Saturday, December 6, 2008


My Mother’s family, the Rich’s, would get together for the first two weeks in August at Zavikon, my grandfather Baba's summer house in Canada, and have a family dinner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on a Saturday - two or three weeks before Christmas. I guess Harrisburg was a more central location for relatives coming from Washington, Lancaster, and Woolrich --and later South Carolina and Chicago.


We generally had an afternoon dinner in a large banquet room on the second floor of the Hotel Harrisburger across the street from the State Capitol grounds. We cousins loved to run up and down the large staircase, which led to the banquet room. (Later the management tried to maximize floor space by eliminating the staircase; but they only succeeded in ruining one of the best features of the hotel and hastening to bring about its demise.)


The hotel had a fine English restaurant called the Pickwick Tavern, one of the few really good restaurants in town. The aunts and uncles would generally meet there for cocktails before dinner. Grandfather Rich never allowed any wine at his table.


We all sat at one large table— probably several put together—covered with white linen tablecloths, and Mother's colorful holiday tablecloths on top. My Dad’s friend, Helen Heisey, usually completed the decorations, incorporating Mother's several silver candlesticks, and made holly floral arrangements. After Baba's second marriage to Pattie Wideman, the table accommodated almost thirty people. There was a small poinsettia at each place setting, and a silver dollar underneath each person's salad plate or first course.


Two uncles sat at opposite ends of the table to carve the turkeys.  Dad always got a kick out of using his electric carving knife.


After dinner, Baba insisted that all the cousins perform. Scottie Kurtz would play the accordion. David Staats would recite a poem. Everybody did something.  Then Baba dispensed the silver dollars.


We Bell's all played music – Cynthia on the violin; Julie, the flute; Sherry, the clarinet; and I, the 'cello. Sometimes we'd play duets or trios, and I'd accompany everybody with Christmas carols on the piano. The other cousins thought the Bells were show-offs. But we sure raked in those silver dollars!


 (And these were genuine silver dollars – not sandwiched copper.) Sometimes I left with more than fifteen or twenty. But I don't have them today. I gave some away as birthday presents. But most, I just spent – primarily on candy. I remember buying one hundred pieces of licorice at a corner grocery for a silver dollar.

No comments:

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)