Lil’ Dutch Kids

This week, instead of a reminiscent story about the 60s and 70s, I want to share my latest heirloom creation with you all. In previous blogs I’ve mentioned that both of my parents have left this world and that they are deeply missed by the whole family. In observance of my nephew’s college graduation, I wrote the following letter and sent a copy of it along with a set of pillows to each grandchild.

Dear Griffith grandchildren,

It seems that the important days, holidays, and special occasions are the times we miss our loved ones the most. We all miss Nana and Papaw Griffith to the point of tears—this graduation is one of those times.

You know me—always looking for the symbolic and sentimental in everything—I wracked my brain trying to figure out what I could make for a graduation gift and, hopefully in the process, give us all something for comfort when the tears come. What to do, what to do?

lil dutch kidsI pulled out almost everything in my sewing closet, looking for the perfect thing. Finally, in one of the boxes, I found a small paper bag filled with quilt pieces and cardboard patterns cut from a cereal box —Johnny Unitas on a Wheaties box to be exact. More than 50 years ago, Nana cut out the girl pieces, fully intending to eventually have enough for a whole quilt, but there were only 4 girls started and only one of those finished on muslin. So I used the pattern to make the 4 boys, using fabric from Papaw’s favorite shirts. And then I appliquéd all of the little Dutch kids onto pillows. *Note: Look close and you can see Nana’s tiny hand stitching around the edge of the finished girl. On the other girls you might see rusted pinholes—that’s from a straight pin holding them together for years in Indiana humidity. And, notice the “Big Dog” on the boys’ shoes—that’s how Papaw referred to himself. See, sentimental and symbolic!

I know that only the oldest of you remembers Nana, but I also know that she loves ALL of you more than you can ever imagine. And Papaw always made arrangements to be with you on your special days—just think, it’s sooo much easier for him to do so now. So, I’m sending these pillows to you because I want all of you (all of us) to realize and take comfort in knowing…. Whether it’s a graduation or a marriage or the perfect job or a dream come true—any time you feel like celebrating no matter how big or small—Nana and Papaw Griffith are there along with the rest of us, laughing and applauding and celebrating with you!

I love you.

Momma/Aunt Mona

It’s been nice chatting with you all. I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!

I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 4—Indiana State Fair

I often wondered how some 4-H projects that had earned County Champion awards could be kept viable for exhibition at the Indiana State Fair. It was fairly easy for my three winners—the Bug Box, a bulletin board, and a jar of cherry jelly—since none of those things was perishable and could be dusted off and have new labels attached. Even clothing projects could be washed and pressed to look as good as new, and livestock just needed a good bath and brushing. But the baked goods and the gardening entries…. There’s nothing worse than stale chocolate chip cookies and hard dinner rolls. Ripe peaches and tomatoes tend to draw gnats after a while, and cut gladiolas fall apart after standing in water-filled coke bottles for several days. So those exhibits piqued my logical mind. I decided that the playing field was pretty level after all. By the mere fact of time, State Fair entries in those categories had to be replicas—maybe better, maybe not—of the ones that had actually won a Champion ribbon at the County Fair.

DSCN1551I also wondered about State Fair judging. It might sound like sour grapes, but the comments left by the judges on my entries seemed questionable to me. I wondered what the County judges saw in my exhibits that the State judges did not…. especially in 1968 when I took two different projects to the Indiana State Fair —a bulletin board for Home Furnishings and cherry jelly for Food Preservation III.

The bulletin board was made from an old framed mirror I found in my grandpa’s attic. Dad and I removed the badly damaged glass, Mom and I cut a piece of burlap fabric that matched the curtains in my room and stapled it around a piece of fiberboard, and we refinished the wood frame. It was beautiful and functional. I finally had a place to display all of the heart-throb, celebrity photos that I’d cut from teen magazines—you know, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, David Selby of Dark Shadows, Michael Cole of Mod Squad, David Cassidy of the Partridge Family, and Donny Osmond—but that’s another story. Anyway, after my entry was awarded the Champion ribbon at the Hendricks County Fair, the State Fair judge commented that “Only wire is acceptable as a hanger and the corners are not fastened properly.” They granted me a Red ribbon—eh, not too bad.

The jar of cherry jelly was a completely different story. It essentially wasn’t even considered for judging because, “Entries for Food Pres. III should be frozen rather than cooked jelly.” How was it possible that cooked jelly be accepted in Hendricks County but not even eligible at the State level? My entry was given the dreaded, Participation—“Whatever that is, it’s not good enough.”/Green ribbon. To say the least, I was disappointed, but the jelly was delicious on toast when I brought it home.

I loved being a Crafty Clover. 4-H taught me so many of the skills I’ve relied on over the years. Even the embarrassments and disappointments taught me valuable lessons. Mo Sews Memories came about as a direct result of those skills and… well, I’m still working on the lessons. 🙂

It’s been nice chatting with you all. I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!


I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 3—Hogs!

One year during high school, I was able to spend more time at the Hendricks County Fair than the usual one evening with my family. My friends in the 4-Leaf Clovers (farmer) Club exhibited Duroc hogs. The 4-H hog barn was an open-sided pole structure with a row of back-to-back stalls down two sides and an open aisle down the middle. The floor consisted of sawdust and dirt. Hogs don’t like heat—that’s why they “waller” in the mud—but since mud wasn’t a viable option at the fair, electric fans were placed in strategic locations throughout the barn. Although, this was July in Indiana—temps and humidity are in the 90s (90o, 90%)—so the fans didn’t do much good.

The 4-Leaf Clovers stayed there all day and all night. During the day, they fed, scooped, laid straw bedding, watered, groomed, and showed their hogs in competition. At night, they slept on cots in stalls adjacent to their hogs—sorta like camping out only surrounded by a pungent aroma. But…hey…it was fun, right? And besides they could win ribbons like us Crafty Clovers—plus, at the end of the fair, they could sell their hogs. That aroma became the smell of money.

I was 16 at the time but, even then, did not like livestock. My extra fair time that year was mostly spent walking around. A small group of us walked and walked and walked— to the concession stand for Cokes and corndogs, to the commercial building for freebees, to the horse barn, to the livestock arena to watch competitions, to the bunny barn, to the 4-H exhibits to make sure our ribbons hadn’t been tampered with, to the midway—back and forth and all around all day long.

DSCN1553During one of our walk-arounds, we noticed more dust than usual and lots of commotion at the hog barn. Seems a Duroc had worked the latch loose on her stall and had escaped. I ran along with the others to help corral the hog, forgetting that livestock terrified me—or if the truth be known, that I didn’t want my friends to know I was scared. And besides, I’d been bestowed the honor of “Junior Leader” that year, so it was my duty.

When we got to the barn, the hog’s owner thrust a handgate at me and barked over his shoulder, “Stand right there and don’t let ‘er get by!” The gate was approximately 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide (about 1/2 as wide as the center aisle of the barn), and it had hand-holds cut into the top. In order to keep her from getting by, I’d have to pivot toward the side of the aisle in the direction she was headed. I practiced that move a couple of times, thinking, I can do this—it’ll be a piece of cake. Then I looked up—there was a 200 pound, brown monster barreling down the aisle right at me. I swear she had glowing red eyes and fire shooting out of her snout. I froze! The Duroc raced by, hitting the right side of the gate with enough force to turn me completely around. I fell hard, flat on my butt. The owner ran up, ripped the gate out of my hands, and glared at me—all in the space of a split-second. I was not only embarrassed—I was mortified!

I steered clear of the hog barn for the rest of the day and couldn’t bring myself to go back to the fair that year except to pick up my exhibits when it was all over.

Funny thing, after sitting on tables for a few days, all of our bright, shiny exhibits that we’d so diligently prepared had accumulated a layer of dust and dirt from the livestock barns, the tractor pulls, and the thousands of people traipsing through. By the last day of the fair, when the time came for the exhibits to be released to their owners and the displays to be disassembled, everything just looked shabby. Those of us with Champion ribbons had to take them home and make them ready for the Indiana State Fair.

Up next in I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 4—The State Fair

It’s been nice chatting with you all. I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!



I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 2

In the 60s & 70s, two summer entertainment high points for rural Indiana families was the County 4-H Fair in July and the State Fair in August. In those days school didn’t start until after Labor Day, so the State Fair was considered by most to be the last hoorah of summer—fun for the whole family. For the Griffiths, the last hoorah was actually Labor Day weekend at the lake, but that’s another story or 2 or 5….

Anyway….like all Crafty Clovers, I worked for months making the perfect item for each of my projects—whether it was the Bug Box described in I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 1 or a skirt or a bulletin board or a photo display or a jar of jelly. But a few days before the Hendricks County Fair, our house was transformed into 4-H Project Central. My entire family attended to last minute details—my sisters were also Crafty Clovers and had projects too. Items required starching, pressing, gluing, pinning, stapling, dusting, wrapping, and labeling to be presentation worthy, and baking, at the last minute, to ensure optimal freshness.

Once all the prep was complete, we loaded everything into the car and Mom drove us to Danville on Entry Day. The projects were presented to volunteers who organized the exhibit displays for judging. Hendricks County has 12 townships and each one of those had at least one 4-H club, so there were 100s of kids with a thousand or two project entries—and here I thought our house was chaos with just the five of us working! Once we handed our projects over, we all went home to wait.

I, like most people, was never privy to the actual judging process, but I imagined a bunch of Grandma Waltons moving from table to table, peering through bifocals, tasting and touching and sniffing and measuring and writing comments on paper-filled clipboards. After a tally and vote, they’d place a ribbon on each entry—1st /Blue, 2nd /Red, 3rd /White, and the dreaded, Participation—“Whatever that is, it’s not good enough.” /Green. Then the Grandmas went back through the building, looking even closer at the Blue ribbon winners. They chose a Champion from the Blues in each category. When finished, they turned off the lights, locked the door, and secreted away so that nobody knew their true identities and, thus, weren’t able to exact revenge—or whatever….

DSCN1550The next day we impatiently waited for Dad to get home so we could go to back to Danville. The fair wasn’t just 4-H exhibits—it was also a carnival & midway, a tractor pull and/or a demolition derby, an open-air food court where the best breaded tenderloin sandwich with a side order of creamy coleslaw could be bought, a commercial display show, and probably most importantly, a place for Mom and Dad to visit with people they hadn’t seen “in a hundred years.” Our first stop, though, was the 4-H exhibits so that we could see what we won, and could chat with our friends about our awards. Guess all my hard work and family support paid off—overall, I earned four Red ribbons, seventeen Blues, and three Champions as a Crafty Clover.

Next up in I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 3—Hogs!

It’s been nice chatting with you all. I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!


I Was a Crafty Clover: Pt. 1

Mona 10 years oldIn 1965, like most of the 10-year-olds in my hometown, I joined the 4-H Club. There were two local chapters—the Crafty Clovers (homemakers) and the Four Leaf Clovers (farmers). Although I grew up in a farming community, we didn’t live on a farm. And besides, livestock and poultry scared the begeezes out of me! So I became a Crafty Clover.

Our club met in the Home Ec. room, in the southwest corner of the basement at the 1-12 (no K in those days) Lizton School. I’m specific here about the location because, many years later, the building was converted into apartments and my son has lived in several of them. It’s an inside joke for me to ask, “Which classroom do you live in now?”

Anyway… each meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, the 4-H pledge, and a rousing rendition of the 4-H theme song. The melody is the Caissons Go Rolling Along, and the lyrics—to the best of my recollection, which could be a bit skewed…I mean, I thought it was mairzy dotes until just a few years ago—are as follows:

Over hill, over dale, we will hit the 4-H trail,
As we Club Folk keep rolling along.


For it’s hi-hi-hee, the 4-H Club for me.
Shout out your numbers loud and strong.


For where e’er we go, you will always know,
That we Club Folk keep rolling along.


During the course of a meeting, each member shared her progress on the projects she’d chosen. The goal was to complete or construct an item that could be exhibited at the Hendricks County Fair. We all sought a Blue Ribbon. It was like getting an A at school. Secretly though, each of us dreamed of the purple, coveted prize—a Champion Ribbon—knowing it’d probably never be ours. To be Champion meant that your project was better than all the other exhibits, county-wide, in that group and was eligible for exhibition and judging at the Indiana State Fair. Competition was fierce!

DSCN1539My project selections over my 6 years as a Crafty Clover, ranged from Foods (cooking, meal planning, and food preservation) to Home Furnishings (today’s DIY) to Photography to Clothing (sewing) to Entomology (Bugs!) Most of those skills have since served me well—although I’ve never liked to cook, so I faked my way through many meals throughout the years. But… Bugs!…? Don’t ask me why I chose bugs—I have no idea!

In an earlier post I explained how I learned, and who taught me, to sew so I won’t repeat that here. Just suffice it to say—every year, Clothing projects became more complicated—the seam ripper was my closest friend! Mom coached me in cooking and canning and freezing. And both of my parents helped with the Home Furnishings and Photography projects.

Dad, maybe begrudgingly—I don’t know since he never complained and even proudly told how 3-year-old me played with earthworms while he dug in the garden—supported my Bugs! decision. He took me to the Texaco station in Lizton, owned at the time by The Assassin, a professional wrestler—just a bit of trivia about my hometown. The building’s north wall was a huge, white, windowless expanse that, when lit after dark, became a bug magnet.

We’d catch the specimens, seal them in a glass jar with a formaldehyde soaked cotton ball, wait for them to die, stick a pin through the thorax, and then let the carcass dry out on a board. Eww gross and double yuck! It’s a wonder I don’t have medical problems from the formaldehyde… and… I truly am not a sadist! Hey, I didn’t torture those worms years before, I just played with ‘em!

Dad, coming from a long line of carpenters, built the display box—a varnished, shallow, plywood box that had a fiberboard ceiling tile (probably composed of asbestos!) inserted in the bottom and a sliding glass top. I pinned the bugs to the fiberboard, grouping them into categories—moth, beetle, dragonfly, etc.— and I hand-printed ID labels to go underneath each one. Thus, the culmination of my learning experience in 4-H Entomology. Years later, the glass top shattered and the bugs disintegrated under the weight of a kitchen stool—but that’s another story….DSCN1539a

I wasn’t the only 10-year-old crazy enough to choose Entomology that year—there were several other exhibitors at the Hendricks Co. Fair, some even older than me—but my Bug Box won the coveted Champion Ribbon and I took it to the State Fair. Wow! I was even awarded a gold pin—County Honor-1966- Entomology—presented by the electric company. I was sooo proud!

Guess the line between the homemaker and farmer clubs was a little blurred after all, since it’s farmers who need to know how to rid their crops of pests. Oh… I know…formaldehyde soaked cotton balls would work—nowadays the EPA would order a raid!

To relive the Fair Experience with me, tune into this blog for I Was a Crafty Clover: Part 2. It’s been nice chatting with you all! Until next time, I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!