Thursday, June 30, 2005

Anna Blogs

Anna on front porch with animals

Hi I'm Anna .You may have heard of me from my mom .Anyways today I was sitting on the front porch of the tent when Rosey(dog) and Boy(cat) come racing to me. When they stopped Rosey flopped down next to me. Boy stuck his butt in Rosey's face and mom took pictures. Later we all fell asleep.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Throughly Modern Mimi or My Grandma the Flapper

Some say it's criminal, what women will do,
What they're forgetting is, this is 1922!

Last week I mentioned the Leelanau Children's Choir concert Throughly Modern Musicals. The lead song from Throughly Modern Mille keeps running through my head, reminding me of stories that my Grandma Mimi told me about growing up in the beginning of the last century. I made up my mind to reprint an article I first published on the year that Mimi died. I am able to add some pictures, courtesy of Uncle Bryan Harry.

My grandparents retired to Leelanau County in 1962; many of you knew Mimi and Gordon Harry. My grandmother, Mildred Harry, died this January at the age of 97. What follows is an oral history of her life as told to my mom, her daughter, on the occasion of her 95th birthday. The bracketed parts are the story the way she told it to me, her granddaughter. This first installment covers her life until her marriage. I know that not many people are lucky enough to have an ancestor able to tell the story of an entire century, so please let me share mine:
Mimi was born Mildred Bryan Wheeler on May 26, 1903 in St Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Maude Dell Bryan and Charles Medley Wheeler.

Mimi's parents ran away from home to be married, causing much friction in both Bryan and Wheeler households. The young Wheelers lived in St. Louis where son Thomas "Bud" was born. Mimi's father died July 13, 1909 leaving Maude with two young children to raise on her own. [Mimi was the older child. Bud was about 18 months younger. Mimi’s father died of tuberculosis.]

Maude took her children home to her parents to live first on Spanish Street and later Larmer Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They all lived in the big houses; Maude painted and catered parties and functions to support herself and her small children.

Grandfather Bill Bryan and Mimi's grandmother Margaret (called Susie) were a great part of her life as were Uncle Bill Bryan, his wife Sal and their son, her cousin Billy Bryan.

There were diverse religious influences - The Bryans were Methodists, the Wheelers Catholic. One influence I've heard most of over the years from the Wheeler side was Christine Wheeler Heil, sister in law of Maude. She remained an influence in Mimi's life long after both of her parents had died.

Life was full and boisterous on Larmer Street. When the weather grew hot and muggy in the summer the whole family would travel by train to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Margaret's (Mimi's Grandma Bryan) father was a miner in the west and Colorado seemed to be a home base, at least part of the year for the family. [When my own children (Mimi’s great-grand children) were babies, Mimi was quite interested in their vaccinations. I would recite the name of each disease that they had been protected from; diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, mumps. She had stories to tell about each one. She had friends who had died from each one of these, and she had herself suffered from diphtheria, measles, mumps, and whooping cough. She described her bout with diphtheria as a two month haze during which her mother sat by her bedside waiting to see if she would live or die. I think that the trips to the mountains in the summertime were the family’s way of escaping the epidemics of flu and cholera that were sweeping the cities during this time.]

Mimi's Grandpa Bill Bryan was a train conductor and so it was natural the family would pick up and travel by train to Colorado each year. Trains were the mode of transportation; cars were just beginning.

Growing up was fun, gregarious with grandparents, Mom and a Negro Mammy Snooks caring for Sis (as she was called by her family) and Bud her brother.

When Mimi was 12 her mother married John Meyers. This was hard for Mimi to take and she refused to call John father or Dad. Finally she needed a new winter coat. John said he would buy her one if she would become friends and call him Dad - which she did and thus began a warm and trusting relationship.

A baby girl was born to Maude and John Meyers. This child was our beloved Aunt Mary, named Mary Margaret Meyers, a wonderful joy in our lives for many years.

Mimi often speaks of her happy years in high school and later her horrendous experience in boarding school in Bristol, Virginia. Later in her nineties, she couldn't imagine how she chose to go to boarding school over a trip to Europe with her Grandma Bryan!

Mildred Harry, schoolgirl, with her "cootie garages".

[Mimi ran with a “fast “crowd in Cape Girardeau. More traditional girls wore their hair long, coiled in one or two buns on the back or sides or their heads. Mimi’s crowd distained these “cootie garages” and bobbed their hair at the first opportunity. Mimi told me of how Maude would drive all over town in her Model A to find out where her teenage daughter was hanging out and bring her home. There was one boy in particular that Mimi favored and her mother did not. To break up the romance, she was sent away to Sullins School, 500 miles away at the other end of Tennessee. Unbeknownst to Maude, Mimi’s admirer relocated, too, and got a job as a taxicab driver in Bristol. When the girls wanted to go to town, guess who was driving them!]

Life in Boarding school seemed to be a time to break all the rules. Rules made to dampen the spirits of young girls.

Back in the "Cape", as Cape Girardeau was known as were many friends gathering to dance and play music mostly in private homes.

The airplane was being developed - not super sonic jets like today - small single engine planes. Somewhere there is a picture of Mimi up for a ride in one of the early models.

Mimi, a few years later, with her new bob.

It was the beginning of the famous 1920's and indeed Mimi was a Flapper learning the Charleston, the Blackbottom and dancing to music of friends who would be musicians in the Jazz period including her friend piano player Jesse Stacey.

After graduating from SE Missouri State Teachers College, Mimi and her friend Winter Green (Sally Lou Howard's Mom) set off for Michigan where they were hired to teach school in Flint.

Winter in the North seemed a harsh place for the young woman from Cape. A handsome young engineer made things easier by always being around to take her for lunch and picking her up in his car. This proved to be a friendship that grew and lasted for more than 65 years. Mimi married Gordon William Harry on August 30, 1927 in her family home, 224 N. Larmer St., Cape Girardeau, MO. [Grandpa was on the school board (the way Grandma tells it) and was assigned to pick her up at the train station when she first came to town. She told me: “I had lots of fellas back in the Cape, but once I laid eyes on Gordon Harry, the rest of them just seemed like dime store cowboys!”]

[A few years ago we unearthed a box of pictures from the time when my grandparents were newly married. There were so many pictures of them and family and friends ready to go out dancing, on fishing trips, at the beach, with their new cars. I spent an afternoon with Mimi on my front porch while she told me about the pictures: “I had forgotten how much fun we had, dancing every night, we had a ball!”]

They set off to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon and then made their home at Mackin Rd. in Flint, Michigan.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Another Letter to Michelle McManus

I wrote another letter to State Senator Michelle McManus about the state of Michigan's school funding. I still haven't heard anything from her about my May 2 letter. She must still be doing research.

Here's today's letter. I sent it to her Senate email address and submitted it in her online comment form.

Dear Michelle,

Tuesday we saw parents and educators rally in Lansing in favor of correcting the inadequate funding of Michigan’s public school system.

It is high time. Our schools’ expenses go up constantly while the per pupil grant has remained flat for years. A survey by the Michigan School Business Officials reports that over half the public schools in Michigan expect to lay off staff during the coming year. 79% will need to dip into their fund balances to make it through the year.

I am glad to see school funding getting attention in Lansing. I would be happier yet to see you and your colleagues acknowledge that there is a problem and commit yourselves to working on a comprehensive solution that works for all of our schools.

When I talk to parents they are confused and frustrated. The voters approved Proposal A in order to give schools a stable and adequate source of funding. We agreed to a hike in the sales tax and we agreed to let property tax dollars flow out of our district in order to achieve to goal of adequate funding for Michigan’s public schools. The story of how we got to our current situation is complex, but it is fully explained on the website I referred you to back in April:

Proposal A earmarks percentages of income taxes, property taxes and sales tax for the School Aid Fund. While the Legislature cannot change the wording of Proposal A, it has been careless in approving changes to the underlying tax laws that have left the School Aid Fund seriously underfunded.

The proposal put forth by the K-16 Coalition seeks to mandate adequate funding for public schools and universities, but it does not address the question of where the money should come from. You should also note that across the board annual increases will widen the gap between the best funded schools and the least funded schools. (This is particular galling in districts like Leland that already send out many more dollars in property taxes than we receive in school funding.) The proposal is a band-aid approach to a complex problem.

There are a number of more fair and more practical approaches. Certainly we need to look at minimizing the effect of health insurance and retirement costs in school budgets. Perhaps all school districts should be offered the same opportunities that the “20j hold harmless” districts get, to hold millages at the local level for enhancements to education. But I think the real work will be to roll back the tax cuts and tax exemptions that have done so much harm to the basic premise of Proposal A.

It is time to open a serious discussion on school funding. This problem cannot be blamed on the economy or school administrations. It requires leadership in the Legislature, and I think you could fill this role.

I am available to discuss this issue further, now that our seniors have graduated. Call me at home 231-256-8876, or email me at

Susan Och

51 S French Road

Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I've been crazy busy these past weeks, just trying to keep up with my kids. Leelanau Children's Choir performed their spring concert last weekend. I ran the lights for the shows and learned a little about the sound system in the Performing Arts Center. The concert featured songs from modern musical theater. There was so much new music that I am only now digesting it all.

Shelagh carried off a solo performance of "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. She was great, so much so that I would have been shaking had I not had to hold the spotlight still. All we do for these kids.

Below is Shelagh's valedictorian speech. I'm reprinting it here because I can. The song she mentions is "For Good", also from Wicked.

I sat down to write this speech, and was actually a little stumped. What could I say to my class, or about my class, that hasn’t been said before? I wish that for a graduation speech, I could just read you all the words to that song again, but apparently this could be called an act of plagiarism, and you just heard us sing it. So I thought really hard about what makes this class different from the other Classes of 2005 around the world, and in the end, I found my speech.
School is generally considered to be a place of learning. Students are expected to graduate with a basic knowledge of math, science, English, and… what’s that other one? That one guy teaches it? Hmmmmm… Oh yeah, social studies… sorry Wodes. I know that within these walls, my classmates and I have learned much more than just those basics in the past 13, yes, 13 years at Leland School. But all this knowledge is not the most important thing we will take with us this evening. No, the most important thing I have learned here at Leland comes from a different kind of learning experience. Although the Class of 2005 has learned many a math fact together, the friendships we have formed—and learned how to keep—will leave their mark far longer than any quadratic formula.
This class began where every other class begins; amidst clay and crayons, glue and glitter, snacks and naps… in preschool. At least a third of these seniors went to the same preschool, where we climbed, collaged, painted and pretended our way not only into kindergarten, but also into each others’ hearts. The bond that we created in this primitive beginning has, over the years, become one of trust, loyalty, and an unspoken promise; nothing can keep us from reaching our goals. Once we put our minds to something—or once Sam Simpson puts his mind to something—we won’t stop until we get it. And we reach our goals not as individuals, but as a group of friends who are always there for each other. This ambition seems to come from the perfect combination of a number of Leland-provided assets.
Every once in a while, a class just gets the recipe right. This “recipe” starts with the right kids, and the right mix of kids. These kids have to be willing to learn from each other, and also have to be willing to help each other out, even for nothing particular in return. There have to be leaders, but these leaders have to be able to work with other leaders, and maybe even follow sometimes. These “kids” have to be willing to grow, to change, to become adults when the time comes. Teachers, parents, and community members have to be willing to set good examples, and be committed to doing so. The adults involved in this recipe have to have the students’ best interests in mind, and they have to work together to create a web, a net, if you will, to be ready, should a student stumble or fall. If all of these things come together in the right way, the final product is enjoyed by all who experience it. Our class had this recipe right from the beginning, and, like a good recipe, I wouldn’t change a thing about us or the people who brought us here. When I was a young, na├»ve sophomore, I thought that Leland was too small. I didn’t like knowing things about other people, and I didn’t like other people knowing things about me. But since then, I have come to realize that this interconnectedness is all part of that web, and all part of the Leland experience. Each one of us will leave here tonight with a strong sense of community, knowing we are loved, appreciated, and taken care of. If Leland were any bigger, I wouldn’t know these people I am graduating with as well as I do now. They would be just my classmates, instead of my good friends.
After this last summer together, we each will go our own way. Some of us already know, have known for years, what we want to “be when we grow up.” (I envy those people.) The rest of us may be uncertain of our long term goals, but I expect we will find our place in the world in time. Whether we “grow up” to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, members of the armed forces, entrepreneurs, parents, mechanics, dancers, artists, scientists, politicians, veterinarians, performers, or computer guys… I know that each one of my wonderful classmates will be a success in whatever they choose to do. This class is one of the brightest and most motivated groups of people I have ever been privileged to be a part of, and everything we have learned from each other will be undoubtedly be essential to our futures. I am certain that each of my classmates will be determined enough to fulfill their hopes, dreams, and goals, and confident enough to know when they have found them. From each other, we have learned how to be trustworthy, loyal, supportive, interesting, and fun people, and I know these lessons will prove to be irreplaceable.
I have learned much from this group since those messy, giggly days of preschool. –Wait, what am I talking about? Our days are still messy and giggly—But the greatest thing my class has given me over our years –and for some of us there have been many, many years—the greatest gift I have received is friendship. Because of their examples, their actions, their words, I have learned more about how to be a friend than I could have learned anywhere else. Each one of these 27 people has left an example for me to follow, a message for me to project onto the world into which I am about to enter. Because of them, and because of you all, I will enter this world with firsthand knowledge of loyalty, trust, work ethic, community, and friendship. My experiences with these amazing people as classmates, as students, as conversationalists, as friends, as the people that they are, will forever shape the way I remember these high school days, and the way I see the world and the future. It will be difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing I have had to do, to leave this group of friends in the fall and head out into the world to find new ones. But, as an anonymous writer once said, “A good friend is hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” I don’t know that the first part of that is true; you guys weren’t too hard to find. But, my good friends in my Class of 2005… I know that I will will never forget you.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Orchid in the Ditch

A Pink Lady Slipper

We have pink lady slippers growing in the ditch of the state highway right-of-way in front of our house. Every year I have to run out when they come to mow the roadside and ask the guy to spare the orchids. Anna and I went out to see the lady slippers today. On the way we found that wild strawberries are ripe.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shelagh's Official Graduation Picture

Shelagh's "official" graduation picture.

Well, almost. Her "official" picture is in color, but she had that one printed directly from negatives and only the black and white version is in electronic form.

Liz took the picture for her using my old 35mm SLR. When you want really great pictures, that's still the one to use. One of these days I'd like to get one of the new single lens reflex digitals, preferably with a screen big enough to see without my glasses, so I can know whether or not my husband was sticking his tongue out on the last shot.

The digital is great for everyday use. Elementary school age girls seem driven to take photos of pets and dolls. When Shelagh and Liz were little I spent good money to get many rolls of film developed that turned out to be just pictures of cats and dolls. Anna has taken scads of those pictures (different cats, same dolls) at no cost to me. She uses Grampa Gord's old tripod and sets up the timer so she can be in the picture too. The picture in the sidebar of this blog is another of her favorite techniques: just hold it up in front of your face and snap a picture. I have begun to teach Anna how to use the old camera; it is still the best way to understand how photography works.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shelagh Graduates!

Shelagh Och, Diploma in Hand
Leland School graduated 28 great kids last Friday. I was so proud of all of them. Shelagh was the valedictorian. Valedictorian in a class of 28 is one thing; She was also chosen as one of 10 students statewide for the Academic All State Team.

She wrote a nice speech, finishing it the night before, much to the consternation of the principal and superintendent, who wanted to approve it in advance. But Liz had to check it out before they did, smoothing out the rough parts and adding drama to what she termed "a lame ending".

Shelagh delivered her speech with all the poise and confidence in the world. She also sang "For Good", a beautiful song from the musical "Wicked" with Allison Palmer and Anna Pentiuk. It's a pretty song that I don't get tired of hearing, with its wordplay lyrics: "I don't know if I've been changed for the better. Because I knew you, I've been changed for good."

Richard and I got to see all of this despite walking out the door to go to graduation and finding we had NO car keys. They were, all three sets of van keys and one key to the Horizon, in Shelagh's purse, already at school. I have been stuck in the same situation at least four times already this year, ready to leave for work, the car is in the driveway, but I have no keys. Richard and I just look at each other and say "She IS moving out, right?" (Shelagh is going to the University of Michigan this fall.)

After the ceremony, everyone stopped to congratulate us and tell us how great our daughter was. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and just blurted out, "Well, you don't have to LIVE with her." But I'm glad her public face is so together, even if she saves her falling apart moments for home. You wouldn't want a kid to be running amuck in public because they were afraid to do so at home.

Shelagh and Her Parents

The only picture of the three of us and Richard is sticking out his tongue! I worried about this at first, but then I just figured "He is what he is," and posted it anyway.

People keep asking me why our kids are so smart and I answer, only half in jest, that it's because they hear so much arguing at home. They definitely learn to listen to more than one point of view and to be comfortable defending their own opinions.

In second grade Liz's class started playing the "boys chase the girls" game on the playground. At Leland School, when that game gets out of hand, both the girls and the boys get sent to the principal's office. Some of Liz's friends were devastated to be scolded by the principal (Mike Hartigan, back then.) But Liz came home disgusted with her classmates. "I don't see what the big deal is," she said. "Dad hollers worse than that guy."

In this photo, Shelagh is wearing two leis sent to her from Hawaii by my Uncle Bryan. The orange one is called a cigar lei and the purple and white one is stacked orchids.

With Grandma Jane and Grampa Pete

Several friends commented on how much fun it was to meet both sets of grandparents and how lucky we were that they were all alive and well enough to travel. I didn't get a picture of Shelagh with Richard's folks; they seemed to disappear immediately following the ceremony. Later they told us that Grama Alice's Parkinson's disease started acting up as they left the gym. When it hits her she loses touch with her legs; she trys to walk but her legs just won't move. She is stuck in one place, frustrated, muttering "Come on, let's go already!"

But she doesn't let it get her down. When she got moving again they went straight to their car then down to Dick's Pour House, Grampa Ron's favorite local bar, and enjoyed a cold beer on a hot evening.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pictures from the Boulder trip

Leaving Traverse City at 6 am

Anna and Autumn on the shuttle in Minneapolis

Christian, Melanie, And Autumn at Estes Park

Austin and Autumn look for ground squirrels

Posing in the Rockies

Lounging in front of the CU buffalo