Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2011/2012
— Stories dated 1950–1974 —

1.
Twisted Path

New Delhi, India; c. 1950s

On a serene morning in the 1950s, Sirumal Gopichand, my grandfather, began preparing his chemistry lesson for his next class at New Delhi College (NDC). Working as a full-time chemistry professor at NDC, Grandpa looked forward to another exciting day of teaching, learning, and analysis. Little did he know just how exciting his day was about to become.

At approximately 10:30 that same morning, armed radical Muslim militants invaded New Delhi College and surrounding schools, offices, and houses. Paralyzed with fear, the students and teachers watched in horror as the militants threw chairs, assaulted innocent adolescents, and fired deafening shots through the air. After the brief, yet vicious, tirade, the militants sent the students and faculty home to make the hardest decision of their lives. They were given three choices: leave the country within twenty-four hours, convert to Islam, or be shot on sight.

As Grandpa made the two-hour journey home, he processed the commands given to him: Move to a foreign country he knew nothing about, convert to a religion he did not believe in, or be violently murdered along with every member of his family. Being the man he was, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing his precious family, whether it be at the hands of the gun or a religion he did not believe in. As he approached his home, he knew exactly what he had to do.

After quickly explaining the dire predicament to his wife, Lila, they hurriedly began packing as much clothing and as many valuables as they could fit into their meager supply of suitcases. Just minutes later, the four children arrived from school, blissfully unaware of the critical situation engulfing their hometown. After yet another hurried explanation, Sirumal reached under his bed for the pistachio tin that housed their life savings and meager retirement.

With the money wisely distributed through their seven suitcases, Grandpa led his family to the airport to purchase six tickets to the Philippines, the closest country accepting the sudden influx of immigrants. Eight nerve-racking hours later, all six members of the Gopichand family safely arrived in the Manila airport, thousands of miles away from the mayhem taking place in India’s capital.

With the Philippines’ shortage of teaching jobs, Grandpa knew that continuing his career as a chemistry professor was out of the picture. With this knowledge, he soon started a small buy/sell business just blocks from his family’s shared group home. But after months of moving through temporary group housing, Grandpa was finally able to purchase and move into a spacious house with his large family. With his family in his heart, a little money in his pocket, and a small business under his management, Grandpa went on to prosper and provide for his family through the twisted paths of life.

Rachel Gopichand; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

2.
Uncle Tom’s Rocket

Onawa, Iowa, USA; 1952

It was a fine summer day in 1952, and my great-uncle Tom Berry (who was maybe twelve years old at the time) was anxious to try his new Gilbert chemistry set that his sister Connie (my grandmother) had passed down to him. His new experiment involved trying to create an engine for a metal rocket, and helping Uncle Tom was his friend Jack. Jack and Uncle Tom had decided that the logical propellant for the rocket’s engine was gunpowder, so they both took powder out of a number of firecrackers and attached it with a fuse to the rocket.

Both boys were ready for the lift-off. They ignited the fuse and waited in happy anticipation. The boys had made two big mistakes, however: They had lit the rocket in the basement, and they had done it when Uncle Tom’s dad was in the house, taking a nap on the couch. With a noise louder than ten Hiroshima explosions combined (as Uncle Tom described it), the rocket zoomed upwards and exploded. The noise echoed through the whole house, and instantly Uncle Tom’s father jumped off the couch and sped to the basement, prepared to see the worst.

Much to his relief, Jack and Uncle Tom were still alive. Both had run up the stairs right before the explosion, so neither of them had been injured. Except for charred pieces of rocket everywhere, the basement had also escaped unscathed. Jack quickly remembered that he had some chores to attend to at home, so he left the scene of the crime as soon as possible.

Although that experiment was not very successful, that did not deter Uncle Tom from trying more experiments. He also constructed an electric chair that was supposed to get hot. Deciding that wasn’t exciting enough, he added a magneto* from an old-fashioned telephone, making a nice spark on the chair. Although this project might have been successful, Uncle Tom could never get any volunteers to sit in it.

Hearing this story about my great-uncle’s early ambitions to be a scientist always makes me laugh, and someday I hope my grandchildren get an opportunity to read and laugh at this story as well.

* A magneto is a small machine that creates an electric pulse.

Aaron Schnoor; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

3.
Overnight Journey

Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India; 1955

My grandpa made his way to the train station slowly, having planned out his time so he would arrive at the station at exactly 7:00 p.m. It was the summer of 1955 in India, and my then-sixteen-year-old grandpa was returning home to retrieve records and certificates he needed to get into the high school he had wanted to go to since he was little. The principal had told him to come back the next day with everything he needed. My grandpa was excited, despite the strain of the sun beating down on his back. The heat was fierce, bearing down on the only place in the world where the sun was so outspoken.

My grandpa arrived about eight minutes later. He pulled out his ticket and waited—ten, fifteen, twenty minutes—but there was no sign of his train. Finally he walked over to the ticket counter and asked, “Where is the 7:00 train to Varagani?”

“The last train to Varagani was at 6:00, sir,” the man replied.

“But my tick—”

“There must have been a misprint. Let me see.” The man behind the counter looked at the ticket, and sure enough, there had been a misprint.

“When’s the next train?” my grandpa questioned.

“Tomorrow—10:00 in the morning.”

“Thanks,” my grandpa responded with slight sarcasm.

Now he only had one choice: walk the fifteen miles to Varagani. It was now 8:00 p.m., and the sun was gradually turning into a dark sea of twilight and angry clouds. My grandpa could tell that it was about to rain. The rain started as a sprinkle, but steadily grew stronger.

My grandpa arrived at a tremendously oversized cornfield almost impossible to get through. But the largeness of the field was only in width. He trudged through the wet mud, and about halfway through, he ran, tired of the scratchy and tattered edges of the plants. A clearing was finally visible.

The next part of his journey would be a small dirt road with a stream at the end. My grandpa’s legs were getting wearier and wearier. He counted each passing minute in his head like a big grandfather clock.

He soon became aware that he was approaching the whistling stream, and crossed over into it. The water was waist-high and overwhelming. Rocks poked his feet, but he kept going. At the edge on the other side of the stream, my grandpa lifted his soaking-wet self up and sprinted the short remaining distance.

By midnight, my grandpa was home. His mom and dad asked what had happened and expressed their worried feelings. My grandpa explained, and his parents said no more. He was sent to bed immediately, and the next morning he took the earliest train and arrived at his high school, excited to finally become a student there. He submitted his papers. The journey had definitely been worth it, because my grandpa was now an official student at the high school he had always wanted to go to.

Supriya Ellina; Missouri, US

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

4.
Trapped on a Ship!

Mediterranean Sea; 1956–1957

Imagine being trapped somewhere that you couldn’t leave, smelling only the salt and sea. Imagine waves rocking the ship back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Just work, work, work. That’s what life was like for my grandpa (Poppop) in 1956 and 1957.

“Hooonnnk! Hooonnnk! Hooonnnk!” bellowed the ship’s horn. Poppop walked up the ramp grimly. It was time to set sail in the United States Navy—across the Mediterranean Sea! The ship’s engine roared to life. Poppop, who was on the deck, waved goodbye to his friends, knowing that he wouldn’t see them for a long time.

One morning Poppop woke up, suddenly startled that he was in a triple bunk bed and not in his usual comfy bed at home. Then he remembered, “Oh, yeah. I’m on a ship.” It was Day One of many.

Chores! Chores! Chores! Using the Morse code, Poppop signaled the other ships to keep away!

Besides the many jobs on deck, Poppop and the other 400 sailors had to practice shooting. A plane would fly by the ship. Using the big guns, the sailors would aim and try to shoot a fluttering target, which was attached to the plane with a long rope. That’s dangerous, in my opinion. A sailor could accidentally shoot the plane, which could kill or badly injure the pilot!

I’ll tell you another thing Poppop practiced. Suppose Poppop or another sailor fell overboard. They had to practice how to swim back to the ship. First some workers would lower the cargo net to the side of the ship. Then Poppop and the other sailors would leap overboard into the deep, dark sea! Finally they would swim back to the cargo net and climb up it onto the deck. Emergency sirens would sometimes go off, warning that sharks were approaching! Poppop told me a story about a man who was a slow swimmer. But when the siren went off, he was fast. In fact, his nickname became “Olympic Swimmer.”

Poppop really missed his family and friends, but luckily he was able to receive and send mail. I think it’s pretty cool! First some mailmen (or women) would fly across the sea until they caught up with a ship. Then they would connect the mail to a small parachute and let it glide down onto the ship. When the sailors wanted to send mail, they would put all the letters and packages into a large net. On the helicopter, the mailmen would reel up the mail, using a crane. Finally the helicopter would fly away to drop off the mail at the post office. I’d like my mail delivered that way.

It was a very hard life, but Poppop got through it. He is now a proud veteran of the United States Navy, and I’m proud of him!

Tyler Lynch; New Jersey, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

5.
The Central High Nine

Little Rock, Arkansas, USA; 1957

My grandmother and my great-aunt were part of the history of the civil rights movement. They attended a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, called Little Rock Central High. In 1957 nine black students enrolled in their school, which had always been a white high school. The federal government said segregation was unconstitutional and black students should be able to attend white schools. Their high school made national news, because people resisted the black students coming to the white high school.

My grandmother was in ninth grade, and my great-aunt was in tenth grade. Their mother really did not care about the black students coming to their high school. She did not get involved.

The governor of Arkansas tried to stop the black students from coming to school. Many businesspeople in Little Rock did not want the black students to attend white schools, so they pressured the governor. One of the businesspeople that did not want the black students to attend the school was a prominent business owner. His daughter later was one of the white kids who caused problems. At first the police escorted the black students to the school. After that, the soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had to help, and then the Arkansas National Guard.*

Many of the students, both black and white, were scared. Some of the white students picked on the black students. Some white students wanted to be the black students’ friends, but they were afraid they would get picked on. My grandmother and my great-aunt tried to avoid what was going on. The black students had to put up with terrible treatment from some students. Many of the problems were brought on by parents.

The school was closed for the 1958-1959 school year. During that time, my grandmother and great-aunt went to a school in the county. When Little Rock Central opened back up, my great-aunt returned to school there, but my grandmother did not. The black students have been honored many times at my great-aunt’s class reunion for helping to make things better for black students everywhere.

* The National Guard was brought under federal control by President Eisenhower.

Spencer Sullivan; North Carolina, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

6.
My Pakistani Hero

Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan; c. 1963

Sometimes a simple act of kindness is all it takes.

It was the middle of January, around 1963, and my grandpa was playing in the street with his friends. They were playing a friendly game of cricket when someone yelled, “There is a sick man laying in the fields!” My grandpa was so concerned that he took some of his friends to see what was happening.

When he got to the fields, he found an old man who looked very sick and miserable. Even though the weather was perfect during the day, my grandpa knew the nights were a different story. The temperature at night was below freezing. This man had been in the fields all night.

My grandpa knew he had to get the man to the hospital immediately. He took the man to the local Civil Hospital in a horse buggy (horse cart). That was the best kind of transportation at the time. The doctor said the man was very sick and suffered from hypothermia. That is when you are exposed to cold weather for too long and your body temperature drops very low. When you get hypothermia, you are in danger of death.

The doctor gave the man intravenous fluid, through a vein. My grandpa prayed the man would be okay.

Every day before going to school, my grandpa would stop at the hospital to check on the man. When the man fully recovered, my grandpa felt so grateful. After all, he did save someone’s life. The Quran* tells us that if you save someone it’s like you saved all of mankind. If my grandpa and his friends hadn’t found the man and saved him, the man would have died.

My grandpa says that from that day onward he knew exactly what he wanted to be: a doctor.

* The Quran (also Qur’an or Koran) is the holy book of Islam.

Aman Rahman; Missouri, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

7.
A Day to Remember

Toledo, Ohio; 1964

It was 1964. My grandmother Victoria Avent was fifteen years old. Her father (my great-grandfather) was in charge of bringing to Toledo a guest speaker for the Toledo Management Association’s sports night banquet. He loved sports and wrote a letter to Jesse Owens (a famous African-American runner), asking if he would come to Toledo to be a guest speaker. Jesse replied and said that he would be more than happy to speak. The arrangements were made for him to go to Toledo.

My great-grandfather was concerned about how Jesse Owens would be treated in a hotel, because he was African-American. Because of that, my great-grandfather decided to let Jesse Owens stay at their house. Jesse freshened up and prepared for the speech at their house. “He was very friendly and had a nice smile,” said my grandmother. Jesse Owens stayed in her brother’s room. Her family was very honored to have him in their house.

Jesse Owens was used to being brave. He had been born in Alabama on September 12, 1913. He was the seventh child of Henry and Emma Alexander Owens. Jesse’s real name was James Cleveland. He got the name “Jesse” when his teacher thought he had said “Jesse,” but he had actually said “J.C.” Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals in 1936. The Olympics that year were held in Germany, where Adolf Hitler was in power. Hitler walked out of the Olympics because Jesse Owens was beating the Germans, and Hitler also would not shake his hand when he received his medals.

This story is important to my grandmother because it was not usual to have an African-American stay in your home back then. She was proud of her father for not caring what other people would think, and for writing to Jesse Owens. Getting to meet Jesse Owens is something my grandmother will never forget. It really was a day to remember.

Jordan Pack; Ohio, USA

 

8.
Bear Invasion

Shang-Zhi, Hei-Long-Jiang, China; c. 1965

My grandfather lived in the northern part of China in the mountains when he was young. People in his village planted crops. One summer around 1965, when the crops were growing tall, a bear came. It destroyed some of their crops and livestock.

The villagers were afraid of the bear and thought it might one day hurt someone. My grandfather and his friend decided to hunt down the bear before it could cause any more damage. They packed their rifles, food, water, blankets, and a tent. Then they set off to find the bear.

On the first day, they didn’t find the bear. At night they made a bonfire and set up the tent on the soft ground of the forest floor. The next day they woke up to the birds chirping. They ate breakfast, then packed up their stuff again.

Finally, they found the bear roaming around between some trees. It was a black bear with ruffled fur and long teeth. It looked like it was a small bear. The bear appeared quite skinny. My grandfather and his friend silently dropped their baggage and hid behind the trees. They swung their rifles so that they were aimed at the bear. The bear smelled them and started cautiously sniffing around the trees they were hiding behind. In a panic, my grandpa and his friend fired a long string of bullets at the bear.

Most of the bullets missed, but one hurtled into the bear’s hind leg. Another lodged itself in the bear’s shoulder. Yet another hit the bear’s forearm. The bear was furious. It gave a mighty roar and stood up on its hind legs. It loomed over my grandfather and his friend, who were actually quite tall.

What had seemed to be a small bear now seemed enormous. It swung its paw at my grandfather. This gave him and his friend a good aim at the bear’s heart. My grandfather fired at the bear’s heart before his friend could react. Almost all the bullets hit the bear. The bear gave a final roar and fell to the ground, dead as a stone.

My grandfather and his friend took the bear home. They shared the bear meat with the whole village. Bear paws were delicacies in China then. My uncle got to eat some (my mom wasn’t born yet).

I feel bad for the bear. It might have had cubs. I wonder what bear paws taste like. I’m glad that my grandfather and his friend survived to tell this amazing story.

Iris Li; Missouri, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

9.
Obachan’s or Ojichan’s Cooking?
The Answer Is Obvious

Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; c. 1970

When my mom and my aunt were children, my obachan, meaning “grandma,” had to deliver my great-grandfather’s ashes to Japan. The ashes had to go to Japan, because it is traditional to return ashes to the family grave. When Obachan was in Japan, she wanted to visit her friends and relatives. Therefore, she was gone for a long time. It was heaven for Obachan, but it was the opposite for my mom and my aunt, who were stuck in the United States with my ojichan, meaning “grandpa.”

Mom and Aunt Akiko stayed at Ojichan and Obachan’s house in New Jersey. They had to eat the same dinner over and over again, because Ojichan was awful at cooking. He could not cook anything except rice. Well, Ojichan would cook the rice in a canteen, not a pan. He would put some rice into the canteen, and he would put it over an open fire. Then he would burn it—and not on purpose either. So every night they would eat burnt rice. Even though Ojichan was not a great cook, he was an excellent storyteller. He would sit down on the ground and tell my mom and aunt stories.

One of the stories he told was about when he was in World War II. He was just a child working in the rice fields. Then he would see airplanes—American war planes—coming. He would then hide in the bamboo, because the bamboo was so thick the pilots couldn’t shoot at him. Then the planes would come so close to the ground that Ojichan could touch them. The pilots then would shoot. After that, a flare of anger would flash through him. He thought, “Why would they kill the villagers?” He would watch a lot of people be killed every time a plane flew in. It amazed me that growing up he learned to hate Americans—and that he could love my dad. My dad is American.

When Obachan got home to New Jersey, Mom and Aunt Akiko hadn’t just missed Obachan herself, but her cooking, too. Obachan’s cooking was superb and a lot better than Ojichan’s. Even though the cooking was a bad experience for my mom and my aunt, the experience would turn into a great story and teach them a lot about their heritage.

Maya Cassady; Alabama, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

10.
Funny Money

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; 1972

It was a warm summer day scented by all the colorful flowers in my family’s garden in Madeira, Portugal. “I don’t know, Elsa. Are you sure this is a good idea?” my five-year-old sister, Angela, asked. Angela was very tiny for her age, but she had huge expressive eyes and a huge brain to match.

“Angela, this plan is genius!” my seven-year-old sister, Elsa, exclaimed while cutting out paper money from my brother’s schoolbook.

“Maria!” my sisters called for me. When I walked into the room, they handed me paper coins and told me that we were going to the candy store. I was very happy. I love candy.

“Now, Maria, when you give the man the money, place it on the counter. Don’t hand it to him,” Elsa told me seriously. She was a pretty accomplished schemer, even at the age of seven.

After listening to my older sisters’ instructions, I skipped into the candy store. It was such a colorful store; it was like every kid’s dream. The whole store was filled with every treat a child could crave. I placed the “money” on the counter and pointed out which yummy candies I wanted to purchase. The clerk handed me the bag full of my candies, and I said, “Thank you.” Then I ran out of the store like my sisters had told me to do.

My sisters were waiting outside for me. When the clerk noticed I had given him fake money, he ran out of the store to confront us, but we were already running home. The clerk then ran after us. He was having a hard time catching us, because he was laughing so hard.

 

“I’m sorry, sir. Here is the money for the candy my daughter took,” Mom said, handing the exhausted clerk the money.

“Thank you. I just find it hilarious that a five- and seven-year-old could trick a three-year-old into stealing candy!” he laughed.

I didn’t get in trouble, but my sisters sure did. That is one of the few memories I have from Madeira. I left Madeira when I was five, but that is a completely different story for a totally different time.

Ava Elizabeth Mederos, daughter of Maria; New Jersey, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

11.
A Really Embarrassing Moment

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 1974

Everyone has an embarrassing moment now and then. If it’s spilling soup down your brand new shirt or accidentally wearing pajamas to school when it’s not pajama day, everyone gets embarrassed sometimes. But this is a story about a really embarrassing moment—one that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t forget.

My aunt Leeny and her husband, Ed, were at their son Marc’s football game. He was a rookie for his team, and this was his first game.

“Look, honey! Here comes Marc!” Ed said excitedly, pointing to the field. Aunt Leeny looked down from the stands and saw that, sure enough, her son was jogging into view. Marc was number 43 and looked very husky in his Vikings uniform. The couple watched proudly as their son got into position as the team’s fullback. Despite all of the noise in the crowd, Aunt Leeny and her husband could hear the quarterback make the starting call: “Ready—hike!”

Then, as if in a trance, Aunt Leeny rose to her feet as the quarterback handed the ball to Marc. As Marc began to run toward the goalposts, my aunt began to run down the stone steps that led to the field. Then as number 43 crossed the 20-yard line, Aunt Leeny was straddling the barrier that separated the stands from the field. As the fullback ran down the stretch with the crowd on its feet, Aunt Leeny began running down the sideline, her curly red hair blowing behind her.

“Go, Marc!” she yelled as she ran.

All of a sudden the crowd’s attention was drawn to the crazy middle-aged woman running down the sideline screaming for her son. Barely anyone even saw the rookie fullback run into the end zone, the ball held tightly in his hands. It was a shame that barely anyone even saw the touchdown, because Marc, in his first game, on his first play, had run thirty-one yards to put his team in the lead. But no, the crowd was watching the woman, highly amused.

“Go, Marc! Yay! That’s my son! His first game! I’m so proud! I love you, my little honey bunny!” she cried.

Meanwhile, Marc didn’t even notice that his mother was going bonkers on the sideline; he was busy being high-fived by his fellow team members. But Aunt Leeny was still going at it, practically doing jumping jacks and yelling herself hoarse.

It was then that the crowd began to laugh. They cackled, they giggled, they howled at this crazy woman.

And then Aunt Leeny woke up from her “trance.” “Where am I?” she thought to herself. Looking around at the crowd roaring with laughter and Marc celebrating in the end zone, she put two and two together.

For good measure, she gave one more “Go, Marc!” and sulked off the field, her head hung low. Aunt Leeny never did anything so embarrassing again. At least, I don’t think she did.

Anya Tullman; Missouri, USA

(This story is also included in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7.)

 

 

Read additional stories from the 2011/2012 celebration:

View the illustrations in Grannie Annie, Vol. 7

Sneak a peek at Grannie Annie, Vol. 7

 

 

 

 


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Vol. 7

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student drawing of a tent in the woods and campers at a campfire
Can you match the Vol. 7
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stories?

 

Notes:

Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with
permission.

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.

 

Stories on this page:

1. Twisted Path
(c. 1950s)
Rachel Gopichand
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

2. Uncle Tom’s Rocket
(1952)
Aaron Schnoor
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

3. Overnight Journey
(1955)
Supriya Ellina
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

4. Trapped on a Ship!
(1956–1957)
Tyler Lynch
New Jersey, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

5. The Central High
Nine (1957)
Spencer Sullivan
North Carolina, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

6. My Pakistani Hero
(c. 1963)
Aman Rahman
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

7. A Day to Remember
(1964)
Jordan Pack
Ohio, USA

8. Bear Invasion
(c. 1965)
Iris Li
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

9. Obachan’s or
Ojichan’s Cooking?
The Answer Is Obvious
(c. 1970)
Maya Cassady
Alabama, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

10. Funny Money
(1972)
Ava Elizabeth Mederos
New Jersey, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

11. A Really
Embarrassing Moment
(1974)
Anya Tullman
Missouri, USA
(also in Vol. 7)

 

 

Click here to read additional
stories from the 2011/2012
celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

Looking for stories on a
particular topic or theme?
Consult our Index of
Stories
. (This year's stories
will be added to the
index in the summer.)


 


 


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