Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Tree History

Here is the last story from the little newspaper that we picked up. Ever wonder why we use a tree at Christmas time?

Did a celebration around a Christmas tree on a bitter cold Christmas Eve at Trenton, New Jersey, turn the tide for Colonial forces in 1776? According to legend, Hessian mercenaries were so reminded of home by a candlelight evergreen tree that they abandoned their guard posts to eat, drink and be merry. Washington attacked that night and defeated them.

The Christmas tree has one through a long process of development rich in many legends, says David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture, with the Springfield Extension Center. Some historians trace the lighted Christmas tree to Martin Luther. He attached lighted candles to a small evergreen tree, trying to simulate the reflections of the starlit heaven - the heaven that looked down over Bethlehem on the first Christmas Eve.

Until about 1700, the use of Christmas trees appears to have been confined to the Rhine River District. From 1700 on, when lights were accepted as part of the decorations, the Christmas tree was well on its way to becoming a tradition in Germany. Then the tradition crossed the Atlantic with the Hessian soldiers.

Some people trace the origin of the Christmas tree to an earlier period. Even before the Christian era, trees and boughs were used for ceremonials. Egyptians, in celebrating the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year - brought green date palms into their homes as a symbol of "life triumphant over death". When the Romans observed the feast of saturn, part of the ceremony was the raising of an evergreen bough. The early Scandinavians were said to have paid homage to the fir tree.

To the Druids, sprigs of evergreen holly in the house meant eternal life. while to the Norsemen, they symbolized the revival of the sun god Balder. To those inclined toward superstition, branches of evergreens placed over the door kept out witches, ghosts, evil spirits and the like. This use does not mean that our Christmas tree custom evolved solely from paganism, any more than did some of the present-day use of sighed in various religious rituals.

Trees and branches can be made purposeful as well as symbolic. The Christmas tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit and brings into our lives a pleasant aroma of the forest. The fact that balsam fir twigs, more than any other evergreen twigs, resemble crosses may have had much to do with the early popularity of balsam fir used as Christmas trees.

Happy New Year

In the same paper that we got in East Texas was another story about the origin of our New Year's celebration.

"Happy New Year!" That greeting will be said and heard for at least the first couple of weeks as a new year gets under way. But the day celebrated as New Year's Day in modern America was not always January 1.


The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonians New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

The Story of the Ninth Reindeer

We were in East Texas last week checking out a little town someone told Dan about - Gladwater, TX. It's supposed to be the antique capitol of East Texas. While there I picked up one of those "free" papers they have in the local restaurants. Being Christmas time it had several stories that I found very interesting and wanted to share them with you guys.

The first one was entitled The Ninth Reindeer.

Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme patter to Moore's "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn't be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph's message - that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset - proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.

When I got home, a friend had sent me an email with a very similar story, but with a little more background info. Here it is:

The True Story of Rudolph
A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob.

Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print,_ Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer _ and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph . That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.

In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of War ds returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there either.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day! / Udated List 6-18-10

Happy Father's Day to all you Dad's out there!

Email us and let us know what cool Father's Day stuff you get this year!

The kids are off to camp until tomorrow, so I'm enjoy my last bit of quiet before they get back home! Now, if I could just find them camps all summer long...

I've got some cool pictures of a road runner that was running around my mother-in-laws house a few weeks ago. It wasn't really scared of us and didn't really run away while Dan was out mowing her yard. Noisy little critters!

Posted a new list this afternoon so take a look and see if there's something you'd like to get yourself for Father's Day if the wife and kids don't get you what you want! Also, mention code FDAD and get a 10% discount off of your total order.

Take care and have a wonderful weekend! And, again, Happy Father's Day!!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Updated List 05/28/10 Happy Memorial Day!

Just a quick blog to let you know that the website has been updated with new tapes and some Memorial Day sales. If you're a vet and email us and tell us what branch of service you are/were in, you'll receive and extra 10% off of your order.

I'll post another entry with pictures of Harold's car show ventures and the Frankenschmitt's first cruise-in last week.

Be safe and have a great holiday weekend!


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!/Updated List 5/5/10

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mom's out there! I'm a Mom of three beautiful girls! One in collage, one in high school and one in junior high. When you put it like that, I feel old!

I have to give you an update on Harold! After to many months of fighting bureaucracy, Harold is now legal! He is registered and has a title. Dan's been driving around the neighborhood practicing his shifting skills. This is no normal shifting automobile. Most cars have a syncromesh transmission, but not this baby! I actually tried driving Harold this weekend, but never made it out of 1st gear!

The day we got the paperwork making it legal, we took it a cruise-in about 1 1/2 miles from the house. Harold ran like a champ! One of our friends follow us home since it was after dark and Dan's never driven it after dark. He said we were going about 30 mph. The owner's manual says you should drive the car at around 15 mph and not speed by taking it up to 30-35 mph.

The next night we were a little more ambitious and took Harold to the first car show of the year at one of our favorite car shows. This was about 3 miles from the house. Harold took 2nd place!

Just put up a new list yesterday. After the story in the local newspaper last month, we've gotten some really good tapes in from folks who have just dropped them off or we've purchased. We've also got a few sales going on so stop by and take a look -

Have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Spring!/Updated List 04/20/10

Hope everyone had a nice Easter! I took our middle daughter to the ER Easter night. She had fallen at school the Thursday before and landed on her side. We figured she may have bruised her ribs. On Sunday night, she though she was feeling better so she bent down and then heard and felt a snap. She was really hurting and said it hurt to breath so we called the doctor's answering service. The nurse said she might have punctured a lung and she needed to have an x-ray. We got there around 7. Sometime around 11:30 they took her for the x-ray. We got home around 12:30. They said she had probably torn or strained a muscle and would be hurting for a while.

On Tuesday, she texted me from school to say her stomach hurt really, really bad. Within 15-20 minutes the school nurse called and said she was in her office saying she had thrown up and felt really bad. She didn't have a temperature, but the nurse said she looked pale. I picked her up from the high school and took her home. She was throwing up every 30 minutes. We couldn't get an appointment with the doctor until 2 that afternoon. I felt so bad for her!

The previous day, I had gotten a call from one of our local newspapers who had seen various things about us and our 8-tracks and wanted to do a story. I talked with him for a while and worked it out for him to come Tuesday around 1 so Dan could be home as well. Since I had already talked with the reporter for some time on Monday, I left them to take our daughter to the doctor. The kids' doctor had recently moved and I'd only been there one other time and thought I new a shorter way to get there. Almost and hour later, I made it! Poor kiddo! The doctor told us there was a viral bug going around and it was pretty nasty. I'm guessing we picked it up in the ER Sunday night.

When I got home, Dan told me the reporter was going to have a photographer come out on Wednesday to take some picture. By Wednesday, I was starting to feel bad. The photographer got there at around 4:30. Dan came in a few minutes after. He was a very nice guy and took some great pictures. But I was hoping he'd get finished up as I still wasn't feeling very well. Two hours later, he left. Dan and our oldest daughter went to get something to eat and bring home. She set some food in front of me and I just stared at it and said "I don't think so!" I drank some of my drink and headed for the bathroom. Now, I had it too. By 10 or so that night our youngest daughter had it. Dan went to work on Thursday not feeling the best, and before noon, he was home with it.

I've been sick before, but never quite like this. You feel week and tired. I just wanted to sleep. We all stayed in bed for several days. Then by the Sunday after Easter, our oldest daughter, who lives a few miles away, called to say she had it! Being the good Mom that I am, I went over to take care of her and her dog. I was fearful that we'd get it started again, but we didn't!!!!!! (knock on wood!).

The article came out that Sunday and it was great. We started getting emails and calls from folks wanting to sale or give us tapes and players. We've meet some very nice folks! Some were a little shady looking, but turned out to be nice people.

I've spent the last week or so trying to play catch up with emails and orders. Tapes have been tested and the list is now updated!!!! We have a few sales and a fun way to get an extra 10% off your order, so check out the website!

On a different note, we finally got Harold titled and licensed! I was beginning to think it would never happen!!!!! We bought this car in August, got it in mid October or November and having been trying since then to get it titled and registered. Our state can be very annal about paperwork. I'm sure it never had a title to begin with. Then we were penalized because it took us longer than 20 days to do the transfer!

Last night we took it up to the gas station to fill it up with gas. The gas station is about a half mile from the house. We made it okay, but when Dan finished filling the tank, it started leaking out. We made it back home okay, but the gas was pouring out of the tank. It turns out that it leaks around the top of the tank. Dan drained it a little more. He should be able to fix the leak with little trouble. We've got a couple of car shows this weekend; one on Friday night and one on Saturday night. The Friday night show is a cruise-in; come and go. And the one on Saturday is a monthly car show that starts in April and goes through October. You have to pay an entry fee for this show and at the end of the evening they give out trophies. The winners are chosen by votes done by those in the show and those that come to the show to see the cars. We generally take the Amphicar and sometimes the '72 Chevy or '73 TR6. Our oldest daughter likes to take her '76 Pacer (yes, it has an 8-track player in it!). We'd like to take the '22 Chevy, but it's probably a 20 mile round trip. Doesn't seem far, but when you're only driving at 15-20 mph, it takes awhile! It's also not very easy to shift. The shifting mechanism is not like modern sticks.

I'll try to take some more pictures or videos of Harold soon. We do have a video of the Frankenschmitt that we recently took and uploaded to YouTube.

Well, gotta go get some more stuff done before the kids start getting home from school!

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Spring! Finally!!!! - Updated List 03/24/10

Happy Spring to everyone!

It's been a little crazy around our household the last few months!!!!!

We had a major computer crash and lost some stuff and were able to recover some stuff. Dan was able to finally recover most of my databases for the Track Shack but they weren't current so I basically deleted everything and started over.

I got bronchitis and am pretty much over it but still have a bit of a lingering cough. For those of you who have heard about our youngest daughter Becky's ongoing ear problems, she had to have another surgery just before Spring Break. We found out she was allergic to one of the antibiotics that he used in and around her ear. He ended up taking the packing out early and we go back today to see how it's progressing. We think there may be a problem, but won't know for sure until we see him later today.

Spring Break has come and gone for us! The first part of it was spent with Becky home after her surgery. Then Dan took off last Wednesday for the rest of the week. We had plans to paint the outside of the house and do some stuff around the house and maybe get away for a day to Oklahoma. Of course things never work out like you plan! I got our hallway painted and we had some furniture delivered. Finally got a new sofa and love seat after giving our old one to our oldest daughter Mary for her new house. Thursday I started painting the back porch and Dan started to rebuild and move one of our fences to help keep the dogs out of our garden with the pond. The puppy somehow managed to chew the electrical cord to the pond pump into. Fortunately, it was unplugged! As I said, we got started on these things. On Friday, we decided to go up to Oklahoma and have a picnic at Turner Falls. We had heard the weather was going to be great Friday, but not so great for the weekend. It was a little bit windy, but beautiful!!!!

(Pictures will be posted as soon as my camera's batteries charge up again!)

There is a house at the top of this place that is called the "Rock Castle". It's a very steep climb up to this place and then if you want, you can climb up to the road where the driveway and rock garage are. Well, I'm not rock climber and definitely afraid of heights! The last time we were there it was raining and I was terrified going up the steep steps. I didn't attempt to trek up to the hill to the road. But this time, Dan and the girls begged me to try it. I most certainly got my exercise that day!!!! There is also a beautiful waterfall and cave. Mary and Becky were going to go to the cave but there were to many people and you have to jump across a ravine to get to the part of the cave that looks out onto the falls. They ended up going on top of the falls to an outlook. Dan and I were going to try it, but decided probably not a good idea! The water is so clear there. I don't know to many lakes, if any, here in Texas that are as clear as this water is there.

On Saturday, we took Dan's Mom to Weatherford to see his brother (one with MS) and sister-in-law. As we approached their house, it started to snow! Go figure - Friday is in the high 70's and Saturday it's snowing!!! We got hit with an arctic blast from Canada. It was pretty much just a light dusting and gone by mid day Sunday.

Yesterday was overcast and then turned out to be nice and warm and then by 5:30 or so, the sky's turned dark and ominous and thunder storming. We were lucky not to get any of the hail they said we might get.

I've been working on trying to get the list updated among doing these other things around the house and it's finally done! I still need to add a couple of pictures of the new sleeves we just had done. These are like the last ones; the heavier ones as well as the lighter weight sleeves, but they don't have to be glued! These have locking tabs on the sides. We have them with the double windows and ones with just the front window. I should have the pictures of them up in the next day or two.

We've got a few things on sale so stop by and check them out. Kate's Track Shack.

If this blog doesn't get updated before then, have a Happy Easter!!!!!!!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mischief In The Magnolias

Our youngest daughter, Becky is in theater class this year in her first year of junior high (7th grade). Her next oldest sister, Susie was in theater last year. Actually, last year was the first year that their junior high offered offered a drama as an extra curricular activity and Susie was it's first President of the club. This year it is being offered as an elective class, which Becky has been in.

This was Becky's second production this year. Her first was The Wizard of Oz. She was one of the Munchkins - Punchie - Let me at 'em. Let me at 'em!

Mischief In The Magnolias was her second. She played "Granny" She was a feisty old thing! She brought her gun for one of the props, but then the teacher changed his mind and decided the cane would be a better prop to use.

Here are some pictures from the play:

Watch out Hollywood, you may have a new star headed your way!

23rd Anniversary - Jefferson, TX

A few weeks ago, Dan and I took a trip to Jefferson Texas - about 3 hours east of here - to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. We had originally thought of going up to Oklahoma - only an hour away. Hard to believe you can go to another state in hour, but it can take 5-8 hours to get half way across the state.

We had heard that Jefferson was a quint little town close the the Louisiana border. It's famous for it's ghost stories and antique malls.

I wanted us to stay somewhere other than the same old hotel chains, so I went to their official website and started looking for some place different. The first place I looked at was the Jefferson Hotel. I had heard about the ghost stories and thought that might be a fun place to stay. But after checking with them, they only had one room available and it only had a bathtub with no shower. Dan is to tall for most tubs and didn't think he'd like it so I started looking again. This time I came on the Excelsior Hotel. It was older than the Jefferson Hotel and had some Famous people registered at the Excelsior House including Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, Rutherford B. Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson to name a few.

I had a couple of choices of rooms, but decided on the Lady Bird Johnson room - room 214. Lady Bird Johnson had stayed in this room and had given the hotel some personal belongings for the room. Her husband, the President, had also stayed at the hotel, but I don't think in this room. Some of the pictures may be a little blurry. We got a new camera from one of our daughters, and I haven't figured it all out!

It was raining when we got to Jefferson (always rains when I drive!) and a little cold. We got checked in late in the afternoon on Saturday and checked out our beautiful room. After making sure the bed was nice and comfy we headed out to check out the town. With umbrellas in hand, we went in search of treasures.

The one thing about some small towns is that they roll up the street at 5:00. We did find some places open and checked them out. One of our first stops was the store with fudge and other delectable goodies! I resisted the fudge and went headed on. Our next stop was a Vintage Car Museum on Lafayette St. It was owned and run by a very nice older gentleman. He had probably 10 cars. The oldest car was a Model T Ford. He had some beautiful cars. The building had once been a doctors office run by his father-in-law.

We continued to walk the streets and freeze our behinds off until we came to the Old Mill Antiques. It's amazing what you can find in these places. Some, down right scary! I was on a mission to find some stuff for our daughters house. And of course, I always look for 8-tracks!

In one of the far back parts of the building, Dan saw a couple of things that peaked his interest. One was a 50's portable Zenith tv. The other was an old organ called the Sardarflute from India. It's also called a harmonium. It is small and had a bellows to work the keyboard. Dan is fascinated by these types of things. Since we were walking and the car was back at the hotel, we couldn't take them with us. The great thing was that everything in this booth was 50% off! We paid for the two items and walked back to the hotel. Dan looked up the organ and founds some videos on youtube showing how it worked.

After warming up, we decided to look for some place to eat. We finally decided on the Old Fashioned Hamburger Store. It was just across the street from the hotel and we could walk to it.

What a cool place. When we walked in, there were decorated dollar bills covering the walls and ceilings. There must have been $6K lining those walls. Of course we did our part and decorated one to hang on the wall. I had the steak and Dan had the chicken fried steak. The food was mediocre at best, but it was something different.

(click on the photo to see where our dollar is)

After that we went back to the hotel to chill out (actually, warm up). Sunday started out a little cool and overcast but warmed up. Before we left Jefferson, we walked across the street to the Jay Gould Victorian Railroad Car. In the 1930's East Texas oil boom,it was a family residence. It was sold in 1953 and relocated in 1954 to it's present day location. Pretty neat!

They have a ghost walk too, but it was canceled due to the rain.

We picked up our purchases at the Old Mill and then went and looked at a few more stores before heading out of town.

We wanted to check out a couple of flea markets but couldn't find them so we head back towards home. One of the places Dan wanted to check out was Overton, TX. We had been there before and they had a cool old movie theater. It was closed and run down, but we thought it would be fun to buy it and reopen it and show movies on the weekend. It was still there, but after we got home and checked it out online, we found that it had already been purchased. Very disappointing!

Here was another cool building in Overton that is no more!

It was a fun trip. Maybe we'll go back for our 24th!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy New Year 2010!!! New Updated List

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas holiday and a good New Year! We enjoyed our time off and being with family and friends. The only bad thing about taking off so much time is you have to play catch up.

Dan had two of his brothers and their families here for Christmas. One from Arizona and one from Tennessee. We didn't get to do as much with my family as I would have liked, but when they're here there and yon, it's not very easy! It just makes Christmas last a little longer that way!

Hope everyone got what they wanted for Christmas. We did okay here. I got a bunch of English released 8-tracks over the holiday. You'll find some of them up on a new web page - I'm fortunate that I have some friends over there for a couple of years and they were kind enough to bring them to me when they were here for the holidays.

I found it very interesting that some of the tapes like the Beatles and a few others had black/white labels compared to ours here in the states that are in color. I also have one cart that has a picture sleeve, but instead of the picture printed directly onto the sleeve, it had a removable label over the sleeve.

Anyone have any tapes from other countries that are unusual? I did put one on the list that is greek. We've had several of those. Pretty cool.

Speaking of pretty cool... We've had some of our coldest temps in a long time. It was down to around 20 this morning. It looks like we'll have a little warmer temps in the next few days, but this is darn cold! You know it's cold when the water in the dog's metal bowl is completely frozen! Thanks Siberia and the North Pole!

For those of you keeping up with Harold, it's been a little to cold to work on him. I went on a road trip a few weeks back to meet some nice folks that had an old top that we can use for a pattern. Today, we got a huge box from these nice folks with some upholstery from their old '19 Chevy.

We normally go to a car show on Friday nights, but it's just to cold. The guy that runs it said that they'll only have it when it's above 40 degrees and not raining.

Be sure to check out the website. We updated the list with lots of new tapes and have some good sales going on.

Have a good weekend and stay warm!!!!!!!