I was just messing about with some audio on this cold winter night and recorded this ‘1918 radio ad’ for Hancock’s Walker Company. The ad content is from a copy of the town’s newspaper, The Hancock News. Imagine a custom-made suit for only $15.00! The photo is from Main Street at about that time. I have not used this online platform before so this is not visually how I want it to look….but the broadcasting side is something I am pleased with. I did the ad in my recording studio in exactly 60 seconds. Ready for radio! With music, too.
Given one small technical flaw in working with this new platform it might be necessary to hit the restart button in the lower left corner of the YouTube video below. The icon is the arrow in partial circle.
Podcaster Gregory Humphrey goes back to childhood days in Hancock, Wisconsin to prove weather of all sorts should be viewed up close. Nothing is better than grandma’s arm around a shoulder as the thunder crashes or as a boy walking into the bracing winds of a winter snowstorm. Nostalgic warm memories for anyone wishing to trek back in time. (7 minutes)
Sparking Moments Of Joy And Remembrance During The Long Goodbye –
With contemporaneous accounts of smiles and trying times while dealing with a friend's Alzheimer's disease come stories of laughter and also tenderness. The final chapter of the life of Albert Trull, and the way it weaved with the personal life of podcaster Gregory Humphrey as his father was dying, makes for a somber podcast. But one that is aimed to reach out and ask what role all can play with the elderly people needing friendship and companionship within our communities.
My mom, Geneva Humphrey, would have been 93 years old today. I made a YouTube video with music that has pictures of my parents and our family along with our old home place on County KK in Hancock. There are also some photos from the Herman and Anna Schwarz farm (my grandparents) who lived across the road from us.
Mac Wiseman sings the type of music that mom enjoyed hearing broadcast on the radio as she ironed clothes in the family home.
Pictured on the video are my dad, Royce Humphrey, and my siblings Gary Humphrey and his wife Pat Humphrey, Ginger Humphrey Pfaff with her husband Darvin Pfaff, along with my nephews and nieces Troy Humphrey, Trevor Humphrey, Tricia Humphrey, Katrina Pfaff, Darren Pfaff, and Quincy Pfaff. In 2000 my husband, James Wilson, from Corinth, Maine was added to the family.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed Ground”
It seems the average price for a Christmas tree in the city I live in is about $80.00 this year. Driving near sellers of the green-needled beauties has made me aware that this annual tradition is not cheap. Late this afternoon with a cold rain being lashed against the windows of the car I slowed to get a better look at ones arrayed in a city parking lot. It was then I flashed back to the white pines of home.
I suspect such flashbacks are more common than not for most people as the holidays approach. Be it the scent of fresh-baked cookies, the traditions of decorating, or the pull of memory resulting from certain chords struck by a carol, we are transported backward through the decades. James and I have found a way to include such memories into our lives each Christmas season.
There are those items of special meaning from over the years that are kept, such as an old change purse, a clothespin, or the gift tags with the writing of loved ones preserved with laminating. But then the question is how do we view them after being placed into boxes?
Several years ago James and I concluded our love of the season necessitated there be more than one Christmas tree in our home. (We have three.) One of the trees is what we call a Memory Tree. It is there that we then place the items such as a small photo of James’ mom and dad along with my mom’s old can opener on a tree that might seem to be an odd array of items to a stranger…..but not to us.
Though our home was built in 1892 with one large white pine from the northern reaches of Wisconsin, we have not had a white pine Christmas tree. But when I was a young man that variety was the only one ever to be decorated for Christmas where I lived. Namely, because much of the wooded portions on the 100 acres back home were of white pine. You never saw me buying a tree when a homegrown one was precisely what I wanted.
The memories of those Christmas trees remain priceless to me. As I looked about (simply for curiosity) at the trees for sale today I thought of the axe that hangs at our home on a wall. It was the very axe that I used in my younger days to cut trees that now stands out in my memory.
In the family probate process, the items I wanted, as my attorney noted at the time, would not have collectively sold for $25.00 at a garage sale in Hancock. Simply put, I wanted memories.
So what does this ax mean to me?
Before purchasing a VW Beetle, with a minuscule trunk, I used to drive home to Hancock to cut a Christmas tree for my apartment in Madison. It was an annual ritual made special because my Dad assisted in making the simple wooden stand that allowed for the tree to stand upright. My trees at that time were always smaller than what was required for the store-bought stands. There was a reason for that.
As a boy, I loved to walk in the woods populated with white pines and oaks. After I got to a certain age, I would take the axe along and chop on this dead branch, or even take down a very small spindly tree here and there. When I grew to be a teenager, there was one tall white pine that I would wail on with the axe. All the tensions of youth were unleashed on that tree. At the end of my teen years, I had discovered there was far more tree than angst. When I left home it was still standing, but with a very haggard look. Since then, the ‘wailing tree’ has come down with age, and others have grown up in its place.
I had narrowed my stress-releasing axing to a single tree thanks to some thoughtful words from my Dad. I was just a boy when he told me that one just never knows when a tree would be needed to hide under in the rain. He looked as though he were sheltering his face from raindrops as he spoke. One can never foresee, he added, the need to climb up one in order to get away from a wild animal. Dad imitated the noise of a bear and its growl. I discovered then that trees were my friends, and I should respect them.
All trees have value according to Dad. Some small trees seemed to me to lack that postcard quality of rounded beauty we as a culture value most at the holidays. One side of so many little trees on our property seemed to be deformed. They did not get enough light, or were too close to other trees in the woods. Dad would comment about the misshapen trees, “They all want to be a Christmas tree!” As I got older, that message seemed ever more important to me. When it came time to chop down my own trees for Christmas, I always sought out a nice tree, but one that was not perfect. My friends would smile, and gently chide me about the ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. Yet, decorated in all the lights and glass ornaments the tree was always perfect, just as it was for Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown, and his friends.
Each season for years and years, I took my Dad’s axe to the woods, and dragged my tree through the snow to our ‘barn’ where Dad would eye it up, and then reach for some wood pieces in the pile near the back of the building. He would measure a bit then take the wood, and place it over the side of a wooden potato crate, and cut for perfect dimensions. He would hammer and fashion the pieces together so the small trunk of the tree would fit without slipping out. As he worked, I would look out the door of the barn, and see my Mom at the kitchen window. She carefully watched our progress, ensuring that we didn’t do anything foolish, or hurt ourselves. Steam collected on the windowpanes from something wonderful cooking on the stove for dinner.
Days after I had the tree back in Madison my Dad would phone to inquire as to how it was standing. I always answered that it was up, and decorated without a single problem. Vendors do not put less-than-perfect Christmas trees on the lots in the city, but I can say with all honesty that my little trees could stand in competition with any of them, if the competition were about conveying life’s lessons on love.
I never asked Dad about how or why he came up with his philosophy about Christmas trees. It just fit him, and never seemed to need an explanation. It means we all are needed in life, and all fit in somewhere. And with a little help from someone can be that which we dream.
Remembering mom, Geneva Humphrey, who passed away on this day in 2007. Two quick excerpts below from my book “Walking Up The Ramp”.
“Like the rest of Mom’s home, her kitchen was immaculate. The memories of how Mom worked to make her kitchen sparkle and shine, with wall hangings, and glass knickknacks chosen to enhance the color of the walls is something I will never forget. She had a small basket at one time that was designed to hang from the wall. She then bought different small plastic flower arrangements of varying hues of soft greens. She always strove to find just the right color for her bouquets. One of her requests of me over time, since I was the one who always traditionally bought a cloth calendar as a holiday gift, was to make sure the colors worked with the painted walls. Mom may never have gained more space in that room, and she never stopped caring how things looked or were presented.
The last time I was home and Mom was still there, prior to her going to the hospital but never to return, she gave me the wooden washing stick. Back when Mom still used the hand wringer machine, she had a wooden stick roughly eighteen inches in length. With the washing stick, she would safely lift with her right hand the heavy wet clothes out of the wash tub and feed them through the wringing attachment on the back of the machine. By the time that she gave that stick to me, it was worn by time and love. I stood in the back entry as she handed it to me. She had brought it up from down stairs, and I took it. I cried passionately. I knew what such a personal and warm gift like this meant about how she perceived her health, and our connections to washdays. It now has a special place in our Madison home. That little stick means the world to me.”
Every August 11th I have coffee from one of the coffee mugs from her kitchen. Today, French Roast.
The Marquette Neighborhood Association Board has hit a new low. With a neighborhood that is overwhelmed with drinking establishments, along with the knowledge that too many of our community have clearly observable drinking problems, the news from the MNA this week was truly stunning.
Here is how they promoted what they call the Drunk in Public Picking Up Litter.
DIPPUL (Drunk In Public Picking Up Litter) Event Saturday, June 26 MNA will be co-sponsoring DIPPUL, a bar-crawl-meets-neighborhood-trash-pickup-party, in our neighborhood from 1:00-5:00pm this Saturday. Bags, picker-uppers and safety gear will be supplied. Just bring yourself and a “do good” attitude. Meet at (bar not named on this blog post) at 1 pm to pick up supplies and get started. Midway stop will be at (also not named here) and the event ends at (yet another bar). Discounted drinks on offer at each establishment.
There is no way to take any comfort in the design of this pub crawl being about trash pickup. The fact is that once again Wisconsin culture proves that everything needs to revolve around drinking. What message does that send to our youth? Equally important what does this drinking afternoon say about our neighborhood? About the Board?
In 2020 a posting on the local neighborhood listserv painted the picture with data about the drinking problems we face locally.
Here then are the findings of this most progressive place in Madison. As the compilator of the numbers alerted readers on the neighborhood listserv the data is 95% accurate.
Did you know that the Marquette neighborhood has 6,105 residents in 2010, (12.2 % of which were age 17 or younger)? Knocking off the under age 17 leaves 5,360 residents.
Did you know that there currently exists 4,431 seats where one can get a drink in the neighborhood (plus event places including Elks, Sylvee, Old Sugar’s event space)?
Did you know that of those alcohol seats, there are 2,458 where one can be entertained (1,514 of those seats are on E Washington)? That no Williamson Street entertainment establishment has a capacity greater than 99 (now that Prism is gone)?
4,735 capacity for drinking
2,302 capacity for primarily drinking/entertainment
1,822 capacity for licensed entertainment establishments
Before I venture further I should say that I am a Wisconsinite, having lived here all my life. In many ways my life has mirrored that of other men my age who grew up here. I came from a middle class family, attended public schools, and had dreams of being an astronaut when a kid. But somewhere in high school I realized I was different in one real black and white way. I did not drink. For me that meant I did not attend the drinking parties at the gravel pit in Hancock.
From what I came to understand during Monday morning’s ‘show and tell’ time the best parties were located at the pit late at night only a few miles from my home. I still recall that at the time I never thought I was missing anything even though I was assured quite the opposite was true.
In simpler terms, unlike many of my peers back then I never grew up thinking that drinking was an activity all by itself.
I know I am not the only one who finds the drinking culture in Wisconsin troublesome, and yet at times I feel like an island on the issue. To be frank and honest about it I think the drinking culture is embarrassing. I would rather our state be touted for stem cell research and the home of Lynn Fontanne than endless drunken parties and Milwaukee beer.
To think that my views might be so different had I only been a participant at the gravel pit those many years ago. I too might see drinking as an activity in and of itself.
Which is another way to say thanks to my mom and dad for keeping tabs on me as a teenager.
I am never sure what makes people want to waste a life in a bottle or glass. I feel like I never have a day to waste or a time that I do not want to recall down the road. Good days or bad ones. Being an adult requires being able to cope with life sober-minded. There are also professionals to talk with at points in life when issues need to be addressed. When both of my parents died I reached out to talk with someone who allowed me to understand grief and work through it. I never had a single drink at either of their passings. In fact, that notion never even crossed my mind.
What I do know is the data shows what impact sitting for hours with a bent elbow does to society. I wish my college-educated and progressive neighborhood would grasp that fact, too.
I rarely address sports related issues on this blog. But the news from Carl Nassib is such that it merits a posting tonight.
The Raiders defensive lineman came out in a statement posted to his Instagram account, becoming the first active player in the National Football League to publicly identify as gay.
I wish we were at a point in the larger society of this nation where such an announcement was akin to a yawn. In places like the city I live, it is not really ‘news’. Liberal and highly educated Madison has embraced living authentically for many years. We are proud, for example, of our openly gay Congressman Mark Pocan, and our openly gay United States Senator Tammy Baldwin.
But the degree to which bigotry and attempts to marginalize gay men and women still occur, and some politicians turn policy ideas into culture war issues for the cheap sake of campaign fodder, proves why the news from Nassib is important to be heard in many places across the nation.
I grew up in a rural conservative town in Waushara County. I just knew it not wise to come out until I was on safer ground. That would occur when I secured a job in Madison and found the friends and environment where coming out was truly one of the easiest events in my life. The part, however, that was difficult for me was knowing that scores of others in places around the state were not able to have that same sense of self, based on the conservative constraints placed upon them.
One of the best ways to reach those conservative areas is to wrap any message in football terms.
Multiple players who played for Vince Lombardi, the legendary former Packers and Redskins coach, say that he knew some of his players were gay, and that not only did he not have a problem with it, but he went out of his way to make sure no one else on his team would make it a problem.
Such lessons are important and have value to impart to those who need assurance that being gay is totally fine, and that acting in bigoted ways against gay people is not.
The news from Nassib, therefore, is not an announcement that gay men play the rough and tumble game of football. No, we are well aware that gay people make up all professions. Rather, Nassib stated clearly who he is as a person, not wishing to hide or deflect or lie anymore. He chose to live authentically.
I am proud of him.
I also know how he feels tonight. A little freer. A little less tight in the chest. Deeper breaths never felt better.
I trust that the news does have an impact on others in the state and that it helps carry the ball of progress with gay rights ‘down the field’.
I know we will reach a time in the nation when someone will say they are gay and we will collectively say, ‘that is great’. And yawn.
Recalling my dad, Royce Humphrey from Hancock on Father’s day, with a memory of his thoughts about trees. ( I have been working over the past months on taking this account and shaping it into a children’s book. I have talked with an illustrator in Britain and think the moral of the story is perfectly toned for children. Brevity in narration is not as easy as it seems to move a story forward and pace it for the ending. The dedication is the easiest. To Dad for lessons well taught.)
All trees have value according to Dad. Some small trees seemed to me to lack that postcard quality of rounded beauty we as a culture value most at the holidays. One side of so many little trees on our property seemed to be deformed. They did not get enough light, or were too close to other trees in the woods. Dad would comment about the misshapen trees, “They all want to be a Christmas tree!”
As I got older, that message seemed ever more important to me. When it came time to chop down my own trees for Christmas, I always sought out a nice tree, but one that was not perfect. My friends would smile, and gently chide me about the ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. Yet, decorated in all the lights and glass ornaments the tree was always perfect, just as it was for Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown, and his friends.
Each season for years and years, I took my Dad’s ax to the woods, and dragged my tree through the snow to our ‘barn’ where Dad would eye it up, and then reach for some wood pieces in the pile near the back of the building. He would measure a bit then take the wood, and place it over the side of a wooden potato crate, and cut for perfect dimensions. He would hammer and fashion the pieces together so the small trunk of the tree would fit without slipping out. As he worked, I would look out the door of the barn, and see my Mom at the kitchen window. She carefully watched our progress, ensuring that we didn’t do anything foolish, or hurt ourselves. Steam collected on the windowpanes from something wonderful cooking on the stove for dinner.
Days after I had the tree back in Madison dad would phone to inquire as to how it was standing. I always answered that it was up, and decorated without a single problem. Vendors do not put less-than-perfect Christmas trees on the lots in the city, but I can say with all honesty that my little trees could stand in competition with any of them, if the competition were about conveying life’s lessons on love.
I never asked Dad about how or why he came up with his philosophy about Christmas trees. It just fit him, and never seemed to need an explanation. It means we all are needed in life, and all fit in somewhere. And with a little help from someone can be that which we dream