Bloom Right Where You Are!!

It’s been a beautiful spring for blossoms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the fruit

The Rhododendrons are now in full bloom.

The Rhododendrons are now in full bloom.

trees’ blossoms are finished and now we are enjoying rhododendrons and azaleas. Another tree most people pay no heed to, is the locust tree which is blooming now and can be seen everywhere in Wyoming Valley.

It used to be that the black locust was considered the strongest timber in North America and helped build Jamestown and was used by the navy in the War of 1812, in ship building. Today, few Americans have heard of it. The nation’s taste in ornamental trees has changed and these are seldom planted along with the catalpas and tulip poplars. We have all three of these growing in our yard and the huge locust tree in the front yard of the home in which we raised our family, has sentimental value to us.

This tree is a century old. It stands over 80 feet tall and to add to its antiquity it has a number of huge burls on its trunk and is 5 feet in diameter. The locust bark makes deep furrows, spines grow on twigs, and it forms seed pods. Locusts would still be considered as valuable timber trees but are now often stunted and diseased by locust borers.

I teased my husband. “Why did your family call you, Burl? Didn’t they know that burls

This is an example of a burl sawed and ready for use in making unique furniture.

This is an example of a burl sawed and ready for use in making unique furniture.

are formed when a tree is undergoing some form of stress? It’s a malignancy!” He laughed and then reminded me that he was named Burleigh. I found it interesting that tree burls are prized for their beauty and rarity and are sought after by furniture makers, artists and wood sculptors, especially if they are redwood or curly maple. As I was typing this Shirl and You, and my husband walked by I said, “Burl, I want to get your photo by the burl.” He didn’t respond.

Back to why that huge locust tree holds sentimental value to us. When my husband’s grandfather, Charles E. Updyke, decided to leave Courtdale, Pennsylvania, he piled his locust trees 9family of six, including wife, Barbara and four children, (two more were born later) into his horse drawn wagon and made his way out to Sweet Valley where they moved into an old homestead on Main Road. The wagon was backed up to the house’s side porch where their belongings were unloaded. My husband’s father, Fred, one of their boys, was only three years old at the time and remembered that the then, very young locust tree, was bent to the ground under the wagon. If Fred were living today, he would be 104 years old. He died at 79, but the young locust tree still survives.

There is another locust tree, standing tall and erect, nearly as tall as the elder one. And

These beautiful, scented blooms belong to the black locust tree.

These beautiful, scented blooms belong to the black locust tree.

we often wondered how that one got established, in our side yard. It was just a number of years ago, that we heard the full story. As a young boy, one of our sons, born in 1955, was mowing our lawn when he saw it sprouted there. He mowed around it, and watched it grow taller with each mowing. He grew up loving trees, although I don’t think a locust tree is growing in his yard.

Here’s an interesting twist to the locust tree story. It is said that the tree was named by a Jesuit missionary, who fancied that this was the tree whose fruit supported St. John in the

A woman poses with a locust between her teeth at a discovery lunch in Brussels September 20, 2012. Organisers of the event, which included cookery classes, want to draw attention to insects as a source of nutrition. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM - Tags: FOOD SOCIETY)

A woman poses with a locust between her teeth.

wilderness. Although there is supposedly a locust tree growing in the Mediterranean basin, it was not the black locust tree, I write about here. Although we may prefer to think that St. John ate the fruit of a tree, rather than the winged, insect, they are mentioned as food throughout the Bible. Awful visitations of them swept over Egypt. The devastation they made and still make in Eastern lands is very appalling.

The black locust is early America. The Indians made bows from them and it is

Indians made their bows out of locust branches.

Indians made their bows out of locust branches.

suggested that they may have exported them here. The colonists wrote that “they found them planted by the dwellings of the savages.” History also tells us that only little hovels were built until the strength of locust tree poles was realized and that some of these posts are still standing.

So, how do I end this Shirl and You? When the good qualities of the locust tree are listed, it’s beautiful, scented blossoms are left unmentioned. They were the whole reason for my writing about this tree. I decided to end with these words, “Bloom where you,” rather it be in Pennsylvania or the holy lands. God had reason for creating trees or flying insects and for creating YOU.

I’d love to hear your comments on this Shirl and You. Look for the photo of Burl standing by the burl!

This is my Burl (my husband) posing beside the Black Locust's big burl.

This is my Burl (my husband) posing beside the Black Locust’s big burl.

Here's of photo shoot of the old locust tree growing by the homestead's side porch.

Here’s of photo shoot of the old locust tree growing by the homestead’s side porch.



You May Pick Your Friends, But Not Your Family!!

As parents, many of us look back when our children were kids and think that after all they Brother-sister relationshad been through together, they should be extremely close today. Yet, once they marry their loyalty and love shifts to their spouses and their children and they drift somewhat apart. There are two extremes, where some remain very close and others no longer speak to each other. However, there always remains a special bond between them. I’m reminded of this any time I read what a boy said as he carried his disabled brother on his back. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” (This was the motto of Boys Town, a place where troubled or homeless boys could come for help.) My own relationship with my siblings is comfortable, and harmonious with a visit once a year and a warm wave when passing by. Yet, there remains the wish that our own family would be closer.

I look at them and I think that maybe a one brother, one sister relationship works best. At our house it was a much different ratio, four brothers and only one sister and she was the youngest. We have lots of photos where our oldest son held his sister, they helped look out for her, one drove her to school each day. But, then, they would call her to come to their hideout, then hide under its secret floor. To this day they still tease her, but now, she dishes it right back to them. Brothers and sisters have been described as role models, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors and co-conspirators.

The brothers had secrets they didn’t tell their parents like when one of them jumped in the brother-sister 12haymow and was knocked unconscious, or when they sped home in order to make curfew. Maybe they thought their little sister would tell on them, so she wasn’t in the loop. When someone stole their youngest brother’s bear, they went after it, an incident that hasn’t been forgotten. Years later, one of the grown brothers bought a bear, a perfect match, and took it to his younger brother. So perhaps after all, our kids are still close.

I found it interesting that as one’s age increases, so does the interest in adult sibling broth-sister 13relationships. While one might spend forty to fifty years with one’s parents, life with a sibling can last sixty to eighty years and the bond between them feels comfortable and content when together. Close contact is highest between pairs of sisters and lowest between pairs of brothers. Brother-sister pairs fell between the other two groups. Those who lived within a few miles of each other had the most contact and siblings can usually be relied on for help during times of crisis.

“If you have a brother

then 14

made you cry sometimes.

pulled your hair….

fought with you…

stood up for you...

drove you crazy...

watched you succeed…

saw you fall (and laughed)brother-sister 13

picked you up

scolded you… and

made you strong.

(Sounds like our sons were being typical brothers to their only sister. After all, boys will be boys.) 

All in all, brother/sister relationships don’t remain for each other because of the things theybrother-sister-1 do, but because of who they are.  The fact that   “You can pick your friends but not your family,” may be some consolation for those of you who haven’t spoken to a brother or sister for years. And remember, as you age, your relationship with your siblings oftentimes improves.  I’d like to hear my readers’ opinions on this week’s topic in Shirl and You. Click on the heading of this writing and scroll down to the bottom where there is a form where you may type your comments.

This photo shows the only sister in our household being taken for a ride by her brother. One of the brothers who were not nice to her growing up.

This photo shows the only sister in our household being taken for a ride by her brother. I couldn’t pass up using this photo of a brother and sister having fun together. The bouquet must have been rhubarb, the conveyance, an old fashioned wheel chair, converted into a chariot.

A Trip Back Home!

1714 Orchard Avenue, Folsom. How well I remember that address. Zip codes were not being used when I lived there, but just before I started writing this post, I looked it up. In case you’re interested, it’s 19033. I have no use for the address or the zip code, because, now, I don’t know anyone who lives there. A girlfriend did, named Elaine McKay, someone I wish I had kept in touch with, but didn’t.

Although, to me, it seemed like a long time, I only lived there about four years, between the ages of eight and twelve. The rest of my family, two brothers Donald and Richard, my mother and father, Edwin and Ada Britt, also resided there, and just a few years before moving from the area, a sister, Ada Mae was born.

I think it was sometime in the late 1960’s when my husband and I drove through the small

The hoagie shop I'd walk to, in business since 1935

The hoagie shop I’d walk to, is in business since 1935.

cluster of streets, called Folsom, and rode past the house on 1714 Orchard Avenue. It was the first time back in many years. By then, I was a mother of five children, residing in Sweet Valley, PA. I looked for the Fire Company, Annie’s Hoagie Shop and the place that had the most influence on me, Folsom Presbyterian Church. My heart sank when I saw it standing vacant and boarded-up. When I lived there, it was a vibrant ministry with many caring, loving people reaching out to the community.

Some of the towns near the sleepy town of Folsom were Upper Darby, where I traveled by bus to the dentist, by myself, I might add. I remember, well, biting my numbed Folsom PA 2bottom lip all the way home. Something I was very sorry for a few hours later. There is Prospect Park, and Swarthmore is close enough I could walk there to visit my Aunt and Uncle Morgan Kishpaugh. These areas are larger than Folsom. Even bigger and more of a city, is Chester, which is 3.8 miles away. What I remember most about it was the dirty, smelly, Delaware river and what seemed like lots of industry. My dad worked there at Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., a business that closed after World War II. It’s said that Chester is the birthplace of the hoagie sandwich.I was frequently sent to carry home hoagies from the shop near us. Philadelphia was only 14 miles away, but I don’t recall the family ever visiting there.

I remember well, the layout of the house at 1714 Orchard Avenue. It was a double block, meaning built into the same structure was another house, side by side. Once neighbors moved in who had a young child who rocked a lot in her heavy wooden high- chair, a sound heard clearly on our side of the building. Entering by the front door you were in the living room, which had a brick fireplace that we never burned, then walk right into the dining room and on into the kitchen. The kitchen sink had no cupboard underneath until dad built one that was curved on the end. How he did that I’m not sure. He also screened-in the small front porch, a feature I was determined to have in my own home, some day. (and I do!) Steps going upstairs were in the dining room and there is three bedrooms. I had my own and my brothers another one and the third one was for my parents. My room was just large enough for a double bed and a dresser, but it was my own private domain. Mom always kept dresser scarves on all the dressers and arm and head doilies on upholstered furniture. This you don’t see very often today.

Does 1714 Orchard Avenue still remain today? We had no plans to travel there so you

This is a photo of the  home I lived in in Folsom. It is how it is pictured on Google Earth.

This is a photo of the home I lived in, in Folsom. This photo was taken from Google Earth.

can imagine my delight to learn that, yes, it is still standing. This was accomplished through the miracle of the internet when my husband and I typed the address into Google Earth. There it was pictured, with the double dormer upstairs in the front bedroom, the porch was no longer screened-in and the front hedge was gone, but amazingly it truly is the home in which our family resided. The house was not recently built when we lived there, so we can only imagine the sorrow, pain and joys experienced there, to this day. Mine was the experience I shared with you, in this week’s Shirl and You. 

Any one of you familiar with 1714 Orchard Avenue? Did you enjoy going back home with me? I hope you’ll write to Shirl and You.

This photo of 1714 Orchard Avenue was taken when our family lived there.

This photo of 1714 Orchard Avenue was taken when our family lived there.

I'm pictured here next to my dad, with siblings on each side and in the front. Taken about 1946.

I’m pictured here next to my dad, and my siblings,  in front of our house. Taken about 1946.