Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The Time Lady

What do you do if you want to know what time it is?
Before computers, electronics, and cell phones were invented, what did people do if their watches and clocks were broken? They called "the time lady." Every telephone company in every part of the country had a time lady. She was really a very complicated machine that told time with a lady's voice. A real lady had recorded all the words and numbers to tell the time.

When you called the number for the time you heard this message: "AT THE TONE THE TIME WILL BEEE... " and then she said the time. She always sounded funny. When Evelyn was a little girl, she thought the lady said "AT THE TONE THE LIMA BEAN..." and then said what time it was. In some places, she also said what temperature it was outside. The lady said NI-UHN for nine and other funny things.

People really needed the time lady. Whenever there was a storm, and electric clocks didn't work, people called the time lady. When you changed to or from Daylight Savings Time in the spring and fall, you might have to call her. If your watch broke, you might call her.

Some time ago, in Michigan, Virginia, and most other states the telephone companies stopped having the time lady. They said people had lots of other ways to find out the time. But today I read that the time number has kept working in California till now, but it's soon going to be discontinued. The complicated machines that figure out the time and make the lady's voice say "AT THE TONE THE TIME WILL BE..." are wearing out. The time lady still works in Nevada, but those machines might break down too. Soon there won't be any time lady at all.

(See this article in the Los Angeles Times to learn about the entire history of the time lady and the end of Time. Also, you can go to to see what time it really is!)

Monday, August 27, 2007


Trying to be a good child

One hundred years ago, a woman named Laura Lee Hope wrote a book for children about a family with two sets of twins: the Bobbsey Twins. The older twins were a boy named Bert and a girl named Nan. The younger twins were named Flossie and Freddie. They had adventures like going on picnics, to the zoo, or traveling. They were always very, very good. They never did anything wrong!

A lot of children loved reading about the Bobbsey Twins, and the author wrote many more books about them. In the first books, pictures showed that Flossie, Freddie, Bert, and Nan wore clothing that now looks very very old-fashioned. In the first picture, you can see how they looked 100 years ago.

Readers liked the Bobbsey twins so much that new copies of the books and new adventures kept being published for every generation. When I was a little girl, I saw old and new books. In the new ones, Flossie and Freddie and all wore clothes like me and my friends: for example, like the blue dress with a white collar that Flossie is wearing on The Bobbsey Twins at Home. Arny always wore tee shirts like the one Freddie is wearing.

More recently, the Bobbsey Twin books have been given more new pictures. They now dress like Miriam and Alice and their friends. Sometimes the adventures are written again, or new stories are written. These stories seem as if they were happening right now. I think that Bert, Nan, Flossie, and Freddie are still very very good. They haven't changed in 100 years.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was a lady -- a very odd lady -- in another book. My third-grade teacher used to read it to us, and I also read some of the books to myself. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tried to help children who were not doing what they should. She convinced dirty children to take a bath and wash their ears. She convinced children that they should help their mothers do chores like washing dishes. She convinced children to go to bed when they were supposed to. Her ideas on how to convince them were odd, but the children always had to be good.

The Piggle-Wiggle books were very, very funny. This was different from the Bobbsey Twin books, which weren't funny at all. When you read about the Bobbsey Twins, I think you were supposed to wish that you were as good as the they were, and be sorry if you weren't. In other words: you were supposed to learn a lesson.

When children had problems being good, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would help them. But the children always ended up being very very good -- maybe as good as the Bobbsey Twins. I think you were supposed to see how to be good by reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. Even though it was funny, you could still learn a lesson.

Junie B. Jones and Ramona

Children now might like to read about very very good children -- but they also like to read about children who are more like themselves. Real children are not good all the time. They do things because they don't understand what their mothers, their teachers, their school-bus drivers, or other grownups want them to do.

No matter how much people tell them to be good, to be polite, to speak correctly, and to help other people, and no matter how many books they read, real children just can't be good all the time. Neither can real grownups. Every reader doesn't want to learn a lesson in every chapter!

Junie B. Jones and Ramona are girls in some newer books. Elaine said I should mention that Ramona dates to the time when Evelyn was a child; Junie B. is even newer, but they are way later than my childhood.

Junie B. and Ramona are much more like real children than the Bobbsey Twins or the children in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. When Junie B. does something wrong, and someone yells at her, she often starts to cry because she really didn't mean to be bad. She knows she should think out what she's doing, but sometimes she's mad or scared, or just doesn't understand.

Her teacher says "Please, Junie B. You simply must try to control yourself better in class. We've talked about this before, remember?" But Junie B. has a reason why she isn't doing what she should. She can't help it. And her friend who tells her "I always control myself" is not much help either.

Ramona is like Junie B. Jones. She doesn't think she is a pest -- but she just can't help it. And it's funny.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Scenes from Hawaii

Many of the old Hawaiian tales talk about things that we didn't see on our recent trip to the Big Island. Lenny and I have seen more things on our earlier trips: here are some photos to help imagine what the old tales are talking about.

The ancient Hawaiian chiefs wore special cloaks and helmets made of thousands of bird feathers. Sometimes the ancient tales mention these clothes. In war time, the chiefs tried to take the clothing of their enemies. The more they won, the more powerful they seemed. This photo is of a modern Hawaiian man dressed in an ancient chief's costume. We saw him at Honaunau at a special festival (June, 2004).

Also at this festival we saw some hula dancers, who danced to entertain the "chiefs."

We also saw some old-style outrigger canoes. Visitors to the festival could take a canoe ride -- but they had to wear modern life jackets. When the ancient Hawaiians traveled between islands, they used much bigger outrigger canoes.

This is a picture of the mountains of the Big Island seen from the shore of Maui. When the chiefs in outrigger canoes went from island to island, they had to cross the water between the two islands. This was a very difficult thing to do, as there are rough waters and strong currents in this channel. It is also very beautiful, as you can see.

All the Hawaiian islands are beautiful. This was our last look at Honolulu, from the plane as we flew home a few years ago.


Old Hawaiian Surfing Stories

Riding on a surfboard is fun for a lot of people, especially in Hawaii. The shore and the waves often allow someone with a long surfboard to paddle out, lying on his stomach on his board, and then to "catch a wave" -- that is, to stand up and ride the wave in towards the shore as it is breaking. This photo from the 100-year-old book of Hawaiian tales shows a woman and a man on their surfboards. First only Hawaiians knew about surfing, but now it's popular at beaches all over the world, as long as there are some big waves to catch.

The ancient Hawaiians not only invented surfing, they also invented sled-like boards that allowed them to ride down the slippery, hard lava mountain that they believed the goddess Pele had created. Once long ago, some chiefs and other important men were racing their lava sleds, called holua sleds, down the lava. A woman they didn't know came to their sledding contest. She asked a chief if she could borrow his holua sled. Of course he said: "No way, you aren't my wife, you can't ride my sled."

Well, next thing the chief knew, the stranger looked very different. Her eyes glowed as red as fire. She took a sled from someone and started to ride down the sloping lava behind him. The chief knew he had made a big mistake to be rude to a woman he didn't know: it might be Pele. And this was Pele.

As Pele rode down the lava on the holua sled, the chiefs and their families saw red-hot lava start to gush out of the ground. Pretty soon, Pele was speeding downhill on flowing hot lava. The wooden sled began to smoke. Riding in front of her, the chief said goodbye to his wife as he sledded by as fast as he could, trying to get away from the hot lava.

In this story, Pele didn't get to hurt anyone, even though she was very mad and tried to engulf the chiefs in lava. This time the chief slid down the lava so fast that he reached the ocean before Pele could catch him. Some other gods must have been helping him.

When he reached the waves, he started surfing. The people from the chief's tribe were waiting in the waves in a big outrigger canoe, and he jumped aboard. The men and women all paddled fast, and they all got away from Pele. They paddled to Maui, the next island, and never dared to come back to the Big Island where Pele can make hot lava.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Hawaiian Fishermen

The Hawaiians have always gone fishing to get delicious food to eat. At our favorite beach, just offshore, we saw a fish trap made of rocks. The trap was made to lure the ocean fish into shallow water. These trapped fish were kept in fish ponds near this beach, and later used for banquets for the king. Only the king was supposed to eat these fish.

Do you remember the story of the manager of these fish ponds who wouldn't give any fish to an old lady? He told her that only the king could eat the fish. A poor man who lived nearby did give the old lady some bread. The next day, the two men learned that the old lady was really the goddess Pele. She was very angry at the un-generous fish-pond manager. She opened a volcanic vent and sent hot lava to destroy his house. But she saved the house of the man who gave her some food. You can see the now-cooled lava that came down a long time ago and ruined the fish ponds.

When we were at the beach, we saw a fisherman with a net trying to catch fish on the rocks. Tom took his photo. I also saw a photo of a fisherman in a book that is 100 years old. Fishermen still fish the same way that they did a long time ago. (The old picture comes from the Project Gutenberg EBook: Hawaiian Folk Tales.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Pele and the Ohelo Berries

Miriam and Alice love the stories of the Hawaiian goddess Pele, especially when Pele is acting mean and getting even with people who do things she doesn't like. Here is a story about Pele and the ohelo berries. These berries are real, and they grow on the new but cooled-off lava flows and big dunes of volcanic ash at the volcano Kilauea where we visited. We saw lots of this lava: maybe there were some ohelo plants there.

Ancient Hawaiians believed that Pele makes the lava and ash that came from the volcano. When Pele first came to the Big Island, she found birds called nene, 'i'iwi and 'amakihi eating the berries. She decided that these were her favorite food too. She didn't want to share them.

The Hawaiians say: "Do not pluck the ohelo berries lest we be surrounded by rain and fog." This means you shouldn't cause trouble: you must not gather or eat ohelo berries when you are going to the volcano Kilauea. Otherwise, Pele will be angry, and make rain and fog. In the fog, you could get lost.

The Hawaiians also believe that when you get to the crater, you can pick the berries. Before you eat them, though, you have to toss a few berries into the crater for Pele. On the way home, if you gave some berries to Pele, then it's ok to continue picking and eating berries. Or you can take some home. But you'd better give some to Pele first!

The other way you can get some ohelo berries is to plant some ohelo plants in your garden -- if you live up on the mountain in the Big Island. But it's very hard to grow them, so most people have to eat cranberries or blueberries.

This story and picture are from "Delicious 'ohelo berries rooted in folklore" by Duane Choy in the Honolulu Advertiser. Mary Kawena Pukui was a collector of Hawaiian tales and sayings, and she recorded the old saying about the fog and rain.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


At the Volcano

When we went to the volcano in Hawaii, we did not get to see the hot lava. It was much too dangerous to go to the place where lava was coming from deep in the earth. We only saw the old parts of the volcano, and the old lava flows and craters. While we were there, though, about 10 miles away, the volcano was making new lava. These pictures are from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory: images.

The top picture shows the formation of the lava called a'a. The second picture shows the smoother lava called pahoehoe. Don't we wish we could have been able to see the hot lava!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Waipio Valley

The ancient Hawaiians lived in the deep valleys along the coast to the east of the island. Many waterfalls are at the back of these valleys, falling down from the high hills. The Hawaiians had their villages and farms in the land in the valleys where there was water and good land for growing their crops like taro. They visited each other in their outrigger canoes. Sunday we overlooked one of these valleys, and could see far into the distance where other valleys come down to the sea.

Hawaiian villages were also in other parts of the island. One big village was right near the condo where we are staying. We have seen some of the old stone foundations of their houses and other buildings.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Can you sit on the bottom of the pool?



We are in Hawaii. We read about Junie B.'s trip while we were in the car on the way to the waterfall and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. We have been to the swimming pool a whole lot, and have gone to a really fun beach where we built sand castles.

In Hawaii, one favorite thing to eat is called Shave Ice. It's made with an ice machine and colorful syrup. Miriam really wanted to taste it, so she and Alice had some for lunch yesterday at the Woodshop Cafe near Akaka Falls.

How do you like Hawaii?


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