John Ernest Bassford
  • 75 years old
  • Date of birth: Jun 21, 1928
  • Date of passing: Jan 1, 2004
Let the memory of John Ernest be with us forever
This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, John Ernest Bassford, 75, born on June 21, 1928 and passed away on January 1, 2004. We will remember him forever.
Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Melissa Bogner on 21st June 2016

"Nestled in southern Maryland is a small town where ‘everybody knows your name’. It’s the kind of town that still makes a resident laugh every time they speak with a telemarketer. Here is the typical pitch: Telemarketer, “Alright, great! I’ll just need your city and state, please.” Me, “Okay, it’s Hollywood, Maryland.” Telemarketer: “I’m sorry. Did you say Hollywood….{silence} Maryland? Did you mean California?” Me: “Yes, I said Hollywood, Maryland. It really does exist.” As a child, I never felt like the neighboring small cities, Lexington Park and Great Mills, were ‘connected’ with our little township.  However, Hollywood and Leonardtown were more like close cousins.  The same remains true today.

When my parents separated I was five years old years old and my brother, Michael, was an infant.  My mother squeezed everything she could fit into her blue Volkswagen Beetle. I recall glancing out the passenger window as we drove away.  We headed to my mother’s hometown of Hollywood where we moved in with my grandparents, Poppop and Mommom, better known in town as ‘John & Mary Lou’. They lived in the heart of Hollywood, which meant you could literally walk to the nearest convenience store (Early Bird) or bar (Toot’s & Dew Drop).  My grandparent’s small quaint white house with a tin roof rested on a hill where tall orange daylilies grew. Those flowers covered your clothing in orange sticky goop if you touched them. Crank-out windows covered a narrow front porch from one end to the other.  Upon entering, you’d see a built-in set of painted white shelves holding old glass dishes and knick knacks.  One dish held very old candy that would crack your teeth apart if you chomped it too aggressively. No one dared to eat that candy.  Straight ahead had been a carpeted living room and two mismatched couches on each side.  A cluttered array of family photos covered the dark wood paneled walls. The remaining wall held a faux wood flower-shaped clock sandwiched between matching sconces. There were three bedrooms and a petite kitchen with an eat-in dining area. Poppop and Mommom were the proud parents of five good-looking children – Janice (my mother), Donnie, Terry, Debbie and Kristi.

Poppop’s favorite pastime was cooking. No matter what day of the week it was, something delicious was cooking on the stove.  The aromas always gave me a cozy feeling.  He was constantly trying to feed us some tasty dish he cooked up and then fished for compliments in return. With an ear-to-ear smile, he’d firmly wrap his arm around you while repeating, “Its good, ain’t it?  Ain’t it good?!”  We’d laugh, hug him back, and praise him for his perfected meals. That man could make a simple cheeseburger and you’d crave five more of them afterward.  After every meal he’d sit outside on the dilapidated concrete front steps smoking cigarettes. It’s a memory of him that I miss. He’d sit there quietly for hours at a time and I often wondered what was going through his mind. I believe it was his way of relaxing and letting go of life’s day-to-day turmoil. He was a man of few words but many smiles. Another one of Poppop’s favorite activities was going to the flea market on Saturday mornings. He often came home from the market bragging about the deals he’d found. So, when he walked in carrying a huge crocheted ceiling-to-floor plant holder made of colored yarn, I smiled with excitement and pretended to like it. His enthusiasm was contagious in that way.  If a day of flea market shopping wasn’t in order, it wasn’t uncommon to find both Mommom and Poppop sitting in the kitchen together listening to ‘The People’s Market’ show on their old wooden radio. It was sort of like a radio talk show except its only listeners had been locals who wanted to buy or sell junk. For example, a person would dial in and say, “I have a high chair for sale. I’d like $10 for it.”  Then a buyer would call in wanting to purchase that item.  As humorous as it sounds, that was a typical way to do business before the internet.

Yard sales were a part of the lifestyle.  If you lived in the County, you most likely enjoyed yard sales, not because you were poor but because it was fun to find good deals. Moreover, you’d see friends and family during your early morning adventures. Occasionally, our family held their own yard sales to sell their accumulated stuff.  My grandparent’s youngest daughter, Kristi, was closest to my age and the joy of my childhood. We were more like sisters. Kristi and I would setup a small food stand to sell our yummy lemonade and cookies. We took great pride in designing our colorful ‘sale sign’ so no one could refuse us without feeling guilty about it. At 10 cents a cup and 25 cents a cookie, you couldn’t beat that deal. Often times, Mommom and Poppop took us to the flea market with them and we LOVED it!  We frequently came home with multicolored rabbit foot key chains, cowgirl hats, or clip-in feather hair accessories.  We clipped the feathers directly onto our hair barrettes or onto the back of our cowgirl hats.  I wish I had pictures of how adorable we looked.

Kristi and I were country girls who’d stay outdoors for hours. It was the kind of weather that made us feel ‘alive’ inside.  The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and we could smell the flowers swaying in the gentle breeze. We took turns riding on the handle bars of Kristi’s bicycle then laughed every time one of us plunged to our demise. Cuts, scrapes and bruises were a stinging reminder of how much fun you had outside that day. Behind the house and down a hill were the old railroad tracks where we used to catch tadpoles and frogs. We’d study their movements for a bit then release them back in their environment.  That notion didn’t apply after we built our first ant farm.  We were proud of our ant farm so we left it on the kitchen counter to show off. That wasn’t a smart move since the ants quickly escaped and found their way into the food cupboards. That had been the only time I ever saw my grandmother truly upset with me and who could blame her?  She grabbed her old wire-ended fly swatter and slapped the backs of our legs with it.  It was comical because we pretended it hurt as we crouched forward with each little swat. Mommom was always a gentle loving soul so when she got angry it was amusing to watch. Surprisingly, she didn’t get mad at us for taking cans of spray paint from the shed to make ‘beautiful’ artwork all over the cement water well cover outside. I guess a multi-colored well cover was more attractive than ant colonies in the kitchen.

Adjacent to the house was a strip of woods dividing us from the neighbors. Kristi and I used to make forts under the tree branches, spread out blankets and eat our snacks and candy under the shade. That included Atomic Fireballs. I never did, and still don’t, like fireballs but they had been a ‘hot’ commodity during our childhood.  Every kid liked them so I pretended I enjoyed having my mouth on fire.  Sweet tea was readily available but we were usually covered in dirt so we drank water straight from the garden hose. We were easily amused with a dirt driveway and a few small rocks to carve out our Hopscotch blocks.  An old rusted basketball hoop was located on the side of the yard where we played H-O-R-S-E. On pretty days, we’d try to catch butterflies. It required a lot of patience and was somewhat competitive. Kristi caught some gorgeous, colorful butterflies and I remember feeling envious. My butterflies looked more like unsightly moths dying for some attention. Honeysuckle bushes lined the right side of the yard and we picked many of them for a taste of sweetness. Buttercups grew all over and we’d hold one up to our chin to show our fondness of butter. If our chins didn’t reflect yellow, we’d pick another until it did.  Evidently, some of those buttercups were defective because we were certain we liked butter. Speaking of butter…. Sunburns were a steady occurrence and Mommom’s old regimen had been to rub butter on our sensitive skin. Unfortunately, our skin never felt relieved by that method; however, it did smell nice. I’d like to think we felt like ‘buttered beauties’. In the evenings, Mommom gave us old mason jars and we’d run out in the front yard trapping lightning bugs. We poked holes in the metal lids and kept them overnight. I loved how they’d light up the room at night in a silent, blinking sort of fashion. Some of the breathing holes weren’t big enough so a few lightning bugs suffered as a result but we did our best.  To top the night off, Mommom made us buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon.  She’d always cut the crust off the bread.  I felt special when she did that which was odd because I actually liked the crust. I was a follower then so whatever Kristi liked, so did I.  Between buttercups, buttered sunburns, and buttered toast, it’s clear that butter played a big role in our lives.

Indoor living had its own set of rules. Mommom reminded us about conserving water so Kristi and I would put on our cutesy one-piece bathing suits and float around in the bath tub making soapy Mohawks on each other. Of course water always escaped onto the floor and then we’d hear Mommom’s stern little lady’s voice, “Kristi! I better not hear any more water splashing out of that tub!”  “Uh oh, she’s a little upset again,” and we’d softly giggle. Occasionally, we’d braid each other’s wet hair after evening bath time so that we’d wake up with wild, wavy hair the next day.  It took hours to do those tiny braids on each other.  We usually sat on the floor in the living room watching shows like Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company, or Hee Haw to kill time while braiding. We were captivated by the beauty of Cheryl Tiegs and Farrah Fawcett.  I dreamt of looking like them someday but that never happened. I was boney and flat chested until adulthood. A TV guide was essential.  We never wanted to miss an airing of Coal Miner’s Daughter or Saturday Night Fever. John Travolta had been one of our many celebrity crushes. But if we really wanted to feel ‘boy crazy’, we watched ‘The Outsiders’. Throughout the movie we’d express our unwavering love for each cast member, even ‘Ponyboy’. I knew I didn’t stand a chance to land Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon or Rob Lowe, but I was willing to settle for Ralph Macchio or C. Thomas Howell if either would have me.  “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold. –Johnny.”

During the winter, Mommom baked more often and Kristi and I helped her. In return, she let us eat the leftover raw cookie dough or cake batter. We never had a problem keeping ourselves occupied. We’d mold a wire hanger into the shape of a poodle then weave and loop yarn through it until it resembled a fluffy little dog.  The yarn kept rolling until our projects became masterpieces. The remaining yarn was used for ‘string art’ – ‘Witch’s Broom’ or ‘Cat’s Whiskers’.  Endlessly, we tried to come up with new string tricks. I would have been great at that if only I had four more sets of hands to help me hold down those strings. If we had extra ribbon lying around, we made braided-ribbon barrettes for our hair. Sometimes, Kristi would lie on the living room floor, bend her knees then press her feet onto my chest, lifting me high in the air. I’d spread my arms out and soar like an eagle in my imagination. That is, until she’d wiggle her toes into my chest and I’d laugh so hard that I’d fall onto the floor. ‘Paybacks’ were guaranteed. The laughter was nonstop until Mommom and Poppop came out ‘shushing’ us.

A special time for us had been when Mommom pulled out an old shoebox filled with letters Poppop had written to her while serving in the war. It was fascinating to hear her read some of the letters out loud to us. I viewed my grandfather as a superhero after that. He fought for our country. That’s something to feel proud of.  Plus, it explained his many quiet hours of sitting on the front steps.

Kristi owned a 45 record of a scary tale about a girl whose head was held on only by a ribbon.  Yellow Ribbon, in which a young girl wears a yellow ribbon around her neck and a young boy asks her about it, but she puts him off. The two grow up together and eventually marry with the boy/man often asking her about the ribbon, but she continues to disregard the subject as “not important” or “not the right time”. Finally when they are very old, she consents to have him untie the ribbon, and her head falls off.  All I remember of that record was, “…..and OFF came her head!”  I’d look at Kristi and cringe.  I couldn’t bear the thought of my own head being attached by a simple ribbon. What was considered scary in the early 80s was a far cry from what’s scary in today’s generation.

On Sundays, we awoke to Poppop coming in the front door with the fat Sunday newspaper. That was a big deal because Kristi and I loved the kid’s portion which included all sorts of trivia and word games.  Poppop knew we’d come hunting for it so he set it aside for us. Kristi typically shared the ‘newspaper fun’ with me unless she was grumpy.  Then, I’d have to watch her solve all the puzzles while I stewed in jealousy. My life would have abruptly ended if she didn’t allow me to assist her with the ‘Find the Object’ game.  Surely, Kristi needed my help in searching for the only hidden apple in a cluttered cartoon picture of ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’. Our whole family gathered on Sundays for dinner.  It’s amusing because ‘dinner’ was held promptly at 1:00 PM yet no one ever referred to it as lunch because our meals were more like entrees. We’d listen to country music from artists like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Alabama and Loretta Lynn. George Jones’ lyrics rejuvenated me every time I heard his sad songs. His music made me feel good about my life. I used to think, “Well, I’m not married. I don’t have any children. My dog isn’t dead and I have no debt to worry about.” Is this what grown-ups had to look forward to, I thought?  Funny, as an adult I no longer find those songs depressing. Instead, they’re pleasant reminders of my youth.  It had been a time when I felt such peace and joy inside. That carefree feeling you had a child never returns once life’s hardships and responsibilities take away the innocence.

It wasn’t unusual to leave the porch door open to let the cool night’s breeze flow into the house.  One night, a crazy bat whizzed past Poppop while he was sitting outside on the front steps. It flew into the living room literally like a ‘bat out of hell’. Kristi and I panicked and wrapped our heads up like Hijab girls because we were afraid the bat would flap its way into our hair and get stuck. It flew around the house with such madness. Poppop grabbed a broom and began swatting at it every chance he got. A piece of me felt sorry for the bat.  That creature was stuck in unfamiliar territory with screaming people jumping up and down. I don’t recall Mommom ever losing her cool though. Nothing seemed to scare that woman.  Eventually, the bat succumbed to his injuries.  You’d think Kristi and I would have backed away from the deceased animal but Poppop knew us better than that!  We checked it out a bit, using a stick to look at its pointy little teeth. We did it because we knew that opportunity wouldn’t find us again. Mission accomplished.

On any average day, Donnie used to nonchalantly come in the back door carrying a few dead squirrels that he’d shot with his BB gun. I was grossed out, yet fascinated. He’d cut the skin then peel it backward turning the fur coat inside out, detach, then cook it on the stovetop. As unpleasant as it was, I couldn’t look away because I was too curious.

Poppop used to play horseshoes and he was very good at it.  Back then, it wasn’t unusual to bring your kids inside a bar or in the bar’s backyard to watch a few horseshoe matches.  It felt like a hearty family gathering only folks were tipsy while chatting with your children. It was hilarious. We approached the giddy relatives who easily surrendered their spare change so Kristi and I could buy slices of pizza across the street at the Early Bird. Kristi and I were little hustlers and we knew which people to hit up and when. Life was easy going and rarely did you see the police patrolling around Hollywood.

I have memories of my grandmother and a few of her sisters, Aunt Piggy and Aunt Margaret Jane, clogging together as the country music blasted.  I couldn’t clog because I was too uncoordinated. Clogging is a type of folk dance in which the dancer’s footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm.

Visiting my great-grandmothers was when life got interesting. Mommom’s mother, Louise, lived a typical lifestyle.  She wore pretty jewelry and nice blouses and pants. Her house was near some of our cousins’ homes so we enjoyed prancing around the neighborhood visiting everyone.  Our cousin, Tania, usually came outside to play ‘Red Light, Green Light’ and ‘Mother May I?’ with us.  Then there was Poppop’s mother, Annie Ruth, who had been more of an ‘off the grid’ countryside woman.  Her tiny house had no indoor plumbing. That didn’t impact us because we were always outside playing in the woods. Honestly, I never realized some of our family had been poor. We were all happy-go-lucky so I never noticed anything was missing. Money didn’t matter because we had love and unity which was stronger than any dollar-valued thing.

Eventually, my brother and I moved in with my step-dad, who also lived in Hollywood, so we still had plenty of family togetherness.  My mother, Janice, played softball for the ‘Hollywood Swingers’ which sounds much more glamorous than it actually was.  She held an in-field position, usually short stop.  There was nothing more exciting than being ‘bat girl’ for the games.  Kristi and I switched out after each hitter, retrieving the bat once the player ran to first base. Many games were played at Woodburn’s farm, also located in Hollywood.  That was our favorite softball game location and the only time we didn’t want to be bat girls.  Instead, we’d run over and pet the cows and horses.  We’d take straw and purposely touch the electric fence, then chuckle. When that got old, we’d sneak into the coop and chase the chickens around a bit. I never went near the peacocks. They’re beautiful until they’re pissed off.  Then, you’d better get out of the way before they charged at you.  One time we got brave enough, or shall I say stupid, and grabbed a peacock egg from the coop.  We ran with the large egg thinking we could raise the baby peacock on our own. To keep the egg warm we ‘buried it’.  Obviously neither of us grew up to be gifted scholars because that was a fatal move of course.  The egg was freezing cold by the time we dug it up a week later so we cracked it open. Yup, it was dead. We felt a little sad and guilty but we quickly recovered.

The carnival was held at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD).  I don’t recall seeing anymore than three fire trucks present. It was a small flat top near the only traffic intersection in town. Our entire town attended. By that age, Kristi and I were interested in Terry and Debbie’s dating adventures.  We thought Terry’s now-husband, Mike, was really handsome. Most of our family hung out around the beer stand and dunking booth. Kristi and I actually volunteered to be in the dunking booth one time.  That was so much fun!  A kind, deaf girl always attended the carnival and we used to sign ‘I love you’ to her.  She’d sign back the same to us with a big smile upon her face. She had been so young when she passed away and I remember us feeling somber upon seeing her gravesite at St. John’s Catholic Church.  We stood at her tombstone in silence because our hearts felt sad for her and her family.  The carnival is where we met the many loves of our lives. We dolled ourselves up because chances were high we’d meet a cute boy that night and exchange home phone numbers. It sucked having a wall-mounted telephone connected to a spiral-corded receiver because you couldn’t roam far for privacy.

Kristi and I were friendly, cheerful girls who found appreciation in everything and everyone. We were reliable and many relatives trusted us to babysit their precious children. There isn’t anything I’d change about my childhood or the Hollywood family I grew up with. We learned the value of money as adults because L-O-V-E, not greed, came first in our family.  We compromised but never felt the need for anything. We were rich in God, loyalty, faith, laughter and togetherness.  When Poppop passed, a piece of our hearts went with him, same with Donnie. But we keep going because Life must carry on. After all these years, Mommom and most of our family still live in Hollywood. Our family continues to expand but our roots will forever remain the same – “Yes, we’re from ‘Hollywood,’ Maryland.”"

This tribute was added by Melissa Bogner on 21st June 2016

"Poppop, I miss you so much! I think about you all the time, and the memories we shared. I love you... and until we see each other again someday... xoxo.... Missy"

This tribute was added by Terry Derby on 21st June 2016

"God I miss you so much!  I think of you all of the time!  I'm sure God showers you with his love everyday."

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Terry Derby


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