About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Earth Day (should be every day)


Another year goes by, and still, we deal with pollution and worse in the world. What will the state of things be 2 or 3 generations from now (not daring to think any further). I like to watch old westerns. Have you ever noticed that when the folks in the old west had something to discard (a cigarette butt, a wanted poster, a letter from …anyone) it was just tossed into the street? A street was, by today’s standards, quite tidy (considering the horses and what they left behind), at least in the TV shows. I know that, in some places (the bigger cities, for example), there were street sweepers (people, not machines) whose job it was to sweep up the manure. It was a non-stop job. Didn’t pay well, but steady work. I would guess that the cigarette butts, dodgers, and letters from their gold seeking loved ones, off in California, Nevada, the Dakotas, Alaska, were all swept up by those whose job it was to remove such refuse. I can’t help but notice that the streets near where I live do not have a 24/7 street sweeper. Not even an 8/5 sweeper. 

Thinking back to small towns, those who have sidewalks in front of their establishments are expected to clean up the area, even if the property is public (remember The Andy Griffith Show where Floyd is often found sweeping in front of the barber shop, as is the person with the mercantile, etc.). When was the last time you were in a town or village and saw such activity going on? I can count on no hands how many I’ve seen folks thusly engaged in the past, ah, my whole life. Yes, at times I’ve seen a street sweeper (large vehicle with worn out brushes turning and allegedly sweeping the refuse into an on-board bin) . . . and I’ve seen the trail, after they recently passed by, evident by the thin line of dirt and small items – cigarette butts, bottle caps, candy wrappers – that weren’t big enough to get swept up in the activity.

When folks pine for the good ol’ days, maybe part of that is remembering times when the air smelled cleaner and the streets were swept (though some of the residue from the sweepers trying to keep up with the horses may not be as sweet-smelling). Maybe someday, instead of no longer “needing” the song I have selected for today, it will be more true to life than not. I hope that won’t be the case.

This piece (yup, by Tom Paxton), “Whose Garden was This?,” was written for the promotion of the first Earth Day (1970). I’m honored to say I was in that crowd, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and heard its debut. It was expanded some over the years (see second link), but the message remains the same: If we don’t do something, then it will be our epitaph. Sadly, he is still feeling it necessary to perform this frequently.  

The buttons here are from that first Earth Day promotion and have remained in my collection. Perhaps, someday, they will no longer be true, and then valued only for their antique status.

“WhoseGarden?” – 1970  

“Whose Garden?” – 2016 (with an addition to the 2nd verse)

Your turn. Any songs about the earth, the gardens, the skies . . . you know, the things we (hopefully) value?

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