Celebration time-46 years later…

Lake Placid. New York State

Lake Placid. New York State

Today, March 13, 1967, my family and I first set foot on the shores of this United States of America after a fairly uneventful trip over from England.The reasons for emigrating were several but I remember that the one that finally pushed us into making the decision to move was probably the least important.

I received a letter from my Mum, who had come over just after WWII to marry a GI she met in England and it went something like this. “Well, it is 8:00 am and the temperature is already making its way up to 80 degrees. It’s going to be another beautiful, warm day. I can have your apartment ready in a couple of weeks and Hermie, (her GI Husband) said you can have his old car”. We were just coming off three weeks of non stop rain and it was miserable and cold as only the English weather can be and my Morris  Mini car was developing a slipping clutch among other things and I turned to my wife and asked what she thought. Six months later and we were getting off the ship at New York harbor on the famous Pier 11.

Queen Mary

Queen Mary

We traveled over on the Queen Mary, almost the last voyage that beautiful ship made. Shortly after, that grand old lady was taken out of service and retired to a dry dock in Long Beach, California to end her days as a luxury Hotel. On our trip, the crew outnumbered the passengers.

For most of the voyage, the weather was fine and although the ship had stabilizers, it did tend to rock and roll a bit especially below decks. It was a bit disconcerting to walk up or down the stairs (and there were many of them) only to find that the next step had either dropped away or had risen up to meet your foot. Very strange sensation.

We did run into a storm on day 6 which blew us off course causing us to dock 12 hours later than scheduled. The food was fabulous although the only ones to enjoy it were my step-son and myself. The others in the family, three girls and my wife, just couldn’t get their sea-legs and spent a lot of time between the toilet and the bunk. Oh yes, we even brought over our Cocker Spaniel who was in a kennel on the top deck.

A little town in upstate New York

A little town in upstate New York

We drove up to a little sleepy town in the Mohawk Valley, named Fort Plain in Upper State New York about 200 miles from the city where we would spend the next ten eventful years and many adventures and stories later. My Mum had sent me a picture of the house in the winter just after a snow storm. I looked at it and thought how pretty it looked with the wind making a huge snowdrift that went from the ground to the top of the roof on a two-storied house completely blocking in the garage doors. It never occurred to me that someone would have to dig a way out to get the car out or to do anything else, or that it would get cold, very cold and that winters lasted 6 months of the year.

That night, as though the weather was there to welcome us, it snowed thirteen inches of wet snow. I had never seen that much snow in one place and had to wonder just what we had let ourselves in for. It was too late for any regrets as we were well and truly, lock, stock and barrel committed to making a go of it. All of our worldly possessions were with us in trunks, and suitcases and there was no going back.

That was 43 years ago. I spent ten years in New York State and after the marriage failed, some of which was caused by wife’s homesickness for her family in England, decided that I needed to be somewhere warmer. By that time, I had re-married a younger woman so when the opportunity arose, we happily packed our belongings into a U-Haul truck and made the long drive to Austin, Texas. No one told me what a 100 degrees feels like not just occasionally but day after day for most of the summer but I have to say that I much prefer the heat of an Austin summer to the cold of a New York winter.

In truth, the move to Texas was an immigration in itself with the only difference that we didn’t leave the American shores or get to pass the Statue of Liberty.

Snow in New York State

Snow in New York State

Now at age 77, three wives and six kids later, I live quietly alone with my five dogs and two cats spending my days working in the garden or writing in my blog. I have a lot of stories to tell with new ones almost every day and many of my earlier years have already been posted in this blog. I personally have no regrets in the move from England to the U.S. although I can’t speak for those who made the trip with me, my wife and the four kids. I’m sure they have their own opinions on the subject.

I wonder what the next adventure is in store for me? I plan on living an active life till I’m 120 or so. Just as long as we don’t get thirteen inches of wet snow here in Texas tonight.

Still plenty of time to see lots of changes…


The Bear – Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – The Dance

Later that evening, I stopped in to the Dance. Being at the VFW, there was a full bar so I ambled up to it and ordered a beer. The bartender looked vaguely familiar. I sat at the bar and tried to remember who he was. He came over and said, “Hi, I am Mike Strowsky, I remember you, we went to school together for a little while. Let me re-phrase that, we went to the same school but you were a couple of grades above me”. I shook his outstretched hand and said hello. He went off to serve a customer but try as I might, I could not place him. When he came back, we chatted about the small town and what goes on there which according to Mike, was not very much. As a day job, he worked in one of the local stores.

I stood with my back to the bar and listened to the music watching the dancers as they swirled by. Many were older folks from the big farming community that surrounded the town. They went from one spectrum to the other with old folks and their young kids all hoofing it up on the dance floor. It was fun just to watch and see so many people having a good time doing the most simple and natural thing of all, dancing.

As with every dance floor, there is always at least one couple who think they are ballroom champions and this dance floor was no exception. Only this time there were two couples both of whom could dance a bit and even though they were not officially in a competition, it was obvious to one and all that both couples were trying to outshine the other. I thought it funny and mentioned it to Mike the next time he came by.

“Oh those two. They are like this every time we have a dance. It’s good clean fun and they don’t knock over too many other people and it they do, they get to hear a mouthful”. Mike said.

I continued watching for a while and then turned back to order another beer. I heard a voice at my side saying hello and turned around to find both Evelyn and Angela standing there. I said hello back to them and offered to buy them both a drink which Mike was already coming forward with. Either they were regular drinkers or had telegraphed their order ahead somehow. Actually, as both were drinking beer, it only takes two fingers to order that especially if there is a house brand or one that the house specializes in.

“Cheers” I said, “Glad you guys showed up. Now I have someone to talk to other than Mike and he is not such attractive company as you both are”.

They were both looking very attractive. Both were in their mid thirties with well-kept figures and curves in all of the right places. Both had on jeans and cowboy boots very fitting for a dance. Angela was a blonde and Evelyn was a brunette and both had long hair, always a weakness of mine. Angela turned her attention to me while Evelyn turned to watch the dancers and look at the crowd of people looking for a likely date or at least someone to dance with, no doubt. I turned back to Angela who was nodding her head to the beat of the music. “Would you like to dance” I said to her. “This is a slow one and I can do this without falling over my feet”. She agreed and before long, we were gliding around the floor. She fitted very nicely into my arms and was not interested in my attempts to dance properly, more for the contact than the dance, I thought. We danced a couple more and then when the band played a hot boogie number that required a bit of old-fashioned jitterbug, she gave up and led me back to the table. “That’s too much like work and anyway, I need a couple more beers in me before I can relax enough to dance that stuff” she said.

We sat at the table talking about the people who were on the floor. The band was playing a polka and there was this one older couple on the floor who owned a couple of farms. They were originally of Scandinavian heritage and were just whooping up a storm. The husband was a tall thin rake of a man while his wife was a round jovial sort probably twice his weight who just swung her partner around on the floor. At one point, they swung so hard that he couldn’t hold her weight and she went crashing into the tables surrounding the floor. There was beer bottles and glasses everywhere along with up-ended chairs and tables and in the middle of this mess, she was just sitting on the floor and laughing so hard she nearly bust. Everyone else including the band, who stopped playing, were just screaming with laughter and indeed, it was a very funny moment. Everyone pitched in and in no time flat, order was restored and tables and chairs put back into place and the band played on.

Evelyn meanwhile, was trolling the floor looking for a likely candidate for the evening. She came back to the table with a look of disgust on her face as she commented, “Not much out there tonight. Just a couple of young boys pretending to be men. What a waste of my time, they would be”. I laughed as did Angela and I said to Evelyn, “Why not taste the beauty of youth and show them what it’s like to be an adult in these situations”. “Give me a break. I’ve tried that before and I end up feeling like their mother and want to give them advice instead of taking advantage of their youth”replied Evelyn.

We all laughed and I asked Evelyn if she would like to dance “with an older man”. We got up as the band played another slow dance. Evelyn was not like Angela on the floor. Evelyn actually wanted to dance at a distance and concentrated on her steps trying to follow all of the complex moves I was remembering from my dance lessons, all those years ago. When the music finally ended she grabbed my arm as we walked back to the table and remarked on how much fun that was “and boy, you are a good dancer and I hope we can do it again before the evening is out”. I thanked her and said that we would make a point of it.

It was interesting that I knew very few people in the dance hall. I grew up in this small town but had moved away to college and had not really come back except for the trips to visit my mother. Every now and then, I would bump into a school buddy and we would chat for a while but on the whole, I was more or less a stranger to most of the people and them to me. I was glad of the girls company and I think that they were glad of mine as they made no attempt to join anyone else in the room. They knew a lot more people than me but that was not saying much considering that I was just visiting.

The conversation turned back to me. “How long you in town for” one of them asked. “I don’t know as I still have some business to attend to. I am on vacation from my job which is in Vermont this time around, until the end of next week. This is pretty close to home for me and I know that my next job is in California“. “It must be fun to travel around and see all of these different places” said Angela. “I bet you never get bored not like working in this poky little town”.

I thought about it for a while of the constant changing of town and people, and the fact there was no such thing as a forty hour work week. I was well paid to do what I do and had money in the bank but sometimes, I often thought it would be nice to settle down. Then the sensible part of my brain kicks in and I  consider all of the good things that my job offers me and that staying in one place for up to two years at a time is not all that bad. Besides, I have always got my little apartment and the stability that it brings.

The dance was winding down and I managed to get one more dance with each of the ladies, Evelyn holding me at a distance and Angela cuddling up to me. They both kissed me on the cheek to say goodnight and we made arrangements to meet for coffee the next day. I drove back to my apartment and opened up another beer and sat there thinking about the evening. I had learned a long time ago, not to get involved with small town women. It is one thing to take what they may offer but definitely another thing to allow them into one’s mind.

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