Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Remember When: Outfits

Every Monday I meet with a writing partner at the local Barnes & Noble. We order our tea and chat a bit but then it is time to write. 

I often work on my blogs and then branch out to writing my western history articles, memoirs, or whatever project is currently taking space in my computer bag.

Sometimes I stare off into space. Thankfully, Michele, knows that means I'm thinking and she doesn't ask me if I'm okay or whatever. She has her moments of staring off into space too. 

I was watching a little girl walk by with her mother and perhaps her grandmother. She had on a cute little outfit. It made me think of the days when I picked cute little outfits for my own daughter. 

This was one of my favorites:
Usually I notice little kids with bright purple pants and green shirts or whatever. Obviously chosen by themselves. Of course there's nothing wrong with that; kids need to learn to make decisions but I thought the little girl this morning was so cute. I kept picturing the scene:

Little girl ate her breakfast and maybe watched "Sesame Street." Then it was time to get ready to go shopping with grandma. Her mother took  her in her room where all her clothes are neatly folded or hung up and pulls out this top and shorts in a bright salmon color. Maybe she considered a blue outfit but the little girl wanted the brighter colors. She helped her daughter dress and find her little white sandals. They arrived at the bookstore where I noticed the salmon outfit. They headed straight back to the children's section.

There are stories, and memories, everywhere. We just need to take the time to pay attention and then think about them.

Do you remember a favorite outfit from when you were little? Or perhaps when your children were little? Did you choose them yourself or get help? Were you flamboyant or just didn't care? Or perhaps you were one of those children who didn't want to wear clothes, ever. (Michele pointed out earlier this is National Nudist Day.)

Write about those outfits and if you have pictures add copies to your journal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Remember When: Costumes

 For about ten years my husband and I were very involved in Old West history events around southern Arizona. As the years went on we added authenticity and details to our costumes. My first dress was adapted from a prom or wedding attendant dress from a thrift store. Doug had his basic black gambler costume.

A friend helped me make this one. I love it, complete with a small bustle. 

I started coming up with more day-time easy to wear costumes like this simple skirt and blouse that I wore for a filming in Tombstone.

Doug went less formal (and cooler) too. This jacket isn't actually a costume but it was my sisters and I'm so proud of it. 

The final edition was this black satin with bustle and layers of ruffles. I bought the hat from a lady in Tombstone. I also had gloves, shawl and a parasol.

We still occasionally do events where we can wear our costumes but for the most part they stay in the closet. That was a fun few years with enough memories for a life-time.

Have you ever been involved in an activity that took you away from the normal every day life for awhile? When we were in Willcox or Tombstone it was like being in another world. Most of our friends dressed in costume and character. 

Here's a few of our friends:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Remember When: Mothers and Sons

 We so often hear about the special relationships between mothers and sons or fathers and daughters. I've always found this to be interesting. Growing up in a household with just my mother and sister I didn't witness that dynamic.

This is my second great grandmother, Orpha Ann Collinsworth Waggoner, with her second husband whose name I can't remember. Her first husband was Joseph Waggoner who went off to fight in the Civil War and never returned. She was left with one small son, Isaac Tandy Waggoner.

The family lived in northeastern Tennessee and she was near her parents and siblings so there was a lot of male support. I wonder what kind of relationship she had with her son.

This is Isaac Tandy Waggoner and his wife. Salenia Alzadie Freeman. Their daughter, Carrie, was my grandmother who died before I was born.

Next is my dad who apparently loved his mother very much. I don't remember either of them but the family still has the trunk my dad made for his mother in high school. 

Isaac never really knew his dad. I never knew mine. No matter what we do or where we go things stay the same. Sometimes I wonder: What if? What if my mom and dad had worked it out and he had always been around? What if he wasn't killed in a car accident and I was able to get to know him when I got older? What if Joseph had returned from the War? What if Carrie hadn't died from cancer before I was born? 

Write about some of your family dynamics. Imagine what might have happened if something had happened differently. Write a short story about that change. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Remember When: The Old West

I've been giving a lot of talks around Phoenix the last few months. I write my bio and introduce myself through my love of the Old West. 

I mention that I was born near Dodge City, Kansas "The Cowboy Capitol of the World."
We then moved about 80 miles east but visited regularly as my grandparents and aunt and uncle lived near Dodge. 

I loved Boot Hill: a western town built to resemble the original town of Dodge City. Back then it was free and you could just roam in and around at your will. I developed many a story while roaming the boardwalks, the Long Branch Saloon and the old museum. 

My family had even lived in Dodge City. I don't know for sure if this was before or after I was born but my sister always told of heading to Boot Hill after school and if she was too late mom would call the security guard and have him track her down and tell her to go home.

One special visit to Dodge City was with my friend. Lydia. She had moved in across the alley from us and we became life-long friends. She went with us one weekend to visit my cousins and we stopped at Boot Hill. 
Here we are in front of the Long Branch Saloon, made famous by the show "Gunsmoke."
We had stick candy and surely a sarsaparilla. It was a great day. My mother and I moved to Arizona soon afterwards and then Lydia returned to Florida with her family.

During Lydia's short stay in Kansas the Old West didn't get into her blood but it runs deep in mine. I am happiest when visiting historical towns, watching re-enactments, and well, just about anything to do with the west. Including writing and research.

Do you have something that has always interested you? Something that is "in your blood" even if your life has led you in a totally different direction? I spent many years doing other things but the era of Wyatt Earp has always been there in the back of my mind and in my heart.

Write about those parts of you that bring a little spark to your heart.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Remember When: Childhood Home

I recently saw a memoir prompt that said to draw a map of a house where you grew up. This is my sister in what we always called "the little house." That wall heater is all we had and it was in the living room. The bedrooms are in the back and although I don't remember it I wonder about how cold it must have gotten in those back rooms during the Kansas winters.

We never had any kind of a/c or cooler. I don't remember ever thinking about it. My aunt and uncle had a window shaker but we never did.
My sketch:
I think when I have some time I'm going to go through the old pictures and see if I can do a better job.

Here's the front of the house:
That's my sister on the left, me and then my mom on the right. My sister was ten years older than me.

What memories do you have of a childhood home?
Could you draw a floor plan?
Where was it and what kind of heating and cooling did you have?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Remember When: Song Titles

In my teen years I loved Herman's Hermits featuring Peter Noone. Okay, who am I kidding: I still do.
I just can't resist his smile and they have some of the best songs from that era. One of my all-time favorite songs is "There's A Kind Of Hush." It hit the charts in the spring of 1967 which was when we also moved to Arizona.

In Kansas we had Junior High which was grades seven through nine. Here I was at the end of eighth grade looking forward to becoming a "bigwig" at school and my mother decides to move away. I had to leave one of the best friends I've ever had and was so heartbroken.

To add insult to injury we ended up with a one bedroom apartment so I had to share the room with my mother. And I had to go back to grade school for that last couple of months. So much angst. So much anger.

I still listen to Herman's Hermits in the car. I even got to see Peter Noone perform when I was in college, one good thing about moving to a bigger city, I guess. He's still performing, by-the-way. I love the music from that era and also listen to Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Beatles, Freddy and the Dreamers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Jay and the Americans and the list goes on-and-on.

I made a list of some of the songs from the albums above and gave everybody that list to use as a prompt in my writing group. It was a lot of fun. Some wrote about memories from those prompts, others made a story out of the song title and others wrote about how they didn't like that style music.

Here are some of the song titles:
Listen People
I'm Henry the VIII, I Am
There's a Kind of Hush
Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter
Wonderful World
The End of the World

What memories do Herman's Hermits or some of their songs bring to mind. What about a short story based on one of these titles.

Now Write!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Swim Lessons

Today a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her granddaughter taking her first swimming lessons. It brought back so many memories.

Living in Arizona, where many homes have pools in the back yard, water safety is a must. Even though we didn't have a pool we decided to start out daughter in swim lessons. The program was called Swimfants and became the basis for many other programs around the state and country.

This is her first swimsuit. I'm not sure how old she is here but you can see I have her propped up with a pillow so she wasn't sitting up on her own. 

We drove to the instructor's house and eventually to a big facility where there were four pools. I'll ever forget one day we were in the locker room and I had her all dressed up in pink and somebody came along and asked HIS name. That was when I first started realizing people don't really pay attention to anything.

Here's she's obviously older by a few months and already swimming on her own. 
I think this was taken at one of the little swim meets the center had.

This was her instructor and founder of the school. The show "That's Incredible" 
did a segment on the swimming infants. Here's part of the filming. 

We went on to Parks and Recreation swim lessons and meets as J. got older.
I remember visiting pools all over the Valley of the Sun. 

She still talks about how the kids used to laugh because they knew their parents were 
screaming and yelling them on but they couldn't hear a bit of it under water. 

Funny the things we remember.

What memories do you have of swim lessons or competitions?
What about other members of your family?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Yesterday I went out to the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek. 
When I got out of my car there was a bobcat walking along the sidewalk right in front of me.
I followed him around to the patio and watched him catch a snake and have his breakfast.
This is the sequence of photos with cropped and enlarged versions in Set II.

Set I.

Set II.

I posted a couple of these on FB last night and everybody loved them so much I thought I share here so people can see them better. It was an amazing thing to watch even with the snake. Just like Indiana Jones

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I love finding little hidden places wherever I go. Sometimes they are full-size like the 
Snow White wishing well at Disneyland. Quiet little places that few people stop and 
take the time to really enjoy. 

I do this when I travel and even near home.

When I was small I had a couple of "secret places" I would ride my bike to and just
 be by myself. Perhaps I wrote stories in my head, or imagined I was living in a 
different era with no cars or buildings. 

One magical place is the park around Tumwater Falls in Tumwater, Washington.
Here's my hubby and I in front of the falls a few years ago. 

The trail follows the little canyon along the river and there are all kinds of little places 
just full of  magic. I can picture little people, or perhaps fairies, or whatever, 
going about their business among the rocks, plants and tiny waterfalls. 

Sometimes just a fallen tree or a system of roots offer a perfect living space for my 
imaginary friends.

I've obviously never outgrown the magic of being a child in my imagination. 

Do you have magical places you can visit? Do they bring a sense of childish charm?
Do you  imagine being an inhabitant of that place? Do stories emerge?

Write about one of your magic places; either from a childhood memory or something more
recent. If you don't have such places go looking for them. A patio, a quiet corner of a park,
a garden, a library nook. Find your quiet places and escape into your own imagination.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


 Facebook has been full of proud family photos of graduations. Many of my friends have children and grandchildren graduating from various levels of education.

I remember my sister's graduation from Great Bend High School in 1961. She looked so regal in her white gown and I was so proud.

 Betty didn't go on to get a higher education. That was her only graduation.

 I was only 7 or 8

I did go on to college but the funny part is I had other graduations. Mom and I moved to Arizona in the spring of 1967 and I had to go back to grade school after two years in junior high. The school I went to had a regular graduation with gowns and everything. I don't have any of those photos handy. Nor do I have any of my high school graduation photos handy. 

This is from community college. That was a good two years and I graduated with honors and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Then I went on to ASU and another graduation.

Proud moments. Each one has a special memory. What are some of your graduation memories? Or perhaps a memory from somebody else's graduation. 

The community college photo was taken on the balcony of the apartment I shared with a friend from high school. We had fun times especially when the kid below us blasted his stereo and we would jump on the floor to try to get him to stop. He later told me that he could tell when we were REALLY mad because the chandelier would get to swaying. 

Okay, not exactly a graduation memory but that's the way it goes. One memory leads to another. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life Times

The last couple of weeks I've given two talks about research for writers. Many paths have brought me to the place of being able to do this. Thirty-five years as a genealogist and twenty-four as a professional, research and writing for various western history publications, my own book and years of doing it all.

As I'm telling a bit about myself I talk about the nine years I spent actively involved in a group of authors, historians, aficionados, and others who met every year for a major to-do in southern Arizona. Of course that brought up lots of memories; but also a lot of thoughts about how my life has gone through phases.

Of course, I have my childhood days, my teen years, my college days, my early marriage, raising a family and becoming a grandma. But there's also the years I was involved in a church, the years as a Girl Scout leader, volunteering at my daughter's grade school, various clubs and organizations. Most of those have completely different people involved and sometimes I have to think a bit when I remember somebody or worse when I run in to somebody.

Who is this? Where do I know them from?  I wonder if they know what happened to so-and-so who it turns out was from a completely different time in my life. Sound familiar?

One of the eras for me was that nine years of Western History Advocates. I met so many wonderful people, many who have become steadfast friends. I met authors, actors, historians, collectors and just every day folk who are in love with the Old West. I thought I would share a few of my memories.

Bill O'Neal who has authored numerous books on Texas and Arizona. At one of the earlier meetings he commented about the magic of Tombstone and the sound of boots on the boardwalk. 
He once called me to comment on an article I wrote for the Tombstone Times. What an honor.

Allen Hatley who has a number of books about Texas history to his name. He came across as 
kind of a grouch but I'm proud to say we became friends. He has since passed away.

The members of one of the panels.
Michael M. Hickey, author, publisher and host for all these events; Lee Silva, author of two mega books about Wyatt Earp and writer for various publications; Ben T. Traywick, retired Tombstone historian and author of numerous books and articles; Terry "Ike" Clanton, relative of the famous Clantons and advocate of all things Tombstone; Steve Gatto, author. 
Tim Fattig, re-enactor in Tombstone and author of a book on Wyatt Earp and numerous articles; Bill O'Neal; Lee Zigler, author, writer and historian.
Michael M. Hickey's company published my book on the death of Ike Clanton. He has since passed away.

Marshall Trimball, Arizona Historian and author of numerous books on the state of Arizona.

Jan Deveroux and Bob Alexander. Both are authors, speakers and just plain great people.

Richard Lapidas, author; Michael M. Hickey and Terry "Ike" Clanton.

My husband and I getting in the middle of things.
Don't you just love those black suits and string ties?

Moosad Ayoob, author, gun specialist and columnist for the Handgunner magazine.

Leon Metz, much admired history author who wrote the introduction for my book and 
Jeff Richardson who has written many articles about the history of Phoenix.

Dakota Livesay, speaker and editor of the Chronicles of the Old West journal.

I still run in to many of these people or we stay in touch via phone or internet. They have meant a great deal to me and there are special memories to go with each one. 

What phases have you gone through during your life? Are you still in touch with those people? What special memories do you have of them? Write about those phases and how each one changed you.