Friday, January 28, 2011

Sepia Saturday Week 59 Mystery men awaiting (Click Here to Sepia site)


Men waiting for the train
Leechburg, PA   1900
 I found these two photos among  the collections of my aunt Virgina (Jinx) and although I know nothing about any of the people and the photos are  ragged, I thought they were interesting historical slices from the past.  This first  shows six men at the train station, so it was marked on the back, writing nearly faded away along with the year 1900.  No names, no other information.  Four of the men appear to  be smoking cigars.  All are wearing hats which would have been expected at that time, but I find the variance in dress interesting.  Check out the  middle man with long coat and derby and the short swing style jacket sported on the 2nd man from the right.  The 2nd man from the left looks like he is ready to bolt.  I wonder if they were meeting passengers on that train or waiting to board. Are any of the men relatives?  The man standing on the far right  resembles  my Grandmother Roses'  brother,  Bill.  Far more questions than answers here now. I expect they  must have known one another, else why would they have posed for the photo.  I could make up a wonderful tale using this photo and just may do that someday.   Leechburg, PA is a borough  about 15 miles from my home town in PA and was founded in 1850 by David Leech who purchased land from a local Native American, White Maddock.  In  better times it was a major port on the PA canal and home to steel mills, foundries, coal mines.  It is the first place where natural gas was used for industrial purposes in the country.  

The second photo is another historical snap and interests me, the decor of the place and the flashback to a time when hats were cleaned and shoes/boots were shined as a way to make a living.  I suspect one would starve today making a living at either or both services combined.  Again I know neither who the man is nor why my aunt had this photo.  Looks like he had a great business.  Is he the owner or a customer?

Apollo, PA Hat Cleaner  1926
I wonder if this photo may have been taken in the summer, around Memorial Day or the  4th of July with the flags and all the straw hats on the shelf along the right.  The back of the photo stated only "Apollo, PA 1926"  and I have added Hat Cleaner.  Apollo, PA is another  of the small boroughs near my home town.  As I was writing I recalled  learning in elementary school that Apollo, PA named after the Greek God is a palindrome,(before you grab your Funk and Wagnalls that is a word that is spelled the same forward or backward).  It was another steel town along the rivers out of Pittsburgh founded in 1895. 

These are my two mystery photos.  Both in poor condition and both intriguing.  Wish I had known about these when I could have asked my aunt for information.  As always click on the title to go to the Sepia Saturday host site where you can see other's photos. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Magpie 49 Ladies in the Snow Click Here to find the Magpie Site

Photographer:  Smile ladies, years along from now,
some may wonder what you're about on this icy wintry midday.
 Truth be told, I'm wonderin' myself. Smile now, there you are!

A trio of ladies from town decided one day to go down,
To get a fresh meal of ice fished for the creel.
They walked to the river with arrows in quiver
To spear  fish, come what may on the cold wintry day.  

While two had pulled arrows so sharp from the quiver
The third stood aside and remarked with a shiver
"I warn you, don't go past the crustiest snow
Lest you slip through the ice to the river."

The two left her stand apart on  the snow, and both walked most carefully so.
Then the ice gave a crack with a start they jumped back
And ran fast up the bank onto land past the flow.


Off the water so icy, they sped  one, two, thricey
As they climbed up the land, they all laughed "oh how grand
For tonight we'll eat  just 'taters a dicey!"


The moral is clear, when cold winter is here
Leave the ice fishing to ones who know better.
Keep  some  taters on hand for a hot meal so grand
That you'll not wish for fish in ice water.   

Ah well, my kind of limerick is  in response this week's Magpie prompt, something fitting for Sepia as well...Click on the title to this post to go to the Magpie site where you can link and read what others have done with the photo...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frank Ball Sepia Saturday 58 (Click here to get to the Sepia Sat site)

Frank and his dog, Pouch
Frank Ball was my paternal Grandfather, but I knew little about him, due to limited contact with the Ball family as I have mentioned before on this blog. He was born in 1893 in Jaszojka, Poland according to documents, but I believe this may be Jaszkowo a small village in west central Poland. All I remember about him is a vague recollection of his death in 1951 and the huge funeral for the small town, but I was only 6 years old then. Aunt Pearl who married Uncle Henry, the youngest son, told me that it was indeed a huge funeral, because Frank was well liked and mourned by many.

He was quite young by today’s standards, only 58 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Strange to know that I am older now than my grandfather was when he died.  Grandma Anna later told me, “He was too fat!” Heart disease seems genetic in the Ball family;  of the three sons, only Uncle Henry, the youngest survived to be 80; but Uncle Henry had heart ailments as well and cautioned his son Larry to “watch out for your heart, it’s in the family.” Uncle Edward, the eldest son died suddenly at 57, heart condition.  Of course my father, Lewis was the Army Air Corp pilot killed at 22 in World War II, missed that part of his heritage.  

Another genetic trait in the Ball family is the dimple in the chin, evident here in father youngest and middle son.  This distressed me for years, but now has become far less distinctive though the cheek dimples remain.  My son, Steve bore this mark as well. 
Frank appx. 1943 with youngest son
Henry and my Father, Lewis
Polish American Club in 2009 in Harwick, PA
 where Frank and Anna tended bar and ran tabs
In his spare time Frank tended bar and allowed folks to run a tab which was to be paid promptly on pay day, or else. The “or else” meant that Anna, his wife, my grandmother “cut them off.” She worked at the same tavern and would absolutely not allow further drinks and so the accounts were kept timely and the bar business prospered. Or else, the unpaid went elsewhere to imbibe and there were not many options in the small town of Harwick. When we were in PA in fall, 2009 we visited the town, found the tavern which was not opened and may likely be only for private meetings.    

Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
Year unknown, Anna Ball to the far left
Although Frank was a coal miner he managed to save money and buy land where he and Anna raised their sons and improved their standard of living.   She lived in the home after he passed and expected her sons to remain there.  Uncle Henry did not but departed for better employment in CA with his wife, incurring the wrath of Anna.  Only Edward, the eldest son, stayed behind, content to live on the land. 

The few times I visited the Ball homestead the home was overpowering and dreary to me with a mysterious cellar and rooms that led who knows where. I always felt haunted by what my young mind  felt to be the ghost of my father in his younger days, and since no one talked about that I stuffed it.   No one knew the trauma I felt with the few visits; I never felt at ease there, always longing to go back home to my maternal grandmother. They had a chicken pen behind the home and I dreaded those birds.  I remember eating a plate of cookies with my cousin at one visit, being well amused by stuffing ourselves. 

The house was the equivalent of the house that Jack built and seemed always to be in process. 
Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
A cousin provided these two photos of the Ball home; I believe these may have been taken back in the  40's  Eventually it was all sold off  by Esther, Edward's wife who inherited everything, manipulating the elderly Anna into disinheriting everyone but herself.  She provided  for her daughters and herself and lives in a nearby town;  the land  is part of where a big Pittsburgh Valley Mills Mall stands.  Now Edward and  Esther's 3  daughters, Henry's son and daughter and myself are all that remain of Frank  Ball's legacy.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Pearl maintained contact with Mom and me all my life, not so with Esther and Edward, but that is another story.  The petty jealousies of the family are water under the bridge and the survivors  have to live with themselves.  Esther's daughters, my cousins, have been in touch with me but we share limited memories.  

Frank Ball with Bessie
Year unknown
 Another story is that Frank was unsure what to do with the paycheck and when so paid by the mine, set them aside in a box until industrious Anna investigated. By that time they had accumulated some funds and were able to purchase land, a dream come true for Polish immigrants. I cannot verify the veracity but  speculate it could  be as he was not that literate, however I question how they lived in the coal community without funds.  Another mystique of my roots I'll never know.  

I have written before how the names of my Polish ancestors changed depending on which census taker, official, immigration agent recorded their names.  I  almost understand that dilemma with the  difficult Polish spellings, however I am told that Frank's last name was actually Bal and that officials changed it to Ball.  Now how much easier could it have been! Being  a compliant immigrant he adopted that spelling.  I never could understand growing up how we had the name Ball from Polish and suspected it must have been shortened from something.  But years ago, Uncle Henry revealed that it was Bal and changed to suit the officials; I have not found any research into the spelling Bal.  I did not like Ball as my last name because it rhymed with many things and I was teased; my mother had remarried leaving me the only one with that last name.  Often teachers thought my heritage to be English as Ball is a well known name back to Colonial times.  Somewhere about the age of 10 or so, I overcame peevishness to my last name and whenever someone made fun of my name I was quick to retort rhyming theirs to the absurd and or resorting to some sort of physical activity in  retaliation.  

I have hit brick walls trying to learn anything about this paternal side but recently on my Ancestry.com research I struck gold, finding Frank’s petition for Naturalization in 1926. So little by little my investigative skills took over and I have traced his arrival in the United States into New York in 1913, when he was 20 aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm III. So far I have not found him on the ship’s manifests. I find no information about his having any other relatives anywhere in the country.  Nor do I know how he met Anna or the date of their marriage. Such questions might not have been had my father lived. 

By 1920 Frank and Anna met, married, had their first son, Edward,  and are living in Jenner, Somerset, PA according to the 1920 census. By 1926 he and Anna  had moved to Harwick or Springdale, PA when Frank applied for Naturalization in PIttsburgh; I find it interesting that the miners were encouraged to do so by the Unions who of course wanted votes for their candidates. Nothing has changed today, different immigrant groups but the same strategies continue. The 1930 census shows them living in Harwick, PA where he worked the mines and bought his land.
This is the only picture I have of both grandparents and I know little about it, not the place, not the date, not all the people in the photo.  Frank looks the same in all his photos, but Anna appears almost Oriental looking here. 
Left to right, Anna Kudzia Ball, her sister Mary Wojnar (aka Wagner) , Frank Ball,
 below, unknown  man and woman to the right   Unknown place or date
As always,click on the title to this post to get to the Sepia Site where others show  their fascinating photos and stories. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Old drinkables Century old Scotch

 It caught my eye, the news item yesterday about the discovery of 100 year old scotch, buried in the  Antarctic by noted explorer Ernest Shackleton, of the British Antarctic Nimrod Expedition in 1907.  Three of 11 found bottles of the Mackinlays scotch were flown to Scotland by private jet, for lab analysis and tasting.  The stash was found under the floorboards of Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds on Rose Island. I do not like Scotch nor whiskeys  but this might  be of great intrigue and appeal.  That the  extreme frigid  temperatures at 22 below and deeper did not damage but preserved the bottles.

 Here are two of many links to this tale
 http://www.newser.com/story/109938/100-year-old-scotch-back-from-antarctic-depths.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35259897/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/

The article I read mentioned that $80 a glass cognac is common in some of London's "look at me " bars; likely the same here in the states at the high priced venues in New York, Chicago, DC, etc .  I do not drink cheap liquor, but $80 a glass is something I've not nor am likely to experience. 

Further readings indicate that there was Brandy as well but it is not being mentioned as the owners of Whyte and Mackays. which bought out Mackinlays  are considering whether or not to bring it back to market. 

This news is timely as we experience  the  siege of another cold winter, not yet  being able to head south as winter roams the country and one thing and another keeps us put.  Although our temperatures have been somewhat  moderate at  the teens and balmy at the twenties until this week where we have predictions of single digits, this news affirms the benefit of a nip in the winter at night. If it is taken along on scientific explorations to the ends of the earth, what more can be said? Around these parts old timers say we remain healthy because the wintry freezes wipe out germs and in comparison to moderate temperatures or equatorial, we do have fewer diseases and a healthier stock of folks.

I store my favorite Polish Belevedere vodka in the freezer where  it  does not freeze but thrives; who drinks warm vodka?  We have an accumulation of  old  boozes, moved from CA with us;  left overs from Ca days of  entertaining where so many drank so many different things that we maintained a rather fully stocked bar for parties and hospitality. Some of those whiskeys, gin and scotch are ten to twenty years old and still  good.  I did finish a bottle of 20 year old Drambuie last winter one evening visiting with a friend and sipping.  Wonder why I can enjoy Drambuie, from scotch,  but not scotch or whiskeys.  I have noticed lately in my magazines even the likes of Martha Stewart are promoting recipes enticing women to drink Bourbons, whiskeys, and yes scotch.  This might be an attempt to recapture customers,  like me who prefer wines and vodkas or to entice the uninitiated to the realm of whiskeys.  I even saw a recipe for a whiskey cosmopolitan, but I turned up my nose as I am fond of those and quite satisfied with vodka.     

I can see the ads for whiskeys now, "drink Scotch--it is well preserved at 100 years of age and you can be too!"  Watch for that ad during half time commercials this Super Bowl! That cold  preserves, think cyrogenics while the heat destroys might be reflective of faith based heat of demons and hell. That Shackleton or someone in his crew brought such  essentials to Antarctica is reflective of what is important in cold weather, a nip of the favorite does good things.  Long ago, alcohol was considered medicinal, or perhaps that was the excuse, "a sip for purely medicinal purposes ya' know."  I am not thinking about the ravages of alcohol on those who cannot handle it and  have no business drinking but how after trudging around the bleary landscape the Nimrod'ers surely enjoyed their sips.

Endurance or survival despite the trials of the cold must be an indicator of  something good. 
 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Unplayed Notes, Unsung Songs Magpie Tales 48

The tattered, burned sheet music
Reflects notes never played,
Songs never sung,
Music unheard...
A symbol of  trips never taken,
People never met,
Experiences not encountered
Promises unkept
A silence of wasted notes.

Alongside the other sheet creased and torn
Where notes of  harmony and melody collided
Music over played, off key
Sharps played as flats,
Minor chords  played in major
Discordance in place of an etude, no silence in the clamor
Reflecting life out of  balance, overwhelmed, out of tune
Unmindful of the Great Conductor.

The Grand Maestro nodding gently tips the baton directing the musicians
Players who recognize the lead blending into a chorus
Of music made to dance, skip and hum.
Live life to the tunes and notes of each day
Strum the heartbeats in perfect meter
Keep the rhythm and balance among harmonies
Leave no unplayed symphony behind.


This is my contribution to Magpie this week. While posts are not too late until Tuesday, I had to cease tinkering with this one.  So many songs to sing! To read more from a multitude of different writers, poets, click on the title to this post to browse  from the Magpie site.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Train Wreck Sepia Saturday 57

Train wreck late  to mid 1920's Here in MN
Just a short one this week and rather late for me; here is a photo of the train wreck I mentioned last week.  We know nothing about it other than Jerry's maternal  grandfather, Charlie,   is the man standing with his arms crossed in front of himself and  to the left of a taller man in the back of the photo. You have to click on the photo to enlarge it and see this.   Last week I shared one of Charlie hauling debris with his team of horses and wondered if it might have been from this same wreck because one of the gentlemen, dressed in a suit and hat and  overseeing the process was observing in that photo too.  We can see this was an old steamer train, and the rail road line CM & St. P.may have been part of the Midwest.  We are not familiar with that either.  Wonder how they righted this giant locomotive without use of today's rigs?  Must have been a chore for many men.

Perhaps we can learn more about this photo and incident by taking it to a meeting of our local La Crescent Historical Society or digging through their archives.  We are not certain if this was here along the track of town, elsewhere  in the area perhaps a couple miles down the track toward Dakota or the other direction toward Houston.  But we were thrilled to salvage this from Aunt Marie's; it is on a board in an old wooden frame the back of which is nailed into the fame with bent over old nails.  Jerry tried removing the back board  very carefully, but only got so far as a couple nails would not dislodge so he felt better to leave it be and not damage it.  He has it hanging proudly in his little corner of the downstairs TV/rec room where he can view it from his recliner. Here's a closing sneak at that exhibit, not Sepia, just the way at ease where today he will be found watching the NFL playoffs--my  recliner is off to the  right where I will be rooting  for my hometown Steelers, singing Blackbird bye bye to the Baltimore Ravens! 
Train wreck photo on wall, Jerry's recliner
This is my Sepia Saturday post this week.  To see others, click on the title above to this post where you can link to our international community site and enjoy many other photos of people, places and times...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

You  might get tired of hearing this, but I LOVED this book, all 398 pages of the story, 8 pages of Acknowledgements and 50 pages of notes; I do not recall reading a book through  including the notes in recent times or ever other than James Michener's later  books, in fact Laura Hillenbrand, the author reminds me of Michener in style and depth of research.  "Unbroken"  on the best sellers lists currently is the story of Louie Zamperini,  noted runner in the Berlin Olympic games and in 1943 an Army Air Corps  Lieutenant, bombardier on the Green Hornet, a B-24, which is shot down in the Pacific.  Louie, Allen Philips, the pilot and Mac, the tail gunner survive the crash and float on a raft for 46 days before being captured by the Japanese and taken prisoner in May 1943.  Actually Mac does not make it  and is buried at sea by the two men.  I have read much about World War II because of my father but little of my readings have been about the war in the Pacific.  When I first heard this book was in  process I knew I would have to read it because Laura has written only one other book, "Seabiscuit" which I absolutely enjoyed and have kept in my library and I enjoyed her detail and writing and research.  I have likely heard about Louie Zamperini but not paid attention but as I learned that it was a B-24, same plane as my father's I knew I'd b reading this book.

Louie Zamperini
Louie is still alive today at 94 in southern California.    How he or any of the men captured by the Japanese as POW's survived and endured is beyond belief.  As Zeke Jennings wrote in his review of this book,  "Think back to the worst experience of your life. Chances are, it pales in comparison to what Louis Zamperini went through..."  To state that they were tortured is an inadequate understatement and to know that some could and did survive is a testament to human endurance and something greater than all of us.

This book has a great deal of detail and drawings of the B-24's the complexity of those early days of navigation and the problems with that bomber, the best that the US had at the time.  Pages 59-60 describe the early B-24's and the personal qualities needed in men who flew them and by page 61 the research specifies the deadly accidents attributable to that plane in the early days of navigation.  I had learned about the accidents in training and of course lived with that legacy but reading it again gave me chills.  By page 82 the affect of human errors and miscalculations is discussed along with the faulty fuel systems and the fact that the  24's were notorious for fuel leaks; I can relate to that.   On Page 84,  I learned that 52,173 Army Air Corps men were killed in combat in World War II and in the Pacific those flight crews had less than a  50/50 chance of survival.   I learned that by design the B-24's could not ditch  but sank immediately due to their open fuselages.  There were rarely funerals held for the  B-24 crews, rarely  bodies were found and during the Pacific  missions  1/4 of a barracks could be lost at once.  "The men were just gone and that was the end of it."   

But this book is about Louie, his boyhood in Torrance, California, his Olympic triumphs,  his education at USC, his enlistment in World War II, and his captivity, endurance and release and tormented existence following the war where he turns to alcohol and then his  big life release as he is saved at a Billy Graham crusade in southern CA.  It's hard to describe Louie, a man with a sense of humor and determination that sustains him through movements from bad to worse in the Japanese camps, beatings,  isolation,  starvation, and unceasing nightmares.  The Bird, a Japanese soldier, so named by the POWs is Louie's primary menace in the camps and becomes his civilian nightmare.  The Japanese knew of his Olympic fame and enjoyed all the more subduing him.   When  Louie was released and being rehabilitated and ready to be sent  home from Okinawa he is so enjoying meeting up with former colleagues that he asks to stay just a bit longer to  see more of them. He is partying too and enjoying life again, though still battling dysentery and other physcial problems.  Everyone had believed him long dead  because the Japanese never reported that he was held captive and the Red Cross  never verified men in the camps; any man missing was declared dead after 13 months.   Louie got a big kick out of surprising them and watching their faces and hearing their words when they saw him in person!

The horrors and atrocities the  prisoners endured are unimaginable.  That any of them survived is a miracle.  I learned that the POWs in the  Japanese camps were executed  when Allied forces approached, that the Japanese  preferred to kill the men rather than turn them back to their countries.  Pg. 314-315 cite "Japan held  some  132,000 POWs from America, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland and Australia.  Of those, nearly  36,000 died, more than one in four.  Americans fared particularly badly: of the 34,648 Americans held by Japan, 12,935--more than 37% died.  By comparison only 1% of Americans  held by Nazis and Italians died. Japan murdered thousands of POWs on death marches, and worked thousands of others to death in slavery..."  Back in civilian life, these men did not get the counseling and treatments pervasive and  given today; what is  known today as Post traumatic  stress was not recognized. That they made it through hell barely prepared them fro their freedom and return to life.   Pg. 349, "Their dignity had been obliterated, replaced with a pervasive sense of shame and worthlessness." But Louie survives and ultimately thrives, marries, has children and outlives his brother,  sisters and wife .  In his 70's he takes up skateboarding and the book includes a photo of him on a skateboard at 81!  He runs the torch in five Olympic games including  one in Japan where he runs it past the former POW camp site.  Louie founds a nonprofit Victory Boys Camp for lost boys whom he takes fishing, swimming, horseback riding, camping and skiing.  One ungovernable boy is such a problem that Louie had to be deputized by a sheriff to gain custody of the boy.

Pg. 384, "Well into his 10th decade of life between the occasional broken bone he could still be seen perched on skis merrily cannonballing down mountains.  He remained infectiously, incorrigibly cheerful..."  He believes that everything happened for a reason  and all things eventually  come to good.    When he contacted Laura to write his story he reasoned that if she could describe an old horse, she could surely tell his tale.  She does this so  eloquently and has chosen the photos and events as carefully as her words.  The Epilogue is very touching  with summaries of the lives of Allen Phillips  and Bill Harris, a marine POW who stays in the Marines and becomes a Lt. Colonel but who disappears in the Korean War in 1950.   

Recently there have been news stories featuring Louie which is timely with the release of this book.  I knew it was one I'd want to read and it is one I will keep and treasure.   I absolutely recommend it.  Resilience, survival, and faith.  As I am  putting this on  my blog as my first completed book read in 2011, I have just learned that Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to Unbroken.   Wouldn't it be great to see Louie in the film? 

For more about the author, who is a favorite of mine, check out  Wikipedia at   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Hillenbrand

or this link http://www.cfids-cab.org/MESA/Hillenbrand.html 
and read of her struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome in    A Sudden Illness -- How My Life Changed as published in the New Yorker.  And this link about  her http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-hillenbrand-laura.asp

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sepia Saturday 56 The Model Ts and Horse Drawn

Charlie Behrndt driving horse team in La Crescent
Appx 1920's
This is my response to the horse drawn photo on the Sepia site, from the Library of Congress.   I'm back to sorting photos from Jerry's side, ones we rescued from his 93 year old mother's stacks when we moved her into the nursing home in September.  Among our many frustrations with her is the big unanswered question, "why  didn't she share any of this stash earlier so the family might have been able to identify people and events, when folks  were alive and around when there could have been discussions?."  Such is the theme song of her life, self centered, poor decisions with little care about others as I have written about before but this is not about her only as  she is the source of these photos....  Jerry has most fond  memories of his maternal Grandpa Charlie Behrndt and knows that Grandpa Charlie did not  like to drive instead leaving the driving to Grandma Esther a diffferent attitude for that time. Charlie preferred his horses, so when we found this old photo where Aunt Marie had written across the back, "Pa, moving rail road debris"  it brought a laugh.  Unfortunately it was not dated, so we can guess it is likely the  1920's and easily identified as winter or spring thaw.    We have a very old photo, mounted on a splintered wooden board, nailed into a frame, of a rail road wreck  that came from Aunt Marie; it shows the old steamer train well off the track in the snow.  Jerry has it hanging near his evening chair downstairs; it won't scan as is and I have not been able to get a good photo of it to share here, but we think it is the same event.  We recall Aunt Marie saying that Pa (Charlie) picked up extra money when there was something to be hauled.  Notice the  gentleman standing off to the  left side  dressed with hat, that same man and others dressed like that are present in the train wreck photo.   He appears to be some sort of official overseeing the process. 


Charlie Behrndt beside the Model T appx 1923
 This photo shows Charlie dressed up beside the family auto, Model T. Reportedly the family  was not at all wealthy, but for  farmers of this time to have an auto seems somewhat on the prosperous end of things to me.  There is some speculation that the auto may have been a gift to Charlie when he and Esther married a dowry from her parents, the Wetchens.  The back of the photo and the suit Charlie is wearing (seen in other photos of the same day)  indicate it was taken at his parent's  50th anniversary,  in  1923. There's someone taking the photo, whose shadow appears in the left.  Jerry loves this photo and wants to have it enlarged and framed to hang in the relatives' gallery downstairs.

One last auto photo for this post shows Charlie's in laws, or Esther's parents, Dietrick and Louisa Wetchen coming or going in their automobile.  Aunt Marie's writing  on the top; they lived in the city--La Crosse and had come out to the farm to visit Esther and the girls.  Guessing again that this is in the 1920's but no later than 1925 because Dietrick died  August 1925.  None of the color selections that  abound now for vehicles  were available back then and really the designs show little variation, although the pair of greats  are going  top down!

This is my first Sepia Saturday post of 2011; to see  others' contributions to our international community, click on the title to this post above. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Magpie Tales 47 Sidewinder

She: "What the hell do you suppose it is? Nothing collectible in here for me."    

He:  "Well it's but a part of or a piece of something that combines with something else in this box of parts."

She:  "Brilliant! But then what is it?"

He:  "If you say so.....remember I am not the one who paid  $20 for this trunk of junk!  Buying a pig in a poke and look what it got! Maybe all the pieces scattered through come together to make one something..old or rare or even useful.."

Another younger She voice:  "Dad, Mom, where are you?"

He:  "Out in the shed,  Lizzie...."

Lizzie:  "Oh, guess what happened today at school?  Never mind, I'll tell you, I won the story poetry contest for the third week in  a row now!  That puts me at the top of the chart for the class; I'm 60 points ahead of the rest...they won't catch me now! And that means I am going to go on to the District finals in Philly, I just know it. And that means I have to start thinking right now what I'll write on for....whoa, What's that?"

He:  "Where have I heard that question before?"

She:  "Exactly what I asked before Mr. Puzzle Piecer commented on scattered pieces making a whole or something wise  like that...."

Lizzie:  "That's it Mom, I'm going to my room to  work on my poem for Philly!  It'll be 'Scattered Pieces!'  Thanks for the idea..nobody's gonna believe this my Mom had an idea that I could write about....later....."

He:  "Well, damn, there is more......."

She:  "It looks like a pipe..and wire and......"

He:  "It's a roller spool and wire and here is the other side of the one sided winder you were pondering......"

She: "Put it all together and still what is it?"

He:  "Well it's heavy cast iron and shiny as glass....there's a cog on the inside here to thread the wire; and a clamp.   Looks like it fastened to a work bench by  the vise clamp...this small pin moves the cogs...wait a minute...I'm  getting my Kovel's Guide to Old Tools.....it looks like, really a sidewinder....the Union Army used them in the Civil War to tighten the  wire bales on the....."

She:  "Umm hmm, right, a sidewinder...next?  I'll go mix up the martinis and start dinner..."

Later that evening, Lizzie shares her rough draft of her 'Scattered Pieces' poem.."Dad I need a punch line....".

Mom loves estate sales, auctions and junk
Dad loves the tools all metals and hunks.
Mom bought a trunk full of metal scattered  pieces
Dad put it together with screw drivers and greases.
Dad laughed at the pieces, scattered all through the trunk
But it kept him quite  busy those nuts, bolts and funk.
His work really paid off in value today
It entertained him for hours, will he sell it for pay?

Scattered pieces put together one piece made from many
With imagination and thought it grows into  plenty
Plenty of tools and gadgets and such useful stuff
But even Mom never dreamed  of a sidewinder in the rough.
Scattered pieces of such like the folks we all know
Brought together into one, our friendships may grow
At school, stores and churches wherever we wend
We can bring them together as  family and friend.

Mom laughed out loud for she'd only paid twenty
Not one dollar more, for those pieces aplenty .
But Dad had the last laugh,  a side winder tattered
The price in Kovels  became  all that  now mattered
It's worth is hundreds of dollars his old tool book said
Such worth from scattered pieces grew inside our old shed.

Try taking scattered pieces today wherever you go
Keep them close together, it works, now you know...

Lizzie:  "Dad, help me here, we need catch words to rhyme and a good finale!"

He: " Keep on thinking, girlie, you're  onto something there....."

Mom: "All thanks to my scattered trunk pieces for the inspiration.."

This has been my feeble attempt using the prompt posed for this week's Magpie Tales.  To read what others have written on the same prompt, click on the title to this post.  A sidewinder is my purely fictional way of portraying this whatever it is along with its fictional  use. It all makes a story.  If someone knows of such a contraption...please let me know...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Woody the Woodpecker is alive and well and destructive

We have heard that they are not often sighted and occur in pairs, the pileated woodpecker, the model for Woody the Woodpecker of our cartoon fame.  I remember laughing like silly when I watched Woody's antics.  Wikipedia offers this  "Woody Woodpecker cartoons were first broadcast on television in 1957 under the title The Woody Woodpecker Show, which featured Lantz cartoons bookended by new footage of Woody and live-action footage of Lantz. Woody has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.

Woody Woodpecker is an animated cartoon character, an anthropomorphic acorn woodpecker who appeared in theatrical short films produced by the Walter Lantz animation studio and distributed by Universal Pictures. Though not the first of the screwball characters that became popular in the 1940s, Woody is perhaps the most indicative of the type.  Woody was created in 1940 by storyboard artist Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, who had previously laid the groundwork for two other screwball characters, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, at the Warner Bros. cartoon studio in the late 1930s. Woody's character and design would evolve over the years, from an insane bird with an unusually garish design to a more refined looking and acting character."

I remember the Woody Woodpecker Song, do you?   Actually he was one of my  favorite cartoons so I suppose I should honor his nemesis here in MN in our yard, but really. " In 1947, Woody got his own theme song when musicians George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss wrote "The Woody Woodpecker Song", making ample use of the character's famous laugh. Kay Kyser's 1948 recording of the song, with Harry Babbitt's laugh interrupting vocalist Gloria Wood, became one of the biggest hit singles of 1948 Other artists did covers, including Woody's original voice actor, Mel Blanc. Lantz first used "The Woody Woodpecker Song" in the 1948 short Wet Blanket Policy, and became the first and only song from an animated short subject to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song; Lantz soon adopted the song as Woody's theme music, and due to the song's popularity, Woody Woodpecker fan clubs sprang up, theaters held "Woody" matinees, and boys got the "Woody Woodpecker" haircut.  Woody's wild days were numbered, however. In 1946, Lantz hired Disney veteran Dick Lundy to take over the direction chores for Woody's cartoons. Lundy made Woody more defensive; no longer did the bird go insane without a legitimate reason. "   Maybe our bird just  did not get the memo?

For a few weeks now, from our kitchen window, we have been watching this big guy land at the back yard bird feeder station and posts.  He is immense with a wingspan the size of a small hawk.  We will attempt to get better photos but for now, here is our destructive Woody.  Bird watchers think us  fortunate to have this guy, I am not so sure after today;  in this picture to the right of him you can see whitish stuff, that is the remnant of the post which he has just started to destroy yesterday, and has made great progress. The adjective "insane" seems to fit this character because if we don't get something done, he is going to take the  station down!  That white streak to the right of him is opened wood, on the  4   x 6 post which he has shredded away, huge shreds  and splinters of wood  are all over the ground below.   Check out the size of his beak!  He attacks with it, we have seen him go after a squirrel that he thought ventured too close. Here you see him moving the suet feeder and better exposing the destruction he has wreaked!  I can tell you I was not singing the Woody song today when I watched him, nor was I trying to mimic that Woody laugh, which I was quite good at in my childhood, driving my mother around the bend.  We have heard that people in this area disdain building homes of wood, fearing the woodpeckers will seek out pecking orders and with what he has done to the post you can imagine the fear of having your home pecked to death by a bird! 

Just so you can see for yourself his size, the right in this photo shows the bird feeder tube which is about  two feet long, it is to discourage squirrels as the seed doors shut down from their weight when they land there.  You can see Woody  is at least half the length of the tube, which  Jerry refilled after these photos.  We enjoy watching the birds and there used to be several other kinds of woodpeckers at the suet feeder but not lately. I mean would you want to take on this beak?