Descriptive Essays

This New Land, These Old Hands

Anna Kutnik’s hands shook as she baked.

It was October 1st, 1932–a Saturday and Rosh Hashana. She did not often bake latkes, but it felt important to do so today, on the first of the High Holy Days. She was not Jewish, but her husband had been, and a couple of their children still kept their father’s faith. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that– John had turned out to be a drunk who left her to raise their children alone, (more…)

Waste Not, Want Not: Feed, Seed, and Flour Sacks

My maternal grandmother, Laura Jane Waldrop Gregg, did not coin the idiom “Waste not, want not,” but she lived it every day in the way she managed her house. Born in 1899 and married in 1921, she had her third of four children—my mother–in October 1929, just at the cusp of the Great Depression, and her fourth child—my aunt Dot–in 1933, in the heart of it.  (more…)

Big Brown Beast

Every May in the Philippines is an exciting month for her citizens. The streets of Pulilan in Bulacan Province, San Isidro in Nueva Ecija Province, and Angono in Rizal Province are filled with vibrant-colored decorations, fresh Filipino dishes and desserts, and an audience prepared for the parade which begins the Kneeling Carabao Festival.


How To Knock The L (and the shell) Out Of An Almond

The joke I’m about to tell would be more suited for a story told in person, as the accent here is the key to the story. To be frank, though, in a story about a man like my great-grandfather, he’d tell me “as long as you laugh, then who cares.” Everyone always laughed when he said that, mostly because it was usually


Buck’s Barber Shop Tools

The year was 1921. Leo Wahl had just invented the electric hand-held hair clipper after experimenting with vibrating motors. Most hair clippers at the time were either manual or had a separate motor attached to a cord to help them vibrate. (Trainor) However, these new hair clippers had the motor inside


Mail Trucks: From Drab to Uniform

Every truck drove at the mercy of the road. The bumps lifted passengers and packages into the air like kids sitting at the back of a modern school bus. The need for a high-quality suspension in a mail truck did not exist.


The Southern Negro Farmer

“John Hurston, in his late twenties, had left Macon County, Alabama, because the ordeal of share-cropping on a southern Alabama cotton plantation was crushing to his ambition. There was no rise to the thing.”

 (Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road)

            Zora Neale Hurston is most known for being an influential author of African American literature, with her most iconic work being Their Eyes Were Watching God. However, she was also an anthropologist and ventured


Crochet Comforts
A red and white striped blanket my great-grandmother made
A red and white striped blanket my great-grandmother made

Growing up, the most tangible part of my mom’s family was a collection of crochet blankets acquired from funerals and my mom’s childhood home. My grandmother Joan Frances died before I was born, and my great grandmother Frances Jane lived in Pennsylvania in a nursing home before she died in 2008, so the blankets were how I connected with the two women who were my namesakes. My mom kept the blankets in her closet, some wrapped carefully in plastic comforter bags. In the winter they would come down from their perch and be distributed throughout the house. (more…)

Big Things in the Small

Katie Elizabeth woke early on August 21, 1934, before even the chickens had time to yell them all out of their dreams. The only one to beat her outside of the cabin and onto the porch was her husband who had left a small pile of cigarette ash on the porch before he went to tend to their pigs. One had just died, (more…)

A History of Hometown Heroes

Every child knows the thrill of seeing a great red firetruck flying to its next urgent destination. The flashing lights, the glistening red exterior, and the piercing sound that comes in waves is enough to draw attention. Burly “BB” Bascum Norris was one of the many children in the world who were fascinated by fire trucks and the life of a fireman. (more…)

Monopoly: From the Landlord’s game to the Great Depression to the Modern Age

Imagine the year is 1935, and your father has come home with something odd he found at the store. It’s a board game you’ve never seen before, something new from a company called Parker Brothers called Monopoly. The game is interesting, albeit a bit complicated, but you and your family find it fun and it


A Home for the Hobos

In 1900, Britt, Iowa, became the the first city in the state to host a national convention. The city council of Britt sought to catch the attention of the press, and therefore tourists, and with the enactment of the National Hobo Convention the council accomplished its goal.


Lipstick: Alternative Bathroom Decorating

One of the earliest stories my mother shared was from when she got into her mother’s makeup as a child. The story goes that my mother snuck into my Nana’s makeup bag in the bathroom and pulled out all her red lipsticks. Nana only wore red lipstick. Apparently while my mom examined all the pretty


A Leisured Legacy

Five dice with two stacked on top of the other three.Dice clatter in succession over one, two, three tabletops, bouncing in spite of their edges and angles. Coasters are shifted, glasses are raised, and fruity fluids flow until their bit of bite raises volume and eyebrows simultaneously.


The Royal Signet
Royal Signet ES19889 model:

“Raymond it is three in the morning! What are those incessant clicks and bells you`re making?” This is what my great grandfather heard most early mornings while he still lived at home with his family. Whenever he felt the creative urge to write, he always did—even if the noise of his typewriter was “incessant.”


Soaring with the Circus: Depression-era Aerial Acts

In 1926, when 16-year-old Guy Oscar Blackburn crept out of Alabama City, Alabama, and joined the Christy Bros. travelling circus, his foremost thought was probably just to get out—to get away from small towns and small minds. Likely, he didn’t give much thought to what he might actually do with a travelling circus, but over the course of his subsequent 23-year circus career, he soared. (more…)

I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone

My great-grandfather, Emmett William Rossiter, was born January 15, 1888, in Bancroft, Nebraska. In 1932 he lived in Walthill, Nebraska, with his wife June and his eight children: Claude, Constance, Vincent, Mary, Constance, June, Joan, and Anne. He was a bank cashier and still employed at this time at Bank of Winnebago. (more…)

Leisure in The Great Depression: Fishing

My step grandfather, William Kyle Thurmond Junior, was not unfamiliar with the feeling of want during his childhood, but he and his father managed to find a beneficial escape from the trying times of the Great Depression through the sport of outdoor fishing. Born right at the cusp of America’s greatest financial (more…)

Grandma’s Pies
photo of a marriage license
Marriage license for Mandy Brown and her first husband, from

Mandy [Millie] Brown, my maternal great-grandmother, was a homemaker who worked hard everyday to provide for her family. Although she didn’t often contribute to working outside of the house doing farm labor with her husband, she was the queen of her kitchen and loved making pies. Born in 1884, she married her first husband, Sydney Bruce, at the age of 27 on January 6th, 1911; he was a farmer in Montgomery County, Alabama . (more…)

The Infamous Map

When my mother was a little girl, she vividly remembers the days when her Poppy let her join him at work in his attic-style cartography studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Poppy, known to the rest of the city as Joseph Needle, was a Civil Engineer and my great-grandfather. As listed on the Charleston government website under the “City Engineering Records from 1867-1979,” Joseph’s work entailed “providing essential public services to a growing populace” ( (more…)

Panoramic Bathurst

“They are still in drought in terms of a Bathurst victory. Still waiting for that win. The longest losing streak in the history of the race. I’m calling a little early perhaps because this is after all, Mount Panorama” –Neil Compton on the last lap of the 2004 Bathurst 1000.


UN-canning the Importance of the Tin Can

I was only alive for six months before my great grandfather, Philip Williams, died at age 79. Born the third of five children in 1914 in Nashville, Tennessee, Philip inherited a keen mind for business from his father, John Philip, a physician before entering the coal brokerage industry with his brother-in-law. (more…)

Work Hard Then Work Harder

My great grandfather, Giuseppe Antonio Defilippis, moved to America from Italy with hopes of achieving the American Dream. He was born in 1891 in a small hilltop village in northern Italy. In 1905 at the age of fourteen, he journeyed alone to Ellis Island to begin his new life in America. He married (more…)

Vintage is the New Black

For Birmingham natives, Legion Field is Birmingham. The city’s most iconic stadium has been around forever. In all honesty, Birmingham-transplant families just don’t understand our history the way we do. (more…)