Two weeks ago, we unexpectedly lost a very dear friend of mine. Today her friends and family are gathering together to remember her life. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there.
It has taken this long for me to get my mind around writing about our loss. Sal was a remarkable, inspiring, enigmatic, gentle, loving soul. She inspired so many, and made every one of her many, many friends feel special, valued, and loved. I am so sorry for the loss felt by her family and friends, but also truly sorry for those of you who will not get to meet her.
Sal had a lot to do with who I am today. I’ll never forget the morning she wrote asking if I would consider professionally editing her memoir. This was before we were great friends. She felt shy even asking me, when in fact she was offering me an incredible opportunity. See, this was before I identified myself as an editor– honestly, before I even felt truly comfortable saying I was a writer. Yet, she trusted me to help shape the way she presented her life story to the world. What an honor. As we worked together, Sal’s faith in me helped me find faith and confidence in myself.
Her memoir, From Scratch, is now a publication that has reached countless readers. Sal’s commitment and hard work produced a book that is so much more than just an interesting story from her life, but also a source of inspiration for others. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so. I’ve read it more times than I can count (in all of its various incarnations) but you can bet I’ll be rereading it in the near future. Once my heart can handle it.
I miss you, Sal. ♡
Sal was at the first-ever meeting of the Bethlehem Writers Group in 2006. She had written several vignettes that she hoped would be inspirational, and brought them to the group for a critique. I remember it well. We had never met before, and here was a bright-eyed, white-haired woman with short bits of writing on several aspects of life and spirituality. The only problem was . . . they came across as preachy.
All of us who knew Sal know she was never preachy—but that’s how her writing came across. And that’s what we told her.
Instead of being discouraged, she went home and tinkered with them some more. At the next meeting she brought another draft, then another and another at the meetings that followed. She told us later that after each meeting she would go home and Mel would ask, did they like this one better? She just shook her head. Nope.
But, in true Sal fashion, she never gave up. She kept writing until she finally found her voice—by writing about her life. And when she did, she wrote from her heart.
One of the first such stories was about being in her writing cabin and looking out the window to discover that someone had stolen her Vespa. In her story, she went through the stages of grief over losing her beloved scooter, only to find as she walked back to her house . . . that she had parked it somewhere else.
Sal could laugh at herself.
Once she found her voice she wrote about nature. She wrote about recovery. She wrote about strong women, good friends, and spirituality. And then she combined the best of all of them when she wrote about building her house.
It took her years to complete her memoir, From Scratch: Why I Walked Away from My Life and Built This Home. At first, it was hard for her to share her private pain with members of the writers group—let alone imagine sharing it with the world. But every time she gave more of herself to her story, she lent it a truth that, when published, helped others in pain to find their path to healing.
When she finally published the book, all of the writers group family celebrated. And, in the months that followed, she learned that her words were inspirational—and anything but preachy.
She stayed with our writers group for the rest of her life. Over the years, Sal became so much more than a fellow writer. She became a cherished friend.
We are so happy to have been part of her journey, and feel very blessed that she was a part of ours.
OCC’s most recent Birthday Bash occurred between my last post and this one. Happy Birthday, OCC! I did attend the main events on that Saturday, although I didn’t stay overnight and I missed the pajama parties.
But getting together with fellow members, hearing the speakers, participating in drawings–it was all wonderful! I’m a long-time member of OCC, although there are plenty of others who’ve belonged even longer. I love the chapter and am good buddies with quite a few of the members.
Right now, I just want to say thanks to all of you who put the Birthday Bash together, and those of you who do such a wonderful job of running the chapter. Yay, OCC!
In the 1950s the emergence of suburban America led to the boom in automobile travel. This was a time of cheap fuel, before air quality regulations and seat belts. Cars were nowhere as fuel efficient or reliable as the vehicles of today. More than 230,000 service stations dotted the nation. All four corners of many major intersections were occupied by service stations. “Service stations?” The gas station of the 50s was truly a full-service station and puts today’s modern fill & go places to shame. Customer service was a key factor in the success of any service station, and competition was stiff for the 1950s customer.
When you pulled into a service station, your car would usually run over a tiny rubber hose laid across the entrance driveways. A bell would “ding” and as many as four uniformed attendants not only filled your tank, but opened the hood and checked the oil and coolant while others checked tire pressure and washed your car’s windows. At one station, they wiped down the radio antenna.
A trip to the service station was an experience even the kids enjoyed. Some service stations let the young boys “help” fill the tank or check the tires. One chain had trampolines for them to jump on while the parents filled up the family car.
Not only that, but these businesses often provided incentives to get your return business. Some gave out promotional items with a fill-up like drinking glasses imprinted with the company logo. China dishware or cutlery was another incentive. Each time you’d go to the station, you would receive a free bowl, plate or other piece. If you returned often enough, you could amass an entire set of china or flatware. Mostly, the free giveaways were toys, key chains, calendars, Blue Chip stamps or Green trading stamps. (If you are too young to remember trading stamps, it worked like this… with each purchase you made at a participating business you’d receive stamps that were pasted into a book. When you accumulated enough stamps, you could trade them for items in a catalog. This very similar to credit card or frequent flyer points today.)
Free road maps were another giveaway you don’t see anymore, but they were given out as a courtesy in the 1950s. One company in New York even provided an “upside down” map from New York to Florida where south was at the top of the map for easier use by southbound drivers. To keep the customer coming back, some held contests for free fill-ups or offered the chance to win a prize. Some went so far as to give away a new car to a lucky customer!
My own father would drive twenty miles from Orange County, California to buy gas at one of the Parks Texaco stations in Long Beach— all for a chance to win a new Cadillac. Eventually, the Parks stations closed and he has since passed away. He never won the Caddy.