Q is for Quonset Hut

As we drove down the highway to Mitch’s tournament last weekend, we passed by a Quonset Hut which was off on the side of the road.

“What are those used for?” Mitch asked.
“Storage and people sometimes live in them. Your Grandpa lived in one when he was in the army.”
“Really Dad?”
“Yes, Mitch. He did,” Sam answered.

The inspiration for building the quonset hut came from the Nissen Hut which was built for use in World War I. The builder of the nissen hut waived their rights to build any more of them after that and before the onset of World War II, so the builders of the quonset hut got started on their version.

Quonset Huts were going to be the new and improved version of the nissen hut. They were first built in Quonset Point, Rhode Island in 1941, the place from which they were named. The corrugated steel, semi cylindrical prefabricated buildings were to be used as affordable temporary housing for the troops. They were not only inexpensive, but they could be shipped and quickly built by unskilled labor. These structures could even be ordered from the local Montgomery Wards or Sears stores.

When the war ended, the quonset huts were in too good of shape to throw away, so they were sold to civilains and turned into serviceable family homes. Universities also bought them and turned them into student housing.

Back in the states, there was a housing cruch, with all of the troops returning home from the war. So quonset communities were created to house some of the troops coming home.

Quonset Picture - MSP

This picture was from a quonset community created in Minneapolis in 1946. Can you imagine the conversation between the husband that brought his wife to this as their new home?

As she is blindfolded, he guides her up to the house.

“What are we walking through?” She would ask.
“Just a little mud honey, the new grass is coming soon.”

They stopped walking and he took off the blindfold. She shook her head and opened her eyes.

“Welcome home honey!” he would say
“What do you mean?”
“This is our new house? It’s just like what I lived in when I was in the army.”
“We are going to live here?” She would ask with concern in her voice.
“Come on! Let’s go inside!” He would reply, being ready to take on the next adventure, and trying to keep her on board with his plan.

From an article called Quonset Hets, written by Debbie Adams on the website www.militarybratlife.com, she writes about a play called Tents of Tin, which was written by Robert Finton.

“For a period of time the Sacramento Peak Observatory was housed in one during the late 1940’s; even a play called Tents of Tin written by Robert Finton in 1995. A 20-minute play at National Building Museum where an actor playing a serviceman from that era explained the history on these innovative structures, including a demonstration of how corrugation strengthens the hut’s metal sheathing, along with a portrayal about what it was like to live in a “tin tent.” Throughout the performance, the actor works with vintage and reproduction props.”

They are commonly used even now as housing for people, kind of like a mobile home. Or for storage units.

P is for Pecan Pie

Double letter score. Wonder how many more double letter topics I’ll be able to write for the rest of A to Z blogging challenge?

Pecans are native to North America, but are found primarily in the southern parts. They were a big part of the Native American diet before the settlers came along and started making things with them.

First successful grafts of the pecan tree were recorded in 1846 by a Louisiana plantation gardener, a slave named Antonio. Through grafting, he was able to plant sixteen trees on their plantation.

There’s a lot of discussion about who originally created the Pecan Pie. Early French settlers made a similar pie out of pecans with a custard filling. Now the pecan pie’s primary ingredients are pecans and corn syrup. So, the makers of Karo Syrup like to make claim to being the creators of the recipe.

Keep in mind that July 12th is National Pecan Pie Day! Be sure to pick one up and celebrate!

Here is a story about a Pecan Pie…

Leslie Brown loved her Mom’s Pecan Pie. They had it for many occasions growing up in Louisiana. She had fond memories of when they used to go out as a family and pick the pecans from the trees out in their backyard. Afterwards, they would come in and her Mom would bake a pie that would be done just before dinner time. Leslie could still remember the nutty sweet smell as the pie was baking.

She thought about this as she opened her dorm refrigerator looking for something to have for a snack. Sometimes she and her Dad would have leftover pie for breakfast if there was any left.

When she moved to Boston to go to college, she had a hard time finding that one pecan pie that would match her Mom’s. She had even gone to her roommate Charlotte’s home for Thanksgiving. It was good, but just not the same.

During her first semester finals, she received a care package from her parents in the mail. She took the box and ran back to the TV lounge where she was studying with the other residents. She tore it open. There were some clothes and a quilt on top, but wrapped in its own special box in the bottom, was the pecan pie. Leslie smiled from ear to ear. She then picked up the card that her Mom had taped to the inside of the box.

“Honey, I was thinking about you over the holidays and didn’t want you to miss out on the pie. It has always been a tradition for us to have and we needed to make sure that our girl got it too. Hopefully it will help you to study and get through your finals. Grandma made you a quilt to keep you warm up there. We’ll see you when you come home for winter break. Love you! Mom and Dad.”

“What did you get?” Charlotte asked.

“Some clothes, a homemade quilt from my Grandma and the pecan pie.”
“The pecan pie!” Charlotte exclaimed, “the famed pecan pie?”
“Yes. Would you like a piece?”
“Yes, I would.”

Leslie ran upstairs to their dorm room to get some plates and forks. She could hardly wait to have a piece of that pie. When she got back downstairs, she saw many people standing around her open box.

“What’s going on?” She asked as she walked back into the lounge.
“We’re admiring the quilt that your Grandma made. The pattern of the patches is so unique.”
“And the colors are beautiful.”

Leslie paused and looked at the quilt, which was hanging half in and half out of the box. The patches were in the shape of houses and the browns, golds and dark reds reminded her of an autumn walk in Boston when the leaves are changing color. She was so wrapped up in the pie, she completely missed the awesome gift her Grandma sent to her.

“It is beautiful, isn’t it?” Leslie asked the group.

She saw many nods from the group. She put the plates and forks down on the floor and picked up the quilt.

“They are all gifts from home,” she said with a smile.
“You are one lucky girl,” Charlotte said.
“You are right, Charlotte. I am.”

O is for Overture

I played the clarinet in concert bands from fifth grade through high school. We played many classical pieces that had the name overture in the title. So, it made me wonder, what’s an overture?

An overture is a prelude. An introduction to something more substantial. Kind of like the preliminary discussions that take place before the bigger negotiations. They also appear in many musical compositions of classical music.

What’s also interesting is what the inspiration was for these pieces to be composed. Was it based on a tune someone was humming? Or was it a song they had thought of in their own minds? It reminds me of the kinds of things that prompt authors to write the stories that they write. This music is then put with a play or an opera which adds that something extra to the story they are trying to tell.

Three famous overtures that come to mind are 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, William Tell Overture by Rossini, and The Marriage of Figaro, by Mozart.

1812 Overture

Written in 1800 to commemorate Russia’s defense  against Napoleon’s invading Grande Armee in 1812. It debuted in Moscow in 1882 and Tchaikovsky actually directed it in 1891 at the dedication of Carnegie Hall. This overture is commonly used as the background music for fireworks displays.

William Tell Overture

This is the prelude to an opera based on the William Tell legend. The legend says that Tell, a local farmer and famous hunter, went to the market square of Altdorf with his son one day. In the town, a Hapsburg hat was hung on a pole by bailiff Gessler, agent of the Duke of Hapsburg. Anyone that passed by the pole was supposed to take off their hat, showing their respect to the ruling authority. William Tell kept his hat on as he walked by. Since this act was seen  as disrespectful, he was ordered to put an apple on his son’s head and shoot it off with one arrow from a distance of 120 paces. If he missed, both him and his son would be put to death. Tell winds up taking the apple off his son’s head with the arrow.

He had pulled out two arrows from his quiver. ne was for the apple, the other was going to be for Gessler if he had killed his son. Gessler was on his way to throw Tell in a dungeon for hs disrespect when he escaped. Tell later killed Gessler with an arrow which they say sparked a rebellion.

The Opera premiered in 1829 as the last of Rossini’s operas. It was also made popular as the theme music for the Lone Ranger on radio, television and film. The opera was originally one of the Nazi favorites until a 1941 assignation attempt on Hitler by a Swiss man changed their thoughts on that.

The Marriage of Figaro

This is a comic opera which continues the plot line started by the story of The Barber of Seville, only it is now several years later. The music was composed in 1786 and premiered with the opera on stage in Vienna on May 1, 1786.

It recounts a single day of madness in the palace of Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain.  Count Almaviva has degenerated from a romantic youth to a scheming, bullying and skirt chasing man. Figaro and his bride-to-be Susanna conspire with the Countess to expose his scheming. Through some manipulation by Figaro and Susanna, the Count’s love for the Countess is restored.

Overtures are introductions to something more substantial. These three classical pieces were not only used as overtures but were also used as background music to make fireworks shows more dramatic, theme music for more contemporary entertainment, or simply just as the preludes to operas. But, they still remain memorable, some for reasons other than for what they were originally written for.

I remember playing classical music in concert band. Some of the pieces were overtures, some were marches and some were made of multiple styles in one piece. I have very fond memories of my clarinet playing days and the people who I played in band with.  Playing the music is what ultimately brought us together.


N is for Nightingale

A nightingale is a bird well known for the beautiful song it sings. Unpaired males will sing at night to attract a mate while singing at dawn serves to protect their territory. It’s said that they sing louder in urban areas to hear their singing over the background noise of the city.

Nightingales are the inspiration for many poems, songs, fairy tales and books. From Greek mythology, the story of Philomena is just one example. She was raped and mutilated by her brother-in-law Tereus. He cut out her tongue and her sister turned her into a nightingale. In this context, the song is seen more as a lament than a beautiful song due to the context she’s singing in. Since she was made mute, she wasn’t able to talk just like the female bird in nature doesn’t sing.

A famous woman in history also has the name Nightingale. Florence Nightingale was a celebrated English social reformer, statistician, and founder of modern nursing.

Having been named for the city she was born in, she grew up with the feeling that she was supposed to help people and wanted to become a nurse. Her parents weren’t so sure that was a good idea, but wound up sending her to a school to learn some basic techniques.

She had gained some practical experience from a hospital in Britain when she was asked by the Minister of War to train some nurses to take with her into the Crimean War. They arrived at the front in November of 1854.

While she worked at the Scutari Hospital in Turkey, she found that poor care was being provided to the wounded by an overworked medical staff. Medicine was in short supply and good hygiene processes were not implemented. This led to mass infections being common in the hospital, many of them ultimately being fatal to the patients.

She was dedicated to helping people. Quoted from the British newspaper, The Times, this is how Florence Nightingale came to be known as the “Lady with the Lamp”,

“She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”


Trying to make things better, she implemented basic hygiene processes like hand washing to help stop the germs from spreading  to fight some of the deadly contagious diseases.

She also tracked statistics of what was happening at the hospital like how many were sick, with what and if they died, what they died from. She put her statistics together and made a plea to The Times for some government intervention for better treatment of these patients. This data was then sent to the Royal Commission which resulted in a marked reform in military medical and purveyance systems.

International Nurses Day was just celebrated this month on May 12th. It also commemorates her birthday.

M is for Mystery

The song by the Beatles, “Magical Mystery Tour” are you ready to go on one?

I know, another double letter score. But I won’t claim that one due to the fact that it is not in the title of the blog entry today.

I loved to read the Nancy Drew detective series growing up. I could relate to her and was interested in the cases that she had to solve. I remember going to Toys R Us with my Dad and picking out a book about once a month. After getting a couple of them, it soon turned into collecting the entire series. I even added them to my list for Santa! I have them safe in storage to eventually put on shelves in my house. I think I’m currently missing seven of them. It’s a goal of mine to find the rest of them and make the series complete.

There are other classic mystery writers like Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock and Sir Conan Doyle who wrote about the character Sherlock Holmes. There are also notable modern day ones like Sue Grafton with her alphabet murder mystery series. Kind of like the A to Z blogging project! I’m also a big fan of William Kent Krueger and the Cork O’Connor series of books with their settings in Northern Minnesota.

I enjoy reading from many genres, but if I had to pick three, I really enjoy reading mysteries, fiction and memoirs.

“Other types of Mysteries”

How about the Mystery Machine from the Scooby Doo cartoon series? We actually saw the vehicle while we’re on vacation for the kids spring break in March.


How many of you have played the board game Clue? Remember Professor Plum, with the Candlestick in the Library?

Even life is a mystery. I’ve heard it said many times. Not understanding the reasons why things happen can make us believe that they are a mystery. Sometimes clues are hidden with invisible ink or a in a code that needs to be decoded. But, if you find the right clues and put them in the right order, you just may be able to solve the Mystery!

L is for Lilacs

One of my favorite flowers. Reminds me of growing up in my childhood home. We had two big bushes of them in the backyard. My Mom would have multiple vases of them in the house in the spring. When I walk by them and catch that scent, it always brings me back to that time in my life.

Going to put my creative hat on and write a little story,

Lila the Lilac Fairy

Six year old Sally loved to walk in the garden at the family villa. She saw many varieties and colors of flowers. Everything smelled so nice together. Nature is good at making that happen.

She got back by the stone wall to the lilac bushes. The smell of them almost overwhelmed her, they were so fragrant. That’s where she saw a small girl who was about a foot tall with dark hair. She wore a floor length lavendar robe and had a garland of lilacs in her hair. Sally couldn’t believe what she saw and had to rub her eyes and look again. The girl was still there.

“Who are you?” Sally asked.
“My name is Lila and I’m the garden fairy. I live here in the garden and take care of all of the flowers.”
“Where do you sleep?”
“In the land of the lilacs.”
“Where is that?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you.”

Lila took Sally’s hand and led her down the garden path to an opening between two lilac bushes. Lila pulled the branches apart just enough for them to get through. After they were both in, there was a white picket gate. Lila opened the gate and walked in with Sally following.

When they got back by the wall, Lila waved her hands and all of a sudden a door slid over to the right, with just enough room for them to get in. They walked in and when they were both clear of the door, it slid shut. They could hear the stone door hitting the stone wall.

“Welcome to the land of the lilacs.”

Sally looked around and all she could see was lilacs. She turned slowly in a circle and looked up at the tall lilac bushes and into the blue sky.

“Look at all of the lilacs,” Sally said.
“I know. There are so many. I’m thirsty. Let’s go find Lenny.”

Lila and Sally walked together down a path between two lilac hedges. After they got to the end of the row, they saw a man sitting behind a light blue and yellow checkered lemonade stand.

“Hello, Lila,” the man said, “did you bring a friend today?”
“I did. This is Sally,” Lila replied, pointing at Sally, “and Sally, this is Lenny the Lemonade man.”
“Nice to meet you Lenny,” Sally said and reached out her hand to shake his.
“Pleasure is all mine miss. Do you two want some lemonade?”
“Yes please,” they both responded in unison.

Lenny poured each one of them a glass and they sat down together on the grass by the edge of the lilacs.

“You must love it here, Lila,” Sally said.
“It’s a pretty nice place to be.”
“I wish that I could live here with you,” Sally replied.
“Wouldn’t you miss your family?” Lila said, “I wish that I lived in the big house with you. The one with the glorious garden.”
“It’s nice,” Sally said, “but it’s kind of lonely. I’d much rather live here.”

Just as they were finishing their lemonade, Lenny walked over.

“Sally, just so you know, look under the bed and you’ll find the locket.”


When she woke up, she was in her bedroom. She saw her teddy bear, Sam laying on the pillow next to her. She ran to the window and loooked out at the garden. Everything looked to be in its right place. She sighed, it must have been a dream.

She looked under her bed and there was her mother’s locket. The one that Sally had lost when she wanted to look at the pictures of her grandparents that her Mother kept in it. Sally missed Lenny and Lila, but they helped her to give her mother’s locket back.

K is for Krispy Kremes

Looks like double letter score two days in a row!

Per the Krispy Kreme website, their mission statement: “to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme.”

“Uuuuummmmm, doughnuts.” As Homer Simpson of the Simpson’s would say. Seems that they may have met the mission for him and many others. They are a very popular doughnut business. Not only have I seen people carry out multiple bags and boxes of them, but I’ve allao seen a box with two of them being given away as a wedding gift to all of their guests.

Vernon Rudolph bought a raised doughnut receipe, rented a building and started selling doughnuts to grocery stores in 1937. As the smell of the doughnuts started getting out to the surrounding neighborhoods, they wanted to buy them. So, they built a walk up window so the doughnuts could be sold fresh out of the oven to the local consumer direct.

The famous bowtie logo was trademarked in 1955. I didn’t realize that it was in the shape of a bowtie, but now I see it. The original sign that Vernon Rudolph had was in the shape of an arrow with the old fashioned script, typically found in the 1930s.

When that location closed, the original sign was given to one of the new franchise stores in Georgia to use for their location to add a nostalgic flair. When that location changed the sign to the modern bowtie logo, they put the original sign in storage. When the Smithsonian wanted to add Krispy Kreme to their innovation displays, they went looking for that sign. Unfortunately, it had been moved out of storage and to the dump.

Earlier this year, they opened their 1000th store in Kansas City. We used to have a couple here in Minnesota, they opened the first store in 2002 but then they closed the last one in 2008. From all of the poeple that said they loved the doughnuts, not sure if it was lack of demand in this market. Some have said that they had been doing a rapid expansion and that they may have put up too many stores at that time. They wanted to meet the initial demand, but once the frenzy of having something new simmered down, they sometimes wind up with too much product and not enough demand.

Their vision: “to be the worldwide leader in sharing delicious tastes and creating joyful memories.”

In 2001, the company went international by opening a store in Toronto, Canada and many other worldwide locations after.

The Maple iced glazed in my favorite Krispy Kreme, what’s yours?

J is for Jumping Jacks

Here we go again, double letter score!

I saw Mitch do a few of these at his baseball game Monday night. Whether it was to stay warm or to exercise I’m not quite sure.

We used to do these in school gym classes. They take a little physical coordination, and for some people they take a little bit of time to master the rhythm. It’s also referred to as a star jump since that’s the shape your body makes when doing them.

Not only is it an exercise, but it’s also a toy that dates back thousands of years. It’s like a marionette and has movable limbs all connected to a string. When the string is pulled, all of the connected limbs will move. Found in many places in Europe, they are also called a hempelmann in Germany and a patins by the French nobility. This was where the name Jumping Jacks came from for the exercise.


Speaking of toys that have the word Jack in them, how about a Jack-in-the-box? The toy where you would turn the crank and a song would play. Then at some point in the song, ‘Jack’ would pop out of the top of the box. Kind of fun anticipating when it would happen, but it seemed to startle me each time it did it.


How about the clowns that would pop out of the vintage boxes? Some of them looked down right scarey. Not only did they startle us but scared us at the same time.

There were also the game called Jacks. The player had a ball and a bunch of small pointy ‘jacks’. The object of that one was to drop the ball, pick up as many jacks as you can and catch the ball again before it hit the ground a second time. We would pick up the jacks with one hand and catch the ball in the other. Then we got fancy and caught the ball in the same hand the jacks were in.

It has been fun rememebering the toys we played with as kids. It’s funny how the writing process works. We can start with one idea and wind up in a totally different one. Here I started with exercise and wound up writing about toys. At least all of it is related to Jack. And we ‘jumped’ around to the different ideas. It’s fun going on these writing journeys, because you never know where you’ll wind up!

I is for Igloo

Being born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve built my fair share of snow forts. We got snow block makers for Christmas and even tried to build an igloo several times. We were never able to get the structure right or got tired and decided to go in before it was completed. Not only have I wondered how they are built, but I’ve also wondered how to stay warm inside a snow made structure.

Building shelter with what’s available is what survival is all about. In most cases, there won’t be a Gander Mountain available to get supplies from when you’re out where you’ll need to build an igloo. When living in frozen environments, snow is one thing that is readily available, so it is good that we can make shelter out of it.

Igloos were originally built by the Inuit as temporary hunting shelters or in emergency situations. There’s a lot of science involved in how these structures stay warm. To build it, they take snow that has been compacted by the wind and cold and cut the building blocks. The air pockets that are made when the wind packs the snow creates insulation from the weather. In the space where the blocks are cut, they create the sunken floor.

Fires are lit in the middle of the igloo. When it is built, a small hole is left in the top of the igloo to let the smoke out. And the beds are built into the walls up towards the ceiling where heat rises and the cold falls to the bottom of the sunken floor. The temperature is about 20° inside, but when temperatures can be -50° outside, I’d rather be inside.

It was interesting to me how many commercial products that relate to cold are made by a company named Igloo. When I googled the word igloo, many links came up for coolers. Funny how igloo shelters are built to keep the heat in, but coolers are made to keep the heat out.

The word Eskimo is seen as a very derogatory name for the people native to the areas where they live in Canada, Northern Alaska and Greenland. In the Algonkian language it means “eaters of raw meat”. Inuit is the new word for Eskimo.

It has been said that the Inuit live in igloos. This is a kind of a misnomer. Igloo means house, so techically they do live in an igloo. However, the houses we think of being igloos are made of snow. These are only temporary shelters. They also build them for fun and to hand down the survival knowledge to their children.

Igloos are an interesting house option. Do you think it would be fun to live in a house made of snow?

H is for Hula Hoop

I let Sam pick the word for the letter H. And he picked Hula Hoop. Another double letter score. Nice job honey!

When he brought up the word, he said that they used to make him mad, because he could never get it to work. I wasn’t very successful at it either. Did any of you have success? What’s the secret?

Hula Hoops existed for thousands of years. Originally, they were made of natural materials like dried grasses, willow, or rattan.

Author, Charles Panati, wrote about how doctors in fourteenth century England were treating patients for back pain from hooping with metal hoops. He also added that the word hula comes from the Hawaiian dance and was added because the dance and the rhythm needed to keep the hoop moving up around the waist are similar.

One use for the hoop, was for the Native American Hoop Dance. It’s a form of story telling where the dance is typically performed by a solo dancer with anywhere from one to thirty or more hoops. The hoops are used as props to represent the elements of the story being told, primarily animals, reptiles and insects. The dance itself uses rapid movements and builds these elements with the hoops around and about the body.

The contemporary hula hoops that most of us are familiar with are made of colored plastic tubing and were invented in 1958 by Arthur K. “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr.

Interest seemed to have died down in the 1980s, but it has become popular again with hooping groups who have banded together in an online group called Hooping.org. There are businesses out there that will custom make hoops for recreation and exercise. LED lighting and fire have been added to the hoops to create new options for them.

A woman I went to High School with, Jennifer Jensen, is a CEO, Instructor and Performer at EclecticHoops in Venice, California. She has been making custom hoops since 2010. Be sure to check out her Facebook Page, EclecticHoops.