Tuesday, April 21, 2009

50 years what a life

On Oly Saturday, April 11th, we kicked off the 50th year anniversary celebration of Mary and Kay. All 11 of the kids were in attendance. Mike put together an incredible movie with highlights of life as a Francis. We then did a little talk about what happened in each decade (inspired by the Schlichting cousins!) Here are the notes from the day!

Kay and Mary the first decade

1959-1969 (Dawn and Mike)
Kay and Mary met at a mixer for the Catholic was love at first sight! They got married on October 24th, 1959. Shortly after their wedding, they moved to Fort Leonardwood Missouri where Kay was in the army.

In the army Kay first worked in the motor pool and then was a marksman on the long range shooting team. The only action he ever saw was back home at devil elbow Missouri with Mary. This is where he learned to bow hunt! Dawn Marie was the firstborn child of Kay and Mary, and, we believe, was the only child born outside the state of Minnesota. They named her Dawn, as it was Kay’s favorite time of day- he spent many many years of quiet in the early morning “dawn” hours while bow hunting in the woods- and to this day, we are quite sure that dawn is still his favorite time of day.

.... Mom once told us a story about her and dad in Missouri. Dad invited his buddies and their wives over for supper. Mom decided to make spaghetti, but hadn't made spaghetti for a large group of people before, so, she decided that she probably needed two or three BOXES of spaghetti noodles to feed everyone! WEll, of course, it turned out to be WAY too many spaghetti noodles... Dad was irritated with mom and probably a bit embarrassed in front of his buddies…
later, he said to Mary... "What were you thinking???!!! This is WASTEFUL!!! You are going to make use of this spaghetti now that we have all of this leftover WASTE!... So, a bit hurt, Mom decided to make good use of the abundance of cooked spaghetti... What did she do??? She made dad a HUGE spaghetti noodle SANDWICH! She sent it in his lunch pail so he could eat it in front of all his buddies in the motor pool at lunch time! It’s safe to say that any man who would eat a spaghetti noodle sandwich in front of his friends, is a good man!
Dad didn't EVER mention the WASTE of spaghetti noodles again!!!! (Or at least not to Mary)

After Ft. Leonardwood Misouri, they moved back to South Saint Paul, bought a house, and settled in on 14th Ave North.
Over the next 10 years they welcomed 7 children, Dawn, Michael, Matthew, Christopher, Patrick, Maureen and Frederick.
Kay worked at the Pine Bend Oil Refinery and part time at Nipps service station. Mary loved staying home with her kids- and a special friendship grew with a neighbor and fellow “mother of many” Margaret Peta. Stories of those two super moms are almost legendary! They used to claim that they’d lay out in the sun together all day while the kids all played in the plastic pool at their feet, and about a half hour before their husbands were to arrive home, they’d quickly spiff up their kitchens and act like they’d been doing housework all day!!

Decade 2

1969-1979 (Matt and Kip)
In the years 1969 to 1979, 4 more children were welcomed...Cecelia, Johnathan, James (Jimmy) and Nicholas. Kay and Mary also moved from 14th Avenue, to their current residence and the place where all of us consider our “hood”… 348, 6th Avenue North. It turned out that Mary’s other partner in crime, and fellow ”mother of many” Margaret Peta and her family had also moved, so the two families were now separated ONLY by an alley and the Maher family home. That’s 21 children stomping back and forth! A permanent path was worn by the Peta and Francis children through the backyard of the Maher’s for years to come!
The OLY Saturday tradition began at this time! And, of course is still going strong today! Does everyone know the story?? (The neighborhood dads gave up drinking for lent.. ((not the MOMS mind you, only the dads!)) On Holy Saturday, you could have whatever you gave up for lent.. and since the dads could now drink OLYMPIA beer… “Oly Saturday” was born!

It was during these years that Kay switched careers and started selling bonds with Juran and Moody. Kay had been working some 16 hour shifts at the Koch refinery and painting neighborhood houses on the side to pay to put 6 kids in private school (St Augustines) along with a paper route or two.
His doctor told him that if he kept working at Koch, it would kill him. He quit his job and also quit Cofeen cigarettes and booze… (Well, lets just say he cut way WAY back on booze for the majority of the year!) One story about the paper route: We’d all fold the newspapers at night and then those big enough to carry the canvas paper tote would get up @ 4:30 to go to west st. paul to deliver them… One dark wintery morning as about 5 of us and Dad were out on the route, an elderly gentleman caught sight of little Patrick and said “What’s a little guy like you carrying such a big bag of newspapers so early in the morning”? to which Pat replied bitterly…. “We’re working to pay our Dad’s Taxes” !!!

It’s safe to say that there are many many stories about life in the Francis Family @ 348 6th avenue north… How about the time kip and Pat had to eat Velveeta cheese out of the garbage disposal in the sink and wash it down with ginger ale? Kip and Pat had to have a midnight snack and didn't like the taste of the ginger ale so they put the pop back back 1/2 full on the shelf and couldn't finish all the cheese so they shoved it down the sink but didn't want to wake anyone so they didn't run the disposal , not a good idea since Dad had just purchased and installed a brand new garbage disposal. The next day, Kay discovered the pile of cheese, pulled it out and made the boys eat it! (That WASTING food thing again we guess)
There were many happy memories of 4th of July fireworks parties on our front lawn, Kaposia days, 4th of July and Memorial Day parades where we all dressed alike in Red, White and Blue!

This Decade included a special Trip to California to see the cousins, Summer Vacations up to Uncle Morries cabin, New Year's Eve Monopoly Championships, Treasure Hunting during the Winter Carnival and too many memories to mention. One in particular that I remember was the trip to California to see the cousins. Uncle Fred took us to see the “old frontier village”. I was about 3 or 4 years old and went on a ride called “Ye old mine ride”. I believe I sat next to cousin Claire Schlichting.. and the echoing sound of “go back, beware” will always be the scariest words EVER to be spoken by man. Ask cousin claire.. I think I wet myself and I wasn’t even sleeping.!

Decade 3

1979-1989 (Pat and Maureen)
It was during these years that Francis kids started graduating from SSP High School and Kay and Mary started sending kids off to College… while still taking care of toddlers and elementary school kids at home!! A second and third trip to California took place to attend the Schlichting Weddings. The path between the Peta and Francis households continued to be worn several times a day! Especially when Kay would arrived home through one door, and 5 or 6 peta kids would scurry out another door and make tracks home! Kids in the neighborhood didn’t like to let Kay Francis discover that there were more than 11 kids in his own house- it never went over very well back then…

Those were also the years where we spent late nights eating day old kfc chicken from a garbage bag that dawn brought home from work and they were also the years where we learned how to properly answer the phone! “Maureen speaking”
“Patrick speaking”

Long distance phone calls were a VERY BIG luxury… if we got a call from Uncle Fred or Aunt Muriel… we would have to literally sprint to the phone, while dad held the timer, and have about 30 seconds to say HI to maybe ONE person!
I remember when the second crew of us went to California for cousin Anne’s wedding... Dad Mom, Me, Fred and Sal..... Dad called home to check on the teenagers back in minnesota... KIP answered and, instead of answering properly, he said "What's Happenin Dude"
(this was also in the day before caller i.d.) All we could hear Kay say was: "I'll TELL you 'WHAT'S HAPPENING DUDE" ... I'm going to hang up... and call back... and YOU are going to answer the phone the correct way"!!!! Dad called back and what he heard was a sheepish .. "Christopher speaking"

Who could forget the year that ALL the Schlichting family surprised us on Christmas eve? For the first time EVER, we had a LIVE Santa clause show up at our house and personally hand us presents!.. but the big gift was the schlichtings parading in to surprise us!! I think that was also the year of the BEER couch!!! That’s another story and if you don’t know it… ask one of us later and you’re sure to get about 13 different renditions of the famous BEER couch!
Of course there are stories about kids getting in trouble… here’s one I remember:

Dad told Matt and Kip to go to the river and get some corn to feed the pigeons in the back yard. He specifically told them to simply pick up the excess corn which had fallen off the railroad cars and landed near the tracks. Instead, Kip and Matt discovered a rail car which was FULL of corn!! Subsequently, they got busted by the railroad police filling up a 55 gal drum DIRECTLY out of the grain rail car. Kay picked them up from the ssp jail house! We’re not sure what explanation Kay gave the ssp law enforcement personnel!

During this decade, we added to the family with the first 2 marriages (Matt and Kelly, Kip and LaVonne) and the first 2 grandchildren (Brittany and Lydia) The beginning of big family celebrations in the form of groom’s dinners, weddings, and wedding dances!

Decade 4

1989-1999 (Fred and Sal)
5 more weddings happened during this decade (Dawn and Richard, Mike and Bonnie, Pat and Nancy, Maureen and Steve, Sal and Jonathan)
Eleven more grand kids Joanie, Kenny, Will, Peter, Jake, Jack, Brooke,
Holly, Grant, Hannah Nathan, More kids off to college, Kay’s retirement…
And we sadly said Goodbye to Grandma Marie Moriarity.

More memories to recount… didn't Dad make wine with sinker Ed in the basement one year and after they tested the finished product, old Ed drove straight down the driveway into the ravine?
It was during this decade that mom drove a bunch of kids all by herself, up to uncle Morries in the oppressive heat of summer… Our vehicle didn’t have an air conditioner and several kids had their feet hanging out the windows to stay cool.
Of course, she was pulled over, somewhere around Anoka for speeding as well as too many limbs hanging out of the vehicle. When the trooper came to the door to tell her she was speeding, he got a earful from mom, something like "Listen if you think you can drive all these rotten kids on a four hour trip in this car with no air conditioning why don't you just get in here and do it?" the cop could only said “drive slower, an have a nice day.. He did NOT give her a ticket!

It wasn’t long after that incident that Dad made the rule that we could only talk in the car when we were under bridges! We just couldn’t wait until we went to St. Paul where there were bridges!! There was also a time when we would always go to menards for dinner? Something about free food? Many of us “younger kids” spent most of the summer at the Northview pool… and our favorite was going to family sessions… Mom mostly took us, but on the special occasion that dad joined us, well, we just couldn’t believe he was walking out of the house with a beach towel around his neck and ready to go swimming with us!!
Whenever Mom took us, she would always take us home a “secret way” and let the old suburban COAST!! She’d coast it down the hill by Woogs, and halfway back up the other side! We’d always make little side bets as to how far we would be able to make it up the hill! Sometimes she made us hold our breath to “make the car lighter” so we could “go further”.

How about our Francis Family outings to meet Dad at his office in Minneapolis at Juran and Moody to see the Christmas displays at Daytons? Picture 11 kids Walking single file Through the skyways playing follow the leader. Everyone of them talking a mile a minute! (Especially J.J.)

Decade 5

1999-2009 (JJ, Jimmy, Nick)
Wow! The 5th decade! Years 41-50… We celebrated 3 more weddings! JJ and Violett, Jimmy and Juliette, Nick and Kirstin. 8 more grandkids Coco, Zoe, Becca, Grace, Claire, Maciek, Josephina, And Micah, with two more due any minute!!
It was hard to say good bye to Uncle Herb and Grandma Zoe and we’ve even had a cancer scare for Kay….

There are a few memories we’ve forgotten to include! So here they are:
We have to talk about the corn picking days and trips to the pig farm to see the
Pigs getting slaughtered!
The corn day would start with an early morning phone ring from Kay’s friend Swede I think. (Swede and DeVaye also celebrate their 50th anniversarywith Kay and Mary to the DATE!)
When Swede called to say the corn was ready, we would all go to the farm in Hastings that Swede was picking and, as he was combining one end, a suburban full of kids was raiding the other end . Then it was back home to shuck and peel Corn! We then moved the benches out from the kitchen (hey, remember we had BENCHES instead of chairs in the kitchen?!)
This is where we would boil and bag the corn. We all would eat corn the WHOLE day and that was all we were allowed to eat.
I’m not sure why we went to see the pig slaughter… I guess it was dad’s way to show us what other people do on the weekends and I don't remember having any pork chops after we got home.

Any time you’d ask dad for money, you had to shine his shoes and you would get a crisp $2.00 bill. By then a number 2 with a coke at McDonalds cost $3.12 tax included. And you couldn’t ask mom for money when dad was around! Well you COULD, but it would have been a bad idea.. and you would have received a nice warm glass of “shut the hell up”!

That’s when mom invented the very first stimulus package..
Mom would always stash money in her pants, sweatshirts, and jackets for us to take when we needed it… No matter how often you raided the pockets, there was always money back in those same pockets the next day. Best of all, she kept stocking her heavy winter jackets throughout the summer, nobody ever checked those….. (except ME!) But as we were sharing this story… MANY of the brothers and sisters thought that THEY were the only ones who knew about the money in mom’s winter jackets! Just goes to show how generous Mary is!!

Wedding Cake

Happy 50th to Kay and Mary who were married on October 24, 1959. We knew that lots of their friends would be joining us for Oly Saturday, so we just turned it into a 50th celebration. Here is a little cake with the bride and groom from my wedding (hand made by Frankie Francis Brown)

Wheat grass pots with photos from the wedding album made up the centerpieces.
Bonnie (or should I say Bunny!) made a gorgeous bouquet for Mary

Oly Saturday

Swede and Devae and the golden money tree! These two couples have the same anniversary day and have celebrated together over the years!
The newleyweds

50 years Kay and Mary

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Decorations!

Most of these Easter Decorations have been around for 10 years or so. It's "tradish" as the boys say. Now that it seems like Spring might be arriving, I finally felt like putting out the Easter Goods!

Here comes Peter cottontail!

Happy Easter from a Kindergarten aged Jack and a Second grade Will!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are you kidding?

April Fools day got a big surprise from Mother Nature! It snowed all day! Happy Spring?

The old sled

My mom has owned this vintage sled for many years. My boys had their photos taken in it when they were young. For Christmas this year, JJ refurbished it at his new shop and it looks like a million bucks! Here is Josephina enjoying a ride in the latest spring snow!

Chicago is my kind of town!

Spring Break in Chicago!

Millenium Park

Frank Gehry designed the centerpiece of this urban park in Chicago. The Pavillion is amazing and the bridge that leads you to is twists and curves over the street below. I loved the feel of the whole place! We walked here early in the morning and since Spring has not yet arrived, not many people were out! Even the bathrooms had that modern curvy design!

Cloud Gate

My favorite part of Millennium Park was the Cloud Gate Sculpture. it is a giant Nambe like bean in the middle of the park that reflects everything and every one around it! All I can say is WOW! If you go to Chicago, make sure you check this out!

Navy Pier

Navy Pier in the early morning is so peaceful! We got up early on Sunday morning and walked to the pier and really enjoyed the fresh air without our winter coats! We were there before the season started, so not many of the attractions were open. That was fine with us!

Deep Dish Pizza

I would drive all the way back to Chicago (9 hours) for a slice of this! Yum. It is as good as they say!

Pig Nose

We were looking through the Art Institute of Chicago's gift shop and Will found this funny cup. I snapped a photo of it (with my flash on...oops) and got yelled at by the lady behind the counter. Sorry! But wasn't it worth it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Jack got a kick out of this little "grocery store" inside the Macy's. We were really hungry and he thought it was a goodie shop...turns out that it is all soap!