Poof, Poof, Piffles!


At the Southern High Class of 1961 Christmas Party 2011 . . .

                 . . . some of us were sitting in Richard and Marcella’s living room eating goodies from the teeming buffet table, both listening to and adding yarns to the party chatter. The room was filled with hundreds of tiny holiday figures, and every one of those little people seemed so very joyous that they provided a cherished moment of reverie. The thought came to me: "Let’s get small like Mary Jane and Sniffles and, camera in hand, we can explore the diminutive village, as well!"

Do you remember Mary Jane and Sniffles? I sure do; as a youngster, I had a crush on Mary Jane — comic book character or not. She was so cute that, as a 9-year-old, I wanted to plant a big kiss on her cheek. In the Merrie Melodies series of cartoons and comics, the little blonde with a big ribbon in her hair typically wore a crisp, snow white pinafore, knee socks and, yes, Mary Jane shoes, and she had many adventures with Sniffles, an anthropomorphic mouse who lived in her room. Sniffles, like most comic book characters I liked — Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck among them — had humanoid shape, wore clothes, spoke English and had lots of ideas for seeking adventure through perilous jaunts.


  "Now, I shut my eyes real tight. Then, I wish with all of my might, magic words of poof, poof, piffles, make me just as small as Sniffles."


Keep in mind, back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I was as rough and tumble as any knife-toting, BB-gun fighting, scarred-knee street urchin you likely knew, so I devoured my share of action-adventure comics such as Captain Marvel, but no caped crusaders ever cast a spell over me like the wide-eyed Mary Jane and that rascal, Sniffles. The special magic came from Mary Jane’s enviable ability to shrink herself down to mouse size and off they’d go, scampering down the porch steps into the back yard where adventure awaited, encountering innocent happenings and imaginative doings amongst small creatures inhabiting the back yard landscape. Lawn mowers were a hazard as they scurried through the manicured grass into the tall weeds, and now-giant cats became a menace as the two inches tall, dynamic duo ducked for cover in the flower beds as they explored the far reaches of the yard in search of exciting activity.

I memorized and still recall the incantation Mary Jane used to "get small" down to mouse size: "Now, I shut my eyes real tight. Then, I wish with all of my might, magic words of poof, poof, piffles, make me just as small as Sniffles." Then, away they went, and the comic book reader tagged along on each escapade as an invisible, enthralled companion.

Those little comic book characters and their adventures were a great part of many childhoods, we're sure. They're a fond memory of a gentler time and an innocent stage of life, and they provided a momentary escape into a fantasy world of intrigue. Wouldn’t being mouse-sized be tempting, even today? Why, just think, with perhaps a pint-sized step-ladder to get us started, we could climb among the limbs of those 21 Christmas trees gracing every room of the Brooks home. What a fantasyland Marcella has created! Mary Jane and Sniffles would love it!

Our hostess for the Class of 1961 Christmas party transformed her home into a cheery holiday flight of imagination for her many guests. Marcella invited each of us to explore her house, upstairs and down, to discover her magical world of the diminutive. Each room was transformed, with the possible exception of a lower level room where her cats were reportedly pinned up the afternoon of the party, (and knowing Marcella, the family felines probably had their very own tree, with catnip, balls of yarn, kitten toys and other playthings). But, with no cats lurking, we could mouse around all we wished, and that we did! Every room was decorated: bedrooms, bathrooms, nooks and crannies. Every level surface, it appeared, had a miniature Christmas scene. We explored each charmed area, and we took pictures!

Poof, Poof, Piffles; Flash, Flash, Photos!       -- Jim Reed......

The Brooks residence on Southern High Christmas party night, December 11, 2011
Marcella greets Nancy Pike in the den (We regret to note that Nancy passed away in June 2012.), while (l-r) C. W. Seymour, Doug Garmon and Ray Price let the ladies do the talking. Attendance? Marcella told us, "I tried to count how many dishes were used, but I ended up washing some dishes before it was over and messed up my count." She estimates more than four dozen.
The "main tree" of some two dozen in the Brooks home dwarfs the sitting room near the front entry hall.

In aboriginal lore, owls embody  the souls of women who have passed. Hmm, no man would argue with this being why owls are portrayed as wise! We thought an ornamental owl was quite unique -- until we discovered that Marcella and Richard had hundreds of them in a display cabinet on the lower level of the house. Someone has a definite preference for white owls.

Poinsettia bracts are beautiful, no argument. The difference of opinion is over pronouncing the name with three syllables or four. Just for the record, the first pronunciation in the dictionary is not preferred, as many folks believe; in most dictionaries, each pronunciation has equal validity.

Oh, now we get it; the white streaks depict snow! (Our first thought was "Pigeons!")
It's good to keep steel phonograph needles handy in case someone winds up the old Victrola.

The mantel of the downstairs family room was missed by those SHS guests who could not negotiate the long, steep stairs. The stairwell was a showcase in itself, with Santa and other holiday figurines along each step of the way.

Sniffles was stymied at the door only momentarily.
We know full well that mice know how to get inside!
This tree, among many on the lower level, has one less candy cane than it did before we visited.
"Yes, every year, I do remove, pack and store all of the ornaments from my big trees,"
Marcella tells us.
A recurring theme throughout the Brooks home involves Raggedy Ann and Andy.
Marsha, Marcella and Sandy.

The bathroom near the upper level garage has a tree with nautical items from sail boats to schooners to three-masted clipper ships. On closer inspection we found pelicans, sea horses, lobsters, fish and sailors. "That's not rope, landlubber; that's line!"

Advice for Santa: You might get more kissing action from all the gals in your lap, if you wore a sprig of mistletoe instead of holly berries. Then, too, your kisser is sort of hard to find.

That looks like an electrical cord in the Jacuzzi tub. This slim, little tree looks easily movable, though.
My, what blue eyes you have, Kriss Kringle!

We're not giving away any secrets about these hard working folks, except to say that they were looking forward to slipping into their pajamas for a long sleepover at the Bill and Jeanie (Nall) Hadley residence.

Betty Jo and Fred Pape share some Christmas spirits. They made a short trip from their home in the community of Brooks, Kentucky, south of Okolona, to the Brooks home in Fern Creek. "Over the meadow and through the woods . . .."

While Walter Longacre peruses the then-just-printed, 200-page photo directory of the SHS Class of 1961, Keata (Hogan) Longacre (center) and Barbara Ann (Denzik) Martin chat at our class holiday party.

We're traditionalists and prefer Gene Autry's rendition of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." That's why we included the singing cowboy in our Christmas song collection on the SHS 1961 web site. That must be a very-northern cardinal to be hanging out in the arctic circle!

Dorris and Mary (Hodges ) Herndon have four children, 11 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren.
Since he's leaning on a boat anchor with legs crossed, we presume this is Saint Nicholas, who is many things to many people. In Greece, he's the protector of sailors, and is considered the patron saint of the Greek navy, military and merchant alike, and his day is marked by festivities aboard all ships and boats, at sea and in port. Hmm, the "thumbs up" suggests he learned his photo posing from Donnie Warren.
Bells, Santas and gingerbread men fill the branches of this bow-topped tree.
Somebody had some precarious ladder work to do to get all of this in place, eh, Richard.

We highly suspect that this is one of some 40 Santas that Marcella acquired over the years from the late Bruce May of Folk Art By May, up in Madison, Indiana. "I made the trip a couple of times a year to visit him, but he passed away this past September." For a peek at more of his work that Marcella prizes, contained in one of her other holiday collections, click here: Wickedly Witchy Women.

Marcella talks to Brook Seymour while Lynn (Koch) Wagner, and Donald and Sue (Pike) Calfee visit the buffet. At rear center, the late Linda (Ownbey) Gollar discovers her camera memory card is inadvertently write-protected.  

A beaming Lynn (Basham) Morton opts for a single snowflake on a field of blue.

What's in the square Falalala dish? "Oh, by gosh, by golly, it's time for brie with holly . . .." This was one of several food items so pretty, we hated to cut into them. Are those cranberries along the edge of the crust?

Linda (Ownbey) Gollar (who we must report passed away in January 2012) got her digital camera working again with a tip from Barbara Ann Fultz. That's Dorris (Mr. Mary Hodges) Herndon at left. Peggy Haise with back to camera. And Linda's husband, Corky, at right. (Corky passed away in October 2012.) Marsha (Fulkerson) Nelson is at center rear, and Charlotte (Hannold) Williams is left of center, which may or may not reflect her political leaning.

World's largest paper weight?
Actually, this handsome carving standing by the pie safe is among our favorites pieces.
Carol (Mrs. Ray) Price might have to share her dinner plate with elfin onlookers.
These tiny folks appear to be caroling with all of their might.
Find these figurines on the Internet under Byers' Choice, Ltd.
Mary Jane decides to cross her fingers and utter the words of her magical incantation.
Ray Price has a twinkle in his eyes as he has dinner while Mary Jane and Sniffles have a spot of tea.
So, Dalton is a teenager now.
You bet your ball of yarn, Marcella's sewing room has its very own cheery little tree, hung with buttons, spools and even a measuring tape. Sniffles seems to be applying  bit of paint to one of the ornaments.

Marcella explained to us the hide-the-pickle legend. "A very old Christmas eve tradition in Germany," she says, "was to hide a pickle [ornament] deep in the branches of the family Christmas tree. The parents hid the pickle the last thing. In the morning the first child to find it gets an extra gift, and the first adult who finds the pickle gets good luck for the whole year." So, that’s the "hide the pickle" tradition!

Is it us, or do these tiny Santas seem just a bit tipsy? Somehow each maintains its balance.
Betty (Probst) Brown hopes her husband, Wayne, has saved her a seat at the table.
Doug Garmon appears to have acquired a sidekick. Or a stalker!

Jimmy and Jenny (Snyder) Richey celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary recently. Both were in the Southern High Class of 1961 and, after what we quite imagine was a memorable, whirlwind of a summer, they were married September 21 of their graduation year.

With folks at the party clamoring for copies of her long-awaited picture directory of the SHS Class of 1961 and three DVD slide show set, book editor Barbara Ann (Forrester) Fultz (Class of 1960) was scampering all around the house, but still all smiles.

While he was prowling all about the Brooks house with one of his Nikon D200s in hand, Jim Reed (Class of 1960) took a union break. "I handed C.W. my camera," confides Jim, "and asked him to take my photo."

Mrs. Claus seems downright skeptical as she double-checks hubby's naughty and nice list while talking to attorney Danny Deetsch. It's nice to have the Mrs. in the spotlight, for a change. Finally, we know her first name: It's Gloria, though she seldom uses it. She's a '61 Southern High grad, by the way.

Danny Lee Deetsch is a Louisville attorney. He worked for OSHA and lived in Washington during the Watergate break-in, a holiday season to remember. "No, I was not involved." Still, he left town in 1974 right in the thick of the scandal. Coincidence? You be the judge.

These tiny carolers are from Marcella's collection acquired from Byers' Choice, Ltd.

The matching figures on the rolltop desk are stocking holders, we're told on good authority. Typical stocking holders have heavy lead weights which act as a counter-balance but cause a safety hazard for small children when they accidentally pull on the stocking and the heavy stocking holder falls on their heads.

Now we've learned it's a stocking holder at the base, what's with the two acorns and a pine cone? Or is that a plump gherkin in the middle, Marcella? They symbolize good luck, huh.

These two skinny Minnies seemed best displayed side by side.
More stocking holders, this time in brass. We still think they're an accident waiting to happen.

Actually, we have a painted gourd Santa Claus, too, about the same height and girth. Ours was still resting in an upstairs closet until we examined this photo again this year and remembered to bring him downstairs.

We thought Marcella's dog Patience was caged up in the sewing room during the afternoon party, but perhaps Mary Jane shared her Poof, Poof, Piffles magic with one of the family pooches, because there Patience is, mouse size, in the little wagon.

Keata (Hogan) Longacre and Barbara Ann (Denzik) Martin are styling in festive garb, while Donnie Warren watches Patrick "Pickle" Foster fiddle with his camera. Carolyn (Caudill) Goodin and Jimmy Richey seem taken aback by whatever is on the camera they hold. Want to share that with the class, Jimmy?

Though she has dozens of holiday plates, we noted that the back-up paper plates had the same pattern, as did the napkins. No one ate with plastic forks, either. Martha Stewart would be proud.

As (l-r) Lynn (Koch) Wagner, Nancy (Pike) Simpson, her sister Sue (Pike) and Sue's husband, Donald Calfee, sit down to begin their meal, while Nancy's husband, Charles Simpson (standing), is about to join them.

Each figurine is a bit different and each has a name: Santa!

Lana (Turner) Edwards climbed into his lap and asked Santa why he was always so jolly. He replied, "Because I know where all the naughty girls live!"

"Well, if yours are all accounted for, then whose tooth is on my dinner plate?"
Carol (left) and Brook seem to be taking inventory in response to C.W. Seymour's query.
A sunbeam streaming through the window during the afternoon party highlights one of the desserts.
The staple of the Dr. Atkins low carb diet.

With greenery, ornaments and beautifully decorated trees in every room, some of us overlooked the big tree beside the large kitchen table by the back door, That's because the window shutters were wide open during the mid-afternoon party. See below for a surprising closer look!

A close-in inspection of the tree in the kitchen reveals, what else, kitchen implements! If you need an egg beater, a rolling pin or sundry other cooking implements, such as a potato masher, we guess this is where to look! Sniffles was still adding a touch-up of paint when Marcella captured this photo.
There's a hand crank at the bottom of this contraption, scarcely visible in the photo. We suspect, after a few wind-ups, that the bell rings, the hammer pounds, the saw moves and the drum is played. 
Donnie Warren (left) and Richard Brooks watch as Santa and Mrs. Claus make their rounds.

One of the two slide shows on the DVD set produced in conjunction with the up to date Class of 1961 photo directory plays on a Brooks family laptop.

Johnny Eads had best hope that something more reliable than one of those stocking holders is anchoring the Christmas stocking above his noggin.

Buel Goodin, SHS Class of 1956, has been married to Carolyn (Caudill) for almost 25 years.

Wayne and Betty (Probst) Brown have been sweethearts since age 12 when they lived next door to each other. "He was my first date. He gave me my first kiss." They've been married 49 years.

Jenny (Snyder) Richey and Peggy (Shepard) Haise are both Class of 1961 reunion regulars.
Gary Steedly, so professorial by day, but what a party animal at night.

Lana (Turner) Edwards claims there are 10 reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, and Olive, the mean one. Olive? "Yes, it's in the song, You know: Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names."

Mrs. Claus might well do the can-can high kick if she were to look down and spot Sniffles checking out her pantaloon unmentionables! We suspect she caught him just in the knicker time.

Linda Jo (Ownbey) Gollar plopped right into his lap and asked Santa what his nationality is. (North Polish)

Mrs. Claus is sympathetic as Fred Pape recounts getting lost in the woods and firing three shots in the air to summon help. After an hour and no response, he says he let off three more shots. Still nothing. "Then, I remembered I had my cell phone, which is a good thing, because I was down to my last three arrows!"

The cake looked so friendly, no one wanted to cut into it!
Raggedy Ann and Andy had an antique look, but their arms were loaded with holiday items.

We tiptoed quietly on discovering this baby sleeping in a dimly lit guest bedroom. After a moment, we realized the little sweetie is merely a doll! The night stand and chest of drawers had Christmas scenes.

Speaking of baby dolls, to hear Marcella tell it, "My two sweeties, Callie and Grey, never bother any of the Christmas decorations. I hang some soft toys on the lower branches of one of the trees, and they'll retrieve those toys and bring them to me. Then, I'll put them back later, and the cycle will repeat itself!"

Santa's own workshop at the North Pole is hopefully as well-stocked and organized as Marcella's own sewing room and crafts workshop on the lower level of the Brooks house. We poked our heads in long enough to peek around and say hi to the caged pooch, who, we trust, would get to party later on.

As she furs up to head for home, a bejeweled Carolyn (Caudill) Goodin remembers to take her platter.
Santa's watching you. Be good!
Contact Barbara Ann for more information!