Monday, May 30, 2011

Celebrating Memorial Day

I had plans to go to the Vineyard on Saturday and to spend the Memorial Day weekend and most of next week at my parent's house. I made the reservation a month ago, almost out of habit. I used to spend the warm holidays, or almost all holidays, on the Island since I bought my house almost eleven years ago. Money is tighter when you own a home and your priorities change: exotic vacation or new furnace? New clothes or seamless gutters? Remember that tax credit that was mailed to us a few years ago by Dubya? What did you do with yours? A weekend trip somewhere? Maybe a new computer? I treated my house for termites.

Memorial Day Parade, Darien, Conn., 1959
So, I was planning to be on the Vineyard for my week's vacation and at the last moment I thought long and hard about exactly what I would do there. The house is for sale, my mother's not there, I would have to keep the house clean, pray that the DSL was still connected, and if they planned on showing the house, I would have to put the cats in the car and drive around for an hour or so. Not exactly a relaxing time. So, I decided to cut my plans short and only go for a couple of days. I'll put some flowers and flags on my parents gravestone and maybe do a little gardening. When I called to change my ferry, she said "Monday is wide open." I said "Of course it is! Who goes to the Island on the last day of the holiday weekend?"
My father proudly photographing the Family and the Fiat.
I live in a small town in Massachusetts and we have a quaint Memorial Day parade that starts at the high school and ends in the center of town. It reminds me a little of the parades in Darien in the 1960's when I was growing up. Parades haven't changed all that much, but there's a formality that has been lost over the decades. Maybe you have some similar memories of parades in your town? Here's some photos of the Memorial Day Parade in Darien in 1965 that my dad captured on his camera. (Sorry I didn't have time to do much color correcting!)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Life in Botswana: Garden

More excerpts from the journal, Life in Botswana, along with some before-and-after photos of the garden.

The back yard was almost bare when we arrived except for some acacia trees and some fruit trees (plum, peach, avocado, guava, mango and two citrus) that a former tenant planted, none of which were mature enough to bear fruit. The bare sand absorbed and reflected the sun's heat, so Nancy's first priority when she arrived in December of '88 was to cover as much of this sand as possible, a task which still absorbs much of her time and our income. 

A small garden had been started in the back which contained the maid's sugar cane (we thought for months that it was corn but no ears appeared) and yams. Nancy planted tomatoes there immediately. To her disappointment tomatoes are almost impossible to grow here and though she still tries she has little luck. Despite the dry weather, fungus of one sort or another is rampant.  

Herbs are a different story: parsley, chives, rosemary, lavender, basil, oregano, mint, bay, tarragon, marjoram, scented geraniums, rue and nasturtium thrive. Lettuce, broccoli and peppers do better. We soon squeezed out the cane and yams and planted flowers . We added a wooden fence for a short distance at the back to cover the adjoining property's maid's quarters (neither of us had privacy) and their carport and garbage dump. Vines, perennials and florist eucalyptus were planted there.

Nancy's next project was a large circular garden (growing larger every month) a few feet from the back door where the heat reflection was most prevalent. We gathered many huge rocks, most notably slate ones from our local dump (shades of Darien!). A jacaranda tree and some ficus are in the middle and various bushes annuals and perennials (including gardenias, one of Nancy's favorites) surround these. 

There are flowers all along the back fence and up against the house too. Nancy also planted a lemon, a lime, two orange and a male and female papaya tree. Her next project is a rose garden. There are already rose bushes in the circular garden and in the front but there is also bare ground to cover. Some grass has been started here and there. 

You may get the impression that we have acres of land but it is about a half acre or less. There are two blooming seasons here, summer and winter; most plants that bloom in one will not in the other. Planting, replanting and transplanting are constant so Nancy is well satisfied most of the time. Our lemon, papaya, orange, guava, pomegranate, mango and grenadilla are all producing!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photo of the Day – To The Highest Bidder!

A classic Cape Cod home in Edgartown Village - Located off Plantingfield Way on .89 acres of land, this delightful well-designed home provides wonderful privacy and is just a pleasant walk to everything in the Village and a short walk through Sheriff's Meadow conservation land to Fuller Street Beach; truly the best of everything. This 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, meticulously landscaped home has an attached two-car garage with a great deal of unfinished space on the second floor and basement. The screened porch and outdoor shower provide important summer living, an Island necessity. A master bedroom suite on the first floor fills a frequently asked requirement. A full basement for great storage or to build that workshop. This property satisfies many needs. Email me if you're interested!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Life in Botswana: Home

More excerpts from my parent's journal, Life in Botswana.

We live in a three-bedroom ranch type house which has concrete walls, vinyl tiles on a concrete slab, and a tin roof (corrugated steel), which reverberates when we have a downpour! The plot is about a quarter-acre, with a simple wire fence on three sides – there is a high, cinder block wall separating us from the house next door. The location is on a corner (we seem to have a fixation for corners!) of a nice residential area. Across the side street are tennis courts. To the left is an international grade school, and to our right, past some housing for teachers, is a new international high school, Maru a pula. There is a lovely auditorium in the school, and we walk from home to attend the frequent lectures, seminars, concerts, slide presentation, dances, etc. Most of the programs relate to Botswana life, history, wildlife, archeology, etc.

In the house there are two bathrooms, a central hallway, a working fireplace, and a separate dining room, off the living room. There are doors for every room, except between the living room and dining room, including the hallway. Doors have French-style handles, and each has a different skeleton key, which means we have about 15 different keys which Nancy has stored somewhere since we never use them. The kitchen is smallish, with a double stainless steel sink. The stove is electric, and old, but we bought a new refrigerator. We brought microwave, toaster oven and hot shot (for quick hot water) from home. In the living room we have a large corner bookcase which holds books, tapes, pictures, craft items, the stereo system that we brought, and a PAL-system TV and VCR, which we bought here. The PAL-system will not play US tapes and tapes made on it cannot be played at home (the TV systems have different number of dots and lines).

In the living room and master bedroom we have Sanyo split-unit heat-pump air conditioner units which provide heat and cold. We bought those in Pretoria and had them specially trucked up and installed. We were pleased to learn that they are computer controlled, and will reach and maintain any temperature we want, and can be set to turn on or off at specified times. Fantastic!

Attached to the house in front is a carport and a storage room. In back we have a laundry room and the maid's room and bath, outside access only. We have a nice garden in front, with a curved rock-lined path to the front gate, which Nancy has added to. There are frangipani, hibiscus, lantana, guava, mulberry, jasmine and poinsettia here plus a few unfamiliar plants, i.e. a pink orchid tree. At the edge of the walks and driveway are border gardens of ageratum, red and blue salvia, iris, pansies, penstemon, agapanthus, various ferns, alyssum, phlox and dianthus. Sounds messy and is a bit (this is Nancy talking here) but you know the Ambrose method is to plant as much as possible in every available space.

In front there is a small slab porch, roofed, where we keep a white round table and four chairs. Off the end of the porch is a barbecue that we designed and had made by inmates in the local prison welding shop. Pots on the porch hold a camellia, bay tree, and several kinds of fern.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Photo of the Day - Funny Friday

I wasn't there when this photo was taken, so I'm not sure what was so funny, but both my parents are in tears from laughing so hard. This photo makes me remember their laughter, and that makes me smile, along with a few nostalgic tears. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life in Botswana: Work

My mother kept dozens of journals in her lifetime, many of which I am now uncovering as I carefully go through her things. These upcoming posts are from a letter my mom mailed to many of her friends and family to brief them on their new life in Gaborone, Botswana. Since it is lengthy, I will post it in sections, as it had been written. At the end of each post, I've added an update that she wrote prior to the end of my father's four-year contract with AED. She called this letter Life in Botswana.

Nancy and Ed arrived in Botswana, in southern Africa, in 1988. Botswana is located just north of South Africa, and the capital, Gaborone, is six miles from the border and 4–5 hours to Johannesburg, by car, all on good, paved roads. Namibia lies to the west and Zimbabwe to the east. North of us is the narrow Caprivi Strip, which belongs to Namibia, and 25 miles north of it is Angola. At the northeast corner of Botswana there is a ferry which crosses the Zambezi River to Zambia on the other side. Now that you know where we are, we'll try to tell you what we've been doing the past two years since letter writing is not our strong suit.

The reason for coming to Botswana is that Ed received an assignment from the Academy for Educational Development (AED) in Washington after responding to an ad in the Wall Street Journal. AED has a contract with the United States Agency for International Development (AID) to recruit for, and administer, a project entitled "Botswana Work and Skills Training (BWAST). At peak this ten-year BWAST project had 35 operational experts (OPEXERs) and their families in Botswana. AED also administered 150 Batswana (plural) students each year in U.S. schools and colleges. Each OPEXER assignment is initially two years, and some are renewed for one or more years. Ed's contract was extended by one year, so our last day will be August 28, 1991.
[My dad's contract was then extended another year after that, for a total of four years.]

Ed's assignment is Advisor to the Trade and Investment Promotion Department (TIPA) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Ministry is located in a U-shaped enclave in the middle of Gaborone. The Ministry of Education is next door and on the other side, at the bottom of the U, is the National Parliament building. The inside of the U is a nice park, and across from our Ministry are the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. Ed's office overlooks the park, where often I see one or two of a favorite bird, the hoopoe. From his window he can see the front of the Parliament building, where often speeches, presentations and honours are given, sometimes with accompaniment by the Botswana Defence Force band.

TIPA has 22 people in it, and has six unfilled positions (recruiting is a slow process). There are four sections – Investment Promotion; Export Development; Fairs and Missions; and Publicity, Public Relations and Information. Ed works with all sections, giving advice and assistance where he can. In TIPA there is a woman from Ghana, a man from Pakistan, and United Nations volunteers from Burma and England. All the rest are Batswana. The Director is a lovely woman in her early forties. She is married to the Permanent Secretary (a senior post) of the Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. They have three sons, all studying in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Ed assists the Director with reports, analyses and memoranda which she often must write. She also is asked to write briefs and speeches for the Minister and the President of Botswana on subjects relating to commerce and industry, and Ed usually ends up writing them. He is proud to have written five speeches for the President, and once, before the President's trip to the U.S. to receive an honor and to meet President George Bush, Ed attended a briefing for the President.

The working day is 0730–1230, and 1345–1630: a long morning and a short afternoon. Most people take a short walk to the Mall about ten o'clock, when possible, to break the routine.

UPDATE: Ed's work has continued well, and he is pleased that the advice and assistance he has provided has contributed to the development of TIPA's staff, which now is clearly stronger and more capable than before. Other high points have been 1) the creation and production by Ed and Bob P. of Darien, a consultant, of a promotional brochure which won an award from the Advertising Council of New York. This effort took almost two years from writing terms of reference for the consultancy to clearing customs at the Gaborone Airport for the 20,000 copies (of 70,000) which were air-freighted from Mt. Vernon, NY; 2) participation on the committee which drafted a new Tourism Policy Act and an Industrial Policy Act; 3) contributing to Botswana's seventh National Development Plan, which has just begun; and 4) coordinating the approval, selection and funding process for a new publicity and investment promotion program for Botswana in the U.S.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Photo of the Day - A Wedding Dress

Nancy Louise Ericke married Edwin Roy Ambrose on May 16, 1953

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sarah Louise Voegtly Ericke

I am named after my grandmother, my mother's mother. Her name was Sarah Louise but they called her Sally. My mother's middle name was also Louise, and fittingly, my brother married a woman who's middle name is also Louise. And they had a daughter and named her Emily Louise... ok, I'll stop now.

My grandmother was born Sarah Louise Voegtly. I'll never forget when my mother told me my grandmother was 19 years old on November 19, 1919. I can't tell you how many times I've repeated that to people who could care less. I thought it was cool, back in the day.

Turns out my grandmother's family is steeped in Pennsylvania history, which I learned about when I signed up for earlier this year. This ancestral line apparently links me to Italian royalty! Since I started to search my family tree in late January, beginning with my father's extensive research on his Norwegian relatives, I have connected 545 people to my family tree from both sides of the family.

Sally Voegtly was born in 1900 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, later known as Pittsburgh, to Adolph Nicholas Voegtly and Nannie Hays. She only had one sibling, a brother, John, born in 1903. He died in 1955, at age 52, about ten years earlier than my grandmother. Here's a photo of Nannie Voegtly with Sally and John. What a beautiful photo.

Sally Voegtly attended Goucher College, an all-woman's college formerly known as the Woman's College of Baltimore, prior to the campus acquisition of 421 acres in Towson, where Goucher is now located. In 1920, only 7.6% of women went to college, and more than 70% of them went to coeducational colleges. She was the first generation of college women, and back in those days there was a genuine fear that a college education would diminish a woman's chances of getting married and having children. More than 50% of woman did not marry or delayed marrying so it explains why my grandmother was 29 when she married my grandfather Carl Oscar Ericke. She wore a simple, dark brown lace dress for the occasion, which my mother has kept all these years.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Photo of the Day - Mabelle & Dudley 1945

Kudos to anyone with information on this image. This photo was in our family archives with the names Mabelle and Dudley, and 1945, scrawled on the back. My ancestry research doesn't include anyone named Mabelle (possibly 'Ma Belle'?). I'm assuming Dudley is the horse. Any thoughts?

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Career with American Brake Shoe

Here is an excerpt from one of my father's memoirs; this one is titled Edwin Ambrose: My Life, written Sept. 7, 2003.

Upon graduation, I was recruited by the American Brakeblok Division of the American Brake Shoe Company, located in Detroit. They manufactured asbestos/rubber brake lining. One reason I chose Brake Shoe was that I would spend the first year in Detroit, where Nancy, my fiancé now, was living with her parents. I was hired as an apprentice salesman, with a twelve-month training program scheduled. [Can you imagine this now? A 12-month training program?]

I was four months into the program, at our proving grounds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, when a senior man from Brake Shoe’s Research Center in Mahwah, NJ visited our Detroit office looking for a sales apprentice to help promote a new material, sintered metal friction materials, which were non-asbestos. The Company had limited experience with metallic friction materials but was fearful that someday, maybe, metallic materials would replace asbestos-base materials, which was the major part of its business. 

Our research people had developed some new materials, set up pilot plant production nearby, and had its first and only customer, the Caterpillar Tractor Company, which had given us a standing order for metallic steering clutch discs. The two other apprentices in the Detroit office declined the opportunity, but when I got back from Pennsylvania and heard about the matter I immediately volunteered. I moved to Mahwah and began traveling to the Midwest to call on Caterpillar, Allis-Chalmers, International Harvester, Goodyear Aircraft, Ford Motor Company, and others.

I had a rental car with New York license plates which never saw the state of New York. I would fly to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, pick up the car and drive to customers in Wisconsin and Illinois, ending up at the Indianapolis airport, where I would park the car, and fly home. Ten days later I would fly back, pick up the car and drive to customers in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, ending up at O’Hare airport, where I left the car for another ten days. I did this for one-year – the only problem being that when I arrived at the parking lot at Indianapolis or O’Hare airports, it would take me a while to remember where I had parked the car!

After one year the Company was confident about the future of sintered metal and bought the Metallic Friction Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Two salesmen came with the acquisition, I would be the third, and we hired a fourth. I was transferred back to Michigan with my new bride, Nancy, and covered Michigan and Indiana. After three years our new Sintermet Division was merged with American Brakeblok Division, and I was right back where I started from! 

After four years, during which our three children were born in University Hospital in Ann Arbor, I asked to be transferred into our New York International department. This request was accepted, and we were transferred. We moved into a small house in Darien, Connecticut with three kids under the age of four. My new boss was soon transferred to a new office in Geneva, Switzerland, to cover new investments in Europe and I was left to cover the rest of the world.

My first overseas trip was to South Africa, in December, 1961. I traveled extensively from then on, and have covered these trips in a separate file entitled ‘Twenty Trips Around the World’. During these travels, which covered 22 years, I visited India and Australia ten times each and Japan 35 times.  During this time I looked after a hydraulics joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which included visits to Russia and China. I retired from Brake Shoe, now called Abex Corporation, in 1983, after 31 years of service.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hospice and Support Groups

I just came back from an "Evening of Remembrance" given by the hospice that helped my mother in the last days of her life. It's an event this hospice puts on once or twice a year to acknowledge and celebrate the people we've lost, and the people they've helped. I went alone, knowing some of my three previous support group members would probably be there. I didn't mention it to my brother because I didn't think he would want to go. He might have if I'd ask him to, but I also feel my grief is very personal, something I am sharing with my mother. I know that sounds odd, but I think my mother would understand.

The event took place at a church in Groton, a town I lived in briefly about ten years ago. It's a beautiful town and the church was on the town green, near the Lawrence Academy campus. It was raining, fitting for such an occasion. I parked and walked up to the entrance, greeted by a man holding an umbrella asking if I was family. For a minute, I thought I might be in the wrong place. But no, I'd seen my hospice support group leader in the doorway when I arrived. So I guess I am "family."

It was a beautiful ceremony. We were asked to bring, and put on the table in the front of the room, photos or mementos of the person we lost. I brought in a photo of both my mom and dad that I took when we were in Hawaii a few years ago. It was a very stressful time for my mom, and she looks a little tired in the photo, but she also looks happy. And dad looks very content in the photo. At the time, he (we) didn't know he was in early onset dementia and he thought he would be moving permanently to Hawaii; why wouldn't he be happy?

The evening was highlighted by The Threshold Choir, an choir featured on NPR. I wanted them to come to sing for my mom but we ran out of time. In between a cappella songs, hospice workers and volunteers read poetry, read Water bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney, lit some candles, and read the names of all the people who had died under their care. I thought they would never finish, yet I started to wonder as the names went on: would they forget my mother? I know I'm a little controlling, especially since I even emailed my support leader earlier in the day to confirm she was on the list. This was my mom's opportunity to be mourned in a church, even if it wasn't her own memorial. It was more than a hundred names later, near the end, when they mentioned Nancy Ambrose. I had to smile.

Actually, it was almost a brief ceremony. I was trying to stay composed, and only got teary-eyed when I would glance up at the table at the photo of my parents. Luckily, the photo was not in my direct line of sight, so I only looked at it once or twice, tearing up each time. One of the hospice social workers stood up to read a poem and I quickly recognized her as being the person we relied on as my mother began to die. We called her several times a day and then again soon after my mother passed. She helped us by calling the coroner and arranging everything. She instructed us on bathing and dressing my mother for the last time. It was something I will never forget. As she stood at the table, she began reading a very moving original poem with great emotion. A man in the audience started to sob and got up to leave the room. A few hospice employees I know followed quickly to help him. I tried not to notice, but the poem was very sad, and I started to wipe my eyes and my nose, both of which were running at this point. Please bring back the choir I said to myself. Time to breath.

And then it was over. People were milling about and starting to socialize, weaving their way toward the drinks and snacks at the back of the room. I didn't want to make small talk with all the social workers and health aides and pastors that helped my mom and our family, so I decided to leave. I did want to thank them all for all they did for us, as I really do believe they made it easier for us during that terrible time, but I couldn't do it. It seems like a dream, now almost a year later. Those sad memories are beginning to fade slowly, and the happier memories are taking their place, just like they say. I quickly grabbed my photo, put my coat on, and left. At least I went. And I am glad I did.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Photo of the Day - Edgartown

Late morning latté at Espresso Love with a view of the Whaling Church and a bright, jeweled sky sans clouds. Lovely. Thank you Pat and M.A. for a fun and productive weekend.