The Moth Balls of Memory

Going to California next week will be a trip into memory.
and as you may have experienced that can be joy and it can be painful. I expect my trip to be a bit of both.

Thinking about that brought back a memory of a trip Jim and I made to California a dozen years ago when we, along with our daughter Robin, - discovered the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, CA. Last time I heard it was closed now and that is a shame. The way they exhibited and portrayed his stories so that the came to life was amazing.

Robin and I each bought a paperback copy of  Travels with Charley and dove into them for the next few days of our journey. There was a particular quote toward the end of the book when he describes his return visit to Monterey - where he had lived as a young man that moved me.  Now I wanted to see that quote again. I thought there was a hard-back copy of Travels with Charley in my office, found it with its stained cover and pulled it off the shelf.

When I opened the book I fast-traveled back further than our trip to Salinas.  Inside, on the fly-leaf, written by me, was inscribed Ellouise and Jim Schoettler, 1962. 
  In an instant I remembered the day I bought this book at the fabled, wood-floored Intimate Bookstore on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC. The Intimate burned down in the 1990s - a terrible loss to countless students of UNC and people who loved Chapel Hill. At the time it was lost it was owned by Charles Kuralt's brother. That block of Franklin Street was forever changed by the loss. You never know when or what will launch another trip to the past. I had read the book and enjoyed it. That's what I told Robin the day we stood together looking at the truck Steinbeck drove across country in which then parked on the floor of a large hall in the museum in Salinas.

Once in my hands from the bookcase, I read a little in my old book  - fingering the yellowed pages and feeling the dried paper - making a connection with my time in Chapel Hill. In 1962 I was 26 years old, married to Jim Schoettler and a mother of 4.  Jim was in the Psychiatry Residence at UNC Memorial Hospital. Our youngest daughter - only a few months old, was a Downs Syndrome baby with a severe heart defect.  Jim and I were trying to adjust to her reality.

Yikes. When I go back to that place in time its  prickly so nothing else from that story today.

I do remember reading Travels with Charley - being a bit young to fully understand Steinbeck and his need to make the trip - but something obviously stuck with me because I never forgot it and I kept the book - 54 years. That's a connection.

Back to the quote:
When he reaches his old and familiar place - Monterey - he finds an old friend and they talk of the old days, memories, and other friends. Steinbeck writes:

"I distorted his picture, muddied his memory. When I went away I had died, and so became fixed and unchangeable. My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although they could not say it, my
old friends wanted me gone so that I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance - -
and I wanted to go for the same reasons. Tom Wolfe was right. You can't go home again because home has ceased to exit except i the mothballs of memory."

Yes, just as I remembered it - - The quote has not changed.
But, I think I have - because I understand that quote more than before.


Kindred Spirits

I have said before that this has been an exciting week for me as Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and is now the Democratic Party presumptive Nominee for President of United States. 

I have also thought about the days when I worked on the Campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the women I worked with who laid ground work for this years ago but who will not see it.

Marilyn Heath was a political strategist and a journalist.  She taught me to read and listen to the news with my eyes wide open and to try to detect what the real story was. "don't stop with the front page - often you can tell the real story from a small connecting story on the back page".  I wonder what she would say about all the furor around these days with Donald Trump's antics and how Bernie Sander is a spoiler who keeps hanging on. What do you think is likely to happen? 

I don't work in politics these days and can only imagine what's going to happen based on things that happened in other days. And those days were before there was social media and the internet.

Wonder what Mariwyn would have thought about that and how she would think it best to watch and figure out the news.

Maybe she would have some advice on how to keep yourself from drowning in the dense and repetitive coverage on CNN.  I do wish I could talk with her about it.


Mariwyn Heath was a legend before I met her but I did not know it. She was a founder of ERAmerica and had devoted herself fully to passing the Equal Rights Amendment for seven years before I came to the League of Women Voters of the US in 1979 as their newbie ERA Campaign Director. Mariwyn took me under her wing. She taught me what I needed to know - even when I did not know I needed to know it - so that I could do the job and keep the League folded effectively into the ERAmerica national and state strategy.

She did that for me - just as she had done it for many before me and continued to do it for many more after that. I still read the newspaper by Mariwyn's rule - read between the lines, and read the back pages to see how those stories connect with what's on the front page. That's how you find out what's really going on.

Mariwyn was a born mentor. She was one of those gifted women who also helped other women find their own talents and strengths. Ask the women nationwide in Business and Professional Women (BPW) who revered her and named awards for her.

Mariwyn was a powerful woman, advising the White House and top State elected officials, but she wore her power lightly in a town that flaunts and covets power. She was not just about business. She was a wife and mother. She was an excellent cook who made time to bring delicious goodies to pot luck gatherings and staff meetings. She had busy hands - wielding knitting needles or stabbing at a needlepoint canvas.

She laughed that no matter how the campaign went she would have accomplished something with her time - sweaters, baby caps for all the pregnant staff , and a collection of needlepoint canvases covered with vibrant color. What a role model.

In 1980 the Democratic National Convention was held in NYC. I was part of an ERAmerica group that went to the convention to lobby for ERA. When we wrnt to the Democratic Convention in New York City in 1981 Mariwyn and I shared a hotel room and in our off-time one evening she taught me how to needlepoint. " Start with something small." she counseled. I bought an eye-glasses case. It was the first of four I made before the campaign ended - one for each of my daughters, one for my mother and one for Jim's mother. We also hashed over all that was going on on the floor of the convention.

A week after the ERA campaign ended and we had lost Mariwyn and I had lunch together at the Tabbard Inn on N Street. We talked over the campaign and our sense of loss. At one point she said, "You know, Ellouise, I consider you one of my successes."
"You do. Why?"
" Because when you proposed the National Business Council for ERA I thought it was a dumb idea that would never work - - but I did not discourage you."
"Discourage me - you helped me, encouraged me - I never had any idea you did not think it would work."
"And look what happened - - you did it! "

I have always remembered that conversation as a lesson in real leadership and mentoring.

I still have the eyeglasses case we started that evening. A lovely reminder of a very warm and caring woman who was the brains behind a national campaign for equal rights for women. A woman who will be remembered and missed by many.

Most of all I would like to tell her I have joined BPW so that I could find women who want to talk politics and who know the history that brought us to this chance to see a woman in the White House.

A Week to Remember!

This has been quite a week.

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and is now the Democratic Party Nominee for President of the United States.

Go Hillary GO!!!!

Let's help her break that glass ceiling that has held women back for so long.
Along with Hillary's win  - something else was happening. In California the Judge ruled on a rape case where the jury convicted a Stanford student who raped a defenseless young woman who had imbibed too much alcohol and passed out. The jury said guilty on five counts. The Judge passed a shockingly lenient sentence of 6 months.

There is nationwide outrage. Finally - voices cry out against calling the victim guilty and letting the rapist go free.

The sentence for the rapist cannot be changed but here is the big surprise. The Judge is under scrutiny. People across the country are calling for his removal from the Bench. Jurors have refused to serve in his court. 

Finally - a door opens for real justice for women who are victims.

Then something wonderful and totally unexpected comes out and electrifies the internet networks. Vice President Joe Biden sends an Open Letter to the rape victim - a letter of comfort and encouragement  and vindication for her and all women - and it also it cautions men young and old - "rape is never never never never the fault of the woman." 

  Please read this letter which I predict will be a classic for women, parents, educators, attorneys and judges. 

Thank you Joe Biden for speaking out on behalf of women.


D-Day and Remembering Veteran Harry Catchpole

Ellouise - circa 1944
D-Day Today. Two years ago I met a veteran who was there in person and could tell the story. Meeting Harry Catchpole was a very important encounter for me - to know a person who was an eyewitness to history and enjoyed sharing the experience.

This year Harry is no longer "among us"and we cannot reach out to him to bring D-Day alive for us on this important day - but thanks to Andrew Hiller he leaves a story. Andrew is a friend of mine and I admire his skill as an interviewer so I put the two of them together knowing he would catch Harry's story. Unfortunately the station where his voice was recorded has archived his tape and its not available to us right now.
Hoping Andrew has saved it.

In 1944 I was 9 years old and I have such a vivid memory of that day. We lived in a 12 family apartment house in Charlotte, NC. My daddy was in India. Each family in the 'Virginia Apartments" had a family member somewhere overseas and all were hoping this meant that the war in Europe was coming to a close. And that the end of the war in the Pacific would soon follow. There was excitement in their voices as the adults talked about the D-Day invasion while they studied the newspapers. Radios blared out the story from every apartment. It was a hopeful day.

Meeting Harry was an inspiring connection for me because talking with him furthered my belief in asking questions and uncovering history from eyewitnesses - and when that is not possible for me and I come across a story - I pursue letters and other personal documents to capture an unknown first hand story.

That's why I do what I do with bits of women's history - remembering unknown women whose lives  have been forgotten and lost in the shadows of history. For some reason I have wrapped myself in the purpose to tell their stories if I can for as long as I can.

Is there someone in your family who was part of D-Day that you are remembering today?

To honor D-Day and remember Harry I am reviving this blog post I wrote about Harry two years ago.


Harry Catchpole Remembers D-Day and tells us about it 

June 6 this week, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the start of the defining battle in Europe of WWII. Washington reporter for Voice of Russia Andrew Hiller has a very special interview for D-Day.

Hiller's D-Day interview is with Harry Catchpole, an eye-witness American soldier, who in England days before Operation Overloardand in France for the battles that ensued. After being shipped to France from his job in England as a clerk on General Eisenhower's staff he was assigned to the Third Army under General George Patton.

Hiller's interview with Catchpole is a GEM  - - - not-to-be-missed.

Today Harry Catchpole is 101 years old. And he vividly remembers 1944, D-Day - and the days after when he was in France.

He is a US Army veteran who crossed the beach at Normandy in the squishy footsteps of those who landed on June 6. Listen to him tell of having to walk between the "white lines" to avoid the mines on the beach the morning he landed in Normandy. Listening to the former Sergeant describe those days takes you right to the spot - right into that history.

Hiller's interview brings a moment in the past to life.

Harry lives in Athens, GA where he and my sister Kathy McGill (mentioned in the audio) know each other well through the Univ. of Ga Catholic Center.  When I met Harry a year ago and heard him bring those days of 1944 to life I was totally mesmerized. I kept asking him questions - questions which were fueled by a need to grab the real story from someone who was there.

Listening to him I really understood the enormous importance of asking veterans for and listening to their stories. They have the history. They have the truth of the place. They have stories to tell, if they are willing, which we need to hear.

It is even more important to talk with the veterans in our families - to know their stories and to hear them tell us about their experiences. Many people tell me they wish they had asked. I wish I had asked my father more about his overseas service.

When I met Harry I was still working on my Arlington National Cemetary story. Hearing his stories ignited my interest in reaching out across for the breadth of stories at Arlington. I began wandering beyond Jim's and my spot - 7424 Roosevelt Drive.. into a new world.

This pursuit of veteran's stories has brought me now to The Hello Girls, the story I will be telling at the DC Capital Fringe in July in Washington, DC. They are gutsy women who stepped up and volunteered for military service when they were needed for WWI.

Their words make the story. Like Harry, they were there, but because they were women  - few heard their stories. I ask you, how fair is that?

Today listening to the audio tape of Andrew Hiller's conversation with Harry Catchpole I am so grateful Hiller captured him -

Now on D-Day we can all share this history -  on June 6 we can go to France with Harry,  And, thank them all for their Service.

Harry's comments about his recent visit to Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - about the loss of all those killed in WWII - brought me to tears. "What would the world have been like if their possible contributions had not been lost."

Why do we remember June 6? For the WIN - or to remember those who sacrificed their lives that day?

1 comment:

Kathy McGill said...
Harry Catchpole is a truly amazing man. I have been fortunate to know him and share his friendship. Harry has many stories not only WWII II but his life in general. Harry
Grew up in New York City during the Depression years. He had a successful business career and he and his wife , Cecily, traveled the world. Harry is truly a treasure of the century.


Traveling to Myself

Last night I watched a movie I had seen before but only sort-of remembered -
Night Train to Lisbon with Jeremy Irons.
I watched it because I did not recall the story but I felt that there was something in it I wanted to "catch' again.

And - there was.

The story is a mix of mystery, romance, and discovery set in Lisbon - in a non-specific modern time. The characters too are rather universal and yet non-discript- soft identities that do not take away from the story itself. The Irons character , a middle-age professor, saved a girl from jumping off a bridge in Bern, she runs away and he impetuously hops on a train to follow her to Lisbon to find her and discover her story. You guess soon into the movie that who he eventually finds, along with an interesting story, will be himself.

The key to the search for the girl is a haunting memoir by a young doctor - the other driving character. The heart of the story rests in the book.

All of this was familiar to me as I re-visited the movie - but then in the ending - - AH, HA - I found what I was looking for - a piece of verse:

I spent some time this morning capturing it - I don't want to lose it again because the poem speaks to why I am tied to memoir and to capturing my past. Its the reason for my own personal searches  - and at 80 years old I have a lot of ground to cover as I find bits of myself and quilt them together.

From the movie: Night Train to Lisbon
This is the passage one of the characters writes into his journal which will become his book.

We leave something of ourselves behind in a place we have been

We stay there even though we go away

There are things in ourselves we find again only by going back there

We travel to ourselves when we go back to a place where we have covered a stretch of our life

No matter how brief it may have been.

Ah, yes.


Re-playing the Facebook Record of Our Week-end in PA

My daughter Karen and I have been in PA for a few days - taking a break from
the urban and enjoying the rural.

 I am finishing up a few projects this morning and then Karen and I are heading home. For this blog I am pulling together the snippets I wrote for FaceBook into the blog by taking a screen shot of each FB Post.

Doing this for several reasons:
* collecting the scraps of memories
* catching the thoughts and descriptions
     of the moment
* not wasting anything

Lately I have been paying attention to gathering together my work - to see what I have on hand that is worth keeping.

You know - quilting.

The pictures for the collage were collected while I was sitting on the front steps. Just looking around.

In the afternoon we took a spin up the road and stopped at a small favorited local diner for something
to eat. No disappointment here.


Working on My Bucket List

It turns out my trip to California in June will have a lot to do with story gathering and making.

 A return visit to Yosemite National Park has been on my bucket-list for about 10 years.

 I was beyond awed when Jim took me to Yosemite for the first time in June of 1959. We went back every time we had time when we came for a visit. Jim's hometown, Madera, CA, is less than two hours away.

We had several Christmas visits later on. Then Jim's cancer interfered and four years ago Jim died. Since then I have only run into town to see the family on short visits.

But this year is a milestone year. I turn 80 in July. I have a Sharpie in hand to check off important Bucket List items - just in case.

When my daughter Robin called last week and suggested we go to Yosemite this time since we will be in Madera for the Famly Reunion my tears filled my eyes. "Yes". What a stroke of luck. Jimmy is attending the reunion too and he will come up to Yosemite with us. He was two years old when he was with Jim and me on the first trip.

I guess, since I was pregnant with Robin at the time, you could stretch it and say Robin was there too.

Why now? Robin knows I am working on my bucket list and assumed going to Yosemite would be high on the list.

We have also added another special moment in addition to going to the mountains. We will have dinner in Fresno with my dear friend Joyce Aiken the night before we go to Yosemite. She knows Robin and Jimmy - its like a smaller family reunion - that connects several parts of my life.

She and I worked together during the 1970s - for women artists and their issues. The surprising funny thing was  - she and Jim grew up in the same neighborhood and went to Fresno State College in the same Class.  Although she and I were a continent apart we were elected together to lead the new Coalition of Women's Art Organizations. Fate, right? I missed seeing her last December - not this time.

My friend Joyce told me today "the falls are full, Ellouise. They are particularly beautiful now."

I remember the day we were there for the first time. We sat on a very high rock formation with a great view of 
Bridal Veil Falls in the distance. I was so uneasy - scared really - of the heights, that I had such a tight
grip on Jimmy's arm it began to turn blue. Jim's teen-age sister Mary and her friend who were with us thought it was ridiculous for me to be afraid. Jim was surprised. Raised in the shadows of the Sierras he did not understand what a difference they would be for a NC girl who only knew the NC mountains near Asheville. My mother called them "the high mountains" but that day I knew she was mistaken. I experienced the grandeur of truly "high mountains" for the first time in Yosemite.

Not until 1970 did I see those mountains through the eyes of Ansel Adams in his photographs.

In many ways this trip will be a pilgrimage.


Looking forward to a week in California with my daughter and her family in June when I also will be going to the Schoettler family reunion. Our son Jimmy is also flying out for the gathering - in fact he booked onto my plane. 

In Madera at Tom and Ila Schoettler's home there will be a cacophony of sounds as there always is with lots of kids of all ages, loud conversations, and hugs - many hugs. And, just like at all family gatherings - there will be stories. Stories to catch up with what has happened during the past year for most  - - - longer than that for us. This is not my first trip to visit the family since Jim died but it will be the first time I have made it to the reunion.

When assembled this is a large bunch even though there are many missing now. I guess that evidence of the ebb and flow of life is also a familiar reality when families gather.

Jim always loved it when we made it out for the annual gathering.  Jim was the second of six, four brothers and two sisters. Jim's baby sister stands for his sibship now. Everyone realizes how lucky we are in having a special and well loved matriarch - who married Jim's uncle in the 1940s. She spans about 6 generations. I am counting on a visit with her with my sister-in-law who organizes things.and brings it all together at her home. The family is blessed o have her strong glue for keeping everyone together.

Most everyone was there for this shot in the 1980s - when the family gathered for Loretta Schoettler's 80th birthday. Those little ones are grown up now and today their children will be the little ones seated in front making --- even with the attritions it still a house-busting group - 

Hope you have reunion gatherings with family or friends in your plans this year. 


#SPEAKINGOUT - about the Show-Off Debate

What's this -  More talk about the 
Trump and Sanders Debate.

I have a few words on that.

Entertaining is replacing campaigning and governing. 
Such a debate is usually for the two final nominees - so how 
do they explain a one-off debate between Trump and Sanders other than as The Grand Political Show-Off. 

Here is an idea - Trump will be playing to his strong suit - he tells you he does not know how to be a 
politician - but he does know entertaining.... 
now he is showing off. He has switched the playing field - and they have taken it out of the hands of the political parties -

It is a Rogue Debate and IMO a first step toward making it a Rogue election process.

Maybe its a JOKE - 

or is there an AGENDA afoot - and the debate will amuse and divert the public? 
while  - whoever they are is up to a new plan.

more will be revealed.

Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton 

SMILING IS OVER - or is this still the 1950s?

When I watched grown men who are supposed to be "political" leaders interrupt a Presidential Debate to measure their stuff I had queasy feelings and waves of discomfort for what was ahead.

Ahead has arrived for me - it is NOW.

Here is an article which was shared on Facebook this morning. The author, Charles Clymer, an Army Veteran, calls himself "proudly gender non-conforming." It is worth reading. I applaud him!

Last night when I heard about the "old white guy" trick of stepping around Hillary Clinton to have Bernie Sanders debate Donald Trump I felt sick to my stomach. That sounds like the set up for a show in a boys locker room.

But that was topped by Donald Trump when he stepped up and suggested that they use their debate to raise "millions of dollars'' for charity. Then to ice the cake Trump suggested breast cancer would be a good cause to receive the money.

Am I the only one who sees that as an insult to all women, although it was meant for Hillary Clinton? Does Donald Trump think we are so stupid we will be grateful for their largess if it is for breast cancer.  Listen,  family and friends I love dearly have and are battling breast cancer - but in my opinion Trump's suggestion to send the money from a self-serving, woman demeaning debate to cure breast cancer is a shrewd distraction... a way to garner support for what is actually a manipulation of the process.

I am sure others have seen right through that.

And what about Bernie Sanders and Jimmy Kimmel - since when is political strategy planned and played out on late night television. Our political process has been hi-jacked by entertainers - - who are most probably thinking about ratings.

And what about us - the public - what do we think about being manipulated this way?

We have indeed returned to the 1950s when women were trained to take insults with a smile and keep their mouths shut to hold back the screams.

Sisters,  I am afraid we are a majority that is being treated and dismissed like a rag-tag group that is blind and stupid.

Go get them Elizabeth Warren  - - -

Speak up Hillary!