Tag Archives: hemperley

The Magic of Christmas

One of my fondest memories of the magic of Christmas began when I was a small child while visiting with my grandparents, Wesley and Beulah Thompson Stanley, in the piney woods of East Texas.  My aunt, uncles, cousins and our family always gathered at Granny and Pop Paw’s for Christmas.

Pop Paw worked at the lumber mill and had scouted out trees days in advance.    On that particular day, a cool crisp one, he told us that if we didn’t go get a tree, Santa wouldn’t come.  We eagerly jumped into the back of his old truck and headed out in search of the perfect tree.

Wes Stanley and his Christmas tree hunting truck

Wes Stanley and his Christmas tree hunting truck

Being small children, we would have chopped down any tree if that was all it took for Santa to come, but Wes had something special in mind.  We searched and searched.  We looked at pines, which he said weren’t shaped right.   We looked at cedars and he said their limbs were too flimsy and difficult to decorate.  Finally he led us to the perfect tree!

It was a holly, straight, tall and loaded with bright red berries.  Everyone agreed it WAS the perfect tree.  He sawed it down, threw it in the back of the truck with all the kids sitting around the edge of the bed imaging what Santa would place beneath it.

Granny didn’t have much as far as decorations go; a few tangled, wrinkled icicles left over from Christmases past and some glass balls that time had faded and had very little color.  But we decorated it in style!  We made a paste from flour and water for glue and made paper chains for garlands, cut out paper lanterns, and the berries complimented the homemade decorations.  When it was completely decorated, we were all in agreement.  It was magical!  Surely Santa would appreciate our handiwork and bring something special.  We sang Christmas carols as the aroma of Granny’s specialty, fried apple pies, came from the cast iron stove in the kitchen.

I don’t even remember what Santa brought; I think only apples, oranges and nuts.  But that tree and the fellowship we shared instilled in me the love of Christmas and family to share the magic with.

After marriage, Don and I would go to his parents on Christmas Eve to exchange family gifts.  Afterwards, my sister-in-law and I would load the kids into a car and take them to see Christmas lights while Don and his brother were busy at our houses putting bikes together and the toys from Santa under the tree which we had gone to the woods and cut down. To the kids, the ride was magical to see the lights others had decorated their yards and homes with. The children never caught on as to why the dads didn’t go with us.

As years passed we set aside one afternoon a couple of weeks prior Christmas to go to the woods and, as Wes would do, chop down a special  tree.  The kids were almost as excited as I.  Usually we cut down a cedar.

But the one thing that had changed was that I now had fallen for flocked trees.  Don and Steve would flock the tree as Kelly and I covered our ears from the words Don would utter as the flocker stopped up or the vacuum hose would crimp and the flock would either come out in gobs or not at all.  Nevertheless, we had flocked trees.  And the bigger the better!  Most times they had to be tied to the beams of the den to stand erect after being heavily decorated.  Sometimes we made paper chains.  Sometimes we baked gingerbread men for ornaments.  And despite all of Don’s fussing about having to flock the tree, when it was fully decorated, he never failed to say, “It’s the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had.”

Let the Flocking begin

Santa always came on Christmas Eve when the kids  were small therefore they only had a gift or two from Mom and Dad.  After they had outgrown that stage, I would wrap and put the gifts under the tree, where they would shake, rattle, smell and make a million guesses.

Kookie's children

Some of the magical moments that are dear to me are granddaughter Rachel’s first
Christmas.

Rachels first Christmas

Emy’s visit with Santa.

Emy's visit with santa

And the happy faces of Christmas.

happy face of christmas 01

happy face of christmas 02

happy face of christmas 03

Surprises always came packaged differently and one never knew if your big gift would be under the tree, in your stocking, or in the form of something warm and fuzzy.

Don and I always had an Open House where a roaring fire on Christmas Eve warmed friends who would stop by for a bowl of gumbo and beverage. Sometimes we had to wait until they left before Santa came.  Sometimes they stayed to see what surprises he would deliver to the Hemperley kids.

I have so many magical memories of Christmas in my lifetime; like the year we were so broke that all Don could afford for me was a pair of house shoes.  I don t think I gave him anything.

Or, our first Christmas after he returned home from Japan and we were stationed in Maryland.  Maryland had a record snow fall that year, so we bundled up Steve, who was about a year and a half, and played in the snow building a snowman and having snowball fights.

Or the year he surprised me with a color TV and I sat up well after the three stations we could receive went off air and watched the test pattern until the wee hours!

Or many Christmases when the house was so full of relatives, home for the holidays, that we would run out of beds and couches for them to sleep on.  Santa must have had a difficult time delivering gifts for  there were pallets or sleeping bags on every inch of floor.

Much has changed in my celebration of Christmas.  Some loved ones are now gone.  I no longer go to the woods for a tree to flock.  In fact, this year I put up a flocked fake tree!!!

My kids now have kids and are now Santa!

We still open gifts on Christmas Eve and have gumbo for supper.  However, Kelly now cooks it and I can sit back and enjoy the night.

I no longer have kids sniffing or sleeping under the tree.  My dog has taken over that job!

Ahso under the tree

The magic of my Christmases began many years ago with my grandfather taking all the grandkids to cut a tree. It’s in my heart.  It’s in my memories.  It’s with my family. It’s who I am and where I came from.

May we all remember the true meaning of Christmas.  May we all remember the past, cherish the present, and look forward to a Christmas that is magical this and every year.

Merry Christmas!!!

The Five R’s of Tommy Stanley

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In this age of “going green” I would like to share how my brother, Tommy Stanley, has given new meaning to the words, recycle, repurpose, re-gift, redesign and rewards. I’m sure as you see his creations you will agree he has given these words new meanings. But before we get into that, let me introduce you to Tommy.

Tommy was the second child of six born to Mamie Martin and Clyde Stanley. In a family that large, we all wore hand-me-downs and didn’t have too many toys. Sometimes if you wanted a new toy you had to use your imagination and “recycle” a worn out bicycle wheel into a rim that you rolled around with a stick. Or a bottle became the forerunner of “Hot Wheels”. Or empty cans became airborne toys when you played “kick the can”. It was creativity to the max and we were happy with what we had. Thus, the birth of “recycling” for Tommy.

Tommy worked most of his adult life as a body shop man in several Ford dealerships throughout East Texas. One day, when work was slow, he was talking to one of his co-workers who had lost everything in a house fire. Everything but one lone spur. Tommy took the spur back to the body shop, polished it out and had the reward of seeing his co-worker’s surprise of the beauty of the only object salvaged from his loss.

That day set Tommy thinking. As a child he had seen a pair of brass spurs our Uncle Ray Martin had bought on a trip to Mexico before he entered World War II. (Ray was killed in Tunisia, North Africa on March 29, 1943.) That day he decided he would replicate them even though he had never attempted to make a pair of spurs.

He took a pair of ordinary horse shoes, straightened them into bars and then bent the horse shoes the opposite direction. That became the portion of the spur that would fit around a boot heel. He shaped, curved, filed, polished and refined it even more. When finished, he sent them out to be chromed. Once chromed, he took them to a leather shop owned and operated by a Mexican gentleman. As soon as the man saw them he said, “Chee-Wa-Wa”, which he went on to explain was style of spurs made in Chihuahua, Mexico. Could Uncle Ray have visited “Chee-Wa-Wa” when he bought his? Tommy then added a gold-plated rowel and the finished product is shown below.

Since that first pair was created, Tommy now makes spurs for bull riders, ropers, and pleasure riders. He says the most rewarding pair he made was for an insurance agent near Tyler. The man was a competing Western pleasure rider who’d had an auto accident, leaving his right arm and leg incapable of giving the horse the proper cues. He was in need of spurs that could be modified and realigned and contacted Tommy. Tommy went to his ranch, put the man on the horse, took measurements and went home to build the new spurs. Once finished, the man was able to once again ride competitively.

Pictured below are some of the spurs and branding irons Tommy custom builds.

This pair has brass inlays.

Work spurs made from horseshoes with branding iron.

Dressy in black leather and chrome.

Most recently Tommy has begun to “recycle” and “repurpose” silverware into jewelry. Spoons are used for rings, bracelets, and pendants. He also “recycles” estate costume from estate sales, garage sales, friends, and family into jewelry. My niece had a friend with some silver flatware from her grandmother that she wanted to use but didn’t know exactly what she wanted. Tommy designed a ring, earrings, and a bracelet. Now, it is worn daily and keeps fond memories of her grandmother near.

Recently he restrung pearls into a necklace, bracelet and earring that will be worn by a soon to be bride.

Here are some of his latest creations:

Arrowhead earrings.

Cross made from spoons but he also makes bookmarks and key chains.

Redesigned turquoise.

Spoon acorn and oak leaf.

Hair barrette from a belt with spoon holder.

Shell pendant made from slotted serving spoon that has hammered ribs and filed outer edges.

An assortment of crosses made from horse shoe nails and stainless.

Since Tommy’s retirement his workshop is located in his garage in Mineola, Texas. When asked where he gets his patterns, he replied, “In my head.” He is also quick to point out that he has no laser cutter, nor computer for designing. Each design is his own creation and each piece is handcrafted using adapted hand saws, files and hammers. I would add they are also crafted with a lot of patience, skill and pride. I’m sure our great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Stanley, who worked on horse farms and had a blacksmith shop, would certainly agree!

Kookie

Martin Family Reunion, 1982 – Ida, Louisiana

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Martin Family Reunion 1982 – Ida, Louisiana

I wrote this back in ’96 about family reunions. These days people wouldn’t be pulling out their wallets to show family photos; they’d just pop out their cell phones!

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR

We all gather around, kissing and hugging

While the aroma of fried chicken and apple pie fills the optic and smelling senses

As new babies are introduced to the clan

And older relatives are greeted and offered a helping hand.

Pictures pop from wallets like jacks in boxes

As mid-size kids make their way outside; bored with it all

Dodging Aunt Gracie and her ruby lipstick that leaves behind tell-tale smooch marks, impossible to remove.

Memories of when we were children

Of embarrassing situations,

Some humorous,

Some colorful,

Some we’d rather forget

Are related by a narrator who has them firmly embedded in his mind and on uncanny ability to embellish upon them.

Quite often they’re followed by laughter.

Frequently they are concluded by “not Me!”

Long tables are filled with family recipes, full of calories and cholesterol

Serving dishes vary from Grandma’s black crusted cast iron skillet to a Colonel Sanders’ bucket.

Hands joined, heads bent, someone invokes the blessing of nourishment of bodies and souls, with special thanks for our safe voyages.

Those who have departed on a voyage of another kind are somberly remembered.

A resound “Amen” breaks the silence and the binge begins.

Gray haired women and new brides clear away the dishes.

The older males, refreshed by a breeze under a spreading oak tree, whittle on fallen twigs while balancing on the back legs of straight chairs.

Their creations serve no purpose other than to wile away time or show off a new Buck knife

As younger dads teach the art of flying a kite or how to slide in safely at home plate.

A freckled face boy on a bag swing nearly rams one of the elderly gents as two little girls play Barbies

And two little boys scuffle in the dirt.

The shade grows longer and one by one they load their empty casserole dishes and Igloo coolers for the homeward pilgrimage

With invitations one to another to “come when you can”

Or the echoed refrain of “Same time next year.”

The little girls, shy only hours ago, separate their Barbies.

The little boys, neither of which has a shiner to display as a badge, glare at each other as if to say, “Same time next year.”

The reunion ends as it began with hugs and kisses

And a few teary eyes.

As the family car pulls away, the little girl, squirming in the back seat asks,

“Who was that girl I played with?”

“Your kissin’ cousin,” comes the reply.

Her brother brushes dust from his jeans and rolls his eyes.

“Will I see her again?” asks the little girl.

“Yes, dear.”

“When?”

“Same time next year.”

The little boys a large toothless grin.

“MA! He’s laughing at me.”

“Am not!”

“Am so!”

“Am not,” he says peering out the rear window while making a grotesque face at the little boy he had tussled with earlier in the day.

Same time next year he thinks; and the grin grows broader.

~Kookie Stanley Hemperley~

Here are a few more photos from this reunion, a great time was had by all.

J. D. and Linda Martin race against Martin kids, Kookie with back to camera, Judy Stanley and David Frossard, Mamie Stanley, Scott and Kelly Hemperley Brown all standing by the tree.

Kookie Stanley Hemperley, Mamie Martin Stanley, Tommy, Stanley, Judy Stanley

Womanless Wedding: Wilburn “Kink” Burge as father of bride holding shotgun, J. D. Martin as Bride, LeRoy Carrell as groom, James Hanson as preacher

Mamie Martin Stanley tossing to Kookie Stanley Hemperley.

Dale LeBlanc and Don Hemperley arrive by boat after fishing before the reunion.

Dixie Carter Hanson with grandchildren and Martha Gingles at the piano present devotional music at the Sunday devotional.

Balloons released to announce the Martin Reunion with notes inside to invite others Martins to join us.

Where’s Old Henry?

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Genealogy is defined as the record, or account, of ancestry and descent of a person, family group and family histories.

I think Webster was wrong when he dreamed up that description! I have found, through my years of wanting to know more of my lineage, that it is much more than that. I’ve decided genealogy research is: 1) Like being a detective working on a “cold case”. A lot of the evidence has been destroyed, tampered with, and most of the eye witnesses are long gone. Yet you know a person existed or you wouldn’t be here. You also know that person’s life deserves to be remembered and recorded with the truth and dignity it deserves. 2) What Grandma Jones may have told you, may not indeed be fact, but stories passed down, gossip, or hearsay. The original story has often changed. So you set out to locate and record every Jones that may have lived near Grandma and determine if they are related to your “Jones Clan” and if the accounts handed down or fact or fiction.

It’s a jigsaw puzzle, crossword puzzle and a Rubik’s cube all rolled into one long search where you attempt to fill in the blanks, find the perfect fit and match all the squares. It is stomping through overgrown lots seeking hints of habitation of your ancestor one hundred or more years ago. It is countless hours of research, interviews, pouring over old records, photos and the internet hoping to find one small clue. It is visiting graveyards with maps, chalk, and camera in hand. And all the while you think there’s got to be a clue just around the corner, at the next courthouse, library, or museum. You are energized with the thought that, “Today’s the day I’ll find Grandpa Henry!”

Probably the most recent and exciting discovery I have made is, that while I may never have the Eureka! moment on Old Henry, I have found wonderful cousins along the way that I never knew existed. Such was the case when I recently connected with Susie Reynolds and Gary and Bessie Higginbotham. We have the same thirst to know more and share our discoveries. It was a fun day just to be in their company looking over photos, letters, and sharing stories of family members past and present. Had it not been for genealogy, I would never have made this connection.

My advice for anyone seeking to know more about their ancestors is to never quit on your search; never disregard any clue before proving it; never overlook those of the present while searching for your past! They may just be the jackpot you have been searching for.

~Kookie~

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