Friday, December 15, 2017

One of my favorite memories was going to Grandma and Grandpa George's home out in the country in south Louisiana for the holidays. My mother's parents, Rev. A.D. and Ruth George lived on the George family farm near Independence, Louisiana, next door to his brother, Uncle Herbert. This was the highlight of our lives for we dearly loved going there every chance we could.

Advent is a season of preparing.
Well, we prepared all right. Daddy prepared to go hunting with his friends, promising to be home for Christmas day. Mama, prepared for the rest of us to go to Grandma and Grandpa's. Preparations for trips like this were always stressful on the getting there part for Mama because she was not known as the cool cucumber mother that had all her ducks in a row when stressed. In fact, Mama didn't even have ducks...on occasions like these she had a goose....a loose goose. A totally frazzled goose.

The preparation began the day before the trip by her shooing us away while she packed suitcases and toys for four children. We would have helped but she usually told us it was easier for her to do it herself. “It'd be like trying to herd four free range children through a cattle chute,” she'd bemoan. “I'd rather herd cats!” So off we would roam while Mama packed and loaded the car with the Christmas presents we weren't supposed to know were in the back of the Buick station wagon. The next day, of course, she had to load the car with all the other gear needed for a week or so at Grandma's. Which led to the the task of rounding us up from the four corners of the universe to go to the bathroom, change clothes again, find shoes, sweaters or coats, favorite toys or games before assigning seats where we wouldn't kill each other for the two and a half to three hour drive to Grandma's, depending on how much she had to stop to discipline us. This never worked for we had free roam of the back seat but at least she tried. Before long, the loose goose had emerged with shouts of, “I don't care. Get in the car! Now! Nippy go find your brother!”

Sometimes Mama would have games for us to play, but that resulted in fights over who saw what first, or “I've already found that letter. Mama!! Make them stop!” Becky, of course, kept her head in a book the whole time except to complain. Baby Jane just crawled around on the floor. Bobby and I constantly pestered each other with Mama shouting that she was going to pull over and leave one of us on the road to rot beside some trash barrel if we didn't stop, her free hand swinging around the area of the back seat trying to catch us, while we ducked her grasp making Jane cry.

Since this was before seat belt laws, the most rowdy one had to switch places with whom ever was in the front next to mama which caused a complete new problem as they climbed over each other across the seat, kicking and shoving, while the others wrestled for positions in the back. “Lord, help me,” mama cried, “if I make it through this I'm gonna reserve a room at Central Hospital!”(the local mental hospital) “and they won't blame me a bit!!!”

Yet, in spite of it all, mama always managed to arrive safely with her four heathens still alive and usually singing Christmas songs as we left the highway, maneuvered the long driveway through the woods to the old weather worn converted shotgun house nestled against the trees in the clearing. It felt like arriving in a past century.

Grandma would always have candies and cookies ready the minute we arrived. Grandma loved to bake. There would be every kind of cake, pie, candy or cookie that anyone could want. We looked like a car full of circus clowns as we barreled out of the station wagon shouting all the news we had to share with Grandma and Grandpa. Once everyone was settled we sat out on the back porch or by the fireplace as Grandma gave us taffy to pull. We would gather in pairs and have contests as to who could be the best taffy puller. The adults sat around giving us encouragement or relaxing with a book. The collie dogs were scattered about the room fast asleep ignoring us. If the cousins came there was even more fun. At least for everyone else. The girls were all about Becky's age so they always gathered in the corner plotting evil or revenge. I had no boys my age so I usually was left out. This likely was when I discovered I preferred playing alone. The younger ones were corralled by the adults.

Since Grandma's house had no indoor plumbing, getting ready for bed was a unique experience going to the Outhouse. If it was daylight, the boys would sneak near while the girls were in there and shout “Snake!” or something. If it was getting dark, no one, and I mean no one, wanted to go past all those tall camellia bushes to the far corner of the yard to do their business. We usually had to be accompanied by an adult. After dark, of course we had the chamber pots placed under each bed. And yes, we each had to share emptying them in the morning. Then it was off to bed. We each had a collie to sleep with which was always fun.

The next morning, after we arrived, we got to choose the Christmas tree from the woods. Grandpa would harness the horse with a flat sled, gather all the children and off we'd go like a Currier and Ives Christmas card. You could hear shouts from each other as we let him know who had found the perfect tree. Grandpa would slowly walk around each one, pointing out it's good or bad features before raising a fifteen foot pole to measure the height, eventually deciding on the perfect one. Taking out his saw, he measured a spot on the trunk and had each one of us give one stroke with the saw before finishing the task himself. As we dragged the tree to the sled we all excitedly talked about stringing the popcorn or cranberries, or making paper chains to decorate.

I remember laughter as we took turns playing the old pump organ in the corner and singing Christmas carols as we decorated the tree. Sometimes I would pump and my sister would “play” but the songs never sounded so sweet. Afterwards we listened to Grandpa read the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Our days were spent exploring outdoors or playing on the stairs that led to the attic. Usually we played school and Becky was always the teacher. In the attic we learned to weave rag rugs on a frame that grandma made with nails on each end holding the warp. There was always a trunk to explore as well. It felt like a secret hideout when we were allowed upstairs.

Frequently during the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas) Uncle Herbert would be making cane syrup. We would be allowed to help gather the cane from the field, putting it on the flat sled behind the old horse. Sometimes we could skim the impurities off of the top of the boiling syrup, all the while dreaming of the next morning's breakfast when we would enjoy some of that same syrup on our pancakes.

Today we sit in our warm houses with artificial trees or ones from the tree lot but the season is just the same. We read the Christmas story from the Bible and sing carols (without the pump organ) and reminisce of the times when family always gathered and remembered.
Advent is a time for families and church and love. I am thankful we still have the laughter and love in our house.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


This is a story of a man named Nippy
Who lost most all the marbles in his head.
And his wife whose name was Frances
The two of them were happy they were wed.
They have a son, his name is Marty.
"You two are getting senile," is what he said.

This story's truthful, embarrassingly truthful-ish
Every word that is about to be read.

It was halloween eve, the kids were home from school and it was too early for trick or treating.  Picture the scene:  Rain.  Thunder in the distance.  Lights out.  Candles flickering from all the chaos.  The jack-o-lanterns sitting forlornly on the porch were drenched in water.  Two hyper boys were bouncing off the walls having already discovered the candy that was set aside in case anyone stopped by in costumes.  The dog, Gumbo, thinking it was great fun was happily chasing them and twirling in circles, barking madly.  One could almost hear Boris Karloff madly playing the distinctive, forceful theme from Phantom of the Opera in the background.

I was sitting next to Frances on the sofa and sensed trouble brewing so I removed my glasses.  My $800.00 progressive lens glasses with prisms both horizontally and vertically.  The ones my ophthalmologist said were a unique case.  The ones he worked hard to assure I no longer had to suffer with double vision.  Frances had just removed hers as well. 

It happened.  Boy number one was on my back, his hand around my face covering my eyes. There was a clap of thunder as I handed my glasses to Frances assuming she'd removed them somewhere safe.  The boy and I went to the floor, laughing as we wrestled with Gumbo on top. Boy number two joined in.  That's when the trouble started. 
Their mother finally said the game was over, raincoats were put over costumes and the family left for a wet evening of candy gathering.  Frances and I retrieved the glasses. 
Mine were bent way out of shape.  I couldn't see at all.  Extreme double vision set in.  I was heartbroken.  Here we were in a foreign land and my glasses were horribly bent.  It was too late to do anything that night so I stumbled and bumped into things as I greeted the trick or treaters.  I tried to correct what I could on the frames but only managed to be able to get them where I could continue reading out of the corner of one side as long as I held the other eye shut. 

Frances tried hers on.  She too couldn't see well out of hers.  Her reading glasses had been damaged by the boys as well.  What were we going to do?  We needed to find the solution to my sight.  Frances could just go buy another pair of reading glasses.  I couldn't.  Meanwhile I continued greeting drenching wet costumed kids, dropping candy on the ground thinking I was hitting their extended sacks as I bumped into the door frame.  I can understand why they so quickly ran away looking back over their shoulders.

We prayed that the Lord would help us find a solution.  We did not want to blame the boys, we certainly didn't want them to think they were at fault.  I was the one who should have been more careful.  I went to bed with a patch over one eye so I could continue to try to see enough to read my book I so wanted to finish.

The next morning, Frances called every eye institute we could find in this foreign land explaining my problem.  We couldn't find anyone who could deal with my unique situation.  We didn't find what we needed concerning someone to help with the prisms.  We went to one place to, at least, get the frames back in shape and tightened.  The lady tried.  It just became worse.  She asked lots of questions.  She had trouble seeing the progressive lens but eventually did say she did.  She suggested we call our old eye doctor and get records sent here.  She tried to be cheerful and I prayed for her.  We returned home  but first called our doctor in Louisiana.  They retrieved my records and planned to order a new set of frames and have them mailed to us but did say it was best if they put the lens in themselves .  We started to pack our bags, thinking who we could call to put us up for the night.  First, they asked us to read out the information on the side of the glasses so they could order the correct frames  The glass case said I had the correct frames but we couldn't seem to read the numbers for the lady.  Marty was called in.  He read the numbers.
  They were not they numbers they were supposed to be.  
He looked at Frances glasses.  "Hay," he said, "these two look a lot alike."  He read the numbers on Frances'.  She had mine and I hers. 
So stress over losing something as valuable as your sight can do strange things to the mind.  Neither one of us could think clearly.  We spent a night of agony and a day of searching for help in this western land only to discover the solution was right under our noses. Ha.
What bothers me most is that the lady who tried to make mine work said she had 27 years experience and she couldn't tell there weren't prisms in them or that they weren't progressive. 
We have been laughing all afternoon about the miracle of God helping us find my sight. 
 Marty said we moved over here just in time since both of our minds were slowly disappearing.
So that's our tale of woe.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

How I met Frances

The Princess and the Frog

Everything in my life is complicated.  I am not the norm for doing anything.  My drummer is not even  a drummer, folks.  Yea, that's right.  In fact, I think I march to the tune of a digeridoo.  Look it up.  Take computers, for instance.  No.  Let's don't.  That's a whole different mystery book all together.  So let's talk dating instead.   Why should anyone be surprised if things didn't go exactly as they should for me when trying to date.?  Dating shouldn't be that hard, should it? Like, you know, ask a girl out for a date, girl accepts, you get something to eat before or after, you make conversation to find out about each other and everyone has a great evening, or not, then you take her home.  Isn't that what man has been doing for centuries?  Well, I tend to get tongue-tied when I tried to date the opposite sex.  Now, I realize that most men are in the same small boat that I'm in - actually, I think it's more of a yacht - but anyway, our brains seem to short circuit.  It's in the genes, I'm sure.

Now as a teenager I had no problem talking to any girls that were friends.  But asking one out on a date was a whole different ball game.  My brain just froze and I failed to make coherent sentences.   That happened to me way too often in high school and college which is why I didn't really date much.  I did much better just hanging around, being a clown, laughing and enjoying company with both sexes, never being very serious.

Then I met Frances and things were no different.   Now, I need to give you some background information before I go further.  To begin with, I knew Frances before I knew Frances -well, I knew of her.  And she knew me, sorta.  You see I was in the army overseas in Vietnam, on temporary duty to Tokyo, Japan when I first heard of Frances.  I was sent to Japan to put together a brigade yearbook for my unit in Vietnam. Who wouldn't take advantage of leaving Vietnam for three months to put together a yearbook?  I was no dummy.  It so happened that I had a friend that lived down the street when we were growing up, that was stationed in Japan at the same time and he was married to a girl I once briefly dated in college.  Emphasis on the "briefly".  Sam was going TDY to Korea at that time and his wife Jill was pregnant.  So I was checking up on her and making sure she was all right while Sam was gone.  Jill kept telling me about her twin brother who was dating some girl from South Lafourche  at the time, named Frances.  Jill told me all about Frances, and I politely listened. Meanwhile her brother, David, kept hearing about this friend  that was taking care of his sister while her husband was on TDY.  He told Frances about his sister's friend, and she politely listened.  God was matchmaking at the time and we were totally unaware.

Skip a few years.  I left Vietnam, spent a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky, got an early out to finish college and get my degree.   Since I didn't want to live at home or in the dorm, I talked my daddy into letting me move into a house that he owned on Shirland Ave. in Alexandria.  It had been vacant for seven years, holes in the floor, peeling wallpaper, tiny little leaks sometimes when it rained, and all that stuff.  Who cared?   I was a bachelor.   Fun times.   Frances, had graduated from Northwestern and had moved to Alexandria to teach.  God was still matchmaking, but we were totally unaware.

Frances rented a room from a lady that was a second mother to me, Mrs. Madie Carter.  I had known her for years at church while growing up, and her daughter, Linda, and I had been friends for years.  In fact, Linda was married to a long time buddy of mine, Bob.    Mrs. Carter invited me to come over and have a meal and meet this Frances and invite her to church.  I refused.  She asked on several more occasions.  I refused every time.  God was still trying to be matchmaker and I was not getting the memo.

Meanwhile, Frances had been visiting several other churches and finally decided to visit Emmanuel.  She ended up joining the church.  I, sheepishly got in line to meet her.  When I introduced myself, she quietly said, "Oh, you're the one that Mrs. Carter kept inviting over to eat and never came." I, hung my head in shame and nodded, yes.  When I left church that day, I kicked myself for not paying attention to Mrs. Carter.

Weeks passed.  Frances and I both were in the same singles Sunday school class.  Weeks more passed and I finally got my tongue untied enough to ask Frances out on a date.  I had always been a fan of musicals, having performed and danced in several, so when the movie "Cabaret" came out I tripped over my feet and asked if she would like to see it with me.   She refused, saying she had seen it  before and really didn't want to see it again.   My tongue suddenly unfurled itself and wrapped it's long silly self around my legs while I whispered "okay" and slid out of the room.   Stupid me.  It never dawned on me that I could ask her to go somewhere else instead. Strike number one. I'm sure God was shaking his head and bad mouthing me under his breath.

Eventually, I managed to dislodge my tongue enough to speak coherently and ask Frances out again.  She accepted and we had plans to see a better movie.  To say the least, I was nervous.  Finally the day arrived for the said "man-meets-girl-man-dates-girl" event.  WHAT!!!!  IT RAINS!  Not the ordinary rain that we frequently get in Louisiana.  Oh, no!  This was more of a flood!  The kind that Noah must have seen when he built his ark.  It rained buckets.  If I had looked outside, I'm sure I would have seen the Cajun Navy floating by.  Remember the house I mentioned I lived in?  Well, the roof leaked.   Oh,  did the roof leak?  Wow!  Every room in that rickety old house decided that this was the day for me to mop the floors. It rained.  It poured.  The old man upstairs snored.  The water came down in every room , ran across the floors and exited the holes in the floorboards.  I was soaked to the bone as I mopped.   I called Frances and told her that I was not going to be able to go on the date because I was having to mop my floors.  That stupid tongue of mine didn't let me explain that all the rooms in my house were leaking.  Oh, no.  That would have been too normal.  No, no.  I left the conversation there and hung up.  Strike number two.  I'm sure God was slapping his forehead now and giving up on me.  No telling what Frances thought.

The next Sunday, in Sunday school, I think Frances sat completely across the room from me and never looked my way.  I certainly didn't have the courage to speak to her.

Weeks passed.  I couldn't unwrap my tongue enough to ask her out again.  She and I sang in the choir and went to Sunday school and hardly spoke.  I became involved with the youth at church, directing choreography for musical numbers.  We planned a trip to visit the Louisiana Girl's School in Ball, Louisiana to perform.  I was going as a chaperone.  I asked Frances if she would like to be a chaperone too.  She agreed!  The third time's the charm, right?  I had a date.  Not sure if she thought it was though.  But I did pick her up and take her home.  So, finally, after all these months of agonizing torture, I finally had my date with Frances.
We even held hands!
I began "courting" her.   I asked if I could come over and watch TV with her.  Mrs. Carter chaperoned.  We went places.  We became a couple.  We got married.  She has put up with me for forty four years now.  God with his perseverance didn't give up on us and I am grateful.

At our wedding we made more discoveries as to how God ordained us to be together.   My grandparents attended, and the first people they went to hug and visit were her family.  Grandpa had been a pastor at their Methodist church years ago.  Her aunts and uncles knew my grandparents.  Wow.  Both of us looked surprised to learn this news.

 © Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Friday, August 25, 2017

2009 Thornton Court 

How do you say good bye to a home you have loved for 43 years? A home you nurtured, adored, explored? This house on Thornton Court embraced me from the moment I first walked into it. Over time it revealed its secrets, its history, its hidden treasures. I love this old house built in1929 and my heart breaks every time I think of leaving it. But it is time. My bones don't take to the stairs like they used to. Frances has long ago abandoned the upstairs and the beautiful view of the back yard.

The room where the two of us once dreamed of our future as we watched squirrels frisk in the early morning among the limbs of the old pecan tree became my art studio when we had to move the bed down stairs. This house graciously embraced the idea. The downstairs den, with its locally milled locust wood walls didn't exist in the original house and was a playground to Marty as he bounced on a mini-tram and tried out handstands on an antique trunk. I'm sure this house smiled at this little boy as he enjoyed pre-school through high school birthday parties. It, too, gradually revealed that it could become a kitchen when Marty moved off to college, and the old kitchen said it would be glad to become a bedroom after a hip surgery. We were surprised to discover where an original door once was, and a light switch hidden between the walls during this renovation. I smile at the thought of my sister, Becky and I actually putting a wooden floor over that new kitchen after taking out the linoleum floor and discovering the old original tiles. We laughed as we left a note sealed under one of the boards with our names. I smile as I remember painting that floor with an elaborate design. I look at this kitchen, which once was the den and the stove which replaced the sofa and remember bringing our new born son, fresh from the hospital and his marking his spot on that sofa. We loved him even more for that christening.

And then the living room and dining room insisted that they be switched for a while, as well, making the dining room closer to the new kitchen. I think of the stairs where we bounced down on our rears, Marty sitting in my lap, laughing and giggling. The same stairs that later entertained two grand boys for hours as they connected Mardi Gras beads end to end and slid the beads down those stairs like a slinky, followed by their bouncing down on their rears to repeat the process, and, yes, I did sit the two boys on my lap as we slid down, laughing and giggling. I think of the times these same stairs became a comfort spot as we sat and cried and shared our grief over deaths of loving dogs or pain caused by loved ones. It hurts to say good bye to this. But it is time.

So how do you say good bye to this? It is hard. It really is. I walk around the yard where we played, planted trees and flowers, hid Easter eggs or hit baseballs and chased dogs in the middle of the night that were cornering a possum, trying not to waken neighbors. I think of camping out back only to wake early so we could see a comet streak by. I smile at these memories.

As I look back at what this house has become over the last 43 years, I smile, but a part of me just wants to sit down and cry, and at times like this, the insecure me surfaces when I think of leaving this home and tells me that it is time for me to give up, too. “Life is over, I'm old and useless,” it whispers. “You can't even take care of yourself so how can you even think of taking care of the house,” it sneers? I feel despair as I think of the broken window from a baseball that once missed my glove and the cut that sent me to the ER for stitches and compare it to myself, broken and bleeding, feeling sorry for myself.

But as I sit on the patio in the dark listening to the tree frogs, Gumbo in my lap smelling the night air, I am reminded of the wonderful life we had here and I whisper a prayer. Prayers have a way of doing that, calming the storm raging within. Then memories or hurts begin to glide over the rough, the ugly, the sad, when you let them, and I thank God for that. Again I smile. The despair leaves. “It is time,” God murmurs. “Go. Enjoy your family and grandchildren. Start a new adventure.” That's what life is really about isn't it. Loving God and going when he calls. Frances and I are stepping out on faith and feel it is the right thing to do. I'm not really ready for it, but it is time to move on. And that's okay. God's timing is always so accurate when we are open to his whispers. It will hurt to leave this house but leaving our church and friends is a whole different story. But we must move on. Again I whisper a prayer for Emmanuel.

Sitting here reminiscing, I'm reminded that you don't say good bye to a home you have loved for 43 years? You just don't. Instead, you hold the memories fast in your heart and smile and say, “Well done.” You treasure all the memories of painting designs on tennis ball backboards and coffee tables. 

You smile when you think of the rugs that you painted on wooden floors to cover up bad spots. 

You smile at the time you opened up part of the ceiling in the new kitchen and painted the other half with leaves and tree limbs because your wife said, “Wouldn't it be nice if we could sit under the trees here?” 
 You laugh about the time the bathtub above had a burst pipe, which caused the sheet rock ceiling to fall in one of the rooms, allowing the house to reveal a hidden part of itself to you, gifting you with a beautiful, wooden ceiling. You smile thinking of the hours spent removing 5 or more layers of paint on that wooden ceiling and dream of what former owners must have been thinking to keep painting that wonderful wood. You think of life and dogs we've owned and buried in the back yard, of watching a boy become a delightful adult, of friends who have shared the journey with you and laughed and cried with you in this house and you are comforted knowing that God has been with you all the way. No, you don't give in to the insecurities that haunt you, but, instead, take a deep breath and look forward to the next adventure, to the new house that is waiting to reveal itself to you, too, knowing God will be beside you.

God reminds me, on occasions like this, that it will be fine. Life will go on. It is time for new adventures. It is time to embrace the joys that are yet to come. It will be hard to leave a house you dearly loved all your life. But it is Okay...honestly. It is time.

I thank God that Frances and I had the privilege of living in this grand old house, that was way older than us, and for the discoveries we made of its original blueprint. I marvel at the way past owners treasured the house too by making upstairs sleeping porches into full size bedrooms, and am thankful that we were chosen to care for it as well. I pray that the new owners will cherish what we have learned and will also think it a privilege to be caretakers of this marvelous home. Frances and I are writing down the discoveries of dear old 2009 for them. They need the history too. I pray that the new family will enjoy bumping on their rears down the stairs or hurry down for Christmas surprises. I pray that they will share laughter and love and joy in this house on Thornton Court. We love you 2009 Thornton Court and will never forget you. Thank you for sharing life with us for 43 years. We will miss you, but it is time and we are happy for new adventures.

Don't even get me started on how I will miss Emmanuel Baptist, a place I love even more that my house. The sermons, friends and love this church has shared are priceless. Leaving this church is going to be the hardest part of moving. But I smile, knowing it is time.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and be not dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Friday, August 18, 2017

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My church is in the final stages of another long over due renovation of its historic three story building. I took the time one Wednesday night to sneak past the barriers that separated the usable parts from the restricted areas. As I stood in the huge open space of the third floor gazing up at the attic space I was transported to my first recollection of this building. This three story building once housed the sanctuary on its second floor with a three sided balcony on the third.

I sat down and remembered what Emmanuel Baptist Church has meant to me. It has been a part of my life every Wednesday and Sunday for as far back as I can remember. I am blessed to be a member of a church that has a history of great preachers and am blessed to have known some of them, even when I was too little to know the importance of how they would nurture me. People like Dr. Herschel Hobbs, Kerney Keegan, Franklin Seigler, Glynn Bryant, Larry Taylor and now, Chris Thacker. I was taught that the church building was not the only place to encounter God. He could be reached outside of the walls of the building. He could be down the street at the Salvation Army and in the run down part of our neighborhood downtown. I was taught to love all people, that I could and should love this world and all that is in it.
Dr. Herschel Hobbs was the pastor when I was born and my parents enrolled me in the nursery right after birth. The nursery, where I spent probably the first 4 or 5 years of my life, was located in a wooden house, across from the gravel parking lot, where the chapel now stands. I have a vivid memory of this building, especially a coat rack that stood in the hall shaped like a dog with his body holding all the hooks for our clothing. I loved that big white dog with his tremendous black spots. This was probably my first artistic encounter at Emmanuel.

My first sanctuary was on the second floor of our education building, the pulpit being on the east side facing west, in the location of the Young Adults Sunday School. Our church had two sets of steps on the outside (located near the current angel sculpture and breezeway areas) that led you to the second floor sanctuary. Many Vacation Bible School pictures were taken on those steps. You could also access the first floor through doors under those stairs and enter the fellowship hall (which is where the baptistery was) or climb wooden stairs to the sanctuary as well. I'm glad these wooden steps, leading to second and third floor, are being retained in this renovation. I'm also glad that we are installing an elevator that is way overdue. I loved sliding down the wide concrete rail outside every chance I got. I sometimes climbed and hid in the rain tree next to it offering me sanctuary from adults or, once, skipping Sunday school. I remember years later when that tree had lived its life and was removed. My father took a seedling that had sprouted from this glorious tree and transplanted it into a new area next to the breezeway arches. This is the area where our current roses are growing, planted by Dr. Tom Davis.

I remember the folding doors that sectioned off areas of that sanctuary for Sunday school classes and the three sided balcony on third floor. Another artistic encounter was the sky light at the top, There were small windows on all four sides in the clerestory, covered in textured yellow glass that caused a glorious glow making the room seem magical and worshipful and safe. I remember singing the song, A Sunbeam, A Sunbeam while siting in that sanctuary and looking at those yellow windows. The area seemed so huge to a little child of five or six sitting on a massive pew on the second floor. The one person elevator, put in for Mrs. Mary Caulderwood Bolton, going to the third floor balcony mesmerized me. Little did I know I would encounter it later in life.

When I was seven years old Emmanuel built our present sanctuary and renovated that three story building for more Sunday school classes. The elevator was removed. I had the good fortune of having my Sunday school classroom where the elevator had been located. They had installed a window to replace the elevator door, leaving the shaft, I suppose, in case they wanted to re-install another elevator later. The window was screwed down, of course, since 12 year old boys met there. There was a ladder on the other side of that window that went to the bottom of the empty shaft. Our twelve year old minds created all sorts of adventures about that elevator and we yearned to explore. Our teacher would take the class roll at the beginning of class and then take the records to the department secretary to record our attendance. One Sunday, someone brought a screw driver and when Mr. Belk left the room we began working on removing a screw. This went on each Sunday until all the screws were removed. Our day finally arrived. The day we would seek our freedom. The day of our adventure. Mr. Belk took our roll to the department secretary as usual. While he was gone, each and every one of us, opened the window, climbed through it and down that ladder. The last boy in quietly shut the window as we crouched in the bottom of that shaft as quietly as we could. Mr. Belk could not find us and, thankfully, did not look down the shaft.

Of course, we were trapped now and had to wait until the bell rang at the end of class and every one left. Being late for church, we sneaked in the front door and quietly went to the balcony thinking we were home free. We did not know that Mr. Belk had already found several of our parents and informed them of our disappearance from Sunday school. Yes, I was punished at home and couldn't go outside and ride my horse for a whole week. The next Sunday we learned that our room had been given to the girls and we had a room with no window.

Our present Sanctuary was built in 1950. The experiences of revivals and preachers, stories and chalk talks by visiting artists shaped and molded me here. The room was larger than life and so beautiful. This church nurtured my creativity. A favorite memory is seeing God in those stained glass windows. I often tried to draw them with my crayons during services - my favorite was the one where Jesus gathered the little children - that is if Mama wasn't making me get off the floor under the pews in the winter time because of the heated floor or watching the street light on Beauregard and 4th street blink through the opened windows (there was no air conditioning) and yes, you could open a part of the windows then. Later when I joined the church staff, I would still go into that room, early in the morning, when no one was around, lights off, and visit with God. The early sun shining through the east side windows, and the Rose window, is a worship experience that rivals the most beautiful retreat. Even today, after twenty five plus years of opening the sanctuary for church, I look forward to my early morning visits before turning on the lights. I do believe this is the highlight of my week.

I was baptized by Dr. Franklin Seigler when I was nine, in the new baptistery, two years after we moved to our current sanctuary. Dr. Seigler had only known me by my nickname and Mama kept reminding him to please baptize me by my given name, even writing it down for him. Well, when it came time to be baptized, Dr. Seigler said, “This is, uh,” then looking around trying to find my family or his notes, to no avail, said, “this is, uh, well, this is Susie and Cecil's son Nippy. You all know Nippy. I baptize you Nippy Blair....” If he had leaned over and asked me my name, I probably would have told him Nippy as well since that was what I had been called since I was cutting my teeth.

Our youth department was two or three old barracks brought in and placed where the current nursery is located. There was no sidewalk to it, only some boards placed on the ground. When it was rainy, we had to slosh through mud in some areas. As a teenager the fellowship hall was our activities building with shuffle board painted on the wooden floor, a TV in one corner and a pool table in the corner closest to the office. This is the same old pool table that is now in our activities building. Many hours were spent there even after school ball games on Friday nights, playing games under the ceiling fans. Or watching horror movies with all the lights off. The glass doors that opened to Weems Fellowship Hall are original and led from the parking lot outside of the building. Once, a friend driving into our parking lot one Sunday afternoon missed his brakes and went through the doors into the building barely missing the pool table. The doors he messed up are the same French doors that were next to the office. Later as more renovations occurred we met at Central Grammar School, where the school board media center is located while the three story building received a third floor and more classrooms and the new nursery area and choir room were built behind the sanctuary. I hated that they put a ceiling up to cover the clerestory and those beautiful yellow windows.
Many sainted people helped raise me. Shirley Wells kept me in the nursery. Polly Colvin was my first memory of a Sunday School teacher. Blanche and Leo Marler, and Mildred Pierce were my RA leaders. Mary D. Bowman, was my Training Union leader. Gerry Gravel (Mama Rock to us) brought me to choir on Sunday evenings.

I became involved with drama as a young teen thanks to our minister of music, Joe Santo, and enjoyed performing in our sanctuary and on choir trips as well as in community theater since Joe frequently was the music director for City Park Players. He helped us become an ecumenical church. People of all faiths came to to our drama presentations. We had Jewish friends like Jacque Caplan direct some of our church dramas and a priest friend of Bro. Joe's even prayed in our sanctuary before one of the performances. This was in the 50's and 60's. Priests just didn't visit Baptist churches then. Choir practice was on the front pews or in the choir loft (we had no choir room then). The sanctuary was our only performing area so we built a platform to extend the stage for more room. We performed I Saw Him and Christ in the Concrete City . We practiced melodramas for fun performances.

We had two worship services under Glen Bryant and we were regulars on Life At It's Best on KALB. Our youth choir sang for the early morning worship. Later I helped direct the dancers for Amahl and the Night Visitors under Jerome Malek and even danced the Shepherd's dance in our sanctuary with my sister Jane. Yes, I danced on the pulpit stage, barefoot even. I directed and did the choreography for the musical Beginnings, where the choir sang in the balcony and we performed a liturgical dance. Later I helped direct and choreograph the New Life Singers, under Bob Bolding, where we traveled over several states performing, even getting a standing ovation at Music Week at Glorieta one summer. Heather Mackey and I directed two act plays and created stage sets when my son was one of the youth. One play took place in a garage and we transformed the chapel stage to look like a garage even with a car that some men (thanks to Butch Mackey, and James Girlinghouse) graciously placed there for us. Frances and I hosted the neighborhood children after school in our activities building. Sometimes we would have close to one hundred children who wanted to play basketball. This lead to devotions for them and after school tutoring. Frances and I wrote the pageant for Emmanuel's 100th anniversary and I directed. We were able to involve almost everyone in the church, even the janitor, Warren. The script is in the church history records. I am extremely grateful to my church that allowed this artistic misfit find a place to belong and to use his artistic talents.
Emmanuel has always embraced creativity. Too often those who march to different drummers feel out of place at churches. This is not so at Emmanuel for we have always been pioneers. We have always been a church that was accepting of “difference”. We have always been a church that nurtured the Arts. We have always been open minded. This is the environment I thankfully grew up in. Thank you Emmanuel for the church you are. There is none other like thee.

Currently we are in the final stages of another renovation to the three story building that I loved growing up and it will be glorious. It has been wonderful to follow the progress. I'm glad they will open up to the clerestory again and the windows that once shined with glorious yellow light will do so once more although not all of those windows will have the yellow stained glass, but enough to create the ethereal glow it originally had.
 I'm excited that a new generation of youth will be making memories like the ones I have.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Of Chinese Food and Ice Cream

My mama had cervical disc troubles for as far back as I can remember. She never knew when it would cause her discomfort.  Bending over could cause it to seize up or just sitting. It was unpredictable.  Once it happened on a Sunday morning, during church, while she was singing in the choir, barefoot I might add, her favorite way to sing.  Bless her heart, she sat there until the service was over before she would ask for help. That back ailment was a source of irritation.

At night or toward the end of the day, her back would entrap her and often our next door neighbor, Dr. John Rozier, our family doctor and a most kind, loving man, would amble over and give her a shot to ease her pain and free up the muscle spasm. There's not a better life to enjoy than to have a loving, friend who happens to be a doctor living next door. We didn't want to take advantage of him, but we did.

Daddy never ever really quite understood this problem with Mama because as far as I can remember, he never, ever was sick. He never went to a dentist, never went to the doctor, never had any ailments that I am aware of while we were growing up. He was healthy as a horse. He never took a sick day. He truly believed that mind was over matter. If he was unwell, he never let on because he continued taking care of business. He expected Mama to do the same. He expected us, children, to do the same. He was incapable of understanding what it's like to be ill. This man lived in his own world. He never ever helped clean the house or cook a meal or wash clothes or shop for his own clothes or cigars. He never helped put the four of us to bed. He never came and read us bedtime stories. He never came to kiss us goodnight. It was the way he was raised. It was the way his generation was raised. I'm not putting him down or feeling bitter, this was just the way he was. I understand, and I know we were well loved. But I also know, that when Mama was down, Annabelle our maid, took care of us.

So you're asking what in the world does all this have to do with Chinese food and Ice Cream? The answer has to do with Mama having to go to the hospital. There are only two times in my life that I remember when Daddy thought he was in charge. Now the first time I don't remember much because I was only six or seven. Mama developed a case of encephalitis and eventually had to go to the hospital in New Orleans. Daddy decided that it was just absolutely nothing to running a household of four children under the age of eight. Annabelle took care of us, except for supper leaving Daddy to think he was completely in charge, especially with the meals. Daddy had spent a year in China during World War II and thought he knew all about Chinese food. He spent a great deal of time preparing chow mein or fried rice. Sometimes it would be kung pao chicken or sweet and sour pork. Oh, and the pickled vegetables were always nice. Ha! Sometimes he would be cooking way past our bedtimes. We hated his cooking, mainly because we were children under the age of eight. His food was terrible, it smelled bad and we didn't like the way it tasted. We had two choices: eat what he fixed or go to bed hungry. Thankfully, Annabelle rescued us during the day with kid friendly meals. We were full as ticks by the time Daddy hit the kitchen with his “gourmet” meals. He never understood why we ate so little of the food. You can imagine how elated we were when Mama did come home again. I was a grown person and married before I would even try Chinese food. It tormented me for years. So that is the Chinese food question taken care of.

So what about the ice cream? 

Well, that had to do with the second time Mama went to the hospital in New Orleans. This trip had to do with her cervical disc discomfort that kept her bent over like she was searching for something she lost on the ground. It got so bad that eventually she became bedridden. The orthopedic surgeon insisted she needed surgery. I was grown and out of the house this time. Poor Mama had rods and pins and screws implanted in her back and stayed in the hospital in New Orleans for close to a month. Daddy took care of himself, even washing his clothes and cooking for himself. But not without consulting one of us as to where the washing machine was and how to use it. I refused to visit for fear I would be coerced into cleaning the house. My brother said the dishes were piled high in the sink, filthy. It got so bad that we threatened to bring the garden hose inside for him to hose off the dishes before she returned.

During this time, Daddy ran out of cigars. He called me to go get them. I didn't. He called someone else. They didn't. He finally realized he had to get them himself. First, he had to call for directions. While out hunting for the cigars, he decided to explore and see about this WalMart every one was talking about. He must have really been bored because this man had never, ever been inside a store that I am aware of except to campaign. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he walked into WalMart. He had no idea they could have so much stuff under one roof. I can imagine that he spent hours wandering around the store like country come to town, mouth hanging open, amazed at the sights he saw. He couldn't wait to tell us about it. “Did you know that you could shop all day for anything you wanted in one store? Anything. You name it and they have it,” he said. “Why you could even eat there. They have a little cafe right there in the store,” he explained. We laughed. We suggested he try other stores in town to see what they held. He declined, saying, “No. It's too big. Mama can shop there if she wants.”

Eventually, Daddy decided to visit mama in New Orleans. He knew the directions, he said, since he delivered her there in the first place. So he went alone. We heard from Mama later that he got lost but found his way eventually and didn't want us to know. Which explains why three weeks later, it was time for mama to come home and he wanted me to travel with him. All the way there he kept talking about this place in Gonzales that had, absolutely, the best ice cream he had ever eaten. It was smooth and piled high on a cone or you could get it in a cup. "I never tasted something so wonderful," he said. I suggested we stop when we arrived in Gonzales, which we did. “Quick, turn off here, it is just over there,” he said excitedly. I did. Suddenly he said, “Here, pull in here,” he was practically shouting. 
We were at a MacDonald's!
At a MacDonald's!
 Can you believe it?
“Daddy, you've got to be kidding,” I said, “we have this same ice cream in Alexandria. You can get some every day if you want.” He didn't believe me.

Poor Daddy. He may have been a state senator and entertained governors and other high officials around the state but I guess you just can't take the country out of the boy.
 Bless his heart! 

We tried to educate him further, to no avail. He was content to live in his own little bubble. And yes, he did think that after Mama was home for a few days that she should go buy his cigars and cook his meals again. Thank goodness for dear, sweet Annabelle. What can I say? Gotta love him.

It has now become my family tradition when traveling to New Orleans to stop at MacDonald's, in Gonzales, for the best ice cream in the world. “Cheers, Daddy.”

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I witnessed a miracle today. I watched the world come alive while sitting quietly by my window. I stared into the black darkness while sitting in my favorite chair, my dog, Gumbo, in my lap. We gazed into the darkness, our minds wandering to thoughts only the two of us could comprehend. Occasionally, Gumbo would look into my face and quickly bestow a kiss as if to say that she, too, understood what a moment we shared. 

Slowly, from the dusky dark I saw a cloud peeking through the trees as if an angel decided to visit our solitude, teasing us with its hide-and-seek. It appeared perfectly still behind the Sycamore, but as the two of us froze in place I noticed it slowly creeping forward. It was not a large cloud, just a simple little cumulus one trying to liberate itself from its obscurity. If I had not been so still I would not have even noticed its insignificant self in the first place. But there it was, peeking through the branches, tantalizing us. I watched that cloud slowly rise above the tree, scoffing as it metamorphosed to a glowing pink fringed with a yellow outline into its fully white self. We were too mesmerized with the miracle that we failed to notice that the sky had joined the game as well, becoming different shades of color.

And then it happened. The sun in all of its glory peeked above the horizon. Suddenly the whole world seemed to wake. The light became more intense. We watched lazy cats yawn and stretch before leaving their naps to seek nourishment. Birds began to whistle their cheerful greetings. Squirrels chased each other in a game of “you're it”. I expected that at any moment someone would be dancing down the street singing “my, my, my what a wonderful day” while holding their coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. It was that kind of day. A day only the movies can make or, at least in this situation, a day in my absurd imagination. 

What a miracle Gumbo and I witnessed, in ten minutes time, the beginning of a new day bursting into being. What a miracle to go from liminality to glory in such a tiny moment of time. Thank you, Lord, for this one miracle and me being still enough to notice.

Tonight, as I compose this, I hear the miracle again as the tree frogs sing their love song to the evening outside my window. 
Lord, I pray that I will pay attention to more of these liminal moments and embrace them for the miracles that they are.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nippy's Don't Touch

I have a confession to make. I tend to be a little OCD on occasion with OCPD thrown in. Not to the degree that it controls my life completely but enough to cause me anxiety on occasion, thank you. I frequently resort to repetitive behaviors. I mentally repeat phrases and count numbers. I'm doing that now. I'm repeating four words to a song right now while typing. I can't help it. It has always been a part of me. I also like orderliness...ask my wife. One of our most frequent fights, when we first married, was over things not being put back in their place after being used. Now she just tells me to “get over it. It's your problem, not mine.” That works. And, because of Frances, I tend to not be as compulsive anymore. Well, at least, I think so. She probably has a different story but we better leave that alone.

When I was ten, my parents built a house back in the 1950's out on Jackson Street Extension, which was out in the country then (my daddy was always looking for more room. He didn't like to be crowded with neighbors). It was a beautiful ranch style house with three bedrooms on one side with a long hall connecting it all. Since there were four of us children, two boys and two girls, we had rooms we shared with a bathroom between our two rooms. So, growing up I had to share a room with my brother who was four years younger. He obviously did not have any of my tendencies and was a constant source of aggravation We lived this way until I left for college.

The room had built in headboards against a wall and two single beds side by side. We each had our own closets and shelves and space on the headboard to hold our stuff. Very typical of homes built in the fifties. That was nice and neat for normal children like Beaver Cleaver and Wally, but we were not like that at all. We were constantly fighting with each other. We seemed to have absolutely nothing in common. Nothing, I say.

My side of the room had everything in its place. I always made my bed, kept my comic books neatly stacked on my side of the headboard and had sweet potato vines in vases growing. I hung my clothes in the closet with the short sleeve shirts first, followed by long sleeve ones, then the pants. The shirts were buttoned neatly and all the shirts and hangers hung in the same direction, evenly spaced. My chest of drawers had my socks neatly rolled and placed by color, the underwear and tee shirts neatly folded and in their own drawers. Everything had its place. I frequently was caught saying, “That's mine. Don't touch. Don't mess up my stuff.”

Bobby on the other hand was a slob in the worst way. He never picked up anything. His side of the room had clothes thrown on the floor, on the bed, hanging on name it. He never, ever made his bed and kept wads of bubblegum glued to one corner of his headboard. He had jars and jars of pickled snakes and rats and collections of bugs sitting on shelves. He never shut his closet door. Everything was a wreck. I hated it. Worst of all, I had to cross his side to get to the bathroom and step on those sloppy clothes.

Thankfully mother stepped in and had the headboard unattached to the wall and placed down the center of the room giving each of us some space - our own side of the room. This helped a small amount. I still remained upset and continued repeating, “That's mine. Don't touch.” He repeatedly continued throwing things on my side and messing up my neat stack of books.

My sister Becky and my cousin Merry didn't help matters either. They were older than I and made fun of my being so persnickety neat. I was taunted with “Nippy's don't touch” by both of them when Merry came to visit. I got no respect.

Well, here's the rub. I went away to RA camp one week back in the summer of 1955. That's Royal Ambassadors for you who may be unfamiliar. It is an organization in the Baptist church for boys in grades 1-6 whose purpose is to involve them in missions. I had looked forward to camp because it had lots of outdoor activities and boy stuff to do led by state leaders and missionaries. So I was going to be gone for one week. Just one little week in the summer. Well, that same week, my cousin Merry was coming to stay with Becky. I gave detailed instructions to mama, as to not letting them on my side of the room and not to touch my stuff. I even checked twice, or three times, before I left making sure everything was neat and in its place.

While I was gone. Disaster struck. Becky and Merry not only entered my room but they carefully taped a sign on every piece of clothing I owned. Every plant, every book, every shoe, EVERYTHING I OWNED! Each sign had the words neatly typed, “NIPPY'S DON'T TOUCH!” The clothes had hangers turned the wrong way, and out of order, the drawers were switched around and unrolled socks and underwear were messed up together in the same drawers. Shoes were sitting on top of the headboard. Comic books were in drawers. Everything was totally messed with!


I'm not sure who typed “Nippy's Don't Touch”, but I wouldn't be surprised if my mother had been the instigator. I do remember mama and the girls laughing and telling me to get over it. Mama never admitted it.

So that is my confession. I'm sadder but wiser now and tend to control my compulsions better. At least in my head. 1,2,3,4,5. 1,2,3,4,5. 1,2,3,4,5. I say that is groups of three because three is my favorite number and I like to repeat things at least three times to keep order.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Tribute
A Sunday in Vietnam

I was trained to be a Photo Lab Specialist and looked forward to developing film for the Army, even in Vietnam. But, when I first arrived in the country and sent to the 199th Infantry Brigade, they informed me that the brigade did not have a photo lab. In training, I had been told that without a lab I would be sent to the front with the “grunts” and required to take pictures as well as fight. I was petrified. I was sent to the Information Office, the newspaper office, you might say. There the Lieutenant in charge reassured me that the job was available. He referred me to the Sargent in charge. The Sargent in charge said there was one problem. Someone else wanted the position too. A photographer, who had been in the field fighting for half a year also wanted the job. The Sargent had to decide who would be assigned the position. He asked us both to go build a bunker outside the building. Being new in the country and army life, I obeyed without question, while the other guy refused and told him off. I got the job which was to collect the negatives from the photographers in the field then have them developed next door at Long Binh before delivering the photos to Saigon to be censored (or not). I would then send them out to UPI and AP to be published in the newspapers in America. I was working in a newspaper office with reporters. A great job on a secure base. One of my extra duties was to travel with the General on Sundays to visit the wounded, from our unit, at the area hospitals. I could learn to like this job, I decided.

Most days were quiet and normal. I received the photos, the reporters wrote their stories and once a week we took a day trip to Saigon and after being censored, visited the USO and ate at a nice restaurant. On weekends we lounged around the pool on our off hours. Sundays I attended the early interdenominational church services just a few buildings down from our newspaper office and traveled with the General. This is a story about the one day I will never forget. April 1, 1970.

April Fools Day. It was a Sunday in Vietnam. I woke up in the bunker that I called home, the same bunker I helped build, which had assured my working here instead of at the front fighting with the “grunts”. Aside from a few April Fool's jokes with my friends, the day seemed to be no different than all other Sundays in Vietnam.

I knew that after the service I would go back to the office, gather my camera and wait for my "Sundays with the General".  Brigadier General William Ross Bond was a decent guy. He wasn't aloof like other Generals I had seen. He made you feel like you were somebody and that you weren't alone in this war. He spoke TO you and not AT you. My job was to just silently take pictures of him with the wounded so they would have a record of his visit and a picture to send home to anxious loved ones. I always had plenty of Polaroid film on hand for these visits. I didn't just silently take pictures with General Bond, though, because he encouraged me to also speak and visit with the men. He felt it was important. So here we were, the General, his aide, and me making rounds in the hospitals visiting and reassuring wounded men. I had been doing this for half a year already and it seemed quite ordinary for me, a Specialist 5, and he, a General, to board his helicopter, gunners on each side of us and fly to the wounded every Sunday. We became friends on those flights. Sometimes we talked about nothing in general, other times about his family or mine. It was like going on a Sunday drive with a friend.

So today would not be any different, I thought. When the call came I met them at the heliport and off we flew. First we visited one soldier who had been badly wounded, displaying stitches from neck to groin. Then another from our unit who had lost a leg. When I first started these visits, I couldn't look the soldiers directly in the eye because I felt guilty that I was in a fairly secure position and they had been living in hell. But now, I was quite at ease visiting and offering a word of prayer. I didn't feel as embarrassed taking a picture of them with their scars and missing body parts.  We had made several visits that day, but then we received a call that there was some fighting further north with several wounded on the ground without a medivac helicopter near. General Bond, without a moments hesitation, decided that we should leave immediately and help rescue those we could. It would be very dangerous.

As the helicopter took off Gen. Bond said, “Drop Blair off at the base, first. We might have some information to send him.” I was grateful. Returning to the office we waited for any information that might come in. We were anxious. Two hours later we got the word that my friend General Bond was dead along with everyone else on his helicopter. Gen. Bond had ordered the pilot to land so they could help rescue wounded soldiers. They were fired upon. General Bond was carrying a private in his arms when he was shot.

Chills ran up and down my spine and I cried. I had lost a great friend that I only briefly got to know on our Sunday afternoon flights. I lost friends that were always on the helicopter with the general and his aide. This thought shook me to my bones knowing that if he had not decided to drop me off first, that I would have been one of the causalities too. Life stood still.

We had a memorial service at the base later that week. I felt so guilty. Why did they die and not me. This was an experience that many soldiers have when their friends have been killed and they were spared, I learned. I was no different.

For several years, I lived with that guilt and silently kept it inside. I had bouts of depression. Gradually, I came to terms with my feelings and was able to talk about the war.

I am a grateful person that my life was spared. My faith helped me weather the storm. I learned to look on the bright side and talk of my Army days as joy and fun. The dark side doesn't seem dark anymore. I know what these soldiers feel when they return home without a friend. I feel the guilt and pain with them when I hear their stories. I am grateful that, but by the grace of God, it wasn't me.

Sometimes I get sad and cry on memorial day for I feel the pain so many have suffered. Thank you Lord, for all men and women in the armed forces who put their lives on the line every day to make America the free country we so love. Thank you for those who died and for their families. Their sacrifice was not in vain. We must never forget.  Never!

Without General Bond's decision to leave me behind I would not have ever met Frances or been married or had Marty. I would not have ever met Marty's Kristi and seen their two wonderful boys. Life would have been so different for my family this memorial weekend. I am a grateful person.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017



 I realize it is not fall, but cool weather seems to still be hanging around here after Easter, so I feel that this remembrance is still appropriate. This is dedicated to Judy Lipscomp Rundell and Jean Robinson Serio, who helped me enjoy my senior year in high school tremendously.

 September, 1961. I was a senior in high school. The weather was cool and crisp. The winds leaving a chill that made me smile. Fall was here. That glorious time of the year where the world seems to come back to life after my long hot summer of back breaking work in the hay fields and painting fences. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed that work in an odd sort of way, just like I also loved spending hours at the Alexandria Golf and Country club swimming in the big pool – ordering meals at the clubhouse and charging them to my daddy's tab on the days he decided to play golf. Days of freedom that only a teenager can explain.

Unlike the fall season these days, fall in the 1960's was FALL. The leaves actually changed colors before slowly releasing their grip from their security branches, floating effortlessly like feathers, fluttering and gliding coquettishly toward the ground. Reluctant children, rakes in hand, tackled the leaves with begrudged vigor, piling them in great big mounds before leaping joyously into the collection with abandonment. Some piles were burned, leaving a distinct smell of better things to come. There is nothing better than the smell of leaves burning on a fall day. 

 The weather was cool enough in the evenings to wear a light sweater. There was an anticipation in the air that couldn't be explained. Friends gathered for hay rides and bon fires in isolated places where we played Snipe Hunt for those gullible innocents still unaware. Hot dogs and hamburgers and smores were the order of the day. Good friends sat around the fires telling ghost stories, some sneaking off for a quick kiss before joining in singing Kum ba Yah or any of the Peter Paul and Mary songs that were so popular.
My senior year at Bolton High School was 1961/1962. Life was just full of fun and laughter and joy. People renewed friendships as they gathered in small clusters around the school campus catching up on travels and memories.

I was a cheerleader that year and fall had a new meaning to me, especially on Fridays. 

 Since we had cheerleader practice during the last hour of the day instead of gym class, we were free to decorate the goal posts and stands for the big games. On Fridays of home games, we (Sonny Trammel, Max Kees, Billy Thompson and me) left school early hooking up a trailer and driving to the Alexandria Zoo to pick up our black bear mascot, bringing it back to the football field so he could be paraded around the track every time we made a touchdown. If there was to be a sock hop after the first game of the season, then some of us stayed to help the boosters decorate the gym for the dance before rushing home to put on our uniforms so we could lead the crowds and support our team. Usually we had to wear sweaters for that first game because of the cool night air. Since a lot of cheers and yelling were to be the order of the evening, I never forgot my jar full of honey to sip on during the game keeping me from becoming hoarse. Game days were always full of excitement as we gathered in the gym and had pep rallies. Jumping and cheering and flipping across the gym floor. It was intoxicating as we gathered in front of the football players just before the game, hands clasped tightly waiting for them to break the paper banner, before leading them onto the field. If the ground was dry enough, I would do continuous back flips toward the fifty yard line always afraid some player would run me down accidentally. It was chaotic and exciting and dangerous sometimes. But we were teenagers and danger seldom, if ever, was in our vocabulary.

Being a senior, I took a course I had no interest in, in order to fulfill my requirements for graduation.  I took a class under Mrs. Stagg...a secretarial course. My friends Judy Lipscomb and Jean Robinson were also in the class and we had a ball. 

 There were all these new technology machines to learn like typing while using a Dictaphone
 or the Ditto machine with it's purple, messy ink.
 There was nothing like the smell of fresh ditto ink, or purple fingers if one wasen't careful. 

There was also the secretarial spelling and short hand that needed practicing. Mrs. Stagg, who also sponsored the Bruin yearbook, would assign us our work for the day and then leave for the Bruin office only to return just before the bell rang, expecting these seniors or D.E. students - most of the classmates were planning careers in secretarial work – to practice diligently.

I'm not so sure about Judy and Jean, but I just wanted the credit so I could graduate. We did our work never-the-less and passed the course.
.... BUT....... well.....

 Judy, Jean and I formed a club called the Yum-Yum club. 
 The rules were simple: (1) The club would meet only during Mrs. Stagg's class.  (2) It was a closed club and only the three of us could participate. (3)The only dues were to bring a piece of food, a cake or candy or whatever to class to nibble on without getting caught. 

 We were masters at it. Most of the time we just passed out food to the three of us, ignoring everyone else, eating at our desks while we studied or visited. How no one never ratted on us is a mystery to this day. How Mrs. Stagg didn't catch us is a bigger mystery. Toward the end of the year, the three of us even got so bold that, one day, we brought a blanket to class and spread it on the floor and ate some cake that I brought from home. We ate the whole hour sitting around as if we were on a picnic in some field on a Saturday. To this day I do not remember anything about those machines or the shorthand. But I do remember what a wonderful time we had.

The three of us sometimes gathered in the Bruin office, as well. Once we even gave Jean a party there for her 18th birthday. I even remember giving Jean a charm for her bracelet. We were silly seniors and had a lot of fun. Sometimes we'd run down the halls, laughing so hard that we actually almost knocked people over. I'm sure we were rude but we were having too much fun. It was a memorable senior year like it should have been.  Oh, sure, the football games were a lot of fun too and all the friendships we made that year, but to tell the truth, the Yum Yum club was the highlight of my whole senior year. And the best part was that Judy and Jean elected me to be the Club President for the entire year. I couldn't believe that I would be president of such a glorious club.  It was a tremendous honor and I am forever grateful to the two of them for “making my senior year”.

Disclaimer: If Judy and Jean tell you that they were the club president for the whole year then be aware that they are totally and completely wrong! I was the president and even tho they both claim to be it was me that kept the club in order. And yes, don't believe what they wrote in my senior year book about me voting them as club president. They made a mistake. 
Maybe I should erase those comments they wrote in my year book. Nope, couldn't do it. It is part of history. Long live senior classes and classmates that got away with things they shouldn't have their senior year.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How I Became an Artist

People sometimes ask me, “How did you become an artist?” “Were you precocious as a child?” “Did you draw a lot growing up?” Heck no! I had no inkling that I had any artistic talent whatsoever growing up. I lived in my little fantasy world of being a trapeze artist or a rodeo clown. If I wasn't living on my horse (even eating meals sometimes, or reading), then I was on a trapeze that mother had custom built for me in the back yard. I spent hours swinging upside down and flipping to the ground on that trapeze. I never ever thought about drawing or being creative....well, not much anyway. I didn't think about anything dramatic or artistic. I just wanted to be a cowboy or fly on the high wires under the big top of the circus.

So how did this artistic flare get discovered? Well, to begin with, I come from a creative, artistic family, on my mother's side. My great grandpa Hoffpaur was a creative type that held whatever job he could find so that he could play his “fiddle”. He went from gig to gig traveling around parishes in the state like Avoyelles and Rapides, just so he could make his music. Once, he even moved the family out to California in hopes of making it in the movies. And my grandmother, Ruth George, his daughter, wrote poetry. Her sister, Aunt Dolly, could play anything on the piano and the two of them collaborated composing music. Then my Uncle, Dr. Donald George, mother's brother, was involved in theater growing up and ended up being the head of the Speech Department at Mississippi Southern writing speech textbooks. My Aunt Margie was gifted in the visual arts and mother was very creative, herself, writing children's books and magazine articles under a nom de plum. Mother claimed that of the four children I was the acorn that fell closest to the Hoffpaur family tree. I think that is hogwash, frankly, because Becky, my older sister, is gifted in many ways herself and seems to have that Grandpa Hoffpaur gypsy gene. My little sister, Jane, to whom I was closest, could sew anything in the world and could have been a dress designer. If she hadn't died on her 38th birthday she would be giving me a run for my money. Then there was brother Bob, a farmer, who performs best at pretending he is an only child.
So, I guess I come by this creative gene honestly.
 But still, back then, I wanted to be a cowboy – only because I loved horses. 

Growing up on a farm around animals probably helped, even though I really didn't take too well to all the other stuff one has to do around a farm like feeding the animals, baling and hauling hay, constantly mending and painting fences, hoeing and chopping weeds in cotton or corn fields, but I gave it my best. I did bush hog the pastures, however, because I could spend the day lost in my own thoughts.
My Mama, who knew me well, sensed that I was a kindred spirit because I was the one to whom she brought breakfast in bed  and I was the one that flew to New Orleans with her to eat at Brennan's and have beignets at Cafe du Monde and rummage through antique shops on Magazine Street, before riding a train back to Alexandria. Mama showed me how to draw bare trees with their limbs branching out in all directions and how to draw cartoon faces. She made sure that I spent some summer time with my aunt Margie. Mama was constantly exposing me to art and I was oblivious to the whole thing. So, I guess, it is no surprise that, one day, Mama bought me a paint by numbers set. You know the kind with the little paint brush and a small pallet of numbered oil paints with some picture all labeled with numbers matching the paint colors on canvas board. Of course, the design was horses. I began painting those for a while, even following the numbers for a short spell before just choosing my own color scheme.
 Drum roll, please.

  Junior high school came. That dreaded time in life where everyone needed to conform and fit in the niche deemed suitable by the superior peers. 

A very rough time for one that didn't think he fit in anywhere. I was awkward in gym class and bullied for not knowing the rules of the game. I ended up working in the office during that period, thanks to Dr. Tom Paul Southerland, who was my principal and a family friend. He insisted, however, that I take gym during the gymnastics season and I loved it. I was good at tumbling and doing flips.
And you're saying, “But what about the art? How did you become an artist?” Wait. It's coming. Be patient. I'm getting there. One of our classes, in junior high, was a three way split between home economics., woodworking and art. I drew horses of course and cut out horse shapes in shop. I was becoming more and more interested in art.
High school arrived.
  Peer pressure was still dominating my existence, so along with several of my friends, I took a freshman art class under Ms. Morgan, the art teacher. “Ah-ha! That's when you decided to be an artist.” you said. Nope. Not yet. Ms. Morgan, a spinster who looked like she should be the librarian, with her hair constantly pulled back into a bun, had her room divided between painting and ceramics. She intimidated me so much that I became flustered and did the unpardonable by choosing painting instead of ceramics like my friends. I was the only freshman among upperclassmen on the painting side of the room. Ms. Morgan seldom came to instruct us and spent the majority of her time with ceramics. Each week she placed a still life arrangement in front of us and we were told to paint. Basically, I was on my own because the upperclassmen ignored me also. 

 I failed miserably and Ms. Morgan informed me that I had no talent and forbade me to take any more art classes at Bolton.

I was devastated at first and I lost interest in art. See, I'm not an artist yet. You thought I had discovered my talent in Junior High and was wrong. Now you think I have blossomed in high school. Nope. Not yet. I remembered the gymnastics class at Alexandria Junior High and focused my attention on gymnastics instead. The gymnastics happened because a friend knew I loved to do back flips and told the gymnastics coach who asked me to join the team. I was great at tumbling on the mats and vaulting. Even won third in state for a vault one year. I could go from a side split straight up into a hand stand and do back hand springs and flips the length of the football field.

I also became a flipping cheerleader. This happened because my bossy older sister, who knew I was shy, insisted I try out and even arranged for friends of hers to let me try out with them. My back flips were so high off the ground that I became a hit and spent my senior year being a cheerleader at Bolton High School. I was known as flippy Nippy. I also joined the school choir and we performed The Pirates of Penzance that year. I loved the attention on stage and even created a character that had a lame walk unlike the rest of the chorus. I had found a new career. Theater. Yet, I didn't try out for anything else. Still, I wasn't interested in art.
In college, I floundered. I went to Northwestern State in Natchitoches and, again, because of friends, tried out for cheerleader. I won and spent my first semester flipping for the Northwestern Demons and failing all my classes. Embarrassed, I returned home and worked on the farm under daddy and helped spray houses for roaches and termites at his pest control business.

Mother stepped in about this time and insisted that I become involved with the little theater in town. I balked.. She took me. Yes, you heard that right! She took me to try out as a dancer for a student summer musical. I was mortified as she walked me into the rehearsal hall and introduced me to Earlene Ballio the dance instructor. I did try out and did fall in love with the theater, again. For a while I was known as a dancer, even becoming the male partner for Mrs. Ballio, dancing in Opera productions around town; little theater musicals and being her partner in dance recitals.

During this time I began to commute to Louisiana College. And, again, in order to make friends, I tried out and became the Wildcat mascot. Sounds like I had a career plan here, doesn't it. Eventually, I moved into the dorm and became friends with someone, down the hall, who was an art major. Since I had no idea, what in the world I should major in, he insisted that I go talk to the head of the art department, Dr. Grady Harper. I felt like such an idiot when I went for an interview. Here were these people fresh out of high school with their stylish portfolios, some with logos or initials on them, showing off their prolific art work ad nauseam while I stood there, cowered in the corner, with a manila folder and two cartoon faces, my mother had taught me to draw, sketched out on typing paper. I started to leave. Thankfully, I didn't. Dr. Harper kindly looked at my drawings and said, “Yes, we could use you in the art department.” I was floored. I asked him to repeat what he said. “I think we could use you in the art department,” he replied. 

 Dr. Harper became my mentor.
Well, folks, the rest is history. I was not the best student and made average grades for the most part, but at least I belonged.
After college I became an art and dance Therapist at Central Hospital for several years before a short spell teaching junior high art.
I also continued performing in practically every little theater production for several years, eventually becoming an actor and not just a dancer or member of the chorus. I loved creating art, working on stage sets, designing, painting and acting. Although I quit teaching art and worked for twenty years as the Building Superintendent at my church, Emmanuel Baptist, I continued creating art and performing. During this time working for the church, a friend and I started a yard sign business for birthdays and I began creating  six-foot alligators and storks out of half inch plywood. I even created signs for yards for Christmas. Eventually the wooden creations became smaller and smaller and I developed my style. I came into my own as the artist I wanted to be.

I have even had some success as an artist. I am proud that my fifteen minutes of fame produced art that lives in France, Australia, Canada and Japan, as well as California, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Louisiana. During the world's fair in New Orleans, I had a vendor that sold my art work. The New Orleans Zoo once carried my alligator note cards and designs. A famous writer, Clyde Edgerton, owns one of my paintings. I even had a piece hang in the Louisiana Governor's mansion across from Governor Kathleen Blanco's desk.
So that is my story as to how I became an artist.  I seem to have always had this creative gene. It just evolved through the years.  I was a slow learner.  Maybe I came upon it by accident or maybe it was just ordained. Either way, I have enjoyed being that weird artist with a strange nickname and two different colored eyes. So here I am in my seventies and I'm still not sure what I want to be. I can't swing on the trapeze or jump over bulls anymore but I can still paint.
I'm also thankful that my son, Marty, continues keeping the Hoffpaur line alive.
© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.