Saturday, December 30, 2023

"Let’s Teach Margaret to Sew"

by Margaret Sizemore Clark

In my youth I was what I would consider to be a tomboy. I grew up playing with my older brother’s Matchbox cars. One year for my birthday I received a “huge” Pontiac station wagon car, not a model of one, but a scaled-down version of the real thing, just right for transporting a Barbie, but she hadn’t been invented yet!  I was delighted!!  I rather enjoyed doing “car” things with my father, and I liked playing in the dirt after a rare rain. 

    In those days girls were taught all the necessary skills to be a good homemaker, hostess, wife, and mother.  Sewing was one of the skills to that end, and being accomplished using a sewing machine was something that my family did well. My mother made matching outfits for me and the sister just a year younger than I, along with the sister that was eight years after her.  We frequently received lots of comments about the cute matching dresses or shorts sets when we went places.  Additionally, at least two of my sisters learned to sew when they were Girl Scouts.  My oldest sister was making her own clothes in high school and became very skilled at it. I was never a Girl Scout. The pressure to conform to “the norm” was mounting, but I resisted.  To her credit, Mom kept trying to encourage me to sew but eventually she realized that it wasn’t a good idea to try to force me to learn, and apparently the sewing gene had skipped me, so I dodged that bullet. But in junior high it came up AGAIN: one of my best friends was in 4H and was making her clothes, as were most of my friends. It was pointed out what beautiful, fashionable clothes they were creating, but I wasn’t taking the bait.  The last assault on my refusal to learn to sew came when my older sister needed a babysitter for the summer while she and her husband worked. I was invited to come to Oregon to live with their family.  Little did I suspect that it was to be another attempt to teach me to sew, and I was trapped!  My sister patiently tried yet again to teach me how to sew, and I tried, I really did! I think I made something fairly simple, using straight seams, but when it was done, so was I.

    Years later my oldest sister retired to Sisters, Oregon. Now, if you or a loved one are into quilting, you know that Sisters has an outdoor quilt show every July, and the quiet, sleepy little town with about 1500 citizens swells to ten times that much.  Women come from all over to take classes, make quilts, compare projects, and see what others have created during the year since they last came to Sisters. My younger sister and two of her friends were teachers, so they were able to make the pilgrimage to “Mecca”, aka Sisters, every summer, a week ahead of the quilt show.  During that week they fed their addiction for buying fabric, sewed, taught each other new techniques, and showed off new machines. I was a teacher too, but at a year-round school, so I couldn’t come with them.  Eventually I was able to transfer to the track that was closest to the traditional school year, so I was invited to join them, BUT: I was warned that since I didn’t sew, I would have to bring some other type of hobby that would keep me occupied, or else I would have to be “Cinderella” and wait on the others.  I complied.  I didn’t want to miss out on the shopping trips, the gabbing, and seeing the amazing things they created so I became “The Husband”.  

    Husbands are the patient angels that come with their wives during Quilt Show week.  They are so legendary, that wise quilt store owners have created a special place for them to hang out while their wives shop. There is usually a tent with chairs, and a large ice chest filled with cold water. It fell on me to drive my four “sisters” from fabric store to fabric store and wait in the husband area while they shopped, had the fabric cut, and waited to pay for it. It can be a very time-consuming process, but I was armed with a good book or a crossword puzzle BOOK (not just ONE puzzle) to work on while I waited for them to exit.  Back at the house I often ironed pieces of projects while they sewed, or generally helped wherever I was needed. You may be thinking that my “job” sounded an awful lot like one Cinderella might have done, only there was a big difference.  I loved doing it. We laughed a lot and we listened to each other while we worked on our projects. We knew when an engagement had been announced or a new baby was expected.  We also heard who had lost a loved one, or whose family had a problem.  In a very real sense, all five of us were sisters, although not all of us were related by blood. That was the real take-away from the weeks and years we made the trip to Sisters.

    One year we all went to the quilt show as usual, slowly wandering through Sisters looking at that year’s quilts, until we came to a building where we stopped.  My favorite color is purple, so I went over to inspect a particularly lovely purple quilt. A voice over my shoulder instructed to read the tag on it. It read, “Made for Margaret Clark by” and gave all four of their names.  I burst into tears!  They wanted me to know how much my being there had meant to them, so they had made the quilt top during the winter and sent it to my older sister to quilt.  It was a truly a labor of love and a gift I cherish.  

    These days my “sisters” and I are in our 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and are retired. The home in Sisters was sold. I STILL don’t sew. But on every occasion when we notice or use the treasures that came from Sisters, we recall the times we spent there and the love that went into making those precious gifts.


Tuesday, December 19, 2023


Memories of Christmas Past

By Margaret Sizemore Clark 

Christmas will be here before we know it and, as it does every year, it got me to thinking about Christmases past.  I am in my 69th year and Christmas has certainly changed!  Here are a few cherished memories I have from my childhood.  I hope they trigger memories of special times you had.

Growing up in the desert we did not get snow, so forget about building snowmen, sledding, and snowball fights like in the movies or on TV.  Forget about Santa arriving via sleigh, too.  When the leaves blew off the cottonwood trees, and the nights grew cooler we knew that winter was on the way.  After Thanksgiving all the things that signaled “Christmas” started happening. 

My mother was a baker and enjoyed making candy, too.  When the season changed, she started buying extra butter, sugar, flour, and nuts.  While my dad watched football games on TV, it was his job to crack open the walnuts, almonds, and pecans that would end up being used in Mom’s cookies, pecan logs, fudge, divinity, and toffee.  Since many of our extended family lived in other states most of her confections had to be mailed, which meant getting everything made early.  Wonderful smells filled the kitchen, and it was so hard not to eat everything as soon as she had it ready.  But we knew better!  After everything was safely in the mail, Mom would start all over again to make the same goodies for our local friends, and for us!  Now, all these years later, my sisters and I still make many of the cookies, toffee, rolls, and other sweets, using Mom’s recipes.  We have made three cookbooks containing her recipes, so they don’t disappear.

Getting a Christmas tree was always fun.  Most Christmases we went to a tree lot and bought a tree, not a flocked tree, or an aluminum tree with one of those gadgets that rotated and turned the tree different colors. We had a real Douglas fir tree.  There were those times, though, when we drove up to the Greenhorns in the Sierra Nevada mountains to cut a tree.  My grandparents had a mine they tinkered in and there were trees on their property, so that’s where we headed.  To get there we had to drive up through Walker Pass, which often had snow.  We got to get out of the car and play in it, and of course we had to build a snowman.  Many people had sleds or toboggans, but most of us used a squashed cardboard box to slide down an embankment.  It was a special day, and when we were done playing, we headed home to dry clothes and a warm meal.  That evening we set the tree up and decorated it, right down to the silvery icicles dangling from all the branches. 

Of course, Santa Claus made an appearance to kick off the season, but he didn’t arrive in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.  No, in our neck of the desert Santa arrived on a Navy firetruck, with the horn honking, siren blaring, and Santa waving at all the kids lined up and down the street while his elves threw candy. We scurried into the street to grab all that we could.  It was chaos!  Santa’s arrival also meant the opening of Toyland, a magical place set up by the Navy Exchange for the benefit of the sailors and their families stationed at China Lake.  It was housed at the fire department, and parents could take their kids for a visit to view all the toys they hoped Santa would be putting under their tree on Christmas morning. Mom and Dad could go back later to get the right toys.

The Navy also installed and maintained a giant star on B Mountain. On a certain night in December the star would be lit up with white lights for all to see, and THAT meant Christmas was getting close!  After I left home, I would visit for Christmas, and knew I would see that star when our car rounded the curve and dropped into the valley. It’s light shining meant one thing: I was home.  Sadly, the star was destroyed in the 7.1 earthquake on July 4, 2019, and has not been replaced.

Christmas also meant school programs involving plays, singing, and band concerts.  I generally liked that kind of thing, but when I was in the 7th grade, our music teacher wrote a play that called for eight small reindeer. I was always one of the shortest kids in my class, so I and seven other pee-wees donned paper-mache reindeer heads and pranced about the stage. It was something I won’t forget and at my 50th high school reunion last year, I was able to visit with one of the other reindeer.

Our church always had a Christmas Eve service which my family attended.  We sang carols and carried lighted candles.  At the end of the service each child received a stocking made of netting, filled with candy and fruit.  I can remember Mr. Porter’s friendly smile as he passed out the gifts.

My most memorable Christmas was when I was a freshman in high school and my youngest sister was a Kindergartener.  A week or so before Christmas, she came down with the mumps, and of course it spread to the rest of us kids.  The twins both had light cases, but as luck would have it, my symptoms showed up on the Friday we got out of school for Christmas vacation. My neck disappeared, I felt terrible, and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I had no appetite, not even for all the good stuff Mom had made.  I lived on Fresca and aspirin for the better part of two weeks and my Christmas was spent lying on the sofa watching my siblings open their gifts. I have no idea if I opened my gifts that day; I couldn’t eat Christmas dinner with my family, and I was miserable.  My mother said I was the sickest kid she had ever seen, and since she had six of them, she ought to know!  Every Christmas I make it a point to remind my little sister (now 60 years old) of that memorable “gift” and that I have never forgiven her for it. Just kidding.

Christmas would not have been Christmas without the Firestone Christmas albums my parents bought every year.  You know, the ones with all the stars of the day singing Christmas carols, The Boston Pops playing something jaunty, and the obligatory operatic star belting out a hymn. After listening to those albums over and over, year after year, we became experts at imitating the songs on them.  Now, I’m not one to brag, but yours truly still does a pret-ty mean imitation of Maurice Chevalier “singing” Jolly Old St. Nicholas.  Just ask my sister, Martha: she calls me every year to tell me that when she plays her CD of the album, she still hears me singing Jolly Old St. Nicholas and we laugh together, just like we did when we were kids.

Who hasn’t seen the movie White Christmas? If you’re like my family, we watched it every year, eventually memorizing the songs from the movie.  I have three sisters, so every time Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang “Sisters” we would have to sing along with them. My sisters and I live in different parts of the country now, but we will watch it and send each other a meme just so we all know we are thinking of the other sisters.

Christmas has changed: I live in Washington now, so having a white Christmas is a distinct possibility.  The Sears Catalog we pored over and circled all our Christmas wishes in is no more. Instead, we have Amazon.  Making homemade goodies for neighbors and friends doesn’t happen so much.  Time moves on. Although Christmas is different, I am blessed with being able to recall those long-ago times and smile. Maybe even laugh.

Merry Christmas to all!




Wednesday, December 6, 2023

 - Vintage TV Christmas: Irwin Allen Style -

By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

Nostalgia TV, especially from the 1960s, is replete with unusual Holiday or Christmas themed episodes integrated into the storylines of various TV series.  Some have a direct connection with the Holiday Season while others are a bit more subtle if not unusual with incorporating the Christmas spirit into the narrative.  One such example is an episode titled "Long Live the King" from Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that originally aired December 21, 1964 and is now part of the ME TV Network's annual screening of various Christmas episodes from various notable television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was on network TV for four years (1964-68), with its first season filmed in Black & White.  Season One was notably darker if not more serious in tone as its episodes largely involved spies and espionage in a Cold War setting.  "Long Live the King" is remarkable not only because it was the series' only Christmas show BUT it was a warm episode in an otherwise dark season. In its four year run, Voyage seldom recognized seasonal connections with the real world in its plotlines, so this makes this Christmas show all the more special.  What now follows is a synopsis plus notable highlights from a truly unusual but fun Christmas show.

The week before Christmas the submarine Seaview is tasked with having to secretly transport a young prince from the west coast of the USA to his homeland so that he may rightfully succeed his father as King, in the aftermath of the boy's father being assassinated.  The underwater trip requires immediately crossing both the Pacific and Indian Oceans thereby cancelling the two-week Christmas shore leave for Seaview and its weary crew.  Obstacles are overcome along the journey, including a torpedo attack by an enemy sub and attempted murder of the young prince by a treasonous member of his personal staff.  Coincidentally, Seaview also picks up a shipwreck survivor, a very mysterious but personally endearing character named John, who establishes a trustworthy relationship with the young prince during the remainder of the trip.  Carroll O'Connor plays the role of John -- giving a magical, whimsical performance in which he sings, plays a flute and teaches the young prince about assuming his adult responsibilities with kindness, understanding and wisdom.  Seaview reaches its destination.  With confidence but humility, the young prince is preparing to be crowned as King.  After the new King is crowned, John mysteriously vanishes leaving only his flute behind as a token of remembrance for his young friend.  Amidst the Yuletide Season with its mission successfully completed, Seaview is now homeward bound retracing its journey across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. During the closing dialogue that includes Christmas wishes for one and all, it is noted that John had been picked up very near ..... Christmas Island!

Obviously, O'Connor's singing, flute playing and mentoring the young prince are highlights in this Christmas show.  But there are also other memorable scenes: Christmas music played in the background during various parts of the show, the Chief good naturedly losing a card game to the young prince and the genuine laughter and goodwill among the officers and crew are all done with the true spirit of Christmas fellowship uniting everyone as family even though all are sojourners.  This quality of warmth in a show noted for action and high adventure took Voyage to a realm that was rarely seen during its network run.  It is also interesting to observe that the aforementioned individual scenes may actually be better than the overall storyline, with the mysterious shipwreck survivor subtly adding the Christmas spirit to what otherwise might have been a predictable plot.

One final bit of trivia:  There really is a Christmas Island.  It is located in the Indian Ocean about 224 miles south of the island of Java and 870 miles northwest of Australia.  So the geography referenced in the course of Seaview's journey across the Pacific and Indian Oceans for this classic episode is accurate.  Learn more at:

If you have any special memories of holiday themed episodes from your favorite TV shows, please post them on the GNN FACEBOOK page (and please "like" us when doing so) or send them to us via the GNN g-mail address.  We wish everyone in our wonderful Galaxy audience a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!