Family History

This Thing Called Age!

Well, it has been a real surprise for me.  Aging sneaked up on me when my back was turned.  I was in the drug store getting some vitamins one day and suddenly within a matter of weeks I was told that I had a 26 degree curvature of my spine.  I challenged my doctor:   there surely was a mistake!  I had been athletic all my life, baseball, swimming, hiking, dancing competitive tennis (my team went to national championships) – I climbed trees & jumped on tractors and off the roof of farmer’s barns as a child, dove off the roof at the swimming center, and in Africa I ran in the Hash House Harriers.   We climbed the lower (very, very lower)  slopes of both Kilamanjaro, which already was a “flat” hill… and The “Feet” of the Himalayas.

“How could I do all that with a spinal curvature?”  Surely the doc was wrong…but he shook his head and said “Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we are unaware we have handicaps! ”  My doctor, like most people in the medical field had a firm handle on Belief, and I have to say I never really realized I lived my life as a gimp.  I carried on through the childhood years of playing marbles with my brother, swinging upside down on the merry-go-round in the park, pitching for my brother’s baseball team and slugging  a base ball nearly out of the park (I always had a designated runner! but nobody knew I was a gimp.)

Years later I danced my ass off at a place in San Francisco called Dance Your Ass Off, and continued on with doing whatever I wanted to do.  Moved to Africa and occasionally ran in the international running group called the Hash House Harriers….

Home again, at the tender age of sixty-nine  I had a hip-replacement.  The REAL problem was about my left leg which was a lot shorter than my right!   I had pounded it into submission, almost into the ground as I kept on running, climbing trees, hiking, dancing, and  later on more running when I started competitive tennis at 55 (you have to be over 50 for Senior Tennis.)  Dr. Bruce said the X-ray showed my hip looking more like a crocheted doily that his grandma used to make.

Then he pointed out  the scrawl on the X-ray that said “But she’s got the bones of a 30-year old!”  So something worked out for me, as I lived a life doing whatever I wanted for nearly seventy years.

These days I am much more able to walk in nice long strides, without jerking from left to right, and with an easy gait (so sorry my mom never saw me walk easy!)  She never knew why I was such a “Big Galumpus” consequently was really tough on me for not “walking like a lady”.

Oh, yes, and my border Collie Lulu is much relieved too, she hated it when I fell, and took to walking so close to me that she leaned into my leg and could block any fall.

Aging people should look into getting Border Collies!

I keep having thoughts about going out to the courts again…..maybe just practicing serves, maybe a little bit, I don’t want to risk it:  I’m still having too much fun staying vertical.



Categories: About Ageing, Family History, Learning to Run Again, Life Overseas, My Home Town, Old Time Religion, Parenting, Peer Pressure, Poverty, Supporting Our People, This Thing Called Age.., Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Winter-time lighting

The gas oven for warmth

I learned to beware

of the flare

Singeing eye-lash

and eyebrow

But never my hair.


Door full open,

To my straight-back chair.

Ahh, wrapped in my blanket

Pray hurry, the warming

Of winter’s night air.

Categories: Family History, Family Secrets, Poverty, Supporting Our People | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

It’s About Death

Both my mother and brother died on Dec. 13th, three decades apart. He had not reconciled with our mother and I have had a hunch that it was his way of honoring her at last.  I dunno, I’m just built that way:  life (and death) have meanings.   This year it is Corrie, my Dutch friend who married an old boyfriend of mine.  I’d passed him on to Annie who was so mean to him – but then we were Just Seventeen then and stupid.  It freed him up to eventually take a holiday to Amsterdam, where certain vegetation could be purchased with no hassles.  I’m not saying he found Corrie there, doing that.. but they both were known for dam heavy smoking and whiskey neat.

It was a godsend that Patrick was in Holland when my world collapsed in Sudan.  The kids and spent the better part of three months in Den Haag, waiting to see what the political outcome would be in Khartoum.  Pat is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and he had a beautiful life with an incredibly intelligent, funny and loving woman.  They were married over 30 years.

Corrie passed on New Years Day after nearly a decade of fighting brain and lung cancers.  During those years she was in and out of hospital, and when she was strong she and Patrick took off to various parts of the world to continue their lifelong devotion to improving the world.  They worked on fresh water and farming in Africa, built schools in the Greek Islands andSouth America. Where there is need the Dutch always roll up their sleeves and literally “dig in”.  They came to me a year ago last summer, and we held a wonderful party for them in our back yard when it still looked beautiful.  Food and drink and old folks:  we reminisced about our teenage years when we were young, silly and excited about everything – even an event in San Francisco I’d blocked out:  a “Horse Potato” fight in Golden Gate Park.  Disgusting but fun.

Most of us have relatives and friends who seem to choose the Annual Party Time: starting with Halloween, through Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year.  I am of the opinion that they choose their departure deliberately, they have some say in the event and it is not to bring sorrow to the celebrations, it’s their way of participating annually ~ perhaps even looking in on us???  Anyway, that’s my own take. I promise to make a post to my blog if I find out if I’m right after I make my own transition.  That should be Thanksgiving.   I will no doubt be hovering near your stove because I love to be warm!

In our wonderful online world, I found a distant relative living in the North of England and began a correspondence with her regarding a mysterious island in the freezing depths of the North Sea just off Scotland.  We did some research then she finally cracked her own “mystery” of the ancient isle of Ates.  During the course of searching I decided I really MUST visit the coastal islands of the UK, soon.  It’s the Isle of Man that has my attention as I once met a fellow who said he was Manx, so I asked if he was from the Isle of Man and he said yes, the residents call themselves Manx, and in answer to my unspoken query he added “Like the Cat. The breed is native there.”

I can only wonder how and why a tail-less breed of cat mutated only on this one small island.  It’s my understanding that cats were first civilized in Egypt.  Now how does this work?  In this paragraph one can see how my mind works and I probably should feel shame but I don’t.

I hope all have enjoyed your tour through my brain above.  Off we go to my letter from Hilda, and how the family celebrated the death of her husband Frank during the Holidays.  (While you read, I think I’ll post and move on to find out what the Barnardos Homes are. Perhaps foster care or orphanage…)


Happy New Year Melanie,

 I had a LOVELY Xmas, despite everything.  My grandson James sat in Franks usual place at the dinner table, and said all the things ‘Grumpy’ usually said on such occasions. It was fun.  His funeral service was beautiful.  He asked for “the cheapest funeral we could get “, and absolutely no religion”. He lost what faith he had when the cancer got him. We granted him his wish.  We had a ‘Humanist’ service. Some of his favorite songs, and a female officiate called Val.  She stood and told his life story. (he was brought up in foster care, starting with Barnardos  Homes.  About 12 of his old work mates turned up. I was delighted. I had only ever met one of them, and it was him who got the rest there.  He remained a loyal friend to Frank, and visited regular when he was ill. We are so very grateful to him.  

We played Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ to go into the chapel, ( we started out as pen-pals while he was in the army) Kenny Rogers / Dolly Partons  ‘Islands in the Stream’ , for the quiet thoughtful, quiet period half way through, and the very irreligious ‘Another one bites the the Dust’ by Queen, when we were leaving the chapel. (He was cremated) That was his specific request. He would have been laughing.  

 I have had a bit of a struggle with the arthritis  lately. the weather hear is weird at the moment. We have VERY strong winds at moment. I hate them. Makes me tense and head-achy.  Anyway, will finish now. Watching ‘Ben Hur’ for the umpteenth time, as tele  has been pathetic over the holidays. Very few adult programmes, all repeats, and nearly all childrens programmes, even in the evenings. They get there licence fee for nothing these days.  Bye for now melanie. get well soon.

Your friend Hilda.

Categories: Family History, Friends I've never Met, Life Overseas, Supporting Our People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Swiss History & Maybe Yours

I thought it was pretty cool when I ran my paternal Great Grandfather’s Bollinger line and bumped into a guy named “Clewi” and his sons, “Clewi Jr.” & Conrad back in the middle 14th C. Nosey, as usual, I did a little research to see why Clewi Sr. and Clewi Jr. and Conrad died around the same time. I found there was a plague that rolled through that area, as well as a war. It could have been either one, or perhaps both.
The next thing I discovered that a few centuries later was one of the Bollinger Boys married Miss Sarah Hahn, of the Hahn family that travelled with Bollingers first from Switzerland to North Carolina, then to Missouri, then finally to God’s Country known as the Greater Bay Area of California, (while it still belonged to Spain).
The families settled in the Contra Costa Area and became successful ranchers with many children. Sarah was a daughter of Abraham Hahn Sr. GGF Abraham Hahn is the connection of the Bollinger family to Martin Luther, Reformer, as his daughter Sarah married Adam Joseph Bollinger. The families pioneered land that Indians used to share with everyone. We now know it as the Alamo and Danville area in Contra Costa County, California
That gets us pretty close to my getting in the picture a 4 or 5 generations later, but I have to say those Swiss people had quite a history and I am yet again disappointed that I could not follow my dream of becoming an Anthropologist.
Charlemagne ruled from Switzerland, a piece of real estate that over the centuries was occupied at different times by Helvetians, and Romans; Franks, (Clewie and his sons,) and other peoples with difficult names playing the part of “Lake Men” which will be discussed later.
Charlemagne ruled and Charles the Bold waged battle, and dominant families focused on marrying off their children to gain political power. One such political family was called Hapsburg. (No relation to me. Perhaps a neighbor.)
I’m interested in history, but I get really caught up the ancient stories, the ways of life, much more than who, what and where somebody with my blood lived, died, did something, or was beheaded. Yes, I’ve found one beheading, and banishment for that matter – both ancestors lived in the UK – yikes! Those Brits know how to have fun…
These days I am very curious about Switzerland. I had lunch there once, and caught an older woman’s head before it hit the sidewalk as she skidded on icy sidewalk near Lake Como. I couldn’t keep her from falling on her rear end, but she was very appreciative, in an embarrassed way, all wrapped in her furs and sporting her diamonds.
My Bollinger boys, descendants of Martin Luther all made a lot of money by preaching in their reformed churches both in Zurich and in the area in Switzerland called Pfaffikon.

Pfaffikon! It may sound like something you could buy in a movie theater, but….. in Pfaffikon, there is evidence of settlements dating back to prehistoric times: 3,000 BC! I’m glad I wasn’t born then – OR maybe I was: prehistoric in Switzerland must be pretty darned cold; could that be why I much prefer desert heat.
Well it was way long before those fun-loving pillagers from Scandinavia plowed through Europe, stealing, plundering and hacking their bloody way to the British Isles.
My Swiss ancestors built homes on pilings in lakes, since forever! It might be a little bit like how the skyscrapers in New Orleans rest on cotton bales that were (and still are) sunk in water.
Archaeologists have evidence of three different levels of construction in Pfaffikon, the deepest of which dates back to the Stone Age.
This sorry failure of an archaeologist/anthropologist finds it all mind-boggling. So, what have I learned about all this? Well, I now believe I know why I absolutely hate, cannot tolerate, and at all times insure that I have a jacket, some long johns, mittens and a hat either on my person or in the trunk of my ride!
But while I looked through paperwork (online), finding sour-faced portraits of my stiff Swiss ancestors, it is quite clear that they all hated cold weather like me! These Swiss ancestors put the ice in my veins!
Here’s a good one: Search for Martin Luther’s letter to his dying mom: a little stiff, a lot preachy and really long. (She may have died from boredom!)
Since I was pre-teen I have considered myself as belonging to no sect, to no cult. My mom put my brother and me in an Episcopalian environment. I don’t know where that came from. It ended abruptly when I caught a maven of our hallowed church deliberately spreading negative gossip that I knew was fabricated! I figured any god would rather have me on my own rather than me in the company of those who proudly sit smirking in church on Sunday, and live a hard-hearted lifestyle for the next six days.
Given that, it came as a bit of a surprise that I’m a direct descendant of Martin Luther, the Swiss reformer, on my GGF’s Swiss line!
I was surprised I am largely Swiss: I hate to be cold and cheese binds me up. So, given my personal preferences, I’m sure that while My GG Father Martin was sincere, and his mother appreciative of his message, it’s all a tad bit churchy for my taste.
You see, I’m pretty certain that when I was with my mother at her death I just said “I love you Mom and always will” and let her get on with things.
It took my GGGGF Martin TWELVE paragraphs to say to his mum what I said in 7 words! Who knows: maybe he was paid per word.
Finally, here is the link to THE LAKE PEOPLE (plus many other early histories)
Information above was gleaned from where they have a lot of interesting historical information on many parts of the world. M. Wood. 2014

(More info on the Lake People: if you use the following information please honor the request of the author, Armando Mombelli and the posted rules of swissinfo. Melanie Wood 25 Aug 2014)

Rediscovering the legend of the lake dwellers, swissinfo, by Armando Mombelli
One hundred and fifty years ago, the first settlements of ancient lake-dwelling peoples emerged from Lake Zurich. The discovery gave Europeans a new insight into the lives of their distant ancestors.
This year, around 20 Swiss museums are organising exhibitions dedicated to this significant chapter in Swiss history.
In the winter of 1854, the commune of Meilen took advantage of exceptionally low water levels to start building a harbour on the shore of Lake Zurich.
Quite by chance, the excavations unearthed a number of odd-looking, superbly preserved ancient artefacts, and a series of wooden poles embedded in the mud. The diggers had found a prehistoric lake village.
Ferdinand Keller, a Zurich scholar, put forward a theory that the people here had lived in villages built on platforms above the water which were connected by bridges and walkways.
After the discovery of similar settlements on other Swiss lakes, the legend of the lake dwellers was born. Soon, it had fired Europe’s imagination. Articles in the press, exhibitions, historical paintings, novels, public events, calendars and schoolbooks fuelled the legend of the lake dwellers.
In subsequent decades, hundreds of lake villages were discovered – especially in the Alpine Arc from France to Slovenia, though similar settlements were also found in several other parts of Europe.
In recent decades, modern scientific analysis and dating techniques have revealed that the villages were rather less exotic than our 19th-century ancestors had believed.
Today, specialists prefer to talk about “lake peoples” who built their settlements at different times from 4300 to 800 BC.
The settlements were actually built on land, usually in marshy areas. At the time, the water level in the lakes was much lower than it is today, and varied from year to year.
Nor were there any platforms. There were only individual, wooden houses standing apart from one another. And the hundreds of poles sunk into the ground date from different periods.
“Even today, however, the Meilen discovery is still considered a watershed for European archaeology,” explains Marc-Antoine Kaeser, curator of the exhibition organised in Zurich by the Swiss National Museum to commemorate the anniversary of the find.
Symbols of death
“Until then, the archaeological investigation of prehistory had brought to light almost nothing except symbols of death, such as graves, weapons and military sites. The lake villages and the objects they yielded provided the first evidence that enabled scholars to understand how our ancestors lived.”
Above all, the lake-dweller finds opened up a new historic vision of Switzerland, as it did for other European countries. Suddenly, history no longer began with the Romans.
“The lake settlements demonstrated the existence of skilled, intelligent peoples before the Roman occupation. In short, they gave the people of Switzerland a new consciousness of their own origins,” Marc-Antoine Kaeser points out.
For politicians, more than a century ago, the legend of the lake dwellers was an ideal tool to bind together a still-fragile nation, formed as recently as 1848, and to forge a common identity among Switzerland’s disparate peoples and cultures.
It was no coincidence that in 1867, the Swiss government commissioned the artist Auguste Bachelin to paint a Bronze Age lake village that would represent Switzerland at the Paris Exposition Universelle.
The archaeological success of the lake dwellers had a lot to do with the incredibly high quality of the finds. This is clearly evident from the exhibition at the Swiss National Museum, where 150 objects from Swiss lakes are on display.
Contrary to popular belief, water conserves materials perfectly provided they are kept out of contact with the air. This was the case with the Meilen finds, which were buried under layers of lakeside mud or sand.
“Generally, archaeologists are left with objects made of metal, stone, terracotta or glass from which to interpret the past”, notes Marc-Antoine Kaeser.
“But the lake-dweller finds include various organic materials. There are wooden objects, and even hazelnuts, dried apples, spices or carved resins that help us understand the life and dietary habits of these peoples.”
On the 150th anniversary of the Meilen discovery, Swiss archaeologists are warning that the growing urbanisation of the lakeshore, and above all pollution, are destroying in a few short decades a priceless heritage that had survived for thousands of years.
Countless objects remain hidden under the lakeshore – a literal treasure trove of information about our history.
One question still to be answered is why the lake dwellers choose to live in these muddy, damp environments.
The Zurich exhibition has no answer. But that is not the objective, explains Marc-Antoine Kaeser.
“With the events scheduled this year all around Switzerland, we want to revive the ‘lake-dweller fever’. We want to show that the archaeological reality is just as fascinating as the fictitious worlds that for decades were constructed around the lake peoples ”.

By swissinfo, Armando Mombelli


Categories: Family History | Leave a comment

Blog at