Pop’s books and music shine at book club meeting. Recipe for mashed sweet potato

My cousin Cynthia (aka “Cynthie”) belongs to a long standing book club called “The Ladies of the Club.” Every year they feature books by my father…and, music from his wealth of memories.

Here are the notes from Meeting #31 compiled by Melodie Denson.

The Ladies of the Club

The Ladies of the Club met at Cynthie’s house. Barb, Cynthie, Diane, Pam, Melodie, and Wanda were present.

Guests included our guest-of-honor “Uncle” Erwin Thompson, his daughter Janet Riehl, his grand daughter, and two great-grand daughters.

Erwin, Janet, and Erwin’s great-grand daughters made music along with two young neighbors, plus Mike Hammerbacher, and Gordon Dingledine.

Other special guests were Cynthie’s mother Grace Barker, my mother Nelrose Shive, and Irene Potocki. Cynthie’s son Nathan, his wife Nikki, and their three children joined us for lunch. Cynthia’s daughter Liz, arrived later.

Cynthie served a home style meal of ham, mashed sweet potatoes (see recipe below), green beans, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with fresh basil, and homemade rolls with butter. She made an assortment of yummy pies: apple, dutch apple, peach, cherry and mixed berry pies, served with ice cream. We had lemonade, iced tea, and coffee to drink. Yum!

Cynthie’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes

6 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 stick butter

Poke sweet potatoes with a fork and roast in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour or until soft. Peel and mash with butter. Serve with brown sugar on the side as desired.

For this meeting we read three books from Uncle Erwin’s Byron Corner’s series that Cynthie chose from three different periods of his life.

The earliest book was The Lean Years, Book One, written in 1945 when Uncle Erwin was in an army hospital in Bristol, England, recovering from injuries he received in Germany.

The second book we read was The Pipeliner, written during slow days at work.

Margie, the last book on the list, was also written during free moments at work, in the 1980’s. I asked Erwin who his original audience was for each book. He said, “I wrote them for anyone who wanted to read them.”

He told us about the young men in the army hospital with him who lined up and waited for him to finish writing a page so they could take turns reading it.

He brought the two later stories home from work each night and read them to his family, often asking for their ideas about “what comes next?” Irene told the author that he has a new fan.

Janet helped her father demonstrate some of the dance steps he wrote about. When we started asking about some of the songs in the book, it was decided that it was time for some music.

We rearranged the room a bit to make room for the musicians to get out their instruments, and, to our delight, they played the rest of the afternoon. I took lots of pictures, which I will include at the end of these notes. We heard a nice selection of music as Janet announced each song title in the set. This is a list of the songs we heard:

Ballads, Waltzes, and Hymns
Cabaret Waltz
I Overlooked an Orchid (While Searching for a Rose)
It Is No Secret (what God can do)
It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie
It’s Hard to Say Goodnight Little Girl
Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?
Westphalia Waltz

Fast (lively) songs
Boston Fire
Darktown Strutters Ball
Lose ’em (square dance tune medley)
Peacock Rag
Spanish Two-Step
Under the Double Eagle

Funny songs for The Gold Dust Twins to sing
Crawdad Song
Leave Me with a Smile

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