Friday, January 12, 2018

Marvel Stephen's Christmas story

12/20/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s tradition! For nearly 20 years it has been my pleasure to tell an old-fashioned Christmas story in the month of December. It brings joy to my heart to share how generations past celebrated this sacred holiday. Money was usually scarce, gifts were homemade and there were no glitzy shopping centers to buy “stuff.” It was all about family and church—and the birth of Jesus was the reason for the celebration.

I vividly remember the inspiration for one of those first columns. Her name was Marvel Stephen. She wrote me a note asking if I would be interested in one of her stories that had just been published in a Christmas edition of Country Woman magazine. Of course, I was interested and an appointment was made.

 Sitting quietly in her tidy living room, Marvel Stephen, then 82 years old, exuded a serene peace and dignity that is often absent in today’s world. She was born in Montana, but grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho. She married Sandy Stephen and they moved to the Cottage Grove area in 1943.

 Her voice reflected a past that had seen both joy and pain. She had fond childhood memories of riding into town on her bicycle to get groceries in the 1920s.  She loved being a mother but later she suffered through years of being treated for lymphoma with massive doses of chemo and prednisone. Sandy then began a downward slide into what she described as “a nightmare disease—Alzheimer’s.” He passed on and she was living alone but said, “This is a nice time.”

So how did she get to be a writer? Well, as an only child living way out in the country, Marvel loved to read, and hoped to be a writer. But when a high school teacher asked her to be editor of the school paper, she “couldn’t be bothered.” She was too busy. Later, as a wife and mother of two she was still too busy.

She was the leader of her daughter’s Brownie Troop when she learned that the mother of her daughter’s best friend had won $5,000 in a cake-naming contest. “So,” she said, “I called her and she told me how she did it.”  It turns out that there was money to be made in contests that extolled the attributes of a name brand product in 25 words or less.

Marvel thought it sounded easy, and she started entering contests.  “It was a long time before I won anything. Local contests were the easiest. A group of us got together and encouraged one another. It was a lot of fun. The biggest prize that I ever won was a statement about a mattress. I won a trip for two to Miami Beach!”

When we met, she was long retired as a weekly columnist for the Dead Mountain Echo newspaper in Oakridge. Farm Life News had published her first story and she was still writing for magazines. Here’s one of her favorite heartfelt Christmas stories that happened about 90 years ago: 

"The year Papa decided I should learn to ski, deep snows covered the land, the buildings, even the towering trees on our small farm.
Our rustic house was bursting with excitement and activity. Christmas was only a few weeks away.

 "December's early sunsets urged us to finish our chores and supper fast so we could get to work on our Christmas gifts. Having recently mastered the art of making French knots, I chose to embroider dish towels cut from flour sacks. Mother was tatting lovely lace to trim her presents and Papa was creating a pair of skis for me. Working close together in our cozy kitchen made it impossible not to be aware of what each other was making — but we were clever at pretending we didn't know what they were doing.

 "No one mentioned anything about Papa crafting skis for me, but I knew what he was doing."

Her story goes on to describe the excitement of Christmas morning. New skis! She was so excited. Sadly, the homemade skis were a failure! Somehow, the tips of the skis had straightened out and instead of gliding down the slopes Marvel tumbled down the slopes. Her Papa was embarrassed and he apologized profusely,

Marvel remembered sighing, "Oh, Papa. This is the best Christmas I've ever had. I wanted to say more as I put my small mittened hand in his large gloved one, but I couldn't find the words to tell him he'd already given the greatest gift of all...his love."

After all these years, love, gratitude and understanding are the best gifts of the season. May they bless your heart, mind and soul.

Merry Christmas to one and all! 


Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A small town's blessings


11/22/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This wonderful day has been set aside for centuries to simply be thankful. In our country, the Pilgrims set the tone in 1621 in gratitude for their survival and a bountiful harvest. They praised God and their American Indian neighbors who helped them survive. That tradition continues to be an inspiration every November.

Today, unlike the Pilgrims, most of us don’t worry about having a roof over our heads or where our next meal is coming from. We are a blessed nation. Unfortunately, reading or watching the news is enough to suck the life out us and steal our joy. Sometimes we need to look for reasons to be grateful to counter-act the ugliness that seems to prevail in this day and age.

Living in Oregon for the past three decades is one of my many blessings. As Californians, we were accepted whole-heartedly by our new friends and neighbors who couldn’t understand how we had ever lived and thrived in a big city with all that sunshine! Some of the men at our new church immediately took it upon themselves to introduce our sons into the Oregon way of life—everything from deep sea fishing to logging! 

I recently was reminded of one of those logging expeditions. Longtime logger Bill Swift got the boys up at 4 a.m. for that adventure! The stories Jeff and John told from that day parallel those in the book, “Bounteous Blessings,” by Francis A. Gillette, a resident of Yacolt, WA. In it, her daughter Cheri Mattson, pens a tribute to her father Sonny. It’s titled “An Honest Heritage— in memory of the American logger.” Here’s an excerpt:

"My dad’s dad was a logger. And like the miners, his sons followed. My dad said, “it was a tough occupation. The old-time loggers were a different breed. Nothin’ stopped ‘em, not rain, cold, heat, wind. The only time we went home early was when the yarder or loader broke down. A lot of people got hurt, too. My oldest brother, George, died at 33…A couple of times, dad was injured and not expected to work again or even survive.”

He neglects to talk much about his own brushes with death, other than to say, “Always be thankful and try to be content with what you have. Many men worry a lifetime about retirement and never live long enough to reach it. Through life, I have found that the mind plays a very big part in making one able to survive.”

Memories as far back as I can remember, revolve around a logger’s life. Dad would begin the day before dawn, meet his partner, climb into the ‘crummy’ and drive one way to work. At daylight they’d hit it hard, put in an honest day’s work and hope to make it home for supper. He’s come home covered with wood chips, even his pockets would be filled! We would run to see what treasures dad would have for us in his lunch pail…maybe a soggy crust of bread, a pinecone or an interesting rock. One time he ripped up his blue and white striped hickory shirt and wrapped it around some baby squirrels he had found…I’d sit next to him and lean into his shoulder drawing in the smell of his day…trees, old coffee, sawdust, fresh air, earth and sweat; greasy oil and gas from the power saw. The mundane cares of the world all seemed so trivial to my dad.

He enjoyed being a cutter or faller for many of his logging year. “It’s very dangerous work but it’s exhilarating and rewarding too,” he said. “We’d work in ‘sets’ and had to fall the timber safely, yet in order. Each tree had its own place to fall. The real test was cutting on steep ground! ‘Timberrr! (A cry goes up by law!) The tree starts to creak and groan…. First in slow motion, then picking up horrific speed. WHOOSH! Down and with an earth-trembling WUMP! All is silent. The tree is down.”

Once on the ground the trees would be ‘bucked’ (cut to size), loaded, branded and sent down the road to the mill—headed for poles, pulp or lumber. Whether producing paper products or homes, the tree truly serves countless beneficial purpose. One large tree can provide enough lumber to frame a whole house!

Once an area is logged, the land is then scarified, where the brush and debris are burned. Then, even more quickly than it was harvested, the area is re-planted with seedlings for the next generation. Dad says, “I have planted thousands of trees. Far more than I could ever cut in my lifetime.”

Loggers! They’re driven by their love of honest hard work, their respect for God’s creation, its gifts— and the thrill of helping re-build a beautiful forest for the next pioneer.”

I love this story. It’s another reason to be grateful for the diversity of our hardworking communities and the awareness that “it takes a village to survive” just as it did with the Pilgrims. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at bchatty@bettykaiser.com



Friday, October 27, 2017

Anniversary Memories

10/25/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser 
Chuck and Betty Kaiser

59 years is a long time to be married. But by the grace of God, Chuck and I will celebrate that milestone next week. I was 19 and Chuck was 20 years old when we were married Nov. 1, 1958. Life in the 50s and 60s was an exciting era. We were kids who thought we were grown-ups and the world was our oyster. It was a great time to be in love and unaware of life’s obstacles. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Unlike today’s mega, destination weddings, ours was a simple church ceremony on a Saturday afternoon. The cost was minimal. Mother paid for my gown. The five lovely bridesmaids and tuxedo-clad groomsmen paid for their attire as did all the other attendants. We provided the flowers, cake and printed napkins. Dad paid the minister. The church ladies did the rest. As a couple, our out of pocket cost was probably $300 tops.

After a brief 3-day honeymoon, Chuck went to work and I set up housekeeping. We were blessed that all those guests and bridesmaids hosted bridal showers and brought us gifts. We had everything that we needed and we are still using the pots and pans that were wedding gifts.

Fortunately, I was a home economics major at Pepperdine College so I knew how to cook, clean, sew and manage a budget. I didn’t know much about managing a husband or raising children but I muddled through and that’s a subject for another time!

One of my shower gifts was the first edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It had cooking tips, recipes and other household hints. Most women did not work outside of the home. The pictures in my copy all show a young woman wearing a house dress and apron while going about her daily chores. Following are BCC’s rules for being a successful housewife:

*Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply make-up, a dash of cologne and perhaps some simple earrings.  It does wonders for your morale.
*Wear comfortable clothes and properly fitted shoes while working around the house. (No jeans.)
*Harbor pleasant thoughts while working. It will make every task lighter and pleasanter.” (Sometimes.)
*Prevent unnecessary fatigue: Use a dust mop and long handled dust pan; or self-wringing mop (no stooping). (Well, duh.)
*When standing, keep erect posture—do not slump or bend over tasks (poor posture is tiring). Remember sitting uses much less energy than standing. (Who has time to sit?)
*Do head work while dusting, sweeping, washing dishes, paring potatoes, etc. Plan family recreation, the garden, etc. (It’s called multi-tasking.)
*If you feel tired, lie down on the floor on your back; put your hands above your head, close your eyes and relax for 3-5 min. (A nap?)

I didn’t follow all those rules but I did comb my hair every morning; cologne was only for special occasions. Jeans are my uniform of the day. I try to mop as little as possible and I am always thinking of pleasant things I would rather be doing. And yes, I have been known to fall asleep on the floor with kids crawling around me!

One of the things that Betty Crocker didn’t cover was hanging up the laundry. We had a washer but no dryer. And I had three children in four years! I learned the hard way about the basic rules for hanging clothes and diapers out to dry. There were no secrets you could keep on a clothes line. They announced when a baby was born, the ages of children, illness, the company’s coming tablecloth, the husband’s work clothes and dingy kitchen towels. So, there were clothesline rules…

1.   Never hang clothes on the weekend or Sunday! Monday is always wash day.
2.   Wash the clothes line before hanging the clothes! Walk the entire length of each line running a damp cloth around the line.
3.   Hang sheets and towels on the outside lines so you can hide your “unmentionables” in the middle.
4.   Hang clothes in a certain order: whites were always washed and hung first. Then came the dark colors.
5.   Always hang shirts by their tails. Never by the shoulders! What would the neighbors think?
6.   Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes. It is tacky to leave pins on the line.
7.   To cut down on clothes pins, learn to line the clothes up so each one could share a clothespin with the next item. (Thrifty!)
8.   If possible, take the clothes off the line before dinner, neatly fold them in the clothes basket to be ironed.
9.   IRONING? I couldn’t wait to buy a dryer!

Looking back, I realize that I never did play by the rules when it came to cleaning house or hanging laundry. But I did learn how to love and cherish my husband (and children)—for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and health. I also learned that sometimes rules are meant to be broken and life’s ups and downs are great teachers!

P.S. Happy Anniversary to the best husband I’ve ever had!


Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
Read her twice monthly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.










 

Good manners and readers ask "Why?"

 9/27/17 Chatterbox

Summer is gone. Fall is here. And that means it’s time to clean up the garden and my email inbox. Both are overflowing. Readers often send me thought provoking and fun stuff that I keep until I find time to pass them on. Lately, my inbox has been full of reminders of the practice of old fashioned manners. Lucky you! Here are some to ponder…

“First impressions make lasting impressions” was drilled into me as a child. I was taught that a first face-to-face introduction spoke volumes. Today, impressions are also made by what you say online in emails or Facebook. Yes, it’s still important to dress well and be polite... but how far will that get you when people only know you by what you say on the Internet? That’s a whole different set of manners  that we’ll talk about another time.

Those of us of a certain age often wonder what happened to the “Yes, Sir” and “No Ma’am,” environment that we were raised in. Using those titles (without sarcasm!) is still a sign of respect and that hasn’t changed. It is always best to address others respectfully at that first introduction. Military personnel set a good example for us all. I must admit that some of my friends think it is too formal and old-fashioned thereby betraying their ages. That doesn’t bother me.

“Thank you” or “You’re Welcome” are never out of style. We were raised in the same generation if you have ever been annoyed by a sales clerk’s attitude who hands you your change from a transaction and says, “Here you go!” At some point in the last few years, the phrases “Yep,” or “No Problem” also started. Where did they come from? They suggest that your business was no big deal. The phrases thank you and you’re welcome allow customers to feel like their business is appreciated.

“Here’s what’s happening.” I like this form of communication. It can be used not only at work but within families, friends and neighbors. It is a meaningful exchange of information. It means you’re not being left out of the loop or having to rely on rumors to guess what is going on. It is true communication. It shows respect and consideration without being condescending.

“How can I help?” Again, this is a respectful form of communication. People don’t like to ask for help. But if we see that someone has a need, we can be proactive and suggest that we are ready, willing and able to help them through a rough patch without dictating what we think they need.

“I’ll find out.” Sometimes we have questions that we cannot answer alone. Knowing that someone is going to go out of his or her way to team up with us, relieves tension and warms our hearts.

But enough of manners. On the lighter side, a number of people send me interesting questionnaires that I can never answer. The questions usually begin with “WHY?” Here are some for you to ponder. The answers follow.

 Questions:
Why do ships and aircraft use 'mayday' as their call for help?
Why is someone who is feeling great 'on cloud nine'?
Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called passing the buck?
Why are people in the public eye said to be 'in the limelight'?
Why are many coin collection jar banks shaped like pigs?

Answers:
1. This comes from the French word m'aidez (meaning 'help me’) and is pronounced, approximately, 'mayday.'
2. Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.
3. In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal.  If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would 'pass the buck' to the next player.
4. Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and theaters by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, a performer 'in the limelight' was the Centre of attention.
Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg.’ When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.'  An English potter misunderstood the word. He made a container that resembled a pig.

Thanks to all who contributed to today’s column. Now we all have been reminded of our manners and why we have piggy banks! Oink. Oink.




Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her twice monthly columns in the 
Cottage Grove Sentinel.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Family and friends favorite vacations

Betty and Chuck, Glacier Park, Continental Divide

8/30/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The dog days of summer are dwindling down to a precious few. Sunny days and vacations will soon be a distant memory but those times will never really go away. I became aware of that as a group of my friends gathered for coffee and conversation. The subject of the moment was our childhood vacations. Nostalgia and laughter reigned as we shared simple stories from 40-50 years ago.

Two of the women’s vacations always included big family reunions. Barb’s mother was one of 9 children and her father was a teacher. Fortunately, her family had time to drive across country to Minnesota and visit relatives every summer. She said it was a wonderful opportunity to meet in a park for a huge picnic and get re-acquainted with all those cousins. 

Kaylen’s favorite memory was of family gatherings at Shasta Lake in No. Calif. Her mother was one of 8 children. Sometimes there would be as many as 100 cousins, aunts, uncles, shirt tail relatives and friends of the family camping on one of the islands with the ski boats on the water ferrying kids and kin around.

Other favorite vacations included Sandie’s annual trip to a primitive cabin in the Sequoias without electricity or water. Lynn’s family trip to Disneyland shortly after it opened was one to swoon for. Shirley’s family didn’t go on vacations but she made up for it when she married Ernie and they discovered cruise ships. And finally, there was Toni’s mother who randomly declared vacations by announcing that Toni and her siblings didn’t have to go to school—everyone was going to the beach for the day!

That morning with my friends got me wondering what vacations my kids and grandsons found most memorable. Due to space limitations, I can just print a few of their responses but you’ll surely find something that you can relate to. 

 Our daughter Kathy was the first to chime in and make me laugh. To set the scene— In the 1970s we owned a tent trailer. The five of us toured National parks and the entire state of Calif. in that rig. My husband hated it. Betty, Kathy, Jeff and John loved it. We didn’t have to tow it or set it up.

Kathy says, “My most memorable vacation as a kid would be our tent trailer in Yosemite with the boys sleeping in a tent outside and us (inside) hearing a bear.” Oh, yes. I remember it well. Kathy woke up in the middle of the night whispering, “Mom, there’s a bear under my bed.” The boys were outside probably with food in the tent!  I elbowed Chuck. He flung open the tent door, looked around and said, “Nope. No bear here,” and went back to sleep. The next morning, we found remnants of the bear’s feast from the picnic basket that we had conveniently left outside! Yikes!

Son-in-law Tim’s favorite vacation was a toss-up. “For me,” he said, “It was at Hume Lake, riding motorcycles in the Sierras and target shooting. In 1976, it was going to the east coast with the Calif. Cavalcade of Bands (I played saxophone). We began in Boston and ended in Washington, D.C. on July 4th with fireworks in the Mall.”

Our daughter-in-law Betsy is a Middle School Teacher and classes started last week. She still had time to type this: “My favorite summer memories are at our mountain cabin. Swimming in lakes during the heat of day, eating an ice cream cone as it melted down your arm, staying up late, playing cards and sleeping outside. Doing all these things with the people you love the most. It doesn't get much better than that!”

Paul, is our first grandson, 26 years old and an EMT. His memories mimic that of the other three who had similar experiences. “My favorite childhood vacations were always going to Hume Lake. Being by the lake and surrounded by all the trees was the best playground a kid could ask for! We got to go swimming, play on “the log”, hike, explore and watch all the animals. The great part about being at the lake was the pace was always up to us. We could decide to lounge around the cabin and put together puzzles, or we could go explore a new to us part of the National Park that surrounded us.”

Grandson Matthew is now 23 years old and a graduate of Pt. Loma University. I like to think that he speaks for all the boys when he said, “My favorite vacations as a child were the escapes to Oregonland! From the mystery adventures, to building tree houses, racing tractors, and beyond. I knew in Oregon there would always be something special waiting for me. Being a Southern California boy the thought of snow, rain, and big green trees out the window seemed so magical. Top that with donuts, trips to U of O, and even the 99 cents store what more could a boy ask for?!”

Thanks to friends and family for sharing. Now, dear readers, it’s your turn to share some good time vacation memories with each other.


Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.




 

Country living is a dream come true


8/1/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s a typical summer day at our house. The sun is shining, the bees are buzzing and the flowers are in full bloom. I’m writing this column sitting outside and counting my blessings as I listen to the squirrel’s chatter at the bird feeder while a variety of birds and our two Dachshunds try and chase them away. I love living in the country.

I am a born and bred big-city girl but every summer my family vacationed at our cabin in Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was there that I learned to love fresh air, listen to the mysterious sounds of critters in the forest, ride horseback and watch the black bear families forage at midnight through a nearby dump by the headlights of visitor’s cars. 

It was also there that I learned to love birds and enjoy the fun side of my grandfather. Grandpa J.D., the business man, always wore a 3-piece suit in the city. In the mountains, he wore casual clothes and trained Blue Jays to sit on his finger. He would sit for hours, gently tugging a peanut on a string, enticing the birds to come closer. It took days but ultimately, they became friends and a peanut award awaited them. I never mastered that art.

I always dreamed that someday we would live on a tree-lined property, near a lake. Well, surprise! Dreams do come true. Twenty-eight years ago, we moved to Cottage Grove Lake where all kinds of adventures awaited. 

Our animal adventures began immediately. The first critters that we heard were scratching in the walls of our bedroom! Our house had been unoccupied for awhile and MICE moved in. They were not welcome and had to go. Later, on a walk, a fox ran through the meadow and a bear surprised us at the lake by scrambling down a nearby hill.

Across the street from our house, a lot of squawking was going on. Looking up we saw the biggest nest ever—an Osprey family had hatched their noisy chicks. Their parents were vigilant and protective. One day I looked up to see an eagle headed down the creek towards the nest flanked by two Osprey. It wisely turned away from the chicks before a confrontation. 

Whenever logging goes on up the hill from us it chases wildlife out of their habitat into our neighborhood. Our former neighbors, Jay and Audrey, had a pond on their property that a local cougar claimed as his own! Summer days he would sprawl out on the street in front of their house and at night come onto the property for a drink! He was also interested in their sheep but their Dobermans and a tight barn kept them safe. Rumor is that there’s been another cougar down at the lake recently.

One morning Audrey called to say that there were three long-horn cattle on their property. Did I know who they belonged to? I didn’t but someone later claimed them. Another day we woke up to three ponies at the back fence trailing their ropes. Their owners also found them. And then there was what the cat drug in. One day Misty Mouser came home from the meadow dragging a rabbit! He was still alive and we took him back to the park. 

Learning to co-exist with the deer is an ongoing battle. They love our roses—all 75 bushes. Early on they circled the property during the day scouting out their nighttime dessert. At dusk, they sometimes would just camp out on the driveway where they made a friend of Lady, our German Shepherd! Deer and dog would greet and touch noses like old friends!

 The same deer regularly decimated the vegetable garden until Chuck built a Stalag 17 type enclosure and now the tomatoes and cucumbers grow in peace. It took hot wires around the rose beds to protect the flowers. Of course, we must be careful if there’s a power outage. Critters know when that hot wire is cold!

 Recently, I saw the sweetest sight ever. It was evening and a tiny newborn fawn on wobbly legs was following her little mama up the road to a safe place. Absolutely precious. Oh, how I love country living! 

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Spreading the news of the Declaration of Independence


7/5/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
With certain unalienable Rights,
That among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Yesterday we celebrated the Fourth of July and the above words again reminded us of the distinct privilege and blessings we have as Americans. The Fourth is one of those special days in our country’s history that still bring chills of gratitude when we look back at the founding of our nation.

The USA that we know today is vastly different than it was two centuries ago. Our principals, however, remain the same as that of the original 13 colonies that were banded together by a desire for independence from Great Britain. Freedom was on the lips and in the hearts of every man, woman and child. Weary of being shackled to another country; of fighting battles, over basic principles of decency that they couldn’t win, they toppled a giant and became one.

The Declaration of Independence that binds us together continues to guide us today. The declaration of freedom document was formally adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It proclaimed to the world that there was a new nation on the world stage. The formerly dominated colonies would be free of the tyranny of Great Britain. Free of “taxation without representation.” Free to act on their own beliefs and to begin a new way of life in a new world. It was a brave and gutsy move.

The Library of Congress succinctly describes the declaration process as taking months. Serious deliberations began in June 1776 with congress delegates from each of the 13 colonies. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others wrote and guided, while the war raged on. They debated and revised the document multiple times and finished just as the British fleet and army arrived at New York. 

A formal vote for independence was passed on July 2. The document continued to be repeatedly revised until the morning of July 4, 1776. Then, church bells rang all over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted! A hand-written copy was signed by Congress President John Hancock and that night 150-200 copies were made at a printing shop. Twenty-four copies are still in existence.

I am most intrigued by what happened after July 4. Getting the
word out to the colonies and other countries was not easy. As you may recall there were no telephones, telegraphs, railroads or instant communication of any kind. The Pony Express was not even in existence.

This is where newspapers came into play. The Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the first newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence on July 7 and it was publicly read on July 8. Gen. George Washington ordered it to be read to the American Army in New York from his personal copy. After that, the original Declaration was formally inscribed and signed by members of Congress.

Still, word of the country’s independence was slow to spread. It was said of colonial communications: “Even the most critical intelligence could only travel at the pace of the fastest horse or ship, often taking weeks to reach other colonies by treacherous postal roads.” So, copies of the Declaration were read in town squares via newspapers and later in magazines. The document took nearly two months to reach some cities.

News of the American independence declaration reached London mid- August via the ship Mercury. England’s General William Howe (stationed in the colonies), broke the news in a letter to The London Gazette with this succinct announcement: “I am informed that the Continental Congress have declared the United Colonies free and independent states.”

The rest, as they say, is history. King George III was not happy but the Americans eventually won the war gaining freedom from tyranny and outside control. May we will always take the high ground with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness available to all. God bless America!


Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.