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The Colour Box

8 Apr

Thanks to all who have purchased The Colour Box and special thanks for those who reviewed.
Here are a couple recent reviews:

Into the history of Antigua in the slave days step the Hart sisters. How does one own another human being? The Colour Box is indeed colourful. Barbara Anne Waite paints pictures with her words. Having been in Antigua for many years before, I know the places she mentions. I smell the ducana. I see the paintbox of colours in the foliage and the people. So many beautiful shades! And the story is precious and keenly sensitive dealing with the issue of race. We see the grief of Anne and Elizabeth as their father inherited as a free black a plantation and owning slaves that he did not ask for. The answer? Love and education and faith. So many scenes are sweet- Barry Hart, their father, dancing with Annie when they learn that the Declaration of Independence in the US declares all men equal. Will it come to Antigua and how? How will plantation life end? Barbara Waite has delved into the history of those days and basic facts- a Sunday school to educate and teach, as education is the key to ending the injustice. I love this book. One can see, sense, smell, experience the Caribbean and the rich history of the beautiful people that live there

Just finished reading “The Colour Box” and was completely charmed. This historical novel is based on the lives of two free bi-racial sisters on the island of Antigua in the 1700 and 1800’s. They were educated and extraordinary, using their talent and knowledge to teach many plantation slaves to read and write. There is a beautiful love story in this book for both the sisters who married later in life and whose husbands joined in and encouraged their activities. Teaching and reaching out to the less fortunate continued throughout their lives. A beautiful timely and captivating read that is both entertaining and educational.
Available on Amazon :


14 Sep

I remember a few years back there was a children’s program called “Hooked on Phonics.” I suppose I could write my own program called “Hooked on Research.” I have often thought that if my life had followed a different path that I could have thrived as a research librarian. I love books. I love old books with gorgeous covers. I own some books that I have never read, but would not part with because I am fascinated by their vintage covers. Some I have read over and over, and they are tattered friends that flood me with memories of visits to second-hand bookshops in downtown San Diego with Elsie. We rode the bus and wandered thru old buildings filled with books.  I was nine when she bought me Louisa May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” and the poetry collection “Silver Pennies.”

Two treasured books Elsie gave me in 1956.

I think she would be thrilled to know I have discovered a passion for historical research. She might be surprised that my first two books dealt with her story, and perhaps excited I am writing a historical novel about the country we called home for 38 years.

Research about life in Antigua (during the years 1740-1834) comes from numerous sources.  I sit at my computer near an old undated map of Antigua. It lists towns, churches, and forts. If I look with a magnifying glass, I can see that Sir William Codrington had six windmills on his estate.

When our children were young, my husband used to take them on adventures that included the sugar mills that were still standing in the early 1980’s. They documented on 3 x 5 notecards the name of the mill, date if they could find it, and the type of stone used. Those windmills have withstood over 200 years of hurricanes. Fun to think our children started my research nearly 40 years ago as they trudged thru thorn bushes and fought off yellowjackets that built nests in those reminders of sugar mill and slavery years.

Barb & Curt exploring the ruins at Betty’s Hope Plantation

Long before I ever dreamed of writing a book based on historical Antigua I was fascinated by the courthouse built hundreds of years ago and which remains a museum today. Nelson’s Dockyard, the site of the British Naval buildings constructed nearly 250 years ago, serves as a witness to the days Britain fought with the French for the possession of the Caribbean islands. I began collecting books about the Naval Dockyard in the 1970’s.


1984- Carin, Joshua, Dan and Christopher at Fort George overlooking English Harbour

These days I find myself reading thru Antiguan wills dating from the 1780’s, newspaper snippets from the same time period and even diaries of American women who lived on plantations in places like Georgia or South Carolina. Research and imagination link together in my mind to bring history to life.

Elsie’s Gilman Connection

30 Jul

30 July

I have always enjoyed looking at profiles of faces. When my siblings and I divided my mother’s estate some years ago, my first choice of furniture or keepsakes was a relief profile of Ephraim Gilman. I seem to remember that my mother never had it hanging in my childhood home. She stored it in a closet, but the story behind the face fascinated me as a child. My grandmother Elsie frequently reminded me that this was the face of her great-grandfather. It was carved from a piece of wood by Ephraim’s younger brother, Zadok, and given to Ephraim on his wedding day, June 20, 1805. Ephraim married Anne Crawford (age 18) in Alexandria, Virginia. They had seven children that lived and six that died in infancy. Their second daughter, Malvina Amanda Gilman, born in 1810, was Elsie’s Grandmother.


Ephraim Gilman carved by brother Zadok

Thursday was Ephraim’s birthday; He was born July 12, 1778, 240 years ago. His family came to America on the good ship Diligent in 1638 due to religious persecution in England. Ephraim’s grandfather Johnathan Gilman was a captain in the War of Independence and was killed in action at age 63 in 1776.
Ephraim became a prosperous merchant in Alexandria. One of the ledgers records that he imported Moroccan shoes. It also stated he sailed his ships to foreign places to bring back molasses.

moroccan shoes 1800

Moroccan shoes of 1800


moroccan shoes

Moroccan shoes

I spent 38 years smelling molasses in Antigua, a by-product of the production of Antiguan Rum. Someday I want to read his ledgers from 1808-1820 preserved on microfilm in the Alexandria Library. I imagine all sorts of adventures hidden in those ledgers. During the war of 1812, the British burned Ephraim’s warehouse and a schooner of flour.

These paintings of the Gilmans were the work of a young artist, Cephas Thompson. Cephas eventually became well known. He captures Anne’s young beauty and a handsome Ephraim. I do not own the paintings. But, the profile carved and gifted from one brother to another is mine.


ann Crawford Gilman

Anne Crawford Gilman – painted by Cephas Thompson about 1808



Elsie’s great-grandfather Ephraim Gilman

I am grateful for an invitation to speak to the daughters of the American Revolution in Valley Center on February 14th at 10 a.m. in the Valley Center Library. I enjoy sharing history. I have relatives from at least three branches that fought in the Revolutionary War. My son Joshua has researched at least 14 relatives that came to America before 1640.

My goal now is to include an imaginary link in my next book between the Hart sisters of Antigua and Ephraim Gilman’s wife, Anne Crawford. They lived during the same time-period. Elizabeth Hart was married the same year Ephraim and Anne Crawford were married.

A Valentine Memory of Arizona Statehood

14 Feb

Feb.14th 2018- Arizona celebrates its 106th birthday today. Happy Valentines Day. I shared in the book a Valentine remembrance Elsie loved to tell about. She received a special Valentine while teaching in Arizona that was chocolate covered soap. Her laughter when telling this story filled the room with her effervescent joy. She had a chuckle that was like none other I have ever heard. It seemed to come from her toes and traveled all the way to her heart, and out her mouth filling the room with mirth.

The Girdner Family 1913

I had the privilege to meet Eva in 1989, she was charming. In the book, I share about Eva Girdner’s memory of the first Arizona statehood celebration that occurred in Oak Creek Canyon. She shared that there were about 25 families living along the beautiful lower Oak Creek. When word arrived that statehood had been granted the Arizona territory the news was passed to all the families along the creek to meet for a picnic. The children celebrated with foot and burro races. Eva’s mother made her a unique red, white and blue dress for the occasion. I wonder which child had the privilege to ride his burro shouting the news of statehood and announcing the celebratory picnic. Somehow it seems that an e-mail or telephone call would never be as exciting as watching a child arriving breathless with the news that the territory was now the State of Arizona! I think “Elsie” would be a great movie. Much of what she wrote creates a vivid picture in my mind.
I keep thinking how Elsie would be delighted knowing that her story received 332 reviews on Amazon and has sold over 1,200 copies just in the Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle National Parks.
Special thanks to all who have added a review or clicked the like button on Elsie’s Amazon page. I think those reviews really encourage others to buy the book. I am grateful and thrilled to have recently shared her story with The Daughters of The American Revolution here in San Diego.

The Joy of Having Relatives who Preserved History

14 Jul

Elsie was certainly too genteel to be labeled a hoarder. She was a keeper of bits of history. I am thankful for the bits of history I inherited from her. Her cedar chest contained a treasure secured years ago, a Civil War Brain teaser game. Perhaps there is a better name for it, but that was the label my daughter Carin came up with. It consists of 24 heavy-duty card stock cards that have great illustrations drawn with pen and ink. There was a sheet included with the answers. I wonder if it was possibly given to my great-grandfather when he was injured as a child during the Civil War? That is a fascinating story found in the second Elsie book, “Elsie’s Mountain.” Alonzo became injured when Union soldiers mistakenly fired cannons at what they assumed was an abandoned farmhouse located about where the Pentagon stands today. The farmhouse actually was Alonzo’s family home. After Alonzo Hayes was wounded they took him to the Union surgeon to sew up his wound. Elsie said her father limped all his life, as a result of that injury. I can imagine a soldier telling the young Alonzo to be brave and he’d give him a game. See if you can guess what some of the answers are, I will include answers after the pictures.Some answers were unreadable.

1. Independence
2. Condescending
7. Seesaw
8. Saxsony
9. Dominoes
11. Easy
12. Pennies
14. Prickley Pear
16. Elbowed
17. barbeque
18. An ingrate
19. Defaced
22. Candy
20. Tenants
24. thinking
25. infancy

Dead Men Tell Tales

17 Jan

Nearly 50 years have passed since I first discovered I was attracted to old cemeteries. Driving down a dirt road on our way to a retreat in N. C., I spied gravestones nestled among the pines and oaks and we stopped to investigate. I loved the overwhelming sense of connecting with the past – with hidden history. Not just bodies rested beneath the earth, but the stories connected with those lives.
Years later, I read aloud several of Eugenia Price’s historical books as we experienced long road trips with our four children. Her books led to a quest to visit the graveyard on St Simon’s Island, Georgia. We took a memorable drive to see that fascinating graveyard and charming old church which she described.
I became hooked on old cemeteries. On the island of Antigua, we uncovered hidden grave stones at the site of Bridgetown and created rubbings from some of the large flat memorials that laid buried under dirt and debris. Our footsteps have since walked among many aging headstones in a number of states, and in several countries.
This Christmas we spent a delightful time in Malaysia with our daughter and her family. I keep trying to single out a favorite day from our trip. Perhaps the memory that shines best is the quiet Sunday afternoon spent in Georgetown, wandering among some of the 500 graves in the Old Protestant Cemetery, established in 1786. These people no longer have a voice, but history oozes from the earth and hangs dripping from the trees and vines that surround the large, ornate tombstones. We strolled around reading names and dates, soaked in the serenity – contemplating our own mortality. The tombstones there in Penang represented governors, lawyers, merchants, army personnel. Most people in the 1800’s in Malaysia failed to achieve age fifty. Many died as children or only survived to their twenties.

Old Protestant Cemetery -Penang

Carin, beside Thomas Leonowens tomb

Like Hansel and Gretel following a trail

When only age nine, I delighted in the movie “The King and I.” I did not realize then that real people had been the basis for that story. There in Georgetown we stood by the grave of Anna’s husband, Thomas Leonowens. He died at age thirty-one. Anna, born in India in 1831, was a mere twenty-eight when he died. Needing employment, she traveled to Singapore with her two children and established herself as an educator for the children of British officers. Three years later, she accepted an offer to teach the thirty-nine wives and eighty-two children of the King of Siam. Hollywood portrayed her story (based on her journals), with a good deal of historical license. I stood there in Malaysia, by Leonowens tomb, wondering about the life of this hotel-keeper who died in 1859, thankful his gutsy wife recorded her memories from Siam. I mused what Hollywood might do to Elsie’s story were it (pipe dream) to be made into a movie!
On our return from Asia, jet-lag and the flu forced me to wrap in a blanket, with tea and a marvelous new book , “The Mark of the King” by Jocelyn Green. This exciting historical fiction based on an 18th century French colony in Louisiana assisted my recovery. Thanks, Jocelyn for the delightful diversion from Kleenex and cough syrup. Her research uncovered a story I found fascinating; her writing wrapped me in another era.

Available on Amazon- New Book by Jocelyn Green- ” The Mark of the King”

Now I am back at work researching and writing historical fiction about Antigua in the late 1700’s. Thanks, Carin, for the moments we squeezed in to consult on this work-in-progress. Thanks for warm memories and delightful days spent with you in Malaysia.

On January 22, to celebrate Elsie’s 129th birthday, her story “Elsie’s Mountain” will be free, that day only, on Amazon as an e-book. So, if you have not yet read the sequel to Elsie’s Arizona story, here is a one day opportunity to grab it for free. I am thrilled that after four years her Arizona story is still selling and has 329 Amazon reviews. Thanks, friends.

Mysterious Letter From Sailor -1864

3 Sep

Mysterious Sailor Frederick Tietz
Fred's Lettercrop
Among Elsie’s treasured papers was a letter from a US Navy man named Fred, written in 1864 to Elsie’s Aunt Annie. From age eighteen Annie Malvina Gilman worked in Washington D. C. When she was 20 years old she wrote to a sailor, unknown to her personally, fighting in the Civil War. Her widowed mother told her she must write using a fictitious name. So she wrote as Miss Malvin. Aunt Annie’s father had been a Congregational Pastor. He died when Annie was fourteen years old. I wish I knew what she wrote to this sailor. His return letter displayed perfect penmanship, illustrated with a rose and a self-portrait. Here is a transcript of his delightful letter:
“Many a good and strong heart is beating underneath a coarse coat; therefore throw not these lines aside on account of their uncouth appearance, but read before you judge. Eau de Cologne or eau de mille fleurs is not begotten here surrounded by swamps.
It is a perilous enterprise to sail in unknown waters and many a good navigator died in the attempt of exploring new islands, but who does not venture, he can never win. Therefore I send this my fragile craft over to you, in the hope to find a harbor in your heart where I may safely repose myself and put myself into fine sailing trim, to cruise over the wild sea of life, which heaves before me, but which I am not afraid to navigate.
A Sea in which I have been sailing indeed a good while already, and weathering many a tempest, without any damage to my vessel whatever. But here goes for our better acquaintance. First, and foremost, fair lady (Mary I dare not say, and Miss Malvin sounds too business like.) I suppose I have to give you an account of myself; so here is the life of Frederick Tietz, Yeoman at present, on board of the U.S. Schooner Dan Smith, South Atlantic Squadron.
I am, (do not shocked) a Dutchman, a Prussian, born and brought up in Berlin, the capital. Whom always burnt underneath his feet, until at last he went to the grief of his mother and to the joy perhaps of a good many people, who did not like to see their windowpanes broke, or to see a boy walking over their heads in the imminent danger ( as they thought ) of falling to the pavement every minute. He will have climbing enough now said those good people and perhaps they were right, I had enough although not too much of it. That was in 1857 when I was 16 years old. I then first sailed from Prussia, afterwards from Denmark and at last, but not least for it is now three years since I entered the first American ship. But to do myself justice, I did not do so, because I could not get along well in the places I left, but I did it for love of change only.
My plans for the future now are, that I want to pass examination at New York in order to trod – in due time – my own deck, and then to come and obtain you, fair lass, if agreeable, for life, if not to drown all recollections of Miss Malvin and take another.
Now Miss, my account of myself is finished, and may you at least think me worth of an answer, I forgot to tell you that I am only 5 feet and 3 inches high for external appearance I give you my portrait, took before the glass which although it will I daresay, bear not the slightest resemblance to the maker, will do as well as a description, for I never flatter, and woe to him, that comes under my pencil. He can never have a favorable, much less flattering opinion of himself afterwards. In the hope, but I have not been tiresome to you, and in the expectation of an answer I conclude and say farewell, fair lady, and may I address you more cordial next time.
I like gracious manners
But hate etiquette
So if thou shouldest answer
Pray call me,
Your Fred”
I love research. I discovered there was a Frederick Tietz, born in 1841, that joined the U.S. Navy. In Feb., 1864, the Union Navy had its ships near St. Simons Island in a blockade attempt to prevent the Confederates from trading with other countries. The Dan Smith was a wooden schooner that held 33 men and was 87’ long, with two thirty-two pound guns. Two weeks after Fred wrote, his schooner captured the Confederate schooner Sophia. In Dec., 1864, Frederick was appointed Acting Masters Mate and became discharged in May, 1865. So interesting to discover via the internet more about this man than Elsie ever knew. Annie Malvina never married, perhaps she never answered Frederick’s plea.
I love hearing from readers, even if e-mails can’t include lovely penmanship, illustrated with wonderful self-portraits.
Wonderful, mysterious, Fred. I wonder who he finally persuaded to marry him? Research shows there was eventually a Frederick Tietz, Jr.

Fred's Letter to Aunt Annie ( AKA- Miss Malvin)

Fred’s Letter to Aunt Annie ( AKA- Miss Malvin)


25 Jun

As I write this “tidbit” today there are six active forest fires burning in California. When I first met my husband, in 1963, he was employed by The US Forest Service, fighting forest fires. Now some 53 years later after seven fire seasons as a volunteer at Boucher Hill and High Point lookouts on Palomar, he is employed once again by the US Forest Service as a fire lookout at Los Pinos tower in Descanso.

1963- Curt Waite, Helitack Crew  US Forest Service -Palomar Mountain

1963- Curt Waite, Helitack Crew US Forest Service -Palomar Mountain

Curt Waite - Fire tower lookout _ Palomar Mountain

Curt Waite – Fire tower lookout _ Palomar Mountain

The advances in fighting forest fires since Elsie’s days on Palomar in 1904 and 1918 are rather interesting.
In 1911 the government authorized the US Forest Service to provide Fire Protection. In 1919 the State of California provided for salaries for four forest Rangers. By 1920 they had expanded to include salaries for ten rangers.
It was common for the men of the mountain to assist in fighting wild fires. My great grandfather assisted as well as Jack. Elsie rode her burro to warn others of the fire.
In Elsie’s Mountain she wrote about a fire burning:
Aug 29 – 1918:
Mrs. Bailey phoned after supper about fire in woods, started by lightning. Jack helped fight it all evening. Fire- fighting implements are stored at our ranch. Once I took the news on our burro to Silvercrest regarding a blazing fire on the lower part of the mountain. I rode bareback. Papa had gone with the team to save my mountain. I prayed and dug in my heels and galloped to tell the people.
January, 1919:
Jan.10- Jack worked on the telephone line again and Modesto worked on the road while Pete took another load of apples down. The forest fire is not as bad as yesterday and day before. I made nine loaves of bread and a pan of rolls, also made ice cream frozen with snow.
That January fire burned 1,840 acres on Pauma Ranch. I researched that thinking it really was strange to have forest fires in January, yet found it documented elsewhere.
While preparing for this today, I came across an article that would surely be labeled in this day as “politically incorrect.” I suppose it was acceptable in early 1900’s to call a spade a spade.
A U.S. Forest Service pamphlet written in May, 1916, for Fire Suppression for California spoke of the need to evaluate men before hiring to fight a forest fire. It divided men into 4 classes.
“A fair-sized crew contains men who can and will do three or four times as much work as others. Too little attention has been given to careful grading of possible firefighters and the formulating of the proper methods of dealing with each class. The men of any community may be divided into classes, each possessing the qualifications listed below:
Class A: Men worthy of complete confidence; exerting a well-recognized anti-fire influence, possessing superior physical ability and power of endurance.
Class B: Trustworthy men equal to those of Class A, except that they do not possess the qualifications of successful Crew Bosses.
Class C: Trustworthy but ordinary men.
Class D: Shirkers; disorganizers; men without proper shoes; men who are from inexperience or inclination disinclined to respect authority and orders; men suspected of incendiary tendencies or of nursing a fire; men not trustworthy for any other reason.
Class D men should never be hired when it can be avoided. There are circumstances which make it necessary to hire about every known type of Class D men. It is sometimes good policy to make no secret of the fact that a man’s work has caused him to be regarded as undesirable on a control line. More often it is good policy to talk it over in a frank, friendly way with the Class D man himself. No more effective instrument will ever be devised for control of men and affairs than the frank, friendly discussion of a delicate subject.”
I have always considered my guy to be a class A kind of man.
“Elsie’s Mountain,” as an e-book, will be offered FREE on Amazon Kindle from Thursday, June 30 – Saturday, July 2. I hope offering it free for three days generates reviews and increases sales after it returns to a $ 5.99 price.


31 Mar

Sharing Elsie
March is Women’s History Month. How fun to think Elsie’s recorded notes of what life was like 100 years ago is now being enjoyed by so many people. I have been delighted to share her stories with both the Historical Society and Genealogical Society in Temecula. I have shared with one Rotary club and look forward to another in June. Other speaking events are on the calendar and I am looking forward to meeting other history buffs. Here are a couple reviews for “Elsie’s Mountain.” Thanks, readers, for the encouragement of reviews:

“I enjoyed this second book about Elsie, even more than the first one. After reading both books, I feel as though Elsie is my grandmother too. This second book starts out with Elsie’s parents in early Virginia near where Arlington National Cemetery is today, and their life as they moved west to California. It is interesting to see what life was like for people who lived then, and how different California was then compared to how it is today. There are wonderful old photographs throughout the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, early Virginia and California, as well as anyone interested in genealogy.”

“Elsie’s Mountain takes us back in time in so many ways. Yet it reminds us that “the more things change the more they stay the same.” Anyone privileged to visit Palomar Mountain today will see modern conveniences scattered about, but the flavor of the mountain and the sense of majesty about the place remains timeless. A few gnarled apple trees still exist from Elsie’s original orchard, as does her cozy little home at the bend of the road. The author did not merely copy well preserved journals, she brought them to life in a way that takes the reader to Palomar Mountain to feel the sense of place along with Elsie. This book is not only a compilation of letters and diaries, it is life at it best and sometimes at its most difficult; it is history in the making and history well preserved. Congratulations to Barbara Anne Waite for the loving perseverance it must have taken to gather Elsie’s story into one beautiful book!”

I delighted to receive this email thanking after speaking in Temecula:
“March 14, 2016 was a delightful evening for the members of the Temecula Valley Genealogical Society as we listened to your presentation on Discoveries Made While Writing Two Memoirs. We all enjoyed hearing more about Elsie’s life and the history of life on Palomar Mountain.
Your enthusiasm for telling the story of your ancestor’s life is contagious! I heard many of our members say they were going to get serious about writing their ancestor’s stories. We so appreciated your sharing your expertise on how we could research not only our ancestors but also the time and places they lived so that we could make their stories came alive.
On behalf of the TVGS Board and members, thank you so much! We hope we will have the opportunity to have you return.
Dotye Summers -TVGS Corresponding Secretary



We retreat to Elsie’s mountain and delight to see the blossoms.




Special Drawings for “Elsie’s Mountain” Print Book & E-book Sale

16 Jan

$2.99 E-BOOK “Elsie’s Mountain” – Today ONLY $5 off normal E-BOOK price. Tomorrow will be $3.99. Amazon offering best price today. Adding another dollar to the E-book price each day through Wed. Please share this link for friends who like historical Memoirs. Thanks friends.

Comment on Tidbits to add a chance at drawing for one free print copy of “Elsie’s Mountain.” Requires a mailing address within USA and must comment before Elsie’s Birthday January 22.

Goodreads site will also have drawing starting Jan. 22 for chance at free print copy. Here is the goodreads link that starts Jan. 22:

I am enjoying speaking around the county to Historical groups, Rotary clubs and other organizations. Please contact me if you would like me to come share some mountain stories.

Here are a few photos that are favorites. Love that Aunt Mamie is holding a book!

Alonzo, Elsie's father, during one of the heavy storms on Palomar. Taken by Robert Asher.

Alonzo, Elsie’s father, during one of the heavy storms on Palomar. Taken by Robert Asher.

Mr. Cleaver in his orchard. Likely 1904, Robert Asher photo

Mr. Cleaver in his orchard. Likely 1904, Robert Asher photo

My favorite of Aunt Mamie.

My favorite of Aunt Mamie.

Spinster Aunts, Mamie & Annie Hayes

5 Jan

Elsie's Aunt Mamie. Beloved by all that knew her.

Elsie’s Aunt Mamie. Beloved by all that knew her.

Annie M Hayes- served with the Bureau of Engraving & Printing in Washington, D.C.

Annie M Hayes- served with the Bureau of Engraving & Printing in Washington, D.C.

I want to share with you a couple Virginia history stories from the new book. I hope you enjoy these tidbits.

To encourage feedback I am going to choose one person to receive a free copy of “Elsie’s Mountain” from those who write a comment on my website before January 22. I will choose them at random, but it must be a mailing address in USA. I will draw the name on January 22, Elsie’s birthday and post it here.

Elsie’s two spinster aunts were remarkable women. Aunt Annie was said to be the first woman with an important post with the government. After her father’s death, when she was only 19 years old, in spite of the Civil War raging near, she went to work in Washington in 1863. She advanced in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing until she was Superintendent of Orders. When President Rutherford B. Hayes came to inspect the Bureau it was Aunt Annie who showed him around. In their chat about their mutual surname they found that they were evidently distant cousins. She had a little autograph album, which was taken to Congress, where it was signed by Lincoln and by several other men who were then members of Congress and who later in turn became presidents of the United States.

This letter from Annie to her brother Alonzo (Elsie’s father), is rather fun. During the winter the two sisters rented rooms near the bureau of Engraving & Printing. The daily buggy ride from Alexandria would have been too cold.

January 30, 1904
1881 Third N.W., Washington, DC
Dear Alonzo,
We had 10 inches of snow yesterday morning and it fell in a day and night. It is now warmer and melting without sunshine. Yesterday it was down to 7° above zero, two above is our lowest we had last week and then it ran to 60° and melted almost, yet not entirely off and then this new one came. The cars [trains] however ran regularly and we had no inconvenience and have been comfortable. We run two large oil stoves all the time we are in the house which adds a good deal to our expense that we did not expect when we rented rooms. But the furnace is totally inadequate and the cans are convenient and we must keep well and feel well to work hard all day so we don’t complain.
I expect you like details of our doings as I do yours. Yesterday the thermometer was seven but did not feel cold. After breakfast I took a car and a transfer to the Ninth Street South and rode to the south side of the market and got out to buy a chicken from the countryman. I can’t bear the thought of those horrid cold storage chickens, undressed. Alonzo knows how they looked stacked on the stands. I got just the nicest little one for $.50, looking as if we had dressed it at home the night before. Then I got on the car and went to the office and put the chicken out in the snow on a north portico until I was ready to go home and stowed him in my pretty red embroidered bag. After office hours I went to get some money orders and bought some bananas and pink Tokay grapes. Sunday we enjoyed a good sermon on the first fifteen verses of Romans.
Love to all, Annie

I wonder if the Bureau still allows workers to store their “nice, little” chickens on the north portico? Wish I had inherited that pretty red embroidered bag to stash my store bought chickens in!

A Halloween Memory on Palomar Mountain

31 Oct

Work remained a constant companion on Elsie’s mountain. October was one of the busiest months, requiring a large crew to pick and pack the apples. Elsie, of course, had to provide the meals for all the apple pickers. Yet in this excerpt from the book readers can see how, in spite of the work, she remained upbeat and creative. Elsie told her grandchildren this Halloween story year after year.
“Up on our mountain, with no chances to go down, the pickers could hardly have spent the money they were earning. I wonder how they kept contented with so little to entertain them. One fall, we did give them a party that provided a lot of fun for Martha and Sadie, and me at least. It was a surprise Halloween dinner—a surprise in more ways than one.
Sometimes, if not always, a big meal was taken at noon to whatever orchard was being used that day, where perhaps we would join them for a picnic. That day, with the house entirely to ourselves, we decorated it lavishly. Branches of golden oak leaves and rosy sprays of Dogwood were a background. I had some construction paper with which we cut out such appropriate items as cats and witches on broomsticks and tacked them to the walls. We wrote out individual menus, partly humorous, largely in French, indicating that the usually informal meal would be served in as many courses as possible. We made place cards with a personal rhyme to fit each man. Then we prepared a special dinner. We chuckled over everything in anticipation of the surprise.
When the men came in to dinner, they stared about at the decorated walls and table and sat down, startled to find the place cards and menus. Probably a number of them had never heard of such things, much less seen them. They were silent, looking embarrassed. And why wasn’t everything served at once? The courses, one after another, bewildered them further. Our greatest fun had been planning the entrée or what appeared to be the entrée. With an air, Martha brought in a large serving platter with a great rounded oval cover I had inherited, designed to keep a roast hot. She set it down at the head of the table, lifted the cover, and out sprang a very live and very angry black cat! The response was not the shout of laughter we had happily anticipated, but more disgust, or pity for our unbalanced minds. At least the steak that followed was very welcome, as was finally the big cake. Anyway we girls had fun.”
Now, almost 100 years later, I am having such fun sharing “Elsie’s Mountain” with those who never had the privilege to hear her giggle as she told her tales of life on Palomar.
I was privileged to be able to do this at the annual Apple Festival on Palomar Mountain this month. On Oct. 26th the Temecula Historical Society invited me to spend an hour telling Elsie’s stories. I look forward to speaking to the Historical Society in Ramona and other nearby groups. Next Saturday, November 7th, I will be at Bates Brothers Nut Farms selling books and telling tales. The first 100 copies of “Elsie’s Mountain” have sold or been given to potential reviewers in the last 2 weeks. I still have a supply to mail to friends interested in the special November price. It sells on Amazon for $15.00. During November I will mail to those within the USA for $12. I am looking forward to hearing from those who have read and enjoyed.

Palomar State Park Annual Apple Festival

Palomar State Park Annual Apple Festival

Apple Festival Fun

Apple Festival Fun

Special Thanks to Lynda Ruth for helping me complete this "Elsie " quilt.

Special Thanks to Lynda Ruth for helping me complete this “Elsie ” quilt.

“Elsie’s Mountain”- Memories of Palomar & Southern California 1897- 1987

28 Sep

Available from Amaon or my website, starting Oct 18th.

Available from Amazon or my website, starting Oct 18th.

Many have asked to hear more of Elsie. Here is the rest of the story; it will be available Oct.18th. Watch for news about free shipping during November.
Here is an excerpt from her story about the British cooks that Jack particularly liked to hire. I must have heard her tell this story hundreds of times. She never failed to giggle while explaining about this British cook.

Hired Help at Planwydd
Mountain life, during 1918-1924, seemed wilder and more isolated than today. One cook was with us only a few days.
“I’d stay if there was only a movie up here,” she explained, “or sidewalks, so I could go for a walk.”
Usually Jack hired all help through a San Diego employment agency—apple pickers as well as a summer cook and waitresses who also served as chambermaids.
Altogether, during those five years on the apple-ranch, we had a variety of kitchen helpers. One fall apple season, we had two cooks and two dishwashers. One spring, I wrote to my old friend the Dean of Women at Pomona College to ask if she knew of two college girls there who would like to work for me the coming summer. The two who came were Bethel, whose father was a very well-to-do farmer in the Midwest; and Lois, educated in Switzerland, whose father was Minister Plenipotentiary to Albania. They were charming girls, willing workers though they knew practically nothing about housework. They were waitresses, dishwashers, and chamber maids. The guests were delighted with them. But the current cook, Mrs. Miller, very English, could not appreciate them. She was accustomed to work in an English household where there were 17 servants. In those days when servants were servants with their own ranks of butler, housekeeper, cook, etc. and much above the mere maids, she could not endure our casual democratic way of life.The guests were charmed by Bethel and Lois and, of course, treated them as equals. But Mrs. M. felt that as maids, they were far beneath her. She knew her own place, way down below the guests. How could the guests treat those girls as equals? She was pathetically jealous of them. We had explained that we didn’t want tips given at our little all in the family resort. But Mrs. M, accustomed to being one of a line of servants waiting expectantly, almost held her hand out ready whenever a guest was departing.
She never forgot her place. When we had dinner served picnic style on Inspiration Point, I told her she was to sit on the ground with the rest of us and only to help pass things around. It was almost more than she could bear.
At one meal, when luncheon guests had left the room and only the family table was still occupied, she came in from the kitchen, and as always stood quietly waiting to speak until she was noticed. I can still see her subservient attitude and hear her low differential voice.
“Excuse me Mrs. Roberts, your house is on fire.”
As nothing about her suggested that this was a fact, I couldn’t take it in at first. “What did you say?” I asked.
She repeated it, quiet, unemotional, as befitted a servant. To her obvious horror, I did not act as the dignified lady of the house should. I yelped and sprang up and raced for the kitchen. It was true. The kitchen roof was blazing, though already Jack and Gus had it under control.

Gus Weber with the hired staff one summer. Robert Asher photo

Gus Weber with the hired staff one summer. Robert Asher photo

Seasons of Life

18 Apr

I suppose one of the surprises of looking closely at my Grandmother Elsie’s life is realizing how aware I am now of the differing seasons of her life. I was age five when she retired as a librarian for the Elementary schools. She then spent several years working as a librarian at a private girl’s boarding school in Glendora. She lived in a dorm and I can still hear my father calling out “Man in the hall!” when we went to visit. By the time I was eight she was living in her small bungalow about ½-mile from my parents and enjoying her retirement. Neither she nor my mother drove a car. I remember walking to visit her and finding her lounging in the shade of a lovely tree on the back patio either writing a story or reading. I never recall her cooking or cleaning house. She was retired. Retired and enjoying her season of time to do what she wanted. It was during those years of retirement that she wrote many published children’s stories and began writing down her own memories about the apple season of her life. She rented one room of her compact 2 bedroom home to a teacher. So there was not much to care for. It is such a sharp contrast to the season of owning and operating the apple ranch on Palomar that I am reading about in her diary. The years between 1918 and 1923 were a time of daily tasks – consideration always had to be given to preparing meals for numerous people. Those meal preparations meant doing everything from scratch, baking bread, canning fruit,etc. Laundry was a hand cranked washing machine. It was a season of picking and drying apples, feeding other apple pickers and serving as the postmistress three days a week.

Jack & Elsie's Resort

Jack & Elsie’s Resort

Since I can only remember her in the calm, quiet season of retirement, reading her diary gives me a view into that season of her life. Two of our grandchildren just came for a five-day visit. I am wondering how they will remember me years from now. Will picking roses and blueberries and reading “Green Eggs and Ham “in a silly, rapid fire voice be all that they remember of me? My fondest memories are not of her reading me books but of her telling me true stories, many of them from that busiest of sweet seasons of her life. Thanks for the rich memories Grammy Elsie.
About 1984. Elsie with our family on Palomar. She was still coming up her mountain even at age 96.

About 1984. Elsie with our family on Palomar. She was still coming up her mountain even at age 96.

Research Adventures

17 Feb

I have a new picture for Elsie’s second book. It came down to me from “the cloud.” Well, it did come by e-mail and I felt like it floated down from heaven. I had read in Elsie’s notes (written when she was 18):
“1906- After Papa bought the Apple ranch on Palomar he spent the fall living on the mountain. In June he drove the wagon down to Long Beach and my sisters and I returned to the mountain for each summer. Those trips will never be forgotten. Sometimes we more or less followed the coast as far as Oceanside. We camped out at night. Papa grew to love camping so much that we used to laugh about it and say that he must have gypsy blood. In those days Southern California had vast wild areas and scattered ranches. Along in the afternoon we would watch for a farm where we might be able to buy hay. Still trying to save weight Papa would get only enough for feed for that night and the next morning.
Next we looked for a camping spot, near the lonely road and not far from some farm where hospitality extended to the use of water. A fire would be built; groceries for supper would be unpacked. It was then that the hay left for the team’s breakfast would be spread as a mattress for our beds.
Our side journey to the Guajome Ranch was probably a part of one of our travels by way of Oceanside, our alternate route between Long Beach and the mountain. In 1906 we camped not far from San Juan Capistrano Mission, no doubt the first night out from Long Beach. It was down toward the beach in a wild, isolated spot, and that night coyotes howled nearby. My dear Caroline Harnett was going with us for a month at Palomar. Used to her huge family, she had never been away from all of them a night before; nor had she ever slept in the open. I remember her terror at that weird wailing, which I still love to hear anywhere. Once in passing near the mission we spent some time at its ruins. A Kodak picture shows me on horseback among the fallen walls.”
Elsie came from a long line of “preservers of history,” (she was too genteel to be referred to as a hoarder). As a child I remember days when she opened her cedar chest to reveal amazing bits of family history. When Elsie retired from serving as a school librarian for La Mesa elementary she began to visit history classes displaying some of her treasures from the cedar chest. There were invitations to inaugural balls from the 1800’s, and an autograph book that included Ulysses S Grant and Abraham Lincoln , among others. There was also a treasured letter written to her aunt from Susan B. Anthony. Among her treasures were photos of Elsie’s grandfather, William Nairn Reed. He had come west with the band of 49ers. There were pictures of cousins left behind in Virginia. I knew none of the people in the pictures from Virginia, but being the preserver of history I held onto them.

I wanted that photo from 1906 of Elsie riding her saddle horse.
My sister Nancy and I had searched all of our family photos – but that picture was not among all the treasured photos we had from Elsie. I had recently discovered a cousin named Mark, a descendant of one of Elsie’s Virginia cousins, via (Mark and I share William Nairn Reed as a great-great-grandfather.) I mailed him some photos that Elsie had saved among her treasures that were of his grandmother as a child. (Elsie kept in contact with her Virginia cousins when her family moved West in 1897, and they traded photos.) A couple of weeks ago Mark began to email photos to me asking if I could identify the people. He told me his photos inherited from his grandmother were in an envelope marked “California Cousins.” I restrained the shout that nearly escaped me while sitting in the library when I realized Mark had emailed me the very photo I had been searching for – Elsie on horseback at Capistrano Mission. In 1906 when photos were developed they didn’t come with doubles! The photo is labeled “Elsie on horseback beside the ruins of San Juan Capistrano mission.” Photos delivered from the cloud up in heaven.
Elsie Hayes  on horseback san luis reyes mission 1200 dpi r c3

I am so thankful we are now at 303 reviews on Amazon. I have another new cousin and what an adventure I am having writing this second book.

Apple Harvest on Elsie’s Mountain

19 Nov

Picking apples from trees Elsie's father planted in 1904 .

Picking apples from trees Elsie’s father planted in 1904 .

I recently enjoyed participating in the Palomar Mountain State Park Apple Harvest Fest. There were over 700 visitors that enjoyed the crisp fall mountain afternoon. It was memorable for me since many of the activities were unchanged from Elsie’s years on the mountain and my years as a child.
Apple Cider Press

Apple Cider Press

There was fresh apple cider being pressed, much in the same manner as it was done by Elsie 100 years ago (and 50 years ago when I was a teen). The children were enjoying the process of turning the large wheel that crushed the apples releasing the pungent smell. Of course it also released a few worms into the mix! The cider was heated, cinnamon stick added and I suppose the extra worm protein was the same as it has been for generations. Apple desserts and cider were free and in abundance, chili and cornbread sold.

weblg applefest #3websz CeciliaFolks were also entertained by mountain music, square dancing, Cecilia Borden spinning goat hair, and crafts for the children. I dressed in period costume (a resurrected outfit from a presentation of Fanny Crosby) and shared some of Elsie’s mountain apple history stories.

Curt & I demonstrating vintage apple sorter

Curt & I demonstrating vintage apple sorter

We demonstrated a vintage apple sorter that has survived 100 years of mountain weather. Perhaps the most awesome thought about mountain apple history for me is the longevity of the trees planted by my great grandfather 110 years ago. In the winter those old trees appear to be ready to be used for firewood. They are twisted and gnarled revealing years of neglect. But each spring the gorgeous young blossoms appear on these aged trees and each fall the apples delight many of us with apple cider, applesauce and an occasional apple dessert. Lovely to see how old can still be highly productive.
Alonzo Hayes planted this tree in 1904.

Alonzo Hayes planted this tree in 1904.

Elsie recorded in her journals that they began picking apples August 1st with 10 boxes of early apples picked. The trees were so heavy with fruit that they held the branches up with props. One tree yielded 9 boxes. The apples sold for $2.65 for a 100. Apple varieties included Smith Cider, Ben Davis, Palomar Giants, Jonathans and a number of others. Jack pruned 260 trees in the spring. One thanksgiving there was snow on ground and they still had 2 apple pickers working. Elsie cooked fifteen stuffed quail as a substitute for a turkey.
Catherine Roberts, my mother, in an apple tree 1920.

Catherine Roberts, my mother, in an apple tree 1920.

One news article from 1923 said Jack & Elsie hired about 20 apple pickers during the season. Charming Swiss immigrant Gus Weber was in charge. That article told that once the apples were in they were graded, sorted and packed.
Elsie's Aunt Mamie holding Palomar Giant apples.

Elsie’s Aunt Mamie holding Palomar Giant apples.

This second book I am compiling is taken from Elsie’s records of life on Palomar Mountain. It covers her years as a teen (spending summers there), then her years as a young wife and mother operating the apple resort year round for 5 years, and finally her last 40 years as a widow and grandmother still reveling in the joy of trips to her beloved mountain.

Research in the New San Diego Public Libary

22 Sep

Research is an addictive thing. I will admit I love making discoveries. For our 47th wedding anniversary we rode the train from Oceanside to San Diego. We then took the trolley to the new San Diego public library. It opened a year ago, and was thirty years in the making. It has a reading room with a three story dome; over a million books; it is nine stories and nearly 500,000 square feet. It is awesome architecture.
My quest was in the San Diego history section and the gal who works on the 9th floor was helpful in so many ways. We researched old city directories that listed where people lived in 1924. I wanted to locate the home Elsie and Jack moved to from Palomar in 1924. We recently drove down Panorama Ave., the street with almost all homes vintage, from early 1900’s. Elsie address was 4800 Panorama, but the last house on that street today is 4798. What happened to 4800? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what happened to the house, but I discovered some amazing facts about that small neighborhood while at the library. The street ends at a small park of which I took little notice. Research revealed that the Mission Cliff Park was apparently “the place to go” just a few years before Jack and Elsie and my mother moved there. In 1897 it even had a German beer garden, a merry-go-round, a shooting gallery and a pavilion for dancing parties. Vaudeville companies performed there and there was a wooden observatory that allowed patrons to view Mission Valley. By 1907 there was a syndicate in San Diego that had plans to build exclusive luxury homes along Panorama Drive. It was THE place to live. Elsie, Jack and my mother Catherine rented a home on that lovely street overlooking the valley. On many days in 1924 Elsie wrote in her diary, “…worked in the canyon and love that.” That canyonside is right above Texas Street and it is hard to imagine anyone spending time developing a garden on that steep hillside above that very busy street. It was a wonderful time for her.
Elsie also wrote about one of the men hired during apple season on Palomar who seemed to be able to display his knowledge on almost any subject during meal times. Apparently this apple picker worked during apple season so that all winter he could rent a cheap room in downtown San Diego near the library. He simply spent months at the library absorbing facts and history. Sounds like a plan to me!

Waiting for the trolley. The large dome behind me is the new San Diego Public Library

Waiting for the trolley. The large dome behind me is the new San Diego Public Library

The St James Hotel will be mentioned in the next book. I will leave it a mystery as to how it is involved.

The St James Hotel will be mentioned in the next book. I will leave it a mystery as to how it is involved.

It has been nearly 3 years since I first published “Elsie.” I continue to hear from readers that have enjoyed reading about her life of 100 years ago. Thrilled that the number of Amazon reviews are now at 291. Curt has promised a special treat if I reach 300. Elsie would be amazed.


24 Apr

April was an amazing month of rediscovery. My mother was an only child, so I had no first cousins on her side. My mother had nine first cousins. As a child I remember a couple of reunions with my mother Katie’s cousins. When I left home in 1967 I lost touch with that side of the family. After “Elsie” was published I sent a copy to Dorothy, Elsie’s first great-niece mentioned in the book. I had a lovely letter from her thanking me for the book. I also had a lovely letter from Elsie’s youngest nephew Cameron Burley. Yet, I remained out of contact with most of the other relations. I was thrilled when a Pinterest post of the book “Elsie” was noticed by one of my long-lost relations. She contacted me and thus began a lovely time of reconnecting. It was fitting that the first gathering of lost cousins should take place on Palomar Mountain. We shared old family photos, family history and the connection between Elsie and her sisters Hylinda and Alice.

Alice's granddaughters Marilyn and Chris  enjoying old family photos with Barb.

Alice’s granddaughters Marilyn and Chris enjoying old family photos with me.

We stood beneath the apple trees our great-grandfather had planted in 1906.

Like the glorious new blossoms on the trees we had a friendship blooming there on Palomar.

Apple blossom's from 1906 tree.

Apple blossom’s from 1906 tree.


There are no words to describe the thrill of knowing Elsie and her sisters had loved and played where we took our photos 110 years later.

Chris, Evelyn, Rosie, Edie, Ray & me beneath a tree that our great grandfather Alonzo planted.

Chris, Evelyn, Rosie, Edie, Ray & Barb beneath tree that our great grandfather Alonzo planted 1906.

Ray, Edie’s handsome young son, represented the fifth generation of a Hayes relations to stand there.
When my grandchildren and my brother Dan’s grandchildren gather apples there they represent Alonzo Hayes’ 6th generation gathering apples from his trees.
Mateo, Talia & Sarina Waite- 6th Generation under Alonzo's apple trees in fall, 2012

Mateo, Talia & Sarina Waite – 6th Generation under Alonzo’s apple trees in fall, 2012.

Perhaps my mother’s favorite cousin was Samuel Urshan. I remember Uncle Sam as a handsome and charming man. Sam had been a captain in the US Army Air Force during World War II. He flew 29 bombing missions over Japan. In 1952 he flew 45 missions over Korea. His self-portrait hung in my sons’ bedroom for many years. I knew Ray might enjoy this painting created by his great uncle Sam in 1947.

Sam Urshan- self portrait painted 1947.

Sam Urshan- self portrait painted 1947.

I was delighted to give Ray this reminder of family history.
As far as I know, Sam never had an experience like he painted here.

As far as I know, Sam never had an experience like he painted here.

I think of how pleased Elsie would be that the family reconnected on her beloved mountain. The continued story of the Elsie’s years on Palomar is coming together. I hope to publish it by December. I am grateful that Elsie’s story of her Arizona years continues to sell. Montezuma Castle National Monument just ordered an additional 20 copies as I write this. That brings the orders from National Parks to 570 copies. Thanks to all those who have added 277 Amazon reviews. I never dreamed publishing Elsie’s story would reconnect me with cousins. What a glorious gift Elsie has given me.
Cousins, granddaughters for  Elsie and her sisters on inspiration point where Sunday Vespers took place 110 years ago.

Cousins, granddaughters for Elsie and her sisters on inspiration point where Sunday Vespers took place 110 years ago.

Elsie’s Ancestor Ended Salem Witch Trails

24 Mar

March is recognized in the USA as Women’s History Month. I love reading about historical women and the contribution they have made to history. Elsie was a great story teller and I loved hearing her recount family stories. Often it is after it is too late to question our family that we become interested in the old family stories. Perhaps because we are so busy creating our own story that we fail to realize how important history within our own family is.
I remember Elsie telling me a story about the Hale side of the family. I knew Nathan Hale, the martyr spy, was way back there in our family history. My brother was named Daniel Hale Beishline in honor of the Hale side of the family. Elsie had often told the story about Rev. John Hale, born in Massachusetts in 1636, graduated from Harvard in 1657. He was the pastor of the church in Salem, Massachusetts from 1668 for 33 years. John Hale was present during the witchcraft trials in Salem. In 1692 Rev. John Hale’s wife Sarah Noyes Hale was accused of witchcraft. Elsie had always told me that Sarah Hale was of such good character that public faith was shaken in the trials after that. The community was convinced that the accusers had perjured themselves, thus Sarah’s life put a close to the tragedy of the witchcraft trials in Salem. Years after Elsie death I watched a movie called “The Crucible” (which I would not recommend) and there before me was the story of the end of the witchcraft trials and Sarah Hale’s role in that, just like Elsie had told me. Sad that a movie helped validate what Elsie had described to me as a child. Thank you Elsie for telling me stories.
Here is the answer from a question about Elsie’s sisters for a reader.
Hylinda married Dec, 1919 to Absalom Urshan and had 2 children, Sarah and Sam- Hylinda died in 1934.
Elsie’s only child was my mother Catherine May Beishline born in 1918.
Alice and Ernest Burley had 7 children. Two of Alice’s children, Rosalyn and Cameron are still living.

1978- Elsie age 90 surrounded by books and grandchildren Carin, Christopher & Dan Waite

1978- Elsie age 90 surrounded by books
and grandchildren Carin, Christopher & Dan Waite

Elsie -age 97- her ever present smile. 1985

Elsie -age 97- her ever present smile. 1985


26 Feb

I love books that take me to faraway places and new experiences. One of the unexpected delights in writing “Elsie” has been meeting readers from faraway places. This last week I was honored and privileged to meet Mary Campbell and her 92 year old mother Edith Cox. As soon as we met, Mary explained that everyone calls her mother “Granny.” I was drawn to Edith, and to call her “Granny” during our short visit was a sweet privilege. Mary had written a year ago explaining how she had grown up on a 22-acre apple farm near Hendersonville, North Carolina. I was intrigued when Mary described how her life growing up in N.C. was similar to Elsie’s first Arizona year. Mary shared with me a 1969 newspaper article written about her family farm. The article described the farm as having no indoor plumbing, no electricity and must be reached on foot. It said “Looking down on the old two room cabin it seems time has rolled back at least 100 years.” The article spoke of light from kerosene lamps , the wood stove for cooking and water being carried from the spring for drinking, bathing and washing dishes.

Edith Cox, Barb  and Mary Campbell

Edith Cox, Barb and Mary Campbell

Mary showed me the beautiful antique butter churn she used as a girl. We viewed the smoke house still in use. Edith still uses the classic wood stove for heat and cooking. Her other daughter had prepared greens and beans that sat atop the stove ready for the day ahead. Edith demonstrated her electronic Bible, a small device that she could both hear and see. Mary had written me a year ago and I knew we would be kindred spirits. Mary wrote telling me that “Three days after I turned 18 I left farm life. No more hoeing and picking beans and apples for me.
The barns are larger buildings to the top of photo. The white roof to the front is where Granny now lives. The small two room cabin where Mary grew up is small building in the center right of photo.

The barns are larger buildings to the top of photo. The white roof to the front is where Granny now lives. The small two room cabin where Mary grew up is small building in the center right of photo.

Hendersonville (4)weblgI joined the Air Force in Aug. of 1970. In April of ’71 I married an AF sergeant from Ohio. I am so honored to have grown up in the little cabin and have the wonderful memories of a time long lost to modern technology. My Uncle Daniel (Dad’s brother) built a small house for Mama and Daddy in 1973 that replaced the 2 room log cabin.” When Mary’s husband retired from the Air Force they came home to Mary’s N.C. farm and her Mama.
Mary also wrote this fun story:
“In days past it was normal for farmers in the area to drop by and have lunch with Mama and Daddy unannounced. It never seemed to bother Mama, in fact, she thrived on it. Daddy always bragged on Mama’s cooking. One of my favorite stories is back in the 80’s a car pulled up in the yard and dad hollered, ‘Come in.’ A man appeared at the door and said, ‘Well, I can’t, my wife is in the car and has no legs and we don’t have her wheel chair.’ Daddy took a chair from the table and together Dad and the man placed the lady in the chair and sat her at the table. They all four enjoyed a great meal and fellowship and after an hour or so they left. Daddy said to Mom, ‘Just who was those people?’ to which Mama said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I thought they were your friends.’”

Granny still cooks on this classic wood burning stove.

Granny still cooks on this classic wood burning stove.

As I left Granny called me back inside because she wanted to offer me a gift. I will treasure the small thimble and cute little dragon-fly garden ornament that says “God Bless You.” It is clear God has richly blessed Edith with daughters that love and care for her. I felt blessed for having been privileged to visit this family.
I appreciate so much the many that have taken time to write saying they appreciated “Elsie.”

100 Year Old Birthday Wishes For Elsie- From Her Sister Alice

22 Jan

Elsie (holding her lifelike wax doll),Alice & Hylinda. Gilman is Elsie's brother who died when he was 14.

Elsie (holding her lifelike wax doll),Alice & Hylinda. Gilman is Elsie’s brother who died when he was 14.

Elsie Hayes was born on Jan 22, 1888 in Alexandria, Virginia. I was blessed to be her first granddaughter. I am deeply thankful that I had her in my life for 40 years. Perhaps one of the sweetest letters included in “Elsie’s book” is a rather short note from her younger sister Alice, written for Elsie’s 26th birthday, the first spent in Arizona. I share it with you today in tribute to the love these two sisters shared for over 90 years. They were more than sisters, they were friends. After both of their husbands had died Elsie & Alice took a 3 month trip to Great Britain to visit Jack’s remaining family in Wales and Ernest’s remaining family in England. Elsie was 80 when they made their first trip. I recently read the travel journal Elsie kept for that trip. They experienced a rich bond as sisters and a life-long friendship. For some unknown reason Alice’s pet name for Elsie was “Sylvia.” So here are Alice’s 100 year old Birthday wishes for Elsie:
January 22, 1914
Sylvia Dearheart,
This is just a little word for your birthday—which is so wonderfully different from the one a year ago! Whole cycles apart they are. You might have been the inhabitant of another planet a year ago so unsure you were of life’s substantial gifts, because the flesh was weak but now you are here and a world of blessings will make this the richest new year of all. Not that its path is clear, but I believe it leads toward clearer light and deeper gladness.
I am not going to write you any definite wishes. You know well enough that I wish you every lovely fulfillment, just as soon as God sees you are ready for the numberless gifts. I’m just thankful with you, beloved, and glad you are my friend for all the splendid years ahead; for the rich things your life will add with zest to mine. But my deepest wishes are written not on its pages but in your heart that will make no mistake in the deciphering.
God bless You Dear Elsie-Sylvia,
Your Ever Loving Alice
This 100 year old note brings tears to my eyes and a desire to communicate such rich words to my family more often. Thank You Elsie and Alice for continuing to teach me, now, 100 years later, the lasting value of sharing love with your family through letters. Elsie’s Birthday is still fondly remembered by this granddaughter who misses her and cherishes the record she left forever in her letters.
I am pleased that another 40 books were recently ordered by Arizona’s National Parks. Elsie would be amazed that 525 copies of her Arizona letters & diary entries have been sold by these two parks alone. I continue to be blessed by generous reviews, and humbled by a few negative ones as well. I laughed that one disgruntled reader wrote that she found the book “very old fashioned.” I find it amazing that 261 have taken the time to comment in a review. Thanks to all of you who keep encouraging me to finish “Elsie’s Mountain Years.”
Maybe take time today to surprise someone you love with a note that says “I’m just thankful with you, beloved, and glad you are my friend for all the splendid years ahead; for the rich things your life will add with zest to mine.”
Alice & Elsie  January 22,1983. Note the stacks of books- Elsie remained a life long lover of books.

Alice & Elsie January 22,1983. Note the stacks of books- Elsie remained a life long lover of books.

The Gift of Family History

10 Dec

Recording Family History
What a gift Elsie’s diary and letters have been to me. Though they are quite ordinary, and some might even consider them “boring,” for me they are a treasured time capsule of what life was like more than 100 years ago.
Elsie’s Diary entry for today, 99 years ago, was one of the saddest that she wrote. Since high school days she and two very close friends had called themselves “The Triumverate.” One of the three, Caroline, died just before Elsie graduated from Long Beach High in 1907. Ruth, the remaining friend, had been ill for some time with tuberculosis. Elsie wrote:
Dec. 10th, 1914 “A day I cannot forget. I heard the sweet news about my little sister, Alice, and was moved and glad she is expecting. I went to the Women’s club, and in the evening to the movies with Mr. Connor, and dared not open a letter ‘til he left. Then I knew that I only am left of Triumverate. May God be with me. The girls helped. In a snowstorm we took a letter for Alice to the night train.”
What are you leaving behind that reveals something about your heart and life to those who follow? One hundred years from now there may very well be family members that will wonder what your life was like. Our youngest son will soon be 32. He was discussing the other day how much life has changed just during his 32 years. He says many young adults that are just ten years younger than he is can’t imagine a world without technology, cell phones, computers, instant google answers to almost any question. I find it amazing that Elsie when she was over age 90 wrote a poem about computerized dating in the early 1980’s. I recently was tossing papers and came across a financial journal we kept in 1967. I had forgotten how inexpensively we lived. It was interesting to read through that financial list. Other than perhaps a faded photograph, how much do we know about what life was like for our family of 100 years ago?
Elsie was my mother’s mother, and I was privileged to learn much from her about her family history. My father’s mother, Eva Letitia Woods, was a doctor in 1903. I have Eva’s quaint framed medical diploma. There must have been an interesting story behind becoming a female doctor 110 years ago. Sadly I know nothing of that part of Eva’s life. She died when I was 11 and I am sorry that I never asked her about her family history or what it was like to be a doctor in those times.
I challenge those reading this to consider writing a small notebook that will leave a record for those who follow of what gave you joy, what sorrows you lived through and what life was like for you growing up. In fact, I think grandmothers should leave some sort of testimony behind for each of our grandchildren. Record the ordinary things and someday they will be fascinating little facts that shed light on our ordinary lives. “Little House on The Prairie” was just that, a record of what life was like for an ordinary girl. “Elsie” is that sort of ordinary record too, of teaching 100 years ago in the Wild West. EHtriumverateSMtitleweb sz
This photo from Elsie’s scrapbook shows how they signed notes to each other with their 3 initials, C, R, & E intertwined.

If Walls Could Only Talk

31 Oct

We just returned from a delightful 2-1/2 weeks in Southeast Asia. Our daughter, Carin, has followed in the footsteps of her great-grandmother Elsie. Carin and her husband Craig are teaching in Penang, Malaysia. Carin is teaching High School English at an international school. Elsie would be thrilled to know that Carin is an English teacher. While Carin was on fall break we took a wonderful couple of days and drove 6 hours up into the mile-high Cameron Highlands. Penang is 5 degrees North of the equator and is hot year round. The Cameron Highlands have been a refreshing retreat since the road was completed in 1931. Tea plantations were begun by entrepreneurs, and British colonists discovering the cooler climate of the Highlands began to make it a popular retreat. In 1934 Anne Griffith-Jones opened a boarding school called Tanglin in the Cameron Highlands. By the early 1940’s the school consisted of 150 students, with 22 qualified teachers, most of the teachers being from Great Britain. Its curriculum was based on the British education system. In 1942 when the Japanese invaded Malaya the school was closed. Eventually the school was sold and transformed into a lovely guest house, now called Bala’s Chalet, where we spent our two nights in the highlands. Anne, born in 1891 was 3 years younger than Elsie. I can imagine they would have had some delightful chats if they would have met. Anne was the daughter of a Welsh barrister. In 1923 she came to Singapore on a 3 month holiday and decided to stay. One article described Anne as a “…traditional Victorian Schoolmistress.” She had originally opened the Tanglin Day School in Singapore, using traditional bamboo and attap palm leaf huts. In 1934 the school was moved to the Cameron Highlands. During WW II Anne was interned in Changi Goal POW camp and organized a makeshift school for internees.
Bala’s Chalet is charming and very whimsical and we had a delightful time. But I wished I could hear the walls talk. I could imagine Anne discussing how to deal with the homesick British schoolchildren. I could imagine those students discussing horseback riding and jungle walks. I could even imagine a conversation between Elsie the educator and her contemporary Anne of the Cameron Highlands. I think Anne’s story would make a great book.

Bala’s Chalet built in 1935, formerly Miss Anne Griffith-Jones Tanglin school
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Miss Anne Griffith-Jones (back row, fifth from left) with her staff and pupils outside the Tanglin Boarding School (c. 1930s). Photo credit: Tanglin Trust School, Singapore.
The school continued to grow until the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war, it reopened but was placed on armed guard. It closed in 1948 due to the advent of the Malayan Emergency.CameronHighlandsDay02 (12)weblgCameronHighlandsDay02 (112)weblg
We visited a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands and it was fascinating to view the lush green hillside covered with tea bushes that are close to 100 years old. If you ever desire to visit South East Asia I highly recommend the Cameron Highlands, Bala’s Chalet and dinner at The Smokehouse. Listen and maybe you will hear the walls talk about the history of this delightful area. Elsie would have loved it, I certainly did.CameronHighlandsDay02 (114)weblg
Carin & Craig and Edyn and Gabriel in the Cameron Highlands.

Modern Youths (1931) Weakened by Too Much Excitement & Ease

13 Sep

I have read with interest some of Elsie’s published articles written many years ago. By 1931 Elsie, Jack and my mother Catherine were living in the city. But Elsie’s article written for a teachers magazine in 1931 reflects that her heart was still longing for the country life she had experienced on Palomar Mountain. I will share excerpts from that article written 82 years ago.

Our Friend Nature
by Elsie Roberts -June 1931

A thousand years from now historians are apt to declare the parents of this era a paradox- studying the problems of child training as they were never studied before, yet too absorbed in their own hectic rush to come to close to their also over-stimulated children. [I wonder how Elsie would view the overstimulated children of today?] Sometimes this accusation is too true. There is at least one very definite way in which parents and children may not only come to understand each other better but both acquire meanwhile that vital sharing of common interests and joys, sense of leisure and serenity. This is in cultivating the out-of-doors. It need not be done with hoes or tractor, but by being upon more intimate calling terms with nature. Grant that modern life is too complicated and artificial for the greatest good of the coming generation, then go to the direct source for all that is simple and natural.

In California even city dwellers have abundant opportunities to give their children recreation, if not work, out of doors. Yet often these opportunities are neglected. Of course the youngsters play outside. But as they grow older do they always arrange for picnics and mountain weekend’s as eagerly as we might? Is a love of the great open spaces an essential part of their lives, and is it fully satisfied? Is a beach or mountain trip included in the budget even if the renovating of the furniture has to be postponed?

The very recent trend is, fortunately, a reaction back to the land. There is a growing appreciation of the out of doors. We have innumerable nature study groups and summer camps for boys and girls, while out in the rural districts the splendid 4-H clubs are becoming more and more popular, helping the farm youngsters to value their peculiar advantages. Some modern parents, no matter how fond of bridge or business realize that hikes to the foothills with their children are more important. One such admits that she hopes they may prove a specific antidote to jazz.[Remember Elsie wrote this in 1931!]

Like all other good things, a real interest in nature needs to be encouraged and developed. A parent can’t afford to loaf on this job. The earlier he starts and the more fascinating he makes it, the more surely the child will respond. diversions particularly strengthen the bond between fathers and mothers and their offspring. As the youngsters energies are not satisfied by scenery alone, it is well that books, hobbies, and sports should give added contact with nature, and foster a deep friendship with her.

Yet nature in her various aspects is herself fascinating, even thrilling. Here the outside is always available; and though we do miss the novelty of definitely separate seasons; these can always be seen in our own never too distant mountains. Often California families not only stay there while in the summer, but in winter take the children to see the snow. Yet many do not realize how easily they may also let their native sons and daughters know the charm of Eastern Springtime- that burgeoning of bare boughs, bursts of clear streams from every mountain slope to meadows blossoming with butter cups and blue violets and aged with tasseling Oaks and the still white beauty of dogwood trees. Every child has the right to discover for himself that it is anything but boresome!-To leave the beaten trails, to know the forest primeval.

An appreciation of beauty is indeed the greatest asset of culture. An acquaintance with nature is a vital part of education, interpreting and adding to the enjoyment of the formal arts, while in itself it is indispensable. A charming girl lately exclaimed over a marvelous thicket of the azaleas beside a far isolated mountain stream; “they smell like heavenly French perfume! But why did anybody plant all those way off here?”

How many, having eyes see not! It is as true as it is trite that one’s vision is foreshortened by his own limitations, and he sees only that which he knows how to look for. So many a youth, tragically and unnecessarily bored, goes blindly on, never dreaming of the freshness and glory of the out-of-doors. If a primrose by a rivers brim is to him nothing more, it is his loss, but perhaps his parents fault. What better can education do than to train his perceptions and enlarge his capacities?

In this so-called machine age the aesthetic urge needs special encouragement, and with it the inextricable intermingled spiritual values. Nature can add unspeakably to inner resources. Where there is the feeling that a thousand years are but as yesterday, sanity comes out of chaos. The famous surgeon, Dr. Charles May,o is quoted as recently telling a women’s club that the very prevalent mental disorders are caused by our speed of life and the fact that we are an emotional people. Overwrought nerves are considered one great cause of juvenile delinquency. But though the youths fiber may be weakened by too much excitement and ease, his instincts are right. As a reaction to the modern strain he craves the primitive, reveling in “Western” novels and talkies [ By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global phenomenon.] Let him know the figurative West in a literal way!

I would love to hear from you some response to Elsie’s thoughts of 1931.


12 Aug

Arizona is an awesome State in which to take a short summer vacation! Yes, it was hot in Phoenix as we briefly stopped there to spend the night, however Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona were temperature-perfect and we delighted in awesome views and weather last week.
We traveled first to Wickenburg to drop of 20 copies of “Elsie” at Desert Caballeros Museum and at a nice gift shop called Old Livery. Arizona has some very unique and interesting museums. We then went on to Prescott where we discovered a new bookstore since our last visit. The Perigrine Bookshop opened about 9 months ago and happily took a couple of copies of “Elsie.” I love independent bookstores! The Javalina Cantina in Sedona was recommended for dinner and it was good advice. This is the second time we have stayed at “The Views Inn” there. It is very attractive and it does have a spectacular view.
The next morning we drove to Flagstaff via Oak Creek Canyon. I have seen it several times but each time it leaves me in awe of God’s creativity. It is easy to understand why Elsie wrote 100 years ago that the schoolroom doors flew open and a person riding a horse shouted into the school “creek’s up!” Elsie was amazed that they did not ask permission but students fled out of the school for their homes. The water flowing down those steep mountainsides rushed down Oak Creek Canyon and would make a dangerous crossing of lower Oak Creek for students.
In Flagstaff we visited 3 locations that sell “Elsie” and dropped off a few more books. We also visited a new gift store that may soon carry “Elsie.” This one was in the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. It was built in 1904 and was the home of two Riordan families. It contains over 40 rooms and is the arts & crafts style of architecture. They do guided tours and reservations are recommended. It is worth a visit when in Flagstaff.
From Flagstaff we drove back down into Sedona on Schnebly Hill Road, an unpaved Forest Service road that drops steeply down into Oak Creek canyon. Quite an off-road adventure! The signs warn: “Dirt road requires high clearance vehicle.” I felt like perhaps it might add “life insurance recommended.” We passed a number of cute pink tourist jeeps that were enjoying the beauty of the red rocks. We made a quick stop at the Sedona Historical Society and they too may begin to carry “Elsie.” We briefly stopped for our son Joshua to look at Montezuma’s Castle National Park. That is the location where Elsie spoke of Karl teasing her by extinguishing the lamp once they were up inside the cold pitch black Indian dwellings and claiming he had no matches. She often told the story of feeling genuine terror of being trapped forever in those caves. The dwellings were declared a U.S. National Monument in 1906. There is a paved trail a 1/4 mile from the visitor center along the base of the cliff containing the ruins. Access to the ruins has not been allowed since 1950. About 350,000 tourists visit the site each year. I was thrilled that a recent letter was from a reader in Australia who bought “Elsie” at Tuzigoot National Monument when visiting friends in Arizona. This reader wrote from Australia to say how much she had enjoyed the book. I LOVE hearing from readers and am delighted with 233 reviews on Amazon. August 15 & 16 the kindle version of “Elsie” will once again be free. Please let any friends know that might enjoy a free Kindle copy. DSC_0120weblgDSC_0123weblgDSC_0107weblg

4,000 Words Worth of Photos

9 Jul

So very sad that Elsie’s only Grandson and my treasured brother, Daniel Hale Beishline died April 15th. He was 70 and loved and respected by all who knew him. This was my favorite photo of my sister Nancy and I with Dan.
The second photo is one of the last photos of Elsie on her beloved Palomar Mountain. She is surrounded by our family.Chr09Slides02_0018weblg

Our grandchildren, Elsie’s great-great grand-children were up Palomar Mountain last weekend.This is the evening hike near the old property where Elsie hiked more than 100 years ago. Tradition is such a special thing.DSC_0075weblg

I would love to hear from you. Letters encourage me to keep writing “Elsie’s Mountain Years.” Thankful for 229 reviews for Elsie. Thankful Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle National Park have ordered another 40 copies. I think between those two National Parks they have purchased nearly 600 copies.
At the Memorial for my brother Dan I reconnected with my childhood mountain friend Stephanie Bailey Cooper. We roamed the mountain while staying with our grandmothers during the summers. IMG_0587weblg

Traveling Back in Time- Palomar Mountain via Nate Harrison Grade

25 Jun

Elsie moved from Virginia to Long Beach, California in 1897. The city of Long Beach had been incorporated that same year. The first lots in Long Beach were sold in 1881. It was advertised as a seaside resort community, but it was a semi-arid landscape. The variation of temperature between winter and summer was often only 20°. Today Long Beach is the seventh largest city in California. In 1897 the attraction to Elsie’s family was the health potential for her younger brother Gilman. Sadly, he only lived for seven years after they moved, dying in 1904. Elsie’s father, Alonzo Hayes, knew the family longed for the lush green countryside they had left behind in Virginia. So in the summer of 1904 Alonzo decided the family needed a trip up Smith Mountain. It was quite the adventure, taking three days by horse and wagon to travel about 120 miles. The family camped along the way sleeping under the wagon. In those days there was only a wagon track that made the ascent up the mountain grade. It took less than 10 miles to go from 700 feet to 4,700 feet. Today that wagon track is called the Nate Harrison grade. It is named for a freed slave who homesteaded a ranch that served early travelers by providing water for the horses and weary mountain visitors. Elsie told many stories about her friend Nate Harrison. He was quite the character and Elsie enjoyed the refreshment from his mountain spring and the shade from the lovely oak trees. Recently we decided to travel up Palomar Mountain (formerly Smith Mountain) via the Nate Harrison grade. It remains not much more than a wagon track. It is a graded road, extremely steep, winding through sagebrush until you reach the Nate Harrison ranch. Suddenly lovely oak trees replace the low sagebrush. The temperature seems to drop, the birds begin to sing and  you feel you are on a mountain. We were the only car attempting to ascend the mountain on Nate Harrison grade that day. I tried to imagine what it was like that first trip up for Elsie. Even in a four-wheel-drive vehicle I felt fear as I looked upon the treacherous drop-off. Yet I could imagine 16 year old Elsie giggling in delight as they approached the lovely oaks and the smiling “Uncle Nate”, as he affectionately became known to them. Soon after that first trip up the mountain Alonzo Hayes purchased an apple ranch that became their summer home. This week when my grandchildren travel up Palomar they represent the sixth generation to love the mountain. We will travel up the paved road created in the 1930’s. Perhaps someday my grandchildren will experience the adventure of traveling via the same road Elsie first took over 100 years ago. I look forward to the fall and the prospect of picking apples from the trees Alonzo planted in 1904. “Elsie’s Mountain Years” will include some of her stories about Uncle Nate and mountain travel in those early days. This photo taken a few weeks ago shows the windy road and the trees burned in a recent forest fire. I love hearing from readers and I am delighted with 225 Amazon reviews for “Elsie.”

Nate Harrison Grade


24 May

Wikipedia describes “semantic drift” as the evolution of word usage usually to the point that modern meaning is radically different from original usage. Every word has connotations which can be altered over time.

Some have asked why I didn’t attempt to write “Elsie” as a novel.  There are numerous reasons but one reason is that I loved the feel of reading her word choices.

I could have explained to readers that Elsie had a delightfully positive outlook.  For me it was more significant to let you discover that through her choice of words. She did occasionally write of school troubles, mischievous students and disgusting gossip. But she chose to use words like “ramble by the creek”, “splendid Santa Fe concert”, and “Jack and I tramped in the wilds… glorious.”  When I was a child she was already a widow living in a very small bungalow and working as a librarian. I suppose the word I heard her say most often that impressed me then was “glorious.”  Life was just exciting for her and quite often she described things as “glorious.”  I noticed in the book many of her early letters and diary entries used the word “splendid.” It was only after she met Jack that her favorite word became “glorious.” At age 29 love brought her joy and made life “glorious.”

I absolutely love hearing from readers.  One recently wrote: “My favorite word in it (the book) so far, ‘cunning.’ My grandmother always used that word to mean attractive & small, not evasive.” Sure enough, when I looked, one dictionary defines cunning as “Marked by or given to artful subtlety and deceptiveness.” So I sat down with my book after  that note from that reader looking for words that are not in use today or have had a semantic drift from how Elsie used it.

Here are some examples:

“I won’t write decently…but you should see my blackboard penmanship!” Since almost everyone today uses a keyboard  to write “penmanship “is a dying art.

Elsie wrote of studying the “school laws.” Teachers help me out here. Do they ever speak now of “school laws?”

“I thought ‘white slavery’ with horror” Today we would refer to human trafficking.

“I gave some of the cake in oiled paper.”  I imagine she was referring to a sort of waxed paper.

“In order to be sensible…”  Somehow I think sensible has disappeared from our word usage – and lives.

“Some of my children are dear…others are common” Oops, surely not used today in our politically correct world.

“We’ll have to take a KODAK next time.”  (Photograph.)

“One of my little boys has just ridden off in chaps. He looks so cunning!”

“If they send me a wire.”

“I feel unutterably more glad.”

“I seem to be getting very husky.”  No woman today would ever refer to herself as husky.

We ate at a rough “oil-cloth” covered table beside the gay, howling ‘Pike’ and ordered hamburg steak.”

“Little Howard Turtley called on me.”  Too bad we seem to have lost the art of “calling” on people. We text.

“Struggles at school with wayward children.”

“Worn to a frazzle.”  I imagine today she would say “stressed-out. “ I feel sure stress existed for teachers back 100 years ago but that word did not appear to be in Elsie’s vocabulary.

“Talked most seriously to Campbell and Carl, ‘moral suasion’ when I thought of the strap.”

“Mr. Twitty took us out in machine.”  “Lovely machine trip.”

“Dick Connors asked me to go see the ‘pictures.’”

“Listened to Victrola.”

“Rushed home and donned a middy and went on a picnic.”  This is perhaps my favorite “semantic drift.”

“Reveled in Dorothy.”

“Mrs. Gold is a tonic.”

“The apparatus was lost in the boat.” This was in reference to an early movie camera.

“Myra wasn’t very trim.”  I added a footnote in the book to that one because I knew she was saying Myra’s diaper was dirty! This is my second favorite semantic drift Elsie used.

“They are in slang what we call ‘mutts!’”  This was not in reference to a dog but some men.

“We made a compact.”

“I also got a bungalow apron housedress.”

“Took a bus for Elsinore. During a puncture delay…”

So my treasured readers do you have a favorite semantic drift that you liked in the book?  It would be ‘glorious’ to hear from some of you. I am elated to have 214 reviews. Thanks, readers, for input.



May Day -Long Beach High 1907

30 Apr

 I love vintage photos. This May Pole picture from Elsie’s years at Long Beach High School is one of my favorites.  Elsie is dressed as  Alice in Wonderland, 5th from the right. Her friend Ruth, mentioned in the book, is next to Elsie in a white dress.  Elsie  is wearing a white apron and holding  a ribbon.  This will be a photo included in “Elsie’s Mountain Years.”

This lovely poem written by Elsie had a date written on it indicating she had written it during the years of the great depression.   Elsie’s family had sold the apple ranch and she was cherishing her memories of her beloved mountain. In 1947, the year Jack died and the year I was born,  Elsie began her third season of life on Palomar Mountain. She had fallen in love with Palomar in 1904 when she went up as a 16 year old girl. Then she spent a number of years as a young bride and new mother operating the apple ranch and resort on Palomar. The property was lost about the time the great  depression hit. Her third season of returning to the mountain she loved was in 1947 when my parents and Elsie went together to build a small and still-beloved cabin. It was in the years between, when she only had memories, that she wrote “Haunted.”


by Elsie Roberts

There are those who fear shapes in the darkness,

Those who tremble at dream visitations—

Ah, but I—I am haunted by beauty,

When the past and absent are present,

And, with magic of memory, mountains

Far away, long unseen, rise about me.

In the blackness of night, tossing, sleepless,

(Then when all things are hidden, and seen, too;)

Or perchance it may be at mid-morning,

As from prosaic floors dust is garnered,

They are there: sudden, vivid, a vision.

Autumn leaves on a trail that winds, climbing;

High above, swaying evergreen branches;

Shining vistas of breath-taking grandeur;

Frail wild flowers by waterfalls nodding.

I hear birdcalls and wind in the forest,

Catch the tang and fragrance of mountains.

What a boon, to be haunted by beauty!

I am thrilled to discover that many readers have enjoyed Elsie’s descriptions of life in the new state of Arizona.  I thank readers who have taken the time to write reviews. Amazon’s Elsie page  now has 203. The Goodreads  webpage has a feature called Listopia. There are  thousands of books that people have added as favorites  to these lists according to the genre. ” Elsie” has been voted on in 4 of the many lists. Here is the link to those lists

I was amazed to see “Elsie” is #1 in “The Old West in First Person” from 96 books. Voted second in the “American Frontier” list  out of  196 books. It is also listed in “Women’s Journals & Diaries in History”  and “Women’s Correspondence-Letters in History.”  I am grateful for readers who have been so supportive.

On May 1st and 2nd “Elsie” will be FREE again as a KINDLE book. I appreciate it if you would spread the word. Three months ago when it was free there were almost 20,000 downloads! I wonder how many more kindle readers are out there?

Happy May Day !


4 Apr

Here is one of the interesting stories that will be included in “Elsie’s Mountain Years.”

My mother Catherine  was born in Elsinore, California March 31, 1918.  She always referred to herself as a “rare” native Californian.  However, from her birth until  Sept. 3, 1920 my mother Catherine was actually an “alien” residing in California. Her mother, Elsie was born in Virginia in 1888, but she, and her children, were classified as aliens in the eyes of the U.S. government when she married Jack because he was a Welsh citizen.  This was because, after 1907, marriage determined a woman’s nationality  completely. Under the act of March 2, 1907, all women acquired their husband’s nationality upon any marriage occurring after that date. This meant U.S.-born women citizens  lost their citizenship by any marriage to an alien.

On September 22, 1922, Congress passed the Married Women’s Act, also known as the Cable Act. This 1922 law finally gave each woman a nationality of her own. No marriage since that date has granted U.S. citizenship to any alien women who married American husbands, nor taken it from any U.S.-born women who married an alien.

Jack became a naturalized citizen on Sept. 3, 1920. One of the stories Elsie loved to share was about her father turning over the official United States postal bag to her once she could be recognized as The Postmistress of Palomar Mountain.  As an alien she could officially only assist her father but not serve as Postmistress. So the newspaper did this wonderful picture of  Alonzo Hayes turning over the leather mailbag to Elsie when she became a citizen once again.

How I wish I had that old mailbag. Elsie served  for several years as postmistress on Palomar Mountain.  As a child I loved helping Adalind Bailey while she served as Postmistress on Palomar.  Her Granddaughter Stephanie and I  thought it was great fun. The old Bailey Post Office had these lovely old wooden “cubby-holes”  that held each person’s  mail. While in high school I once challenged a friend that he could send a letter addressed to “Barb”  Palomar Mountain, California and it would reach me. He sent it and I think I might still have that letter sent on a dare.  I come from a long line of people who saved mementos.  That is why I can write books about Elsie.  She recorded so many memories on paper and saved everything.

I will share one other vintage photo  with you now. In March 1915 Elsie wrote about her sister Alice having a baby named Dorothy.  In Elsie’s diary for June 1915 she wrote, “All day long I have watched Dorothy, my own niece. I have held her close and tried to see life aright. I have loved too much. Alice and Ernest are good for me. I think wee Dorothy has saved me! I am trying to see the sunshine of life.”  That “wee baby”  Dorothy just celebrated her 98th birthday.  She wrote to tell me that she enjoyed reading “Elsie.” So here is a vintage picture of “wee” Dorothy and her handsome parents.  Happy Birthday dear Dorothy.


I am thrilled that I now have 192 reviews on Amazon. Special thanks to those of you who have encouraged me in this way. I am working on “Elsie’s Mountain Years” and looking forward to sharing more with you as I progress.

Elsie’s Mountain Years- A Winter Tale -Then & Now

2 Mar

One night journey up that old grade is certainly unforgettable. In fact, that whole trip is indelible. It was in December, 1909. We were again living in Long Beach, but for the first — and only — time my parents were trying out the idea of spending the winter at the ranch, where we girls were then there for the holidays. Hylinda must have been at Los Angeles Normal school that year and for some reason she did not go up to Palomar for Christmas. Alice was staying with our friends the Hands and attending High School in Pasadena. I was a Pomona College Junior, living in Sumner Hall, then the girls’ dormitory. A few days before Christmas Alice took the Santa Fe at Pasadena, I got on the same train when it stopped in Claremont, and Papa met us with team and wagon in Temecula.

Breakfast was early, before our thirty-mile drive. But we were only on the lower reaches of the grade when dusk fell. It was bitter weather. We all wore heavy coats, but the icy wind chilled us through and through. As usual, we girls walked part of the way up to save the horses. When we climbed back to the seat we were glad to pull about us the heavy quilts Mama had thoughtfully provided.

“It’s going to storm, all right.”  Papa said hoarsely looking at the black sky that seemed to surround us. “And it’s getting so dark I can’t see the road. One of you will have to walk ahead and carry the lantern.”

We put the thick quilts over our heads and fastened them under our chins with big safety pins (those must have been sent down by our loving mother, too). As we walked along the edge of the road the howling wind tore our “shawls” out like balloons and almost blew us over the precipices at the lower side of the grade. We took turns carrying the flickering lantern. The horses bent their heads and toiled ahead. Papa was bent, too and muffled and bearded.

On that dark night on the bleak mountain side I thought we must look like the Russian peasants I had seen pictured. Almost sixty years later that scene is still vivid in memory.

We reached the forest, and finally the ranch with its warm fires and warmer welcome. For days afterward Papa was very ill. Later Mama said it must have been pneumonia. And for days the snow fell, silently, endlessly. Mama and I went out with an axe and cut down a Christmas tree; Aunt Mamie filled our stockings, as she always did for Christmas, with contents earlier ordered from Sears and Roebuck, the “farmers’ Bible” which Alice brought out for reference on every possible occasion.     

For many years mail came to the “Nellie” post office at Baileys’ three times a week, the carrier and his horse using the using the old trail, once an almost impossibly steep road, a bit of which may still be seen near what is now the south grade up the mountain, built to provide a safer journey for the “Big Eye” of the observatory. Even when a mail day fell on a holiday the mall came, just the same. This year Christmas was a mail day. The storm was over, the sun brilliant across the fresh, deep snow and the evergreens. Never again, I fear, will there be such beauty on our mountain as on that pre-smog day when we had real rainy seasons. Beyond the verdant hills and valleys the ocean glittered with the distant islands standing out sharply in deep blue.

On that sacred day in the midst of such beauty my heart sang as I walked lightly on top of the snow through that shining world. Christmas gift packages and greetings that I carried back only added to my always-remembered joy.

Over 100 years since Elsie wrote that winter tale , the fifth generation ( our youngest son Joshua) was on Palomar enjoying a winter wonderland. Joshua is Elsie’s youngest great grandchild. I posted a picture of his truck in the snow. What took Elsie a full day via horse and wagon (from Temecula to the mountain top) took Joshua less than an hour. I added a picture to show the winding mountain road, now paved and maintained. The sign beside Josh says “Since 1904.” I spent several days working on the next book and wanted to share with you a little excerpt of this winter story she wrote. The pictures at the top are Alice and Elsie in the snow and her father Alonzo Hayes driving the wagon up Palomar.


9 Feb

John Beckman is a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecast the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV.
In his TV career he was the winner of many awards including two Emmys for his predictions of severe weather. He also writes books and I discovered this “gem” on his blog :

The Price isn’t Right!

“I am reading a fascinating book entitled, “Elsie – Adventures of an Arizona school teacher – 1913-1916.” I love American history. (European history? Not so much.) The great thing about Elsie is that the book is made up of letters to and from her family in California and the entries in her diary. 1913 was just one year after Arizona became a state and much of it was “primitive” by today’s standards. But Elsie was an adventurer and an outdoors-type individual so she made the most of it. Her letters reveal how much she enjoyed the new sites and landscapes she discovered. She never passed up the opportunity to hike to some intriguing place, with no regard for the weather. She never let rain or snow or cold or heat restrain her activities.

What I discovered from reading this true account of another age is just how much we, as human beings, have missed as we have given up personal relationships in exchange for modern “gadgets.” In Elsie’s Arizona people visited each other. They read to each other. They walked everywhere. (Occasionally Elsie will reveal a 30 mile trip in someone’s “machine” as a great adventure.) People intermingled and entertained each other with only the occasional trip to the “movies.” They played the piano and the mandolin and sang songs. They spent much time reading. (How long has it been since you have read anything other than “Oprah” magazine?) Since they ate sparingly and simply and did so much walking there were no obese people, one of today’s greatest avoidable tragedies in America.
(No matter how much she ate, Elsie never weighed more than 100 pounds.)

I have lived in my current neighborhood for about eight years. Only three times in that period has a neighbor come to my door – and I have only approached others the same minimal amount of time. I have only been “in” two of the homes and nobody from my neighborhood has been in my home. It is a novelty to see anyone walking and those are only the most devoted health “nuts.”

What do we do in our isolation? We sit at our computers and send emails and cruise Facebook and write blogs such as this. We idle away our lives with very little interaction with other human beings. Call me an old fogie (which I am) but I can’t help but think that for everything we have gained in technology over the years we have paid a high price. We have never learned the “art” of civil conversation and the pleasure of enjoying the company of other people.

I grew up without the convenience of indoor plumbing or, in my earliest years, electricity so it would not be too difficult for me to return to the simple life that Elsie enjoyed. For you, I can almost see the expression on your face. It is the same as I used to see on my children’s faces when I related my childhood. Yes, iPads and iPhones and the Internet and sleek cars and wide-screen TVs are great. But what do you do if the power goes off and your batteries are dead? Admit it. You are lost. You sit there with perhaps the closest person in your life – and you are just silent, waiting for the power to restore your “gadgets.” This is a sad commentary on contemporary life. Just as Elsie would be lost in our world, sadly we are lost to hers.”

I was pleased that John Beckman read “Elsie” and thrilled that he enjoyed it.  My favorite sentence is his observation about how much we “have missed as we have given up personal relationships in exchange for modern gadgets.” Thanks John Beckman for recognizing  that lesson Elsie wrote for us a 100 year ago.

Celebrate January 22 – Elsie’s 125th Birthday 1888-2013 Special offer for Elsie’s book

21 Jan

One hundred and twenty-five years ago on January 22, 1888 Elsie Reed Hayes was born in Alexandria, Virginia. They lived in the home that had been her father’s childhood home.  When I was a child my grandmother  Elsie entertained us with stories of  her childhood in Virginia. Among her keepsakes was an old Civil War pass that allowed passage of the family cow across enemy lines.  Also with her treasures was a newspaper article describing her father’s injury as a child when crossing enemy lines with the cow.  Her childhood in Virginia was delightful.  Elsie enjoyed her two sisters Alice and Hylinda, her younger brother Gilman and the cousins that lived nearby.  They played in the wooded area located across the Potomac from Washington D.C.

The family included her father’s two unmarried sisters Annie and Mamie. Since there were four adults and four children, each adult claimed one child to lavish with special attention.  Aunt Annie claimed Elsie and she reserved her special attention for her. This maiden aunt had an important job with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C.  Also among Elsie’s treasures were a couple of old family invitations to Inaugural Balls.

When Elsie was ten her family traveled by train to California. They had hoped that the warmer climate would be better for Elsie’s brother who had a heart defect.  In 1904, when Elsie was age 16, her brother Gilman died in Long Beach, California. Elsie herself lived to be nearly 100 years old. All of the years that I knew my grandmother her birthday was celebrated with an angel-food cake with whipped cream and raspberries. For this celebration of Elsie’s 125th Birthday we may just have some raspberries and whipped cream as well.  I am with my sister Nancy and my brother Dan, Elsie’s only other grandchildren.  So it will be fun to celebrate together  tomorrow.

I want to make a special three-day offer to those who would like a copy of “Elsie-Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1916.” For January 22, 23 & 24th only, I will mail (postage-paid within the USA) an autographed copy for $10.00 to commemorate Elsie’s 125th birthday. Please share this three-day offer with others you think might be interested in a look at the life of a teacher in the Wild West 100 years ago.  I have been thrilled with the 102 reviews for “Elsie” on Amazon.  Thanks to all who have written to say you have enjoyed the book.

Yes, I am working on the sequel telling of her years living on an apple ranch and operating a mountain resort.  I hope to be able to give it some undivided attention soon.

Please let me know before Friday January 25th if you want me to include mailing a book to you.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

12 Dec

This week, I’ve had the honor to be invited to a blog hop! The purpose of the blog hop is to introduce readers to books and authors, that you  may otherwise haven’t heard about. I was introduced to Smadar Gerson when I read her book  “Stored Treasures A Memoir.”  Stored Treasures by Minnie Crane and Smadar Belkind Gerson was  a fascinating read. Minnie was born in Belitsa, Russia in 1896, she entering the USA through Ellis Island in 1914. Her birth town eventually became part of Belarus, a Jewish community destroyed by Nazis. It is the story of  Smadar’s  great-grandmother Minnie Crane’s life. It is a compilation of Minnie’s journal writings,  Smadar’s  grandmother’s writings (Minnie’s daughter) and genealogical research. It was interesting to compare Elsie’s adventures in Arizona with Minnie’s departure from Russia the same year. These two women from different backgrounds, but same time period, faced some of the same challenges of adjusting to changes in their lives.

 First, I will answer ten questions about my book, and then introduce other authors, who will be writing about their books next week on this blog hop!

Where did the working title come from? : 

 My book is a memoir, “Elsie -Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1918.” I compiled it. Much of it was written by Elsie in her letters and diary written from 1913-1916. My daughter assisted me and my son drew a couple of illustrations. I added all the research to complete the background of the time period. Originally I contemplated “Very Lovingly Yours, Elsie” as a title. I was afraid that title did not convey the location, time period or that she was a teacher.  By the time we had ”Elsie- Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1916” there was not much room left. My talented design gal loved having a hand written looking script across the top of the cover, “Very Lovingly Yours.”  She signed many of letters that way. So we added that to the cover but not to the actual title. “Very Lovingly Yours” appears at the top of each page in the print version. I added the words “Adventures of” to the title because living in rural Arizona in 1913 displayed a love of adventure. No vampires or such but life in early Arizona was an adventure. We debated back and forth about using a hand-written font for Elsie’s letters and diary excerpts. Eventually I took a poll and the hand-written font won. It is lovely in the print book. Sadly it is not possible to do that in an E-Book version.

 Where did the Idea for the book come from? : 

Elsie was my Grandmother. I loved her; everyone loved her. She was a source of encouragement and a joy to me for the 40 years we shared. When she died in 1987, she was nearly 100 years old. Elsie had enchanted me with stories during my childhood. Even after I married and had children of my own, we would all sit at her feet while she shared stories. True stories. Some stories were of her childhood, including  stories of her father being injured as a child in Virginia during the Civil War. Many stories revealed insight into her three years of teaching in Arizona soon after it became a state. I recorded some of these stories on cassette tapes. I know during one Arizona story she was telling she stopped and giggled and said, “I was a bit of a snob.” I later understood what she was referring to. Arizona changed her. She was college educated and loved literature and culture. In Arizona she taught barefoot, burro riding children, and she referred to some of them as being “common and needing baths.” As she learned to love this wild countryside and the children, her attitude changed dramatically. She discovered an admiration for the character of these back-woods farmers, ranchers and their children. Elsie fell in love with Arizona. And a couple young men fell in love with Elsie. My research uncovered a tender, yet tragic, love story.  I never intended to write a book. When Elsie died I discovered and read the diary and letters she had saved from her years when she taught in Arizona. The letters were tied with a faded blue ribbon that appeared to have been untied numerous times through the years. I discovered a grandmother I had never known, and I was fascinated. I began to do research about her Arizona years. In 1988 I located and interviewed 8 of her former students that were then elderly treasures. Elsie had taught them for 9 months in a one-room school in Arizona 75 years before. Yet they had vivid memories that were a match to the ones Elsie had written about in her letters and diary. The research from 1988 sat incomplete. I had no idea what to do with it. I was busy home-schooling our four children and involved in other projects.

 Was this self- published? 

    In 2010, I met an Arizona publisher that reminded me that Arizona would soon celebrate their 100th birthday. This publisher encouraged me to complete the book that I had been pondering for 22 years.

Elsie had been a librarian and a writer; for years she published short stories in magazines for children. In her saved treasures I discovered an unfinished letter to Arizona Highways that she began when she was 97 years old. She wanted to tell her story of teaching in early Arizona. She never completed that article. I knew I had to attempt to share her adventures in rural Arizona.  I hired editors, design professionals, proof readers and website managers. With much prayer and a trembling heart in November 2011, I published “Elsie-Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1916.”  I hesitate to call it self- published because it was a team I hired that helped me pull it all together. I loved doing the research for the book. I have continued to add to my website “tidbits” and vintage photos about the time period.  This morning Elsie was #1 in KINDLE Western Non-Fiction books. It has occasionally been ranked on Amazon as # 50 in Print Non- Fiction Western books. I have had 88 reviews on Amazon, most of them very encouraging. 

    My biggest surprise was when I approached a National Park in Arizona about selling Elsie.  The gentleman questioned if the book was fiction. I answered that it was taken directly from her letters and diary and that I had added historical information and explanations. His response was, “Your book is interpretive History!” Taken by surprise I said,” Yes, it is.” Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot National Park have ordered 420 copies since April. I never dreamed “Interpretive History” had so much potential. I am thrilled that 26 locations in Arizona sell Elsie. My sales through these channels are much higher than my Amazon sales. What an adventure writing this book has been. My favorite review came from a woman of 103 that read Elsie on a kindle and skyped her review to her daughter. Elsie would be very pleased and amazed.    

What actors would I choose if Elsie became a movie? 

    Two years before Elsie died the movie “Anne of Green Gables” with Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie came out. I was fascinated by the similarities with Elsie’s experience. It was close to the same time period. I loved seeing the red tobacco tins that were used as lunch boxes. Elsie had written about that very thing. But I would choose Renee Zellweger to play Elsie. I loved her spunk and charm in “Miss Potter.” I loved watching the Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd in the Hornblower series. Since Jack was Welsh, Ioan would definitely be my choice for Jack. Karl needs someone with a bit of melancholy, so perhaps Keneau Reaves would work as Karl.  I have often pictured Elsie as a movie. There is joy and tragedy and an element of mystery in Elsie’s story. 

    How long did the Project take? 

    As I have said, I began the research and then set it aside for nearly 22 years. That was a fortunate procrastination. I began to realize that the book would tie in with Arizona’s Centennial interest. I actually had two feature newspaper articles that were unexpected but generated by Centennial interest.

 What Inspired me to write this book? 

    Elsie was inspiration for many things in my life. Her joy in the adventure and her focus on the delight of the experience instead of the hardships was so evident in her writings.

    Connecting with people who have read the book has been a delightful experience. I never dreamed it would have a target audience beyond Arizona. I have had letters from all over the world. There is a young man teaching in rural Africa that is reading it right now. I have heard from readers in New Zealand, France, Equador, Canada, Korea, Finland and Crete.

    I am thrilled that two of my children have followed in Elsie footsteps. Our oldest son has taught in China, as headmaster in Korea and now serves as Director of Global studies for a University in California. Our daughter teaches English at a University in Seoul, Korea. Elsie would find great delight in this. 

    I have had numerous requests for a sequel that would tell of Elsie’s years after she married.  I am working on that project. For years Elsie lived on a mountain and she and her husband operated an apple ranch and opened a rustic resort there.  I find it interesting how self sufficient they were. They lived off the land for the most part. Elsie had a recipe for squirrel and quail pie that I find humorous, her note at the bottom reminds “be sure the squirrel is not too old.” My mother spent the first 5 years of her life living on the apple ranch. I have vintage photos of my mom riding in an apple crate cart.  The words on the side of the crate say, “keep in a cool dry place.” That would be a difficult task to accomplish with a baby. The old, gnarled apple trees that Elsie’s father planted in 1904 still produce fabulous apples. There is something rewarding in writing about things that have not changed and revealing those that have changed entirely. History when viewed through the eyes of someone who lived it can be rich and enlightening. Thanks to Elsie for leaving us her view of life in the West in the early1900’s.

I invite you to visit the following talented, diverse and inspiring group of women authors.   These are the other books involved in the BLOG HOP:

All Different Kinds Of Free by Jessica McCann. Jessica’s book is one of my favorite Historical Fiction books.  It is the story of the evil of slavery. It is told through the eyes of a woman born free, a woman whose life was contented, and then turned tragic. This woman who would not allow her soul to be enslaved.  

Mr. Charles Chick – Postmaster 1913

26 Nov

Being chosen as a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards was memorable. I purchased one of the winning books for Curt as a Christmas present. “Code Talker” tells the story of a Navajo Indian who helped in WWII with using the Navajo language as a code. I was sorry that the elderly writer was not present for the awards.  I felt honored to be a finalist when I saw the quality of the books that won.

We also added a new Arizona outlet for the book. The Rim Country Museum now sells “Elsie.” I believe we now have 26 locations that stock it.

Participating in the Thanksgiving Book Festival at Singing Winds in Benson, Arizona, a day later was a unique event. Win Bundy has turned her home into as unique a bookshop as I have ever experienced. It is located down a dirt road and a large bell announces you would like to view her books. People drive long distances to attend her book events. It was a lovely day. I was asked to read a portion of “Elsie” and I chose Elsie’s letter written to her sister Alice telling about her Grand Canyon adventure. Hard to imagine that nearly 100 years ago people wrote letters that would take longer than 15 minutes to read out loud. I edited some portions to keep the reading to 15 minutes. Perhaps the most exciting part of that day was meeting one of the gals attending who told me that her grandfather, Mr. Chick, was the Cornville Postmaster in 1913. I was thrilled to tell her that Mr. Chick was included in Elsie’s book. In fact, she scanned a picture to me of that PO from 1913. I will include that here. My thanks to Kathy Klump for the vintage photos – she is the daughter of Barbara Frances Chick Bliss. The photos are of the 1916 rodeo held at Mr. Chick’s place on the 4th of July. She wrote, “I understand he was very patriotic and decorated the post office with bunting and so forth and held a rodeo each year.”

I am so pleased that 80 readers have now added reviews on Amazon. Sincere thanks to those who have added your comments there. That certainly helps sales. Most have been very positive.   I am offering “Elsie” as a free Kindle book Nov. 28 & 29th. It seems that sales always experience a boost after I give away books. So if you know of others that like memoirs please let them know. I much prefer the print copy to the Kindle but free is always nice.

As I am working on “Elsie’s Mountain Years” I am thinking it needs to be written as a book that could be used for teaching students what life was like on an isolated mountain apple ranch nearly 100 years ago. They survived almost entirely on what the mountain provided for them. Her description of the mountain “characters” sound like a novel, but I want it to be a non-fiction memoir.

I am thankful this Thanksgiving season for readers that have become friends. I enjoy hearing from you.


“Elsie” is One Year Old!

27 Oct

Elsie was first offered on Amazon on Nov.6th,2011.  This book has been an adventure for me and has gone far beyond my expectations. I am so grateful for those that have written generous reviews and those that have sent notes of encouragement.  I have been delighted to make new friends as a result of the interest in the book.

All I asked for was that I could break even on the production costs. I have already done that.  I have sold over 1,200+ in print and the Kindle book sales are very surprising. This month, in the first 25 days, 510 Kindle copies have sold.  Since January I think Kindle sales are about 3,000. Elsie has remained #1 in KIndle Memoirs/West and fluctuates between #2 and #3 in Kindle Memoirs/Educators. Perhaps it has sold well  because I have kept the price lower than many memoirs.

So I have chosen to lower the print edition price on Amazon to $11.99. This will begin tomorrow. If  anyone would like to order an autographed copy directly from me I will match Amazon’s price and pay the shipping. (I will have to add sales tax for California residents.) I am excited that I have had book clubs ask if I would consider a bulk price and  I will be happy to do that. I spent last evening speaking at a local book club gathering  and I loved the time sharing a little more about what made Elsie unique.

“Elsie” is a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for best Arizona Memoir.  We are traveling to Albuquerque Nov 16th for the awards ceremony.  On Nov. 18th I have been asked to attend the “Singing Winds Bookshop Thanksgiving Fiesta” in Benson, AZ.  This is a unique Bookshop that  will have several authors doing readings from their books.  Here is the website for that event :

Next “Tidbit” I hope to do a book review on the interesting book  Appetite for America- How Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West. It is by Stephen Fried.  After her year in isolated Cornville Elsie enjoyed the Harvey House in Williams and El Tovar at the Grand Canyon. Both of these were rather amazing establishments that  have a unique place in the development of the West, the result of the vision of Fred Harvey.

Will Rodgers said of Fred Harvey:

“Wild buffalo fed the early traveler in the West and for doing so they put his picture on a nickel. Well,Fred Harvey took up where the buffalo left off. For what he has done for the traveler, one of his waitress’ pictures (with an arm load of delicious ham and eggs) should be placed on both sides of every dime. He has kept the West in food–and wives.”

Delightful & Memorable Arizona Trip

24 Sep

Delightful & Memorable Arizona Trip

Each time I visit “Elsie’s” Arizona I become a little more in love with the grandeur of The Grand Canyon and the quaintness in Cornville, Cottonwood and Williams. Curt and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary by riding the steam train from Williams to the Grand Canyon on Sept. 15th. It was a delightful trip.  We stopped on Friday to deliver books to several locations along the way. It was so fun to have lunch with Randall and Dixie Stone.  They live in Cottonwood, not far from where the family ranch was when Elsie lived with Randall’s Grandparents in 1913-1914.  Randall’s mother was Eva Girdner Stone and Elsie’s student in 1913. In 1988 I had a special visit with Eva in her home there in Cornville. She and I continued to write to each other for a number of years. We had an amazing surprise when we realized her grandson was roommate (over one summer) with our son Dan while they were in college in South Carolina in 1988. Hard to imagine that 75 years after Elsie taught Eva, Elsie’s great grandson and Eva’s grandson would end up roommates thousands of miles away from Cornville, AZ. Then to think I could connect with Randall (Eva’s son) via Facebook and have lunch with them. It is certainly a delightfully small world. We spent Friday night in Williams at a really nice bed and Breakfast called “Grand Living.”  It is a large, delightful log cabin type home with exacting detail given to exotic décor and gracious hospitality. We left early Saturday to ride the train to the Grand Canyon. They had fun entertainment for the 2 ½ hour ride and once we arrived at the Grand Canyon a shuttle delivered us to the El Tovar hotel. What a memorable thing it was to eat lunch in the same dining room where Elsie had had lunched nearly 100 years ago. (Reservations to stay at El Tovar need to be made nearly a year in advance.) I could almost feel the history of the place surrounding me. There are memorabilia from the past everywhere. I highly recommend the train trip, lunch in the El Tovar dining room and the delightful “Grand Living” Bed and Breakfast. We gained two new locations that now carry “Elsie.”  I have connected with readers in faraway places and I am enjoying this beyond what I can describe. I love hearing from readers, so please drop me a note.

Birthdays and Bookstores of the Past

20 Aug

On August 26th I celebrate my 65th birthday. We won’t be doing too much since I injured my knee and will have arthroscopic surgery Sept. 5 to repair a torn meniscus. One of my favorite things to do as a child on my birthday involved riding the bus with Elsie. Elsie never learned how to drive a car. For years she was content to call a cab or go where she needed to go by city bus. It is hard for me today to imagine choosing to ride a city bus to celebrate anything. Yet that is what I chose to do year after year when Elsie asked me what I wanted for my birthday. We rode the city bus from the suburb of La Mesa into downtown San Diego. Then we went to what I thought was the best attraction in downtown San Diego – the second hand bookstores. I don’t remember if she gave me a price limit but we went searching for “treasures.” I still have several of those treasures, wonderful old books that had been loved before I claimed them as my own. The day was not perfect until we had lunch at Mannings Cafeteria. It fascinated me that I could walk along a long line of food offerings and choose. I don’t remember the other items we selected for lunch but I always chose red Jello cut into little squares topped with a glorious mound of whipped cream. I’m not sure today that I would eat red Jello topped with whip cream if you paid me. As a child it was an awesome treat, and I was with Elsie and we had looked at books. What more could a child ask for? It certainly encouraged my early love of books. This year for my birthday I ordered used books from Amazon. I had such fun choosing an eclectic blend of books to read during the 6-8 weeks of recovery from knee surgery.

I have had fun creating a Pinterest site that is nearly all paintings, photos and quotes about reading. Of course I added Elsie onto the page hoping it might catch the interest of those who love reading. Warning – Pinterest is very addicting – but also very fun. I have also discovered if you use the SEARCH box on Pinterest it can become a research tool.

Just for fun I thought I’d share some pictures of Elsie in her later years.  The black and white photo is certainly Christmas and likely 1955. My father must have taken the photo of Elsie, my mother Katie and myself with the doll, my sister Nancy and my brother Dan.

The picture with my  children is 1978, Elsie was 90. Notice that she is surrounded by books. When she was 95 she still lived on her own and was still a voracious reader.  My husband and I are beside Elsie, Carin, Christopher and Dan on laps. My mother Katie is sitting on the floor. I notice there are books behind us and on both sides of couch, and on the floor. That is Alice (Elsie’s sister) sitting beside Elsie in the final picture , celebrating Elsie’s 95th birthday in 1983.

Elsie Saw Barney Oldfield at the Arizona State Fair 1914

15 Jul

Elsie wrote her father that it was reported that 50,000 people were in Phoenix for the Arizona State Fair in 1914.  She commented about the exciting auto races with Barney Oldfield. Reading about Oldfield I discovered he was quite the character. Barney Oldfield started his career as a racer on a bicycle, but everything changed in 1902 when he was hired to drive automobiles for a little known automaker out of Detroit. Henry Ford had driven his 999 for himself in a race or two, but soon decided that he felt safer just making the cars. He needed someone else with the sheer grit and daring needed to drive his car at high speeds, and 24 year old Barney Oldfield was the man for the job. After seeing the 999 for the first time, Oldfield told Ford, “But I’ve never driven a car.” Inexperienced as he was, Oldfield is rumored to have learned the controls of the car the morning of his first race, and by the end of the day he had defeated what was thought to be the world’s fastest car, the Winton bullet. He defeated all the competitors by at least half a mile in a five mile race. Barney Oldfield made a name for himself that day as a fearless and exciting driver, and he also put his sponsor, Henry Ford, on the map and on his way to becoming the most prominent American automaker of all time. Soon Barney Oldfield was a household name and was racing cars all over the country, setting speed records left and right. Oldfield was the first ever to drive around a mile track in less than a minute. By 1910 he achieved a speed of 131.25 mph, then considered the, “fastest ever traveled by a human being.” Oldfield traveled around America with his shrewd agent Will Pickens from town to town with the carnivals, issuing an open challenge to anyone brave enough to race him. Oldfield was the first American to become a celebrity solely for his ability to drive a car with great skill, speed, and daring. Racing became very lucrative for Oldfield, and by his career’s end he could command at least a thousand dollars just to show up for a race. All this was at a time when Henry Ford’s 5$ a day wage was considered incredibly high.

Oldfield also starred in several movies, including a 1913 silent film called
Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life, in which he races a train in order to
save heroine Mabel Normand, who has been tied to the tracks by the villain
played by Rod Sterling. Of course, Oldfield saves the day due to his ability to
drive his automobile with such great speed. Historian Mark Howell notes that,
“Perhaps there is something symbolic in the fact that Barney Oldfield outraced a
locomotive in this film, as though the automobile, by 1913, had exceeded the
railroad in terms of American importance”

Teaching Challenges of 99 Years Ago

22 Jun

I listened this week while a teacher discussed the recent challenges of disruptive students in the classroom.  I was reminded of the challenges that Elsie had in her  first year teaching in Arizona. One of Elsie’s students, Dale Girdner, wrote and illustrated an interesting aricle in 1977  that was published in Westward magazine. At the time he wrote the article he  was a senior citizen in his eighties, and like Elsie he obviously had vivid memories of the one-room school in Cornville.  He described Elsie in this article:

Elsie Hayes  lighting the stove.

 “…They hired two young teachers fresh from Los Angeles who were of the impression that they were away out in the wild and wooly west and that the people were just as wild as most anyother kind of varmints…. Since all of us bigger boys liked the idea immensely and certainly did nothing to distract them from their firm belief. I reckon we sorter looked and acted the part, without changing our regular way of conducting -or should I say misconducting ourselves?

We had tried a good many ways to keep them entertaining their belief, and was thrilled to see how well they responded to our tricks. They fell for nearly all that we tried. …

Well, one morning Glen found a couple of flat pint whiskey bottles and filled them with tea and stuck one in each hip pocket. On one he put the seal back on the cork and it looked  quite convincing…. He was very generous in sharing with the larger boys  who had previously been instructed to keep the secret. … Miss Melick arrived on the scene. Needless to say she was hocked and humiliated. Glen had even given quite a few of the older girls a shot around and they were becoming quite unsteady and just a little bit on the noisy side.

Glen went into the smaller room where Miss Hayes (Elsie) was kneeling down on the floor in front of the big old heating stove, trying to build a wood fire. .. He walked up and waved his bottle with the words:”Shay Miss Hayes, don’t you want a dlink of Whi’kkey? It shore is good stuff,” gulping down another generous snort.

She looked up with a horrified look, and said,”Oh, no thank you, I just wouldn’t care for any.” As soon as Glen had gone outside Miss Melick came running in the door with her hands in the air, with the information that half of the kids were drunk….It wasn’t long till some of the little kids got the message that it was a put up job and proceded to let the cat out of the bag; whereupon both teachers  put on a bold front, called the school to order, and within half an hour the color had come back into both teachers’ faces. …Things did take place, as they always will around a country school where there are lots of kids with a lot of excess Vim and Vinegar who feel the need to teach the teacher as well as being taught. I felt better about the whole ordeal in a few days of recuperating -when I was capable of resting in a sitting position.”

In the book there is a delightful letter Dale later wrote to the teachers. It is obvious this trick and others they played on these “greenhorn” teachers did not change the fact that these teachers remembered these fun loving students with fond memories .

Elsie’s Treasured Friendships

30 May

I think a good book does more than entertain us. I love to read a good historical novel and escape into another time and place for an hour before I fall asleep. I love it when a novel or a biography goes beyond entertaining and challenges me. Many biographies have challenged me to ponder my own life and my goals and habits. While writing Elsie I felt challenged to think about friendships. When I think of the friendships Elsie had I feel as if I have not had great success in pursuing deeply meaningful friendships.   Living overseas has not been a help in maintaining meaningful relationships. Yet there are a few precious friends with whom, when we reconnect, it is as if we have never been apart.  Elsie lost her two closest friends when they were young but I know she worked at friendships with other women through the years. Letters helped her stay connected. As a widow Elsie traveled with women friends to Hawaii and England and had delightful trips.  I will add a picture here of the matching dresses that Elsie and her childhood friend Ruth wore. Ruth was buried in the dress that matched Elsie’s. I love this picture of the two girls in their matching dresses. I envy the deep friendship they treasured.  My sister and I once had matching dresses as children and once again as adults. I have and treasure the “dainty work apron” that Aunt Mamie made for Elsie that says, “How doth the little Missy Bee.” Mamie wrote about the apron in a 1916 letter to Elsie that is included in the book.  I want to stop and go write a note to a treasured friend.  The treasure of a close friend is often not valued until it is lost.

Pioneer Living History Village Museum- Pioneer, AZ

13 May

On a recent trip we had a delightful visit with a few of the 22 outlets that carry “Elsie-Adventures of an Arizona Teacher 1913-1916.” We were in Arizona for a booksigning at Costco.  One of the most interesting locations is the Pioneer Living History Museum in Northern Phoenix. It has many actual historic  buildings on this large site, including an actual schoolhouse ( used from 1885-1930), a  teacherage, a church, a bank and a jail. The site is well maintained with lovely wide sidewalks that seem handicap accesible. The gift shop is one that sells “Elsie.” I Include some photos here.

The territorial Museum in Yuma is a new outlet for us and also looks very interesting. Phippen Museum in Prescott is another new location for “Elsie” and is a very well done art museum. I am looking forward to returning to the Arizona Museum at Papago Park . They also now carry “Elsie.” I have been thrilled with the number of books being sold at Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle National Monuments. Both are very interesting places to visit.

I keep thinking how Elsie would give her delightful giggle to know that her story of her Arizona years is #4 in Kindle rank for Biography /Memoir -Educator. It has been #1 for over a month in Kindle Bio/Memoir -Western.  This was National Teachers Week and what an honor this is for this teacher of nearly 100 years ago to have her book selling in over 22 locations in Arizona.

Elsie’s Cornville / Grand Canyon Sites Revisited

3 May

Ross Wheeler -Boat wrecked in 1915- Confirmation of Elsie’s story

26 Apr

One of my favorite stories, which Elsie frequently recalled for her grandchildren, was about her “Grand Canyon adventure.”  Among her papers was a yellowed newspaper article from 1915 entitled “River Scouts Have Narrow Escape.”  These three men had agreed to document (on film) Elsie and a fellow teacher crossing the Grand Canyon in a wooden box attached to a cable constructed by W.W. Bass, a Grand Canyon guide.  However the boat carrying the “apparatus,” as Elsie called the movie camera, was abandoned after it became stuck on the rocks as they attempted to descend the rapids of the Colorado River.

I was at Costco in Prescott, Arizona for a book signing for “Elsie” on April 14th.  We spent the night with some new friends who are seasoned hikers of the Grand Canyon.  I shared a copy of “Elsie” with
them.  As I was telling them the story of her Grand Canyon Adventure, our new friend stopped me as I mentioned the name Charles Russel, who, according to my grandmother, with another scout and a
filmmaker had abandoned their boat and the movie camera when the boat was
wrecked upon the rocks. He told me, “I know that boat.  It’s the ‘Ross Wheeler’ and it is still down
in the canyon. I have a picture of us in that very boat.”  Could it be possible that the boat in my grandmother’s story was still in the canyon?

They shared a book with us that described “…the Ross Wheeler, a steel boat chained and
bolted to the rock. The boat was abandoned here in 1915 by Charles Russel, August
Tadje, and a filmmaker named Clements.” Amazingly, here was documentation that matched Elsie’s account of the aborted filmmaking trip!  When we stopped at the Powell Museum in Page, Arizona, I discovered another interesting book, The Very Hard Way – Bert Loper and the Colorado River  by Brad Dimock.  Dimock’s book gave further confirmation that the wrecked Ross Wheeler was the very
boat mentioned in Elsie’s letter. Dimock wrote “…the two (scouts) climbed, scraped, scrambled and chimneyed to the rim, dehydrated and half starved… The following day they went on to W.W. Bass’s cabin where they waited for Russel to appear… They abandoned the Ross Wheeler…Russel’s great film expedition was finished.”  (If you are interested in early boat expeditions down the Colorado this book is very interesting.)
Elsie’s diary (page 154  in my book) says , “Nov. 27th, 1915– River scouts came in while we were there, after 45 hours without food.  We were to have met them at the foot of the trail for movies; but they were wrecked.”
In a long letter written home Elsie described the arrival of the river scouts, “After our supper we heard the violent conversation going on… such clever irony, such bold reveling I had never heard before or imagined. We couldn’t help hearing.”  Later, the third man came in. “It was very exciting to be there when he arrived! Mina and I sat on the same chair and kicked each other whenever it was particularly difficult not to laugh aloud.”

What a thrill for me to have my Grandmother’s
story corroborated by further documented history!

The young man in the boat is John McMahon. Thanks to the McMahons for the photo and the visit with your family.


Propriety in 1913 Arizona

6 Apr

In my book “Elsie” the rules for teachers are explained. They were required to wear numerous petticoats (even in hot Arizona), they were not to keep company with men or “loiter” in ice-cream stores, they could not ride in a carriage or automobile with a man unless he was a father or brother, they had to be home by 8:00 p.m., etc., etc. At least in Elsie’s case, judging from her diary and letters, these rules were not always enforced.
Cornville had no ice-cream parlors but some of her activities seemed to push the bounds of turn-of-the-century propriety more than ice-cream parlor dates! The two teachers lived in a small one-room shack next to the Girdner family home. Though they could not attend dances, the teachers were permitted to have young men call on them in their shack. I loved what Elsie wrote about one evening at the shack. She was sleepy, and the young cowboy Fergy was calling on Marguerite. Elsie wrote to her mother: “In a house of one room one can’t go to bed when a man is calling.” Apparently there was no problem for her to take long horseback and buggy rides with these cowboys. (She sat on the banks of beautiful Oak Creek and read poetry to one young cowboy and then was astonished when he declared he loved her!)
After moving to Williams to teach, the rules did not prevent her from having an active social life. She went to dinner with young men and attended moving pictures with them. She took long hikes alone with a young man on Bill Williams Mountain. In her diary she often mentioned being out late, sometimes until 2:00 a.m.!
In the introduction to my book I wrote: “As a child I always thought of Elsie as prim and proper…and old.” The Wild West was maybe called “wild” because it introduced this prim and proper California college girl to a Western code of propriety. California was West of Arizona but certainly was not as “wild.”

April 6 and 7th I am going to make a “wild offer.” The E-book version of “Elsie” will be free on for those two days! I am hoping this will eventually expand to further e-book as well as print sales. So Friday and Saturday go to Amazon and “Elsie” should be free for 48 hours.
I will be doing a book singing in Prescott at Costco from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. next Saturday April 14th. I hope to visit some of our Arizona friends before we head for speaking in Utah and Nevada the following weekend.

“Interpretive History”

22 Mar

Webster’s dictionary describes interpretive history as: “a teaching technique that combines factual with stimulating explanatory information.”
When I was compiling Elsie I never considered that what I was creating was interpretive history. As I visited historical landmarks like Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot National Park they asked me, “is this a novel or interpretive history?” I told them it was taken directly from Elsie’s letters and journals and they became excited that I had created an “interpretive history.”
Elsie’s years in Arizona were a time in history with many changes. Her journals and letters combined factual and stimulating explanatory information. Indeed it could be defined as “interpretive history.” Arizona had just become state. Elsie voted in prohibition while living in Williams. She attended women’s suffragette meetings. Disputes between Mexico and the United States were a consideration in her job choices. World War I was beginning to be news. Perhaps the more “stimulating explanatory information” would include things like Elsie’s description of her divided riding skirt weighing 30 pounds, a fellow teacher being fired for dancing “the rag,” or the fact that school was unofficially and instantly closed the moment someone announced “the creek is up!” Most history books do not include such minute detail of life in the infant state of Arizona.
I love hearing thoughts from those who have read Elsie. Recently a reader wrote, “you’ve written a wonderful book, harmonizing time/place in a very thoughtful manner… you’ve presented Elsie’s story with far greater acumen and accuracy — for which I’m grateful.” The credit must go to Elsie because only someone who was there can write of a time and place with such insight. Thank you Elsie for leaving us with your accurate and insightful look into Arizona’s history.

The “Unmentionable” Outhouse- or Blue Flowers Along the Roadside

25 Feb

I have been contemplating writing about the outhouses Elsie must have used in 1913-1916 in Arizona. Problem is, Elsie never ever even wrote such a word. She used to tell me that when they were riding in a wagon (3 day trip) from Long Beach to Palomar Mountain her father would of necessity stop for bathroom breaks. Only they never ever called it that. Alonzo (Elsie’s father) would say “do you girls want to go look at those pretty blue flowers over there?” That was 1904 language for bathroom break. When Elsie referred (in a letter to her mother) to “Myra (2 year old) not being very trim,” I am sure she was referring to a dirty diaper. Elsie would never have said such a word in a letter. After all in that day an outhouse was at times referred to as a “privy,” likely taken from the word private. By the time I came along my father would loudly shout out before he drained the water from our mountain cabin toilet, “potty call.” I think I like the “blue flower” language better. When our son Dan sold some of his first water-color paintings at age 15 in Antigua they were fabulous pictures of old wooden outhouses. Several of the local British ex-pats living here remarked at the art show that they wanted a copy of his wonderful “loo.” That was the first I had ever heard an outhouse referred to as a loo. Some think that came from the French word l’eau meaning water. For Elsie, writing of outhouses must have fallen under “unmentionables.” I seem to remember her using that word for a number of items not mentioned in “polite” society.


14 Feb

Feb.14th 2012- Arizona celebrates its 100th birthday today. Happy Valentines Day. I shared in the book a Valentine remembrance Elsie loved to tell about. She received a special Valentine while teaching in Arizona that was chocolate covered soap. Her chuckle when telling this story filled the room with her effervescent joy. She had a chuckle that was like none other I have ever heard. It seemed to come from her toes and traveled all the way to her heart and out her mouth filling the room with mirth.
In the book I share about Eva Girdner’s memory of the first Arizona statehood celebration that occurred in Oak Creek Canyon. She shared that there were about 25 families living along the beautiful lower Oak Creek. When word arrived that statehood had been granted the Arizona territory the news was passed to all the families along the creek to meet for a picnic. The children celebrated with foot and burro races. Eva’s mother made her a special red, white and blue dress for the occasion. I wonder which child had the privilege to ride his burro shouting the news of statehood and announcing the celebratory picnic. Somehow it seems that an e-mail or telephone call would never be as exciting as watching a child arriving breathless with the news that the territory was now the State of Arizona! I think “Elsie” would be a great movie. Much of what she wrote creates a vivid picture in my mind.
My Valentine arrived last evening in the form of a book order of 50 books for AZ Nat. Parks. I am also excited that in April Costco (in Prescott) has asked me to come for a book signing. I keep thinking how Elsie would be delighted with this news.
Special thanks to all who have added a review or clicked the like button on Elsie’s Amazon page. I think those reviews really encourage others to buy the book. I am grateful and thrilled that all 21 reviews are all 5 star.