Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Angelica's OKC Flat Stanley's Winter Visit to Anchorage, Alaska and the 2013 Fur Rondy

I arrived at Mary and Joe Buckingham’s via mailbox at 12 noon on a sunny Saturday afternoon February 16th. My plane flight to the Anchorage, Alaska Ted Stevens International Airport landed earlier in the day. The Chugach Mountain Range was superb. I had never seen so much snow in my life!

That first afternoon we took Pogo to Conner’s Bog Dog Park for a run and walk. Afterwards Joe, Mary and I went cross country skiing at Westchester Lagoon. It was cloudy by late afternoon but there were lots of ice skaters, plus free hot chocolate and a wood fire pit to warm up by.

On Sunday afternoon we went to the Captain Cook Athletic Club. It was kid’s time so I got to exercise and swim, inside.

When not out and about sight seeing, I spent time at home with Pogo and Wiley resting up for the next excursion or eating out with my Aunt Mary & Uncle Joe’s friends. My favorite spot was the world famous Bear Tooth Grill in Spenard where one can even watch a movie while they eat pizza.

Friday February 22nd was the first day of Fur Rondy. On Saturday morning there was a big parade downtown and fireworks that night. It was a snowy day and hard to see anything. By Monday it stopped snowing and cleared up. We went to the  carnival rides and  snow sculptures, my favorite parts of the Fur Rondy.

While in Anchorage I saw many strange things, but one of the strangest was the number of people running around in shorts. Here is an example of one at the ice sculptures. Very strange!

The last day of my visit I took a horse drawn carriage ride around town. One of the lady carriage drivers said she use to live in Enid, Oklahoma which reminded me it was time to go home. A great trip and I hope to return but next time in the summer when it is light almost all night.

Hi Angleica, Mom, Dad, Mrs. Morgan & class,

Sure had a great time on my trip but wish everyone of you had been there too. At the end of my visit I even got to see the start of the Iditarod dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The sled dog race lasts up to 12 days and is over a 1,049 miles in length with 66 teams of a dozen plus dogs.  I am bringing back information about it plus the Fur Rondy Schedule of events, many that I attended. The winter carnival has been celebrated since 1949 and is almost as old as my Great Aunt Mary (smile).

It was fun to go north to Alaska but as always good to be home.

Angelica's Flat Stanley

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Childhood Memories of Growing Up On and Before Welfare from the 1950s to the 1970s and Drug Testing for Public Aid Today

Every time I see a face book posting or hear in the news about a politician advocating testing welfare recipients for drug use, it makes my skin crawl and my hackles get up. The people that propose this crock of crack for the most part are those that oppose abortion. Now if I had my way there would be a license required to breed or reproduce a kid, proof that the parents were both financially and mentally stable to bring up their offspring without governmental assistance or no breeding allowed. But then I don‘t make the rules. I have no kids and get no welfare, but there was a time on occasion as a kid that I was one of the involuntary recipients of public aid.

I am the oldest of 4, originally 5 living kids of parents that were loving but semi irresponsible bohemian individuals. They didn’t do drugs, other than cigarettes and coffee. They, my mother in particular had mental health issues, plus they were free spirits. I was the oldest and 6 years older than my second sibling, a brother, who now lives on a mental health disability in Illinois. He wants to work but would lose all benefits if he did. Now what is right about that? He makes a little money under the table from time to time doing yard work and hauling, but there is not one person that purposes drug testing for benefits that would envy his lifestyle. He is a 30 year member of AA, does drink coffee and been known to smoke a cigar from time. His wife, who is also mentally fragile and challenged, had one child in 1977. Her only vice is sugar. She is a diabetic.

My youngest sister, 13 years my junior, died from a brain tumor at age 49 on Christmas Eve 2010. I never lived with her but she had a tough life. She did not complete high school and worked in a health food store until her brain tumor made it impossible. The tumor robbed her of her sanity at the end of her life. She left behind two teenage children, one autistic. Her husband receives disability from problems stemming from serving in Vietnam. Isn’t war glorious? It is questionable whether he really needs it or just knows how to play the system. Regardless I don’t envy him, nor did I her or know one person who would. Was she a druggie? No. Is he? No, just booze. He doesn’t even own a car or drive!

Then I have another sister and brother. My middle sister, 10 years younger than myself that lived with me and my first Oklahoma oil company descendant husband of 7 years while she was in high school in the 1970s. She married well, got a good job working as an accountant for another small Oklahoma oil company and finished her degree in Accounting after I moved to Alaska in 1978. She and her husband adopted our grandniece at age one out of foster care in Rhode Island in 2005. Within the last 7 years she has struggled with a neurological disease that makes life a challenge for all those she loves, especially for the adopted child who is now 8. Life is not fair! She is well heeled financially, but I sure don’t envy her, plus she lives in a place I consider Hades (at least at times), Oklahoma. She loves it there because it is her home.

Finally there is my brother who is 11 years younger than myself that has made a lifestyle of living off the system. He is married to a Black woman and they live in Washington state. My brother, Abe’s wife had 5 kids before meeting him by two different men and then they had 2 more together. He had 3 kids prior to her with his first wife. So between the two of them they have 11 kids and neither work. So what is wrong with this picture? Why don’t we require people to work for the state in some auspices to draw their government checks if they are physically able? Why do we penalize or make it impossible for those who want to work that are receiving marginal survival living benefits? What I am told is it would take too much over site. What about the 1930s and the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, or the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, or back in my day, the 1960s with the college work study programs?

The question should be clear and simple to one in need: You want welfare or a government survival lifestyle check? you are required to come into work where you are sent, bottom line. Got kids? Required to send them to school and work cleaning school bathrooms and/or work in a lunch room, clean the play ground, etc. etc.! Or send them to the local dog park to pick up missed dog poop. Did I forget to mention my brother Abe with the 11 kids has mental health issues also, as in Borderline personality and receives a disability check? All his offspring with the exception of one have mental health issues. Dear Abe served time in the prison that is in the town where the God forsaken president Ronald Reagan was from in Illinois. The president who with his staff cut mental health services to the minimum in the early 1980s? We continue to suffer from these cutbacks today. Incidentally my brother Abe is a right wing Republican Bible thumper that does NOT do drugs. I told you he has Borderline Personality disorder, he is brain dead and no doubt lazy. He also refused to send his kids to school for many years saying he was home schooling them when in fact he was staying up all night and sleeping till late afternoon, creating another generation in need.

None of these people I mentioned ever did a drug other than perhaps alcohol, cigarettes or coffee. But if they did and failed a drug test what would happen to their children? Do all the anti Abortionists not really give a crap what happens after a kid is born? I grew up off and on welfare and have never had to turn back to it for help since a child! I didn’t breed, because I was going to help save the planet, by starting with adoption. Plus I knew there are already too many people on earth without me adding to the problem. What a colossal mistake that was. But I can tell you the shame of having to need something to eat or wear and feeling the pangs of hunger before welfare was instituted in ‘64 (I was 16 then) and those memories I will never forget! There by the Grace of the Creator go all of the self righteous wanta be drug testing enforcers. You want drug tests? How about for politicians first and foremost. One congressman’s salary is more than equal to 20 welfare recipients aid. There are required drug tests to work at McDonalds, but none to be president! Instead of drug tests, how about licensing for reproduction? You have to have a license to own a dog, catch a fish, drive a vehicle and isn’t bringing a kid into the world just as important? Repeated government misplaced priorities!

Before the government issued checks and food stamps established during the Johnson administration in 1964 with the questionable “War on Poverty” my parents received commodities (food) in Tulsa . The commodities included stacks of beans, flour and rice, peanut butter and huge blocks of “government cheese“. Unfortunately no one cooked, unless my grandparents came around to do it when they were alive. The cheese and peanut butter always got eaten first, but not much else except maybe the spam. When Grandma was alive she would get the spam from my parents and put brown sugar on it and bake it, then slice and fry it for making sandwiches. It was tasty enough to have been eaten at the late great Anchorage Whitekey’s Fly by Night Club with the spam glorification menu back in the 1980s .

In conclusion, I recently asked my oldest brother Matt and my sister Angie what they remembered about growing up on welfare. Matt said, “the question you asked about growing up on public aid. It is not something I would have preferred, but it was better than what would have been the case if we hadn’t had that going for us. I suspect we may see a lot of people humbled in our society in the future. If that’s the case, we may see a lot of people eat crow for insults they gave people like us.” My well heeled ill sister, Angie, never replied but as I said before she is ill, has lost the ability to talk but still can text. I think she would prefer to forget she ever lived with that shame. She did have a severe case of rickets as a toddler, born in 1957, before welfare and caused by malnutrition. Eventually her situation improved, but today what’s up with her rare neurological disease? One specialist implied that rickets should have been rare growing up in sunny L.A. as she did, perhaps, but not when you consider the early malnutrition.

We are talking incompetence and dysfunction folks and hungry kids. What good will drug testing do for this? Are we assuming the food stamps and public aid are used for heroin and other drugs? How many heroin dealers do you know that accept food stamps? Just another way to humiliate those in need, not to mention the unnecessary cost to institute needless testing because the majority of welfare recipients do Not do drugs, they simply reproduce needlessly!

Mary Alta Buckingham -
 Childhood Memories of Growing Up on and Before Welfare and Drug Testing for Public Aid Today -  Feb. 11, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My/Our Year in Review - 2012

What I liked and didn’t like about 2012, Negatives & Positives, Pros and Cons:

(I did it! I finished my 2012 Year in review on February 4, 2013, slow but sure.)

January and February:
Southcentral Alaska was plummeted with endless record breaking snow and other than shoveling it, my husband Joe and I went skiing at Conner’s Bog with our 2 year old dog Pogo when not taking her on her daily walks and doggie social hour. Granted most people walk faster than I ski, but isn’t it always the thought that counts? One ski outing was on Super Bowl Sunday which insured a quiet day. This year we spent the occasion in the emergency unit of Alaska Regional, also quiet thanks again to the football game no doubt. Fortunately the end results were not as bad as feared. Joe was just full of it and the cancer tumor which surfaced in May has not returned. Hopefully a Vegan diet proves to continue to be worth the effort when his growing lower neck lymph node, the Devil’s Node or Birchow’s Node is checked out with a biopsy in the near future.
The early months of the year were also filled with various University of Alaska Ole’ (Opportunities for Lifelong Education) classes on Friday. Classes such as “senior life” and others that were really not that memorable. There was of course my endless face booking, our trips to the Capt. Cook Gym every other night, Memoirs on Tuesday, Senior Tai Chi on Thursdays, First Friday Art Walk, Anchorage Genealogy Society monthly meetings and meals and movies from the Lucky Wishbone to the Bear Tooth, probably spending more money at the latter than when we made when we had a bookstore in the same location 20 years ago.

A great week long Road Scholar trip to San Diego. Saw my sister Angie and her husband, Steve on their 25th wedding anniversary as well as our grand niece Angelica a few brief times. Enjoyed not having to do anything but attend daily Road Scholar events.

April & May through August:
Joe’s esophageal stomach cancer diagnosis and dealing with the cancer treatment medical establishment would drive a sane person crazy. Fortunately the chemo didn’t start til August when the Alaska summer really got serious about rain. We were able to get out and about from Homer, to Seward to Palmer in our “new” RV. Looking forward to this summer doing more of the same, camping that is, hopefully not more chemo.
Also we lost our long term neighbor Sheila to her move south to Surprise, Arizona in May. Also due to cancer and discovered she was an art collector unbeknownst to us after 35 years as neighbors.
Garage sales in April and Mother’s Day to celebrate the season and unload stuff.

In May we bought our first new full size bed for the house in 30 years from Coscto and rented a U-haul to move it in with the help of our late teen neighbor boys.  Had roof guards installed in June, so we don't have to worry about falling snow.  Then we replaced the upstairs carpet for the second time in five years.  The berber just didn't work for us.  It unraveled and got dirty easier than we could ever imagine.  We almost didn't have the old carpet removed in time for the new installation until late the night before.  Again we had to ask the young neighbor Aussie/Irish teens for assistance in tearing it out for a small fee of $60. 
Also in the early part of the summer we discovered our estranged former adopted son that hadn't lived with us in 9 years had a fake driver's licensce with our address on it.  The discovery was made when Carrs/Safeway sent a request for payment of a fine for shop lifting at Sears Carrs/Safeway.  We contacted the police and they could care less.  We also contacted Les Gara and it too was a deadend.   At least the authorities are aware he has false identification for what it is worth.

Anthony Rollins, the decorated Black Anchorage police officer convicted of sexually assaulting five women and the $5.5 million dollar municipality settlement lawsuits to the victims who never fully recover. What is wrong with this man? And moreover his supervisors? What were they doing when all this happened? They knew something was amiss but did nothing.
On the personal home front, sickening of all the people and traffic in Anchorage, Joe and I decided to apply for a loan to move a new one level unit with a mountain view in the over 55 community “Mountain Rose Estates” in Palmer. We were approved but after reading the endless rules and regulations and spending a quiet Sunday afternoon there, I knew it wasn’t the place for me. The master bedroom view was of the barbed wired Mat-Su Youth incarceration facility. No thanks, even though it brought back fond memories of working a year as a bilingual tutor at Anchorage’s McLaughlin Youth Center in 1978-79, I didn‘t relish the idea of living out my life‘s end with that view.

In the fall we started Ole courses again and signed up for too many, most of which we gave up going to after one or two sessions. One of the best ones was “The Working Poor: Invisible in America”. David Shipler author of the book by the same title was a presenter at one of the sessions. (His blog is In the same vein, in August I read about the Anchorage School Board member Don Smith opposing free meals for poor kids. Unbelievable. Bring them into the world and let them go hungry?
Obama and Biden won the election against the Mormon Mick Romney and Catholic Paul Ryan. I was thankfully in many ways even though I was and am not fond of either party or any of the candidates. Recently the Democrats really pushed the bullet starting with sanctioning Gay marriage, accepting Gays in the Boy and Girl Scouts and welcoming women to fight in combat situations. Not a comfort to know Mothers as well as fathers with PTSD will be raising the next generation. Again I don’t really like any of it or anybody, but c‘est la vie, I am old school and not politically correct. Never was and never will be, like to march to my own drummer. But things could always be worse like living in a fundamentalist Moslem country as Pakistan with their religious right wing Taliban that will try and kill any female that wants an education. October 9th the young 15 year old girl Malala almost lost her life to such scum, but fortunately survived. The same day I read in the UAA Northern Light about Bethany Brunelle, a Muslim Association vice president wearing a hijab and prays to Allah five times daily. According to the news article by Nita Maugioa, “she (Brunelle) is a UAA student studying journalism, public communication and music. She is white, an American and a Republican, raised in a Conservative Christian home”. She goes by the name Suhaila, her chosen Muslim name. Well the gal is fat and not too pretty and guess what she is the only female in the club. One way to get attention. Wonder what she would be studying in the Arabic world? She is obviously brain dead, makes my skin crawl needless to say, just like drug testing for welfare recipients. If I had my way the hijab, would be against the law as in France. Included would be laws against wearing shorts and inappropriate attire in cold weather including sock caps in sixty degree weather in places like Arizona. All this type of crap just goes to show a person, common sense sure isn’t common.
In November rain and wind lashed Northern California. Reminded me of my husband’s, Moonshine’s and my time there in the winter of 2005-06. Was glad to miss it for a nice mild winter at home in Anchorage with our bow-wow Pogo and Wiley the cat.

My 64th birthday. the 14th was the same unfortunate day of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings. The big positive December event was finding out that Joe’s tumor was gone. We had a mini birthday party for his 73rd birthday the 29th to celebrate. Here’s to 2013.
Mary Alta Buckingham - 2012 Year in Review Memoir - February 4, 2013,
 Joe’s brother Don’s 75th birthday, RIP, 1938-2002 (age 64)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How I Learn to Drive an Automobile

In my Junior year (1965-66) at Chelsea High School in Oklahoma I enrolled in Driver’s Education. It was an elective. The instructor was Rupert Cross. He was vertically challenged as myself, very short. His wife was my first grade teacher 10 years earlier in 1955. They lived around the corner. She was sweet as the day was long, not that Rupert wasn‘t, but he was a bit more of a curmudgeon. Perhaps this was due to the challenges of being a short man teaching high school.  Rupert also taught drafting among other subjects as all small town high school teachers did and many probably still do.

Part of Driver’s Ed for me was being a member of Youth for Safety. The sponsor was Mr. Cross and in the 1965 Chelsea yearbook the organization description follows: “Safety to humanity dates back to the Stone - Age. The study of safety in schools is a new addition to the school curriculum. In the believe that Safety is a way of life, the Department of Public Safety arranged for Youth for Safety Clubs to be organized in Oklahoma in 1959 at which time a Charter was presented to Chelsea High School. Since this beginning the school has had the organization each year. It chooses not only to study safety, but to demonstrate it through activities as: Drivers Checks, Automobile Checks, Traffic Checks, and Material Distribution through our school and to the public in general.” Wow I am impressed especially when I see that I was a member of such an organization. Furthermore it is hard for me to believe but our school had a car just for driver’s education. Proof of both are on page 74 of the 1966 Chelsea Dragon yearbook.

Other than driving while in class I don’t think I ever practiced other than twice. Once when my Dad and family were down from Illinois visiting my Grandfather Robert and I. It seems Dad let me practice driving his car in preparation for my driver‘s license test. It had an automatic and Grandpa’s didn’t. I did try driving a car once with a clutch that belonged to my boyfriend at the time Carl Bevenue. Carl and his family lived out in the country and the experience was negative.

The testing agents came periodically to Chelsea, a town of circa 1,400, to offer the driving test. After finishing the class in the early part of the summer I asked my second cousin Larry DeLozier if I could borrow his car to take my test. Larry worked at the local grocery store a year before heading off to college to study psychology that in years to come he would use to help survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. He had a new yellow Mustang and for some mysterious reason Larry agreed. He was a nice guy.

The test results were: I aced the written part and scored the lowest possible by one point in the actually driving section to be able to get my driver’s license. I failed at parallel parking having only done it once in class, maybe, and it cost a bundle of points. Fortunately I got the license which in those days had no picture on it. Also somewhat fortunately I had no interest in driving but I had a license. My transportation modus in high school and college was having my Grandfather or friends haul me around. Once I moved to Tulsa in 1971 to work I used the bus. Not until my first husband and I moved to San Antonio in 1973 was it necessary that I finally actually learn to drive and what a place to learn. It was the eighth largest city in the U.S. at the time with lots of Hispanic population newly arrived from Mexico that really wasn’t into stopping at stop signs or lights. I don‘t know if Mexico is still that way but back in the 1970s, stop signs and red lights were just suggestions. My way of dealing with the challenge of driving in San Antonio while Lindy was away on a week business trip to Atlanta was to go to work before everyone else by at least an hour and leave an hour later to avoid the heavy traffic. I survived and was I glad when he returned to chauffer me around again.

So in a nutshell I really never learn to drive until I was 25 and then I drove predominantly in Oklahoma except briefly while living in Texas for 4 months and for a trip to upstate New York and New Mexico trying to escape Oklahoma in the summer of 1977. That all changed when I moved to Anchorage at the age of 29 in 1978.  Here I had to really learn to drive and on slick streets and in snowy conditions.

My first car was a borrowed Saab with yes a clutch. I drove it alone to visit Earthquake Park (in the area where I now live) that fall and in backing up almost went over the cliff. It was difficult to find someone to pull me back to safety. Finally a Seik had pity on me and my driving skills and gave me a quick tow out.  Then within two years I almost died in my learning experiences in a 1980 car wreck when another driver ran a red light and hit me in my newly paid off Honda Civic. I survived and have been driving just about every since except for the last two months of 2012 healing up from a broken wrist.

I still do not like driving, just the freedom it gives one. I prefer to be taxied around by those who are more skilled at the avocation than myself and leave me the luxury to pursue other activities while riding and they use their precious time driving.

Mary Alta Buckingham - Learning to Drive Memoir - January 7/13, 2013

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Few Thanksgiving Memories Across the Miles

In1968 when I was a college sophomore at Oklahoma State University I decided to go to Southern Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my biological parents and 4 younger siblings. This was instead of going with my Grandfather Robert for the usual meal at my Aunt Boots’ home in Tulsa. My part-time clerical position at the OSU football office provided me enough spare cash to hop a Greyhound bus and travel there, some 700 miles northeast. My family lived in the remote small town of Ullin, Illinois and I had to go through Saint Louis to get there. When I got to the St. Louis, I asked the male bus station attendant what bus I needed to take next. He answered me so quickly and curtly I didn’t really understood a word he said, but I was way too shy to ask him to repeat it. I figured I could understand what was going on once I heard it on the bus depot speakers. As it turned out that didn’t work and I missed the connecting bus to rural southern Illinois for that day. That night I spent Thanksgiving Eve in the bus terminal bathroom trying to sleep in a chair.
My family was too poor for a phone, so I called my brother, Matt in sixth grade at the elementary school he attended. I told him to tell my folks, that I would be a day late arriving Thanksgiving night because I missed the bus. When I finally got to Ullin Thanksgiving night, my Dad, Bob had prepared a traditional upstate New York turkey dinner with sage dressing, pumpkin pie and the trimmings.
In 1971 I started having Thanksgivings with my first husband’s big extended family the Spesses in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Lindy‘s Grandma Ruby would prepare the turkeys, dressing and pineapple cream pies. The rest of the fixings were brought in by all the relatives. The Spesses were affluent conservative Republican oil people, but good folks, despite the flaw of having too much money, being too conservative and living and breathing sports. In Oklahoma the culture always seem to revolve around sports, family and church and the Spesses were no exception. After the big Thanksgiving meal the Spess family gathered in front of the TV to watch the big football game between Oklahoma State University Cowboys or Oklahoma University Sooners or one of the other various opposing Midwest football teams such as the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Arkansas Razorbacks or whoever. Much to their shock and dismay, I would adjourn to a bedroom for a nap with a book.

My Dad, Bob, Me-Mary &
 my Mom,  Bobbie Jean
Thanksgiving 1973,Thebes, Illinois

In 1973 Lindy and I decided to drive from Tulsa to southern Illinois to have a shot at Thanksgiving with my eccentric and economical challenged family in Thebes, Illinois. We did not drive through St. Louis however. Again my Dad had a meal prepared and the little house was decorated early for Christmas and our arrival. The daunting highlight of the trip, was surviving the drive back through Joplin at night in blinding white out snow. After 34 years in Alaska it seems like no great feat, but for us Okies then, it was a miracle we made it back to Tulsa in one piece.

Mom, Bobbie, Sister Angie, Me - Mary, Rose & Abe,
Thebes, Illinois 1973 - brother Matt was in the Navy
so not at the Thanksgiving event.

Rose & Abe Phillips, Thanksgiving 1973

1979 Thanksgiving with Okies, Ronnie & Maggie
Anchorage, Alaska
In 1978 I had my first Alaskan Thanksgiving with vegetarian friends, thus my first meatless turkey free Thanksgiving. During my early Alaskan Thanksgiving years, dinner was always with friends, many transplants from Oklahoma who have since returned.  In 1979 four of us from Oklahoma prepared a grand feast and afterwards took a drive to Palmer in my new car.
Road trip to Palmer, Alaska, Thanksgiving 1979
In 1981, my future husband, Joe fixed Turkey dinner for my sister, Angie and I. In 1982, once Joe and I married and he continued to cook the turkey on Thanksgiving with my assistance. Joe, a bachelor for some forty years, is no slouch in the kitchen. For a number of years Joe could never quite get food in particular meat as done, or “burnt“ as he would say, as I like it. Now that he is a Vegan there is no problem with undercooked meat. This year I will have my second vegetarian Thanksgiving with Joe at the Vegan Potluck which so happens to be in Palmer where I last went on Thanksgiving in 1979, a mere 33 years ago.
One year in 1992 we bought a camcorder and decided to record the entire Thanksgiving event. It was the year we made asses of ourselves drinking too much wine with several friends and decided to cut back on booze at Thanksgiving after that. There is nothing more sobering than seeing oneself three sheets to the wind on camera.
 Joe and I have only missed Thanksgiving on Wendy’s Way a few times. One year we made the decision to eat out. Eating out is always my first choice, but for some reason not at Thanksgiving. We tried the Cattle Company and it didn’t work, perhaps because turkey isn‘t their specialty.   As another Thanksgiving draws near, I say perhaps strangely to some but proudly for me I’m a month short of being 64 years old and have yet to cook a turkey and to my dying day, probably never will, especially now that my husband is full fledged Vegan Vegetarian. If cooking a turkey depended on me, there would be a turkey glut on the exchange market and everyone would be a Vegetarian without a doubt.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Few Favorite Halloween Memories in 1963 Oklahoma & Alaska from 1996 to 2002

     Halloween has been always one of my very favorite holidays. When else can one go to someone’s door that they don’t know, knock on it and hope it opens and to be given something for nothing, just to make you go away? Granted one does have the obligation to dress for the occasion, either by making an investment in time and or money to create a costume. However, if a trick or treating soul plays their cards right, the initial investment will more than pay off in pounds and pounds of candy and goodies for their efforts and the candy can last well into the Christmas season and longer.

      My first memorable Halloween was when I was 14 in 1963 in Chelsea, Oklahoma. I was living for the third extended time with my grandparents. After six years bouncing from place to place between Missouri and California with my parents and four younger siblings, two years of which were in a foster home in Artesia, a suburb of Los Angeles where I attended 7th and 8th grade, I was more than ready to be “home” again. That fall Grandma Alta who was almost 60 and myself in 9th grade decided to go “trick or treating”! I never gave a thought that perhaps we were both too old. Maybe because I always liked getting free stuff and being genetically related Grandma must of too. I dressed as a gypsy and Grandma a pirate with a black eye patch. We made our costumes and headed out, going door to door in the small NE Oklahoma town of 1,600. Most people had no idea who we were until at one house they asked if they could see Grandma Alta‘s, the pirate’s hands. Grandma had vitiligo, a common autoimmune skin disorder in which white spots appear on the skin usually occurring on both sides of the body in the same location. The disease has been around for thousands of years and occurs in 1-2% of the population. Unfortunately, for my Cherokee Grandmother with dark skin, these white patches were a dead give away who she was, once her hands and arms were revealed. Nonetheless, we had a great time, got lots of freebies, fooled many folks and I learned that one is never too old to go door to door begging on Halloween as long as you can still get up and go.

Our niece, Ariana in her witch's costume - Halloween 1996
     It would be 30 plus years before I would continue this tradition in Alaska. In 1996 my brother Abe’s children, a niece and nephew came to live with my husband Joe and I for the year so their Mother could return to school in Oklahoma to study to be a nurse. She had enough of my brother’s laziness and living off the government and divorced him a year or two earlier. Joe and I took the two, Ariana and Ben, door to door on Halloween in the old established part of Anchorage, Turnagain.. The two siblings did well and gathered about 5 pounds of candy each. That year we learned where to go for the best treats and who to avoid.

 Ariana, Ben &
Mt. Mckinley, Talkeetna, AK
October 1996
Ben, Aunt Mary & Ariana - Halloween 1996

Uncle Joe & Ariana with their carved pumpkin
     Half way through the year my poor fragile niece decided she had enough of my rules and regulations. She was depressed and although we tried to get her the psychological help she needed, it wasn’t enough. She returned half way through 7th grade to Oklahoma to live with my younger sister and that didn‘t work either. Ben, my nephew was another story. He lasted the year, made straight As in sixth grade at Turnagain Elementary and was a true joy. After Ben left in the summer of 1997 we decided to give another shot at adopting an older child. It would turn out to be pretty much a nightmare with a few good memories and consequences intermingled. It did keep the Halloween tradition of old folks trick or treating with the young alive, especially for my husband Joe that brought in 7 pounds with our adopted son John when he was in sixth grade. That was the year, 2000, when we had the “haunted bookshop” during the Turnagain School Carnival with many of the leftover books donated from our former bookstore, the Alaskan Renaissance.

     We met John in Aberdeen, Washington September 16, 1998 and within a week he returned to Anchorage with us. He was 9 years old and living in foster care for a couple of years in multiple foster homes. John was artistic but he couldn‘t read or count to more than 10 on his hands. We fixed this problem and he was on the honor roll eventually while with us, but the emotional damage he suffered we couldn‘t fix or anyone else including a multitude of psychologists and therapists.

     He, his brother and two sisters were taken away from the biological father and his girlfriend after his Mother left them with him. John came from a long line of petty criminals and was an example of ignorance breeding ignorance. His Mom decided to take back the two girls and give John and his younger brother up for adoption because she wasn‘t up to raising boys. Guess she should have thought of that before she had them, but ignorance is bliss. On the other hand I knew from the start John and I just didn‘t click. We tried and I knew what my Grandparents had done for me and I wanted to pass it on. Little did I realize that I had bonded with them as an infant living there my first two years and again in first and second grade. However, once a child is nine years old it is next to impossible to bond with them, especially if the parents are still alive as in John‘s case.

     Now if there is ever one thing that will help a person bond with a child, it is probably candy and its retrieval. John had not been here much longer than a month when Joe, John, Moonshine and I went on our first Halloween trick or treating event. John wore my nephew’s costume from 2 years earlier the first year. He collected enough candy that he was happy temporarily. The next year we continued the tradition and John entered a Monster drawing contest at Great Harvest Bread Company and won free cookies for his entire 5th grade class at Turnagain. John however wasn’t too comfortable being a success, but he was from time to time whether he liked it or not. After that, Great Harvest Bread Co. became part of our Halloween tradition up until John was in 8th grade and he outgrew it and us as well.

     These days we still frequent Great Harvest. There is a one cookie per Halloween drawing entry now, no mega winners like in 1999 when the bakery was still a newbie in Anchorage. Great Harvest is an exceptionally generous business, giving out huge slices of bread to all visitors since their inception, no purchase required. They even try to return your money and give you a new loaf of bread if you aren‘t satisfied with a selection. That is over the top for even tight wad me and where I draw the line on something for nothing.

Memoir - Mary Alta Buckingham - October 29, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remembering My Oklahoma One Arm Great Uncle, Jack Mason

      My maternal Grandmother Alta’s younger sister, my Great Aunt Carrie was married twice before marrying my Great Uncle Jack in the 1950s. Like they say the third time is the charm. Carrie wasn’t particularly lucky in marriage until then. Jack’s marriage to my Great Aunt was his first when he was in his early forties. He was of medium height and size, always wore clean starched tan kaki shirts and pants. Jack Mason was a super nice guy, with a big heart and a generous streak to match. He was a hard worker. My Great Aunt Carrie and Uncle Jack had a nice home in Nowata plus a cabin on Grand Lake also in Northeastern Oklahoma that I visited frequently as a child and teen. It was there I would catch my first and last fish, a carp that had to be tossed back because it was uneatable. I never had the gift for fishing or the stomach, but Jack did despite just having one arm and hand.

      Uncle Jack lost most of his left arm and hand in an industrial accident early in his work life in the Oklahoma oil fields, years before I knew him in the 1950s. Jack was giving a hand signal out of a vehicle when a passing vehicle damaged it to the point amputation was necessary. The missing hand and arm was replaced with a gold hook that served as his prosthesis. Jack used that hook like it was a hand until the day he died. He continued to work in the oil fields and fish incessantly despite his loss. He and his father both worked for Phillips 66 Oil Company from the start. One of my cousins claims Jack’s father sold his share in the company early on.

      The thing I loved most about Uncle Jack as a kid was his generosity and that he always carried a big pocket of change which he shared. He liked to give the money to the youngsters to spend on goodies. Once at a family gathering at my Great Grandparents, Claude and Nancy Wilson in Chelsea, I recall hardly being able to contain myself when I saw Jack was there. I grew so impatient wanting to capitalize on his generosity that I almost jumped the gun and asked him if I could have “some money?“. Was I afraid he would forget? He must have sensed my 7 year old impatience because he passed out the coins without delay and saved me from embarrassing myself.

      Jack worked in the Oklahoma oil fields up until his death in 1966 when he died of brain cancer at the age of 63. May he rest in peace and be assured that he is truly missed by his Grandniece “Alaska“ Mary.

Memoir -
I will always enjoy the memory of my Great Uncle, Charles Esc(h)o
“Jack“ Mason
- April 13, 2009/revised & posted Oct. 30, 2012