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Wednesday, June 24, 2015



 I love my family, but we are so spread out we no longer get everyone together unless it is a sad occasion.  I have a son in Massachusetts, a daughter, SIL and three grandchildren in North Carolina, a son, DIL and two grandchildren in Pennsylvania, and a son in California.  My brother lives in Atlanta and my Sister (after 50 years I drop the in-law title) lives in North Carolina.

My mom and dad retired to Eastern Shore Maryland sometime after I graduated from college and though my brothers were spread out we did get together for most holidays up until dad passed away and after mom had to go into assisted living.  As an adult, I have wonderful memories of these family get togethers with brothers, in-laws nieces and nephews. 

My fondest memories as a child are of Five O’clock Cocktails at Grandpa’s.

My Grandfather was an affluent man.  He owned and ran his own business.  They processed oily rags for something called “Hot Boxes” on railroad cars, something used until at least the 1950’s.  I never understood much more than that.  Grandpa owned a house in the Philadelphia area, two houses and a vacant lot on the Jersey Shore and a small house in Florida.  He owned a 32 foot boat and bought a new Cadillac every other year.  The boat and the car were “Business expenses.”  You could do liberal “Business expenses” in those days.  They went in the books as “sundry.”

To many people in today’s world of class warfare, Grandpa might have been classified as a f*cking rich bastard.  He was actually a very nice and rather generous man.  He was generous with his time, his money and his love of life.  He was a wealthy man.  He should have been.  He worked hard.  He took over the business at 15 years old and successfully grew it.  His business survived two world wars, several recessions and the great depression.

Of course growing up we thought Grandpa was comfortable, but not all that rich.  Other neighbors had bigger homes, nicer boats and newer cars.  Everything is relative to a child.

What I remember best about Grandpa and Grandma was five o’clock cocktails on the back deck of their summer house.  The deck was on the flat roof of the garage and entrance was through the kitchen or back stairs. 
A recent picture of the deck. 
The lot is still vacant, it was used for parking and growing vegetables back in the day.

Cocktails were at five almost every Friday and Saturday night. 

Grandpa’s house was three floors.  My Uncle Jack, Aunt Sally and Cousins Johnny and Dex lived in the first floor apartment.  Grandma and Grandpa lived on the second floor along with visiting Aunts and Uncles, and the third floor crammed in as many cousins as needed.

Uncle Tom and Aunt Louise owned a house across the street, and My Dad rented a floor in Grandpa’s second house for his two week summer vacation.  This house was behind the main house to the left of the vacant lot and not shown in the picture. 

On a good weekend there would be up to ten aunts and uncles along with Grandma and Grandpa plus a few friends on the back deck for five o’clock cocktails.  Dinner was not until seven so there was a lot of drinking, smoking and booming laughter.  The drinks were not wine spitzers in those days; they were highballs (whiskey on ice) or stingers (vodka on ice with a capful of Crème de menthe.)

Looking back this crew may have had a drinking problem.  They claim to have been social drinkers only, but they were really social!  Each of my relatives had a distinctive laugh.  I could tell if the laughing was Grandpa, or Uncle Jack, Aunt Phil, or Aunt Nancy.  Grandma would laugh and then invariably chastise Grandpa for an off-color remark with a tart "Oh Milton!"  This was followed by more laughter.

As a child, I remember getting hungry because dinner was so late, but mostly I remember wishing I could get in on the fun on the deck. 

I remember the laughter…there was so much laughter!


  1. I envy people who have big families close by; they always seem to have such a great time when they get together and seem to get together often. It must have been so fun to listen to the laughter when all got together to enjoy being with each other along with a little "spirits" to enjoy the days.


  2. For me, personally, that's far too much family far too often. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had been raised that way, but maybe not; I've always been a loner.
    It does sound like you had a wonderful childhood.

  3. My family is large and geographically spread out so weddings and funerals are the only times we meet up. I don't mind, at least they're there if needed.

  4. What a great memory! My dad was an only child and my mom's large family was spread out all over. I barely know any of my 21 cousins.

    Business ownership is tough. Anyone who makes it deserves all the money they have earned. It bugs me when people criticize that.

  5. Fabulous memories Joe - my family is all over the world now, I miss those get togethers ...

  6. I suspect that family, that laughing and sharing family, provided the wonderful foundation for the grounded, hilarious, wise person that we see on these blog pages.Would that we all could share the same roots.

  7. It sounds exactly to me how large families functioned in those days, wealthy or no. We don't hang together like that now, although I suppose anyone of us would fly around the world or drive halfway across the country to bail out a relative. It's what family does.

  8. Now that's a great childhood memory. Yes indeed. You were raised properly. This post made me smile.

    Have a fabulous day Cranky. ☺

  9. Yeah.... drinking used to be very fashionable (and also smoking....everyone smoked) I was a flop at both. I had 2 sets of neighbors here in MT (all are now deceased) who always worked in their yard until 4 o'clock and would go inside to get ready for cocktail hour. They usually invited me but I think it was my Indian blood that wouldn't let me drink. So I would listen to them laughing on the porch during the summer..... like you did as a child. lol

  10. Back in the day I'd have said the only drinking problem was that it was limited to Friday and Saturday.
    I remember similar family get togethers... lots of laughter and highballs, cocktails, adult beverages.
    Looking back I realize that most of those folks at the gathering only had one drink, and some of them didn't even finish that.
    Go figure.

  11. sounds like something straight out of a tv show - like dallas or dynasty or something. :)

  12. I've heard the summarized version of this story in the past but enjoyed this post thoroughly. Often wonder if famies will ever spend that kind of quality time together ? No app for that - yet...

  13. Wonderful memories Joeh. Our family was always spread out and I envied those with large, close families. Feel blessed that for a while you had family out your years.

  14. I hope my children & grandchildren will remember me as laughing--or being the cause of it!!

  15. What a fun memory! They must have all liked each other very much, and not just because they were family.

  16. Enjoyed this post. It reminded me of growing up in the 50's in R.I. when parents used to dress up to visit, and we always had company in the evenings. Mom would play the piano and Cousin Bernice the accordion and everyone would sing. We kids sneaked out behind the hall curtain and took it all in. Wonderful memories -- thanks!

  17. That sounds like a fun childhood! I'm from a smaller family, more private, and less affluent. Still, I had a good childhood I wouldn't trade. Life is what you make of it. :)

  18. I came from a large boisterous ethnic family and I miss the times we got together. Now they're all gone. Kinda sad.

  19. Sundays (after church) were for family. We visited grandparents or Dad's siblings or they visited us. Lots of cousins, lots of fun. In some ways, there really were "good old days."

  20. Sounds like a good time was had by all, and a great time was had by some.

    Here in the land of no shores, my grandparents took all of us cousins into their country home for two weeks every summer. That left our parents to enjoy life without us. Let the record show that we had no cocktails, and were beaten soundly at croquet by Grandma every day.

  21. That sounds idyllic! My extended family too were big drinkers and 5pm was the magic hour at our place too. I grew up visiting aunts and uncles and cousins often, and it was great. We don't have that now.