Holler Johnson! ….. Johnson!

Chapter 2 in my Reminiscing Series….

Do you know why the summer of 1969 was a very special summer?  Woodstock?  The Manson Murders?  Neil Armstrong walking on the moon?  (By the way, while all the adults were watching this momentous event on TV, Nancy Huish and I ran outside and saw it in person.  We SWEAR we saw him WALKING ON THE MOON!)

Man On Moon

None of the above.  That summer was special to me because I took a 3 day road trip with my father.  As an Army brat, we moved an average of every 2 years.  We had 10 people in my family, so when we moved, half of us went with my dad in the car (and I mean THE car.  1 car, 10 people), and the rest of us flew on an airplane to our next destination with my mom.  Three years before, in 1966, my dad had just returned from Viet Nam and we moved from Massachusetts to Arizona.  Three of my older siblings drove with him, and their stories of that adventure had me campaigning for the next 3 years to go in the car the next time.

The time finally came, and I was chosen!   At 8 years old I was going on a road trip!   However, I would not be going with my older brother and sisters, the ones who made up all the fun games, but with my 6-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister,  which meant I was the babysitter and had to be the one who kept them happy on the ride.   Greeeeaaaaat.

My father had been an ROTC instructor at Arizona State for 3 years, and we were now headed to Ft Leavenworth, Kansas where he would attend the Staff College for a year.  Each time we moved, we packed up the house, and after the movers arrived we would move to a hotel for a week or so.  This time it was a Holiday Inn near the Phoenix airport.  The entire family stayed there for a few days, then the younger kids (minus the baby) piled into Bessie, our Volkswagen Van, and headed to Kansas.

Here’s what Bessie looked like, sort of, except she was green:


Note that the large back windows don’t open; only the front seat windows and the little flap window.  And no silly, we didn’t have air conditioning.  In Arizona?  Why would we have that?

I don’t recall much about the trip except my dad kept a prodigious stash of lifesavers in the glove compartment.  Apparently it kept us from getting thirsty, and then from having to stop and go to the bathroom more often than my dad wanted.  I mean, candy…who wouldn’t have been fine with that?   I also tried to recreate the games my older siblings had described on their road trip but whether it was the delivery or the audience, they fizzled.

And then there were the Howard Johnsons’.  Every time we passed one (and back in the day they were like Starbucks..one at every exit) my dad would say, “Holler Johnson!’  and amidst the crickets in the backseat he would answer himself , “Johnson!”  It didn’t seem to bother him that we tired of this game quickly and stopped “hollering Johnson” after the first few times.  Come to think of it, he’s 80 years old and still entertains himself whether we participate or not.


Our first overnight was in Albuquerque.   We had the same routine each night.  We got to the above-mentioned Holler Johnson or Holiday Inn (no nickname), changed into bathing suits, and headed to the pool.  After a quick swim we would go to the restaurant where we were allowed to have a Shirley Temple EVERY night.  Then we would head to bed and get into the car early the next morning.  I lived in Albuquerque as an adult in the 80’s, but in the 60’s all I remember was a street with angled parking, like you see in old movies now.

The next night we stopped in Oklahoma City.  In the restaurant that evening, the hostess was especially friendly and gave my little sister something like 6 cherries in her Shirley Temple.  However, when we headed to our room that night, my Dad said he had to leave to “do laundry”.  So, he left an 8 year old in charge of 2 smaller kids in a strange city, in a strange hotel, at night.  Yes, times were different then.  I was also a very good babysitter.  Eventually the little kids fell asleep, but my dad still hadn’t returned, and it was super late because Johnny Carson was on TV.  And that’s when I realized….my Dad was not coming back.  He had abandoned us.  After thinking a bit, I decided on a plan:  The next morning I would find the nice lady in the restaurant and tell her my Dad had left us, but I would ask her to call my mother, who was in a Holiday Inn in Phoenix near the airport.  Plan in place, I fell into a satisfied sleep, and the next morning, there was my dad, telling us to pack up and head to the car.

The final overnight was spent in Kansas City.   Now, it’s about 350 miles from Oklahoma City to Kansas City and I can only guess how many times one might see a sign saying “Kansas City xx miles”, but I can tell you that every time we saw one my father would sing, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City…we’ve gone about as fer as we can go!”  In my memory I think that was about 100 million times.

The first time I told my father about my story of imagined abandonment and asked him where he really went that night, he insisted it was to do laundry.  He also got a queer look on his face like he couldn’t imagine why I would think he would leave us.  I can’t imagine why I would think that either.  Except for the Holler Johnson thing.

I am inclined to believe him about the laundry, too, because when I go to my parents’ house now, he does laundry just about every single day, whether there is a full load or not.

Baader-Meinhof….Coincidence or Conspiracy?

The first chapter of my Reminiscing Series…

The summer between 6th and 7th grade (1972) a terrorist group called The Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF) went on a terrorist bombing spree across West Germany.  The press dubbed them The Baader-Meinhof Gang after two of its main “members”, lovers Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.  I can’t really say what their main gripe was, because, well, they were crazy terrorist urban guerrillas, and to try to understand them would be a waste of time.  Let’s simplify it by saying they hated the post-Nazi German government, the U.S. involvement in the Viet Nam war, and capitalism.   What’s mainly remarkable about this group is that they lasted from the mid-60’s to the mid-80’s, with much drama, and not insignificant support at times.

I don’t want to give them any more attention than that.  I do want to tell you about my impression of that summer.  One of the bombings took place at Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, where 2 U.S. service members were killed.  We would move to Heidelberg a few years later, but that summer we lived at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, where my father commanded the 3/35 Armor Battalion.  It was a turbulent time anyway, with soldiers being drafted and trained for the war in Viet Nam, race riots, and rampant drug use, all in our little community.  Nancy White picked a real fistfight with me on my first day as the new girl in 6th grade…my first and last physical fight with someone who was not a family member.  It was, at times, a rough place to be an adolescent.

But that summer, after the bombing in Heidelberg I believe, the alarm when out to all the military installations that this gang was now attacking U.S. Military installations.  Overnight we had armed guards parading up and down the sidewalk of the houses on “Snob Hill” (named because the highest ranking officers lived there), 24 hours a day.  As a pre-teen with 3 older sisters, we were mainly concerned with how cute the soldiers might be, and each shift change had us coyly looking out the window or “just happening” to need to cross the street to tell our friends something super important.  I can’t recall being scared.  It was mainly just exciting, which I am sure is due to my mellow mother, who always maintained her sanity in the midst of any crisis.  I seem to recall that the General’s kids had to be driven to school, but that would mean school either got out in June, or I’m not remembering it very well.  Or they had to go to summer school.  Hee Hee.  Too bad for them.

All of the mothers on the block set up a schedule to provide refreshments to the dreamy soldiers.  In our house we baked quite a bit anyway, and had a great time when our turn came around.  We made sandwiches, cookies, cakes, brownies and lemonade and put it all out on a card table on our carport.  It was quite the social occasion as I recall, when neighbors dropped by to see what we had to offer.  And “Oh my, that looks good.  Let me just have a taste.”  Or that could have just been my chubby 11 year old self.  I just remember eating really well.

I don’t recall how long the guards lasted or why they finally stopped.  It could have been a couple of days or even a month, but eventually they stopped guarding us, some of the gang was captured, life went back to normal, and Nancy White and I were civil to each other in 7th grade.

As a footnote, you may experience the Baader-Meinhof Syndrome, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or Plate Of Shrimp after reading this blog.   Tell me if you do, and is it a coincidence or a conspiracy?

Footnote # 2:  If I end up in a CIA interrogation room for writing this, we will know Edward Snowden was on to something.

Have I got a story for you…

I have a friend who says nice things to me like “I love it when people first meet you.  You’re so quiet, and then when they get to know you they discover how funny you are”.  A few months ago she said “You have led such an interesting life.  I love hearing your stories of growing up”.  Me?? Interesting life?  That’s why she’s my friend, but she’s right.  Because we all come from different backgrounds, someone else’s unique experience will usually seem interesting to the person who didn’t live it.  I mean, she grew up in Colorado!!  She learned to ski at the same time she learned to walk!  She can walk into a grocery store and run into someone she went to high school with.  She gets to spend holidays with her parents without jumping on a plane.  That’s heaven to me. She recklessly rode her Ninja motorcycle all over campus in college.

I also have a friend who grew up on a farm in South Dakota.  Those stories?  Well, let’s just say Catholic girls have nothing on farm girls.  She talks about the family in her hometown who owned “the store”.  She can drive in blinding snow with nooo problem.  She knows how to plant a garden, and cook things from it.  What?  She is always ready to host a crowd, even if they are staying overnight.

My fiance B. grew up in the DC house LBJ vacated when he became Vice President.  J. Edgar Hoover lived on his street. B. was a long haired hippy who played in bands growing up, and Hoover refused to get out of his car if any long hairs were on the street.  He would sit in his limo for hours until they left because he was so paranoid.  One neighbor trained his dog to do his business on Hoover’s Astroturf lawn.

The point is, we all have a story to tell, and I have started reminiscing about some of mine.  From the Baader-Meinhof gang that caused armed guards to walk up and down the street outside our house, to date night at the Playboy Club in 1978, to ballroom dancing with cadets at West Point, I do have some stories, and welcome any of yours if you would like to guest blog.  Stay tuned….

Dippy Eggs

I work from home, and after my first cup of coffee, I typically make some eggs.  I believe if I had to eat just one food for the rest of my life, it would be eggs.  Or popcorn.  Or eggs.  I love eggs made all ways, but I really love soft-boiled eggs with buttered toast “soldiers”.  DSCF0313

I thought I was being super cool and frugal by buying these Polish-made egg cups on eBay for the steal price of $3.99…


only to discover that American hens, with their couch potato ways, lay much bigger eggs than their Polish strolling counterparts.  Now the eggs sort of perch atop the cup.  I still need to get a teeny spoon, too, to scoop out ALL the goodness.   BTW, that bread?  Ezekial Genesiss 1:29 Sprouted Whole Grain and Seed bread.  THREE grams of dietary fiber.  You’re welcome.

Yelping On The Plains

As a Yelp Elite, I get lots of opportunities to attend outings with other lovely Yelpers, where we get to experience a bit of culture, eat some food, and drink some drinks.

Yesterday we rode out east to the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colorado to attend Yelp’s Harvest Hoopla!


The Plains is a 1000 acre (and 9000 additional acres 30 miles further east) outdoor education facility, where kids of all ages can learn a bit about the 19th century prairie settlers, the Cheyenne Indians, and all kinds of prairie wildlife.  It started in 1949 to educate farmers in farming and ranching techniques to avoid another dust bowl disaster.  It is now an educational non-profit, funded by private donations. The best part?  It’s FREE!  They do have programs that will charge a nominal fee, such as guided nature walks, bird watching , and constellation programs.  The site also hosts a farm to table dinner each season, where the chefs use cooking techniques of the era.  But for 6 days a week you can stroll the grounds at no charge, for as long as it’s open.


The grounds are just lovely, in a windblown, Little House On The Prairie sort of way.  You could spend all day out here, listening to the prairie dogs warning each other of your presence (did you know their yips have adjectives?),

checking out the sod houses…


or the one room schoolhouse….


petting the big cows, chasing chickens, or viewing the reptiles in the prairie house.  Want to ride your bike?  Come on out, and avoid the crowds on the metro bike paths.  With 1000 acres to explore, there’s a good chance you will have some privacy.

This is an especially great place for kids to run around and get some fresh air, and learn something in the process.

Our event was hosted by Big City Burrito, Dry Dock Brewing and Dry Soda.  Yummy!


Welcome to my blog!  I hope to keep in touch with family and friends old and new, near and far, and will strive to educate and entertain along the way.

It’s fitting that my first blog post is the first day of ski season in Colorado.  I love snow, and judging from the giddy “first chair” crazies at Arapahoe Basin today, I’m not the only one.  If you don’t live here, you should know that while a couple of places do start making snow early in the season, most ski areas don’t open until around Thanksgiving, and some not until mid-December.  That’s fine with me.  I’m usually enjoying Autumn things like pumpkins and turning leaves, and am not quite ready for the snow any earlier than that.

Today was a beautiful Fall Day, all sunshine and a little breezy.  I stayed in all day setting up this blog to celebrate.  🙂