Thursday, July 28, 2011

Observations and Conversations in Decatur

We arrived Decatur, only 343 miles from Tarentum,  yesterday afternoon in time to check in at Sullivan's, lest you get the idea it is a resort, I assure you it is not.  Sullivan's is another RV sales and service dealer here in Decatur, down the road from the Fleetwood Factory Service center.  They "invited" us to plug in and spend the night and said in the morning they would get to us.  Well it is a step up from the WalMart RV experience because there is free electricity, welcome in this Indiana heat and humidity, but the gravel lot alongside the highway is less than scenic.  Still, at the end of the day who's to question; we did not feel like driving out to Paul and Barb's farm, weary from the PA tasks and just. agreed to crash for the night.  Some Stauffer's frozen foods were sufficient for dinner, a cold beer for Jerry and lots of iced tea for me; ice cream in the freezer for a later dessert.   As the employees left, we began to feel like the night watch over the facility. While another coach was plugged in next to us, there were no occupants, indeed we were the night watch.

A new owner of an RV trailer was receiving instructions about how to operate his new rig while his wife and babies watched.  Jerry noticed as the new owner  tried to leave the lot  that his trailer TV antenna had not been retracted.  A young boy of about 11 was busily driving a golf cart around and around the lot, evidently waiting  until his dad was done working.  Jerry flagged the boy down and sent him scurrying golf cart at full throttle after the man, who was attempting to pull out of the lot towing his trailer.  The kid did so and flashed a big thumbs up sign to Jerry.  Accident averted and victory for the boy who was quite proud of himself for  the rescue.  Would have been a heck of a way to to break in a new trailer, losing the TV antenna right out the door of the lot.  From observing the man trying to pull out of the lot and navigate the turns, we could easily predict he will have travel problems aplenty.   

Today we learned that the awning will have to be ordered (inventories in stock are a figment of the past) to replace the one the PA thunder storm damaged/removed, the external light adjacent is of a type no longer made (why am I not surprised as this is a 2008 model and everything of course has to change) but a substitute would work as well, and finally Jerry's albatross, the satellite receiver  could be fixed.  At first they thought the awning would arrive tomorrow at which time we agreed to wait rather than stop by on our return trip in a couple weeks.  But as the day went on, they were no longer certain of tomorrow's delivery nor when tomorrow; as "when" morphed into "if" we agreed to call from home on our return trip to PA. 

  After 4 hours working, tinkering via computer, doing what Jerry had already done (?) on the signal with the KVH satellite company, and replacing a switch box which Jerry still believes was unnecessary,  we were good to go.  I exited to the guest lounge as Jerry explained to the installer his knowledge of electronics, etc. kind of hinting, "don't lead me on." On my way out the door, I  said, "just get it fixed already..." While Jerry remained in the coach observing I entertained myself in their lounge with courtesy coffee and a TV.  I have a good book to read, as usual, this one the autobiography of Peggy Lee along with a lot of historical jazz information, so I can sit for awhile.  But into the lounge came other customers and conversations flowed.

 A couple from Cincinnati towing a huge trailer on their way to Sturgis, SD, to the motorcycle gathering which they've previously attended, were return customers with a satellite TV problem as well as a generator issue. He said the generator works and then shuts off then resumes and the service manager told him they would have to tear it apart.  I speculated that as long as it was working unless they planned to miss Sturgis, they would want to be gone.  When I  related their story to Jerry, he shook his head and  said it sounded like a fuel blockage, uttering a few more  observations on how these guys were  not skilled diagnosticians.  The man  from Cincin. is recovering from a recent severe concussion  from falling off a ladder,  as he explained the first time in  over 30 years, nearly tearing his ear off and  having 32 stitches to his head, we all agreed it could have been worse.  His head was shaved bald and sporting only a small bandaid, but his ear was red and scarred.  He said that he is having trouble remembering and comprehending and tires easily, that likely explained why he seemed bewildered.   I asked if he should be driving that distance and he said when he tires he pulls over and rests. His wife admitted being unable to drive their coach, seems unwise to me given the circumstances.  This morning we noticed  them pull in their Tiffany coach which is  at least 40 feet like ours with a huge trailer where they load their bikes and who knows what else. The dust they stirred was amazing and they appeared to be in a hurry! Surprise, they were going to wait just like the rest of us. Earlier we watched them take a small Harley out of their huge trailer and tootle off, she riding on the back.   They told me he just turned 50 and his wife is 66, causing me to wonder about that age  difference.  She looked good but I wonder what either one would want with the other; that is enough age span to be a parent.  Whatever, good for the goose and gander so it goes.  This conversation started to go downhill when  the office girl overheard and approached, who knows why,  to  wave her hand at us, showing  off her big diamond wedding band, proclaiming that her husband referred to her as his Mercedes.  I tell you you do meet characters on the road. 

 When they learned we have made this trip so frequently, he asked for route advice saying he wanted to avoid Chicago.  I told him there is  likewise construction on I 80 which we saw in June and advised avoiding it. Another man who had taken a chair  agreed and said, to avoid I80 at all costs as he had that experience last week, one lane and hours of delay.   I shared our favorite route is 224 out of Decatur to  24 all across Indiana and Illinois to I 39 north toward Madison where they can pick up I94/90 and continue to Sturgis.   An old farmer, with only one arm,  replete in  dugarees who was also in the lounge offered that 24 ran right  by their farm and we were all invited to stop by.  The Cincinatti couple seemed interested in the route but he had a  lot of questions about where he could get gas; this puzzled me because we fill up at Beaverdam Ohio (east of here )and continue to So. Beloit, Wisconsin before we  refuel.  When I asked him if they use diesel and he acknowledged they did, I then questioned  what mileage he gets.  His response made me shudder, 5 to 6  mpg!  He  allowed as he is towing a huge trailer, but Jerry later said, likely he hauls fast.  In which case they will not like my advice on Hwy 24, which is good two lane road but not a speedway.   Jerry later said, best to watch out for their likes and give them a wide berth on the road, repeating that just because people can afford to buy these motor homes does not mean they should be allowed to drive without a special exam.  .   

I would periodically wander back and forth to the coach to check on the status.  My last return the old farmer told me that they were headed to Amishville RV in  Berne near here and he only needed a wheel fixed on his trailer.  I learned that Berne Swiss Days starts tonight, so we will take a drive there to see what Barb has described for years. 

We are spending another night in Decatur, this time just down the road at the Fleetwood lot, hooked up and will leave early AM.  A side trip over to  check in with Paul and Barb and we should be good to go.  Oh, the Dish works now, but............Jerry tells me he cannot get FOX news which we miss on the road.  This will be another extra expense I am sure.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PA acquisitions, vintage advertising, thunder and Henry Hudson

Playing the waiting game, still, yet again as we await a call from an insurance adjuster about the small awning the wind and thunderstorm blew off our coach entry door on Friday. I was inside the coach after my fast flight from the car to the door, as the rains came down, but  Jerry remained outside in the car watching the cascading torrents of water.  I say it is because I am so much faster than he is that I escaped, but he questions my tactics and adds, who would run out in the rain when one can remain dry  by staying in place until the micro burst passes.   Amidst the heat we have endured here this trip, the rain would have otherwise been welcome, but as I heard the pounding on the motor home against the roaring claps of thunder and the beating hail, I had to wonder if I was so smart in leaving the car. 

Another thing, I thought here in PA everyone knew the analogy of thunder and Henry Hudson rolling strikes and spares, bowling. I don't expect Californians to understand or even know who Henry Hudson was and likely not Minnesotans  either, but my PA pals, come on; we heard the folk tales, the history, the ghost stories.  Yet Anna had to explain this analogy  to Rich.  We learned in our history classes about Henry Hudson the explorer and his trials; I think I'd have liked him, he was headstrong among other attributes. Just one link to Henry - and you might want to find others--  http://www.pbs.org/empireofthebay/profiles/hudson.html  

The legend or good old fashioned ghost story as I recall was that he was lost, never heard from but when the thunder rolled across the hills people fancied him busy in the clouds bowling and today 400 years + later, he is still celebrated in New York.   The following is the tale.....

Henry Hudson and the Catskill Gnomes

A New York Ghost Story  retold by S. E. Schlosser
On September 3rd of 1609, Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon into the mouth of the great New York river that later bore his name. The explorer and his crew journeyed north for several days, trading with the native residents and searching for the fabled northwest passage to the Orient. By the time he reached the area that would become present-day Albany, Hudson knew that he had not found the passage for which he sought. Reluctantly, he turned the Half Moon and sailed back down the river.
That night, Henry Hudson and his crew anchored the Half Moon in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains. Around midnight, Hudson heard the sound of music floating across the mountains and down to the river. Taking a few members of his crew, he went ashore and followed the sound up and up into the Catskills. The sound of the music grew louder as Hudson and his men marched up to the edge of a precipice. To their astonishment, a group of pygmies with long, bushy beards and eyes like pigs were dancing and singing and capering about in the firelight.

Hudson realized that these creatures were the metal-working gnomes of whom the natives had spoken. One of the bushy-bearded chaps spotted the explorer and his men and welcomed them with a cheer. The short men surrounded the crew and drew them into the firelight and the dance. Hudson and his men were delighted with these strange, small creatures, and with the hard liquor that the gnomes had brewed. Long into the night, the men drank and played nine-pins with the gnomes while Henry Hudson sipped at a single glass of spirits and spoke with the chief of the gnomes about many deep and mysterious things.

Realizing at last how late it was, Hudson looked around for his men. At first, he couldn't locate them. All he saw were large groups of gnomes, laughing and joking as they sprawled around the fire. Then, to his astonishment, he recognized several of the gnomes as his crewmen! They had undergone a transformation. Their heads had swollen to twice their normal size, their eyes were small and pig-like, and their bodies had shortened until they were only a little taller than the gnomes themselves.
Hudson was alarmed, and asked the chief of the gnomes for an explanation. It was, the chief explained to Hudson, the effect of the magical hard liquor the gnomes brewed. It would wear off when the liquor did. Hudson wasn't sure that he believed the little man. Afraid of what else might happen to him and his crewman if they continued to linger in such company, Hudson hurriedly took his leave of the gnomes and hustled his severely drunken crewmen back to the Half Moon. The entire crew slept late into the morning, as if they were under the influence of a sleeping draught. When they awakened, the crewmen who had accompanied Hudson up into the Catskill Mountains, aside from ferocious headaches, were back to normal

Hudson continued on his way down the great river, and by October 4th, the Half Moon had reached the mouth and Hudson and his crew sailed for home. In 1610, Hudson set off on another journey, searching for a northwestern passage to the Orient. Trapped in the ice through a long winter, Hudson's crew eventually mutinied and set Henry Hudson and eight of his crewmen adrift in the Hudson Bay. They were never seen again.

In September 1629, twenty years to the day that Hudson and his crew met the Catskill gnomes, a bright fire appeared on the precipice above the hollow, and dance music could be heard floating through the mountains. The Catskill gnomes spent the evening dancing, and carousing and drinking their magic liquor. At midnight, they were joined by the spirits of Henry Hudson and crew. Merry was their meeting, and the gnomes and the spirits played nine-pins all night long. Each time they rolled the ball, a peal of thunder would shake the mountains, and the fire would flare up in bolts like lightening. The party lasted until daybreak, at which hour the spirits departed from the hills, with promises to return.

Every twenty years, the spirits of Henry Hudson and his crew returned to the Catskill Mountains to play nine-pins with the gnomes, and to look out over the country they had first explored together on the Half Moon. Now and then, one of the Dutch settlers living in the region came across the spirits as they played nine-pins. They claimed that any man foolish enough to drink of the spirits' magic liquor would sleep from the moment the spirits departed the mountain to the day they returned, twenty years later. Most folks discounted the story, although several members of Rip Van Winkle's family swore it was true. True or false, wise folks who walk among the Catskills in September do not accept a drink of liquor when it is offered to them. Just in case.   


Malyn Brothers hanger
Meantime I've acquired a few tiny items of advertisements, from a time when items were given to promote one's business.  No  TV costs, just something useful to remind people of the business.  This trip, amidst the frenetic final  clearing Uncle's home, I look for tidbits, small items that would be tossed unless a rabid collector  for old New Ken nostalgia like myself happened into the sale. I could not leave this hangar for the toss pile. I date it to the late 1940"s or 1950 at the latest.  I do not remember this tailor but I do recall Patti & Sons who are still in business today here.

 The inscription burnt into the wood is (left to right) "The home of high class tailoring" along the  left,  Malyn Brothers  Bell phone 276-M across the top, "920 Fifth Avenue  New Kensington, Pa" along the right.  I can date this by the phone number; I recall our first phone number as 748-R, the time of party lines and old black clunkers.  As  a tot I immediately memorized my name, address, mom's name, grandparents, and our phone number which sticks with me more than 60 years.  In those days we youngsters wandered along the sidewalks and by the time I was merely six I would be walking down the hill alone to my grandparents.  Truth be told if I got the least annoyed with things at home, I ran down the hill to my grandparents.  There were no concerns of child nappers or any other harm coming to a loose child.  And all my runnings away did not concern Mom who knew I'd head straight for the grands where I was coddled as I felt I deserved.   

But back to the hanger, a quality way to advertise from a time when clothing was to be fitted properly, just so, and tailors were essential.  So different from today when any sizing goes and folks either wear torn off pants, perhaps cuff them,  or wear the  edges off their pant  hems by walking on them.  As my late aunt would have lamented, "sweeping the street."   Imagine being given such an item as this old hanger today?  No you can't can you, it would be a plastic hanger made in China at best or a tin dinky like metal excuse for a hanger such as dry cleaners use today, nothing worth saving.  I suspect that the old time tailors are rolling in their graves at folks wearing ill fitting and wrinkly clothes.   Maybe they can team up with Henry to amuse themselves. 

In another post I will share photos of two other small advertisements, I've salvaged.   As usual I have rambled a gamut from Henry to hangers...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Holding pattern waiting for others

So here we are in a holding, hovering, waiting pattern which does not match my personality, less type A in retirement, but still wanting to get things done, moving, over with.  Estate sale lady was not at the home yesterday and I wonder why she has wasted a day.  I really should not be here observing because I begin to wonder about too many things, such as how low will she price items?   Yesterday I saw the beautiful 24K gold coated McCoy tea set that she'd placed on the dining room table as she is staging the house.  I left her a note that it had to be sold at a minimum  $35 to $30  else I would keep it  and sell it myself.  This is just what I do not want to get into, still I am reluctant to give away items that I know fetch a pretty high cost in the antique shops. Better that a stranger pay more, especially a dealer who plans to resell it for a higher cost. 

July purchase at People's
We spent two hours in downtown New Kensington on Friday.  The first stop was  People's Library, for their annual book sale; as we parked in the  lot, a man noticed the license plate on our car and greeted us, "Wow folks are coming from Minnesota to our sale!"  People's  was/is my hometown library where I spent summers back and forth, checking out armloads of books that I'd take home and read and return for another batch. I grew up with my love of reading indulged by the library; we did not purchase books back then and I suppose this has led to my having an extensive home library still today.  To the left is the stack I purchased.  To raise funds they sell  the books by the pound, my stack coming to $14, but feeling philanthropic I gave them a $20 and told them to keep the change.  They were very pleased with the tip with  one lady commenting they had not been given a tip that she could recall.  Meantime Jerry remained outside in the courtyard eating a hot dog which they were also selling for the benefit of the Library.  After I staggered out with my armload, I too indulged.  This stack reminds me of checking out books in the summer as a teen, where I would take the limit, usually a large stack and never a thought to the heavy weight I would carry back up the hill.  No backpack and no cart, just my arms loaded.  Hearing of my purchase on Facebook,  my friend Patti, a Nook user when she does read, commented that my episode with the stack of books reminded her of Lucille Ball's Long Long Trailer.
Across from Kensington Court on Barnes Street
After the library we wandered over to Kensington Court on Barnes Street where two men have bought and are grandly restoring the building that many local friends conclude was the old Kenmar hotel.  It is now filled with lovely assortments of antiques and collectibles, some being sold by the owners and some  by other vendors who lease space.  It was a very interesting and I wish the owners well.  They live upstairs of the store and so far they have had no vandalism which is amazing with the status of downtown so declined from glory days. They shared that the Redevelopment authority is attempting to restore downtown with unique shops and another is scheduled to relocate soon from Lawrenceville, specializing in Steelers memorabilia which is to be manufactured there as well.   While there I found an armoire of magnificent purses and spotted  a Dooney Bourke purse for only $25; had to buy it although I know I need not another purse, but it was a buy I could not resist.  There are also two antique end  tables that we may return for to take home; Jerry believes they will be fine in our living room beside both wingback chairs. 

A Saturday gathering with some school friends
I've dubbed ourselves the Crew of 62
Dianne Boggs Cribbs, me, Rich Hemprich, Patti Drew Sasselli
My new Dooney Bourke purse to the right front 
 Uncle's home is now listed with the realtor, with whom we met yesterday and with whom I decided to be more aggressive as the customer by listing the home above her recommendation cognizant that  I can always decrease the price but cannot increase it.  The housing market here even in  Lower Burrell is way down from two years ago although the housing market and values in Pittsburgh have maintained their levels according to news.  I am sad to think about this home on the market but realize I  do not ever want to live in Pennsylvania and so will not keep it.



Which brings me to our holding pattern, everything waiting for the estate sale and ultimate clean out of the home.  The old carpeting needs to be torn out to show the good hardwood floors beneath and the kitchen and dining room need a coat of paint.  All waiting until......patience is not part of Pat's attributes.  Where is my magic wand when I need to wave it?  Have I misplaced it in a senior moment!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ambulance 1942 Sepia Saturday Week 83 (Click here to visit Sepia host site)

We are again in Pennsylvania attending to business for Uncle's estate and visiting friends while this  busyness continues.  I did download a few photos to share on the road.  This week's  theme of "What's Going On?" could have worked for me the past two weeks with some of the men.  But this week I share a postcard sent to my Uncle Carl by his friend, Ed Saliba, who was on the home front, when Carl was in the Army in WWII. 


In addition to this handsome vehicle, what strikes me is that back then, fundraisers were held to purchase equipment, and although folks had little money they contributed.  I do recall community fund raisers as late as the 1970's in California, but today the attitude is to get money from the government, from a well which is now nearly dry.  I wonder if we have lost our ability to pay for what our communities need by fundraisers, bake sales, good old fashioned contributions and the like.  It has not happened as recently as last month in our town, where a new community swimming pool was overwhelmingly foisted onto the backs of property owners in the town.  People looked at me as if I had lost my mind when I mentioned that perhaps we could hold some fund raisers first to generate a baseline for the swimming pool before going to the taxpayers. 

But I will climb down from my soapbox for now and post the back of this card.  Ed Saliba would become the fire chief for many years, for the same New Kensington Fire Department #1 where Uncle Carl was a lifelong member, today Ed's son is the  fire chief.    Here is the back of that postcard.  I understand that Uncle Carl sent a dollar of his Army pay toward the ambulance.  That sounds insignificant today but if he made only $12 or $15 per month, that was a mighty sum. 


This third photo shows the 100 year old fire bell on the front of the 1981 annual banquet program,  celebrating that event.  Uncle Carl saved each of  these annual banquet programs some of  which I displayed in a memorial book at his funeral and all of which I have donated back to the local Fire Department.  I have written previously  that the fire department meant a lot to him all his life. 
This is my contribution for the week.   As usual, if you click on the title to this post, you can visit the international Sepia Saturday site and enjoy the multitude of photos and stories shared. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bear Hunting 1948-49 Sepia Saturday Week 82 (Click here to the hostsite)

Off theme again, but with more photos from Uncle Carl of about 1948-49, a bear hunt in Kane PA.  I know that Kane is south of Erie, PA but learned more: Nestled at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, Kane has a rich history. It was named for the Civil War leader of Pennsylvania's Bucktail Regiment,Thomas L. Kane, who founded the town in the early 1860s. General Kane was wounded in battle and was taken as a prisoner of war as well. He also fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, and is revered by the Mormons for single-handedly helping avert an all-out war between the Mormons and the U.S. government in the late 1800s. A county in Utah is named for him, and a full-size statue of Kane occupies a central position in the rotunda of the Utah State Capital building in Salt Lake City. Although not a Mormon himself, General Kane was repulsed by the persecution of the Mormons and fought for their human rights. Kane also was a friend of several U.S. Presidents, including Grant, Buchanan, and Polk.  His brother, Elisha Kent Kane was, himself, a famous Arctic explorer and painter whose death celebration rivaled that of President Lincoln. A crater on the moon , a US naval ship, and an Arctic waterway are named for him. In 1921.  Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane made medical surgical history by removing his own appendix.  Certainly the area  was founded by stalwarts. 

Mook and the Bear Hunter

I also read that Kane boasts being the black cherry capitol of the world and certainly the bear would like cherries too.   I recall being a young girlie, not even in school,  maybe 4-5 years old when Uncle Carl said something about going bear hunting up north.  I became upset because I knew the story well of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.  However,  he assured me that they would certainly not be after those bears. So when I found these photos with little information other than Bear Hunt 1949 and some names of more men unknown to me, I wonder if this is that very event.  The first photo shows a man, "Mook" leaning on the front of a car and  "Bear  Hunter" standing beside.  Jerry tells me the car is about 1947-48.  

Carl holding bear trap
Just this week national news reported that a man was killed by a Grizzly bear in Yellowstone Park.  There has been a lot of coverage about  what to do if one encounters a bear in the woods and  how to proceed whether in the presence of a grizzly or black bear.   I certainly would not be able to discern the type of bear if I ever would encounter one; I will stick to the more civilized areas to avoid any such encounter, although we have had bear here in La Crescent come down the river and from the  hills.  

The following is the picture I just had to post this week.  I don't know any of these men, but it is quite the gathering.  Evidently the man on the far left was unknown to my Uncle because he identified him as  the bear hunter, was he some professional?  These four men look very different from each other.  Minnie, to the far right looks bear sized to me and what an outfit he sports. 

Bear Hunter, Tick, Mook, Minnie at Kane, PA  Mts.
 I do not know whether or not they were successful in catching the bear.  There are no photos and Uncle Carl always had photos of the results of the hunt or the fishing expedition.  So I am thinking there were no bear that came near.

Tick holding bear trap

Hunter sets it up
And the last showing this trap set up on the end of the porch.  I wonder if this had anything in it or under the board below to lure or attract the bear, or if this was just a way to keep the bear away.  It certainly  is quite a contraption.  This last photo showing it secured to the end of the porch makes me wonder if the bear was big enough, could it have torn loose the post on the porch?  I don't know any bear hunters to question.
 This has been my Sepia Saturday post for the week. This has been on something that I know nothing about so it has been a challenge to write.   As always click on the title to get tot he Sepia host site where you can link to  what others share and see the magnificent photo of lights Alan found for the week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Reads Kitchen House and Burning Sea

I am remembering my summers of childhood and adolescence when I journeyed on foot up and down the hill to the town library for my week's stash of books  to read.  I would check out the limit and bring them home and start reading on the front porch.  I had extremely advanced reading skills and if left alone, not bothered for chores by Mom, I could  finish a book in a day or two.  We never bought books in my family, only the occasional comic book but the library was my resource and free.  Today I have a massive home library and  buy books here and there readily. One woman in my book club asked me what I did with all the books I buy and this does get to be a dilemma because I cannot keep them all; I donate to our local library book sales where we raise funds for the library, I pass along books to friends, and I donate to the library at the church where our book club meets. There is never a book sale to be passed by and there are many older books worth reading.  I still read rapidly but also can absorb the information rapidly and to scan over drivel. 

I am so into my summer reading swing once again and just finished two more books, both excellent stories, both novels.  While I prefer non fiction, I  do appreciate  a novel that teaches me something and both these books did; well if the research that goes into the book is good, there is often something to learn.  That is why James Michener is my all time favorite author.  It is unique today to find authors who research their subjects so thoroughly as both these authors did.

First "The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom, published by Simon and Schuster in 2010, 377 pages, selected  by our book club, a story set in post colonial  (1790's) Virginia about Lavinia, an Irish orphan girl who becomes an indentured servant to the tobacco plantation owned by the captain of the ship on which she'd been migrating with her parents and brother.  When both parents die the children are separated and sold off.  A seven year old girl is alone, that is Lavinia who is sold to the captain.  Lavinia is raised with the black slaves particularly by Belle who runs the kitchen house where the meals are made for the family.  True to the history of the era, there was a separate house behind the plantation where meals were cooked.    The novel spans the life of the Captain, reaches back to the time of his parents and then forward to his son and is narrated alternately by Lavinia and Belle.  It is  a good tale with many intriguing characters, Mama Mae, Papa George, Uncle Jacob are all slaves to the household and compared to the field slaves, they are better off.  The captain's wife and mother of Marshall and Sally battles opium addiction and finally loses herself in it after Sally's tragic death.  The story calls attention to  some of our nation's history that I had forgotten, that of the indentured servants, mostly white Europeans, many Irish  who lived on the plantations and were part of the slave community despite their white skin.  This is not a pleasant story in many parts but it is well written and compelling reading.  The characters do not always do what the reader thinks they will and that draws us along.

Grissom is a new author to me, but I would read other of her books; she explains in her extensive Author's Notes and Conversation at the end of the book  that she felt guided by voices from the past to  develop this tale while she was researching the history of the area.  Pg. 368, " I tried on a number of occasions to change some of the events (those that I found profoundly disturbing) but the story would stop when I did that, so I forged ahead to write what was revealed.  I am forever grateful to the souls who gifted me with their sharing." She explains that she wrote the prologue in one sitting after being inspired by a map she found while renovating an old plantation tavern in Virginia.  When asked if she will write a sequel she says perhaps.  She took the names of the slaves found in her research for the numerous characters.  She offers advice to aspiring writers, first to read and to have an excellent foundation in reading and then to persist.  I am sorry that I will miss our book club  discussion about this  good read, but we will be gone.  I give this 4 ****

"Beside a Burning Sea" by John Shors, 429 pages, published in 2008 by the New American Library,  sat alongside my evening reading chair for a few months while I read other books; I'd start and then go onto another read for the book club or  another book I just had to read.  So I determined I would complete it soon and I am glad I did.  This is a World War II novel about the survivors of a hospital ship, Benevolence, that is torpedoed in the Pacific by the Japanese.  The survivors reach an island  and strive to stay alive.  Excellent characters are developed including the ship's Captain and  his nurse wife, Isabelle, her sister Annie another nurse, Jake, Ratu, a villain, the nefarious and traitorous Roger, and Akira,  a Japanese prisoner of war who bonds with his captors striving to survive on the island.  Akira is a poet who was conscripted for the Japanese army and the author weaves this theme through the tail by introducing each chapter with a haiku, such as this one for Day 11, The Island,                           "Man thinks himself strong,
                                             Until the sky reminds him.
                                              Ants explore green trees"
Annie is engaged to another back home but finds herself drawn to the quiet depth of Akira.  There is a reader's discussion guide at the end of this book making it useful for discussions.  Evidently Shors first wrote, "Beneath a Marble Sky" which I shall seek out at a sale and may have since released his third novel, "In the Footsteps of Dragons."

 He writes very descriptively,  pg. 237., " The rain came not long after dawn, dripping from a somber sky as if a trillion wet towels hung above.  A schizophrenic wind started and stopped and changed directions. The wind's uncertainty seemed to infect every creature on the island with a similar sense of bewilderment.  Birds flew toward distant horizons and then flew back. Frogs ceased to croak.  Insects were suddenly nowhere to be seen.  Even the fish that usually darted about the shallows sought deeper water."    On Friday evening we had tornado style winds at  60 mph, and then a power outage that lasted all  night  until Saturday at 8:30AM; it was a humdinger storm right about the time I was reading that paragraph.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Orange Blossom Special ??

We watched the Capitol 4th on PBS the night of July 4th; all the entertainment was top notch and this year seemed better than any we remembered with Josh Groban, Michael Morrison, Jordan Sparks, etc.  What was most surprising was Steve Martin playing a mean banjo  and his Blue Grass Band,  do they call themselves the Canyon Stampede?  Their fiddle player  did an excellent job with one of our all time favorites, Orange Blossom Special. 

And that reminded me of a photo taken by my Uncle Carl about 1989; I am guessing the date because while it was amongst others from 1989 he did not note it on the back where  he only wrote, "train up at the Marionville, Pa. Mts."  I think this photo is good enough to be a postcard or  enlarged and hung as artwork.   I don't know anything about Marionville, PA but will have to Google and check that out.  I wonder if it was a special steam train excursion such as we took a couple years ago  here in MN from Winona.  It does remind me of the old steam train that operated in the forests out of Ft. Bragg on the northern CA coast too.    

From the Folsom Prison song  by Johnny Cash "I hear the train a'comin, she's comin'round the bend....."

Uncle Carl's steam train
Well, this also gives me a break from indoor domestic chores which have taken my attention this afternoon, the downstairs study, TV room and all that floor is now vacuumed and dusted and  the ironing caught up.  We will head  out to PA on Sunday and the next couple days I will be busy getting my hair cut, lightened, pedicure and clothing out to the motor home for the trip.  But my grandma's spirit stays with me as I am compelled to have my house sparkling clean before we go.  We don't get that dirty here  but I do clean myself out the door much as she used to do on our way to church on Sunday mornings. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gulf Station Men Sepia Saturday week 81 (Click here to get to the Sepia Host site)

Not on theme and not on Independence Day either, instead sharing some  photos of unknown men, from Uncle Carl's collections of photos.  I can guess that  he had a new camera and was out  on the town taking photos.  These are all  tiny originals  two by  three inches.  All were taken in New Kensington, PA, our hometown, about 1939-1940 and apparently men Carl knew.  I have no idea where in the town this  was but back then there was the town itself  was concentrated along the river and the family lived on Second Avenue.  Wealthier folks, business owners and professional types  lived up above the railroad tracks on the hills.   At first glance, I thought these were local firemen colleagues and they may be but after scanning and enlarging I discovered they employees of  what was a Gulf Gasoline Station.  Here they hold cans of Gulf Pride!

Gulf Gas Station Men New Kensington, PA
Back then I understand it was common for people to buy one or two gallons of gasoline; these photos document its price range from 18 1/2 cents to 22 cents per gallon!  I wonder  what coin they used for the half cent?  Check out the thin man in the middle above with coin holder to make change. so    I don't know that I have ever seen one of those before. Comical and yet sad to consider that back then change was useful as items were so cheap and people treasured each coin.   This first photo has the gas at 18 1/2 cents,  but watch that sign....

Gulf Station men at play

Above the men are clowning around and enjoying themselves, but dressed warmer, longer sleeves and a sweater.  There is that coin changer again and the thin man smoking a cigarette.  Gas is  22 cents by the sign here.

In front of the old Coca Cola machine
I am amazed at the hats and full uniform worn by the men. This man may be the same one on the right in the first photo and is possibly a young Ed Saliba, SR. He was slightly younger than my Uncle Carl,  longtime fire chief and friend and still living in New Kensington.  He and the firemen came to Carl's funeral.  Gas above is 20 cents per gallon.

Gulf Station Gasoline 20cents per gallon
Above you can see the sign showing the breakdown on the price of gasoline, 15 cents for the  gas, 4 cents for Pennsylvania state tax and 1 penny for federal tax.  The taxes remain the same in all these photos.  It sure was a different world back then!     The sign above the window on the storefront, reads Association, but in none of the photos does it show Association of what....

Coca Cola machine for bottles
 Gulfpride  oil stand to the right
This photo is darker but the one where you can clearly read the sign, "That good gulf gas..."  The bell telephone sign to the far  left corner reminiscent of the time when folks went to the store to use the pay telephones. 

I will tie this post to my Facebook page and perhaps some from the home town can tell more about the men and the place.  And they will likely be interested in the photos.  As always, visit the Sepia Site where others share in our international community.  I am posting later today because we had one hellacious storm  with winds at  60 miles per hour and more, last night and power was off until an hour ago.  But all is well around our homesite and we hope around town. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aches, Medicare and 3 Books

Later today or this eve I will get to my Sepia Sat posts, but for now I need to cool off inside.  I am just in from my too late in the morning walk, because the morning  sun was hot and temperature was 83 at 8:00AM; nevertheless I sweated out my  nearly 45 minute  walk including uphills and came back beet red faced and sweaty.  So it is time to cool down inside before I clean up and attack the rest of the day. 

 
We have usually Chamber of Commerce summer weather here in  southeast MN,  80 degrees and clear blue skies (no smog or pollution) is just fine with me.  But today and tomorrow until a thunder storm approaches we face the 90's and that feels hot.  Jerry reminds me "no sun filter here."   I am not a fan of hot weather anyway which is one reason we left CA and the hot "but dry", they claim Sacramento area scorches of 100 degrees on up.  Don't kid me  dry or not, 100 is hot. 

 
I have been recovering from back strain or sprain  from excessive vigorous weeding and that  bothersome right Achilles tendon again, so  I have a couple ice bags to use across neck, shoulders, and down the back and then on the tendon.  Although this week's  annual  check up at the doctor finds me good to go, the aging parts act up and take their time to heal.  The Achilles tendon shall remain  one of those chronic troublesome aging things, treatment would be worse as it would involve wearing a destabilizing boot on that foot,  and as the song goes, "fuhgedaboutit!"  Spell check wants to correct that word to skateboard.:-)

 
This week I received a strange bill for $17 for the balance on  my mammogram  from the Mayo clinic where we get our health care.  That service has always been fully covered between Medicare and my  supplemental insurance so I thought this worth a phone call to the billing office.  I learned that  this was from 2010 which I had not noticed on the statement and that Medicare, despite all it does not do let alone efficiently, is going back and reprocessing claims from some time ago, making adjustments and causing general mayhem for doctor's billing offices and I suppose for the poor unaware folks  who are generally baffled by all medical paperwork.  The woman told me to disregard the bill that the computer sends these out and it needed to catch up to the prior payment by my  supplemental insurance.  She also warned me that I might receive other bills and to question or ignore them while Medicare churns the paper work.  What a waste of time, resources, and my taxpayer dollars yet still.  I recalled that a few weeks ago I had received a summary claim on Uncle Carl for services last November from the Home Health Agency after he'd been discharged back to the care facility from the hospital.  That one is stranger yet as Medicare had  previously paid the bill for $4200 and now was readjusting and paying $4600 to the provider!  I suspect that seldom happens and the provider is likely delighted.  But the question remains, "Why is Medicare mucking around like this?"  As if they do not have enough to do paying and processing current claims!  The woman I spoke to said they don't know how long this will go on or if Medicare is only doing this in certain regions or what to expect next.  Now isn't that just dandy, more government in action.  I do feel sorry for unsuspecting folks who will be stirred by this process and worry about paying some additional medical bill.  This is one benefit of my career in state government health care financing, I know what's weird when I see it and I am able to navigate billing systems, frustrating as it may be, such knowledge is power.

 
I finished reading a few more books to add to my side bar.  Just last night, I turned the last page 435 on one of my go to author's David Baldacci, an excellent story teller, "The Camel Club."  I have not ever had a disappointing read by him and in this book different yet again, I think he must be meeting with another of my favorite authors, Vince Flynn.  The Camel Club published in 2005 introduces Oliver Stone and his friends who exist on the fringes of Washington, DC to seek the truth about the country's business.  This is a mystery, thriller, terrorist, suspenseful novel at it's best.  Until I read this,  my  favorite Baldacci  read years ago was "Wish You Well."  Now it is a toss up.  Somehow I had jumped sequence because I first read the second in this venue,  which is not a series,  with the same four characters, charter members of the club, Oliver, Caleb Shaw, Reuben Rhodes, and Milton Farb but in this they join forces with Alex Ford, a secret service agent against a sinister plot of terrorists and ideologues that threaten the stability of the nation and the world.  I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, but this twister kept me glued to the pages and in today's topsy turvy  world with  repetitive crises in the Mid east, this work of fiction could be predictive.

 
Oliver, whose true identity is revealed in this book, claims they chose camel because camels have great stamina and never give up, but Reuben, reveals  page 432",, in the  1920's there was another Camel Club and at each meeting the members raised their glasses to oppose Prohibition to the last drop of whiskey."   As always Baldacci writes well and introduces spectacular characters. Besides the four, there are ever so many more characters such as Djamila,  a Muslim nanny, an Iranian posing as an Egyptian undercover of her peaceful job;  two sided  secret service agents who bring the country to the brink of the unthinkable; the ideologue Muslims who have infiltrated and settled into unsuspecting areas of employment waiting their moment; Brennan, the President of the United States, who is from a small town outside Pittsburgh, PA where terror manifest,  North Koreans, Carter Gray  the US Intelligence Czar appointed by the President  (this book was written before we had Czars...) and more officials and agents.  Camel Club is suspenseful and  kept me guessing to identify who are the villains and who are the champions and that suspense kept me reading.   Pg.154...."..he became Oliver Stone, a man of silent protest who watched and paid attention to important things...."  Pg. 40 describing the issues faced today, ..."not a war of professional armored battalions vs. turbanned rabble in the streets toting rifles and RPGs.  And it was not simply  a difference of religions.  It was a  battle against a mind-set of how people should conduct their lives, a battle that had political, social, and cultural facets melded together  into an exceedingly complex mosaic of humanity under enormous strain."    Pg. 69.."ignorance and intolerance, in pairs, never  one without its evil twin."  Pgs 100-101  well describe the history of the Muslim and  mideast turmoils  from the Syrians, Chechniyans, Mindanos, Kuwait, Lebanon,  Afghanistan, Morocco, Kurds, Iraquis, Baathists, Taliban, Mali and Senegal and more.   Baldacci has  summarized the escalation of problems the world faces today.   I fully recommend this thriller and as I said, I hope it is not predictive.    

Even though my book club  lately is choosing new best sellers, I  am plowing through my shelf of sale books picked up here and there proving that there are plenty of older books to read.  I read the 197pages of Mitch Albom's  "For One More Day"  from 2006  in an evening.  It is a decent read, nothing spectacular but Albom has established a niche for himself as a spiritual type writer, easy reading with fans who like this sort of book. I admit being intrigued by the story line of the relationship between a mother and son and "what would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?"  The story is told in  retrospect about Charles "Chick" Benetto  by his adult daughter who says, "because there was a ghost involved, you may call this a ghost story.  But what family isn't a ghost story?  Sharing tales of those we've lost is how we keep from really losing them. "    At one time I used to  save my first edition books, but this is one and not one I will keep.  I do think the old First editions have some value compared to these current quick prints.

And the last for this post, Helen Fielding's,   2003, "Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination" is a mystery with traces of comedy over 306 pages that I enjoyed .  I'd classify it as a chic read with Olivia's antics.  Olivia is a journalist with a reputation for excuses and  difficulties meeting deadlines who meets the handsome Pierre Ferramo, who may be an international playboy or a terrorist.  The cover describes this book  well, "stunning, sexy  and decidedly female a new player has entered the world of international espionage armed with her own pocket survival kit, her Rules for Living, her infamous overactive imagination and a very special underwire bra."     On page 30, we get a glimpse of how Olivia can crank it out when her deadlines loom, "In the capitol of England the worlds of fashion, music, TV, theater, movies, literature, newspapers and politics combine in one small city like a writhing knot of snakes.  In America these areas are separated out into capitals of their own..."  

Olivia's 16 rules for living offer  good advice to get all of them, read the book:
  • #2 No one is thinking about you.  They're thinking about themselves, just like you. 
  •  #10 Only buy clothes that make you feel like doing a small dance.
  • #13 Don't expect the world to be safe or life to be fair. 
  •  #15 Don't regret anything.  Remember there wasn't anything else that could have happened given who you were and the state of the world at that moment.  The only thing you can change is the present, so learn from the past.  
In Olivia the author may have a new sleuth to entertain women readers kind of a  comedic Nancy Drew for  grown ups.  I look forward to more antics and will pass this book along to a friend who will enjoy it.