Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cartoon Caption Contest Connection

At the Family History Library, I joined this group where we write and read our family stories.  At a recent gathering, Winnie told me I was famous and handed me the local Sunday newspaper.  I was a finalist in the San Diego Union-Tribune's Cartoon Caption Contest.  Drawn by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Breen, this contest asks readers to submit a caption for one of his drawings each Sunday.  The winner receives the signed original in the mail.  As we were about to start reading our stories, I told Winnie to keep the paper as I was a finalist many times and had already seen the results. By the end of our gathering, I reconsidered; I needed another family story for next time, so I asked Winnie if I could have the newspaper, telling her she inspired my next family story.

I had read the Cartoon Caption Contest for many years always telling my self, like with many other things, one day I would do this.  On March 16, 2014, I finally did.  I followed the instructions about entering:  three short submissions allowed, emailed to this address by this deadline, with your contact information.  That week's final sentence was:  May the luck of the Irish be with you!  That was lost on me at the time, around St. Patrick's Day, but now I get it.  The luck of the Irish was with me.  I was a finalist the first time I entered!  That would occur fourteen more times over the next two years.  Always a finalist, never the winner...yet.  I was still having a good time captioning those cartoons each week.  My college psychology professor once said that nothing succeeds like success, so I kept entering.  I was even a finalist two weeks in a row last August! (Scroll left to right and up and down to see the whole photo.)

The first cartoon caption contest I entered, I was a finalist.  The luck of the Irish!

I was a finalist two weeks in a row in August.  This was the first week.

The second week in a row I was a finalist with this cartoon.  I captioned it "How did you find it among all the Christmas merchandise?"

My funniest entry, in my opinion, wasn't even picked.  The cartoon to caption was of a beaver in the woods talking on a cell phone.  I wrote:  "Don't ask me any more dam questions."  The contest was flooded with many dam/damn jokes so they didn't select that.  However, my other entry of, "I'll have to chew on that a bit longer" did make me a finalist.

I would have loved to caption this "Don't ask me any more dam questions."  

I originally wrote this in December and we were having a holiday party after our readings, so I will share two of my holiday captions that were also picked as finalists.  The first cartoon depicted a
gingerbread man with a sad look on his face viewing his collapsed gingerbread house.  I wrote, "What part of 'handle gingerly' did they not understand?"  The second cartoon showed a man, a woman, a cat and living room furniture floating in the air.  I wrote, "Things will settle down after the

Even the cartoon captions get into the holiday spirit!
The second holiday related caption to be a finalist.  

Last summer, I learned that I could share the caption contest on my Facebook page.  I commented that I was a finalist again and wondered wondered if I would ever win.  The cartoon of a giant octopus dragging a man down a hole with children watching, I captioned, "They are always finding new ways to squeeze the middle class." (See octopus cartoon above.)  My third cousin, Annie, saw the post and commented on it:

Michele Steve Breen was a good customer of mine back here in NJ I worked at the Asbury Park Press when he employed there he also won Prestigious award

I replied:  Small world.  Now I know how to win this cartoon caption contest...mention your name.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Genealogical Journey: All My Cats Earned Their Keep ( Part 3) by Mary S. LaGoy

This is the third and final part of Grandma's story with my edits in italics.

My success with Bucil Boney's education prompted me to institute an informal routine for training all feline members of the household.  After being housebroken, a laving amount of flattery developed their interest in shaking hands.  More flattery, to which I finds cats rather susceptible, induced them to jump over my clasped hands, a stick or a litter mate.  Next they learned to beg, at which, to the unprejudiced, they appear more graceful than dogs, nature having more adequately screened their exterior genitalia.

Usually they then learned other things, depending on individual aptitudes, and several went in for self-education.  For example, "Smoky," a big blue female, assumed the role of my body guard.  One evening she accompanied me to the mailbox, where she sprang at and frightened away a strange, non-feline male who accosted me.

Despite the tradition associating cats with spinsters, in due time I married and had children.  For a few years there were no cats in my home in upstate New York.  One bitterly cold March day, however, my young son entered the kitchen, partly carrying, partly dragging a big, tortoise shell female, splashed with buff color, "as though a squash pie had been dumped over her."

"Isn't she pretty, Mother?  I think she's freezing!" the little fellow coaxed. (My Dad Bill Lagoy was the young fellow.)

Sure enough, the reputedly "dumb" animal investigated the coal range, in which I had a banked fire. Finding the oven temperature to her liking, she stretched out to enjoy the warmth inside.  Though all the neighborhood children came in to view the defrosting creature, nobody claimed her, so "Calico" stayed with us.  Within a few weeks she had six kittens to shich she proved, according to an elderly neighbor, "a better mother than most Christians."

That was my son's first encounter with newborn kittens, and his enthusiastic fondling was quite rough. Though she was concerned, their mother was too gentle to scratch her benefactor.  Therefore, I steeled myself for some character building.  By pulling the boy's hair (gently)--you know she gave it a good yank!-- I made him realize how he was hurting the kittens.  Then, through the nursery rhyme beginning:  "I love little kitty....."taught proper handling.

I love little kitty, her coat is so warm, and if I don't hurt her, she'll do me no harm.  So I'll not pull her tail, nor drive her away, but kitty and I, very gently will play.  She shall sit by my side and I'll give her some food; and kitty will love me because I am good.  I'll pat pretty kitty, and then she will purr; and thus show her thanks for my kindness to her.  I'll not pinch her ears, nor tread on her paw, lest I should provoke her to use her sharp claw.  I will never will vex her nor make her displeased.  For kitty don't like to be worried and teased.  

There may be other ways to instill kindness to animals, but this one worked.

Though calico was fully grown when she came to us and I never attempted any training, she untied one knotty family problem.  During the Depression, when my babies were arriving, cod liver oil had been prescribed for me.  As I could afford only the cheap, most unpalatable kind, my distaste was projected to the children, with the inevitable daily struggle to get them to swallow their rations.  One afternoon, however, when I accidentally spilled some oil, the cat licked it up with such relish that the children decided it must be delicious stuff.  Each day after that my young fry vied with each other over serving Calico, at the cod liver oil party which I staged.  

Outstanding among Calico's kittens was a yellow male of such outgoing personality that he inherited the name "Bucil Boney II."  He was not handsome, but outsize ( possibly due to his mother's party attendance) weighing 14 pounds at maturity.  And he displayed a high I.Q.  One day, as I reprimanded my son for some misdeed:  "I've told you, over and over, not to do that!" the big cat began throwing himself about on the floor.  "Look, Mother!" interrupted the culprit, "Bucey knows what 'over' means!"

Again the cat responded and, alas! the attempted discipline turned into applause for the cat's trick.

As that feline extrovert enjoyed performing, I taught him a routine which impressed even our non-cat loving friends.  As soon as guests arrived, our Barrymore would join the group in the living room, where he would strut back and forth until he attracted attention; then extend a paw to be shaken.
While I threw him cues, the cat would lie down; fold up his paws, roll over; sit up to beg; jump over an obstacle, and as the grand finale, run to each of my children as I directed:

"Go to Billy."

One of his half-sisters, "Fusty" of the aggressive nature, helped us raise chickens during the war.  She alone, among our five dedicated rat slayers, was entirely trustworthy in the rat-infested barn where we had to keep our hens; or in the coop where our neighbor kept racing (carrier) pigeons.  One spring my children persuaded me to let a broody hen set on a clutch of (21) eggs.

Fifteen chicks broke their shells on schedule and were instantly seized and killed by the rats.  After that I installed Fusty as baby-chick-sitter.  When I checked later, there were six dead rodents on the floor and that many live, newly hatched chicks with the hen; in spite of which that ungrateful critter was ruffing up her feathers, with intent to drive away the poor, misunderstood cat.

A calico cat of another dynasty contributed to my first success in growing Annual Sweet Peas.  At a resort where I worked one summer, a cat named "Cookie" was to be humanely destroyed because the owners were going south for the winter and hadn't found a caretaker.  Instead, I took her home.

Though the cat was clean and affectionate, I presumed she was too mature to be teachable.  Late in the fall she had five kittens, which were too young to go outdoors before cold weather arrived.  While I fretted about getting them housebroken, their mother taught them to use her pan of sand.  She took one kitten at a time, galloped the length of the house with it, to the back door leading to an enclosed porch where the accommodation was kept.

The sand was regularly emptied into a hollow spot in our yard.  In the spring I planted the sweet peas there.  All through the blooming season, which was the longest I ever saw, I could not determine which provided more enjoyment:  the fragrant abundance of flowers which resulted, or watching the kittens batting at my choicest blooms, as they played games among the rows.

And who had a better right?

Though I never developed a talking cat, like the fictional "Tobermory," nor the counterpart of an Obedience-Trained Dog, in one way or another, all my cats paid for their milk and meat.

Your's can, too.  Try them!

                           - The End -

Aimed at McCall's Magazine.  Alternatives:  1.  Red Book   2.  Suburbia Today

Photographs suggested to supplement "ALL MY CATS EARNED THEIR KEEP":

1. Kittens playing games among rows of sweet peas.

2.  A grown Siamese cat on a girl's shoulder, and a young animal investigating the young lady's shoe laces.

I googled " Tobermory" and read the short story by Saki.  It tells the tale of a cat who a man has taught to speak in perfect English.  Initially when the scientist makes this claim, people scoff at the idea.  Then when someone actually engages in an actual conversation with the cat, everyone suddenly becomes interested, until Tobermory begins to tell things they'd rather not have revealed in public. The cat probably should have been taught manners and the consequences of repeating what was overheard.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Genealogical Journey: Grandma's Cat Stories: Part 2 of All My Cats Earned Their Keep

The following is by Mary S. LaGoy edited by her granddaughter Michele Lagoy

In Woodstock ( New York, long before the rock concert) I acquired "Midnight", a black female (cat) which learned to growl like a watch-dog.  She did it spontaneously the first time she heard a strange step at my door; whereupon I praised and rewarded her, while stressing the word "growl."  After a few repetitions, she would sound off on command ( or voluntarily), to the delight of an artist of amorous reputation, who often called on me and spent the evening petting the watch-cat.

"I don't like cats!" insisted Mac; except this one!"


Back in the days when an order for "ten cents worth of liver for the cat" wouldn't rattle the butcher, my otherwise sympathetic mother was somewhat skeptical whenever I brought home sick or injured felines, insisting they had followed me.  They had.  At any rate, mother always cared for the invalids and usually healed them.

One evening, however, I rescued a cat which had apparently been fatally injured.  Next morning, after taking the animal to the Staten Island (Richmond Borough of Greater New York) S.P.C.A. Shelter, I arrived late for morning prayers at parochial school.  For that grave offense, I expected appropriate punishment, but the nun who was my teacher proved surprisingly liberal.  Utilizing my excuse to impress the English lesson on the class, she quoted at embarrassed me from "The Ancient Mariner":

"He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all."

The first erudite cat of my acquaintance apparently learned to tell time, in spite of being encumbered with the name "Bucil Boney", (spelled phonetically) a corruption of a pet term used for me by a doting aunt.  ( Possibly Helena Lyons or Elizabeth Rogers).  Bucey was allowed to go upstairs a few mornings when I was called for school.  Then he volunteered as a waker-upper, using the step saving method of scaling a front bay window to my room; sitting on the sill, he would rattle the sash by pushing against it until I let him in.

Mother was puzzled about his means of entry until people who passed by regularly on their way to work started ringing the bell to report the precarious (?) position of the animal.  Soon afterward the passersby began to smilingly check their watches when they saw the cat performing his morning chore.

A few years later, when I started to commute via the Staten Island Ferry to a Manhattan office, the same cat found out when I was due in the evening and met me, always on time, between the ferry terminal and our home.

This canny one was instrumental in shaping the literary career of Paul Gallico (*), then a reporter on a New York newspaper, who has since written many short stories and novels; including "The Snow Goose" and the recent best-seller "Thomasina" (The Cat Who Thought She was God).

In those days, my brother was a newspaper camera man and often brought fellow workers home to dinner.  On each first visit of a member of the press, he was initiated through a trick the cat had learned.  At my whispered command Bucey would jump or climb to the sideboard, from which he would stretch his fore paws until they rested on the guest's shoulder, as he vigorously applied his rough tongue to the nape of the visitor's neck.

As the sensation can be compared only to sandpapering, the stooge's hair usually stood on end--and literally--while our photographer, convulsed with mirth, was likely to fall off his chair.

When the then-unknown writer was initiated, however, my brother missed his belly laugh because, instead of being startled, the young man was pleased and flattered by the caress.  As he fondled my pet he aroused my sympathy by telling me he had never had a cat, though he loved them.

"Some day," he predicted, "I'll have all kinds of cats and write stories about them."

(*) NOTE TO EDITOR:  I have Mr. Gallico's written permission.  ( I would have loved to have seen a copy of it Grandma.)

Bucey the cat with Grandma's usually sympathetic mother.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Genealogical Journey: A Few of Grandma's Stories in Her Own Words

Grandma Mary Sullivan LaGoy* was an animal lover.  That much was evident in the little that I did hear about her.  Stories from my Aunts and my Dad always seemed to involve her and an animal.
The few  photographs that I have of her also include animals.

Mary S. LaGoy with her dog Echo in the 1930's and on a horse in the 1920's.  

I will start off with two of her cat stories,  Before I do that, it is important that the reader knows that I found these written stories in the roasting pan in the basement along with the photograph of Great-grandma, baby Charles and the cat.  ( See blog post titled "The Back Story")  See what I mean about animals being in our family photos?  Written on indestructible paper, maybe rice paper, but a high quality form of writing paper nonetheless, these stories were in an envelope addressed to her from The Writers Digest.  Apparently they had rejected her story for publication and mailed it back to her in 1964.  As she died in March of that year, it might have been the last thing that she wrote.  I shall publish it here in my blog Grandma, where tens of people will read it.

Returned writing from the Writers Digest.  Found stored in a roasting pan.

                          ALL MY CATS EARNED THEIR KEEP


                                   Mary S. LaGoy

                         approx. 2,000 words- non-fiction

If you've ever wanted to open your heart and home to any cats, but allowed yourself to be persuaded that the pets would not justify their care and expense, I fee sure my fond recollections will make you reconsider.

If you do, you will find yourself in excellent company, because many prominent people appreciate the charms of these graceful creatures.

While I have found that, as in humans, leaning capacity varies with individuals, most house cats can be taught useful things and amusing tricks, provided one has patience and self-control.

Though most of my experience has been with the Domestic short-hair, as the once maligned "alley-cat" is now designated, I admire the other breeds and am duly grateful to two Siamese for helping me get an interesting job.

To a short-haired puss, however, which probably saved my life and that of my sister, I feel truly beholden.

The Siamese were pets of Clemence Randolph, co-author of the play "Rain," (1)  and spent summers at her home in the Woodstock, N.Y. art colony.  Upon learning that Miss Randolph was dramatizing another W. Somerset Maughm story and needed secretarial help, I applied for the job.

While I waited to be interviewed, a mother cat expressed her approval of me by jumping on my shoulder, where she started to "sing" as only a Siamese can.  Her timid, half-grown son ventured only as far as my feet, where he was solemnly investigating my shoe laces when the playwright discovered the three of us in the cozy scene.

"Oh!  My cats like you," she exclaimed.  "How soon can you start work?"  and engaged me at a generous salary, without knowing whether I knew even the location of A S D F G on the keyboard.

What typing I did, however was achieved on an out-moded Oliver, while considerable of my time was spent in soothing the terrified younger cat during Catskill Mountain thunder storms.  In my lap, he would remain calm, instead of endangering himself among the acids and pigments used by Miss Randolph's friend, the late Bob Chandler, in creating his much-sought-after painted mirrors and screens.


(1) NOTE TO EDITOR:  As you probably know, Somerset Maugham's story, from which the dramatization was made, fist appeared in Smart Set, issue of April, 1921, under the title "Miss Thompson".

The life-saving episode ocurred some years earlier, on a winter morning when our mother had gone out early, leaving my younger sister and me in bed; and a pan of oatmeal on the stove.  As the alarm clock failed to rouse us, we wouldn't have gotten to school that day--or probably any other--except that the pet jumped on the bed, poking at my face until, in rebellion, I drowsily ordered my sister:

"Put Daisy out, or some place, so I can sleep!"  Fortunately, the youngster attempted to comply, and in the kitchen noticed gas fumes, as the flames under the cereal had gone out.


* I will pause here to tell another story.  You may have noticed that my last name "Lagoy" has a lower case "g" in it and my grandmother's has an upper case "G" in it.  My Dad said when he needed to get security clearance for a job, they asked for his birth certificate.  His name was handwritten and looked like a lower case "g" to the powers that be.  To avoid further delay in getting it corrected by bringing his elderly, non-driving parents to stand in line at city hall to get it "fixed", he left it with a small "g" and from then on we were the Lagoy's with a small "g".  The same thing almost happened to my niece.  She almost had to have her name changed on her fist day of Kindergarten because the teacher spelled it wrong on a name tag.  The first day of school the whole class started called her by the wrong name!  If my sister didn't work for the school district, we would be calling her Daniella, instead of Danielle!  That's one family tradition we don't want to keep!

The original writing on indestructible paper 52 years later!