Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – One Picture for a Thousand Words by Jennie Fitzkee

Welcome to another post from the archives of Jennie Fitzkee. Jennie has enjoyed a career as a pre-school teacher for over thirty years, and has some inspiring posts that reinforce that the ability to read and books, are two of the best gifts we can give our children.

In today’s post Jennie shares the connections that she was able to make between reading Little House on the Prairie and her own grandfather from a similar era and his experiences of mining. Living history is so important to record and to have a connection with someone born in the 1890s to learn first hand what life was like, especially if you can pass it on to a future generation… spanning the past and present…

One Picture for a Thousand Words by Jennie Fitzkee


Our final chapter reading book this year at school was Little House on the Prairie.  The last chapter that we read was ‘Fresh Water to Drink’.  Pa and his neighbor, Mr. Scott, were digging a well.  Pa was careful to lower a candle each day into the deep hole to make sure the air was safe.  Bad gas lives deep under the earth.  Mr. Scott thought the candle was ‘foolishness’, and began digging without sending the candle down into the well.  The rest of the chapter was an edge-of-your-seat nail biter.

I love this chapter.  So did the children.  I realized I could connect what happened down in that well to something real; a portrait of my grandfather as a little boy wearing miner’s gear, including a candle on his helmet.  My grandfather and his father had mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  I grew up with their stories and photographs, including this portrait.

I brought it to school the next day to show the children.  “This is my grandfather”, I said.  “He went deep under the earth, just like Pa and Mr. Scott.  What is that on his head?”  Children couldn’t sit.  They jumped up, pressed against me and each other, all wanting a closer look.  “That’s fire!” someone said.  “No, it’s a candle” said Owen.  “A candle is fire.” said Miles.  “What did he do?”  Ah, those wonderful, spontaneous questions that spark the best learning.  This was ‘a moment’, fifteen children eager to hear more and learn.

I told them about mining, going underground, and about the candle.  I then showed them the Garth Williams illustrations in the chapter ‘Fresh Water to Drink’, with Ma and Pa turning the handle of the windlass to get Mr. Scott out of the well, and Pa digging the hole that is as deep as he is tall.  We talked about how hard that would be.  We imagined what it would be like inside the hole:  Dark or light?  Hot or cold?  Then someone asked, “How old is your grandfather?”

I was connecting generations and connecting learning.

I’m in mid-life, where I have a strong, real link with the past and also the present.  My one arm can reach and touch my parents from before 1920 and my grandparents from the 1880’s and 1890’s   They were just here ‘some years ago’.  My other arm can reach and touch my children and grandchildren, and all the preschoolers I teach.

I find this mind boggling; I’m equally part of the past, a long line of family history, and part of the present, teaching children and learning.  I want to connect all the lines.  I want people to know that I was there with Nan who was born in The 1880’s, and with Lulu who was born ten years later.  I want people to know that I understand life from that point forward.

More importantly, I want my preschoolers to have a firsthand piece of history.  It is a ‘real’ way to enhance learning.  That happened with my Grandfather’s portrait.

©Jennie Fitzkee

About Jennie Fitzkee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.

I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie


My thanks to Jennie for sharing this post from her archives and it would be great if you could share how far your personal connection to your family stretches in each direction.

My parents were born in 1916 and 1917 and I met my grandmother who was born in 1890 the youngest in my own family is 12 years old so that is span of 129 years of living history.

If you would like to share your stories about family, including our fur babies.. then please take a look at the details.

Posts from Your Archives and the theme this time is all about family.

  1. Personal memories of childhood or teens that are still fresh in your mind.
  2. Family history, stories of your parents, grandparents and further back if you can.
  3. Fur family past and present.
  4. Favourite recipes.
  5. Memorable holidays.
  6. Places you have lived.
  7. Memorable homes you have lived in.
  8. Grandchildren tales.
  9. Any family related post – education, health, teen years, elderly care, lifestyle.
  10. Please remember that there are some younger readers who visit.

I think you get the idea.

The aim of this series is to showcase your blog and any creative work that you do from books, art, photography and crafts. You pick between one and four links to posts that you have written for your own blog from the day you started up to December 2018, and you simply send the link to those blogs to

You have to do nothing more as I will capture the post and images from your blog and I will then post with full copyright to you.. with your creative work and your links to buy and to connect. I might sometimes need a little more information but I am quite resourceful in finding out everything I need.

So far in the Posts from Your Archives from September 2017, there have been over 700 posts from 200 + bloggers that have reached a different audience and encouraged more readers for their own blogs and current posts.

Previous participants are more than welcome

38 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – One Picture for a Thousand Words by Jennie Fitzkee

  1. Jennie, you are so amazing! What a gift your students have of you. You have the gift for breaking things down to simplicity, a way to engage children with stories and educate them on real life similarities. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kids love hearing about the past and first-hand info, like the picture of your grandfather, would definitely appeal to them. You are lucky to have that picture, Jennie! Thanks for sharing this great story, Sally.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Sally, My name is Anne Copeland, and I am 77. I was born November 22, 1941, the year the last really big war started December 7, 1941. My dad was in the Army, and so our family lived always near a military post, or in one, and dad was often gone to this war or the other for much of my childhood. We accompanied him overseas to Okinawa when I was in the 4th and 5th grades. It was strange to live in a place so different from our own country where we had last lived in El Paso, Texas, where my dad was stationed.

    Okinawa is an island not far from Japan, and I guess we were there because a lot of the war happened in Japan, and people from there fought the U.S., often dropping bombs or doing other terrible things to the U.S. Military. I wish I still had photos of my brother, who is 5 years younger than me and me and all the Okinawans we met there. The Army was trying to help the people in Okinawa, who were very poor because of the war, so they had the military people help the Okinawans by giving them work in our homes.

    We lived in a type of home called a quonset hut. It looked like half of a tin can buried in the ground, and it was made of metal that was corrugated, or had wrinkles all around it sort of like some kinds of cardboard. We had a lot of typhoons there, which are kind of like big hurricanes, and the wind can blow very hard, more than 100 miles an hour. That is really hard wind, and it would make really loud noises on our quonset. When we had a typhoon, we had to go to a shelter that was underground, or it was made of concrete and stood on top of the ground.

    There were lots of mountains there, and some of them had ruins of big places that looked sort of what I think castles looked like. They must have been very pretty once upon a time.

    The ladies wore long dresses called kimonos and wood shoes with parts that went between their toes to hold the shoes on. You could hear a clip clop through the streets and so it sounded sort of musical. There were lots of young people and some of the old people still made dolls and pretty teapots and teacups for sale. I got one of the Okinawan dolls and had it for many years. It had a kimono too.

    We went to school on a bus, and the school was not close to our house, so it took a long time for the bus to get there. The roads the bus went on went around the island and part of the time on mountains. Our school was a funny place. All the grades were together in one big room, like a classroom from a long time ago in America. We had a library in our classroom, and one of the things we got to do a lot was to read books. They had some really good books like Treasure Island, and I sure liked to read.

    Sometimes we had exercises when we were in our homes. A siren would sound, and we had to go out to the beach near our home, and we had to get in these foxholes that the Army had dug for us. Then the signal would sound and we could go back into our homes. One time my dad went first, and when he got into the house, he found a big boa constrictor, a huge snake, and he had to get it out of the house before we could go back inside.

    The Okinawans did not know American food, and they ate whatever food they grew on their island, so we ate a lot of plants we had never seen or heard of. One time we ate a kind of soup that looked and tasted like grass. We did have some American food like peanut butter and jelly, but they did not know how to fix it. One day I went to school, and one of the ladies who worked for us made my lunch. At lunch time, I opened my sandwich and it had peanut butter, jelly and that grass or plant stuff and mayonnaise in it!!!

    We were there two years, and it was a good experience. Our dad took us in a row boat out into the ocean, and we could see to the bottom of the water. Dad could catch lobsters, and so we had some a couple of times for supper. They were really good.

    We went to Okinawa on a big ship, and I got seasick all the time. We got coca-colas to help us feel better. We had to have a lot of kinds of shots before we left to go there. We were on the ocean a long time, and I was scared because I did not know how to swim then. I don’t remember how long it took to get home to the United States, but it felt like a long, long time. We docked in California, and then we drove across the United States to El Paso, Texas again. I remember that trip because we had never seen so many orange trees before. We had not had American food for so long, and when we had a real hamburger, it tasted like Heaven!

    (Note: I don’t have photos anymore of that place or time, but if you could find one somewhere of a quonset, and perhaps a lady in a kimono and/or a lobster, I think the children would enjoy it. Thank you kindly. I worked with special needs children in school, so I understand what they might like to read.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That was a lovely way to illustrate this piece of history, Jennie. My mother has very few photographs of her early life. She is one of the younger children so those things went to the older children. The few we do have are cherished and some appear in While the Bombs Fell.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Social Media Shenanigans, Spring Flowers, Mexican Getaways, Italian Food, music, humour and Fabulous Guests | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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