m convinced more than ever before that good business is human. Thank you.]

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