Hello Friends and Family,

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Fading Autumn

Autumn TreeAutumn is fading on the Eastern Shore — the color in the leaves is shifting to brown — but there are a few trees that are hanging on and providing a showy finish. Just a couple nights ago, we experienced the first hard frost — 25°F — so it will be just a short time before all the leaves have fallen to the ground.

And such brings back memory of my childhood when we used to rack the leaves into a big pile then jump in — over and over again. Eventually, with adult supervision, we would burn the leaves — who can forget the smell of burning leaves in the Fall. Wow — another childhood memory that kids today cannot experience — burning leaves is banned in Wicomico County (and elsewhere) for safety and environmental reasons. Although, I did sense that aroma a few days ago — someone was bucking the ban.

My parents yard is about 50% covered with leaves — with a few stragglers still to fall. My dad is planning on mulching with his riding mower once all the leaves fall. My mom is planning to hire someone to do it. We'll see who wins.

Autumn Leaves Autumn Leaf

Autumn DucksAnd the birds are preparing for their migration south. The bird feeders at my parents house are doing steady business as the migrants pack on the food in anticipation of a long flight.

The ducks and geese will hang around — generally the ponds will not freeze and they can find plenty of food albeit not at my parents' way-station. Besides the natural food sources, they sometimes descend on farm fields scavenging for the few kernels of corn that escaped harvesting. And they will remind you of their presence with loud choruses of quacking and honking.

Autumn ScarecrowChange of subject — closer to home, my baby sister (I was 14 when she was born) visited my parents back in October and helped Mother Nature with Autumn decoration featuring a scarecrow and pumpkin arrangement. It won first prize in my parents' hearts.

Atkins MillWhich brings me to memories — both mine and my parents' — of special nearby places. Not far from their home is Atkins Mill — site of a small dam and where a mill once stood, which we assume was used for grinding flour from wheat. We think it should be called Shockley Mill since this is where my great-grandfather lived in his youth after his family moved here from North Carolina.

GrandDad's HouseMy great-grandfather was an active, well-educated, accomplished and well-traveled gentleman. As I wrote in an earlier issue — "During his life he had many roles — postman, teacher, businessman, banker, legislator and superintendent of his church’s Sunday School. His house still stands in Showell, Maryland." Showell is nearby and here is that house as it looks today.

The house was constructed early in the 20th century and originally did not have indoor plumbing or electricity — those were added later.

Because the house passed to my grandmother upon the death of my great-grandfather, I still have many memories of this house — the smokehouse, the front and side porches, the bathrooms (which were conversions when indoor plumbing was added), the grand staircase, the wonderful attic, etc.

Granny's HouseAnd I also have fond memories of the house next door which originally belonged to my grandmother and later was owned by my late Uncle Jack. This house has tremendous importance to me — note the left-most window on the second floor — I was born in that room. In 1963, my parents moved from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale — and the frequent visits to the Eastern Shore stopped for me for a while. Years later, I was able to visit my Uncle Jack and actually slept in the room that I had been born in. How many people can say that?

One of the most surprising things about visiting these two homes now is how small everything seems. I guess since I was much smaller when we visited both homes during my youth, my perspective was different then.

Ocean City WavesAh, such wonderful memories — which would not be complete without a trip to Ocean City. It is off-season now so many of the shops, restaurants and amusements are closed but there were a surprisingly large number of people there. I guess some folks celebrate Thanksgiving at the seashore.

Dunes and grassRestoration of the dunes and grasses. The dunes were a favorite place for us kids to play hide-and-seek. Now they are off-limits. Sorry kids of today.

Ocean City EatsAnd, of course, you cannot forget all the goodies to eat — one of our favorites is caramel corn. Unfortunately, my mom's favorite place, Fisher's, was closed — but fortunately, Dolle's was open so we shared a small tub (still haven't finished it all).

Another flashback — Ocean City was where I first tasted pizza. My late Aunt Betty Ann shared some with me and I was hooked — and I can still recall that particular taste. Mom told me that Aunt Betty Ann introduced her to pizza as well. I wonder if she had a share of the concessions.

Ocean City AmusementsOne of the amusement arcades was open so we walked down memory lane — remembering all the old machines such as the claw cranes shown here. However, as I recall they were only a penny — now they cost a dime. I won many a cat's eye marble from these machines.

Now the arcades are mostly video machines — very few of these old ones left. Maybe I am romanticizing the past but I sure enjoyed things like the old baseball machines where it "pitched" a steel ball over a plate where the player would twist a lever to "swing" the bat. The ball, if struck, would go to one of the holes — each marked with a result such as single, double or out. Hitting the ball up a ramp was needed to score a home run. With each hit, a little base runner would pop up and run the bases. Score enough runs and you would win another game. I was good enough that I could play for a long time for a nickle.

The good ol' days are gone but what the kids are experiencing now will be remembered as their good ol' days. If you have kids, do what you can to foster memories worth retaining — they will be cherished for a lifetime.

 Life is good.

 B. David