Ready to Read

Ready to Read
Historical Novels -Bobi Andrews

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Two longs and a short.  Why would anyone remember that?  Well . . . 
in the middle of the night anything can happen and my midnight muse 
remembered it and somehow ZINGO.  FACEBOOK.
Painting by Rose Nuernberger

Back when there were no dial-up phones, the big thing was to have a big thing hanging on your wall—a contraption first timers called a “telephone.”   It worked like this:

When electricity finally came through to small towns and rural areas, a telephone company was born which grouped an entire community or rural group on party lines and provided a phone
box to the end user with his own specific  ring.   Our family’s ring to call out was to crank the handle two full circles (longs) and then a short crank. Incoming calls had the same designation as the bells at the top of the phone box rang the longs and shorts.

Privacy, no.  The ring for incoming calls was heard by everyone on the party line so not only would you answer your ring,  but everyone else could “rubber” in.  If you wanted to call out and the line was busy, nothing kept the one waiting from listening in on the on-going conversation.

Ah-h-h Facebook!  Once a week, the local newspaper would call to get the latest news items on where you went, who had a birthday, what did you eat, new babies, parties, illnesses, deaths, etc. etc.  Everyone on the party line could listen in . . . and did.  Some people (maybe grandmas) with idle time made a habit of rubbering and then ringing up their neighbor or kin to spread the gossip.    Of course “Central” the switchboard operator back at the company telephone board, was on a first name basis with everybody and knew the latest. On the merit side, she often called the doctor or the fire department in emergencies.  But did she spread gossip?  Ahem, of course not!

Sometimes when the party you called didn’t answer, a “rubber” would fill you in and tell you where the missing party was. If someone was ill, a rubber or group of rubbers would organize a food mission for the afflicted family  and would certainly call every day to see how the ill person was doing.  Lost children, dogs, cows, and sheep were found and reported to rubbers to contact missing parents/owners.  “Central” hunted you down when there was an emergency you needed to know about.  Ladies inviting people for coffee or announcing they were the next hostess for the Ladies Aid Society would often find the whole neighborhood unexpectedly attending.  Feuds and arguments were maliciously carried on with parties shouting  down others “to get off the line.” More than one offender was dubbed a gossiper and a nosy busybody, a reputation never to be lived down.”

In fairness, farm wives were usually far too busy to rubber.  However, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t rubber at one time or another. Despite an over abundance of abusers to the party lines, lives were saved by timely notice of emergencies, many lonesome people comforted, family communication strengthened,  cohesive communities established and maintained.  Not too much different from the goals of social media today.  Thank heavens Facebook fixed some of the possibilities for abuse when they brought their service on line.  But if you think about it, the only thing missing back in those days was the ability to send pictures over a telephone line and of course, you couldn’t carry your big box around.  More importantly, you couldn’t find the little box to check  “unlike” for anyone rubbering. 


Saturday, August 24, 2013


I have a number of very good musicians in my family, perhaps originating from the travelling genes of the singing ancestors in Singer’s Glen.   While researching “Hetty”, I became intrigued with shaped-note music script and shared my enthusiasm with my sister knowing she would have expertise on the subject from the viewpoint of a musician as well as an elementary school teacher who taught many young kids to read.    I asked her to comment.  At the end, I’ve added a little home-made shape-note script for the reader to experience this unique form of song writing and to guess what the tune is. 

By the way, I think our ancestors were pretty bright to figure all this out from Joseph Funk’s compositions.  Somehow, I think if I were there, I would be singing off-key more than on-key. 

– Contributed by Rose Nuernberger, Bettendorf, Iowa

Does that seem to be a rather odd question?  In our earlier history most of the common people learned to sing by having a leader sing a line, and then they would repeat the line . . . learning by rote.  But perhaps they were impatient like my granddaughter, Sarah, as a three-year-old.  “I do it mysef.” 

Thus the beginnings of shaped-note music were born.  Different shapes indicated whether the tones went up or down the scale.  I presume it was like a first grader learning how to decipher “all those fancy squiggly marks” in learning the different alphabet sounds mastering reading skills.  But if my tuition guides me correctly, I can’t help but believe that those early pioneers in our lives had the same philosophy as my granddaughter . . . “I do it mysef.”

Does this all somewhat compare to the invention of the wheel (in the music world)?  You’ll be intrigued as to how Barbara Andrews weaves the shape-note process in her latest book, soon to be released, “Hetty’s Song, the Death of the Skylark.”  And you’ll probably never look at another note without telling yourself, “There’s a lot of history behind that note.”



Need a hint:   email

10/9/13  Note

For those asking, the music bar above was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!

Monday, August 5, 2013

WOMEN'S HATS (What Happened to Them?)

You know how it is.  You wake up in the middle of the night and your mind goes wandering through strange places and old memories.  Mine ended up thinking about hats, the millinery kind that women used to wear in the fifties.

I grew up in a small farm town in northeastern Nebraska.  From early on, I “worked” not so much for the money, but because Dad said it developed a certain kind of character.  I remember working in his creamery on Saturday nights writing out “cream checks” to farmers who brought their eggs and cream to sell.  Then it was manning the popcorn counter at the Gay Theater where we’d sneak peeks at the Sunday afternoon matinees (Remember, “Three Coins in the Fountain?”);  and then clerking at Felber’s Drug Store where I made fantastic Superdupers (three dips of icecream, layered with caramel sauce and chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream, cashew nuts and a cherry), but couldn’t get the hang of all the pharmaceutical names.  I particularly didn’t understand why college boys became jittery when they asked for condoms.  They needn’t have worried—I didn’t know what the packages of “Big Boar” were for.

Swan’s Women Clothing on Main Street was considered to be the best store for the “better” clothes.  To be more fashionable, you’d go out of town to Norfolk or Sioux City to shop; and vice versa, their customers would come to Swan’s.  During my last year in high school and two years at Wayne State College, I worked at the store (my purchases always exceeded my pay).   New clothes from the Chicago markets for June would come in the latter part of January, Christmas merchandise arrived in July. 

Swans sold garter belts and nylon stockings with seams (seamless were just becoming available, and of course, no fashionable woman would wear seamless stockings—too casual, too radical).  The stockings came in thin, flat boxes and we’d spread our hand in the top of the stockings to show how sheer they were. Girdles were another matter—not just the kind that held your tummy in, but tight monstrous armor that took a full measure of imagination to help a lady into one in the dressing rooms. 

And voile dresses—soft, colorful print, dressy.  When sweater dresses were introduced, ladies were amazed and gobbled them up.

Then the millinery.  

What fascinated me were women’s hats.  Beautiful, elegant creations of finely woven straw, soft felts, satin, veils--colors to die for.  The hats were displayed on manikin heads along a room-wide mirrored wall.  Although the hats were meant for women and not a teenager, as they were unpacked I’d try each one on dreaming of the day I’d be old enough to wear one.

The hat I wanted most was a dark navy straw that fit snugly on the head with a long magnificent, multicolor pheasant feather sweeping wide from the front and a dark veil that reached to the chin.   I’d try it on several times a day until one Sunday, I saw it in church on the head of a lady sitting in the next pew.

So here’s the picture of Mrs. Hitchcock, with tight perm curls spilling over her forehead, fanning herself with the church bulletin:

A woman in her late forties, her body reformed (significantly) by a 
girdle, dressed in a navy and cream flowered, full-skirted voile 
dress with a round neckline and satin binding, nylons with the 
seams “straight”, navy pumps and matching gloves, and topped 
with my pheasant-feather hat!  

Ah . . . such dreamy memories.  Oh, Oh. I think I just heard a noise. It’s my alarm going off. Time for me to wake up, pull on my jeans and tee-shirt and get on with my day.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

THE SOTWEED SMUGGLER --By Barbara A. Andrews

Historical Novel Society Review (7/2013)

This is a tale of sailing, smuggling and the volatile, violent relationships between the English, the Scotsmen and among the latter themselves in the late seventeenth century. William Sherewill, at the reading of his father’s will, discovers he is now the sole owner of his father’s ship. Expecting a fine vessel, he discovers a much smaller, locally well-known smuggling vessel that carries contraband between Devonshire and Scotland. With no experience, and against his ‘proper’ mother’s wishes, he decides to follow his father’s career.
His journey begins as a novice enduring ridicule, a lying first mate, insubordination, storms, pirates, and hostile Scotsmen to eventual maturity and the discovery that his father’s activities also included spying, treachery, border battles and intrigue that led to a position of honor from service to Scotland. The story is well written, with empathetic characters, and it provides an interesting look at a section of history not often explored. The dialogue also tends to conjure up nicely a flavor of the time.                      -John Manhold, Reviewer

(See Blog Tour Schedule - Facebook.  Bobi Andrews, Writer