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Monday, June 3, 2019


This week the way-back machine takes you to a post from June 2015.
I love my family, but we are so spread out we seldom 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 and sister live in Atlanta and my Sister (after 50 years I drop the in-law titles) live 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 together's 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. Our family is all over the place as well. I miss getting together. There was never any alcohol, well, at the party, a few of the uncles may have had a nip or two prior to arrival. But Grandma would have none of it!

  2. Fond memories indeed. It's good to reach back in our youth and remember the good things.

    Have a fabulous day, Joe. ♪♫♪♫

  3. Sounds like a wonderful family! It's good to have those fond memories to relive. ☺ As for the drinking, it depends on your background. Where I grew up (Europe), that was/is a normal activity. Everyone has a good time and few people ever get out of hand.

  4. The only big family get-togethers we had were at Christmas. No drinking, unless Grandpa or Grandma had a cold, and took a nip of blackberry brandy.

  5. Nothing better than those memories. I have a large family and I have those memories too. In my family all that laughter, drinking and eating was normal. Thanks for making me bring up all those memories today. I enjoyed the hell out of that!!

  6. That was the culture with or without its alcohol. I am just glad we are more realistic about that habit these days and understand the seriousness. It is nice that you grew up with such a large and loving family.

  7. This was so well written--an expression of love and memories. Those are the things we all should hold on to. Drinking was never part of our family, but then they were all so conservative, avoided sin and drinking.

    Oh, the midwest life.

    Write this down, okay? your kids & progeny need to hear this.

  8. I've only ever seen cocktail hour on old TV movies and there wasn't much laughing involved. I love your memories though, the happiness and laughing makes it more wonderful, even if dinner was late because of it.

  9. I think cocktail hours are wonderful no matter who is there. Great memories from growing up.


  10. There were so many huge family get togethers when I was growing up (although not much drinking). That doesn't happen anymore and it makes me sad. These days if both my kids can be with me at the same time I feel lucky.

  11. I just love this post. I remember her togethers with all of my uncles and aunts and cousins at my grandparent's home too. They were the best. Both my Mom and Dad come from a large family. The grandparents homes were always filled with love and laughter. Theses memories are what my husband and I are trying to create with our Sunday dinners. Thank you for sharing your memory.

  12. So having your family spread about now is as alien to you as it is to me with mine. After such a rich and wonderful family life, it must so hard to swallow the way things are now. You paint a vividly warm picture of your childhood. I have two sons and five grandchildren who live too far to see every week or even every month. By US standards, they are probably really close - 2.5 hour drive each way. But when youre still working, it's hard to make regular trips as much as we would like to. It's a diferent world to the one we grew up in.

  13. Really nice post. What a delightful tradition and it is a shame today with our far flung families we are lucky for a once a year get together. I understand your longing to join in. I felt that way on holidays when made to sit at the children's table.

  14. Those are great memories, Joe!!! My mom came from a big family (8 children) who lived all over the US, but most would attend the almost annual family reunion for my Grandparents' birthdays that were in July. Lots of midwestern food (like deviled eggs)at a park. It was fun for me and the other cousins. Last one before grandpa died was in 1984.

  15. Those are great memories. The drinkers in my family were alcoholics, and it wasn't a laughing matter, i'm glad your family didn't behave like some of mine.

  16. This is a great post with such great memories. I always loved our family get togethers growing up but looking back there weren't nearly enough...

  17. It sounds like you had the perfect extended family for kids to grow up with.