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Christmas Eve Gift!!

Christmas Eve Gift

Growing up Santa always came on Christmas Eve; I don’t really know why, he just did!   There was no waiting around for Christmas morning to open gifts in my family of six children.  Maybe it was because often the tree was not cut and decorated until that day with homemade ornaments. Maybe Mother and Daddy knew they could not restrain us until the next morning.  Maybe it was because the following day meant a trip over the rivers and through the woods to Grandma’s house we’d go.  Little did I know in 1960, the year I became a member of the Hemperley family, that they too opened their gifts on Christmas Eve, but the Christmas Eve gift had a twist and was a tradition in their family.

As Don and I entered his parent’s home that year, his dad greeted us with a boisterous, “Christmas Eve Gift!” to which Don replied, “Oh, you got me again!”  His mom entered the room and her greeting was the same.   I looked at Don quizzically and wondered what was going on.

Knowing full well we were to have our gift exchange after supper that night my reply was that it was not time to open gifts. Don’s dad questioned me; didn’t I know about the Christmas Eve Gift? No, apparently I did not.

He explained that in days of old when all the crops were laid by and the bills paid, the plantation owners would give a gift to the first farm hand that greeted him with that phrase on Christmas Eve.  And since “Pop” had grown up on a farm and was a farmer, the tradition continued. But I soon learned that the gift didn’t come with a bow but was more like a game of tag.  You try to catch someone off guard, unsuspecting, or naïve to lay the words on and reap pleasure of being the first to greet someone you love on Christmas Eve.  The result is usually “Oh darn, you got me” followed by the gift of a hug and a kiss. Through the years my family, the Stanleys, became players in the game and love it as much as those who taught me how to play.

Some Hemperleys will go to any length to tag you first.  Like the year Don, who was an early to bed and early to rise person, set his biological clock for 12:01 AM to wake me from a deep slumber with his obnoxious greeting.  Sometimes they will wait until you are deeply involved in making a Christmas dessert or some other chore that would distract you and you are caught again.  Or there will be a knock on the door and when you open it you are greeted by a chorus of the phrase by relatives bearing gifts and food who have arrived early hoping to catch you off guard.

In the days before caller ID the phone would ring and on the other end of the line you would hear the greeting before you could even say Ho Ho Ho.  In today’s world when we can’t all be together or you want to tag someone before you are tagged, you wait until 6:00 AM, as I did this morning, and text the phrase .  Some say I’m cheating; I say welcome to the world of electronics as I see that the same as a chat, one on one.  And who got caught tagged first today?  Not me!

Traditions are unique to each family and they often are changed from one generation to another.  Silly as this game is, it’s a Christmas tradition that has been passed down for years.  There is no last minute shopping, no fighting crowds nor it’s not monetary. It’s just a warm greeting filled with love.

And yes I do know ultimately the true Christmas Eve Gift was the Star of Bethlehem that led to a manger.  May you have a Merry Christmas and remember the reason for the season.

In closing I would like to say “CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT”! Consider yourself tagged!

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Road Trips: After the Estate Sale with Sissy Hanson Burge

Leaving the Estate Sale of Billy and Dixie Hanson, I was now headed to the home of his sister, Virginia “Sissy” Hanson Burge, which was a short distance down the road.  My friend Cheri was still with me as we followed Tommy and Kathy to his mother’s home.   My relationship with this family is so closely related that they appear in three of my family’s trees.  On my paternal Stanley side, my grandfather, Wes Stanley’s sister, Roxie Lee had married Robert Benjamin Hanson.  Roxie and Robert were parents these kids father, James Hanson, therefore their grandparents. On the maternal Martin side of the family, my mother Mamie Martin’s sister, Gladys, married Roxie and Robert’s son, James also known as Jim.  And on my husband’s side, Laura Hanson Hemperley, his grandmother was the sister of Robert Hanson!!!  Okay, this is getting very confusing and I’m afraid one of us is married to a monkey’s uncle!
But allow me to introduce you to Sissy:

Sissy Hanson Burge

Sissy was only two years old when her father, “Jim” Hanson died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1932; her brothers James and Billy were only four and one. Aunt Gladys had a hard life providing for these children and Sissy says they often wondered where their next meal would come from. She was in the second grade in Ida, Louisiana before she saw her first white cake. Brother James sold his dad’s saddle to buy a wooden bicycle to deliver ice to the residents of Ida. That cause quite a stir in the family, but it did help provide for them.

Children of Gladys Martin Hanson

By 1939 Gladys was remarried to Claude Norris Gingles, better known as “Buster” and was working as assistant post mistress in Ida. Buster was in the Army and in 1946 they moved to Doyline and lived in Green Tree Village which was the housing for those associated with the shell plant located there. Leaving Ida in her senior year of school was the hardest thing Sissy said she ever had to do but Aunt Gladys offered her encouragement and told her she was going to like it.
The neighboring family, the Greesons, had six girls and so Sissy made friends quickly. There was a handsome young man named Wilburn Thomas Burge on the basketball team and Sissy asked the Greeson girls about him. They approved and within a week Wilburn “Kink” had asked her for a date to a ballgame. In her last year of school Sissy played the cymbals and baritone tuba while her brother James played the bass tuba.

W T and Virginia (Sissy) Hanson Burge

Sissy and Kink were married on October 10, 1947 in the parsonage of the First Baptist Church in Doyline. Kink worked as a Pepsi delivery man covering a large part of North Louisiana before he became employed at the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant where he worked for over thirty years. Sissy worked at a general store in Ida before moving to Doyline and afterwards at the Dixie Cream, the LAAP as an ordinance inspector, at the hospital in Minden as the central supply clerk and later in the thrift store at Hope Youth Ranch. Their family includes sons Wilburn Thomas, Jr. also known as Tommy, Kenneth Noel and two daughters, Barbara and Kathy. For many years they lived in downtown Doyline but for the past thirty years have resided at the dead-end of Point Road in the former home of Kink’s parents which was also a fishing camp and boat launch.

Burge's Camp on Bistineau

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Sissy’s house located on beautiful Lake Bistineau. Cheri was anxious to wet a hook and see how many fish she could catch before our visit ended but we were not here to fish.  I was her to visit with Sissy……. period!  I had not seen her in a very long time and she was much frailer than in younger years. She now has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer live alone therefore Kenny and Barbara live with her.

At first she didn’t recognize me but when told who I was, we hugged for a long time; her smile was welcoming and that bear hug felt good. She had Barbara bring out her photo albums to share with me and when prompted could tell me of things that happened long ago but had difficulty with her short-term memory. There were two photos that she dearly cherished, those being of her father, Jim Hanson. The one below is of him on the top right, brother Doris Hanson on the left, and sisters, Myrtle Hanson in the middle and bottom Retter and Woodie.

Jim Hanson and brothers and sisters

My visit was short as Sissy was tiring and needed rest. As she turned to retire to bed I told her I wanted a good-bye hug. As we stood face to face she looked at me quizzically and asked, “Did your Momma die?” to which I replied, “Yes a long time ago”. She and I both held back tears and held each other tight.

Kookie Hemperley and Virginia Hanson Burge

She never looked back nor did I. At least we had that precious moment together and hopefully it meant as much to her as it did to me.

As we drove away Cheri declared that we were coming back….. and next time she would bring her own fishing gear!

Back home I couldn’t wait to share the photo of Jim Hanson and his brothers and sisters with another Hanson cousin, Michelle Chamblee McBride and her family. Was she ever surprised! It was like a priceless treasure as none of her family had ever seen the picture before of their loved ones at such an early age.

So, so wherever you road trips lead you, be it down a dusty road, a visit to a library, a walk in a cemetery or an interview with one of the elders of your family, please share! And if you have a “road trip” planned anytime soon, please give me a call.
Kookie

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and it’s a time to drag out your favorite recipes, plan a menu, and go grocery shopping.  Sometimes it becomes stressful worrying if you will have enough food, who’s coming to dinner and will you get it on the table on time.  Holiday meals should never become a chore but rather a celebration of family, friends and the fellowship you can share with one another.

Our family’s celebration for Thanksgiving is pretty traditional in the menu.  However, it’s the contribution of each family member’s specialty that makes it more delightful and less complicated. Son—in-law, Scott Brown starts the night before by smoking a turkey that is falloff the bone tender and juicy.  Everyone has their favorite part of the turkey and when my daughter-in-law came into the family, she would only eat drumsticks therefore they were reserved for her alone. The simple way to resolve this problem for the younger family members, who also liked them, was to purchase a package of nothing but drumsticks.  Now everyone is happy!

Of course we have to have the traditional cornbread dressing which I make.  Recently I have taught granddaughter Rachel how to make it and we usually do that together.  When Don was alive I made two dressings; one regular and another with oysters which was his favorite.  Kelly makes mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and of course we have broccoli rice casserole, which my South Louisiana grandkids refer to as “green rice”. Other items on the menu include a fruit salad, green salad, cranberry sauce, rolls, etc. For deserts Scott often makes a sweet potato pie and he or I have to have pecan pie with Jack Daniels in it.  Now before you back away from that one, the alcohol cooks out and you are left with a delightful flavor.  Kelly’s favorite is banana pudding and my niece, Janet Stanley, who is the carrot cake princess, always makes one for me.  Sometimes I make 5 Minute Fudge however, my sister-in-law gave me a recipe for crock pot fudge that is so easy to make (as if the 5 Minute Fudge is difficult!).  Another “must” is bread pudding with either a coconut rum or Jack Daniels sauce.  Granddaughter Lauren is a wizard with cupcakes so she’s in charge of those and, sister, Judy Stanley introduced us to pecan pie muffins.  Can you tell by the time the football games are on TV we’re in a sugar coma?  Bring on the coffee with Kool Whip floating on top!

Now that your mouth is watering, thought I’d share a few of our favorite recipes with you.

First up:

Janet Hemperley Stanley’s Carrot Cake:

IM000038.JPG

Mix together 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 1 ½ cup oil. Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. salt. Fold in: 3 cups grated raw carrots and 1 cup chopped pecans. Bake 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cream Cheese Frosting: 8 oz. cream cheese, ½ stick butter, 1 box powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix until creamy and frost the cake.

Next:

Kookie Stanley Hemperley’s Easy Bread Pudding Kookie Hemperley 6-2-2012 Large pkg. Day old Danish with pecans and raisins, 1 qt. heavy cream and 8 eggs. Break up bread and cover with cream and eggs mixing well. Let soak for a few minutes and then pour into baking dish sprayed with Pam and bake at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes). Sauce: 1 cup sugar, water to dissolve sugar, *orange or lemon juice to taste, vanilla, small amount of heavy cream and pecans chopped finely. Add all ingredients and cook down until thick. *You can substitute Cocoanut Rum, Jack Daniels or Grand Marnier. (Of course, cooking takes all the alcohol out but leaves a good flavor)

Next:

Velma Stanley’s Crock Pot Clusters

Velma Irwin Stanley1-16 oz. jar salted dry roasted peanuts, 1-16 oz. jar unsalted dry roasted peanuts, 1-12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 bar German chocolate and 2-1 ½ lb. white almond bark.  Layer all ingredients in a crock pot and set temperature to low and cook 3 hours. Stir at the end of 3 hours. Drop onto foil by spoonsfull and let set until hardened.

And last but not least:

Judy Stanley’s Pecan Pie Muffins

JuJu May 2010

1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup brown sugar firmly packed, ½ cup all purpose flour, 2 large eggs, ½ cup butter or margarine melted.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl; make a well in the center of the mixture. Beat eggs until foamy and stir in butter. Add to dry ingredients stirring until moistened. Place in muffin tins (spray or coat with butter). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Makes 8-0 muffins. We like these because you can eat them with your hand and don’t have to wash a dish!

As you can tell, our meal is collaboration from the whole family, which makes it more fun. And of course, each person around the table has to say what they are thankful for before we all dig in. That can be funny, sentimental or sweet. So, in closing, I’ll start this Thanksgiving season by saying, thank you Lord for family who sustain me; for friends who bring joy, for health; and for genealogy which brought me to Susie Higginbotham Reynolds who allows me to share a part of her world!

Who Do You Think You Are? – My Review

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For months I have anticipated the return of one of my favorite shows, “Who Do You Think You Are”.  Even if I don’t know much about the featured celebrity, I hopefully will discover a new source for searching or find a hint that will lead me in a new direction.  Last night “Who Do You Think You Are?” made its 2013 season debut and left me with mixed reviews. 

For starters, searching for ancestors just doesn’t fall into place as it is portrayed on the show.  As someone who has done research in libraries, cemeteries and personal interviews over a period of more than thirty years, I can tell you that you may search months, years or decades to locate one document much less the entire life story of your ancestor. Sometimes you come up totally empty handed.

Personally I love Ancestry, the sponsor of the show.  In fact I have three family trees on their site and praise it as my “go to sight” for research.  However, I believe the illusion of how easy it is to discover your past, who you are, and your family’s place in history on “Who Do You Think You Are?” is just that…… an illusion.  The average beginning genealogist, I’m afraid, will get a false sense of tracing one’s tree.  And when disappointment sets in, some will lose interest and their tree will never branch with limbs and twigs.

Sure, if you are a celebrity and have money to travel, it would make the process easier.  If you are one of the fortunate ones that can hire a professional genealogist to do the research for you, oh well, you have just missed the personal satisfaction of a history lesson in places, events and your heritage.  To me, documents from a professional would merely become a piece of paper with names on it.  I wouldn’t have the pleasure of that “ah ha” moment!  There is no greater reward in genealogy than to discover a document or photo and have the feeling of accomplishment in your pursuit.

Kelly and Rachel  Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley-4 generations

Kelly and Rachel Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley                     4 generations

Through the generations: Mother, Mamie Martin Stanley and I located cemeteries, interviewed family members, gathered photos and old documents.  My daughter Kelly Hemperley Brown and her husband Scott and I enjoy locating cemeteries off the beaten path documenting headstones as we go.  Rachel, who is about a year old in this photo, is all grown up now and currently is a Deputy Clerk in Caddo Parish Clerk’s Office. She has researched local court records for me and often accompanies me to different libraries searching old newspapers, microfilms and military histories.  In short, my research has included four generations sharing our family’s history and having that “ah ha” moment together.

While I find the celebrities heritage enjoyable at times, if I had my druthers, every once in a while I would prefer Ancestry send in a John Doe…… you know; ordinary researchers like you and me; the people who have brick walls and do not have the luxury of hiring the pros to do the work for us or to travel extensively.  Every person who has walked the face of this earth is deserving of having their story told regardless of their social status.

Another suggestion I would make to the producers of the show is that they allow the person with the most gathered information on the ancestor be allowed to travel on the discovery journey regardless of whether the featured person is a celebrity or a descendant of John Doe. Had it not been for the encouragement of and the companionship of my mother pointing me in the right direction when I began we would have not had the benefit of sharing what we discovered.  She didn’t have to wait until I arrived home with new information; she experienced it right along with me.

In conclusion when the celebrity located the grave-site of her relative of generations past and greeted it with “what’s up”, I thought how irreverent!  The first words from her mouth should have been that she would have loved to have known him and thank him for his contribution to the war, politics and her family.

Kookie

Military Monday- Saving Lives Rather Than Take Them

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Judson M Hemperley, Sr

Judson Manuel Hemperley was born on October 14, 1919 in Ida, Louisiana to Luther London and Sybil Cain Hemperley. Luther went to work for Cities Service and his wife and children moved to Haynesville, Louisiana where she owned a dress shop. Judson had one sister, Iris Bliss, who was killed in her senior year of high school from an accidental gun discharge.

Judson, in the 1940 census for Haynesville, Louisiana, was residing with his parents and wife, Helen Burge Hemperley, whom he had married on October 18, 1939 in Magnolia, Arkansas. It also says he had completed one year of college and had been out of work for 58 weeks even though his occupation was listed as an oilfield laborer.

On November 30, 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Army and served until January 4, 1946 as a medic attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. His first child, Judson Manuel, Jr., was born November 1, 1943 while he was in service in Germany.

For a time after he got out of the Army, Judson worked in the oilfield business in the boom of East Texas. In 1960 Judson relocated his family to Grants, New Mexico to the Uranium boom. His hobbies included gardening, fishing and cooking. He resided in Grants until his death at age 90 on February 10, 2010.

For many years, Judson would not speak of the war or his efforts to save lives rather than take them. It was only at the urging of one of his grandchildren and working with Doug Bocaz-Larson and his wife, Kim, a documentary film was made of his war experiences. Mr. Bocaz-Larson is the Program Manager for computer science and creative media instructor for New Mexico State University in Grants, New Mexico. In the fall of 2009 that documentary, “Saving Lives in World War II”, won an Emmy for the Southwest Rocky Mountain region.

Saving Lives in World War II, Judson M Hemperley

This video of Saving Lives in World War II can be seen here.

Judson, along with another WW II vet, was interviewed by CNN regarding their service in the war. The video for this is located here, if you want to be a member of the site, you can sign up and search for Judson Manuel Hemperley.

Another Video about his saving lives can be seen here:

In these videos he recalls treating soldiers, saving lives at the Nazi Prison Camp, the stench of cremation’s, treating a little girl with a severed arm and walking through land mines to rescue fallen soldiers. Such atrocities you and I can’t even begin to imagine! He ate on the run, slept little and went from a 42” waist to a 35” waist during the same time period.

Look deeply into his compassionate blue eyes and listen as his gentle voice recants his life during service as a medic and you will see why it took him so many years to tell his war stories. Be thankful for your wounded relatives in World War II who returned home due to the dedication, training and American pride of medics like Judson Manuel Hemperley. A man committed to saving lives rather than take them.

Judson M Hemperley

Sentimental Sunday – The Monkey in the Tree

 In memory of Don’s dad, John Raymond Hemperley

Raymond Hemperley 1961

Raymond Hemperley 1961

It was a typical Sunday afternoon on the farm at the home of Raymond and Sybol Hemperley. He was sitting in a straight chair beneath the large pecan trees in the back yard, which the family referred to his  “office”, when I came out the screen door with a large glass of ice water in hand.  I guided Steve down the doorsteps and was met by Buck, the collie, who greeted and escorted us across the lawn to the “office”.

“Here you are, Pop,” I said as I handed him the glass and joined him in the other chair beneath the tree.

“Sure is hot today,” he said and drank the whole glass of water in one long gulp.

It seemed particularly hot to me too.  What breeze that was blowing was warm and dry that August day and we were trying to escape the hot house as it had no air conditioning and I was eight months pregnant with Kelly.

He took out his Bull Durham pouch and began rolling a cigarette.  It always mystified me how he could pour the tobacco; fill; roll and lick the tobacco stuffed paper; crimp the end; pull the pouch string with his teeth and drop the pouch back into his shirt pocket in one fluid motion.  As he lit up, he brushed the spilled tobacco off his khaki pants and it drifted in the breeze into his unlaced shoes.

His blue eyes smiled as he helped Steve crawl into his lap.  Steve dug into his pockets pulling out cigarette papers and ballpoint pins.  Pop (a name only Steve could call him as he required the other grandkids to refer to him as Pop Paw) looked high into the pecan trees and said, “Beauzook, what we need is a monkey for our tree.”

Steve smiled and I laughed.  Who could imagine a monkey running freely in a pecan tree on a farm in Caddo Parish, Louisiana?

“Pop, why on earth would you want a monkey?” I asked.

With a gleam in his eyes and bouncing Steve on his knee, he said, “I’ve always wanted a monkey.  Can’t you see one running from limb to limb, swinging in the tree for all the grandkids to enjoy?  “Sides that, red-butted monkeys are so funny.”

Through the next few years, the red-butted monkey became a joke between us.  Many times he told Steve and Kelly they needed a monkey and someday he’d get them one.

In August 1969 Don and I bought a house near Vivian which sat on a 3 ½ acre tree studded tract of land and we invited Pop and Me Maw over for the grand tour.  After they had viewed each room we finally made it out to the backyard where he pulled Kelly aside and said, “All you need is a monkey for your trees.”

Raymond died the following summer but not before he and I shared many special moments.  We had a closeness few fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law share.  He told me of his heritage, his growing up, living on a farm all his life, and about the earlier Hemperley’s that had moved from South Carolina to Georgia and then to the area in Arkansas known as Erie (near Doddridge). While it was interesting at the time, it would not be until a few years later, that I realized his grandchildren and the generations that followed them, should also know of the life and times of the Hemperley’s.  Suddenly I was bitten by the genealogy bug.  Suddenly I was running from place to place in search of documents, clues, photos, anyone who had known the family; anyone that was willing to share what they knew.  It was then I recognized that I had become the monkey, not in a living tree, but rather his family tree.  Hopefully some grandchild generations down will enjoy his story as much as he wanted a monkey for his grandchildren to enjoy!

Here are a few more pictures of Raymond Hemperley:

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

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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