Friday, May 22, 2015

They Still Make Maple Nut Goodies

Celeste and I were at CVS Pharmacy this morning making some purchases when I spotted a candy I've been looking for and had all but given up.

Maple Nut Goodies.

Brach's candies are sold at HEB, the grocery store where we shop, but they don't carry the Maple Nut Goodies I've been looking for.

So, as soon as I saw the bags at CVS, I grabbed one. I opened the bag as soon as we got home and quickly ate a handful. So, good!

I looked at the bag to see what made me want to keep eating. Under the description "Maple Nut Goodies" was this: "Roasted Peanuts in Crunchy Toffee with Real Maple Coating" There was also a notation that the candy is artificially flavored so I'm not sure how real the maple is. However, I checked the ingredients and found maple syrup listed.

While reading the bag, I also saw this: America's Candy Maker Since 1904. That's a long time. I thought about how it was available when my parents were born in 1908.

That's when it hit me what I liked about the candy. It reminds me of my mother. It was her favorite candy. However, she didn't often buy candy, so when she did, it was a special treat. She shared this treat with me on a number of occasions.

Now, when I taste the candy, or even smell it, I think of her and the times when just the two of us spent time together.

Eva Lee Williams Frost (1908 - 2001)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Living in South Austin July 1945 to July 1949

A selfie from the old days
My family lived in South Austin from July 1945 to July 1949. We moved there from the Clarksville area. World War II was almost over. Dad sold his barber shop (Avenue Barber Shop at 819 Congress Avenue) and prepared to join the fight. However, the war ended before his National Guard unit was activated.
We moved into a modern brick house on Josephine Street in a nice neighborhood south of the Colorado River. It seemed a long way from Clarksville to me back then. However, according to Google Maps, it is only 2.3 miles from our old house to the new. Today, I regularly walk twice that far daily for exercise. I bought my girlfriend La Juana Jolly a necklace and told her goodbye. I thought I'd never see her again, but we met up again at Austin High School. However, the spark was never reignited. We had grown apart.
After moving to Josephine Street, we only ventured north of the river to go downtown where Dad worked or to see a movie. There was one movie theater in South Austin, but it was way over on South Congress Avenue near Fulmore Junior High School.
The nearest grocery store to the Josephine house was on Kinney Avenue and it was the size of a current day two-car garage. Maybe smaller. Mother would send me to the store nearly every day to get groceries. We had a charge account there. The grocer would give me whatever was on the shopping list and then Dad would go in on Saturday to pay for the week's purchases. I would often sneak in a candy bar that wasn't on the list so I didn't mind doing the shopping.
I remember getting to know a number of kids my age in the neighborhood. The only name I remember is Alan Johnson. His father, Gant Johnson, worked at the University of Texas and he got us, Alan and I, jobs selling food and drinks during Texas Longhorn football games. My mother and Alan's mother remained friends for many years, even after my family moved to Pete's Path near 38th and Jefferson. This was considered North Austin at the time.
Alan and I went to Becker School, and then Fulmore. I don't remember much about Becker except being on the safety patrol and meeting Don Holden who became a lifetime friend.
I joined the band at Fulmore and Verna Covington taught me to read music and play the trumpet. That led to a lifetime of performance, mostly in choral music. I sang with the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus for fifteen years and still sing regularly with choruses in Georgetown, Texas as well as around the world. I also play the trumpet occasionally at church. At Fulmore, I was fortunate to spend some weekends visiting Verna Covington's home. Her youngest son,Scott, also played trumpet and we became friends. When we got into Austin High, Scott's father, Weldon Covington, was our band director. Later, Scott and I were both in Navy ROTC at the University of Texas. I dropped out and joined the Marines and lost track of him then.
Other memories of South Austin include the day our house caught on fire, our new 1948 Pontiac, Bartlet's Pies, riding my bike to school, getting a police escort to school because we were late for a band trip, renting a room to a teacher, and much more. I plan to talk about each of these later.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Bookmobile Novel Published in January 2014

As you might think, much of The Vengeance Squad Goes to England takes place in England. Well, some of it is in Scotland as well. I just liked the sound of England in the title instead of UK or United Kingdom.

However, the book begins and ends in Austin and ties in with more of my memories of the city. When I worked as a bookmobile driver for the Austin Public Library, the main library was in what is now called the Austin History Center. In my books, Liz, the director of library services has her office in the old building instead of the new one because she likes the feel of it.

This story begins with Liz learning that $100,000 has been stolen from the bookmobile fund. The thief has skipped town and is spotted in London. The vengeance squad (Liz, Tex, a wheelchair-bound librarian, and Chris, a computer nerd, are joined by Jane, a muscle-bound hospital chaplain who is also Tex's wife) heads for England to recover the stolen money.

It is a fun mystery with a little sadness thrown in for realism. It is also a love story as Chris and Angela examine ways to make a relationship work.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More Austin Memories in Love Lives On

The latest bookmobile novel, Love Lives On, takes place in Austin, Texas, mostly. So why the photo of Bruges, Belgium on the cover? Bruges is where Brian and Karen go for their honeymoon.

I said mostly Austin, because Brian goes back to California a few times to visit his parents. Mainly because the book is about Karen. Also, there are a few scenes in Sunset Valley, which is technically not a part of Austin even though it is surrounded by Austin. The married couple also stop in Hildesheim, Germany for a night.

After the wedding Karen moves into Brian's place on Mt. Bonnell Road near Dry Creek Cafe. If you read Where Love Once Lived, you know this is the place where the Combine rented a cabin when they were students at the University of Texas back in the 1970's.

There are scenes at the Austin History Center, a fictional law office on Congress Avenue, Allandale mall and references to the Austin Public Library, Travis County Courthouse, Wooldridge Park, MoPac, 35th Street, Sun City Texas, Georgetown, Thundercloud Subs and Dr Pepper, a Texas favorite.

Several scenes take place in Clarksville, where Brian's best friend Phil lives with his wife Kay. His dad George, who played a prominent role in Where Love Once Lived, lives in an apartment out back and manages to help Karen in Love Lives On.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Clarksville, Bicycling, and God

A year or so ago, I pedaled around Sun City in Georgetown, Texas for my health. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have gone quite so far the day after donating two pints of blood. Also, if I had it to do over again, I would have eaten breakfast first or at least had some orange juice. I thought about all this while parked on the side of the road trying to decide if I should call 911 or just throw up. After some deep breaths, staying close to the flower garden at the woodworking shop, I managed to get past the nausea. I had already thought of a way to hold on to the branch of a tree for support if needed. But soon, I felt better and was back on the bike heading for home. 

Perhaps I was delirious, but as I rode the rest of the way (mostly downhill, by the way), I had vivid memories of bike riding as a kid. I remember sneaking off when I lived near Clarksville in Austin, so I couldn't have been more than nine years old. My friend, Bobby Bayer, went with me. We told our parents we were just going to see someone a few blocks away and we ended up in deep South Austin, near the Broken Spoke area. I felt terribly guilty for lying to my mother. But not guilty enough to keep me from repeating the trip again and again.

Those memories and reminders of the guilt I felt, made me think about Brian, the male protagonist in Where Love Once Lived. Don't forget I said I may have been delirious at the time all this was going through my head.

In the novel, Brian had been brought up in a Christian family and attended church every Sunday. What's more, he loved to go to church and continued to do so while he was away from his California home attending the University of Texas. Then, he commits a sin and, even though he knows better, the guilt he feels is so strong he believes he is being punished by God. His punishment is to be in a loveless marriage.

He drops out of church for the next thirty years. This is all leading up to my wanting to tell you this is not a biographical story. It didn't happen to me. I was brought up in a Christian home and my life revolved around the church. I still have friends I met at church and we still get together frequently. I'll tell you more about the Combine as we go. I continued to be involved in church in college and while in the marines. After marriage and kids there were times when I wasn't involved as much as I should have been, but that didn't last long. I may tell you about that period of my life someday, if I'm ever delirious again.

How about you? When did God become a major part of your life? Have you ever dropped out? What brought you back?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Christian Bookmobile Novels

Copyright 2013 Sidney W. Frost

Many years ago, while a student at the University of Texas, my friend Rollo Newsom helped me get a job as a bookmobile driver at the Austin Public Library. Although I was assigned to work with several librarians, one of my favorites, Jean Siedo, was a lot like Liz in Where Love Once Lived. Or, should I say Liz is a lot like Jean? Both did more for the patrons than a librarian was expected to do.

I started writing a novel about my experiences on the bookmobile in the style of Suds in Your Eye by Mary Lasswell, but quickly learned I didn't know how.

Much later, after a number of writing classes, I started writing Where Love Once Lived. It was to be a Christian novel along the lines of Jan Karon's Mitford Series. I saw a chance to use the bookmobile to make the locale in my book smaller, like the fictional town of Mitford, and more manageable than Austin, Texas. As it turned out, one third of the scenes take place on the bookmobile.

In The Vengeance Squad, Liz, the bookmobile librarian in Where Love Once Lived is now the director of library services. When Chris and Tex's van is damaged by gunfire in El Paso, Liz offers them the use of Brian's bookmobile for a trip to Galveston. It is wheelchair ready for Tex and has an Internet connection for Chris.

You'll have to read the book to find out why, but the bookmobile sits unused in a parking lot in Galveston while Chris and Tex are in jail. Liz travels by bus to Galveston to bail them out. When they learn the killers are in Houston, Chris tries to get Liz to fly home, but she insists on going with them. So the bookmobile is back in action, with Liz aboard. Luckily it's not damaged this time.

In Love Lives On, though, the bookmobile is nearly destroyed. I can't tell you how without spoiling the story for you.

In The Vengeance Squad Goes to England, I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the bookmobile. It would be too expensive to ship it to London to help Liz, Chris, and Tex track down an international thief. However, I see on the Internet that bookmobiles are more popular in England than in the states. So, we should be able to find one to use while there.

At the end of Love Lives On, Karen and Brian talk about moving to Sun City in Georgetown, Texas and taking the bookmobile with them.

Let me know what you think about this use of bookmobiles. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bookmobile Memories

Recently, while rummaging through some old files, I ran across this letter to the editor in the June 17, 1998 issue of the Austin American-Statesman:

The June 12 article about bookmobiles by Mike Cox brought back some wonderful memories of when I worked as a part-time driver in the early 1960s while attending UT. We also were responsible for stocking books, checking out books, keeping the generator going for light and air conditioning that sometimes worked and cleaning up.

We went to schools, retirement homes and several small towns and communities outside the city limits. We set up shop at locations where branch libraries were eventually built.

The librarian I worked with mostly, Jean Siedo, made the job a pleasure. She knew the regulars on our route and selected books from the main library stacks for them. She delivered books to the rooms of some of those who were not physically able to come to the bookmobile. She treated everyone with respect, regardless of age, race or economic situation. She encouraged and counseled when needed. A few times I saw her give food and money to children who had little. I'm sure that was not part of her job description, but I respected her for everything she did.

Sometimes I wish we still had bookmobiles.

Sid Frost

I had forgotten about that letter to the editor. I wish I had reviewed it before I started writing Where Love Once Lived. If I had, I could have added more details about how my character helped others to the point where she was surprised with a special gift from her patrons. Also, I may have used a different name for the character. I used Liz Siedo, and I wouldn't want anyone to think the fictional character was really the live person Jean Siedo. Even though their actions to their patrons were similar, I made up the rest.

Have you met someone like Jean Siedo who impressed you the way she did me?