Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2021

Undaunted: Seventh Blogiversary! #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 567. U is for Undaunted: Seventh Blogiversary! Twenty-first of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

If anyone had asked me seven years ago whether I would still be blogging in 2021, I’m not sure how I would have answered.

Yet here we are — celebrating the Seventh Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy, my family history and genealogy blog!

And on this anniversary I am especially proud that I was able to continue undaunted — despite the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Number 7. On the Seventh Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy, I am especially proud that I was able to continue undaunted — despite the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Pixabay

Entering coronavirus lockdown

In early 2020, I had no idea what lay ahead as I began the year blogging about a research trip to the NYS Archives in Albany — then continued with stories about my maternal German Stoutner ancestors.

My maternal German Stoutner ancestors of Gloversville, N.Y., circa 1910. Their story unfolded in installments during year seven. Scan by Molly Charboneau

But I had to stop blogging altogether for a couple of weeks in March — when New York City went into lockdown, and I prepared to shelter at home as my area of Queens became the U.S. epicenter of a new, global coronavirus pandemic!

A to Z Challenge 2020 was a lifeline

The A to Z Challenge 2020 turned out to be a lifeline during last spring’s stressful C-19 lockdown — a productive way to pass the April days at home and connect with fellow bloggers worldwide who were going through the same thing.

My family circa 1960. Writing about “Endwell: My Elementary Years” the 2020 A to Z Challenge was a lifeline that kept me entertained and distracted during the stressful coronavirus lockdown. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Writing about Endwell: My Elementary Years kept me entertained and distracted — and by the time the annual A to Z blog-fest was over, our NYC contagion curve had begun to come down and restrictions were somewhat eased.

Pivoting to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

That’s when I turned to a series I had long wanted to write about my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau who died in the last great global contagion — the 1918 influenza pandemic — and its parallels with our own viral outbreak.

Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. For most of 2020, Molly’s Canopy chronicled the story of my dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the last great global contagion — the 1918 influenza pandemic. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The series resonated with Molly’s Canopy readers worldwide who regularly left comments and observations about the similarities and contrasts between that outbreak and the one we are living through.

The sustaining power of ancestors

By early 2021, with Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon, I was able to resume the Stoutner family saga — marveling all the while at the sustaining power of ancestors and their stories to keep one going even in the darkest moments.

Endwell, N.Y., 1964: At age 14 with my family, all dressed up for Easter. When the A to Z Challenge 2021 rolled around, I was again down with the program — this time focusing on “Endwell: My Early Teen Years,” a sequel to last year’s series. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

And when the A to Z Challenge rolled around this year, I was again down with the program — this time focusing on Endwell: My Early Teen Years, a sequel to last year’s series.

Looking forward to year eight!

Seven years ago — when I ventured to the battlefields of Virginia to witness reenactments of my Union Army ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s 1864 Civil War battles —  I had no idea that the blog I started to commemorate his life would last this long.

April 2014: Union Artillery at the Battles of the Wilderness reenactment near Fredericksburg, Va. When I started blogging in 2014 to honor the life of my Civil War ancestor Arthur T. Bull, of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery, I had no idea that Molly’s Canopy would last this long. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Nor did I envision how many family history stories would emerge — nor how much I would learn in the process — nor how many ancestral tales are still waiting to be told!

Which is why I am looking forward to year eight of Molly’s Canopy — and whatever ancestral surprises it may bring.

May thanks to my family, friends, colleagues, readers and the intrepid blogging crew at Sepia Saturday for your continued visits, comments and support — and if you are new to Molly’s Canopy, I hope you’ll join me on the journey!

Up next, V is for Various other teen interests: From “Twilight Zone” to RFK. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time! Meanwhile, please visit this week’s other Sepia Saturday bloggers.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Talking on the busy signal. #AtoZChallenge

T is for Talking on the busy signal.  Twentieth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Young teens today have the world at their disposal through the Internet — with apps and platforms where they can connect with one another, whether locally or around the globe.

During my early teens (1963-65), the choices were more limited. Yet we still made the most of available technology and found our own innovative ways to meet and greet — such as talking on the busy signal.

An accidental discovery

I discovered talking on the busy signal purely by accident after making a phone call that wouldn’t go through. The busy signal sounded as usual — beep-beep-beep — but behind it I could hear a cacophony of disembodied voices all talking at once.

The first few times this happened, I figured it was just noise on the phone line — or crossed calls, which were not uncommon back then — so I simply hung up.

But finally, curiosity got the better of me — so the next time I got the busy signal I stayed on and listened. And I realized the voices were all talking to one another between the beeps.

Conversations might start like this: “Hi – beep – my – beep – name – beep – is  – beep – Joe – beep – what’s – beep – yours? – beep.” And the reply would come back: “Hi – beep – Joe – beep – this – beep – is – beep – Carol – beep – where – beep – are – beep – you – beep – from? – beep.”

Social networking sixties style

Like social networking sixties style, this was a whole new way of meeting people! I told my girlfriends about this discovery — and I remember us going on the busy signal together to test it out.

Before long, the more daring teens at school were exchanging numbers on the busy signal and meeting up in person — and “I met him on the busy signal” became a catchphrase of some female classmates with new boyfriends.

Yet I was a bit nervous about meeting boys this way, so mostly I just listened in — fascinated by the entire phenomenon, but not daring enough to give it a go. And eventually, the phone company figured it out and rewired things so the busy signal went quiet.

Was this an Endwell thing?

For years, I wondered whether talking on the busy signal was just an Endwell, N.Y., thing — perhaps a peculiarity of our local wiring — because no matter who I have asked over the years, nobody from elsewhere has heard of it.

But while researching this post, I happily discovered that there were indeed teens around the country who also talked on the busy signal in the 1960s — just like we did!

In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, it was known as the “Jam Line” — a specific number that could be called to generate the busy signal free-for-all. In Alabama, they called it the “Beep Beep Line.” And in Cleveland, it was called talking between busy signal beeps.

Yet whatever the name, talking on the busy signal in the 1960s gave young people a brief opening into a free, social networking technology  — and teens like me made the most of it!

Up next, U is for Undaunted: Seventh Blogiversary! Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books #AtoZChallenge

S is for Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books. Nineteenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Today, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is in the U.S. space exploration spotlight — sending back amazing photos, videos and data from the red planet and launching a mini-helicopter for the first time.

Yet in my early teens (1963-65), when space flights were still new, they somehow seemed like a much bigger deal — preempting TV broadcasts while we stopped everything to watch the NASA countdowns. And I remember an amusing example of this , from when I was 13 — a quintessential early-sixties moment!

NASA Launch on May 15, 1963. In my early teens (1963-65), space flights were still new and they seemed like a much bigger deal — preempting TV broadcasts while we stopped everything to watch the NASA countdowns. Photo: Wikipedia

My mom had taken me to my orthodontist appointment, but it coincided with a space flight launch — possibly the May 15, 1963 launch of astronaut L. Gordon Cooper into orbit in the final manned flight of Project Mercury, since manned flights were an especially big deal.

Anyway, none of us wanted to miss the live launch — so after adjusting my braces the orthodontist quickly waved me and Mom into his office and the three of us stood in front of his little black-and-white TV and watched the fiery liftoff.

Sweater sets

Of course, at age 13-15 I had to be dressed correctly to go to the dentist, watch space flights and attend school — which is where sweater sets came in.

One of the popular outfits in my early teens was a frothy pastel mohair cardigan worn with a matching pleated wool skirt. All the girls at school wore them — and I badly wanted a sweater set of my own.

The problem was, with five children at home my parents kept to a budget — which meant I usually had to wear the “next best version” that was available at the discount store.

Not that the knockoff clothing wasn’t nice — I just felt out of sync because it wasn’t what the other teen girls were wearing.

Pink mohair sweater (c. 1960s). One of the popular outfits in my early teens was a pastel mohair cardigan worn with a matching pleated wool skirt. All the girls at school wore them — and I badly wanted a sweater set of my own. Photo: Pinterest.com

So when Christmas rolled around, I sighed and put the sweater set on my wish list as the number one item — hoping for a miracle.

Happily, Santa heard my plea and dropped a hint to my parents — because that year, under the tree, were a gorgeous baby-pink mohair sweater and matching skirt! And not the knockoffs, either. I couldn’t wait to proudly wear them to school!

Slam books

Clothes were part of fitting in — and so was acceptance by teen peers. And one tough way to test that acceptance was with a slam book. 

Alas, the concept of slam books originated in the 1940s as a form of bullying, where teens would “slam” someone in writing in a notebook that was passed around. Fortunately, by the early 1960s slam books had morphed into something a bit less sinister.

Slam book. Photo: Pinterest.com

You created a slam book using a spiral bound notebook, putting the word SLAM on the front, and writing the names of the people you wanted to include on the top of each page.

Then you’d go up to students and ask, “Do you want to sign my slam book?” And they could anonymously write whatever they wanted — good or bad — on the person’s page.

Yes, there were teens who vented in slam books and wrote derogatory comments on someone’s page — which we all lived in fear of.  But oddly, the other fear was being left out of slam books altogether.

So the slam books I started — and the ones I remember signing — usually had my friends in them and we mainly wrote compliments about one another, striving in our own way for social acceptance during our early teen years.

Up next, T is for Talking on the busy signal. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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