My Dad’s Boots

The race to untie my father’s boots replaced hugs and kisses. Most days, Dad worked on our farm wearing worn-down work boots and thick socks to pad his feet, walking miles traveling between the house, barns, outbuildings, and fields.  During the early spring, Dad walked from our house to his tractor, often accompanied by a peg-legged duck. The farm fowl hunkered down on cold winter days and their fluffy down usually kept them warm. Unfortunately, this duck’s foot froze, along with a puddle of water. As the duck walked off, its foot remained in the ice. Dad, with his long slender legs, took giant strides as the duck bobbled back and forth from webbed foot to stump.

With boots resting on the floor boards, Dad drove the John Deere tractor and planter back and forth across the field. Imagining playing the drums on a Saturday night, he tapped his boots to songs, such as Woody Herman’s Woodchopper Ball, while seeds passed through the openings and dropped into the black soil.

Come fall, Dad climbed each metal step to the high perch of his combine and harvested the corn and soybeans. Sometimes, the combine broke and needed a fixing session in his machine shop in downtown Farnhamville. At that time of the year, neighbors often knocked on our door, seeking help to repair their machinery. The heavy boots protected Dad’s feet from sparks flying off his welder.

At the end of a long day, the screech of the side porch screen door caught the attention of my siblings and me. Foot steps entered the house, paused while Dad hung up his jacket and hat on the hooks mounted on the wall opposite the large chest freezer full of beef from our cows and vegetables put up by our mother from her bountiful garden. The sound of foot steps amplified on the linoleum kitchen floor, softened across the wooden dining room floors, and muted on the living room carpet. The boots remaining on his feet, Becky, Bobby, and I were poised and ready for action.

Exhausted, Dad flopped down into a lounge chair and stretched out his tired legs, a form of farmer’s yoga. A smile erupted across his exhausted face as he said, “Okay, kids, who can remove a boot the fastest?”

With excitement, we raced to his leathery, farm-scented boots and scrambled with the ties. Sounding like Red Barber announcing sports, Dad teased and egged us on, “Hurry, Moni. Becki is winning.” Laughter erupted. As I was the youngest child with less developed motor skills, Becky or Bobby usually beat me. But little did I care, because this was my time for closeness to my dad and to feel our love.


On May 27, 1953 at three in the afternoon and after 4 hours of labor, my mother delivered a baby girl. No pink cap, pink night shirt, pink socks, nor pink anything donned my tiny body of five pounds, 13 ounces. In rural Midwestern towns, distinguishing gender entailed, well, looking at body parts just as one did after the birth of a calf. Most babies wore hand-me-down clothing from either gender. Nor did pink dominate the color scheme at any stage of life. As a teenager, I gravitated towards shades of blue to enhance the Swedish eyes I inherited from my paternal Carlson and maternal Clausen families. 

Years later, when pink became a color of choice for women, it mystified me why I felt an aversion to any hue of pink. The color pink symbolizes femininity and is used by many organizations such as the pink ribbons of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation.  For nearly two decades, I entered the Women’s Only running and walking event sponsored by the Women’s Hospital in Greensboro to raise funds to provide mammograms for their patients. Each year, pink dominates the scene and the entry bags often contain pink tee-shirts. I passed my tee-shirts to others or turned them into rags.

My avoidance of pink continued into my current cycling years. Many women bling their bikes with pink accessories – frames, head sets, saddle bags, spokes, and handlebar tape and grips. My titanium mountain bike frame is gray and the I-9 wheels are laced with red spokes. Males, not females, compliment my bike. I don’t object to other women’s love of pink. It just is not my color. 

Moni's Dean Colonel Single Speed

As an adult, I visited my sister Becki in Iowato help care for her daughter, Karli, after brain surgery to remove a pediatric cancerous tumor. Frequently I drove through snowy streets to the Hy-Vee grocery store where I shopped and stood in line with a cart full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean meat.  One wintry day, for some unknown reason since Iowans don’t rush to buy bread and milk when snow is forecast, long lines queued into the aisles and, due to boredom, I scanned the candy display. All the standard sweets lined the shelves: Snickers, PayDay, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mars, and M&M’s. One candy bar wrapped in red paper with white print jolted my attention. The largest print read, “Twin Bing,” which stirred memories but also caused confusion. Unconsciously, I reached out and slowly clasped my fingers around the package, which crinkled, and then I gently placed the candy among my healthy food items.

While returning to Becki’s house, thoughts of childhood filtered through my mind. With one hand on the steering wheel, I held the wrapper between my front teeth and tore open the Twin Bing. The smell of chocolate wafted upward, while my eyes noted the lumpy texture from the chopped peanuts nestled within the outer chocolate layer. Slowly, I bit into the candy bar which exposed a brilliant pink interior and long buried childhood memories.

My Dad ate Bing bars during our infrequent trips to town. Consumption time lasted about thirty seconds because Dad inhaled his food faster than our Hoover vacuum cleaner sucked up bits of black prairie soil from the living room carpet. Our family meals didn’t entail intellectual conversation while savoring bites of gourmet food like sophisticated city folk. Desserts seldom concluded a meal and snacks included toast with peanut butter with or without jam. Consuming a candy bar was a novelty.

The original Twin Bing, named the Cherry Bing, the candy bar from my childhood, reached grocery stores in 1923, and included only one round candy per package. In 1973, a couple of years after I graduated from high school when the cost of sugar and cocoa increased due to the oil embargo, the Palmer Candy Company decided to increase the cost of the Cherry Bing from ten to fifteen cents. To justify the nickel increase, the company placed two round candies in each package and renamed it Twin Bing or its moniker, the double bump. The company introduced the triple bump or King Bing in 1986, during the “super size me” era. A triple bump is considered two servings for a total of 380 calories. But honestly, who cuts one of the bumps in half and reserves the second serving for later?

By elementary school, with meals of farm-raised food, my five pounds grew into a stick figure of average height. My Dad, at six feet, towered over me in both physical stature and verbal commands. My skinny legs took numerous steps to keep up with his giant stride as we entered Strickland’s, the local grocery store in Farnhamville. Dad, who never shopped for groceries, picked up fly paper or some hardware type item, and then his work boots struck the wooden floor boards and my tiny feet clip-clacked behind. I reached the checkout counter several moments after my Dad, long enough for him to select a Cherry Bing. As always, only one candy bar. Money exchanged hands and all the items were placed into a paper bag, except for the Cherry Bing.

My Dad and I exited to the street as he quickly opened the red and white wrapper. From my lower elevation, I glanced upward and noted the lumpy texture that the Palmer Candy Company describes on the wrapper as “Nutty Chocolaty.”  From enjoying eating Aunt Katie’s Brownies that my Mom baked using our farm eggs, I imagined the taste of the Cherry Bing’s outer layer.

My Dad’s first bite exposed the pink interior. This color challenged my imagination. No other food provided me with a flavor hint for the marshmallow-consistency pink center. Curiosity overwhelmed me. Another couple of bites and the candy disappeared.


My legs scurried along as I tried to keep pace. We headed to our Studebaker truck and drove back to the farm. Each time I watched my Dad consume a Cherry Bing I saw the pink center and bitterness was the flavor I tasted.

No childhood memories exist of tasting a Cherry Bing. Did I ever ask for one? Did Dad ever offer me one? I just don’t recall.

Finally, in my fifties and on that wintryIowa day, I tasted pink. I drove across the railroad tracks near Becki’s house and swallowed that first bite of a Twin Bing. My taste buds wished to retreat from the horrible, disgusting flavor. I gagged and tossed the remainder out the car window. What is this crap?

The name suggests cherry and the Palmer Candy Company describes their product as a “Cherry Treat,” but cherries are not listed as an ingredient, only natural and artificial flavors, red 3, and red 40. The third listed ingredient is corn syrup which is now considered a factor in the high rate of obesity in our nation’s children. The fourth ingredient is hydrogenated oil, which causes heart disease. Thanks to my Dad, Cherry and Twin Bings will not shorten my life.

After decades, my reason for shirking pink became clear. So when I returned home from Becki’s, it was time to replace my old aqua- tinted, wire-rimmed, prescription eye glasses. With a new vision, I waltzed into The View on Elm in downtown Greensboroand selected fuchsia colored frames. And as any urban chick knows, fuchsia is just a fancy name for pink.


The Pink Lady

On a June evening, Bob lay down for his final rest with Margaret, his wife of forty-eight years, sleeping beside him. Early that morning, their daughter, Laura had glanced through the master bedroom door as she tip-toed through the hallway and sensing that Bob had passed on, allowed Margaret a few precious last minutes with her husband nestled beside her.

Later that morning, a man from the funeral home came to begin arrangements for the service. John and Moni, Laura’s brother and sister-in-law, sat in the living room with Laura; none of them knew how to deal with death.

After introductions and pleasantries, the funeral home man asked, “What would you like to include in Bob’s obituary?”

Eyes glanced from one to another with thoughts of how ordinary Bob was to the world and extraordinary man to his family. After a long pause, Laura popped out, “Well, that man was a gardener extraordinaire of home grown tomatoes.” Laughter filled the silent room. Unfortunately, that kernel of truth never appeared in the obituary.

Bob and Margaret had bought their home at 520 South Holden Road in Greensboro when it gravel and delineated the city limits. Margaret clipped their laundry onto the clothes line and grew flowers in their backyard, while Bob tended to his vegetable garden. After decades, the road became a paved four-lane boulevard. Their sapling sycamore grew so large, it had to be cut so that sunlight would once again reach Bob’s garden.

When Bob’s other child Tom married Michaele Clark, Bob met another avid gardener, her father, John. After one visit to the Clark garden, Bob asked, “How do you raise such beautiful tomatoes?” 

John Clark and his Tomatoes

As if revealing E.F. Hutton’s secrets, Bob leaned closer to John Clark who answered in his gentle voice, “Elephant manure.”

Bob’s chortle rang out, “Elephant manure. Where do you find that? Africa?”

“Nope, I don’t travel quite that far. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus is coming to town next week. Shall we collect some fertilizer?”

The following week, these two middle-aged men prepared John Clark’s Volkswagen bus, called “Camping Bus,” for their mission. By removing the kitchen table, appliances, and bed, Camping Bus became a manure loader. John Clark headed to Holden Road. Excitedly, Bob jumped into the bus and onward to the circus they drove with buckets and shovels loaded in the back. Young hippies passed and waved fingers making a peace sign.

After the elephants disembarked at the train station and walked to the coliseum, with shovels in hand, Bob and John scooped elephant droppings off the streets. They loaded their buckets into Camping Bus and returned to Bob’s garden. And that is when the Big Boy and Big Girl tomatoes grew as fruit on steroids.

In contrast, native tomatoes are small and grow on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, with their center of diversity in Peru. It is thought that cultivated varieties were transported northward to Central America and Mexico by indigenous peoples. In 1550, Italians were the first Europeans to grow and consume tomatoes. Soon other Europeans grew them, but only as ornamentals. Tomatoes were reportedly grown in South Carolina as early as 1710 and within a few decades numerous Carolina plantations grew tomatoes as ornamentals and for food.

Possibly, Margaret’s ancestors grew tomatoes when they settled at Hilton Head and later at the Davant Plantation near Gillisonville,South Carolina. 

Davant Plantation

After Thomas Jefferson started growing and consuming tomatoes, Americans gradually accepted that they were not poisonous, even though they belong to the nightshade family which includes numerous poisonous plants. It took another hundred years for tomatoes to become pureed, salted, and processed into a red and white can by Joseph Campbell.

But the Bates family did not purchase processed Campbell’s tomato soup once Bob extended the growing season.

 For weeks, Bob sat in his lounge chair in the living room with a pad of paper, pencil and clip board. While watching afternoon cartoons, he pondered and sketched until he developed a satisfactory design for a greenhouse. He applied for a patent. Unfortunately, he was turned down, because others had already patented parts of the design.

The small structure adorned the south side of their home, near Margaret’s rose garden. The frugal gardener built the greenhouse from corrugated plastic, bricks for the floor, cinder blocks and boards for shelves, a window fan for cooling, and heat lamp for warmth. Fifty-five gallon drums were painted black and filled with water to absorb and retain heat during the winter. Additionally, Bob installed a vent between the greenhouse and crawl space under the house where the furnace was located. 

Bob Bates and his Tomatoes

Wild tomato plants require cross pollination by native bees. However, as people extended the range of the plants to areas where the bees were absent, selection tended toward self-pollinating plants. But even with these plants, wind or insects are necessary to transfer pollen from the anthers to the pistils within a flower. Neither wind nor bees are usually present in greenhouses.

Once Bob’s tomatoes began to flower, he donned his white lab coat where he kept an artist’s paint brush in the pocket and announced to Margaret, “I’m going out to have sex with the tomatoes.”

Bob's Tomatoes

Long before Bob hand-pollinated his tomatoes, the French considered the fruit a stimulating aphrodisiac and called it “pommes d’armour” or “love apple.” Today, the National Cancer Institute recommends the consumption of tomatoes for their high concentrations of lycopenes which help reduce the risk of cancer.

The Bates family consumed Bob’s tasty tomatoes in both simple and elegant dishes. For quick lunches, the sliced tomatoes were placed on Bunny white bread spread with mayo and a bit of salt and pepper. Because it was considered bad luck to pass a salt shaker from one hand to another, it was always placed upon the table between passes.

One of Margaret’s signature dinners was chicken cacciatore, a recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

Cut into individual pieces: a 4-lb chicken
Dredge with: 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
Sauté until golden brown in: ¼ cup olive oil
With: 2 tablespoons chopped shallots or 1 minced clove garlic
¼ cup Italian tomato paste
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¾ cup chicken stock
½ bay leaf
dash of thyme
½ teaspoon basil
dash of sweet marjoram
½ to 1 cup sliced mushrooms
(2 tablespoons brandy or ¼ cup Muscatel)
Simmer the chicken covered for 1 hour or until tender. Serve with pasta or, in Margaret’s kitchen, rice.

During tomato season, fresh cut tomatoes were added to enhance the chicken cacciatore.

Unfortunately, Bob’s tomatoes did not prevent him from acquiring urinary bladder cancer to which he succumbed in June 1993. Even though his talent for growing tomatoes never appeared in the Greensboro News and Record obit, the family celebrated Bob and his garden after the guests left the Bates home following his funeral.

On the drive to Bob’s funeral from their home in the country, John and Moni stopped at a neighbor’s house since the circus was not in town. With five gallon buckets and a shovel in hand, they knocked on the door, explained their mission, and then headed to the barn. The next stop was the Fresh Market for a bottle of champagne.

The funeral was held on a sunny June day with a few wispy clouds drifting about the sky. Bob’s tomatoes thrived in a small tilled plot of land, the remains of his once large garden. The family members gathered in a circle around a tomato plant and each person ladled a spoonful of horse manure around the base of the plant.

Replacing their ladles with wine and champagne glasses, John snuggled his thumbs under the cork and pressed upward. The sound of carbonation releasing from the bottle exploded as the cork projected upward toward the clouds. All heads tilted back. Looking as if the cork blasted through the clouds and onward to the heavens while eyes widened and necks strained as heads tilted back even further. As the cork disappeared, family members laughed and voiced sounds of amazement.

Now, every spring, life continues and all three of Bob’s children plant tomatoes in their gardens. Although their crop is never quite as juicy and tasty as Bob’s.

“Don’t cry sister cry
It will be alright in the morning
Don’t cry sister cry
Everything will be just fine”
Song: Don’t Cry Sister  Album:  The Road toEscondido
JJ Cale & Eric Clapton

 Birth of “My Sister”
As a single young lady, Moni set eyes on me when, for her, thoughts of marriage and a child were unfathomable. As I rested in theWesternAlamanceHigh Schoolteacher’s parking lot, Moni noticed my decade old, gender-neutral, pearl white body and dark beige upholstery. TheCarolinasun light reflected from my bay window and Moni’s blue eyes sparkled as she peered into my interior.

During Moni’s teaching career, Mount St. Helen’s erupted and spewed ash toward the Big Sky territory, John Lennon was shot and killed in the streets ofNew York City, and, with a teacher on board, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and shocked citizens across the nation. Earlier world events shaped my creation and life and, unbeknownst to me, my gender and name unfurled through the decisions and actions of this biology and physical science teacher.

Following the First World War,Germanywas economically depressed with high unemployment and low manufacturing capital. The morale of its citizens was shaken. But one citizen had thoughts of economic recovery.

In 1923, Adolph Hitler read a biography of Henry Ford while serving time in prison for a forceful attempt to overthrowBavaria, the homeland of Moni’s Great Grandfather, Charlie Schaffer. Ten years later, when Hitler became the German chancellor, his automobile fanaticism helped rebuildGermanyand laid the foundation for my birth.  This chapter discusses Hitler’s involvement in the origin of Volkswagen vehicles without suggesting his war actions as acceptable.

While Hitler was dreaming of how to restore a nation, an Austrian engineer named Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was designing cars. One of Porsche’s prototypes held four passengers and used air to cool the engine instead of water. That was a smooth idea. Porsche presented his concept to the German Motor Manufacturers who declined to produce a compact car. Instead they continued to build large vehicles with six cylinders and the corporate world rejected the precursor to the Volkswagen Beetle, my older “sister.”

Shortly after Hitler became the German chancellor, he declared his vision to stimulate the economy through government programs that would provide the infrastructure for vacationing citizens. Prior to this period, citizens either had no vacation time or spent their vacations at “porchville.” Hitler’s policy, called the “Strength through Joy,” provided each German worker with two weeks of paid vacation. The government purchased cruise ships and started to develop a transportation system to stimulate tourism. To address high unemployment, the German government hired citizens to build the autobahn system. By 1936, an asphalt ribbon connectedBerlinwithRuhr. However, the rubber did not hit the road because German citizens could not afford to purchase and operate the large cars available on the market.

In 1934, a meeting of Hitler and Porsche at the Berlin Motor Show influenced world events and history. Porsche possessed the engineering knowledge to realize Hitler’s vision of an economical family car. Hitler proposed that Porsche design a small car capable of carrying five people, two adults and three children. Even with gasoline costing only 25 cents per gallon, Hitler demanded that the car reach a speed of 65 miles per hour and obtain at least 33 miles per gallon. It was essential that the car be inexpensive to purchase, operate, and maintain. In 2009, President Barack Obama and the United States Congress passed a policy that requires vehicles to average 35.5 miles per gallon by the year 2016; 39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks. Progress, at times, moves about as slow as I do on Interstate 40.

Hitler expected that the demand for an economical vehicle would put Germans back to work. However, most citizens had little money to purchase new cars, thus Hitler offered state-backed, advanced monthly financial payment plans for car acquisitions. The total cost was 990 Reich marks, about the same price as a motorcycle.  Porsche achieved an inexpensive sticker price by designing a light weight chassis with the engine over the rear tires. Even though the car was inexpensive to produce, the German car companies expressed no interest in mass production of the car when larger cars were in vogue.  Again, my sister never got her wheels turning on the autobahn.

Even though Hitler never learned to drive, he was unstoppable in his quest to manufacture Porsche’s newly designed car. Without the support of private industry, the German government constructed a factory for the sole purpose of manufacturing my sister. Hitler laid the cornerstone on May 26, 1938 and declared my sister’s name, KdF-Wagen (Kraft durch Freude) or the Strength through Joy Wagen.  The stone was set on swampy, mosquito-infested, and desolate property owned by Count Werner Von Der Schulenburg. Even though the property was isolated, its proximity to theMittellandCanalthat connects Southern Germany with theNorth Baltic Seaports provided the three requirements for consideration in the real estate business: location, location, location.

Peasants once resided on the Count’s land and managed the grounds. However, in 1938, there were no towns nearby to provide laborers. As employees from distant cities were hired, a company town developed around the factory. The new town was named KdF-Stadt.  Finally in August 1939, my sisters disembarked from the one mile long production line.

The successful production of the KdF-Wagen enabled Hitler to become the first politician to campaign from an automobile. In 1963, towards the end of the Baby Boom Generation, this concept turned into a tragedy for the Kennedy family andUnited States. Moni heard the news of J.F. Kennedy’s assassination as she stood in line with other fourth graders in theCedarValleyElementary Schoolcafeteria inFarnhamville,Iowa. The children queued up with their small hands wrapped around empty glasses as they waited to reach the milk dispenser.  The youngsters could not grasp that like their milk glasses, emptiness was enveloping their nation.

Likewise, heartbreak struck the German citizens when shortly after their country was gaining its strength World War Two began. The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fired the first shots at a Polish military outpost on the Westerplatte peninsula on September 1, 1939. Only 210 KdF-Wagens were completed when production stopped abruptly on September 8. The assembly line switched to producing the Kübelwagen, a military vehicle, and Schwimmkübel, an amphibious vehicle, for military purposes, in addition to tank parts, mine cases, and airplane wings, bodies, and engines. Many German citizens who paid monthly installments for a new car never received them and the autobahn still remained silent.

The town of KdF-Stadtwas new and, therefore, did not appear on German maps prior to World War Two. Thus, the Allied forces were unaware of its existence. During the later years of the war, Germanybuilt the V1, a flying bomb, and V2, a faster than sound rocket weapon, at the factory. Only near the end of the war did the Allied forces discover the factory when Royal Air Force plotters examined photo-reconnaissance pictures and spotted a tall furnace chimney. The plotters notified the Bomber Command and raids were initiated.  The initial bomb drops did little damage. That changed on August 5, 1944 when the Allied 93rd Bomb Group dropped 548 sticks of 1,000 pound bombs with 300 successful hits. Nearly two-thirds of the KdF-Stadt factory was destroyed. Shortly thereafter, the war ended.

After the war, neither the Americans nor Russians wanted the bombed factory, especially one in a mosquito-infested landscape. By default, the British Army gained control of the factory to help fill the need for light transportation for their occupation forces. The British Army appointed Major Ivan Hirst of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers to resume vehicle production. By the end of 1945, more than 2,000 cars were produced using left-over spare parts. The British finally accomplished what Hitler and Porsche started and within one year more than 10,000 cars drove out of the factory and onto the autobahn and other highways. In addition to resurrecting the factory, the British renamed KdF-Stadt toWolfsburg, after the fourteenth century ancestralcastleofCount Werner Von Der Schulenburgcalled Schloss Wolfsburg. My sisters were renamed Käfer, the German word for Beetle.

“Birth of Brother Bus”
When my Beetle sisters carried their first passengers acrossEurope, I was not even a conceptual sketch. The KdF-Wagen was originally created to restart the German economy; my creation was even more pragmatic. Major Ivan Hirst borrowed numerous British-made fork lift trucks from the army to transport material and components around the factory. When the army requested the fork lifts be returned, a replacement vehicle was needed. A flat-bed truck with a Käfer chassis was built with the driver’s seat at the back, leaving the front to transport material. This make-shift vehicle evolved into a bus.   I’m embarrassed to admit, but my incipience originated from a back seat driver.

Porsche and his automobile company were not involved in my creation and design.  Instead the credit goes to Ben Pons who was a business man and Opal distributor. In 1938, Pons foresaw a need for an economical vehicle and negotiated a franchise to sell KdF-Wagens inHolland. The war disrupted the endeavor and years passed before Pons continued his pursuit because of his reluctance to develop a business relationship with theWolfsburgfactory due to its previous Nazi ownership. This was with good reason because Pons applied for a franchise to sell Beetles in theUnited Statesand was denied.

Then in 1949, Pons reapplied for aUnited Statesfranchise which was accepted. At this time the American public was enamored by cars with copious chrome adornments and enormous decorative fins analogous to gigantic gargoyles. Americans thought the small cars were cute, but showed no interest in purchasing them.

Ironically, the World War Two servicemen who respected the German-made war vehicles became the initial customers. In 1950, Max Hoffman opened the first dealership in theUnited States. He sold 330 Beetles the first year, which contributed to the success of the compact car. Due to the high demand the production of the Beetles was transferred from theWolfsburgfactory toHanoverin 1956.

On April 23, 1947, Pons, inspired by the flatbed “fork lift” trucks, sketched on a piece of pocket notebook paper a cargo vehicle with the KdF-Wagen running gear and presented it to Colonel Radclyffe, Hirst’s superior in charge of the factory, to develop the idea. Still, due to limited resources, the evolution of the bus stalled.

InWolfsburg, the bus prototype was produced as a panel van. The first model was unveiled in March 1950 at the Geneva Motor Show inSwitzerland. By May, the Kombi rolled out as a multi-functional vehicle to serve as postal carriers, ambulances, hearses, taxis, and buses. The Microbus followed in June. These vehicles earned numerous nick names. The Germans called it the “Bulli.” “Breadloaf” was the soliloquy assigned by the Danish. Americans called it the “Splittie” because the front windshield was spilt into two parts, with a metal frame down the center. The last Splitties rolled off the assembly in July 1967 and terminated an era of the first generation of buses which laid the foundation for my generation.

Generation I "Splittie" Bus

In August 1967, the Generation II buses were introduced to the world and we differed slightly from the Generation I Splitties. Our front window was changed to a solid windshield called a “bay-window.” We grew in length by four inches and one inch in height. This inch is not appreciated by Moni who is just shy of five feet five inches in height and never styled her hair in a bee hive. But my additional inch prevents her nearly six foot son’s buzz cut from charging up like a Van der Graff generator when he slides into my driver’s seat during dry winter months. My fresh air grilles were moved to the front panel, my bumper is stronger, and my pop-up camper top is a light weight fiberglass. My turn signal lights are rectangular in shape instead of round and located between my bumper and head lamps. I have cool domed hubcaps, which remained on the Generation II buses for three years, and then changed to flat hubcaps which are mundane.  I have a more powerful engine than the Splitties, which helps me climb theAppalachian Mountains. After 1970, disc, instead of drum, brakes and wider tires were placed on the Generation II buses. I was one of the last buses built with drum brakes.  I wish I had disk stopping power, especially when the pavement is wet.

Fredrick - A Generation II Bay Window Bus

My Beetle sisters introduced Volkswagen to theUnited States, but the buses, like me, fulfilled Hitler’s vision and brought great joy to our owners and passengers. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Generation I and II buses transported families and hippies around the world. Many of these folks were seeking fun and adventure on a limited budget and the VW bus evolved into a moving political and cultural icon. By 1970, the production of Generation II buses reached three million. I am one of the millions, but each individual bus was or is special. Generation II buses were manufactured until 1979 which sadly ended an era of fantastic buses.

In the late 1940’s, the British wished to turn the factory over to another country. The Ford Company thought the factory was a waste of money and turned it down. Likewise, the French declined the offer. In the end, the British government relinquished control of the factory and company town to the German government when Heinrich Nordhoff was appointed the executor of the company named it Volkswagen, the “people’s car” in German.


 “Operator, oh could you help me place this call
You see the number on the matchbook is old and faded …
 Operator, oh could you help me place this call
‘cause I can’t read the number that you just gave me …
 Operator, oh let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to …”
 Operator by Jim Croce

As John headed toward my garage, I heard Moni scream, “JOHN, take your phone. I’ll call when dinner is ready.” When he walked in with a new phone he excitedly showed me what he called “apps.” With the special applications, John checks the weather forecast, searches the web, takes photos, and gets directions because males can not stop and ask for directions. I have no idea why one needs all that information, but I tried to act interested. His new high tech phone is called an Android. Another model is named Droid R2-D2.

Moni taught me about these Star Wars names because she calls her vacuum cleaner R2-D2. One day I looked up and Moni appeared pulling a cute stubby red canister, saying, “Come on, R2-D2. Let’s go on a walk about in Fredrick.” Then she stuck a black cord in two holes in the garage wall, and I heard vroom. A rather wimpy engine I might add. Like magic, R2-D2 sucked dirt from my carpet. That’s right. R2-D2 eats dirt. I plan to keep consuming fossil fuels; dirt looks disgusting.

After dinner, John asked Moni, “Do you remember your first telephone number?”

“Certainly, a long and two shorts.”

“What! You mean a crank phone?”

The phone hung on the dining room wall near the door leading to the kitchen in her family’s old farm house. Sunlight snuck through the front porch and south dining room windows to reflect the dark grain of the oak wood. However, no conservations snuck by the listening ears of the ten party line. The black plastic ear piece was hard enough to serve as a weapon in case of burglaries, which, of course, never happened in rural Iowa. The mouthpiece was a black metal megaphone. Moni’s parents spoke into it when conversing with family and friends. Moni does not recall using the phone; she was much too young and shy.

Antique Telephone

John and my own interest piqued even further when Moni informed us, “My Mom was a telephone operator at the Paton Telephone Company.”

“You mean she used a switchboard like Ruby?” asked John.

Ruby was an antique hotel switchboard that a girlfriend gifted to John during the 1970’s. John sure loves electronics. The new information about Grandma Net solidified his love for his mother-in-law even deeper.

This fondness started when John first dated Moni in the early 1980’s. At that time, I still lived with Gordon Plumblee. Once, after a day of teaching with Gordon, Moni received one of those famous, well-wrapped Grandma Net packages. After fifteen minutes of cutting tape and tearing paper, Moni opened the box to reveal a super cool wrist sling shot. According to John, a huge smile spread across Moni’s face just before she exclaimed, “Oh boy, this is going to be fun.”

John thought to himself, that confirms it, I’m going to marry this lady and have a great mother-in-law. To top it off, he now learned that Grandma Net had been a telephone switchboard operator. I decided to use John’s new phone to call Grandma Net and learn the details.

The Paton Telephone Company served Paton and other rural towns. Not the scandalous Peyton Place fictionalized on television in the 1960’s. But a town in central Iowa where the Wisconsinan glacier flattened the terrain between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and, today, telephone poles and grain elevators are often the only vertical objects breaking the wide horizon.

At that time, the phone company only hired employees of eighteen years or older, or so they thought. From the switchboard in her private home, Esther Swain rang up Moni’s grandfather, Grandpa Fred. The conversation probably proceeded along these lines.

“Fred, this is Esther Swain. Do you have all your crops in?”

“Yep, Jake and I got all the corn and beans planted before the rain.”

“Glad to hear it. I hope you have a good crop this year. By the way, I hear your daughter just graduated from high school. Congratulations.”

“The last one. Jake is farming with me, and Kay is in business school in Des Monies.”

 Then Esther got to the point, “You think Janet would be interested in working for Ronald and me as an assistant telephone operator? She sure is a polite young lady.”

“That’s nice of you to offer. I expect she would. I’ll talk with her tonight and get back with you.”

Esther and Ronald Swain

In June, Janet reported to the Swain residence for training. Esther and her husband, Ronald, assumed that the high school graduate was eighteen or close enough. However, Janet never attended kindergarten, thus graduated at an early age. So a few months later on August 23, Janet’s birthday, Esther wished her a happy eighteenth birthday. The new employee, who could not hide her age, corrected Esther, “No, I’m now seventeen.” Still today, Grandma Net can picture the shocked look on Esther’s face. Happy with their new employee, who was a fast learner, the Swains kept their secret for another year.

Grandma Net told me that Ronald and Esther were the nicest people who were former school teachers and she loved working for them. Moni frequently visited her grandparents, Grandpa Fred and Grandma Nan, in Paton when her mother was working. She played with her cousins and they often walked to the Swain residence and gently knocked on the front door. Their little feet entered a closed in porch. To the left was that mysterious switchboard. Wires and plugs were stuck in holes, other holes remained empty.
The small children never left with empty pockets, Esther or Ronald handed each child a dime. After a bit of small talk and meek thank-yous, the children exited the door and headed to the Super Valu Food Store onMain Street where large jumbo English walnuts and Brazil nuts sold for 45 cents per pound, as verified in the newspaper advertisement at the back of the photo of Grandma Net wearing her headset as seen below. Those nuts remained on the shelves, while Moni and her cousins purchased pop or candy bars.

When Goldie Hegwood, Grandma Net’s future sister-in-law, wished to call a friend, she made a short circle with the crank mounted on the right side of her telephone to reach the operator. Grandma Net answered, “Number please.”

“I would like to call 175.”

 “Thank you.”

To make the connection, Grandma Net pulled out the plug and inserted it into the other local number. If there was no answer, Grandma Net responded to Goldie, “There is no answer, would you like me to try the coffee shop or another line?”

“Well, yes, she might be at the coffee shop.”

It might take several attempts, but the operator and caller usually tracked down the party. It is the same principle why drivers don’t use their turn signals in small towns like Paton. Every body knows where you are going anyway.

When Grandpa Fred called his sister, Alma, inDexter,Iowa, he initiated the long distance call, like Goldie, with a short crank. His daughter answered, “Number please.”

“Janet, I would like to call your Aunt Alma and at 151.”

This necessitated a connection to the Boone operator, then theDes Moinesoperator, and eventually a connection to Dexter where that operator answered, “Number, please.”

Grandma Net answered, “151.”

Meanwhile, Grandpa Fred waited patiently with a cup of coffee.

After a few rings, Alma answered “Hello” in her unique pitched voice. Moni told me that her Great Aunt Alma’s voice sounded like those cars that pass me who are in need of a new fan belt.

Grandma Net replied, “One minute, please, Paton, Iowa calling.”

Since it was her aunt, she may have also added, “Hi, Alma. This is Janet. How are you and your dogs?”

At the switchboard, the final connections were complete and Grandma Net spoke to her father, “Your party is on the line.”

Once the parties were connected, Grandma Net recorded the time on a narrow note pad, then watched until the conversation concluded, signaled by a flap coming down on the switchboard. The end time was recorded and total time calculated for Esther to calculate billing. Grandma Net told me that thankfully there were a limited number of long distance circuits because things got hectic when there were numerous long distance calls taking place, in addition to local calls. I relate to hectic. That is the term I use to describe the highway when Moni or John drive me through rush hour traffic. It makes me nervous.

Grandma Net wearing head set while operating the switchboard

When John and Moni take me camping, I hear John using his cell phone even after dark. Sometimes he calls my favorite young man, Chris, who keeps late hours unlike the Paton Telephone Company switchboard, which closed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, except for emergencies. Back then widowed ladies spent the night to cover these infrequent calls because Ronald worked a day shift as a repair lineman and Esther was raising their daughter, Lorna. While Lorna attended high school, Esther and Ronald gave her a choice to detassel corn for a summer job or work the switchboard. She chose the latter; a smart girl who continued her education at Iowa State University.

Lorna at switchboard

Further education was not in the cards for Grandma Net, who continued working from 1946 to April 1949 until she married and started a family. After several years of long hours of farm work and raising babies, Grandma Net thankfully returned to the telephone office when Moni started kindergarten and worked for another few years, 1958 to 1961, until the birth of her youngest child, Rhonda. Pay ranged from $0.50 to $1.25 per hour. Better than farm pay!

By the late 1960’s, the Webster Calhoun telephone exchange bought the Paton Telephone Company and small switchboard operators became a thing of the past, just as I might have become without the love and care from Gordon, Chris, and John.

“I been walkin’ the beans, been walkin’ the beans.
I been bendin’ low, no, no,
I been rippin’ my jeans.
Been walkin’ the beans in the burnin’ sun,
And it looks like I ain’t ever ever gonna get done.”
Greg Brown “Walking the Beans”

At Cedar Valley Elementary School, I sailed from kindergarten through third grade having fun with nice teachers and meeting new friends. Up to that point, my friends included cousins, other children in Sunday school, and the Schmidt siblings, who lived on a farm next to ours. At school we learned to tie our shoe laces, read Dick and Jane books, print letters, and count. Of course, the best part was when the teacher called, “Time for recess.” During the break, we shot marbles while tiny brilliant red bugs crawled through our playing field, sometimes distracting my aim. Teams played ball in a huge grassy field behind the swing sets. We girls, even with our skirts on, did upside down flips on the monkey bars.

School became even better in the third grade when our teacher introduced a new subject, science. That year my world expanded from Farnhamville, Iowa to Pluto.

Our farm became a laboratory. During summer vacations and weekends, my siblings, Becky and Bobby, and I roamed the 320 acres, caught critters in the creek, rode our bikes down gravel roads, leapt into shelled corn stored in the crib, played in the road ditches and barns, and built tree houses. Night time furthered my scientific imagination. We watched for falling stars from my brother’s bedroom window. I hoped that meteorite pieces would survive through the earth’s atmosphere and create an enormous crater in our pasture without obliterating our cows. That would not be the kind of backyard barbeque my folks intended for the steers.

This sense of wonder came to an abrupt halt in Mrs. Smith’s fourth grade class. In fourth and fifth grades, the authorities, whoever they were, assigned students to either the “A” or “B” class and claimed it was not based on academic ability. However, Becky and Bobby brought home report cards with glowing letters and were assigned to A classes. Even though I loved science and received A’s, the rest of my report card was covered with a letter shaped like the skid marks when I slammed on my rear bike brake. 

I, along with my classmates, knew the meaning of A and B classes. Our all-white, ruralIowacommunity was segregated: smart kids in the A class and dumb kids in the B class. Sure, I was the smart kid in the dumb class, but what consolation was that? I wished I were still in third grade studying constellations. 

The dumb kids and I sat in our uncomfortable desks and faced the witch teacher every day. Across the hall, the brains spent their days with Mrs. Jones, the sweet teacher. This pattern continued in the fifth grade. Plus, Mrs. Strickland, the fifth grade teacher, was going to be worse than Mrs. Smith.  Even her name sounded bad. How would I ever survive two years with witches?  My future looked bleak. 

My mom and her family took their religion pretty seriously. Every Sunday we attended a small, white, clapboard church in the middle of thousands of acres of corn fields. On weekends, I had a two-day break from the school witch, but one of those days, early in the morning, my mom always called into my bedroom, “Time to get up and get ready for church.” 

Whimpering, I usually responded, “Do we have to go to church today?”

Snuggled under my covers, I wanted to sleep, then get up, put on blue jeans, and catch craw daddies in the muddy creek banks. No chance. Mom corralled us into Sunday-best clothing and off we drove to learn about Jesus healing blind people (now that was some science experiment) or God’s presence everywhere (how could that possibly work?).  The congregation prayed and sang together. I sang out of tune and disbelieved that praying would accomplish anything. So I slouched on the hard church pew and dreamed of the free afternoon spent outdoors.

This religion business did not stop on Sundays. Every night, when Mom tucked me into bed, she reminded, “Don’t forget to say your prayers before falling asleep.”

“What do I pray for?”                                

“How about world peace?”

For many nights, I drummed up prayers that God must have considered trivial. One night I whispered, “Please God, make that rooster croak, because I’m getting tired of running like a banshee when it chases me through the hen house and yard. Or, at least don’t let me drop the basket and break the eggs.” Apparently, my prayers never made it to the top of His list. 

After an especially hard day at school with Mrs. Smith whacking students’ fingers if they wrote left handed, I conjured the perfect prayer. Once again my mom tucked me in and added her nightly reminder to pray.

That night and every night throughout the rest of fourth grade and summer vacation, I prayed for Mrs. Johnson to be my fifth grade teacher. She was married to the school janitor. They both were friendly and fun. Of course, both Becky and Bobby spent a year with Mrs. Johnson. I wanted her to teach me too. I could not imagine how the authorities would switch teachers, but that wasn’t for me to figure out. I would leave it to God.

Christmas vacation came and went with more church and more praying. In January, the dumb kids returned to the grumpy, black-haired witch with only snow days offering a much needed break. Five days a week school dragged on. But now, I had hope as I put my faith in God’s hands.

Like every year, the last day of school fell on the week of my birthday. Getting out of school was my favorite present. My classmates and I ran to the school bus faster than Jim Ryan breaking the mile record, chanting, “Schools out, schools out; teachers let the monkeys out.” 

When the bus stopped at the end of our long, gravel lane, my feet took off again. I zoomed into our farm house and up the stairs, skipping every other step, to my bedroom, and quickly changed into beating-around clothes. Next stop, the sand box surrounded by blooming lilacs and peonies. With the fragrance of delicious flowers filling the air, I built sand castles beneath the clear blue sky.

During summer, the garden became the center of our lives. Early ripe strawberries stained my mouth. I picked and podded peas for my favorite dinner—fresh garden peas and baby potatoes in cream sauce. In July, we feasted on sweet corn. Dad and the neighbors put up hay for the winter. I gathered eggs; we caught the rooster and, with smiles on our faces, ate him for Sunday dinner. We “walked the beans,”  trudging up and down the half-mile rows chopping and pulling weeds. I nearly forgot about fifth grade until my nightly prayer.

The sun began traveling lower in the southern sky as summer vacation waned.  One day, on our way home from town, my mom stopped at the mail box. The hinges squeaked when she reached in and pulled out a pile of official letters. Shuffling through them, she said, “Oh, we have one from the school.” 

Oh God, I thought, this time not as a prayer. Becky and Bobby were in junior high. They changed teachers with every class; no letter was necessary for their class assignment. My nerves caught fire—Mrs. Strickland or Mrs. Johnson?

Time stopped. I heard each grain of gravel crunch under the tires of the 1949 Studebaker truck as my mom drove to the house. She walked into the kitchen and dropped the letters and groceries on the table.

“Mom, are you going to open the school letter?” I anxiously asked.

 “Oh, sure. I wonder what it’s about?” She sliced the envelope. The tearing paper sounded like lightening crackling.

My nightly prayer had remained top secret. Absolutely nobody was privy to my attempt to influence fate. Soon I would know whether there was a God or not.

Mom’s hazel eyes scanned the letter, then looked up to me, “Well, what about that. They did away with A and B classes. Your teacher next year is Mrs. Johnson.” 

Stunned for a moment, I stood in silence, and then yelled, “Yippee, I get Mrs. Johnson!” Excitement pulsed through my bean pole limbs as I sang Hallelujahs. 

But, in the middle of one Hallelujah, I choked up when I realized that the smart kids assigned to Mrs. Strickland’s class would be mad as a cat with its tail on fire when they received their letters. Then and there, I decided never to divulge that the change was due to God, and me.

“It makes me think of the good old days
Happy birthday to you
You sure grew out of your baby ways
Happy birthday to you
Fortieth birthday and we wish you many more
Health and wealth and friends by the score
Cut the cake and let’s eat some more
Happy birthday to you”
John McCutcheon’s Birthday Song                                                                             .  

Year 2010, the year I turned 40, was special indeed. Thanks to Chris and John, I look and feel fabulous. All winter I wondered if the Bates family would acknowledge my exciting birthday year, and, sure enough, Moni pulled through.

On an early spring day Moni drove her car into my garage. Moni typically lugs all kinds of stuff from her car to the house: gym bag, hiking boots and hydration bag for field work, bags of groceries and jugs of milk, and cat and dog food. While bags and boxes were pulled from the car, that darn dog jumped in and out of the back seat. Moni usually carries cloth bags for groceries, but this day, I spotted an unusual plastic bag with “Party City” printed on the outside. I recognized the second word because I see it all the time when John helps me read the North Carolina state map, but the first word was foreign to me. I tried to see the contents through the bag, but it was too dark in my garage.

Shortly after that day, John, Moni, and Pele jumped into my cabin and we headed down the gravel driveway and toward Greensboro. It was a bright, sunny day, April 17, 2010, and I was excited to get out of my dreary garage. I noticed that Moni brought the mystery bag placed it in my closet. Often Moni and John inform me of our destination even before backing out of my garage. But this time there was no such notification, even as we continued south of Greensboro on U.S. Highway 421.

Eventually, we turned off the big highway onto a two lane paved road at a brown sign that John read: “Hagan Stone Park.” This was a good sign (pun intended) because we usually camp over night at parks. We made a few more turns, and then a right onto a very small road that crossed a dam where I saw mallard ducks floating on a pond. Through winding roads with trees shading our path, we started dodging pot holes and gravel crunched under my tires. When I was able to look outward, I saw bunches of VW buses parked all over the grassy lawn with canopies erected and picnic supplies scattered underneath. I could not believe my headlights! There were even buses from way up north in Canada. I’ve never been there.

John pulled me into a circle of buses who all donned North Carolina plates. These local buses were circled up like a gaggle of Conestoga wagons on the tall grass prairie in Iowa where Moni’s Grandpa Fred lived. I nestled right in with the other buses. I was still unaware of this special occasion.

VW Buses at "Every Bus" at Hagan Stone Park (April 17, 2010)

Parked along side my buddies, I noticed children, young and old alike, riding bikes down the gravel path and across the lawn. Their parents strolled around, checking out other buses, socializing with owners, and feeling confident that none of us would run over their precious young ones. Kids ruled the campground.

Moni slipped out of the passenger seat, slid open my side door and let Pele out. I’m always thankful when the dog exits my cabin. Next, I heard the rustling of plastic and Moni’s fingers grasped the mysterious bag. Slowly, she walked to my passenger side, stepped on my vinyl seat, and pushed upward. I heard more crinkling and then spotted a party hat as Moni placed it on my camper top. Concurrently, John adorned me with other party decorations. I finally figured it out; this was a surprise birthday party for ME!       

Fredrick's 40th Birthday Party

Special friends attended. Chris brought his lady friend, Courtney, who had never seen so many VW buses in one location. I am her favorite though. I was SO thrilled when, in the distance, I heard a familiar chortle and looked up to see my previous owner, Gordon Plumblee. Oh boy, what a treat. He complimented me on my youthful appearance, and I radiated thanks for his taking excellent care of me. I miss Gordon, but he is glad that I still live close by and remain a member of the Bates family. Gordon told Moni that he reads my stories and that made me feel good.   

From left to right: Tom Paulson, Lin Woosley, Gordon and Janice Plumblee

As the sun lowered on the horizon, Moni erected a table and placed two red raspberry velvet cakes and a tray of Aunt Katie’s brownies on it. On the cakes, Courtney arranged small candles and a long-sticked candle with a “40” on its top, while Moni prepared to light them. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and then Moni and John sang their standard, unique John McCutcheon “Birthday Song” which ends with “Cut the cake and let’s eat some more.” And that they did.   

Red raspberry velvet cake and Aunt Katie's brownies


Playing games under the picnic shelter

Many folks think that I am younger than 40, but Moni possesses proof of my age. My birth certificate, a copy shown below, states that I left the factory in Germany on 29 August 1969 and was shipped to Philadelphia, USA in time to hit the sales lot during the fall as a 1970 model. Moni ordered my birth certificate from the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen at the following address:

Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen
Frau Neefe
Dieselstrasse 35
Brieffach 1003
38446 Wolfsburg, GERMANY
Fax Number 011 49 5361 52010

Photograph of my birth certificate

The weekend at Hagan Stone Park was the initiation for my 40th birthday celebration. Throughout the summer and fall of 2010, Moni drove me to trail heads and parking lots to meet other women for mountain and road bike rides. At the conclusion of their rides, Moni slid open my side door, pulled out a cooler of beer and shared drinks with the ladies. Each time, Moni placed my party hat on my antenna and they celebrated my 40th birthday and another fun ride together. I look forward to my 41st birthday season because Moni says we started a tradition. I say, let the party continue!

Favorite family birthday cake recipes are given below. The last photograph shows Moni’s enthusiasm for birthday celebrations started as a young girl with her maternal cousins

 Chocolate Cake                                             Michaele Clark Bates
Michaele’s cake was Chris’s favorite birthday cake for about the first 12 years of his life.

Melt over low heat:  2 squares unsweetened chocolate or ¼ cup cocoa; ½ cup butter or margarine; 1 cup boiling water
Sift: 2 cups flour; 2 cups sugar; 1 tsp. baking powder; 1 tsp baking soda
Blend the above two lines together and beat well. Then add: ½ cup sour milk or cream; 2 well beaten eggs;  2 tsp. vanilla
Grease 9 x 13”cake pan. Bake at 350º F. about 30 – 35 minutes.
Frosting:  ¼ cup butter; ¼ cup brown sugar; ¼ cup cocoa; and ¼ cup cream or milk
Mix and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool. Add enough powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency and beat to remove lumps.

Red Raspberry Velvet Cake                                                Moni Carlson Bates
After baking this cake, it became Chris’s standard birthday cake and baked on numerous other special occasions.
From Cooking Light, “Culinary historians believe this originated in New York City in the 1950’s at Oscar’s at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Cooking spray
3 cups sifted flour
2 T. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2 cups fat-free buttermilk
1 (1 ounce) bottle red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Frosting: 7 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese; 1 tsp. vanilla extract; 2 ¾ cups powdered sugar
Remaining Ingredients:  ½ cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350º F. Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray, and line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Lightly spoon 3 cups cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and next three ingredients (through salt). Set aside. Beat granulated sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed 4 minutes or until well blended. Add egg whites to sugar mixture; beat at medium speed 5 minutes or until fluffy. Combine buttermilk, food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350ºF. for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (do not over bake). Cool cake layers completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, combine cream cheese and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with mixer at high speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not over beat). To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate. Spread with jam; top with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator. Yield: 18 servings

Angel Food Cakes: Margaret Bates, John’s mother, and Janet Hegwood, Moni’s mother, used Betty Crocker box mixes to make angel food cakes. Margaret split the cake in half and iced it with whipped cream and almonds. Grandma Devant, Margaret’s mother, made all kinds of cakes, usually with a rose placed in the center. But angel food cakes were not the favorite dessert for either Moni or John. Moni’s favorite was her mother’s jelly roll and John’s was Margaret’s banana pudding.

Jelly Roll                                                        Janet Fillman Hegwood
Grandma Net continues to make jelly rolls for Moni whenever she visits.

1 cup plus flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond
3 T. water
1 cup jelly or ice cream

Separate egg whites from yolks, place whites in larger mixer bowl, yolks in smaller bowl. Beat whites until stiff. Add ½ cup of the sugar, 2 T. at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat egg yolks until thick and light. Add remaining ½ cup sugar gradually beating until very thick. Add flavorings. Slowly add water stirring constantly at low speed. Fold egg yolk mixture into whites. Fold in flour mixture. Pour into greased and wax-paper lined 15 ½ x 10 ½ pan. Bake at 375º F. for 15-20 minutes. Turn out on towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll cake and towel together. Cool on rack. Unroll and spread with jelly and re-roll. 10 servings.

 Banana Pudding                                             Margaret Devant Bates
Moni started making banana pudding for John’s birthdays with pudding made from scratch. After a couple years, John finally found the courage to inform Moni that he preferred the plain old fashion box pudding. That made life easier for the cook.   

Ripe banana; Vanilla wafers; Box of vanilla pudding
Make box of vanilla pudding, place a layer of vanilla wafers on the bottom of pan, then sliced banana, then pudding. Repeat layers.

 Blitz Torte                                                      Kay Fillman Fredrickson
Aunt Kay (Moni’s maternal aunt) made for her brother, Uncle Jake, birthdays.

½ cup shortening
1 tsp. baking powder
½ cup sugar
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
4 egg yolks (beaten light)
½ cup sliced blanched almonds
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T. sugar
3 T. milk
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 cup cake flour (sifted)

Cream shortening; beat in sugar and salt, then egg yolks, vanilla, milk, and flour (sifted with baking powder). Spread mixture in two round nine inch greased and wax paper lined pans. Beat egg whites until very light, add ¾ cup sugar gradually and spread on the unbaked mixture in both pans. Sprinkle with almonds, one tablespoon sugar, and cinnamon. Bake in a moderate oven at 350º F. for about 30 minutes. Let cool and put together with the following cream filling.

Cream Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
3 T. corn starch
2 T. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk (scalded)
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, corn starch, salt, and egg yolks; beat thoroughly. Add butter and enough milk to make a smooth paste. Add paste to remaining hot milk and cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Cool and add vanilla. If desired, add ½ cup chopped nuts.

1950's Cousin's birthday party in Iowa

Sister Becki is lighting the candles. Moni, in the red sweater, is leaning forward with pointer finger targeting the cake. Cousin Nina Fredrickson is next to Becki, then Cousin Connie Fillman. To Moni’s right is Cousin Cindy Fredrickson. Cousin Earl Dean Fredrickson is leaning in from the right.

The Fillman, Fredrickson, and Carlson families celebrated the cousin’s birthdays by grouping birthdays together. May was a big month with three birthdays, including mine. The list below includes all the cousins on Moni’s maternal side of her family.

 January: Becky Carlson (1/10/1950) and Cindy Lou Fredrickson (1/13/1957)  

February: Nina Lee Fredrickson (2/16/1948)

March: Caryn Lynn Fillman (3/2/1959) and Earl Dean Fredrickson (3/23/1952)

April:    A break for our aunts, Kay, Shirley, and Janet, from baking angel food birthday cakes

May: Jack Bruce Fredrickson   (5/16/1949), Ramona Kay Carlson (5/27/1953) and Craig Steven Fillman (5/31/1954)

June: Robert Gene Carlson (6/16/1951)

July: A second break from consuming angel food cakes

August: Rhonda Lea Carlson (8/23/1961)

September: Mark Alan Fredrickson (9/26/1959)

October and November: Considered fall break

December: Constance Joan Fillman (12/12/1951)