Sepia Saturday #353: Making Beautiful Music

sepia-353001sepia-353002“Toot, toot, toot,” goes the horn of this little boy as his sister tinkles away at the ivories on her toddler-sized piano. She’s got the golden curls reminiscent of Shirley Temple and is wearing a red dress with white polka dots. He’s wearing yellow short pants and has a Scottie dog on his top. Not sure what song they’re playing but this card came from Aunt Toots to my Aunt Sadie on the occasion of her 3rd birthday. When the card is opened, the candle flames pop up on the birthday cake.


And since it’s the end of the year, I’m putting all the music related cards that I have left on this one post. The next card, for all it’s patriotic themes, is actuallysepia353004 a Christmas card. I don’t have a date on it but I’m going to take a wild guess that World War II has something to do with all the red, white, and blue. The front of the card features a couple of dogs dressed in star and stripes. One plays the tuba while the other plays a big bass drum. They are striking “up the band for a Merry Christmas.” The tuba inside the card pops up and is the leader for the little group of doggie musicians. Grandma was the sender of the card to Aunt Sadie.



The last card is a little more subtle on the music theme but it is still musical in nature. A small angel has a pink ribbon tied around the base of a daffodil bloom. As she pulls the ribbon, musical notes pour out. The inside of the card features some more of the musical notes, the daffodil, and pastel flowers. It was given to Aunt Sadie for Easter from her mother Beatrice and father Bill.

I find the little poem inside most intriguing. It’s mildly insulting and the last line is a little ambiguous….

“You’re not an angel always
(though you don’t miss it far),
You’re not exactly perfect
(Few daughters really are),
But as for being thoughtful
And lovable and sweet,
It should be very plain to see
You simply can’t be beat.”

We simply can’t beat you because the neighbors would complain? Because we couldn’t catch you? Because you’re just close enough to being a good daughter that a beating isn’t warranted? That you really are good despite the first four lines of the poem? The ambiguity makes me chuckle.

Our family isn’t an especially musical one. I tried guitar lessons for a while when I was young. That lasted until the handsome guitar instructor moved away. I’ve heard any number of times, “Your fingers are so long, you’d be great at playing the piano.” Well, sure, if that was the only requirement, I’d be bringing down Carnegie Hall. But I can’t get my right hand to do something independent of my left hand while trying to plink out a tune on the keyboard. And distinguishing between an E or an F or a G much less between a sharp or a flat note is beyond me.


Madeline gets the plume for her hat

You might interpret being able to send and receive Morse code as being musical, in which case my dad and his great grandfather William Henry Hunt qualify.


Madeline (second from right) as part of her high school’s marching band

My youngest sister, Jenni, did play the flute during her school years right up into high school. Some of her musical ability was inherited by her daughter Madeline who plays in her high school’s marching band. Madeline plays the tenor saxophone. I’m amazed that she can move about the field (even backwards sometimes), not crash into other band members, stay on her feet and play the sax the whole time they’re all performing.


Madeline (right) with her saxophone

Side Note: For an exceptional blog about all things musical, please visit “TempoSenzaTempo: A photo Gallery of Timeless Musicians” by Mike Brubaker, a fellow Sepia Saturday blogger.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo (originally #302, 24 Oct 2015): Musicians


Sepia Saturday #352: A Tale of Two Bears

sepia-352001sepia-352002Since it’s getting towards the end of the year, I’m putting three cards I have from Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook relating to my theme today of teddy bears. We have five really industrious bears helping Sadie celebrate her fifth birthday. Newton Memorial Hospital, where Sadie was born, is the one sending the card.








We then have two mischievous bears getting into a golden honey pot. The blue ribboned bears pop out from the bright red background and wish Sadie a happy birthday with the following “It’s your Birthday Honey. My! What a treat to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone so sweet! There’s simply no end to the honied licks you’ll find in the wishes I’m sending: For sweeter they grow with your birthday, so your supply will be always unending!” This card came from Sadie’s grandmother Anna K. Repsher.









Next up are three little bears, Mama Bear, Papa Bear and little Baby Bear. This card is a fold out type so that it’s four times the size (the pictures don’t convey this) when unfolded. They are out for a stroll on the front but are working hard at home on the inside. Papa Bear is cranking away at the ice cream maker while Mama Bear is making something tasty in the kitchen. Baby Bear is wearing a blue vest and a big pink ribbon is tied around his middle. He’s getting ready to blow out his birthday candles. The saying inside says, “1 for the money, 2 for the show, 3 for your birthday, – and here we go! 3 wishes for so many good things to do that you will be 4 before you are through!”

And now for the tale of two bears…

Once upon a time, when my grandmothers were young, wearing fur was a fashionable thing to do. Both my grandmothers (Beatrice Irene Repsher and Etta Berendine Pauw) owned and wore fur.


Grandma Westra (left) and Grandma Strait (right)

Grandma Etta Westra had a both a coat with a mink collar (complete with feet and tail still attached) and a mink cape. Grandma Beatrice Strait, a seamstress by trade, made her own mink stole from a piece of fur that was leftover when a client requested that her coat be shortened.

My sister, Jill, inherited the mink cape from Grandma Westra and the mink stole from Grandma Strait. However, in the 1990s and early 2000s, wearing fur was not in style and came to be considered by many people to be politically incorrect. My sister’s unique solution to the problem of owning the furs was to have them made into the teddy bears that are pictured below.

thebears003 thebears002Suzi Gilbert, who designed the bears, incorporated the maker’s labels and linings into the bears’ feet and accessories. Additionally, Jill provided the bears’ designer with a copy of the picture above of our two grandmothers together. Each grandmother’s picture was put with the bear that was made from her mink fur.

I can’t decide which bear I like better. Grandma Westra’s silver mink is just gorgeous but the variations of brown in Grandma Strait’s mink make it a more interesting fur. It doesn’t really matter; they’re both ultra soft and cute as all get out!

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo (originally #301, 17 Oct 2015): Teddy Bear


Sepia Saturday #351: Creepy People and Rabbits

I admit it. This is the first time this year that I couldn’t find a card-photo connection. I’m honestly stumped! Apparently, one, if not more, of the people in this Sepia Saturday photo prompt are not alive. I vote for the old guy with the weird Lurch expression on his face and possibly the young child standing in front of him. I have no family photos of dead people. Thank goodness for that. And nothing in this photo prompt inspired me to write a story, no matter how long I stared at it and studied the minute details.

So, that means I’m going even more off the rails with this post and out into the field with the rabbits. After all, it’s my blog!



The color pink is prominent in the cards for this week. However, the first card from Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook features a white rabbit. I’ll be exploring white rabbits later in this post.

“This cunning little bunny, With bonnet gay and new, Brings special Easter greetings, Dear Little Girl, to YOU!” This white rabbit’s bonnet is decorated with two blue birds and a big yellow bow. She’s popping out of a striped hat box. The rabbit is wearing a pink frock with a frilly undercoat. Grandma Repsher sent this card in 1942.



The next card features a pink stuffed bunny with polka dots. It’s wearing a blue bow and is shown in different parts of the card. It’s a birthday card for two-year-old Sadie sent to her in 1938 from Kitty, most likely soon-to-be Aunt Kitty. The saying inside reads, “Gay little two-year-old cunning and dear; God bless you and keep you full of good cheer; And may you have birthdays for many a year!”


The next card features a brown, long-eared rabbit answering a telephone. Her arm moves so she appears to be picking up the receiver to bring it up to her ear. Her bonnet features a yellow flower. This card was sent by Uncle Bob and Aunt Jean in 1943 for Sadie’s seventh birthday.

Rabbits are supposed to “taste just like chicken.” I’ll have to take other people’s word for it. I’ve never had rabbit or hasenpfeffer stew. I’ll refrain from posting any cute bunny pictures just in case someone does have rabbits as pets and not for food…

As a young man, though, my dad raised rabbits in the 1950s to supplement the Strait family’s meals. He had 20 or more rabbits at any given time out in the back of the house on 43 Lincoln Place, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. The rabbit hutches, the shed/workshop, garden, and the greenhouse were all in the same area.


Greenhouse behind the house at 43 Lincoln Place. Circa 1950s.

The rabbits lived in raised hutches with wire bottoms. Occasionally, the rabbits would decide to collectively thump their back legs on the wire and would cause quite a racket. Dad isn’t sure why they did this. Maybe to warn away some sort of predator lurking about? The wire bottoms allowed for the poop to fall to the ground and Dad would collect it to spread as fertilizer on the nearby garden. According to Dad, “Rabbit poop comes out just the way it goes in the other end. In round pellets.” The rabbit feed was purchased from the feed store located behind the old train station where Spring Street and Sparta Avenue meet in Newton.

The hutches also had small compartments for the rabbits to get out of the weather and a safe place for baby rabbits, kittens, to be born. The female rabbits, does, would usually have a litter of two. Every once in a while, a doe would have a litter of three or four or five kittens. To keep the rabbits from being too inbred, Dad would purchase a few new rabbits, both does and bucks, each season and introduce them into his stock.

Since these rabbits were intended as food, they were not given names. That would imply pet status and who wants to eat their pets!? The rabbits weren’t allowed to get too old before they were butchered; no more than two or three years old. Ancient rabbits make for some tough meat and extra chewing. Dad didn’t have a set time for butchering but did have to make sure he wasn’t picking does that were already breeding. He would pick out four or five rabbits,  a couple of times a year, to butcher. Rabbits are fairly easy to process and the back legs are the meatiest part. Dad’s mom, Beatrice, would use them in all the same ways that chicken could be cooked. They were fried, stewed, roasted, and boiled.

Mom’s dad, Albert Westra, also took a turn at raising rabbits for food. Mom remembers that her dad kept his white and black rabbits in hutches out in the back part of his woodworking shop in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. She remembers being in grade school at that time. Mom recalls her cousin Florence Tolsma coming from either Panama City, Florida, or Little Falls, New Jersey, to visit the Westra family on Townsend Street in Newton. Florence was the daughter of Gus Tolsma and Eelkje Harke Westra, Albert’s sister. During one of the meals when Florence was visiting, rabbit was served as the protein. It must be true that it tasted like chicken because no one told her it was rabbit and she didn’t seem to realize it.

Memory is a fluid thing. I personally seem to remember that we had white rabbits at Merriam Avenue when I was a young girl. However, an independent polling of both parental units at different times indicates those are false memories on my part! Neither Mom nor Dad recall us having anything to do with rabbits there. Bees, yes. Rabbits, no. That said, I must have incorporated their childhood stories about raising rabbits into my own recollections.

So, there you have it… No creepy dead people, just some memories of rabbits.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo (originally #300, 10 Oct 2015): Rabbits