Category Archives: My Life

A Slice of My Life: Birthdays are Like Escalators

In 1963 my husband and I packed up our 18-month-old and moved from Columbus, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Both sets of our parents stayed behind in Ohio.  Grandparents missed their first grandchildren and  particularly hated to miss birthdays. By September 1966, our oldest, called Butch back then, was turning five, our middle boy, Mike, had turned three in July and the youngest, Brent, was about to turn two. (This picture was about 5 months earlier.)

Badertscher sons 1966

Brent, Kenny (Butch),  and Mike Badertscher, Easter 1966

On our budget, land line long distance cost too  much to use frequently, so we would exchange calls on Friday night, and write letters almost every day. (Today we call by cell phone across the country for no extra cost, and across the world for nominal charges. It is easy to forget how special long distance calls were before cell phones.)

I kept most of the letters I received and my mother kept all the letters I wrote her.

Lost and Found

The bad news is that a rainstorm flooded the storeroom with the letters I wrote and for decades, mother assumed the letters had been ruined. The good news is that one day my sister opened a long-stored box and discovered a cache of letters from Arizona to Ohio.  So we now have a record of all those cute things our boys said and our own activities through the very busy 60s.

The letters from our parents and other relatives likewise seemed to disappear. Then we moved, and had stacks of boxes to deal with.  I opened a box that turned out to include treasures like this letter from my father, Paul Kaser, to our oldest son, on the occasion of his fifth birthday.

*In the letter he refers to F & R Lazarus Department Store, a fixture in our lives in Ohio as long as I could remember. The main store, in downtown Columbus, carried everything from refrigerators to gloves in eight stories of delights (Six above ground and two basements).

Lazarus Department Store

F & R Lazarus, Columbus Ohio, in an earlier day.

Birthdays are Like Escalators

Paul Kaser, 325 Conklin Drive, Hilliard, Ohio 43026

Monday Sept. 12, 1966

Dear Butch,

Congratulations on your birthday. You have not had enough birthdays to know very much about them, so let me tell you. I’ve had plenty.

Birthdays are like an escalator. Remember when you were here and we went to Lazarus Department store. We went up and down in the store on those stairs that move. You step on and the stairs move up. Pretty soon your head gets high enough so that you can see out onto a new floor. Here there are different things than you saw on the floor you just left. It is like a whole new world with new things to see. And then you look around and see all these things and do all the things you are supposed to do on that floor and then back onto the stairs and up to another new floor and new things to see and do.

Now you can look back and see for yourself that this is true. A while back you became old enough to go to nursery school. Since then you have gone up on the escalator (stairs) of time and now you are on the Kindergarten floor. Another year and up another stair and you will be in regular school.

Then will come high school and college and each year when your head comes up so you can see around on the new floor you have reached you will see things and do things you never thought of before.

One thing is different about the birthday stairs than the escalator stairs. Every time you go up another birthday the stairs move faster instead of all being the same speed as they were in Lazarus. And you will find that you don’t have much time before the birthday stairs move you up another year.

Above all things when you have reached a new floor (birthday) with all the new experiences and things to do, you must get busy and do everything that is to be done in that department. Because you will never be back there again, so don’t miss anything. Your mother was very good at this and can tell you what I mean.

Well be good and say hi to mother, dad, Mike and Brent for me,

Love

Grandpa

A Slice of My Life: Music of My Youth

Today a program on Public Radio featured this year’s nominees for the Grammys.  Nothing makes me feel older and more out of it, than hearing the names of  wildly popular, hot new musicians. I realize I don’t have a clue who they are or what type of music they produce.

But I pulled myself out of my funk by realizing that for all my ignorance of contemporary music, my children and grandchildren probably are similarly clueless. What do they know about the music of my youth?  Yes, there was music before MP3, streaming, or even before CDs!

My Parents Music

As a child, the cheerful nonsense verse of the Depression and World War II hung on, and I would sing “Marzy doats and Dozy coats and Little Lambseativy” with my father, giggling all the way. (Trans.: Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy).

Growing up I learned to love my parents’ eclectic set of 78 rpm record albums.  As a teen, I added my own more modern music, but never lost my appreciation for the records of my parents and never looked down on their choices–most of their choices, at least.

Gilbert and Sullivan

Poster for Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Patience.’

For instance, Mom and Dad had several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. To this day, I love the word play and can sing along with many of the songs.

“I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,”

They also had various classical albums that I remember listening to while I was in grade school.  My father took me to see José Iturbi, Spanish pianist in a Columbus Ohio concert when I was about ten.  I was as star-struck as my grand-daughter might be going to a Beyoncé concert.

Side Note: In the 1940s through 1960s, people still considered music education an essential part of a child’s growing up, and everyone I knew took piano lessons if their parents could afford it.  Likewise, although I went to a tiny high school, we had a school band, a boy’s chorus, a girl’s chorus and a mixed chorus.

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald in movie “Sweethearts”

The operettas sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy (and anything  that Victor Herbert wrote) stole the hearts of Americans in the late 1920s through the 1940s, and my parents owned those records, too. I drew the line at the syrupy songs of that period.

When I was in college, I know that my parents had quite a few albums of jazz, but I was too busy with college to pay attention to exactly which ones they had. But I do know that when I got married, an album by Dave Brubeck was the one of the first to be added to my own collection, and I have been a lifelong fan of all jazz.

The exception to accepting rather than disdaining my parent’s musical choices (Besides MacDonald and Eddy) would be the old folks’ Saturday night viewing of Lawrence Welk playing polkas and oldies.  I did agree on one of the family’s favorite entertainers from that period, Victor Borge. He never failed to crack us up, while providing a fresh look at the classics. And Grandma (and everybody) loved Liberace, who sold classical music by mixing it with plenty of kitsch.

Junior High

Although future generations may have heard of some of the musicians I name in this article, I probably can stump them with my Junior High hearthrob. I fell hard for a singer named Johnnie Ray.  He was known for singing sad songs–“Cry Me a River,” “The Little White Cloud that Cried,” and the very romantic “Walking My Baby Back Home.

Ironically, since I was not a big fan of Rock ‘n Roll, many, including Tony Bennett, have said that Johnnie Ray was a precursor of Rock and Roll.  Even Ringo Starr reportedly said that the three singers the Beatles listened to early on included Johnnie Ray!

Totally star-struck, I attended a live concert by Johnnie Ray in Cleveland in 1952 and joined his International Fan Club. The crowds of squealing girls who greeted him echoed the earlier Frank Sinatra sensation and the later Elvis and Beatles mania. My attempt to start a fan club in Killbuck, Ohio didn’t catch fire, but I collected various fan memorabilia and mooned over Johnnie for a couple of years.

My Teen Years

Every generation finds a particular music that forms the soundtrack for its high school years. In their adulthood, that music generates nostalgia. My generation–the early to mid-1950s–saw a radical shift from the mellow crooning of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Eddie Fisher, Patti Paige, Rosemary Clooney and others to the electricity of Elvis Presley and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll.

I distinctly remember Rock Around the Clock (1954) by Bill Haley and the Comets and Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill (1956). I had the sensation that pieces of music like these would change the whole musical world. And they did. Besides, in northeastern Ohio, we were close to the source of the excitement. Disk Jockey Alan Freed from Cleveland gets credit for being the first to feature and promote the new form–Rock and Roll. Of course it helped that parents thought it was despicable and dangerous music.

Not so incidentally, we knew what songs we should be listening to by listening on the radio and watching on TV (1950-1959)– “Your Hit Parade.” (The Grammys did not exist until 1959) The Wikipedia article on the Hit Parade refreshed my memory about some of the musicians, but it does not mention Rosemary Clooney, who along with Giselle MacKenzie is the one I remember the most.

Elvis

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley became the heart-throb of my high school girlfriends. Elvis’ first big hit, Heartbreak Hotel dominated the airwaves in January of 1956, the year that we graduated from high school. Some of my friends no doubt dreamed of Elvis as their date for the prom. After all, at just 3 or 4 years older than us, he understood our generation.

Confession time: I never liked Elvis, and I never became a big fan of Rock. When I whined to a friend that I wanted to listen to meaningful lyrics and hear a tune, she replied that she wanted something she could dance to.

In another conversation with friends, we argued about Patti Page. He thought her music excelled. I judged her based on a nonsense song, “How Much Is That Doggy In the Window.” It must have been the country edge to her songs. Peggy Lee’s bluesy jazz appealed to me more.

The music world was moving to Rock ‘n Roll. Nevertheless, some of the earlier stars continued to have hit songs and from the fifties into the sixties, we (some of us at any rate) continued to listen to the gentler styling of Doris Day, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, Dean Martin, ‘Frankie,’ Perry Como. The choral music of Mitch Miller was also popular in the 50s and 60s–although not so much with the youngsters. You could find a variety show with popular musicians nearly every night of the week on television.  TV introduced new musicians, and radio disk jockies helped popularize them. Ed Sullivan introduced Elvis Presley to the nation, and later introduced the Beatles. But as Rock prevailed, live concerts became more important than TV as a medium for artists.

So, even though I may not know who the Grammys are going to in 2017, I definitely could have told you in 1954 who would be on Your Hit Parade that week. I collected 45 rpm records–little disks about the size of today’s CDs.  With high school graduation money, I purchased a portable 45-record player to take to college with me. It, and the 45s I played on it–Eddie Fisher, Johnny Mathis, etc.–are long gone. But whenever I hear “Walking My Baby Back Home”, or “How Much is That Doggie in the Window”, I will remember those days.

A Slice of My Life: A Very Special Christmas Gift

Christmas Scarf

Knit Scarf heirloom Christmas gift.

Really? 1986?  I got this keepsake Christmas gift thirty years ago??

Yes, it is true.  I have not had occasion to wear it in southern Arizona, I seldom have to swaddle in a woolen scarf. And on those rare occasions when I did wear a warm scarf, I chose one in colors that I like better than green.

But of course this is green–it is a Christmas gift.  And a very special one at that.

Christmas Scarf

Both ends of Christmas scarf from president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan , 1986

Nancy Reagan sent it to me as a reminder of our meeeting at the White House.  Me and several thousand other people.  The party I attended was just one of a dozen or so Christmas parties given by the President and his wife each year.

In 1986, I was working for Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.  When he got his invitation to the White House Christmas party that year, his wife, Sarah Dinham, was unable to fly from Tucson to Washington D.C. to attend, so he needed “a date.”  I was the lucky choice of staff members.  I flew into Washington from Tucson where I headed up the District Office, and spent a few days on Congressional office business with some excursions for Christmas shopping at the Smithsonian Museum gift shops.

However, the highlight of the week was getting all dressed up and going to the White House.  Several weeks before, we had to submit my name, address and social security number to the White House so that the Secret Service could be sure I was not a menace.  We arrived that evening and passed through a metal detector and a cordon of watchful men in suits and uniformed marines.

We made our way up the grand staircase to the main level.  At the top of the stairs, president Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Regan stood shaking hands with every guest that came into the hallway.  The President was as friendly as his familiar smile and his warmth took away some of the nervous feeling of actually being a guest at the White House.

It was an interesting moment when Jim Kolbe introduced me to the President.  He used my nickname, Bunny, which all my life I thought I would shed when I became a real adult. After that evening, my fate was sealed. I had been introduced to the President of the United States by that silly child’s name.  I knew I was fated to be known by some people as Bunny for the rest of my life.

Nancy Reagan left quite a different impression than president Reagan. Many people comment about how tiny she was–particularly standing next to the robust “cowboy” figure of Ronald Reagan.  But despite being beautiful and tiny as a doll, Mrs. Reagan, while formally correct, did not radiate the warmth that her husband did. In fact, as she limply shook my hand, she was quite obviously looking over my shoulder to see if there wasn’t somebody more important coming.

There were quite literally hundreds of people packing the Blue room, the Red room, the Green Room, the Grand Foyer, the enormous East room and every hallway in between. After all there are 535 members of Congress and each attendee brought a guest.  Even the most jaded old- timers could not pass up the opportunity to be able to chat with old friends and frenemies at the White House.  Some probably even had plans for lobbying the President on some pending piece of legislation.

Since my Congressional “date” was an old hand at visiting the White House, he graciously asked me what I wanted to do.  Without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to be able to meet George Bush, then the vice president.  We wove our way through the crowd, Jim stopping to chat with Congressional friends, and then I spotted George Bush.  He towered above the crowd–people don’t always realize how tall he really is.

When we got there, the two men–Kolbe and Bush are two of the most gracious men I ever met–had a semi-awkward moment.  Jim, trying to make sure that Bush would not be embarrassed by assuming that I was Jim’s wife, stumbled over an introduction in which he wanted to say “Mr. Vice President, this is Bunny Badertscher, my chief of staff, not my wife, who had business in Tucson.”  Instead, he only got out, “This is not my wife….” when the vice president enveloped me in a hug and said, “Oh, that’s all right!”

Our conversation was brief because a mob formed around the vice president, but I was satisfied that I had been able to say hello to the man I admired.

Reagan Christmas Tree

The Reagans in front of the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room in 1986

I am sorry to say I do not remember a lot of the details. There were tables of refreshments in the East room where the Marine band was playing and we even managed to dance briefly. The towering official Christmas tree was decorated with vintage children’s toys that year, I believe. [Click on the photo to see the real story–I was close–it was Mother Goose characters.]Gorgeous decorations filled every room, but is all a blur–a blur of faces and bodies filling every foot of floor space.

And I got a keepsake Christmas gift to prove that it was not just a dream, but a real Cinderella experience.

———-

Details of a 2016 White House Christmas party for the volunteers who did the decorating.