7
Feb

Announcing Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier

Announcing the publication of my latest Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier.

It’s 1943 and Agnes and Katherine are preparing to accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour. Agnes carries a package from Colonel Farthingworth to President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Convinced the package contains secret war documents, Agnes expects Nazi spies to try and derail her mission, but she is determined to protect the package and put it into the President’s hand, whatever the cost.

Before leaving town, however, she has to find a place for those gol-darned four bantam roosters–- Myrtle, Sofia, Mrs. Whistlemeyer and Mildred!

Agnes and Katherine travel by train to Washington, D.C. Along the way, she meets Irving, whose wife mysteriously disappears from the train; Nanny, the unfeeling caregiver to little Madeline; two black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee airbase to train as pilots, and Charles, the WWII veteran with PSTD who lends Agnes an unexpected helping hand when things go exceedingly wrong. Who should Agnes trust? Who is the Nazi spy? Is there even a Nazi spy or is it all in Agnes’s imagination?

In a final near deadly showdown In Washington, D.C., Agnes faces a formidable challenge and is forced to accept the possibility that she isn’t the hometown warrior she always thought she was.

Can Agnes overcome multiple obstacles, deliver the package to the President and still meet Mrs. Roosevelt’s plane before she leaves for the Pacific Islands? If you’ve read Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, you’ll know that she will do everything in her power as the scourge of the underworld she thinks she should be.

Mrs. Odboddy -Undercover Courier is available at Amazon in paperback and e-book on February 9, 2017.

As a special treat to my loyal fans, and WWII mystery buffs, the first Mrs. Odboddy novel, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot will be FREE at Amazon between February 9-13.

I'd love to hear from you. Did you enjoy Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot? Would you like to see more of her adventures?

11
Jan

Remembering Salzburg, Austria

In 1987, my daughter and I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I kept a diary during that two week journey. Here are the entries from Salzburg, Austria.

Walking through the streets of Salzburg is like walking back into history. One sees houses with flower boxes, painted scenes on the exterior walls of the buildings, church steeples, roofs of clay tiles and bell towers. The streets are cobbled and many of the windows are made of leaded glass.

There are vineyards up on a nearby hillside and an ancient ivy covered building with sagging tile roof across the courtyard lends a medieval flavor to the view. Church spires peak out above the red tile rooftops on nearby houses and unconsciously we scan the faces of the passersby, perhaps expecting to see Mary Poppins. Dates carved on the churches range from the year 1200-1400. One church is said to be 1000 years old.

A kitty sits atop a nearby rooftop, meowing piteously, as tourists peer up and try to decide if he is stuck, hungry, or just bored and teasing the tourists.

We drive along a river and follow a road up the side of a grape-laden hillside to the very top. Below us, a park follows the curve of the river. We can see the tiny train below and churches steeples scattered among the rooftops. A storm is brewing and the sky darkens with rain clouds as we stand atop the mountain, looking down over the city which for hundreds of years is unchanging.

Yes, as modern times came, freeways and electric wires approached the city, the merchandise sold in the stores has changed, and automobiles replaced the horse carriages, which once clip-clopped along the cobbled streets. The narrow lanes remain the same, the lovely churches, fortresses, palaces, and hillsides are unchanged. The city will tolerate progress but it will not give in to it. Our modern conveniences are an intrusion on its medieval splendor.

Visitors from the United States marvel at the unchanging and apparently timelessness of this beautiful country. The land stretches out unspoiled as we compare it to our familiar busy cities. The mountains beckon hikers upward into the cold clean air. Though there are industrial areas, much of the land is still in its wilderness state, as it was at the moment of creation, lush and green and seemingly immune to modern marvels.

In the town of Salzburg, there is a town square where a street musician plays Ave Maria on a violin. Above us pigeons fly from rooftop to rooftop and the music echoes around the courtyard. I let my mind wander and it is easy to imagine the town filled with people coming and going up and down the tiny cobbled streets in horse drawn carts. Over here would be a peddler selling vegetables, and over there a princess is escorted by her ladies-in-waiting. Over here a group of soldiers march down the street, straight and tall, tired from slaying dragons on the hillsides.

Another day and music might have filled this same courtyard, not from the church but from the house down the street where a thin young boy named Mozart plays the harpsichord and writes melodies that will one day make him famous, even several hundred years later.
Over there a beggar sits by the church wall and begs for alms. Many pass him by, even as today, so many hungry people walk our streets and though we call ourselves “more civilized,” how many of us are guilty of turning away?

A horse cart clip-clops by, bringing me back to today as the last beautiful strains of Ave Maria fade into the sky. We give the musician money and move off down the street where we buy a watercolor painting of the church from a local street artist.

27
Oct

Reading Vintage Books for Fun

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A child learns to read and during early education, we read about the history of our country, read the text of a lesson, read the question, “If you have three apples and take one away, how many apples are left?” At some point, we begin to read for fun.

As adults, we read everything from Hotrod magazines about a 400 hp motor experimental car that runs on Black Flag bug spray or about the latest dirt in Hollywood. We buy it, borrow it or pore over it at the beauty shop.

According to personal taste, many enjoy thrillers, romance, westerns, how-to, or cook books. Now, folks are reading on the Internet, I-PAD, Kindle or who knows what?

I collect vintage books. I buy them for the book cover–perhaps with gold gilt lettering or an embossed cover. They look wonderful on my bookshelf. I have vintage books that range from the classics…to fascinating studies of Science and Health with Keys to the Scripture (1905) and Audel’s Answers on Refrigeration (1914)… (If you want to know anything about your 1914 refrigerator, let me know!)

Have I read all these books? No, but I have read many of them. Some are just too boring. Some are utterly fascinating from cover to cover. My favorite genre is mystery, but I am often pleasantly surprised to find a vintage book most enjoyable and informative.

The Yacht Club or The Young Boat Builder by Oliver Optic (1875) is a beautiful little blue book with gold gilt lettering and an embossed gold yacht on the cover. It would be considered a Young Adult book by today’s standard. I bought it from an antique store for $9.50. It is still available through Amazon (2008 printing) for around $15.00

The preface reads, “The hero is a young man of high aims and noble purposes. But he makes some grave mistakes. The most important lesson in morals to be derived from his experience is that it is unwise and dangerous for young people to conceal their actions from their parents and friends.” The book has several lithograph illustrations.

The book exemplifies the morals expected of young people in 1875. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some of those high standards were still expected of the youth in 2016? Hollywood has proved a poor substitution for learning morals.

If you’re interested in learning more about how people lived and thought in earlier days, I recommend reading a vintage book.

Have you ever read a vintage book that left a positive impression?

23
Aug

Mrs. Odboddy - Hometown Patriot Interview

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Elaine’s latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot a WWII of chicks and chicanery, suspicion and spies is a riotous romp with Agnes Odboddy, a self-appointed scourge of the underworld. Agnes fights WWII from the home front, collecting cans, volunteering at the Ration Stamp office and knitting argyles for the troops, while seeing conspiracies and Nazi spies under every cabbage bush. When Mrs. Roosevelt unexpectedly comes to town to attend a funeral, Agnes is called upon to prove she is, indeed, a hometown patriot.

Mrs. Odboddy – Interview –
My friends call me Agnes. I live with my Siamese cat, Ling-Ling, and my granddaughter, Katherine. She works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon and does the hair and make-up at the Whistlemeyer Mortuary, here in Newbury. Clyde Hoffelmeister just passed away. He fell off the roof trying to save a cat. Don’t worry. The cat survived. Clyde didn’t.

I spend my time volunteering. Several times a month, I go to the Boyles Springs Military Base USO, just up the Northern California coast. I also roll bandages, knit socks for the military and collect paper on the paper drive. My favorite service is at the ocean watch tower watching for a Japanese invasion, and let me tell you, that becomes quite an adventure.

As I’m sure you’re aware, every citizen is a home front warrior and must be alert to Nazi-Jap spies. They’re everywhere! Speaking of Nazi spies, I told Chief Waddlemucker, the Chief of Police, that I’m convinced that Sofia Rashmuller from our knitting circle at the First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light is a Nazi spy with bright red hair.

My red hair? Quite natural, I assure you. I may freshen it from time to time with a henna rinse but I would never dye it, because only fast women and European spies do that. I should know. I saw enough of them during WWI as an undercover agent for the US government. My stars, yes! We saw some action, but I never hurt anybody. Well, there was that one time… Of course, I can’t talk about the details. If I did, I’d have to kill you.

Did I mention that I also volunteer at the Ration Book Center, sending out the ration coupon books to the neighborhood? I’m sure I ran across a Black Market conspiracy this week, while addressing envelopes. Someone is stealing ration books from the mailboxes at empty houses. We’re planning a secret mission to catch the thief in the act. How exciting!

Now that we’re at war, we must all endure rationing. Imagine! Only one pound of coffee per adult every six weeks! And the price of eggs! Actually, I’ve solved that problem. I’m getting six chickens this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with them until I get a coop built. Guess we’ll just stick them in the bathroom . They’re just chickens, after all. What could possibly go wrong?

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is available at Amazon in print and e-book ($3.99) http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

7
May

And Where have all the Dollars Gone?

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Society has demanded many changes in the United States over the years including the popularity and use of certain coins and bills. Let me share a few that have come and gone.

The copper United States half-penny was produced from 1793 to 1857. It was slightly smaller than a modern quarter. The coins are now only found in coin collections. The rare designed coins are valued from $100’s to $1000’s of dollars depending on the age, condition and various styles.

The two-cent piece was produced for circulation from 1864 to 1872. Maybe this is where the phrase, “let me put my two-cents worth in,” came from! Even three-cent coins were struck briefly during the Civil War.

The United States half-dollar or fifty-cent piece is the largest U.S. coin currently minted and twice the weight of the quarter. The coin depicts the profile of President John F. Kennedy on the front. Used mostly during the first half of the twentieth century, they are still occasionally seen in circulation. The 1964 Kennedy half dollars are largely collected by the public for sentimental reasons. Those issued through the end of the 1960s were the only precious metal U.S. coin remaining in production, and as the price of silver continued to rise, pre-1964 halves disappeared from circulation.

I fondly remember the fifty-cent piece, a coin I often had during my childhood.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar was minted from 1979 to 1981, when the series was halted due to poor public reception, and briefly produced again in 1999. Proposed as a smaller replacement for the dollar, a number of shapes and compositions were tested, but all were opposed by the vending machine industry, and rejected in part because of its similar size to the quarter.

In 1997, a gold-colored Susan B. coin was produced and a final run of dollars was struck in 1999 and retired in 2000. Most are now privately collected and rarely seen in circulation.

The Sacagawea dollar, another gold coin, has been minted every year since 2000, although released only during various years, due to its general unpopularity with the public. Designs on the reverse side of the coin during various years depict a different aspect of Native American cultures.

The term silver dollar is often used for any large white metal coin issued by the United States with a face value of one dollar whether or not it contains any silver. Dollar coins have never been very popular in the United States. Most Americans currently use the dollar bill rather than dollar coins. The Mint ceased production of dollar coins for general circulation in 2011. Silver dollars can still be obtained at banks on request.

The silver dollar is another of my favorite childhood coins, often received as a birthday or Christmas present.

The two-dollar bill is rarely seen but is available at banks on request. Multiple changes to the face and reverse side occurred over the years, including the size of the bill in 1928 when the size of U.S. currency was standardized.

Changes are now being planned for the twenty-dollar bill. Harriet Tubman, a woman responsible for assisting thousands of slaves to freedom, along the ‘underground railroad’ will likely replace Thomas Jefferson’s face on the front of the bill.

Lastly, the words “In God we Trust” was first added to large coins in 1865 and added to our paper money in 1957. The story of how this all occurred will be discussed another day.

25
Jul

The Story Behind the Friendship Dolls of 1926

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Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, there was strife between Japan and the United States as early as 1907 when the US passed immigration laws making it challenging for Japanese citizens to immigrate to the US. In 1924, an Immigration Act effectively barred Japanese from entering the US, even making it difficult for Japanese war brides to return to the US with their husbands.

Saddened by the deteriorating relations between the countries, in 1924, Reverend Sidney L. Gulick, a missionary to Japan, founded a committee called World Friendship Among Children. They began collecting dolls from United States children, planning to send them on a good will mission the children of Japan and scheduled to arrive in time for their national doll festival on March 3rd.

The committee collected 12,739 blue-eyed, blonde haired dolls, and dressed them in typical American clothes. They attached a message to each doll. “May the United States of America and Japan always stay friends. I am being sent to Japan on a mission of friendship. Please let me join the doll festival on March 3 in your country” The dolls carried a passport which read, “This doll is a good citizen of the United States of America. She will obey all the laws and customs of your country. Please take care of her while she is with you.”

The dolls were well-received by the children in schools and kindergartens around Japan. As a return good-will gesture, in November, 1927, fifty-eight Japanese Ambassador dolls were returned to the United States. Each was named for a particular province or Japanese town, such as Miss Akita, or Miss Ehime. Each stood 81 cm tall and was exquisitely dressed in authentically styled kimonos of fine silks and brocades, each created and valued at $2,400 (by today’s monetary standards).

The American Friendship dolls and the Japanese Ambassador dolls were displayed in museums and places of honor until the war in 1941. Sadly, large numbers of the US Friendship Dolls were destroyed in Japan during the war and most of the Japanese Ambassador Dolls in the US were put in storage or lost.

To date, at least 270 of the American dolls and 35 of the original Japanese Ambassador dolls have been recovered in Japan and America by people interested in preserving history. Many hold places of honor in museums, schools and collections both in Japan and the U.S. Many of the Japanese Ambassador dolls make their way annually back to Japan in time to celebrate the March 3rd Japanese Doll festival.

Reverend Gulick’s family continues to make and send dolls to the children of Japan in a continued friendship gesture. Since 1986, they have sent approximately ten dolls each year to schools in Japan, each dressed in traveling clothes and carrying a handbag and a passport.

A local Sacramento author, Shirley Parenteau, has written a delightful children’s book about the Friendship Dolls called SHIP OF DOLLS. It can be purchased at her website, www.shirleyparenteau.com or at Amazon under the title SHIP OF DOLLS.

As I child, I collected storybook dolls. I still have several of my childhood dolls on display in china cabinets. Tell me about your favorite doll or doll related story. I’d love to hear from you.

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27
Apr

All Aboard the Friendship Train

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While doing research for the WWII novel I’m currently writing, I often find information of little remembered history from WWII. I recently learned of the Friendship Train sent to France and Italy following the war.

Much of Europe was devastated during WWII and following the war, the people continued to suffer years of deprivation, limited food supplies and a slow reconstruction of their towns.

While Drew Pearson, a popular journalist of the time, visited Europe during 1947, he heard that the Communists were being thanked for sending a few carloads of grain to the Europeans. Feeling that the United States could do more to help our European neighbors; he conceived the vision of the Friendship Train. His suggestions appeared in his newscast columns on October 11, 1947. He asked our citizens to donate food and clothing to help the people of France and Italy. I’m sure he must have been amazed at the response to his request.

Immediately, towns, cities, and the citizens of every state in the USA collected food for the Friendship Train. The plan was met with such enthusiasm that competition among the communities, counties, and states began for collecting and sending the largest contribution.

Five weeks later, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its trek beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state sent boxcars or trucks filled with goods to meet the Friendship Train at a junction. When it arrived in New York, we had collected and shipped $40 million in food and supplies to Europe aboard the 700-car American Friendship Train.

No money was ever spent in the process. The transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading and the use of the ships was all provided by volunteers and donations. The train's mission was an incredible display of goodwill from the people of the United States to France and Italy.

Every package had this label: "All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops." Also on every label were these words, "This gift is sent to you by: 'first and last name and address of donor.’” This message was written in Italian and French and printed beside the American flag.

In 1949, France reciprocated by collecting 49 boxcars full of gifts donated by the French citizens and returned to the USA in their Merci Train as a thank-you for our generosity. One boxcar went to each state. Upon arrival, the gifts were distributed in various ways. Some freely given, others auctioned off and many items placed in local museums. The boxcars, called 40 and 8 boxcars were vintage, having been used to transport troops during WWI and then again during WWII. Many veterans remembered being transported across Europe in these boxcars. The Merci Train cars were restored and kept in museums across the country as memorials to those who had fought and died. Most of these boxcars have survived, many now over 100 years old, and are on display in museums in 43 states.

More information about the Friendship Train and the Merci Train can be found on the internet.

14
Jan

THE DAY JAPAN BOMBED OREGON

220px-Japanese_fire_balloon_moffetRESEARCH: While researching World War II history for my latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy’s Wartime Adventure, I found another little known piece of history.

BOMB DROPPED IN BROOKINGS, OREGON: In September, 1942, a Japanese submarine off the coast of Oregon launched a float plane loaded with two 76 kilogram incendiary bombs, which it succeeded in dropping in the Siskiyou National Forest, near Brookings, Oregon. A forest fire ensued. The fire was spotted by a fire lookout tower on Mount Emily and two rangers were dispatched to the site. They were able to control the fire throughout the night until a fire crew arrived the next morning. A recent rain had kept the area wet which helped the fire crews contain the blaze.
According to records reviewed after the war, the floatplane carried two bombs. Though both were dropped, no trace was found of the second bomb.

BALLOON BOMBS: Between 1944 and 1945, the Japanese hatched a new plot to attack and torment the American citizens. They launched more than 9,000 air-balloon bombs, 70 feet tall with a 33 foot diameter made of paper and filled with hydrogen. Each carried an anti-personnel bomb and two incendiary bombs. These were launched during the fall and carried across the Pacific Ocean in about three days via the jet stream at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Three hundred sixty one of the balloons were found in 26 states, Canada and Mexico. Several were found in San Pedro, near Redding and near Santa Rosa, California. It is likely that more balloon bombs landed in unpopulated areas of North America.
CONSEQUENCES: Some of the balloon bombs were sighted by citizens and dispatched by fighter pilots. Others landed in populated areas and caused some degree of damage by igniting fires. One fatality and 22 injuries resulted from subsequent fires caused by the balloons.

TRAGIC RESULTS: In May, 1945, while picnicking, a balloon bomb was found by a woman and five children. A witness warned them away, but before they could retreat, the bomb exploded, creating a 1-foot deep, 3-foot wide hole and killing the woman and all the children. Their cause of their death was withheld from the public and stated “the six were killed by an explosion of unannounced cause.” Later the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a monument built. The six are the only known deaths in the continental USA as a result of enemy action during WWII. Japanese visitors have since visited the monument to plant cherry trees as a symbol of peace.
BLACK-OUT: Due to a press black-out during the year of the attacks, no evidence of the success of the program reached Japan and the mission was considered a total fiasco, thus the program was abandoned.

POST WWII: The remains of balloons continued to be discovered during the 1940’s and 1950’s and two in the 1960’s.

Do you know an interesting bit of history related to WWII? Can you share it on this site?

3
Jan

OWNEY, THE GLOBE-TROTTING POSTAL MASCOT

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OWNEY –The Globe-Trotting Mail Mascot - I ran across an interesting story the other day about a little mutt dog that became the nation’s Post Office mascot from 1888 - 1897. Owney, a little mixed terrier, traveled for nine years across the nation’s railways on mail trains, always returning to Albany, PA, a key division point on the New York Central railroad system, one of the two largest railroads in the U.S. at that time. Over the years, he was given medals and citations by various organizations, as the country marveled at the little dog’s dedication to the mail service.

Once, it’s said, that a mail bag fell from a delivery wagon. Owney jumped off the wagon and guarded the bag until a postal worker missed him and the mail bag and returned to find him sleeping on top of the bag, preventing anyone from touching it except a postal worker.

OWNEY’S MEDALS: Over the years, post workers around the country where Owney visited, hung medals on his collar until he had accumulated hundreds of medals. It was necessary to give him a vest on which to pin the medals. He jingled like sleigh bells when he walked.

Occasionally, Owney would jump on an outbound train and disappear for weeks or months until he would reappear in the Albany post office. A train trip into Canada got him into trouble once, when he was detained by the Canadians and held for ransom, demanding charges for his board. The Albany postmen pooled their money and bailed poor Owney out of Canada. He was returned once more to the Albany post office.

EUROPEAN TRAVELS: It is documented that in 1895, Owney traveled via steamship and rail, riding with mail bags throughout Asia and across Europe. He was fed and tended by postal workers along the way. The Emperor of Japan awarded him several medals bearing the Japanese Coat of Arms. His triumphant return to American was covered by newspapers nationwide. He became world famous after the trip.

As the years progressed, Owney’s eyesight and health failed. On orders of the local postmaster in Toledo, Ohio, they detained him (I suppose they thought for his own good) and kept him tied in a basement. The report is that he became aggressive (probably from despair at being held against his will). He allegedly attacked a postal worker and bit him. He was shot and killed on June 11, 1897.
PRESERVED AND HONORED: The nation’s postal workers refused to bury their beloved mascot. They asked that the dog receive the honor of being preserved and taxidermied. His remains were sent to the Post Office Department Headquarters and eventually to the Smithsonian Museum. His remains required an extensive taxidermy makeover by 2011 when the USPS issued a stamp honoring Owney.
Owney has been the subject of five books. His remains now stand in a glass case in the Smithsonian Institute in the National Postal Museum atrium in Washington D.C., wearing his harness and surrounded by many of his tags.

MORE INFORMATION: You can find more information about Owney in Wikipedia and other internet online resources. 273349-pb-110727-owney-stamp-rs_blocks_desktop_small

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