Category Archives: Family and Friends

Holiday Visits

DinnerWe’re at Ellen’s sister Ann’s house for the holidays again. This year my friend Tim joined us on Christmas Eve day, where we had some fine meals and played lots of music: Christmas and otherwise. Zack (on left) has become quite a good guitarist, Dave (back center) plays keyboards, Tim and I play guitars also, though this year I was playing auto-harp some of the time, which is easier on my fingers. Everyone sings. It’s great fun.

AnnEllenPlayAnn and Ellen entertained us on their “Music Maker” lap harps, which Tim told us is a form of the ancient Russian instrument, “gusli,” he has one too. One follows the note pattern printed on interchangeable paper diagrams that slide in below the strings, and I wrote a harmony for “Silent Night,” that they were able to do together quite successfully, one following the printed melody, the other the harmony. A link to their performance is HERE.

Tray

Cookies are always present at Christmas, Ellen makes some, Ann and Ina make some, and Ann and Dave’s friends give them some. Here’s the cookie tray for Christmas Eve day, with plenty more for the rest of the holiday.

AnnsTreeChristmas morning I was the first one down and turned on the tree lights, but the others were soon rounded up by Ina for our gift openings.

GreenesMany fine gifts were enjoyed by all, then we had a fine breakfast with baked apple french toast and egg and cheese casserole.

DougKidsIn the afternoon we visited my brother Doug and his family, where a large group always gathers. I never seem able to get many good pictures there because it’s rather a madhouse, but here are all the kids present in a planned group photo, including my niece Haley and nephews Charlie and Dylan.

CharlieNephew Charlie is starting to learn to play the French Horn, and had no problem bringing it out to play a few notes for everyone. He’s not shy. We had another fine dinner there with my Mom, and lots of other members of Doug and Lena’s extended family and friends.

CatsSoon we’ll be heading home to south Jersey, where our cats are being well cared for in our absence, here they are showing what they feel is the best use for a Christmas present: sitting on it. Hope your holidays are merry!

 

Remembering Mrs. Helen Thompson

Thompson1961Mrs. Helen Thompson, center, with students, in a photo from The Somerset Hills Exponent, May 25, 1961.

I’ve written about my favorite teacher from the Bedminster Township grade school twice before, a little in my article on our school newspaper and magazine, which she ran, and more in my article on the school itself. Mrs. Thompson taught English to my brothers and I in grades 6-8, and we all worked on the school publications doing art and, in my case, writing stories. I remember her as smart, entertaining in class, and very encouraging to me as a young artist and writer. Others remember that she was also a heavy smoker, and I’ve long wondered about how that might have affected her career and life. New information has come to light recently, so I thought I’d share it here.

While I spent lots of time with Mrs. Thompson in and after class, I knew nothing about her personal life except what little ran in the 1965 graduation issue of The Bed-Post, as part of a guessing-game called “Spotlight on People.” Mrs. Thompson was the subject of this entry:

ThompsonSpotlightWhile I saw Mrs. Thompson occasionally when I had moved on to High School in Bernardsville, NJ (when my school bus would stop at the Bedminster School to pick up more students), I lost touch with her at some point in that time. Recently my youngest brother Russ found some copies of the school publications from his grades 6-8 in 1968-70, and entries there filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge. from The Bedminster Tribune of Oct. 27, 1969:

ThompsonBestWishesAs you can see, Mrs. Thompson was out sick in the fall of 1969. I have no information on what the illness may have been, but I suspect that she did not return to the school. In the Spring, 1970 issue of The Bed-Post, this editorial by Ellen Burden appeared:

ThompsonDedicAs you might guess, Mrs. Thompson had passed away before the issue saw print, and with help from Patricia Bankowski, I now have her obituary from March 19, 1970:

Helen Thompson Obit 03191970I may have heard about this from my parents at the time, but if so, I had forgotten it, so it’s good to have that long-lingering question of what happened to Mrs. Thompson answered. The issue of The Bed-Post this appeared has replaced Mrs. Thompson’s long-standing credit as Advisor with “Acting Advisor: Mrs. Stout,” and the following year the Advisor credit went to a new English teacher at the school, Mr. Melovitz.

As noted in the obituary, Mrs. Thompson had no children. Her husband, J. Miller Thompson continued to live in Bedminster, and died in 1992 after remarrying a Mary E. Nevius, who died in 2000.

 

Wintry Thanksgiving

SnowyThanksgiving

Thursday we made our annual trek to the northwest corner of New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with Ellen’s sister Ann and her family. This year it was the scene of an early snowfall of about 10 inches of very wet snow, making it much more like Christmas, visually.

Snowman

It was perfect for snowballs and snowmen, and Ellen’s nephew Zach and I made on of the latter.

WinterWonderland

It had snowed the day before, so the roads were no problem, and it was kind of fun to be suddenly amidst a Winter Wonderland. We had no snow at all where we live in the southern end of the state.

Peter Yarrow in Concert

PeterYarrowEllen and I are long-time fans of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. I’d seen them twice in the 1980s, but Ellen hadn’t, so this past Friday, when she saw that Peter Yarrow of the group would be performing at nearby Stockton State College, she said, “Let’s go!” And we did. When we arrived, Peter was seated outside the Performing Arts Center signing his books for children (Including lovely picture-book and pop-up versions of “Puff the Magic Dragon”).

YarrowSigningThere were about 200 people at the show, many our age or older, but also a contingent of high-schoolers, and many waited in line for a personal moment with the artist, who was enjoying meeting and talking to everyone.

EllenwithPeterInside, it was a fine, fun show. Peter is getting up there in age, doesn’t sing real well, but he clearly loves what he does, and his enthusiasm, sense of humor, and stories about his life and career greatly enhanced the experience. He did some new songs, including “Never Give Up,” a new personal anthem co-written with the Dalai Lama, and plenty of numbers from the Peter, Paul and Mary catalog, including Mary’s hit, John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and Paul’s “Wedding Song,” written by Noel Paul Stookey for Peter’s own wedding, and still very popular at weddings today. (We had it performed at ours.) The highlight of the evening for many, including Ellen, was the chance to join Peter on stage to perform “Puff,” that’s her in the pink shirt in the back. Peter began by inviting all the children present to join him, but when it became clear there weren’t many in this audience (he’d done an afternoon show geared for kids), he broadened the invitation to “children under 60.”

Ellen with Peter Yarrow from Todd Klein on Vimeo.

Here’s an excerpt from that performance to give you the flavor. We had a wonderful time.

Silver Anniversary

ToddandEllen1989

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day I married my true love, Ellen. This is my favorite picture from the wedding. We’re still in love, and it sure doesn’t seem like that long ago!

CityTavern

Today Ellen had an appointment in downtown Philadelphia, and I went with her. We made it a short day-trip to celebrate our anniversary, starting with a delicious lunch at this restaurant in the historic district. While the building and interiors look authentically colonial, I learned today by reading the fine print on the cornerstone that it’s a recreation of the original built in the 1970s. No matter, it’s still great fun. The food is excellent, and so is the beer. I had the Porter mentioned in the sign above, delicious!

Mural

Afterwards we walked around the historic district enjoying the atmosphere. We considered going in to see the Liberty Bell, but the length of the line discouraged us. I spotted the Curtis Building and had to visit the Parrish/Tiffany mural in the lobby there, which I love. A huge art installation, it was designed by Maxfield Parrish and executed in many thousands of pieces of iridescent favrile glass by the Tiffany Studios. It’s quite amazing, and impossible to get in one photo. Unfortunately, it’s poorly lit, which probably helps preserve it, but makes the colors hard to see and appreciate. I enhanced them some on these photos.

MuralDetail

In this closer shot you can see some of the small pieces of glass forming the mosaic picture. I’ve just looked up the details, it’s 15 feet high by 49 feet wide, and made of about 100,000 pieces of glass. If you’re ever in Philadelphia try to stop in and see it.

After that we stopped at a used book store, bought a few things, and headed home before rush hour made traffic too crazy. A nice break for both of us.