From the 1980s, an early job

A few collected items.



Differences between the past and the present.


In the early 1980s I was able to afford, on less than five dollars an hour, a two-bedroom townhouse apartment, off Route 161 in Columbus, Ohio. My weekly food budget was twenty dollars, and I had about fifty dollars a week for disposable income—which I spent on clothes, decorating, houseplants, fish tanks, LPs. I was a Pier One shopper, buying those peacock feathers 80s people displayed in floor baskets; giant floor pillows, too, with a folkish loose-woven fabric, and straw mats I used for wall hangings. One purchase I carried from house to house for several years before it fell apart was a twenty-five dollar rattan chair, bought with Christmas money from my grandparents (typically a check for twenty-five dollars).

I used to hurry home on my lunch break in those days to watch videos on MTV (and at Gold Circle we didn’t have to clock in and out, so I pushed the time). I was crushing on the band Split Enz, loved Elvis Costello, bought an album by Squeeze on the strength of a Rolling Stone review. (Agreed with…however, reviewers in those days had the power to snuff out a lot of good music. The internet’s democratic openness is an improvement.)

I had the Steve Miller Band for “Fly Like an Eagle”… I had a couple of Styx albums (when I was a teenager I thought “Come Sail Away” was the most beautiful song), but I started to go off them in the 80s. Of course, “Mr. Roboto” is immortal. 

Check out this Tommy Shaw solo number from the 80s. A truly great song that wasn’t the hit it should have been.



The job I had was general clerking in what I think was called the Merchandise Information Office (I’m not sure about the “I”) at the chain’s central office in Worthington (next to the Jack Maxton car dealership). People from the region—but also from California, where a string of stores sat detached from the others—will recall GC as Kmart-like.

They had (the one on Morse Road, the one I shopped at) just before I quit my job started stocking a little section of higher-end brands, as a marketing experiment…

So, in that last month or two, with the employee discount, I drove off in my Chevy Chevette (I think it was a stick, light metallic blue, only AM radio) to shop for a brand I liked, Outlander. One purchase was a silk-angora blend collared sweater in off-white, that I paired with a turquoise pinwale circle skirt. The waist on this was too tight; I had to fix it with a safety pin…so not the most successful look. I liked the turquoise and white combo, though. One of my 80s outfits was a pair of huge parachute pants I wore with a white eyelet-collared blouse. I still have an Outlander red lambswool blend with three-quarter sleeves and v-neck, now somewhat moth-eaten, that I wore with a long midwale corduroy dirndl, dark brown (bought during a Myrtle Beach vacation), and some Nine West boots, dressy in cinnamon with a stacked heel.

Why so much detail? Just to paint the picture for you, if you remember those fashions. And because a lot of things in life are measured in clothes. (If you don’t remember, you’ll have to Google parachute pants to get the full sense of them.)

There was a sort of dynamic I didn’t understand, coming into the work world as a poorly socialized eighteen-year-old. Once, for example, some of the supervisors were throwing a party for the office staff at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and I didn’t want to go. It was an after work-hours affair, so I understood it to be voluntary. I got the impression my opting out was being held against me, in a background gossipy way.

There are voluntary things on the job that are not voluntary, such as overtime. (But I’ve steadfastly refused overtime whenever I could.) 

And I still think a lifetime of never setting foot in a Chuck E. Cheese has done me only good.



Favorite Foods of the Day

Lender’s Garlic bagels, that they stopped making. Toasted, with peanut butter.

Granny Smith Apples. (There are lots of great, crispy apples these days, but back then, you could have Granny Smiths or mushy, bland golden and red delicious.)

Honey Nut Cheerios

Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese (This always had to be made in the oven to brown the cheese topping and bake the filling to a custardy quality. Microwaving wouldn’t do. But, last time I bought any, they’d changed it weirdly and it tasted like it sat open in the refrigerator for a week.)

There was a candy, a type of M & Ms called Mint Royales, that I loved.

And once, you could get really good Dolly Madison Danish. I think they’ve gone by the wayside.




Learning to Read

Fun with Dick and Jane


The first street my family lived on in Athens (Ohio) was Grosvenor. The house was on a hillside, and had underneath, where the structure was built to overhang—so the house would sit more or less level—soft loamy dirt, that was always dry and made a place to play.

Since my grandparents had worked in the Mount Vernon, Illinois, public school system, we had a lot of old schoolbooks around the house. By the time I was in first grade, where kids began learning to read, I’d had a head start; and a lot of the reading I did was Dick and Jane. My first grade class had a Dick and Jane workbook; the characters in those days still in use for teaching.

They way we played pretend games, we had to choose who to identify with. I don’t recall if we specifically played Dick and Jane. I know we played Star Trek, a cool show that came on after bedtime, that we had to beg to watch. (My sister liked Chekov, and I had to be Captain Kirk, though I liked Riley, who was barely a character—because we had childish rules that two of us couldn’t like the same actor…but, readers, Mark Goddard all the way on Lost in Space, even though my sister claimed him. She let me have Colonel Foster on UFO. And note, the women on sci-fi shows didn’t get to do much, so it’s unsurprising in imagination we would rather have been the crew members allowed to explore planets.)

At any rate, in this hierarchy, I was the little sister, Sally. One of our cats of those days was named Puff.

And, coming full circle, I can recall marveling that the name pronounced “Grovner” could be spelled the way it was—but I wasn’t school age during the year or two we lived on that street. I think my sister was the one who could read the sign, and that was how I got the information, though I remember looking up at it and seeing the name in letters.



Page from Piet Worm's children's book Three Little Horses

Here’s a page from one of my favorite books from childhood, Piet Worm’s Three Little Horses, a somewhat odd story about an artist who befriends horses, and takes them into town dressed as women—but a story terrifically illustrated.


Books in the Athens Middle School library


Favorite books some of you may remember. The first grouping were my own discoveries, and the second, books my sister read first and recommended. They are all look-upable, so I’ve written very brief descriptions of the plots.


Why Not Join the Giraffes, Hope Campbell, 1970

Girl tries to impress boy by adopting rebellious look.

The Whirling Shapes, Joan North, 1968

Girl has power to stop mysterious force.

The Apple Stone, Nicholas Stuart Gray, 1965

Siblings find magic object, adventures ensue.

The Power of Stars, Louise Lawrence, 1972

Visit by alien force causes havoc for teenage friends.

The Ghost of Opalina, Peggy Bacon, 1967

Family is aided through generations by cat’s ghost.



Campion Towers, John and Patricia Beatty, 1965

During English Civil War, girl on Roundhead side has cavalier adventures.

A Candle in Her Room, Ruth M. Arthur, 1966

Haunted doll causes trouble for newly arrived family.

My Darling My Hamburger, Paul Zindel, 1969

Pregnant teen gets abortion.

Knee-Deep in Thunder, Sheila Moon, 1967

Girl travels to tiny world, where her friends are insects.




Mayonnaise Nuts

Photo of plate of roasted almonds


This is an easy snack, just two cups of raw almonds, one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Put the nuts in a bowl, stir in the mayonnaise and pepper until they’re all well-coated, then spread them on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees. When they begin to brown, and smell a little like french fries, they’re done.


Today’s story is about TV movies, back when the movie-of-the-week was a big deal.  


My sister Tracy and her friends were older, so they always had something they were into that came to me, the little sister trailing along, as sort of mysterious, since I was never there at the first discovery of it. Tracy was in middle school two years before I was, and in high school two years before I was.

So her gang knew this movie was going to be on TV, or they had all read that particular book. They were involved in Ohio University theater for a few years, as something like junior groupies. I don’t know who it was that opened the door for them; probably one of the sisters of her best friend from those days. One year the musical Carousel was a fascination, and the “older” man playing Billy Bigelow (a college student in his twenties) was a big crush. I think I saw him once (I picture him looking like Hugh Laurie with the hair of Art Garfunkel), but I don’t remember if I saw the show.

We were all singing “If I Loved You” and “What’s the Use of Wondering”, around the house.

A TV movie we were excited about seeing was called “A Howling in the Woods”. It aired in 1971, and starred Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, also John Rubenstein, who I thought was very cute (look up his youthful pictures and you’ll agree), when he was in the TV show “Family”. I think, as to “Howling”, I never saw the whole thing, probably due to bedtime, but I remember the ads for this one, with Barbara Eden getting out of a car wearing a red hat, very glamorous.

“Brian’s Song”, also 1971, the football/cancer story starring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan. Truly a weeper, and we girls loved all the poignant things of the era, like the song “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro, (1968), or “Seasons in the Sun”, Terry Jacks (1974).

And below, that famous theme music:







A Story, A Video, and A New Book

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Most of my growing-up years, my family lived on Shannon Avenue in Athens, Ohio. Early on, when my parents first bought the house, a little cache of some former owner’s WWII souvenirs was found in the attic. My sister got to add to her things an “Aussie” hat, a cool article to play dress-up with. I got to keep these two items, the soldier’s campaign medal and a 1945 franc—a significant issue, after the country got its own government back. I would agree with anyone who feels we should not have had these things to play with, but seventy-four years on, I don’t know if the rightful descendants can ever be located.



Above, my cats at play, and a little accompanying music.



This is my latest book of poetry, which you can get on Kindle or as a paperback.



Nostalgic Pics

Old-time soft drink brands, and the bottles they came in.
My Barker grandparents’ kitchen in their Mt. Vernon, IL bungalow.
Another view. The door to the right went to the basement. The house had a sort of front and back parlor design; a little room behind a French door that you can see just on the left, was used for a bedroom/sewing room, but could have been used as a dining room. There were two “true” bedrooms, at either end of a little hall, and a front porch with a swing, the steps painted red.
A school project from the 1960s, East Elementary, Athens, OH.