Tag Archives: History

Pearl Harbor

These photographs were taken in peacetime:

U.S.S. Arizona

U.S.S. Arizona, Pearl Harbor



Naval History and Heritage Command
is an excellent source for historical information about the attack on Pearl Harbor and all of the above photographs come from their site.

National Archives page with radiogram and original documents.

U.S.S. West Virginia, Pearl Harbor

The United States and Japan were not at war with each other when Japan attacked our military installations on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Our country had failed to understand the evil and underestimated the threat.

May we learn from our mistakes.

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Filed under 1940s, America, Heros, History, Internet links, Military, World War II

Plymouth and Nearby Environs


When I was a girl, I always loved the stories about the Pilgrims and the early years of America. History was one of my favorite subjects, but there was something really special and American about the story of the people who left their home in search of religious freedom, came across the ocean in a crowded boat and made new lives for themselves and their families in a wilderness.

Three years ago, I accompanied Joe on a business trip to Massachusetts and was so excited to finally get to visit the place I had read about 40 years ago. And although I had plenty of time to explore the Plymouth area, unfortunately many of the sites are closed in December, but I visited what I could. One of my first stops was Pilgrim Hall, the museum established and built in 1824.

Pilgrim Hall - I call it the Politcally Correct Palace


After about 5 minutes I felt like I’d been slapped in the face and that the museum curators were trying to kick the wind out of me. There was no honor of the Pilgrims, no celebration of their experience. All of the plaques describing the paintings and artifacts sneeringly contradicted the traditional story. What was left was how awful all this intrusion was to the Indians and how noble they were.

It was politically correct to the Nth, nauseating degree. I couldn’t believe it. They kept emphasizing that all those stories we read before were false; of course that was before the enlightened ones starting writing the history books.

(A few years before that we’d been to the Smithsonian and I was absolutely shocked at how PC it was. The exhibit on World War II was overwhelmingly focused on the Japanese internment. What little space that was devoted to the American GI was negative. It described that everywhere our soldiers went, there was rape, venereal disease and unwanted, half-American children.)

(I had better cover myself here because I don’t have a lawyer on retainer – the following is my opinion. Liberals tend to be sensitive and lawsuit happy.)A rhetorical question:are the same jaded, hair-shirt-wearing, self-flagellating, over-educated nincompoops in charge of all the museums dedicated to the American experience?

Please, say it isn’t so.

View of the bay, Plymouth, Massachusetts


Plymouth, Massachusetts has an incredibly precious heritage. Is that what you’ll find on their webpage? No, you’ll find one of those boxes on the left that shouts: “No Place for Hate”. What does that mean? Do they actually believe that other American towns advocate the opposite? The only reference to their role in American history is the following from City of Plymouth official website which says: “Most Americans are familiar with the story of the pilgrims’ voyage across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, and their landing at Plymouth Rock. Today, Plymouth Rock is just one of the sites that tell the story of Plymouth. When you visit our Town, you will learn about more than the pilgrim voyage, you will learn about our diverse and unique community. ” (emphasis mine)

Even the unofficial town website doesn’t have any history, but they do have another one of those little boxes. They aren’t warning us about hate. It tells us about International Day of Climate Action! (exclamation mark theirs).

But there is hope! (exclamation mine) The following quotes are from an article from the Plymouth Guide titled Putting the Thanks back in Thanksgiving – New book embraces treasured Pilgrim saga.

Hooray for the Plymouth Guide.

A big double hooray for Jeremy Bangs.

Strangers and Pilgrims, the 928-page history of the Pilgrims by Jeremy Bangs, explores the religious and political foundations of the Pilgrims in England and Holland and finds historical basis for much of the treasured Pilgrim tradition.”

“Bangs, for instance, points to the false notion that the Pilgrims never referred to themselves as Pilgrims. While some have suggested the name was invented in the 19th century, Bangs said the title of his book, Strangers and Pilgrims, comes from a quotation published by Robert Cushman in 1622.”

“Bangs said he has no stake in how the story plays out, but admits he is amused to see so many of the original notions about the Pilgrims have proven to be more or less accurate.”

If I had it to do all over again, I’d still go through the exhibit, because it does contain the actual belongings of the Pilgrims which is incredible to me, but I’d ignore their little plaques signs and explanations.

Doll from Mayflower passage, 1620


The swords and furniture were interesting, but what I really was drawn to was a little doll, carried on the Mayflower by Mary Chilton. How in the world could something as fragile as that rag doll survive almost 400 years? I don’t know, but I’m so glad it did. I can’t find a photo of it, either on the Pilgrim Hall website or doing image searches. If anyone knows where there’s a picture of it, please let me know. I did a rough sketch and made a few notes, but it’s hard to tell anything about it. The description said it was made from wool, linen and cotton.

I wonder who made it. Mary? Her mother? In England or Holland? Maybe on the Mayflower itself.

As a lover of textiles, I consider it a real American treasure.

First Congregation Church - Middleboro, Massachusetts


In nearby Middleboro is the First Congregational Church

organized in 1694 by the children of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Ceiling of First Congregation Church


The current structure was built in 1828.

Auditorium - First Congregational Church


Across the road is an old cemetery. Some thoughtful person had placed flags on the graves of U.S. military veterans.


This headstone marks the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier.

Cranberry bog - near Middlleboro Massachusetts,


This is what a cranberry bog looks like. I think they’re beautiful.

And incidentally, if it’s a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce that you open on Thanksgiving, you might be interested to know that O.S. is not a corporation – it’s an agricultural cooperative of the growers. If you ever find yourself in Middleboro or Lakeview, Massachusetts, give yourself a treat and go see the Ocean Spray headquarters. A winding drive, the little bridge over the stream with swans swimming on it and the white colonial style building, it is the nicest business office I’ve ever seen.

Here in our region we have Big Lot stores, and they’re pretty good, but I’ve never seen anything like Ocean State Job Lots. I could spend hours in that store. Just take an extra suitcase and a little extra cash is all I have to say. I bought everything from poppy seeds to gourmet snack items to dishes to stamp pads to tools and blenders in there – all at very good prices.

Going into Benny’s in Raynham, Massachusetts was like time travel for me. In 1950’s and 1960’s Tulsa, we had OTASCO stores (Oklahoma Tire and Suppy Company). Benny’s is so like them I could’ve believed I was a kid again. From the traditional looking shopping center and sign out front to the smell when I walked in the door, I felt like I was in a time warp and I enjoyed every minute of it. I actually did a lot of Christmas shopping there, too. If I lived in that area, Benny’s would be one of my regular stops.

Coming back around to the history of the region, the people of New England are so blessed to be surrounded by history everywhere;this region is absolutely rich with roots in our country’s founding and early days. I wish New Englanders viewed that as something to be treasured rather than something to be embarrassed about.

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Filed under 1950s, 1960's, America, Books, Childhood pastimes, Cooking, Current Events, Faith, Heros, History, Internet links, Local Shopping, Military, Shopping, Thanksgiving

Cozy Reading

100_8353Brenda over at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me is asking her blog readers to submit their favorite books and movies that are in the Cozy category. She defines them as ones that make her feel all warm and cozy in the winter weather. Partly because we live in the south, my definition would be a little different – books and movies that me feel contented. There’s more to it than that, but when I start trying to nail it down, it gets elusive.

For instance, Agatha Christie mysteries are considered cozies, but they almost always involve murder. No gory details or horrible unpleasantness – but murder, none the less. I struggle with my affection for her books. Surely a Christian shouldn’t be so fascinated with sin. If I’m wanting to rationalize, I could say that it’s actually the intricacies of logic and justice that intrigue me.

Cozy books of all types make up a good deal of my reading. I also read a lot of challenging non-fiction: political, Alzheimer’s tales, biographies, but I find that after a few of these books, I need to read something that calms me down a bit. Because, even though I believe those topics to be necessary and important to my life, they can be a bit stressful.

Anyway, here’s some of my list. It isn’t complete because I’m sure that I’ll remember an omitted favorite this afternoon.

I’ve used Brenda’s format, to help me compare my list to hers.

AUTHORS
M.C. Beaton -mostly mysteries: Edwardian, Scotland, Cotswolds
Elizabeth Caddell – light mid-20th century novels of England
Agatha Christie – mysteries
Emily Kimbrough – reminiscences of very early and mid-20th century
L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables series
Miss Read – very light and pleasant novels of an English village school
D.E. Stevenson – light English romances
Gladys Taber – journal-like books about living in New England
Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House books

FICTION
+Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Absolutely any of the Miss Read books
*Mrs. Miniver, Jan Struther (disclaimer: there is a chapter on fortune telling which I skipped. I don’t think witchcraft/occult is harmless fun.)
*The Gown of Glory, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (one of the reader reviews on Amazon compared it to Our Town.)
*The Nightingale, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (same town as The Gown of Glory, different people)
*Half Crown House, Helen Ashton (post WWII England)
*Owl’s Castle Farm, Primrose Cumming (mid-WWII English farm life)
*Now That April’s There, Daisy Neumann (English children returning home from America 1945)
SERIES
*Fairacre series by Miss Read
*Thrush Green series by Miss Read
*Some of the Mitford books by Jan Karon
*Reminisce Magazine books – collections of short personal stories from very early to mid-20th century

NON-FICTION – HOME ARTS
*A Thousand Ways to Please Your Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes, Louise Bennett Weaver & Helen Cowles LeCron (either 1917 or 1932 edition)
*The Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker
*If Teacups Could Talk, Emilie Barnes
*The Charms of Tea, by Victoria Magazine
*Beautiful Home on a Budget, Emilie Barnes & Yoli Brogger
*Timeless Treasures, Emilie Barnes
*Sew Pretty Homestyle, Tone Finnanger
*Crafting Vintage Style, Christina Strutt
*Creating Vintage Style, Lucinda Ganderton

BIOGRAPHIES & AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
*Farewell, Horton Foote
*In My Father’s House: the Years Before the Hiding Place, Corie ten Boom
*Agatha Christie: an Autobiography, Agatha Christie
*A Fortunate Grandchild, Miss Read
*Time Remembered, Miss Read

FASHION

*20th Century Fashion, John Peacock
*Fashion Accessories, John Peacock
*The Costume Collector’s Companion 1890-1990, Rosemary Hawthorne Air

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Filed under Books, Cooking, Cozy, Faith, Fiction, History, Tea

Mrs. Miniver, 1942

In the Anderson shelter

In the Anderson shelter

After the fall of France, England was struggling for survival under the relentless pounding by the Germans.  Tens of thousands of civilian lives and homes were lost. For over two years they alone fought the Nazis. Then we were attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. America was immediately thrust into a two-front war, with very little preparation.  President Roosevelt had to choose where to concentrate our first efforts and he chose to stand with England while we rebuilt our decimated Navy.  Americans didn’t understand that decision because the Pacific was where we’d been attacked.  He felt it was vitally important to have the support of the American people in giving England much needed help.

This is the story of a family, of a little boy who takes his cat into the air raid shelter (of course, the cat looks calmer than anyone else), of the difficulty of a changing society, of romance. Of the importance of roses and those beloved cats. It is cozy, humorous and suspenseful. Most of all, it is the story of perseverance, courage and faith that sustains us in treacherous times.

Miniver home after a bombing raid

Miniver home after a bombing raid

Mrs. Miniver was used as the tool to illustrate to the American people just how rough the war had been on ordinary English citizens.  And it worked.  Winston Churchill was very pleased by the reaction to both the book and the movie.  He’s quoted by Bernard Wasserstein as saying that they did as much good as “six divisions of war effort”.

There’s been a lot of criticism of Mrs. Miniver for being war propaganda.  And I suppose it was, but still, it was accurate; actually maybe it wasn’t accurate enough.  William Wyler, the director, joined the U.S. Army after the filming was completed and was overseas when he won the Oscar. He later said that he had been too soft in his portrayal of war.  It seems hypocritical to me that modern critics ignore the blatant, agenda driven, anti-American bias in current films but point an accusing finger at patriotic movies.  The fight  was for the survival of the free world. And we should remember that it was made during the war. No one knew what the outcome would be but William Wyler was very clear about what we were fighting for.

A few of the reviews by the English complain about it being an unrealistic American view of them.  If anyone from the UK reads this, I’d appreciate a comment from them concerning inaccuracies.  I know it’s quite different from their modern culture, but things have changed.  How truthfully does it portray the 1940’s?  Also, the fake English accents have been  pointed out.  Well, yes.  I’m sure the British are sensitive about that.  I know that when I watch British productions like Fawlty Towers or Foyle’s War or Agatha Christie stories, I’m sensitive to not only how we are portrayed but also by the flat accents they employ when imitating us (they usually use British actors with fake American accents). Can you spot the Americans in Mrs. Miniver?  There are only 3 in the 15 credited roles; 11 are from the United Kingdom, (mostly England), and 1 from Vienna.  See * at bottom of page

Tea on the terrace

Tea on the terrace

I simply love this movie.

Sometimes after reading a story or watching a movie that I’ve really enjoyed, I want to know more about the story or the characters.  And often, whichever one I read or see afterward is disappointing.  But not Mrs. Miniver.

The movie is only based on the characters Jan Struther wrote about; originally the stories were printed in the Times (London), then compiled in novel form in 1939.  The book is simply a collection of vignettes about the Miniver family.  Almost no events are transferred from the book but still the book and the movie fit together hand in glove.  The screenwriters stayed very true to Struther’s tone and characters. More often than not, Hollywood has ruined original stories or at least twisted them out of all recognition.  But not here.  I feel that they took good material and improved it.  Jan Struther was not Kay Miniver; she might have been someone I wouldn’t have liked. After reading about her life, I can say I probably wouldn’t have.  But she was a good writer.

All of the actors are wonderful, especially … no, if I start naming all the good ones, I’d just end up listing the cast.

Wilcoxon Speech

Wilcoxon Speech

Some of the most memorable scenes:  reading Alice in Wonderland aloud to the children in the Anderson shelter, tea on the terrace, when Kay hears his boat returning after Dunkirk.  Possibly the very best is the last one: in the church Vin goes to stand beside Lady Beldon. And the vicar’s sermon.  Incredibly stirring.

From imdb “The vicar’s speech near the end was reportedly re-written by William Wyler and Henry Wilcoxon the night before it was shot. It was translated into various languages and air-dropped in leaflets over German-occupied territory, was broadcast over the Voice of America, and reprinted in Time and Look magazines at Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s request. This speech has come to be known as The Wilcoxon Speech, in tribute to actor Henry Wilcoxon’s stirring delivery of it.” The enemy was recognized and survival required resistance. The sermon reflects Winston Churchill’s embracing words. Here is a  short clip; this one is more complete.

Twelve Academy Award nominations, 6 wins.

Best Picture
Best Director – William Wyler
Best Actress – Greer Garson
Best Supporting Actress – Teresa Wright
Best Cinematography – Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Screenplay -George Froeschel, Claudine West, Arthur Wimperis & James Hilton (novels:  Random Harvest, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Lost Horizon)


Where I’ve Seen Them

Greer Garson – Good-bye , Mr. Chips, Pride and Prejudice
Walter Pidgeon – Meet Me in St. Louis, Forbidden Planet
Teresa Wright – Shadow of a Doubt, The Best Years of Our Lives
Dame May Whitty – The Lady Vanishes, White Cliffs of Dover, Suspicion
Richard Ney – Midnight Lace
Henry Wilcoxon – The Ten Commandments, The Big Valley
Reginald Owen – Mary Poppins (Admiral Boom)
Henry Travers – Dark Victory, Shadow of a Doubt, It’s a Wonderful Life
Brenda Forbes – Blithe Spirit
Helmut Dantine – Casablanca (the young newlywed who loses at gambling).  Although Austrian, he was really playing against type.  He had been involved in the resistance and was arrested.  His family  secured his release and sent him to the U.S.

Very highly recommended.

If your library doesn’t have a copy, you can watch it on youtube. There was a sequel, The Miniver Story, filmed in 1950 with both Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, but I’ve not seen it (That’s what I’m doing tomorrow). This link has foreign sub-titles. Perhaps you can find one that doesn’t. If I do, I’ll update this post.

Please check back if you’re interested in this subject. I plan on writing more about this compelling period of history.

*The Americans are Teresa Wright, Richard Ney and Christopher Severn.

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Filed under 1940s, Battle of Britain, History, Movies

1893 Fashions

1893 Evening Gown, designed by Charles Frederick Worth

1893 Evening Gown, designed by Charles Frederick Worth

Today I wanted to show some of the popular fashions in 1893.

This hat was documented to have been worn to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago by Janet dePrie(?)

This hat was documented to have been worn to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago by Janet dePrie(?)

Hat very similar to the green straw one, shown at top of page.

Hat very similar to the green straw one, above.


Photographer: Crane Arto, Waterbury, Connecticutt

Lillian Russell, circa 1893

Lillian Russell, circa 1893

Lillian Russell performed at the fair. This photo was taken by the “Newsboy” studio, New York. Notice the large vertical pom poms on her hat.

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

Victorian Fashions 1893

Victorian Fashions 1893

The photographs of the green straw hat, Lillian Russell and the one by Crane Arto are from the book Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970
by Susan Langley. I bought this book at the Textile Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts in 2004. They were having a wonderful exhibit of ladies hats. It was one of the best museum visits I’ve ever had.

The black and white illustrations are from the Dover Publication: Victorian Fashions, a Pictorial Archive, 965 Illustrations Selected and Arranged by Carol Belanger Grafton. My husband gave me this book for Christmas last year.

The Worth evening gown was “sky blue damask with a pattern of pink chrysanthemum petals, and layers of embroidered lace and tulle. The gown is festooned with a glarland of pearls and crystal. The hairdo was designed by Lentheric.” The illustration is by Tom Tierney and is from the Dover publication Victorian Fashion Designs. It includes a cd-rom. It was also a gift from my husband.

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Filed under 1893, 19th Century, Chicago, Fashion, Hats, History

1893 World’s Fair, Chicago

1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago

1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago

Did you ever wonder how so many of the things came about that we associate with America?  For instance: The Emerald City  in the Wizard of Oz, Disneyland, Hershey’s Chocolate, Ragtime music?

It started at the fair, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as The Columbian Exposition.

The French had held national exhibitions beginning in 1844, but the idea for the first world exposition came from Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.  It was held in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London in 1851. The Chicago fair marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Last week I read Lynn Austin’s book,  A Proper Pursuit,  a novel set against the backdrop of the fair.  My curiosity was really piqued.  So I did a little research.  It was huge.  Built on 630 acres, it contained 3 miles of canals with gondolas and a replica Viking ship sailed across the ocean from Norway. and hosted more than 25 million visitors.  In fact once could arrive at the fair by boat and enter on a moving sidewalk.

Admission ticket to Chicago World's Fair, 1893

Admission ticket to Chicago World's Fair, 1893

Interesting facts:

Katherine Lee Bates was so impressed with her visit to the fair, that when she wrote her poem, America The Beautiful, she penned the phrase “alabaster cities” referring the the White City area.  Frank L. Baum patterned the Emerald City after visiting.  Walt Disney’s father worked on the construction.

George Ferris introduced his wheel (250 ft. high) and it was so popular, it saved the fair from bankruptcy.

Electric power was introduced to the American public.  The white stuccoed buildings reflected the electric lights and people referred to that area as The White City.  A 70 ft. tower of light bulbs was exhibited in the Electricity Building.

The term ‘Midway’ was first used.

Attractions included the first commercial movie theater.

Scott Joplin introduced the new Ragtime style of music.  Also on the music front, Little Egypt danced to a tune that is now very famous (you know the one, it’s used for snake charmers in the cartoons or kids on the playground sing “In a land called France…”).   It was an improvised tune, never copyrighted and now in the public domain.

Product firsts:
Hershey Bars, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Cracker Jacks,  Cream-of-Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

The fair played a huge role in introducing America on the world stage. One of the most permanent legacies was the Beautiful City movement which sought to rectify the neglect of American cities.

Only 5 of the buildings survive today, only one at the original site.  Some were torn down.  As stunning as they were, they weren’t built to last.  Most of them were wood frame and a plaster mixture.  A fire in 1894 destroyed even some that had been slated to be made permanent.

Admission price:  50 cents.

You can learn more here. and see some great pictures on flickr.   .  The Wikipedia site is interesting, but be careful, because some of it is a little inaccurate.

Youtube has a 4 parts of a series about the fair, narrated by Gene Wilder. At the end, click on the next part in the sidebar at the right of the page. Part 5 (and possibly subsequent parts) seem to be missing at this time but the link gives information about where to purchase the DVD. *August 8, 2011 update: This video has been removed from youtube but this one is a 2 minuted narrated slideshow.

Also on youtube is another series. It’s unclear how many parts are available for viewing.

Youtube recording of Scott Joplin playing his piece “Maple Leaf Rag”. I can’t get this link to work, but if you type in Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag in the youtube search bar, this should be at the top of the list. It’s funny, because he plays it very fast. My husband loves to play Ragtime, and Joplin notes on his pieces to not play it fast; Ragtime is never played fast.

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Filed under Chicago, History

Waxahachie Chautauqua – Cotton, the Fabric of a Community

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We got there late and had to leave early, so we didn’t get to hear the Vocal Majority. But they’re on youtube, so we can hear them there and I’m just glad we got to go at all.
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First, Heather Boykin demonstrated the layers of clothing a Texas woman in the Victorian era would’ve worn to church or an event in the summer. She weighed before and after donning all the garments – it totaled 8 pounds. With all that and the corsets, it’s little wonder that the life expectancy was shorter.

The Emcee was Joe Green, who grew up chopping cotton. Between speakers, he recited his poetry or sang duets with Merry Agape. They were very good.

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Dr. Clayton Brown, History professor at TCU, spoke on the history of cotton in Ellis County and the Blackland Strip (the counties from the Red River south to San Antonio). Nancy Farrar shared the history of the county’s first cotton gin, which was her great-great-grandfather’s in the mid-1800’s.

Levee Singers
The Levee Singers performed for about an hour. They are four retirement aged fellows, kind of Kingston Trio-like, who have been singing together since the 1950’s. Very talented and energetic, they put on a good show and were just plain fun. They also are on youtube.

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“Cotton Clothing Through the Ages: Historical Fashion Show” was the last event we were able to see. Lauren Craig and her sisters demonstrated the history of fashion, modeling clothing that they’ve made for 4-H Fashion Shows. The outfits were amazing. Those girls can really sew.

Throughout the program, I learned how much easier our lives are now than those of previous generations. I am so grateful for all that the pioneers of this country did for us.

The exhibits tent had a quilting demonstration, a man from the cotton gin to answer questions, and a hand-cranked demonstration (I think it was a very small cotton gin, but I couldn’t get close enough to ask).

Next year the theme will be Railroads. I hope we can take our grandsons with us. When they get restless we can always take them over to the park area and let them run off steam.

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Filed under Events & Museums, Texas