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Thursday, December 31, 2015


I was reading the Mystic River Press calendar of events this morning and a few items caught my eye.  Along with the usual nature walks, concerts and children's library programs, there were a few interesting events listed.

The first to draw my attention was the Coloring Workshop in Charlestown, Rhode Island.  The description reads, "Enjoy a relaxing morning by exploring the trend of adult coloring."  I don't live under a rock so I do know that adult coloring books were a popular Christmas item this year, but does anyone need a workshop to relearn what they learned when they were just toddlers?  Sounds like group therapy, but  it might be fun to attend on January 2nd, just to see what kind of instruction the participants receive.  Maybe they could have a Benjamin Moore paint store employee on hand to help with colored pencil choices and a nun in her habit, banging on participants' knuckles with a ruler if they colored outside the lines.

The second item that caught my eye and gave me a chuckle was Irish Language Lessons, commencing on January 7th at the Tower Street Community Center in Westerly, Rhode Island.  I've met a lot of Irish people over the years and we also vacationed in Ireland a number of years ago.  To my recollection, most speak the King's English.  I know about Gaelic, but that's not what the event proclaims to be teaching.  The only thing I could think of was the relatives from Ireland I met who would come over to visit our neighbors, the Ward family, in Morristown, NJ.  I loved hearing their lovely accents and sharing a cup of tea.  Somehow I don't think the Irish language lessons being offered in the events calendar would include such typical Irish sayings as, "You fekking idjit!"  Too bad really because that would be a fun class to take if they did!

There were lots of notices for stargazing and lectures, but the one I would avoid at all costs now that my sons are grown is Music Together, also at the Westerly Community Center.  The description reads, "Family music classes for children ages birth to kindergarten.  Sing, play, drum, dance and create musical memories with your little one."  That one definitely sounds headache producing....a room full of infants and preschoolers singing, banging on drums and dancing around like little whirling dervishes.  I hope they provide a nice glass of wine for the mommies!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Maureen O'Hara passed away yesterday at the age of 95.  Instantly my thoughts went to my maternal grandfather, Elmer Jacob Poorman.  Elmer, in later life known as Jack, was a huge fan of and more than a little in love with Maureen O'Hara.

I've been thinking about my grandfather a lot lately because I was contacted by a professor in England, a musicologist who is working on creating a database and website about the World War I items held at the University of Illinois and the Newberry libraries.  According to this gentleman, William Brooks, my grandfather’s song has one of the most complicated and interesting histories and I've been trying to help him fill in some of the details.  To my delight, Professor Brooks has been an invaluable resource for me in discovering more information about my grandfather.

Elmer is the fifth from the right in the top row
Elmer was born on May 18, 1890 in Fayette, New York, a small farming town in Upstate New York.  One of fifteen children (although we always believed it was eighteen), Grandpa left home in his late teens or early twenties for the big city.  After arriving in New York, he worked as a machinist while marrying and starting a family in Newark, New Jersey.  He invented a number of items and had them patented but he spent most of his spare time pursuing his true dream of writing songs.

During World War I, Elmer, a pacifist, penned the lyrics to a song entitled, "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER WILL THERE BE ANY HOME SWEET HOME", music by Joseph Woodruff.  The sheet music I have was published by the Joe Morris Music Company in New York City in 1917.  While I had numerous copies of other songs Grandpa had written, I had never seen a copy of "After the War..." until I discovered it on eBay, along with a player piano roll version.  Family lore has it that the sheet music of this song sold a quarter of a million copies before the government banned it for being unpatriotic.

Elmer tried toning the song down, retitling it to both "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER" and "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER THERE WILL BE A HOME SWEET HOME", collaborating with gentlemen named Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Andrieu,  but these versions never had the same level of success.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a young girl in the 1950s.  On his days off from work, Grandpa would sit in a tiny room at the back of their fourth floor walk-up apartment at 619 Hunterdon Street in Newark, NJ.  There he had a tiny tabletop electric organ and a beige tweed suitcase shaped record player.  These items were totally off limits to his grandchildren.

I remember hanging my arms around Elmer's neck and peeking over his shoulder at his opened record player.  Inside the lid he had affixed his prized possessions; three large black and white autographed studio photographs of Maureen O'Hara that he apparently had requested from her movie studio.  I even have sheet music copies of a song he wrote for her, "MAUREEN", and the first line begins with "Maureen, my sweet Maureen...".  My red-haired Irish grandmother, Margaret Mary Kenney, was totally jealous of his affinity for Ms. O'Hara, but Grandpa followed her career until his death in April of 1973.

If Grandpa were still alive I'm sure he would be drinking a boilermaker (a shot and beer) in Ms. O'Hara's honor today.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Dear Stephen King,

First and foremost, I'd like to say how very much I enjoyed your new book, FINDERS KEEPERS.  In this latest thriller, Bellamy is the perfect creepy fan of  John Rothstein, while Pete Saubers is portrayed as a nicely obsessive one.  Black and white hats and who will win?   Certainly not Rothstein.

What can I say about your books overall that you haven't already heard, except that I've loved almost all of them.  You were the first (and only) author I ever wrote to and that was way back in the early '80s;  just to compliment you and ask you to write faster.  I never heard back from you but I didn't expect to.   I love books and I love reading and your books are always at the top of my list.

Sometimes an author writes something that just zings to my heart and forces me to share the thought with friends.  FINDERS KEEPERS had that special paragraph that felt like it was written just for me.  To wit, "

"For readers, one of life's most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers--not just capable of doing it, but in love with it.  Hopelessly.  Head over heels.  The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts:  Yes!  That's how it is!  Yes!  I saw that, too!  And, of course, That's what I think!  That's what I FEEL!"  

ZING!  And I immediately knew what the book was that made me fall in love!  GOOFY MRS. GOOSE by Miriam Clark Potter.  It's also the reason I make yearly donations to the Newark Public Library.

My family never had any money, so there weren't going to be any summer camps or outings in our future.  On the first day of summer vacation from school, my brother and I took a friend's little red wagon to the branch library on Bergen Street in Newark, New Jersey.  I was about seven years' old and Bob was probably nine.  The very kind librarian told us we could each take ten books for the summer.  HA!  What did she know??!!  One of the books I borrowed was GOOFY MRS. GOOSE.  That was it!  I was hooked!  These weren't nicely colored Golden Books.  These were black and white with illustrations by the author, with more words than drawings, but Ms. Potter unlocked a whole new life for me!  One that used my imagination!  I raced through all ten books in a week, as did my brother, and off we headed to return our allotment and borrow more.

The librarian was fairly shocked that we returned so quickly, but I just had to get more of Mrs. Goose and her friends.  Three-Ducks, Mrs. Squirrel, Black Cat and Old Lady Owl, just to name a few.  Oh my, I felt like I had just discovered my new family!  A beautiful family who always helped Goofy Mrs. Goose out of her latest quandary with kindness and humor.  I could escape my own family's poverty, arguments and unhappiness and spend my time in Animaltown that summer.  And so, I was hooked on Mrs. Goose, but even more hooked on reading, and I have spent the better part of the last sixty years doing just that!

I'm now the proud owner of ten of the MRS. GOOSE series written by Ms. Potter.  They're in fair to miserable condition being library castoffs for the most part. But to me they are my prized possessions!

So, thank you, Mr. King, for reaching my heart and reminding me why I started this blog in the first place.  It's been my great pleasure to spend time with your books over the years.

Very truly yours, A Constant Reader

ISBN:  978-1501100079  
Pub. Date - June 2, 2015
448 pages
Hardcover and eBook