Monday for Me #53 ~ Woolworth’s ~ Downtown Tucson, Arizona

When I was growing up, going into downtown Tucson was a treat. We would go to the yearly Rodeo parade in February, we would walk the small 4 block square looking at the holiday decorations, we would go to buy our “start of school” clothes, and occasionally my Dad and I would make a detour from running errands to go to Woolworth’s to get something at the lunch counter.

My dad was a very tall, slightly muscular man and I may be biased, but I thought he was the handsomest man in the world. I think a few of the lady’s did too. When we would enter the store, the counter was towards the middle of it. The waitress’ would see us coming and I would hear them say “Hi Doug” with what I now realize was excitement. We would sit down to a fresh cup of black coffee already poured for him and a warm glass of Pepsi (the only way I have ever liked it) for me. My dad would then spend some time talking with the waitresses, and then we would order our usual, a sandwich for him and pancakes for me. We would eat and before we left he would always let me drink the tiny pitcher of cream that they gave him for his coffee.

We managed to make it a bi-monthly outing, at least until I was about 11 years old. It was time for our yearly trip for school clothes. My mother made most of my clothes so I was allowed to pick out 2 dresses. I was standing, looking through a bargain bin of sleeveless dresses when I heard a familiar voice call out “Hi Valerie, where’s your Dad?” I whipped around and there stood one of the lunch counter ladies in her uniform, with a huge smile on her face. I slowly looked around and saw that my mother was standing there gripping her purse so tight that all of the color had drained out of her hands.

She grabbed me by the back of my neck and practically dragged me back to the car, leaving before I was able to get my dresses. As soon as we got in the car my mother started interrogating me. The questions came faster than I could answer and I could see the anger building in her face. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good evening. She wouldn’t believe that all my Dad did was talk with the waitresses, she was convinced of other things which she proceded to tell me about. I got an unwanted education!

I was so scared to see what would happen when Dad got home from work. My mother had locked herself and my sister in her room and I could hear them whispering. I heard the truck pull into the driveway and I ran and hid under the kitchen table. I was prepared for the worse. When my Dad walked through the front door my mother and sister marched quietly out of the bedroom and my mother exclaimed “We are going to Woolworth’s for dinner!” They marched past me and out the door and got into my mothers car. My Dad and I followed and the silence in the car was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. It was funny, when we got lunch counter and sat down. I didn’t recognize a single waitress there. My Dad didn’t look nervous at all and I saw the look on my mother’s face change slowly the longer we sat there. We had dinner and went home.

About 7 years later when my Dad had lung cancer, and he knew he didn’t have long to live, he apologized to me for what had happened all those years ago. He felt the need to set the record straight that he never, ever cheated on my mother, he just enjoyed the conversation. I knew that was true because even as a young child I saw what went on in the house and I knew my mother was different than other kids moms. I was 13 years old when she was diagnosed with a mental illness which she had apparently had since she was young.

I still have those fond memories of spending time alone with my Dad and until they closed all of the stores, I would occasionally go and sit at the lunch counter and order a Pepsi and pancakes and remember my Dad and our time together.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Monday’s for Me #41 ~ I’m Sorry You Feel That Way!

This blog is going to be a little different. Instead of a story about myself, I am going to address something that happened last week. I have posted 40 of these type of blogs since February and I never thought someone would respond to them in this way.

I received a message from one of my followers on my twitter account. This person has been following my blogs for over 5 years, and we have had many delightful conversations over that time. I think that is why this particular message bothered and confused me. She asked me, “Why do you think anyone wants to read these childish stories? I thought this was a Genealogy Blog?” I probably read her question 3 times before I could even begin to write a response.

I went back and looked at the blogs I first posted and I did include this statement “The purpose of this blog is to document the stories of my life. When I am gone my children, grandchildren and great-grandchild will have the memories of my life written by me. I am excited to begin this journey.” I personally consider this to be a Genealogy blog.

Granted, I haven’t included that opening for the last couple of months but even though I didn’t, I thought it was pretty evident that my “childish” blogs were Genealogy based, as they were intended to be passed down for the future generations. I guess, her comment bothered me more than I thought.

I responded politely, and thanked her for her input, but I guess my hurt feelings did eventually get a hold of me. I also included that now, because of writing this blog I have a great start on a book that can be passed on to my descendants. I then asked her if she can say the same. Yes, I hang my head in shame for being petty.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Grandpa was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition: Watch what you eat!

My Grandpa was John Pleasant Smith Sr. born September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill Missouri. On John’s mothers side his roots grew deep into Ireland’s fertile soil. He had all the superstitions of your typical Irishman, but he also had some that was passed down from his father’s side. Pleasant Smith was said to be a Creek Indian. I haven’t been able to prove nor disprove this since he is my biggest brick wall. I do know that my beloved Grandpa had one Superstition that I have never forgotten.

John Pleasant Smith Sr and my mother Emmajane, 1967

When I was 12 years old, we had just moved back to Missouri, and we settled in the quaint little town of Oak Grove, Missouri. It wasn’t a permanent situation, but we were there long enough for me to finally get to know my Grandpa. The house we rented was only 6 blocks from his home. I would go visit him after school and on Saturdays. He taught me a lot about growing vegetables and taking care of fruit trees. I always thought some of his planting ideas were really just Superstitions. He taught me to plant anything that grows on top of the soil when the Moon is full and anything that grows beneath the soil should be planted in the dark of the Moon. Over the years I have had bumper crops of veggies by following his instructions and I recently discovered that this is even written about in the Farmer’s Almanac. Oh well, so much for that Superstition.

He did other things because of his belief in Superstitions. One was if he left the house by the back door he would have to re-enter the house by that same door. To do otherwise brought bad luck. He believed that if the Moon had a ring around it then it was sure to rain within 3 days. I distinctly remember one day while I was visiting, my Grandma and I were sitting in the living room shelling peas. My Grandpa came in and asked me if I wanted to see a Yellow Headed Blackbird. I was so excited I jumped out of the rocking chair I was sitting in and ran towards the door. My Grandpa froze in place and told me to go back and stop the chair from rocking. He believed if you leave a rocking chair rocking when empty, it invites evil spirits to come into your house to sit in the rocking chair.

Although I remember these Superstitions, they are not the strangest one that he had, the one that has stuck with me all these years. It all started the first time we went to eat at my Grandparents home. We were all sitting around the kitchen table and after my Grandpa said “Grace” my Grandma and mom served our plates. I sat in astonishment as my Grandma brought a plate with only 2 pieces of chicken on it and set it in front of my Grandpa. She went back into the kitchen and came back with 2 smaller plates, one with mashed potatoes and one with green beans, and she placed these in front of him. By the time all the plates were placed on the table Grandpa had 5 separate plates with just one specific food on each one. I had never seen anything like it. I looked at my own plate. I had all the same things as he did but it was all on just one plate. I watched as Grandpa slowly ate each plate of food, one right after the other. After dinner, I asked him why he ate his food like that. He told me that he was raised to believe that if you let your food touch each other on your plate that you will get sick and die. My Grandpa was 84 years old so it made it easy for me to believe it too!

I decided to eat the same way; I mean why risk it, right? When I told my mom about my decision she said if that is what I wanted then go ahead and do it, but I would have to wash my own dishes afterwards. Eating this way only lasted a couple of days. It just wasn’t worth adding all those extra dishes for me to wash!

Here are some other Superstitions held by my mom and Grandpa.

Finding a penny brings good luck. When you pick it up you MUST say “Find a penny, pick it up all the day you’ll have good luck!”

Crossing your fingers for luck or to ward off evil or to not have to tell the truth

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Mondays for Me ~ Geronimo III

TucsonMy husband and I had been married about 7 years when he was offered a job in Phoenix working for a magazine. After a lot of thought, we decided it would be a good move for us. I had lived in Tucson, AZ most of my life, and I was excited about living in a bigger city. However, I knew I would miss a lot of things about home. The week before we were to move we decided to visit all of our favorite places in town. We had a busy week, but we also had a lot of fun.

On the day before the move, we decided to take a drive out to one of aguaro_National_Park_East_Entryour favorite places, the Saguaro National Park that was just west of Tucson. It isn’t your typical type of Park, instead of trees, it has thousands of 95-foot tall Saguaro cacti sprawled out over the mountains. Old Tucson Studios is located right in the center of it. Many famous movies and old television shows have been filmed there. My two favorite ones are “The 3 Amigos” and “The High Chaparral”. At the entrance to the park is a stone wall on each side of the two-lane road with a large sign stating all the rules. As we approached the entrance we noticed there was a new addition. There was a large tepee on the side of the road. The sign in front said ‘‘Stop and visit Geronimo III in his tepee. Grandson of historical Apache chief Geronimo I.’’. Out of curiosity we pulled off the road and went up to the door. Next to the chair by the front door were 2 signs that said ‘‘No smokin, no drinkin’’ and ‘‘Introducing the grandson of Chief Geronimo. This man is full of history, wisdom, and love for all mankind. Photographs $2 a pose.’’

3 generations of GeronimosBefore we knocked a voice boomed, “Come in”. When we entered the tepee it was like walking into the past. Apache rugs were everywhere. On the wall, as you enter his tepee, he had hung the things he valued most in life. A framed letter congratulating him on his centennial birthday, signed by Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and a picture of the presidential pair, also signed. And bigger than the mementos from the president and the first lady, much bigger, an ancient photograph of this man as a baby, riding beside his grandfather–Geronimo. The tall Apache entered the room wearing the traditional dress of the tribe. Before we could say anything to him, Geronimo III looked at George and asked “Why do you have a mustache?” All George could say was “What?” Geronimo then explained that he knew George had Apache blood in him and that it is a disgrace for an Apache to have facial hair. He then introduced himself as Geronimo the third, grandson of Geronimo, the great chief. He invited us to sit on some old chairs, and he told us a few stories about his Grandfather and tales of a few years spent learning at Geronimo’s side. We bought a few items from him and we left.

We can’t say for sure that this man was really the Great Grandson of USGeronimo, but it was an interesting experience. The next day we moved to the Phoenix area. About 2 weeks later my husband came up to me while I was doing dishes and said, “I’m going to shave my mustache.” I laughed and told him to go ahead. He had said the same thing to me almost every day since we met Geronimo III. Before I had finished with the dishes he came out of the bathroom, and he had shaved it off! I started screaming because he looked so different. He said he really thought about what the Apache had told him and he decided to do it. My husband George is Hispanic and both Yaqui and Apache Indian! He never mentioned that to the man. It has been 27 years since this happened and he still keeps clean-shaven.

Geronimo III died on February 2, 1995, at the age of 115.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Chosen Family ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ Week #34

group-hugThis week’s prompt of “Chosen Family” made me think of the family that we chose by choosing a spouse. Since I have been married more than once I think I understand that term very well. Since I have been married to my husband for almost 34 years, I decided to focus on his family.

My heritage is Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, and German. My husband is Mexican and Native American. Believe me, there is a big difference in our upbringings and family dynamics. I had a brother who was 18 years older than me and a sister who was 4 years older. We were not a close family at all. His family consisted of 9 children, 3 daughters, and 6 sons. Most of them were born 2 years apart! I have 2 nephews from my brother’s first marriage, he has 19 nieces and nephews. This is my chosen family.

It has been fun researching my in-laws family. First of all researching Mexican Genealogy is very difficult. Because of the way they switch their given surname with their married one or their mother’s surname, it can be hard to follow an ancestor’s line. There is also the language barrier. I do not speak Spanish, however, I can understand a lot of what is said and I can read it pretty well. My husband is the same. His mother was born in Mexico, and she learned to speak English after she married his dad. They never taught any of their children the language.

My “new” family history is fascinating. My father-in-law, Arthur “Art” Francisco MartinezMartinez (1930-2017) had some rather strange events happen in his family. The not so odd member of his family was his Dad, Francisco Martinez (1902-1995). He worked on the railroads his entire life, moving so many times that Art attended over 30 schools while growing up. Francisco was an accomplished musician, playing several instruments but his favorite was the violin. Arthur’s Grandfather, Eutimio Francisca VegaMartinez (1874-1947) wanted a wife, so he held up a stagecoach in Texas, killed all the travelers on the coach except a young girl named Francisca Vega (1882-1956). He took her and married her. Francisca’s older sister, Lorenza Vega (1874-1958) was married to Carlos Lozano who was forced to join Pancho Villa and his reign of terror. Lorenza joined her husband as they traveled around Northern Mexico and Texas raiding villages.

My mother-in-law Minnie (1936) family lived in Arizona before it was aRamona State. When it did become a State in 1912, her Grandmother Ramona Salazar (1898-1974) who was born in Tubac, Arizona became a United States citizen. In November that same year, she married Francisco Acuna (1892-1902) and they moved to Mexico returning to Arizona shortly before their first child was born in 1915. At the beginning of WWII their oldest son joined the army. Being a very devote Catholic, Ramona made a vow to God. If her son returned home safe from the war she would cover her beautiful hair with a scarf and wear it until she dies. He came home safe and Ramona kept her promise. Minnie’s Isidro Torresgrandfather, Isidro Torres (1862-1927), was ½ Yaqui and ½ Spaniard. In the 1880s the Mexican Government decided that they wanted to take control of the Yaqui land in the Northern State of Sonora because it was very fertile and any crop could be grown in it. The Yaqui’s rose up in rebellion against the Government and a war ensued. Having been raised with no connection to his Yaqui heritage, Isidro began to do scouting for the Government. It was a dangerous job and during one scouting mission, he was fired upon by a band of Yaqui’s. He was able to escape but was surprised when he removed his hat and found a bullet hole through the crown of it. From that day on Isidro wore that hat proudly.

So, I feel blessed to have “chosen” such a colorful family and their unique stories.

You can read their stories here:

Francisca Vega/Lorenza Vega –

Ramona Salazar –

Isidro Torres –


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ My Secret Pet

i_love_my_pet_I always wanted a pet of my own, something that was mine that no one could get rid of on a whim. I wrote a blog about my pet parakeet and what happened to it, but this one is about a secret pet that I had.

My sister always seemed to get a pet whenever she wanted one. WhenNew Vintage Image beagle she was about 9 years old, she got a purebred beagle puppy that she named Brown Sugar. After having her for about 3 months she got tired of having to take care of the dog, and she wanted to give her away. My Dad said no, that she wanted her so it was her responsibility to care for her. About a week later, the front gate was “accidentally” left open and Brown Sugar escaped. She got hit and killed by a car.

imageA year later my mother gave in to my sisters’ latest tangent and decided to let her have a guinea pig. My Dad insisted I get one also. I loved my little “Blackberry” and I took good care of her. My sister realized that the guinea pig was a lot of work, and she no longer wanted it. I offered to take hers but she refused. One morning I woke up and both animals were gone. I rushed around the house looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. Then I saw my Dad carrying both animals in from outside. Both of the animals were dead! Apparently, my sister had put them out the night before because they smelled bad and left them there. Where we lived we were surrounded by desert animals and one had gotten into the yard and tried to eat them. The poor things had died from their wounds.

So, when I found my special little pet, I knew had to keep it a secret. In one corner of our yard, we had a very large pine tree. The limbs hung down almost to the ground which made it an ideal hiding place. I spent many hours playing there and no one knew. So when I found “Fred”, I knew exactly where I could keep him. First, I found some discarded 2×4 pieces and I made a square out of them. I placed it on the ground under the tree. Then, I got a bucket and started scooping sand out of my sandbox and poured it into the square. I ventured into the alley that ran behind our house and found a variety of rocks to put in it. Last but not least, I took a lid off a discarded jar and put water in it so Fred could stay hydrated.

Every day I would run home from school and search the yard for ants, beetles, or grasshoppers to feed him. His kind would normally hunt for their own food, but I think I spoiled him by getting him his meals! I would dig holes for him to crawl in and out of, and I even found a small cactus to put in his home. My favorite thing was to just hold him in my hand. He would run up and down my arm and it would tickle. I had him for close to a year when something unthinkable happened.

I remember it was a Sunday because I had just gotten home from horny toadchurch. I ran indoors and changed my clothes and snuck out to my tree. When I looked in Fred’s habitat, I couldn’t see him. Granted he did kinda blend in with the sand but when I would walk up he would usually crawl out of wherever he was hiding. I got on my knees and started digging through the sand. I was frantic. Suddenly his head appeared from under a rock and I reached out to pick him up, and he spits blood out of the corners of his eyes at me. I started screaming and ran inside to wash it off the side of my face. My Dad stood at the bathroom door and kept asking me what was wrong, so I told him. He walked with me to my hideout, got on his knees, and crawled under the limbs. There was Fred sitting on a rock like nothing had happened! My Dad reached over and grabbed him. He backed out from the tree, and he told me to follow him.

There was an arroyo that ran behind the houses across the street and that is where we headed. When we got to the edge of it my Dad said to say goodbye to Fred because he needed to go back where he belonged. I cried because I knew I would miss him. On the way back to the house Dad explained that a horny toad was never meant to be a pet. He said I may have made it so that he will have a hard time getting the food he needed, but he was sure Fred would adapt. He also explained that the blood squirting was a defensive act that horny toads do when they feel threatened and that I probably startled him. I learned a valuable lesson that day, wild desert animals do not make appropriate pets.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ My Brush With Death

Inkedhome map_LIWhen we moved to Tucson, Arizona from Missouri when I was 11 months old, my parents bought a house in a new subdivision in the southwest area of town. Well, to be accurate, the area was still in the county at that time but by the time we moved away, it was in the city limits.

Having been born and raised in Missouri, the son of a farmer my Dad loved to grow things. In Missouri all you have to do, or so it seemed, was to put some seeds in the ground and something would grow. It didn’t require a lot of care and watering, just weeding and some fertilizer. Our house was located on a corner lot. The street was actually a “u” shape so if you were to drive by our home you could see every part of our yard. He decided to make an oasis in the desert! It was a shock to my Dad when he decided to plant some fruit trees, and they died within the first two months. He also planted grass seed and nothing came up. He ended up having to do something he had never done before….go to a garden shop and ask what to do!

Over the next few years, Dad really did make an oasis out of our yard. Cactus-Rock-Garden-Design 2We had several large trees and one tall palm tree. He was able to successfully grow 2 peach, 1 plum, and 1 apricot tree. He made flower beds along all the exterior walls, and he finally gave in and planted a cactus garden. We were the envy of the neighborhood because our entire yard was lush green grass. We had a common chain link fence that ran between us and our neighbors on two sides. Dad planted a hedge that ran the length of the fence to provide a little privacy for us.

hedge 2I used to spend my weekends out in the yard helping my Dad. I was probably more of a nuisance but I thought I was helping. I would pretend I was a princess and I would walk around my kingdom looking for treasure. Sometimes I would hide one of those penny machine rings in the bushes and then be excited when I would “find” it. This came to an end one Saturday morning when I had my brush with death.

I was about 6 years old and I was helping Dad in the yard when I thought I saw one of the rings I had hidden in the hedge. I immediately went into princess mode and I walked around acting like I was out for Mantis_Mantisa stroll because being a royal was really exhausting and I needed a break. I walked over to the hedge and stuck my hand in to grab the “ring” but I didn’t find anything. When I pulled my hand out there was this huge, green, alien sitting on my little finger. It bent its triangular head and bit me. I screamed, threw my hand up as hard as I could, and ran to my Dad! He grabbed my hand and the alien was still attached, so he pulled it off, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. I got hysterical, convinced I was about to die.

It took a while but I finally calmed down, but then I got mad. My Dad was laughing at me. He then explained that the alien was actually a praying mantis and that it was harmless. He inspected my finger and confirmed there was no bite. I would live!!

Confession time, as old as I am, I still have a strong aversion to praying mantis.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ Venice High School 1971

Venice HighAfter moving to Culver City, California from Santa Monica we had moved into a new school district. Thankfully we moved in at the start of summer vacation so I was able to meet a few kids in the neighborhood. It was hard enough starting a new school, it was my 6th one in 9 years, but knowing a few people helped. From where we lived, Venice High School was about a 3-mile walk. It wasn’t too bad because I had met a boy during the summer and he would walk to my house and we would walk to school together. Along the way we would pick up 4 more friends, so I really enjoyed the walk.

Venice High was built in 1911 and is located about a mile from Venice Beach. It was really a quite intimidating building. I had never seen a High School this large before. It also had a unique history. Many.myrna.loy.statue.venice.high.los.angeles famous actors attended the school including Gary Collins, Beau Bridges, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future), and the schools’ most famous student Myrna Loy. When she was attending here she served as the model for the statue “Spiritual” which stood on the school grounds. There were many singer/songwriters, a skateboard pioneer, a NASA astronaut, many athletes, the world land speed holder, and perhaps the most important, the founder of In-N-Out burger! It has also been used to film many movies, the most recognizable one is the movie “Grease”.

My favorite class was English because our teacher, although we had a lot of reading assignments, would give us writing challenges. Social Studies and History came in a second favorite. I had never really enjoyed P.E. and here I hated it! I don’t know if it was a rule in all Los Angeles High Schools or if it was only in ours because we were so close to the beach, but in order to graduate you had to know how to swim. The pool there was huge and you would have several classes in the pool at once. I already knew how to swim so I couldn’t understand why I had to take the class. I think it was in my 2nd week of class that I came up with an ingenious idea. I had gone to the library and looked up allergies and I discovered that a person could be allergic to the chlorine they put in pools. They really did put a lot of chlorine in the pool because there were so many kids who used it on a daily basis. So, I was told to go up the high dive and just jump in. I did and when I got out of the pool I faked a faint. They rushed me to the nurse and I described my “symptoms” and the nurse determined I must be allergic to the chemicals. I was taken out of the swimming class with a good excuse, maybe I should have become an actress LOL! Guess what class they put me in? Girls football.

A month after school started my boyfriend got a car, so our walking days were over, We still picked up our friends on the way to school but it was nice not having to get up as early. I did miss walking home because we would stop at a little market to buy treats. One of our favorite things to do was to buy a Pepsi in a bottle and one red vine. Once outside we would put the red vine in the bottle and drink all of it straight down. The candy made the soda rush out of the bottle forcing us to drink fast. Then we would have burping contests on the walk home. I would almost always win because unbeknownst to them I could make myself burp at any time so I would continue to long after they no longer could. Now that I look back on this that really was a strange thing to do.

yamaha-bikes-my-dadIn November my boyfriend and I broke up. So, it was back to walking again. Only now I had to walk alone because our shared friends had been his friends first. After about a week of this, I decided I didn’t want to go back to school. My dad was very upset because he wanted me to finish school and graduate. Knowing his feeling I knew how to turn the situation to my advantage. I had ridden a friends mini bike several times and I found it invigorating. So I told him it was too hard to walk every day, but if I had a motorcycle I would go. He responded with a resounding NO! It took a few days but I finally talked him into just going to look at them. He gave in and that day I came home with a purple Yamaha enduro 250. I loved that bike. I would drive around in my “hot pants” and long hair (no helmet) and enjoy the wind in my hair. Back in those days, there weren’t a lot of female motorcycle riders so I got plenty of stares. I look back on it now and realize how utterly reckless I was. I didn’t have a drivers license, I did stupid stunts, I took it dirt biking and I crashed it 2 times, one that resulted in a concussion. After about 4 months it got stolen from our back yard so I believe that was a “Godsend”.

I returned to school with no bike and I was not happy about it. I used to dress like most kids in those days but I did have a few outfits that pushed the limits. I felt they were okay for school so I wore them on19 yo 2 occasion, even after a few “dress code” calls to the counselors’ office. I told my counselor that there were many girls at lunch who wore short skirts and twirled around but they didn’t wear underwear! I don’t twill and I do wear them. Well, one day I wore a long dress I had just gotten. As soon as I walked into my first class I was sent to the principal’s office. I was told the dress was inappropriate for school and that I had to go home and change. I mentioned that the dress touches the ground so I didn’t see how I violated anything. The principal then told me it wasn’t for the length of my skirt but it was for the halter top part that exposed my entire back! I told her if I went home I would never come back. And, unfortunately, I never did go back to school.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Mondays for Me ~ La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros

rodeo picIn February every year since 1925, Tucson, Arizona has held a Rodeo and a corresponding parade. Back when it started, the town was still considered a frontier town. The first Tucson Rodeo was held in the middle of Prohibition. With so many visitors expected, decisions were made to clean up the town. Arizona State Prohibition Director Frank Pool led a force of federal officials to town two weeks prior to the rodeo. The Arizona Daily Star reported that 25 stills were captured and an estimated 3000 gallons of moonshine destroyed.

When it first started it was a 3-day event. The first day began with a 2-mile parade Parade 2through the downtown area then turning south toward the Rodeo Grounds. Since its inception this parade has been the world’s longest non-motorized parade and the largest outdoor, midwinter rodeo in the United States. Each year the procession grows and it includes such old horse-drawn vehicles as buckboards, surrey’s (with or without fringe on top), western wagonsstagecoaches, and Conestoga wagons. All floats are pulled either by hand or by horses and of course there are many cowboys and officials on horseback. There are also many marching bands. The highlight of the parade is the float carrying the “Rodeo Royalty”. After the parade, everyone goes to the Rodeo Grounds for the actual event.

As a young child, I always looked forward to the parade. The Rodeo/Parade ran cowgirl mefrom Friday through Sunday. Since this was a major event for the town, on Friday we could wear our “western” clothes to school. Back in those days girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school so it was a treat to wear jeans! In the 1st and 4th grades our class rode the school bus to Downtown to watch the parade. Another exciting thing to do for a kid who only lived 3 blocks from the school! When we returned to school we would have a picnic type lunch in the classroom, then spend the remainder of the day learning the history of rodeos’, Vaqueros (cowboys), and the western way of life.

rodeo pic 2As an adult, I took my 3 children to the parade and to watch the rodeo. My Dad had taken us a few times when I was younger and I wanted my children to experience it also. When I was 20 years old I participated in one of the marching bands, playing my clarinet. I gained respect for all those who perform in those bands. It wasn’t easy to march at a brisk pace, playing a wind instrument for 2 miles. Today the Rodeo is a 7-day event and still draws thousands of rodeo fans each year.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Mondays for Me ~ Can You Say That Again?

Me11I started first grade at the ripe old age of 6. Way back then there was no such thing as Kindergarten, they just threw you right into the classroom. In Arizona if your birthday is before December 31st you could start school at the age of 5, my birthday is in January so I had to wait another whole year. I was so excited, for many reasons. First, I loved to learn. Even though I couldn’t read yet I would spend hours combing through the World Book Encyclopedias we had at home, looking at the pictures. Second, I could make new friends. Ones that didn’t know my sister. Third, I would be out of the house, away from my mother for 8 hours a day! Growing up, I remember talking with other kids and they would either laugh at me or ask me to “say that again”. Most adults would just walk away giving me a sad look. I was quite confused by this so away from home I barely talked.

The first day my teacher, Mrs. Woods, had each one of us stand up and tell the others ourMe22 name and one thing about ourselves. As I listened to the other kids I ran all sorts of things through my head. Should I tell the class I loved to ride my bike? Or perhaps I could tell them our family had a dog? It was hard to decide. When it came to my turn I said: “My name is Valerie and I love to ride my bike”. All the kids started laughing at me. I turned and ran crying from the room. When the teacher caught up with me she just hugged me for what seemed like a very long time. She then took me back into the room and scolded the kids for being cruel. She told them I had a speech problem and the school was going to help me with it.

A speech problem? I never heard that before. On the way home that day a carried a note from Mrs. Woods for my parents to read. I was petrified. My sister, who was four years older than me, was always bringing home notes and my Dad would yell at her and send her to our room. The look on my mothers face when I handed it to her would have killed me if it had the power. When she read it she didn’t look angry or say one word to me. I felt relief. The next morning she drove me to school and we went to the principal’s office. There she told the principal, Mrs. Reinche. that they knew I had a speech problem but they thought it would correct itself as I got older. My mother and sister always spoke baby talk to me since I was born and thought it was hilarious that I talked this way. I can still visualize the look on the principal’s face. She told my mother “We will handle this” and pointed to the door. After she left Mrs. Reinche told me I would be going to speech therapy 3 times a week at the school and it wouldn’t be long before I could speak correctly.

1960s-speech therapyI loved going for the therapy. It was one on one with the therapist and we played “games” and she taught me phonics, helping me to pronounce each word correctly by sounding them out. In class, we were learning to read by using the “Fun with Dick and Jane” series. If you don’t know what that is it was just repetitive words over and over again. Like “See Dick run, run Dick run”. You were learning to read by memory. Since I was learning phonics in therapy I was learning how to sound out the words, and this gave me a great advantage. Once I was able to speak in an understandable way I had enough confidence to stand and read to the class instead of being passed over. I read so well that Mrs. Woods started sending me home with second-grade level books. I would read them and bring them back then she and I would talk about them. She also helped me with my writing and by the end of the school year, I was writing stories.

One of the best things was I no longer got laughed at. I made great friends and I loved school. I was reading third-grade level books by the end of the year and I discovered I loved to write. Using my imagination and writing stories help get me through my very unpleasant childhood. I did have to take a refresher therapy class for my third-grade year, but I didn’t mind. There are still, to this day, some words I have trouble pronouncing. Even so, I am glad I don’t have to hear “can you say that again?’ from others.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.