Proud, Mary — 100 Years

With Love, Mary

It was 25 years ago Mary’s Song”  was published in With My Own Wings,  A Collection of Captured Reflections, as a tribute to my Mother, Mary Marjorie Maw Karnoski.   And, about a year after that I wrote  With Love, Mary another reflection about my mother on the occasion of my 38thbirthday.  That was the age she was when she gave birth to me.

This year, September 16, 2011 marks what would have been her 100th birthday.  Sadly, she only lived to celebrate 59 of those birthdays.    She died just 2 months shy of 60.

"Baby Mary"

I wanted to write something special about my mom to commemorate her life and the centennial of her birth.  “Mary’s Song” and “With Love, Mary” have stood the test of time and remain true recollections for me.   But they are reflections through only my eyes and don’t reflect the many facets of the woman she was.  Now I feel compelled to open the lens and include a wider, more panoramic view of her life.

At the time she died, my 22 year old eyes viewed her life as a waste, as she seemed to have allowed her life to slip away from her as she let herself die just 8 months after my father had died.   And, yes, maybe I was a little angry that neither her children, or her grandchildren were reason enough to fight to regain her strength and go on with her life without him.

Flapper Mary -Left

What happened to that talented, spirited flapper, who in the roar of the 1920s left her country, and family before the age of 18 to marry a Chicago jazz musician?  Who, by the time she herself was 20, had divorced and returned to her native Canada.  Who, then shunned by her family in Sarnia, moved to Windsor and opened her own tailor and dressmaking shop.  (Sarnia is just across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, MI.  Windsor is 80 miles south, just across the same river from Detroit.)

There isn’t anyone left alive who can fill in the actual details of her life in the mid 1930s and early 40s.  She remained a single, self-sufficient,  and–as photographic evidence indicates–a quite glamorous woman.  Her life during that time was likely filled with music, art and fun.  She had a sense of humor.  And her later life included traces of all of these elements.  I imagine her life during these years was not unlike my single years after my first marriage ended.  Or, my sister’s life as a single woman before the age of 34.   And, yet this was nearly 30 years before women’s liberation!

Mary was definitely an incurable romantic.  At the start of WWII, she apparently fell in love with a Canadian flyer and they were planning to marry.  But, because she had been previously married to an American, she needed clarification on her divorce papers.  This required contacting her ex-husband, the musician, who was also now serving in the US Army.

Before sending her the required paperwork, he convinced her to meet him in California where he was stationed.  She did.  As further photographic evidence indicates, it was 1943.  The musician was my father.  And, this brings us to the “To Gene, Love, Mary” chapter of her story.

She loved him so much, she married him twice.   She loved him so much, she again left her country, her Canadian flyer, her tailor shop, her family and church and followed him back over the Blue Water Bridge to the States.   He left his musician’s life and they settled into the post war baby boom and produced 3 children in 4 years.

Cue: Mary’s Song”   For 25 years she danced to someone else’s tune.  She did manage to carve out little niches for herself.  She kept a part-time sewing business at home.  She did a little painting and sketching and once in a while would sit down at the piano and play “Claire de Lune.”   And, up until her mother died, she made regular trips back home to Canada.  We all have fond memories of those train and car trips to Sarnia for 2 weeks every summer. She would take the three kids for a week, then Dad would drive up to meet us for the second week.

Her parenting style was laissez faire.  But perhaps because of her English Canadian upbringing, she had a keen sense of propriety.  She insisted that the dinner table be properly set.  Sunday dinner was in the dining room, with the good dishes and her china cups.  Linens were properly starched and ironed.   She made a lot of our clothes and even altered and refit any hand-me-downs we received.   And Lord help us if she found safety pins holding up our hems, buttons or seams!

Mary’s Song describes her battle with depression.  I watched her struggle with it from my childhood.  And, with little or no understanding or support, each battle took another piece of her heart.

In my mother’s eyes, “The Day the Music Died” was the day my father died and so did her will to go on.  Yes, she loved him so much, she couldn’t imagine life without him. 

Mary & Gene

And, so she began her eight month journey down the rabbit hole.  She emerged on July 17, 1971 and joined my  dad, her Beloved Gene.  And they’ve been together in Heaven for 40 years!

So, Happy 100th Birthday Mom!   Now you have another special person with you up there to help you celebrate your Centennial:   Hey Jude—Let’s get this party started!

Read: “With Love, Mary”
Read: “Mary’s Song”

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Cole’s Musical Poetry Assignment -April 2011

For those of you who may not know, my Grandson, Cole is a highly skilled fisherman.. and here is evidence that he is also an equally skilled wordsmith:

Mary had a little fish,
little fish, little fish.
Mary had a little fish,
that ended on her spoon.

Mary made a castaway
a castaway, a castaway.
Mary made a castaway
and the little fish ate it soon.

Mary pulled the little rod,
little rod, little rod.
Mary pulled the little rod
’til the fish jumped in the boat.

Mary cooked the little fish,
little fish, little fish.
Mary cooked the little fish
’til it ended in her throat.

Cole Langellier–April 14, 2011

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On Wisconsin

After the Presidential Election of 2004, I wrote a piece for Bark River Ramblings on The Hebron Herald, called The President’s New Clothes… Of course, there have been a number of similar comparisons since that time, comparing a number of out-of-touch political figures with the delusional, naked Emperor.

Back in 2004, basically, you had an appointed President, who won re-election by 30% vs. 29% over John Kerry.  And the largest voting block in that election was the non-voters at 40%.  Yet George Bush claimed he had earned political capital in that election and he intended to spend it… Ah yes, and we all know how well that turned out.

So, 2010: enter Governor Scott Walter in the State of Wisconsin, who with his posse have run the Democratic rascals out office and, some are reporting and others reveling in the claim that they turned a “Blue” state “Red”.   Actually, like the majority of states, Wisconsin remains a Purple state.  But that’s too complicated for sound bites, bumper stickers, and tweeters.

Apparently, Mr. Walker has the same tailor as George Bush and the Emperor.  Only 49.7% of the Wisconsin voting age population voted in the 2010 election.  So, once again the largest voting block is the non-voters—only this time they were not only the largest voting block, they were the majority. So, while Walker got more votes than anyone, he only got 26% of the VAP vote. 

 So, he DOES NOT speak for the majority of the people of Wisconsin. Especially when he says things like “These protesters will not drown out the voices of the Taxpayers of Wisconsin.”   Ummm… Governor….these protesters ARE THE TAXPAYERS OF WISCONSIN!   So you, Sir–with whatever political capital you think you’ve gained– should spend it on a new tailor.

 I don’t know how this will all play out… so far the demonstrations have been peaceful.  But this weekend the folks who like to carry loaded weapons to political rallies are about to be bussed in from other states to launch their counter protest.

 I sincerely pray that everyone’s better angels will prevail.  I pray that Scott Walker will accept the concessions that State Union workers are prepared to make for health care and pension benefits.  And that he’ll realize that he doesn’t have a mandate to strip ANY union workers of their right to collective bargaining.  

 I pray that any non-union working class people who think it’s okay to try and abolish unions… go back and read your history, about why unions were needed in the first place.  And remember that you can’t always trust that Corporate America will do the right thing by their workers or the consumers of their products. 

 Most importantly, I pray that the 50% of the voting age population of Wisconsin that stayed home in November of 2010 wake up and realize that with those kind of numbers, we have the government here we deserve.  And I pray next time we can do better.

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Blast From the Past–Blizzard of 1967

View from the Cicero Ave. overpass facing west toward Laramie.
All the snow talk and comparisons to the Blizzard of 1967 on Facebook this week sent me digging into my old clip files… and what treasures I discovered there!  Not only did I find a blizzard photo, I found the article I wrote to go along with it, which  is also scanned and included below.  But the greatest find of all was the photo of my original Austin Town Hall Park Bench….complete with a little old man settin’ a spell— perhaps to pause and reflect?

Back to the blizzard story… which is an account of my bus ride home from work at the Austinite aboard the Cicero Ave bus, heading south from Lake Street.  Later that night, another bus (or maybe it was the same one) ended up  stuck in the middle of the street at the corner of Polk Street and Cicero,  just a few doors from our house.  That’s when my dad made a batch of sandwiches and took them down to the folks who remained stranded on the bus and were hunkering down for the night.

Please excuse the lack of polish in this eye-witness account… I was, after all, only 17 years old and still in high school at the time it was written!  (For the life of me, I can’t recall the significance of  the Volkswagen reference… other than we were studying advertising effectiveness in school back then and the classic VW  Beetle  ads back then were also classic.)

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Peace is not the end of war,
But the beginning of Understanding.

Understanding is knowledge
Tempered with feeling.

Feeling, we know we are alive;
And if for a piece of our lives,
We can know the peace of love,

There will be born a new understanding.

-Rosemary Langellier

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Recalling Kennedy and Lennon

One John,
         Then another,
Now both of them gone.

Each loved peace,
          Spoke truth,
One did in song.

Both led the the people,
One to the moon.

One John,
      Then another,
Both gone too soon.

Rosemary Langellier  1981

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“Save the Earth… It’s the only place that rocks!”

Love that quote.. you can get it on a T-shirt at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.   But you don’t have to travel all the way to Cleveland for a great musical or museum experience.  Last night right here in Fort Atkinson at the Hoard Museum we were treated to the 2nd annual “Musical Night at the Museum.” 

The evening featured the music of jazz violinist, Randy Sabien, and our own Bill Camplin.  To use the jargon of this medium, IMHO, Bill Camplin does Bob Dylan better than Dylan.  And Randy Sabien’s violin was NOT just fiddlin’ around. If the half-body statue of W D Hoard had feet, they surely would  have been tappin!

Proceeds benefited the Museum, the Library and Fort Food Pantry.  It was sponsored by the Café Carpe and Jones Dairy Farm.  And we’re adding links to all these great people and places so you can check them out and see how lucky we are to be surrounded by such talented and caring people. 

The Heart of the City is another Fort Atkinson group that is working to save the earth right here in Fort Atkinson.  Their mission is:  “To work toward sustainability in our homes and community through education, projects and thoughtful engagement with neighbors and civic leaders.”  And one of their current projects is to lay a permeable pavement driveway at the newly and magnificently remodeled Dwight Foster Library.  So a portion of the evenings proceeds will go toward that project as well.

Speaking of Rock…

For those who enjoy their music a little more on the edgy, harder side of Rock and Roll, and who are hardy enough to experience an evening of music that begins at about my bed time, check out Apex.  They’re a local band that started in high school in 1984, then grew up, all became professional at something else, then “got a second chance at Rock & Roll.”  Their music was what our kids listened to as teens, and like most parents then I thought it was just loud.  Well it’s still loud–but now I really enjoy its energy and nostalgia. 

You can usually catch them somewhere in or near Jefferson County at least once a month.  The only time I’ve been able to make it through an entire show was this summer when they headlined at Rhythm on the River… what a great time that was!  And, they did that gig for free to help the Fort Chamber recover from the previous year’s rained out event.   Yes we’re lucky to have so much local talent here saving the earth and  keeping the music alive.  

The house that rock built!

But if you do get the chance, take a weekend trip to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on the beautiful Lake Erie shore. 

Then, if you need a mid-winter pick me up, you can also check out the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa Feb.2-5, 2011.  The Surf was the last venue that Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens played before their plane crashed in a farmer’s field in Clear Lake in 1959.  Each year rock and rollers of all ages from all over the world gather there to make a liar out of Don McLean and prove that the music lives.  Jerry Lee Lewis is the scheduled headliner for the 2011 event, along with a host of others.   Clear Lake is just west of Mason City.  Take US HWY 18 out of Jefferson, keep driving for half a day and you’re there! 

The Surf Ballroom --50th Anniversary Winter Dance Party Marquee

Since that’s our anniversary weekend, Ron and I have made that pilgrimage several times, including the 50th Anniversary in 2009–that was the year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dedicated the Surf Ballroom as a historic rock and roll landmark. 

The plaque reads:   “There are few buildings in existence today that represent a complete shift in our musical history.  As the last concert venue for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, the Surf is the bedrock of where the sound and attitude of rock and roll changed forever.” 

In a couple of weeks I hope to catch my nephew, Don and the Beertles, his “very temporary band,” –not sure what that means–but they’re a Beatles tribute band and they’re playing Dec. 4th at Two Rivers in Lemont, Il.  They start at 9:30–yeah,  I”ll be takin’ a nap before that one too!

“Peace, Love and Rock N Roll!”


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