Author Archives: conversationatinfodesk

Write Your Story…Hometown!

HERE COMES THE VEGETABLE MAN

Story submitted by Vanessa Mason, Library Member

My mother used to always say we missed so much because we had not grown up on a farm. I can appreciate what she meant. The fresh air, the starry nights, milking the cow, and growing your own food can leave you feeling very grateful for that which nature so generously offers. I grew up in Detroit, a cosmopolitan blue-collar city in the southeast region of Michigan where huge auto factories that spread out across the metropolitan area kept countless families fed. It seemed every father and uncle to be found worked on a Ford, Chrysler, or General Motors assembly line. Indeed it was the automotive industry’s dominance that secured Detroit’s nickname as The Motor City.
Back in the day, the Motor City, or Motown by which it was otherwise endearingly referred, was known throughout the nation for its two greatest contributions: a booming auto production industry and the incredible Berry Gordy-produced talent. The tunes of Mary Wells, Tammi Terrell, the Temptations, and the Supremes infused the neighborhoods, united the City through rhythmic sounds, and carved out a prominent place for Detroit on the nation’s map. The annual Auto Show at Detroit’s Cobo Hall gave Detroiters a preview of all the new models for the upcoming year. My sister was selected as one of the models for the show. She was very excited to acquire this gig. She learned how to work her charms in order to engage consumer interest and educate audiences on the vehicle’s newest gadgets and features. Sadly, the auto factories would later close, one by one; Motown Records would follow shortly after.
The negative connation that is currently associated with Detroit at first left me feeling ashamed whenever someone would ask me where I was from. However, over the years, though the city has radically declined, my sentiments for my beloved hometown have made an about-face. For whenever I think of home now I think of my mother who worked and struggled and struggled and worked as she lovingly cared for her family on a skimpy income at an earning rate far below her education and qualifications. Underemployed, underpaid, overworked, and stretched for cash were conditions she patiently and routinely endured. She found extra work wherever she could, taking in ironing for the lady around the corner, and whatever dignified thing she could do to be able to make, among other expenses, the three-cent milk money to go with the brown- bag-bologna- sandwich lunches she prepared for us each morning. Going the extra mile was par for the course for making it through the day. Back then, wives were not allowed to apply for credit without a husband’s permission, which she most certainly did not have. The biggest tragedy of my life is how my mother was cheated out of her inheritance and her dignity by much of her own family and many others who seemed to make it their mission to burden her existence. To quote a brother’s loving eulogy to his famous sister, [It seems that] genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.
When I think of Detroit, I also think of my teachers who in a time when such funding existed used those resources not on themselves, but rather to take us on field trips to places I might never have been able to afford — places like Greenfield Village, an indoor/outdoor museum complex founded by industrialist Henry Ford.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     This popular tourist attraction preserves and exhibits items of historical interest, such as the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Greenfield Village is a step back in time to horse-drawn carriages, railroad junctions, and a peek into Thomas Edison’s innovative research laboratory. The Village, along with the Henry Ford Museum which shares its site, captures the history of early American living.
Through teachers there were opportunities to experience other local fascinations that were financially out of reach for us personally. Ms. Tucker, the wonderful Music teacher would take us downtown to Ford Auditorium each semester to hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Tucker exposed us to a wide variety of composers and some of the most magnificent concerts I can recall. She was solely responsible for the musical arrangements of all school events and choreographed each Spring festival and every Christmas pageant for all the years that I attended Custer Elementary and beyond. Were it not for her dedication and willingness to share her musical gifts, I would not have enjoyed those great introductions to the Hansel and Gretel Opera and The Nutcracker Suite.
Detroit was 143 square miles of charm. With its connection to Canada, it seemed even larger. The Detroit-Windsor tunnel provided a short route to Canada. During summers, a boat that ran the Detroit River twice daily carried tourists and families to the Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park. I got the chance to go one time with a playmate’s family who lived across the street. It was one of those spontaneous opportunities. I recall that one day just as the streetlight came on — our signal that playtime was over — Delphine casually mentioned that she would be going to Bob-Lo the next day.
What is Bob-Lo?
You never heard of Bob-Lo? Wanna’ go?
She asked her mother who asked my mother. By a miracle her mother and mine both said yes. I refer to it as a miracle because we never had money to go to such places. Any suggested event, if considered at all, required deep contemplation for how we could possibly make it happen financially. Something as simple as a short school supply list would give us pause. If privilege is the ability to do anything without having to think of the consequences, our family had little of it to exercise. Every cost had to compete with a list of 99 other needed expenses. We hardly ever put a dent into that list. By the time the most critical needs were prioritized the bottom 95 items were deleted from the list because…..well…..we had no choice but to kiss those conveniences, those dreams, those necessities goodbye. From a front porch view, we would watch our neighbors who had a more secure financial stream, pile up into their vehicles and head for the beach or to the stadium to enjoy a professional sports event, or set off on a family vacation.Vacation.
I could never come up with anything when the teacher would ask us to write about what we did over our summer vacations. I had never taken a vacation. Correction. I have never taken a vacation even still. When I hear people lamenting about “not being able to take their vacation this year” as if it were some birthright; or when students approach me with the request to reschedule the exam so that it does not pose a conflict with their pre-scheduled vacation – as I take this all in, I realize that we each live in a very different world. That Bob-Lo excursion represented a tremendous sacrifice that even at just 8 years old I was well aware my mother was making. Bob-Lo island amusement park was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences I’ve had in my life, and the first and only time that I have ever been on a boat.
I can best recall my hometown in the context of my childhood while Detroit was in its prime. Life was simplified. On Sunday afternoons after church, we would sometimes catch a movie at one of the neighborhood movies theatres. To pay for admissions we would use the coins that we earned from recycling pop bottles at the Moreno’s Market around the corner. These corner grocers dotted the municipal landscape, all Mom and Pop vendors where, before the influx of credit cards, you were permitted to feed your family “on the books”. The accounts were manually-maintained by the store owner in well-worn spiral notebooks held together by a dozen or so rubber bands. The corner grocers were community fixtures. Major supermarkets nearby meant that you never had to venture too far from your neighborhood for much of anything.
Approximately twice a month on Saturdays, the Vegetable Man would roll down our street in an orange bus. He would always park in front of our house because we lived smack dab in the middle of the block. I can remember watching my mother and others climbing into the bus and loading bags with fresh collards, okra, beets, and other produce. A produce weighing scale hung in the middle of the aisle. I did not realize the value of it then, but that Vegetable bus served as an essential gathering place for neighbors.
On hot evenings Mr. Softee would jingle down the street. The little kids and big ones too gathered at the truck’s side-sliding window, quarters in hand, to pay for soft-swirled ice cream mounted high on cones of various shapes and sizes. The Vegetable Man and Mr. Softee were part of the local color that added texture to Detroit’s hometown feel that I loved and miss. You knew your neighbors……all of them! What they had for dinner each night; where they went to school and where they worked. You even knew their cousins; and, they knew yours.
Neighbors were one great big extended family. We would get together, young and old, for street block parties and backyard talent shows. We played baseball in the alleys. The telephone pole served as first base. My mother and Ms. Gertrude, who lived two houses down, established two official girls’ teams – the Alley Cats and the Magnetics. Ms. Render down the street designed little blue play shorts for the Alley Cats and little pink play shorts for the Magnetics. For the bigger games we hiked over to a nearby baseball field in Highland Park, a 3-square mile enclave completely bound by Detroit. My older sisters would play and us younger ones would watch. My third oldest sister could really play…..won every game for her team; and when she switched from the Magnetics to the Alley Cats, she won those too! There were refreshments after the games at Ms. Gertrude’s house, which was irrefutably the most beautiful home on the block. Pizza, potato chips, and all flavors of Faygo pop were enjoyed by the baseball players as reward for their hard work.                                                                                                      Detroit was once a grand city. I witnessed a slow deterioration growing up but remnants of what once was, were still evident. Though not the State’s capital, Detroit was the site of the Michigan State Fair for many decades. The fair would open each year for exactly ten days from late August to Labor Day. The fairgrounds were a sight to see especially at night with all the flashy lights and colors. You could see the Ferris wheel from quite a distance. We envied the residents who lived along Woodward Avenue because they could catch all the views of the fair from their balconies and porches. Anyone living near or along Woodward had a vantage point from which they enjoyed easy access to all kinds of interesting sights.
One has to appreciate the significance of Woodward Avenue. This thoroughfare separated the East side from the West and ran straight down the middle of the City from the foot of the Detroit River to the north border at Eight Mile Road, the gateway to the suburbs. One day, to save bus fare, I walked home all the way from downtown along Woodward Avenue. I walked six miles due North, then another two miles West before reaching my destination. I felt like a tourist as I took in the sights along the way. It was one long continuous moment of landmarks. Among them were the Art Institute, the Historical Museum, the 203 acres of the campus of Wayne State University, the Detroit Main Library (I’ve yet to visit a public library that surpasses its exquisite architectural beauty), the elaborate Mauna Loa Polynesian restaurant, the Fisher Theatre, General Motors headquarters, and the renowned J. L. Hudson’s department store.
Once the world’s tallest department store, Hudson’s served as the flagship downtown retailer. There were 14 floors of an indoor cultural experience with premium merchandise ranging from clothing to furniture to bicycles to marked-down items in the budget basement store. A stroll through the first floor aisles would offer a blended whiff of perfumes and colognes. Chandeliers hung over cosmetic counters, where you could sit for a free 30-minute makeover. A number of restaurants and also full-service barber shops and beauty salons occupied the mezzanine. There was a bookstore and a pharmacy and even a bakery. You could live in the place.
Hudson’s had this wonderful relationship with the City. Each Thanksgiving, we would watch the J. L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. The parade marked the beginning of the holiday season where the Mayor would present to Santa the “keys to the City”. One time, we actually went downtown to experience the event in person. The crowd was enormous. It seemed all the residents of Detroit and the surrounding suburbs were there lining the blocks around J. L. Hudson’s department store.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Throughout the holiday season the outside windows and walls of the building featured animated displays with fantasy themes. Each Christmas, the entire 12th floor of the store was transformed into a Christmas wonderland. The gloved elevator operators would load shoppers and tons of eager kids into the lift and express their cargo non-stop all the way up. It was breathtaking to see this spectacular vast space when the elevator door opened. To try to take in the extravagance all at once was an impossible feat. It is a memory that I cherish even more now that the store is no longer there. When J. L. Hudson’s department store was imploded in 1998 half the city’s residents witnessed the dramatic event. It felt like the end of a love affair, an eye-watering display that clearly-delineated the final scene of a great era.
Along with the wonderful sites I miss all the Midwest indicators that identify home, like the four distinct seasons…..those cold and bitter winters that followed the vibrant colors of the brisk autumn months; and, the Spring season that burst into being and contrasted so sharply with the earlier winter months. I recall with a kind of fondness that I cannot even explain the sparring matches between the flashes of lightning and the loud crackling of thunder during those unpredictable thunderstorms. They use to scare me until I grew to love and appreciate them.                                                                                                                 Detroit was a place where you could enjoy that small-town air. Yet it was a city big on style. The City’s population peaked at nearly 2 million in the 1950s. Detroit prospered for decades with autonomous pride before it caught a new groove from the riots in the late sixties. The 1967 riot was arguably the greatest disaster to befall the city. It was a bloody and violent destructive storm, from which the City has never recovered. During the post-riot years a number of changes took place. There was considerable tension among differing ethnic groups. Rightly or wrongly, residents who could afford to, moved away. And large-scale layoffs changed the economic climate and diminished hopes for many.
The factories are no longer there. Motown has long departed from the City. The house I grew up in is gone. Today, most of the residential neighborhoods are in decay. Only the downtown area of the once self-contained urban region shows signs of rebirth with its new sporting venues and the riverfront walkways and parks with more developments underway. City utilities, such as water and waste management, regularly betray their tax-paying residents by delivering substandard services to those who are clinging to the lowest rung of the economic ladder. However noble the efforts by grass root community organizers, inner-city Detroit where the homegrown people reside hasn’t managed to live down its current crime-infested reputation or amass enough funds to make much of a positive change for their neck of the woods. Too often, their burning grievances are left unheard.
Despite what it may have succumbed to, Detroit provided me a wonderful legacy and many great memories. Sure there was social and economic unrest, but overall it was a wonderful place to grow up and I am grateful that I was there while the city was still thriving. I would not mind at all the single chance to relive just one day at home perhaps sitting next to my mother on the front porch swaying side by side on the floral green and white canvas-covered glider. Shielded from the sun by the wood-woven shade, there we would be, watching the neighbors climbing into their cars, fancy free….Mr. Kelly washing his car, Ms. Dunson trimming her hedges, and the Gilbert twins riding their bicycles up the street and back down again; my mother and I relaxing taking it all in as we share a half pound of batter-fried jumbo shrimp from Dot and Etta’s Shrimp Hut and then washing them down with gulps from a 16-ounce bottle of Faygo Fruit Punch pop. Oh yes! From the scenes playing out before us, we learned how to create our own little vacation.

Write Your Story @ Union City Library

Join our library group  for an   informal gathering of aspiring writers of all types of genres. Your writing can be memoirs, creative non-fiction, poetry, song lyrics, science fiction, plays,essays, you name it!  We just want to hear what you have written and support each other as we grow as writers.

Third Tuesday of the Month:   September 18 , October   16 , November 20             

 1 p.m. — 3 p.m.

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Write Your Story— The Sun

The Sun

submitted by: Parminder S Parwana, Union City Library Member

Sun travelled the day.

Sun performed the duty of the day.

Sun gave you the time to stay.

Sun watched you t whole day.

Gave the night to replay.

Gave you the experience day by day.

Gave the courage for life play.

Do the good not gray.

Make the hay

When the sun shine.

This trick is always fine.

You filled another beautiful poem

In the life so fine

The sun became the bed of shine.

Sun shine and sunset play is fine

 

Write Your Story @ Union City Library

Join our library group, for an   informal gathering of aspiring writers of all types of genres. Your writing can be memoirs, creative non-fiction, poetry, song lyrics, science fiction, plays,essays, you name it!  We just want to hear what you have written and support each other as we grow as writers.

Third Tuesday of the Month:   August 21 , September 18 , October   16                

 1 p.m. — 3 p.m.

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Write Your Story…Cuyahoga

Cuyahoga

Bruce Haase

This is a second draft of a chapter of the fictional ‘faux-auto-biographical’ novel that I’m writing. It’s the story of two boys and a girl, born on the East side in Cleveland, Ohio in November 1943, and goes to the summer of 1959… “Cuyahoga” is the County that Cleveland is in.

June 2018

* * *

Mrs. Hagopian’s Goat

In the early hours of a still frigid April 1956 day, twelve year old Charlie did his now daily charitable task. He had discovered that the Hagopian Family (who weren’t his newspaper customers) had a young goat in their garage. Charlie was captivated by the goat, plus he was feeling sorry for the poor thing, living in a 50 year old, unheated garage with a non-running, spider infested, ’36 Ford. Since Charlie fancied himself a decent, and possibly heroic young man, after his route, at 6:30, he’d walk past the st

ill sleeping house and carefully open the garage’s side door to pet and feed a snack to Gary the goat. Actually the goat was unnamed, only Charlie seemed to care enough about Gary to name him and pet him. Charlie didn’t know if Gary was a boy goat. Maybe he should have named her Gretchen.

By Easter Sunday, the weather was better and Gary was on a chain in the back yard, the weeds were chomped short and Gary was pretty plump. Gary or Gretchen liked the morning treat and rub down, he or she knew that Charlie was due and was pulling the chain taut, eager for his upcoming visitor.

The Saturday following Easter, Gary wasn’t there. Mrs. Hagopian saw Charlie and came out. She told Carlie that the goat had been slaughtered and was being prepared at the Armenian Butcher shop for a Madagh feast to be held at the Armenian/American Social Hall the next day. She invited Charlie to come and join in the festivities.

In a most unheroic manner Charlie shook his head and ran away. He was horrified, the Armenians were cannibals and had killed Gary and were going to devour him, probably raw.

When Charlie calmed down, his natural curiosity took over. At the library in the following month, Charlie learned a lot about traditions, prejudice, Armenia, Genocide, independence, immigration, Greece, Turkey and more. One afternoon he went to the Hagopian house and apologized to Mrs. Hagopian for his rude behavior in running away from her invitation. She explained about the goat, why, from the day that they had bought him, they had never named him or made a pet of him, his existence to them was to be a sacrifice, that’s all. Next year it would be another families job to raise a goat or a lamb for the Madagh feast.

She invited Charlie to come to supper that evening, he accepted. At 5:30 Mr. Hagopian and two adult sons sat down with Charlie, they nodded to him. Mrs. Hagopian served from the stove, she flitted about, and didn’t sit down. Like a mother robin she made sure the chicks were fed. There was no conversation, a few grunts, a belch or two, some slurping, then a final wiping the plate with a piece of Wonder bread and chairs squeaking back, and the three men went to the living room TV for a beer, the sports report and a game show.

Charlie helped Mrs. Hagopian clear the table, then she dished up her food and sat down to eat. Charlie sat with her and they talked. He asked her about a “Madagh”. She told him it was a commemoration for the million and a half victims of “The Genocide”. She told him of Armenia, of the Armenia that she remembered as a girl, she told of moving to Ottoman Turkey when she was ten, of the Genocide of the Armenian people that started when she was twelve. She told of camps, refugees, walking, hiding, hunger, finally stowing-away aboard a ship to Portugal. Of her older girl cousin, named Lusine (meaning mysterious), somehow obtaining legal passage for them to Boston. Them being sent to Cleveland to be live-in servants to a rich Croatian family on the east side, near Shaker Heights, being set-up at eighteen to marry Mister Hagopian, a man 21 years older then herself. A man that she barely knew. She told Charlie of teaching herself to read English from the newspapers, of the four children that she bore and raised for Mr. Hagopian. She told of the two oldest, both daughters. How each were married when they were eighteen. How each married boys that they knew and chose for themselves. How happy her girls were to drop the name Hagopian, and move to the West Coast and a new way of life, near the clean, white California sands.

Charlie helped her wash and dry the dishes, he told her how much her liked her cooking. In the background, the television set quietly murmured, the three men snored, probably not dreaming about their brutal steel mill jobs. Mrs. Hagopian tousled Charlies hair, and told him, “you good boy to listen to old woman’s stories.”

She left the kitchen and came back with a small shoe box, covered in Christmas wrapping and decorated with ribbons. Carefully she opened it and took out a colorful silk and cotton wrapped treasure. It was a cheap child’s toy tea cup, broken, chipped, and carefully glued. It was her sole possession for her girlhood in Armenia, before they moved to Turkey. It was priceless to her, she cradled it then gently kissed the cup, she told of her father and mother and brother and sisters, her five family members of whom she knew nothing since 1916.

Eyes closed, she tightly held her cup, and told of herself as a 9 year old girl, the youngest in a healthy, and happy young family. They were picnicking in a meadow, under an Ash tree, laughing and sipping pomegranate juice from the child’s tea set. That picnic was during the good days, safe, under a clean Armenian sky, with puffy pure white clouds, the scents of flowers and spices in the air, song birds singing joyously. She clutched her little cup to her chest, her eyes were closed. Her cheeks were damp.

Charlie quietly let himself out of the kitchen door, dusk was sneaking up. He looked at the goat’s chain hanging from a nail on the old garage. Weeds in the small, un-landscaped back yard were reappearing, there was no goat to stop them.

Walking home Charlie thought about the refugees, immigrants, non-english speakers. Brave people, seeking freedom and safety, coming to a strange, and foreign new country. His four grandparents had all done that, the three that he had so fleetingly known were gone now, he had never heard their stories about their lives in the old country.

Four grandparents, all dead and no one to tell their stories. Someone should have written them down. Maybe someone should write down Mrs. Hagopian’s stories. Maybe he should help her do that this summer.

Charlie thought, from now on, maybe he wouldn’t make fun of immigrants and their funny clothes, their funny accents, their odd ideas, foods, and traditions. Maybe sacrificing a goat or lamb once a year is very meaningful to them. Maybe we shouldn’t judge them too quickly.

Charlie made a vow to buy Mrs. Hagopian a pomegranate or two at the fruit stand when they come in season….

When he got back to Villa Beach, he sat on his bench, overlooking his now dark great lake, a few night birds were singing, maybe singing the songs of their grandparents.

Write Your Story @ Union City Library

Join our library group, for an   informal gathering of aspiring writers of all types of genres. Your writing can be memoirs, creative non-fiction, poetry, song lyrics, science fiction, plays,essays, you name it!  We just want to hear what you have written and support each other as we grow as writers.

Third Tuesday of the Month:  July  17 ,   August 21 , and September 18  .                            1 p.m. — 3 p.m.

 

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Book Club @ the Union City Library

Book Club
Tuesday July 3, 2018

Handmaid’s Tale:A chilling look at the near future presents the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States, an oppressive world where women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction. 

 

 

Book Club

Tuesday August 7, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy : A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis: Shares the story of the author’s family and upbringing, describing how they moved from poverty to an upwardly mobile clan that included the author, a Yale Law School graduate, while navigating the demands of middle class life and the collective demons ofthe pas

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Eat What You Grow…Gardening Series @ Union City Library

Gardening workshops with Lori Caldwell

Wednesdays, June 13, June 27, and July 11—4:30 to 6:30 P.m.

Learn how easy and fun gardening can be!

Join Bay-Friendly Landscape Professional & Garden Educator Lori Caldwell to learn the basics to be a successful gardener. She will be present three workshops this summer.

 

Eat What You Grow

Wednesday June 13

There is nothing more satisfying than eating food from your own garden. Topics such as: crop rotation, seeds vs, starts, soil fertility, and plant succession, transplanting, seedlings, watering, irrigation and the best crops for your garden. Emphasis on re-use able materials will also be discussed.

Big Gardens in Small Spaces:

Adventures of container Gardening June 27

This class is geared toward people who don’t have a lot of space and want to grow their own food. Topics such as maintaining soil fertility, best plants for container gardens & crop rotation will be covered. Growing in containers is a great way to start a garden or add-on to maximize your already existing garden possibilities!!

Gardening All Year:

Prepping Your Garden for Fall Wednesday July 11

One of the many benefits of our climate is being able to garden year-round!!

Fall/Winter is still a great time to garden. This class will go over some great techniques on how to transition to your Fall garden:  cool-weather, edible crops, starting seeds, crop rotation, sheet mulching & planting natives.

  Lori‘s Blog: 

Facebook Page: CompostGal: Consulting, Landscaping & Education

There are more than 500 titles in the Library collection under the subject gardening. check it out!

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Celebrate Older American Month!

STAGEBRIDGE @ Union City Library

NEVER TOO LATE

Thursday, May 31, 2018

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 Join us for Never Too Late, a musical revue featuring songs, outrageous skits, and hilarious strolls down memory lane. Stagebridge showcases the rich and varied experiences of older adults to a multigenerational audience. The program is led by Artistic Director Joanne Grimm and Musical Director Scrumbly Koldwyn on the piano.

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Art for Adults @ Union City Library

Wednesday May 23, 2018 at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Watercolor Workshopwith local artist

Naghmeh Danishmand.
Supplies will be provided .
This class is limited to 18 people.
Call 510-745-1464, or visit the
library for registration.Arts 

For titles on watercolor painting technique, check here…

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