Sally Chambers' Memories
|Little Sally with Mom and Dad in 1938|
This was a fun interview. I've known Sally Chambers as the list hostess on the Christian Writers Fellowship International (now Writers in Christian Fellowship on Facebook and as a list group on YahooGroups) for...a long time. Today is her birthday! And she has some great photos to go along with her story. Because this is her 73rd birthday, she has many stories to tell, so settle in with a cup of cocoa and travel through horses, first love and sharing with WWII victims. First, she tells her story in her own words. Then, she's responded to the familiar prompts I have for those who are my Kids List. There is much history here and I think you'll agree with me that she has many interesting memories. And her story is not over. Happy birthday, Sally, and many, many more!
|Sally in 1938 held by mother Helen with great grandmother and grandmother Jessie|
|Sally Kessell, age 5|
By Sally Kessell Chambers
The whole thing began when the Heavenly Father decided he needed a little girl born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, and a guardian angel held her breath to prepare for the ride of her life—which, I’m happy to report, isn’t over yet.
My father was a civil engineer with the Corps of Engineers, Boston District the year I was born. He joined the Du Pont Corporation in 1940 and for several years we lived in Ilion and Utica, NY. Some snapshot memories I have from that time are of our forever-smiling, ample, beloved, dark-skinned Katie, our housekeeper; a huge old house we rented with a massive empty ballroom on the top floor and a gazillion bees in one of the walls; rides in a little cart pulled by a goat; an awful flood when sewage backed up into the entire first floor of our house, and one more memory from back then that helped shape my life which I’ll relate later.
Du Pont relocated us to Richland, Washington in 1944. Not long after we arrived, General Electric took over the operations, and Dad remained with them until he retired. I was entering my freshman year in high school when we moved from Richland to Madeira, Ohio, but my growing-up and best-remembered years were those spend in Richland.
Some of those childhood memories are of tumbleweeds rolling down the streets of Richland, sitting in the midst of our gravel driveway, finding beautiful agates, holding them up to the sun to discover their beauty, occasional fierce dust storms with winds so violent my dad had to carry me from the car to the house, light wintertime snows that quickly melted beneath the warm Chinook winds, finding dozens of arrowheads on the banks of where the Snake and Columbia Rivers meet at Sacajawea State Park, camping on the American River, carving the name, Rebecca Simmons, (the name I wanted to use when I became an actress!) into the wood handrail of a swinging bridge, dust-filled whirlwinds dancing in the sunshine beside the roadways, Saturday afternoon drives in our faithful Pontiac, Jezebel, that ended with a surprise night at the drive-in movies, long drives with visits to vineyards full of fat purple Concord grapes and a farm that scented the air along the roadway with peppermint from the rows and rows of green mint leaves, seeing fields of golden wheat rolling beneath the wind; having a cardboard box with some of my collections of bronze horse statues stolen from school the day of show and tell; Dad getting Jezebel stuck at the very edge of a road that looked more like a sand dune with a terrifying drop-off inches away and my mother’s prayers and sending my brother and I on a walk away from the danger while Dad got the car out of the sand; and endless waves of the spectacular Northern Lights in the night sky, learning of art and music through my parents, who surrounded us with both along with countless books.
I remember things like looking at lots of knees when I first went to church, and will never forget how my heart responded in awe at hearing Holy, Holy, Holy sung by the congregation in the church my parents helped to start. I remember saying grace before we ate, and after stories every night, kneeling beside my bed and saying my prayers with “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord, my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, if I should live for other days, I pray the Lord to guide my days.” And the endless, God blesses for everyone and everything.
|I have the cutest little brothers! This is Jimmy. We were being good.|
We somehow always seemed to have enough, but things became much more difficult when my youngest brother, Jon, was born with a hole in his little heart. There’s seven years difference in age between Jonny and me. Jimmy and I begged for my parents to have another baby, and we adored our little brother. When Jonny was old enough to travel, my parents traveled by train to take him to Boston Children’s Hospital where he was one of the first little ones ever to have had the delicate open-heart surgery to repair his heart. The hospital has followed his life, and he continues to remain strong and healthy with a beautiful family and a good career. How can I ever, ever not praise God for my life!
|Sally in a movie star pose|
|A pregnant Cindy and me on the Tampien Farm|
Fondest Memory (from back then): Oh how I adored horses. I remember sitting on a step of the staircase, chin in hands, crying tears of pure love for horses because there were no words. I felt love beyond expression and that was the way it flowed from my heart. The only other time in my life I’ve felt that inexpressible love was when I opened the door to my heart and Jesus came in, and I adore him for doing that. So that love sets the scene for the most awesome memory of my childhood, the Christmas/birthday (thirteen days apart) gift of my horse, Cindy, one memorable Christmas morning.
|Sally on her first horse|
A highlight of my life, all the gifts for my two younger brothers and me were opened. There hadn’t been a shred of evidence beneath the tree of the one gift I’d been yearning, hoping, and praying for—a horse named Cindy I’d “met” and knew was for sale. I dragged my disappointed self to the breakfast table, trying my very best to put on a happy face and be grateful for all that I did receive. We all sat down. The blessing was said. And then came the moment—the one so indelibly engraved in my memory. My daddy pulled an envelope out from beneath the maple table. He looked at me with his handsome face and crystal blue eyes and handed it to me, saying “It has your name on it, Sally!” and told me that I needed to open that envelope. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be in that small white square of paper. But I opened it, and I read it.
|Yes, this is the card Sally's Dad gave to her!|
Cindy says, Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with me! I’m at the Tampien Farm waiting patiently for you! Yes!—Cindy’s yours!—our best Christmas and birthday wish to you. Mother & Daddy.I laughed and cried all at once. You never saw such hugging and kissing and loving and jumping up and down going on at a breakfast table in your life—all five of us! I could barely stay inside my skin, I was so happy.
|Me and Cindy with her first filly on Tampien's Farm :Love at First Sight|
Proudest Moment (from back then): Giving my favorite, much beloved, big doll to another little girl, who didn’t have a doll. Corry Rensing lived (and maybe still does, we lost track years ago) in Tiel, Holland. The story? Jane Jones, a young reporter for the Richland Villager newspaper, started a charitable outreach program from Richland (Washington) to help the war-ravaged European city of Tiel, Holland, after WW II ended. Many families in Richland “adopted” families in Tiel. My family adopted two families, but the one I remember is the Rensing family of four. Albert, Johanna, and their two daughters, Gerda and Corry.
When we first “met” them, the family had not had any soap for two months. Cereals, flour, and oatmeal were scarce. Most of their food and clothing was rationed or not available at all. Fuel was hard to find, electricity was rationed, and they had no window glass, only plastic panes that were little or no protection from the cold. The only spread they had for their bread was lard! I remember how appalled I was when the older daughter, Gerda, wrote in December 1946 “. . . we have had such a terrible time here. We can really say that we have cheated death. As we slept in the cellar, we slept with picks and shovels by our beds so that we could dig ourselves out if necessary.”
In reply to our first letter to them asking them what they’d like us to send them, Johanna wrote that Corry would like a doll. Although she was twelve years old then, through the five years of war she had not had a doll and wished for one. My eight-year-old heart went out to her. I had lots of dolls and couldn’t imagine her not having at least one.
I remember placing my big baby doll into a box. I had many dolls by my side at night. Corry had slept with picks, shovels, and fear at night. Dolls were not an option or even a privilege for her. I had a chance to change that as my mother and I placed my big beautiful baby doll in a sturdy cardboard box, the first of many, for Corry along with cocoa, coffee, flour, sugar, yarn, Crisco, and hope, for a long journey to a friend and her family.
Another proud moment when I was sixteen happened when my beautiful and elegant Aunt Ruth, gave me the three-pearl ring my Uncle Paul had gotten for her when they were the diplomatic corps in Japan. To me, it’s symbolic of her love for me, as is the cross I always wear symbolic of Jesus’ love for me and mine for Him. Every ring I have and wear has a story or two behind it.
Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: It’s awfully hard to name just one. I suppose as a child, overcoming shyness was my biggest challenge—I felt too tall and gangly. I knew I had the ugliest elbows in the whole world and hid them the best I could. Having a very lazy left eye and having to wear a big black patch over my good one to make the other work, was another blow to my self-confidence. Suffering from asthma, hay fever, and sinusitis and doing things anyway—like trying to play the flute!
And another challenge was to tone down my fearlessness—taking dares from the boys in a park to launch myself on a seesaw and walking on the edges of stone walls (ruining my poor coccyx on one of those edge-walks, couldn’t sit comfortably for years, and never told a soul!) and that’s the tip of my foolhardy and precarious iceberg, ☺
Then as a teen, the challenge of having to part with my beloved horses, moving across the country, entering a strange new high school knowing no one, then having to transfer to yet another high school as we moved from renting to buying a new home. And later, trying to understand and deal with the shocking shooting murder of a friend and her father and the paralyzing injury to her mother by her ex-boyfriend.
But speaking of boyfriends, the Lord had a new kind of love for me to experience after the heartbreak of parting with my friends and horses when leaving Richland. I dated others, but when I was 14, I met and fell in love with my high school sweetheart, Jerry. We met in the basement of the Methodist Church where he was the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship! He was a year behind me in school, but I’m five days older than he is. (And so he has the privilege of calling me “his old lady!”)
|Jerry took this of me the summer of 1955. Photography, including processng and developing, was his hobby|
We became engaged when we were 17, just after my graduation. I went to Business College for a time as my mother insisted I must have skills to work and I can’t thank her enough for that! Later that year, Dad was relocated once more and I moved with my family to Norwalk, CT. There, with my new “skills,” I went to work for Perkin-Elmer as a secretary until Jerry and I married.
|Loved those black suede baby doll shoes!Sally at 16.|
|From l to r: Dad, Grandma Walker, me, Jerry, Bro Jim, and Janet Doerr|
During the time we were apart, my sweetheart, instead of taking the usual trip to Washington DC with his senior class, made the drive from Cincinnati to Norwalk just to be with me again. He returned to graduate with his class. Then on July 7, 1956, we were married in Norwalk in a simple and lovely home wedding. I walked down the staircase and arm-in-arm with my Dad, walked with him to stand before our beautiful pine and stone fireplace where he gave me in marriage to my Jerry with my family and the Lord as witnesses.
|Jerry and Sally Chambers. I carried a white Bible and orchids.|
My First Job (paid or unpaid—something you feel is significant): (Back in Richland ☺) An hour’s worth of work in The Barn for an hour-long horseback ride. That was the agreement my dad and the owner of the riding stable we called The Barn, Ray arrived at. And that was before I had my own horse. I learned to groom, saddle and bridle horses, muck stalls, soap saddles, pitch hay, and use a lasso. I learned the names of every one of the hundred (at least that’s how many Ray said we had) head of horses kept in the corral, and their personalities. Riders would come in and Ray, or Lloyd, his helper/sidekick, would let me cut out the horse-of-choice with my lasso, bring him in, curry, and saddle him up for the rider. Most of the time Dad drove me to The Barn, but it was different way back then—safer. And there were some times when I walked to those stables, by myself, past orchards full of reddening Washington apples and crossed a new highway nicknamed the Speedball Highway.
|I was 14, about to ride Cindy in a parade and a rodeo with the Richland Ramblers. I met Chill Wills and Tim Holt at the Desert Inn that day!|
Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show: Movies like Secret Garden and other movies Margaret O’Brien played in. The horse movie, Gallant Bess, and any horse or cowboy movie. Gallant Bess brings exceptionally warm memories of one special and beautiful Saturday morning. The kids in Richland went to free movies every Saturday morning back then, and that was the movie I returned home from seeing the day Cindy’s second foal was born. I’d been waiting with trepidation every day, knowing it could happen at any time. The moment I walked into the house, Dad announced the news that Dusty had entered God’s world. Talk about joy!
|Sally age 12|
Favorite Childhood Book: King of the Wind (did I say I was horse-crazy?) I was a voracious reader and loved books. The Black Stallion series, My Friend Flicka. Little Women, Little Men, The Bobbsey Twins—the list is endless. I remember running to get the dictionary when I first read the word, odious, as in odious old man. To this day, I run to or reach for the dictionary or the thesaurus for words.
Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime: Reading, camping, hiking, finding arrowheads and agates. Horseback rides that began at the stable, led away from the green of trees and grass, to the golden brown of the desert sand with its rolling dunes. And out there, tussles and dangers my guardian angel faced probably drove her to distraction! Like when a line of the detested barbed wire wrapped around Cindy’s fetlock or when she stopped and refused to move and seconds later I saw why as the sound and sight of a coiled rattlesnake unlocked my brain. Later, joining the Richland Ramblers and taking part in parades and rodeos held annually during Richland Days was a highlight.
Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child? Corry Rensing who lived on Tulipstraad in Tiel, Holland, and I exchanged post cards. And supposing I will be God’s child all my life, I’ve had a long “pen pal” relationship with a now-dear friend in Canberra, AU.
|Sally's Senior Photo June 1955|
Best friends? Ann Tampien, who walked with me through enduring the death of Cindy’s first foal and helped lay a huge hunk of my faith foundation when she took me by the hand early one morning after I’d spent the night on her farm. Mostly sad, I moped, but she played “It Is No Secret What God Can Do” on the old Victrola in her living room, and talked to me about how much God loved me and cared. Years later, my precious friend, Ann went to be with the Lord when she died of influenza while at college.
|This is Ann Tampien with Dusty, Cindy's second filly. I was 14 then in 1952.|
And then there was Patricia Kelly whose parents were from Scotland and had the most wonderful brogue. Patricia introduced me to quite formal dinners and iced, sweetened tea, which I’d never been allowed before and England’s beloved royal family through many photographs. Then, in high school, there were my two Shirleys and Beth.
|I love this photo. My mother enjoyed photographing with natural light. She did a beautiful job with me watching the cat lap up the milk.|
Any Childhood Pets? Tootsie the cocker spaniel became part of our family when I was seven (her full name being Tootie Roll Kessell as she was as brown as the candy), and then later, Cindy my American Standard/American Sadler horse, and Dusty (for Stardust, of course) the filly. And, by vicarious adoption, a friendly monster pig named Sam who lived on the Tampien’s farm—until I faced something very normal for the Tampiens, but not one little bit normal for me—Sam on the dinner table. I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry for anything edible that evening! And that’s another story.
|Now you've done it! I broke the head off the plastic turtle.|
|Sally on the Tampien Farm with Cindy's first foal, Twink, a beautiful silver filly.|
Childhood Hero: My dad who unabashedly adored and spoiled me, who called me Kitten when I wanted a nickname like the other daddies called their little girls, who totally embarrassed me when he swooped me up from the playground and flipped me upside down with my bleeding head beneath the Grange Hall’s water faucet. I’d taken a dare from some boys who advised 7-year-old-me that if I jumped from the monkey bars onto the upended seesaw, that I would fly! And who, rescued me from being practically blown off the planet by a terrible dust storm, and who picked me up when I was a complete dummy and walked behind Cindy and her new baby and she hauled off and kicked me with both rear hoofs smack in the back, knocking the wind out of me. I wore hoof prints for at least a week!
Then there was the time Cindy stopped short for a low-hanging tree branch—and I didn’t—and dad had to scrape me up yet again. And he’s the one who sneaked upstairs during one of my parents’ renowned Clam Chowder Parties, made me close my eyes and open my mouth as he popped in a steamed shrimp (me, who hates anything fish), which he made me admit I liked—until I opened my eyes and saw the remainder! He’s the one who in the middle of the night came and woke me and carried me outside to see the spectacular, undulating Aurora Borealis, saying it was much more important right then than sleep. He was an artist in pastel chalk, had a wonderful tenor voice, and played the piano. He endlessly drove me to the Tampien Farm (a dear family from Sweden) and The Barn to be with my horses.
And then my hero, just before I married my high school sweetheart and left him behind, took me on the train from Norwalk where we were living, into New York City and walked with me down Fifth Avenue and bought me a beautiful faux emerald bracelet from~~no, not Sak’s~~ but Bloomingdale’s. He ended the day by surprising me when we went to see the Rockettes—this among a billion other wonderful things he did for me. I adored him.
Childhood Indulgence: Everything horses, but my parents encouraged me in all things and nearly anything I wanted to try, they worked it out. As a result I dabbled in tap, ballet, acrobat, flute, piano, and more—learned a little about a lot and was proficient in none of them. Never forced to continue with any of them, I feel I was much loved and terribly indulged! Nevertheless, because I tried, to this day I have an appreciation for them all. The one thing I stuck with was horses and anything to do with them. I was unutterably sad when they had to be sold when we moved from Richland to Madeira. But, my parents took two weeks of allowed travel time and two weeks of vacation. We saw everything we could, all the way down the west coast, Crater Lake, the Redwood Forest, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, and another indulgence, just for me, promised by my Dad an exciting and leisurely drive right through the middle of glamorous Hollywood, California!
Then, faithful old Jezebel made it past many other cars with their hoods up and steaming engines, up steep Mount Palomar to the observatory and we met and spoke with astronomers there and saw the huge telescope. From there, we dipped beneath the border into Tijuana then crossed the Mohave Desert—on and on. So I admit to prodigious indulgence! There is not a single doubt in my mind that we were hedged about and protected by the Lord. Nor is there any doubt that it was my parents’ prayers which were graciously listened to, as with every story, real or fiction, there is more, much more. But do you know what else I see as I grow older? I see and sense the generations of my family of devout lovers of the Lord in all I am and will eternally continue to be. And I begin to see how my life and the prayers for my children and the generations to come are and will be affected by how and why I have lived. Amazing grace.
Childhood Heroine: My mother who grounded me in life and gifted me with an example of what a woman of God should be. She chose homemaking and nurturing the lives of three children over a fulfilling nursing career. Every morning of our lives, we awoke to her cheerful “Time to rise and shine.” How could you not? But if you were grumpy getting up? Go straight back and get out of the other side of the bed! She was the one who, when I was probably 4 or 5 years old and complained I had nothing to do, suggested I pick wild flowers and take them to the old man, wheelchair-bound, who lived down the street. His reaction was the most beautiful smile and words of thanks a little girl could imagine. It impressed me so much that I’ve never, ever forgotten him or the lesson my mommy and the Lord taught me of how blessed it is to give.
|Sally in Sunshine in a Sunsuit|
|Mom, Dad and me in 1956|
Was there anyone in your childhood who pointed you to Jesus? My parents, whose steadfast faith was a rock in my life and who gave me the Word, my first Bible when I was 7, saying it was time I had my own Bible (I still have it), and Ann Tampien, and Sunday school teachers who rewarded me for stumbling through the memorized (sort of) books of the Bible with a bookmark of satin ribbons in rainbow colors.
Share your introduction to Christ as a child or teen or a significant event that led to your walk with Jesus. I can’t ever remember not loving Jesus…as a tiny baby in a manger with angels looking after him, I was his “Sunbeam” because he wanted me to be, and the songs told me he loved me because the Bible said so. And as I understood love, I loved him back. Mostly as I grew up, I looked at God, with such an incomplete innocent understanding, as the Big Father up there who made the world, and I simply loved him for doing that.
And when I was 8 and walking home from school when my grandparents were visiting us, and I suddenly “knew” something was very wrong and began to run. Racing through the door asking “Daddy where’s Grandma?” Finding my daddy, rocking quietly in the chair with tears in his eyes and as he pulled me to him, told me that my Grandma Jessie had passed away, that his mother, had gone to heaven to be with Jesus. It was so hard to see my daddy cry and hug him and cry with him. And when I received Cindy, she was already with foal, and I looked forward to the birth with huge excitement. The sweet filly was born on Ann’s farm, but not long after, it was Ann who took my hand and held it through the scariness of the death of Cindy’s first foal and helped me understand much more about God. And it was my daddy whose faith helped me through my tears and buried the little filly for me on the banks of the Snake River.
All those things worked together to gently pull me once and for all into his saving grace. So for a long time my Jesus was still in Bethlehem. I didn’t truly know him as my Lord and my Savior until I read Billy Graham’s World Aflame when I was 24. It happened as it did to Paul in Acts 9:18: “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once. My eyes were opened and my spiritual sight was restored.” And so, my eyes were opened, and I know one guardian angel and more than a few other angels and “a cloud of witnesses” of my generations past, rejoiced as Jesus was born anew in me, God’s child.
Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become? I think a single assignment by a grade school teacher, Mrs. Bice, to write a short story for homework probably affected me the most in the writer I’ve become. The story had to include some of the main products of any country in Central America that we decided to write about. I think my writing career began at the moment I began to put pencil to paper and record adventures of two girls visiting a pineapple plantation in Honduras and everything that happened to them. I wrote and wrote and wrote then wrote some more. I got so “into” the story that I didn’t finish the assignment on time. You can imagine the rest!
Being encouraged to write letters and notes and post cards. Writing stories, keeping diaries and then journals, I never ceased writing. Seeing everything my parents took me to see and their forever-patience to answer my “whys,” living in a home steeped in music, arts, crafts, history, and more. All those things and more birthed and grew my love of writing.
http://www.sallychambers.com (see website for the complete Link Page)
Sally's Writing: Career Number Four:
As an author of inspirational suspense fiction laced with light romance, I’ve completed two novels. They are The Stonekeepers (a story that begins on Nantucket Island and ends up in Jerusalem) and Amazon Agenda (a story that begins in Solvang, California and ends up in Brazil and the Amazon Rain Forest). A third novel, Sub Rosa Reef, begins in Melbourne Beach, FL and takes you into the Yucatan, Mexico and Belize, is in progress. In addition to novels, I continue to write devotions, email encouragements to others, children’s stories, and poetry. I try to do all I can to help others by critiquing and editing their work. It keeps my own work challenged to help others.
I can attest to Sally's fiction writing--I pray her novels are published because she's such a good storyteller. Sally Chambers has won several awards for her poetry and short stories. She has written devotionals for The Upper Room, short stories for Standard Publishing’s Kidz Chat, newspaper articles, as well as articles and poetry for periodicals. She has also developed Sunday school material, edited two devotional books for her church and has written and recorded short stories for radio. In addition, Sally has edited two successful non-fiction books.
Following her retirement as a Nationwide Insurance agent, Sally embarked on yet another career. Her first was negotiating the joys, trials, tribulations, and triumphs of childhood, the second was marriage and motherhood, her third career was becoming one of the first women insurance agents in the area where she lived (spending a huge wedge of her life on being successful in that endeavor.) Her fourth, and current, career is that of a writer.
|1970s, Big Hair and Me in my homemade minidress doing the Twist!|
|Sally was one of the first women insurance agents in the area! 1987, Awards Night.|
|Business and Bigwigs in 1988. Another Award Night after lots and lots of hard work.|
|Sally Playing the Fairy Godmother at a Soroptimist Conference in 1990.|
|Me and my BFF and partner in 1992. LOVE this photo of us.|
|Photo of the Agency Boss Sally 1993 snapped by my office manager in 1993|
|1993 Volunteering in a local public school. One of my favorite weekly getaways/giveaways. Getting away from the office and giving to the children.|
Sally has been a moderator on the staff of Christian Writers Fellowship International (Cross & Quill) since 2005, and produces the weekly topic for discussion. She’s a member of The Space Coast Writers’ Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, as well as several other writing organizations. Sally has attended Florida Christian Writers Conferences and a Space Coast Writers’ Guild Conference. She also participates in critique groups both online and locally.
Sally serves on the local Salvation Army Corps Advisory Board and volunteers with their many activities. She’s a member of the First United Methodist Church. Having taught youth Sunday school for many years, she currently enjoys reading and interacting with the children involved in The Master’s Workshop and attends an adult Sunday school class.
Sally lives on Florida’s Space Coast, with her husband, Jerry. They have two children, two grandchildren, and a new great granddaughter. Sally and Jerry enjoy spending summers at their home in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She maintains a presence on Facebook (join her as a friend!) and invites you to visit her Web site at www.sallychambers.com. Writing and researching for Sally’s novels is primary but critiquing friends’ work, and editing also hold strong importance. In between, she reads, does puzzles, crocheting, beading, trail walking, and spends time with family and friends. Sally is represented by literary agent Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary Agency.