Peace Corps Postcard #3: Where’s Warren?

What makes any experience memorable are the people you meet. My parents are still in touch with several people they met while serving in the Peace Corps. My mother, a justice of the peace, has officiated at a few weddings and they receive cards and letters annually from many.

Here’s the last story by my mother about one of their friends.

Where’s Warren?
By Barbara W. Klein

One was never alone when Warren was around. He was there if you were homesick, lonely, or just had a bad day. A fellow volunteer and in his 50’s, Warren had served in the Air Force and the ministry, Warren could make us chuckle when we’d least expect it.

For example, the directors of our “Stage” training program, Patty and Bill, were often challenging to cope with. They were aptly, though politely, renamed by Warren, “Batty and Pill”. When I was having a dinner party, Warren was right there with his own shopping basket, to help me carry the provisions to my house. He organized volley ball games and emceed the talent show.

Warren roomed with seven other volunteers and organized spaghetti dinners for about 40 people- 30 or so volunteers, staff members, and a few of the residents of the town. It was customary for guests to bring something when visiting. Every “hanut”, or grocery store, was stripped of melons, bottles of soda and loaves of bread. People brought salads, home made relishes, and desserts. We all provided our own dinnerware, issued by the Peace Corps.

When he completed his Peace Corp service, Warren visited us in Connecticut.  We hiked through the woods of Killingworth and then had dinner at home, cooking together. I still use his recipe for sweet potato pie with cognac and pecans.

We contacted each other for a while, and as things go, lost touch. Marty and I tried to locate Warren with no success.

Warren B. Skinner, where are you hiding?

###

My parents completed their training in September and were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. However, there wasn’t an assignment available for them. In many ways it was a mixed blessing. In each of my mother’s letters, she wrote about how much they missed everyone. She’d close her letters, “kiss the monkeys,” referring to my sons. Rereading them, I could tell how homesick they were. Yet I knew how committed they were to helping others. They truly believe the proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” With them it was chickens and eggs. They continued volunteering: as Vista volunteers in Hartford, CT, (they could live at home), and many trips abroad with private foundations that organized service projects, usually for a month at a time. They’ve been to more than 50 countries.

An excerpt is from my father’s letter:
… The other day we had a sandstorm. It was 130° F and the winds came off the desert; it was like a blast furnace… We went on a drive through the mountains to Siliana, a small farming community. We were in this small bus and the driver was crazy. We were all scared except your mother. She was perfectly relaxed. Can you believe she was knitting?…

…Before we left I knew I would miss you all but never realized how much. The pictures of J & N were adorable and I really think about them a lot which makes it very, very difficult. I just wish some mornings that they would come into the room and jump on me…

Warren Skinner’s SWEET POTATO PIE

Boil or bake sweet potatoes until barely soft. Peel. Mash with 1/2  cup brown sugar and a few chips of butter. Add a fistful of raisins, chopped nuts, and 1Tbs cognac.   Pour into pan and swirl the top of the potatoes. Decorate with whole or half nuts. Pecans are good.  Drizzle honey into the swirls. Bake at 300 degrees, F. for 20 to 25 minutes.

PEACE CORPS YOGURT CAKE  

4 eggs, 3 oz. butter, 1 & 1/2 C plain or vanilla yogurt, 2 tsp. vanilla, 4 & 1/2 c. flour. Chopped figs, or raisins, prunes, dates, apricots, 1 and 1/2 c. sugar                                                      2 tsp. baking powder   Mix. Pour into greased and floured baking pan. Bake medium heat for one hour. (350)   Variations: Add juice from 2 oranges, and grated rind of one. Or use lemon yogurt, juice and grated rind.

My mother sent me photos of Warren and of my father and her at the swearing –in. Unfortunately,  they seem to have gotten lost in the mail. If they resurface, I’ll post them.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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10 Responses to Peace Corps Postcard #3: Where’s Warren?

  1. Love that your mom was knitting! Fun to hear of the potlucks.

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  2. Your parents are amazing people Lisa! What a legacy for your family, what lessons they teach by their actions. I’ve enjoyed these stories very much and I think your mom should start a blog!
    xo

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  3. Love the part about your mom knitting on the crazy bus ride! Warren may be easier to find now that “the internet is on computers” a quote from an almost 90 yr old aunt 🙂

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  4. What a lovely story. I love the Sweet potato pie recipe. I would just add a bit of condensed canned give the pie a little lighter texture but otherwise a great recipe. Will try the yogurt cake. Thanks Barbara. Sometimes, using the internet can bring an abrupt closure or give misleading information when trying to find old friends.

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  5. Love Barbara’s “voice,” in her writing, as I love yours Lisa. The image of all those people coming for spaghetti dinners, and Batty and Pill! Ha. Another great post.

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  6. Barbara Klein says:

    Wish you were all there! Knitting is great for calming your nerves. Ask Lisa. Remember the pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns?

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  7. A beautiful look back on amazing memories, Lisa. I cannot imagine having parents who volunteered for the peace corps; you certainly don’t come from run of the mill stock!

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  8. Coming East says:

    Not many people like your parents, Lisa. Salt of the Earth! Loved your parents’ excerpts.

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  9. Janet Alley says:

    My brother-in-laws uncle, who passed away recently had a good friend named Warren Skinner.
    I believe it is the same Warren that your parents knew, because this Warren Skinner was also in the Peace Corps. The uncle has letters from Warren but lost contact.. He too was wondering “Where’s Warren?” I wish we could figure out what happened to him.

    Like

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