Friday, November 30, 2012

Sepia Saturday 154 Bridges

With a theme of bridges or waters it is easy for me to find photos from our travels over the years and others in family archives.  This got me to thinking and so I share the Capilano Suspension bridge  in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from our 1975 road trip.  That was the year we and friends journeyed from our northern  California homes  to the Calgary Stampede and along the way stopped at Glacier Park; we left our group after Calgary and  went west to Vancouver.  Steve was only 11 and we had a wonderful  three week adventure in our new   pick up truck cab over camper, we'd consider that primitive traveling accommodations  today but then it was the best we  knew of and we were also younger.   

I have always  had an aversion to bridges, don't know why, an unreasonable fear because I grew up in western Pennsylvania where there are bridges across all the rivers and going from place to place meant crossing on the bridges.   Today we live near the mighty Mississippi and my frequent LaCrosse journeys require my driving over the bridges, I still do not like them.  But bridges that I really fear are these so called simple suspension bridges, or for automobiles the open to no railings such as the Mackinaw Bridge we crossed in July this year.  

The Capilano Canyon Suspension bridge is advertised as the 8th wonder of the world, or it was in 1975.  The postcard to the left shows it up there,  230 feet above the  canyon and 450  feet long, or " 140 metres long and 70 metres above the river"  according to their website today. 

 Well to an eleven year old it was just the ticket, a challenge to  run across shouting, "no hands, Mom,  come on out and look" .  But to this mother,  who was  sure that something would snap, sending us all to a bloody demise below, it was a horror.  Jerry and Steve both went back and forth to assure me it was perfectly safe.  Hah!  They were different than me,  no way, the thing was obviously not stable, pedestrians pass another person by and there is a feeling of  the unsteadiness.  I only ventured a very few feet onto it so Jerry could take my picture.  So much for conquering my fears, baloney! 

This was years  before digital cameras, so these photos are fading and are difficult to identify the people up there on the bridge amidst the forest of fir and cedar trees that are thousands of years old.  You will see I am not a happy camper here.

1975  Jerry and Steve in the middle of the Capilano Bridge
They are the two tiny people in the middle behind the couple, closest.
I was taking this photo and recall refusing to get closer
Finally I ventured onto it,  about 5 feet, that is me holding onto
a wobbling rail for dear life, ready to cry as I recall
Steve is ahead of me saying, "Come on Mom you can do it."
He ended up coming to get me, holding my other hand and walking me
back to the mainland.  I was/am a wimp  with  such heights. 
.  From the website today I learned some history.  If you are interested you can link to the site and take their  tour.    The Capilano bridge was built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver.   The website  site has some excellent photos of him with  his cohorts.   It was originally made of hemp ropes with a deck of cedar planks, and was replaced with a wire cable bridge in 1903. In 1910 Edward Mahon purchased the Capilano Suspension Bridge. "Mac" MacEachran purchased the Bridge from Mahon in 1935 and invited local natives to place their totem poles  in the park, adding a native theme. In 1945, he sold the bridge to Henri Aubeneau.  The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956.  So what we walked onto in 1975 was already 19 years old but how much worse it could have been back in the 1890's.  The park was sold to Nancy Stibbard, the current owner, in 1983. Annual attendance has since increased, and in May 2004, Treetops Adventures was opened. This new attraction consists of seven footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Fir trees on the west side of the canyon, forming a walkway up to 30 metres (98 ft) above the forest floor.  

This is the back of the brochure I found with our photos
  This week's prompt awakened reminiscing of those  long ago days along with a realization that I need to have the old photos scanned else they will fade away.  We had wonderful vacations back then,  we knew it then and we still do today. 

 I imagine there  are going to be many wonderful bridge photos shared this week.  Check out the Sepia site to browse the other responses to the prompt.

More Picksburg'ness Stillers

Heinz Pickle Pins
This ode came  from a hometown friend on email...and although I have seen it before, I wanted to post it here, so that the next time I want it I will know where to find it.  You have to be from that unique corner of the country, da' Burgh area to appreciate so much of this.  It always amuses me to share more about the terms and talk of  the area.  I have commented, the bold italics, after the phrase. Those of us cross country and round the world will always relate to Pittsburgh, even if our home town  is one of the nearby outliers. This does not look like an optimal year for  our "Stillers"  but we still hope...and wave our towels...

True Pittsburghers

Being a Steeler fan means so much more than football. It means being from a  corner of the world unlike any other. It means donning the black and gold and having the right getup for the game.

It means being from a place where the people are so tough-minded that they have  survived the Homestead strikes, the Johnstown flood and most recently the Etna  Floods. These people have the DNA of hard work, in mills and mines, without the necessity of complaint. They live simply, with no frills. They don't have movie  stars or fancy cars.

Instead, they have simple traditions like kielbasa, Kennywood, and celebrations, aka festivals and picnics, pronounced pitnik.

They live in distinctive neighborhoods like Polish Hill and the Hill  District and  all of the surrounding counties. These people are genuine.   They don't have chic internet cafes and cappuccinos, but they have The Original  Hot Dog joint, Primanti's, Eat n' Park and Iron City Beer (aka  by its initials, IC  but actually now even the Burgh has cappucinos, etc...)

People from  Pittsburgh don't have sunny beaches or fancy boats, but the rivers roll gently, connecting the small towns of people whose histories have been built on strength and  humility.

People from Pittsburgh don't have the biggest shopping malls or the best  nightclubs, but they'll take Friday night high school football and Steeler Sunday  over anything.  Well there is a big change  as country wide with malls and outlet stores and all manner of yuppie brand chain restaurants in the same.

Steeler football means so much more than you think. It symbolizes a Diaspora of  generations who had the best childhood they could imagine.

They ran free without a care or concern in the valleys of those Allegheny  Mountains.  Indeed we did run, bike walk all over the hills, few of us ever had our own car....

Their blue-collar world was easy ... there was no one to tell them  that they lacked material things. There was no one to tell them that  they needed more.

As the steel mills closed and the jobs disappeared, some of these people had to  leave. While the world benefits because they spread their Pittsburgh  values, they long for their home where things were simpler and more pure.  Our hometown area today is nothing like it was when we were growing up in the best of the times in the  50's and 60's.

 They teach their kids about Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, Franco  Harris, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, and Myron Cope in hopes of   imparting not just the knowledge, but the feeling that they represented.

 They are everywhere, those Terrible Towels. They wave, not just for  the team, but  for the hearts they left behind.  They wave in living rooms in Fort Lauderdale and in the bars of  Washington , D.C. I have found them in Memphis at the bar b que where the owner Tony never forgot the 'Burgh.

 They wave all the way to the Seattle Superdome! They wave for the  Rooney family,  whose values mirror our own - loyalty, grit, and humility.

They wave for football players like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward, whose  unselfishness and toughness have allowed sports to be about the game   and the team.  Even if you no longer live in the area, you have South Western Pennsylvania in  your blood no matter where you go.   And deep down in your heart of hearts, you can still hear the Super Bowls of  times past, the excitement in everyone's voices gathered round  the TV on Football Sundays!   It's more than  football, but its football at its finest! If you now live in Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana , California , Florida , Nevada, or Texas, be proud of where you  were born and who your FIRST favorite football team was!   Go Steelers   Picksburgh GO STILLERS! Ah yes! "Picksburgh"

Yunz (the only place in the world where you hear this wordI was in an airport in Atlanta years back when I heard a man say "yunz" and I said, "From da' Burgh?  To which he said, "How d'ja know?  I told him "yunz" gave him away...and he grinned. ) so  Yunz  is from the Picksburgh area or maybe you grew up there if:

1. You didn't have a spring break in high school.

 2. You walk carefully when it is "slippy" outside.

 3. You often go down to the "crick."

 4. You've told your children to "red up" their rooms.

 5. You can remember telling your little brother/sister to stop being so "nebby."

 6. You've gotten hurt by falling into a "jaggerbush".

7. Your mother or grandmother has been seen wearing a "babushka" on her head.

 8. You've "worshed" the clothes.

9. I ask you to hand me one of those "Gum-Bands" an' you actually know what I'm  talking about.

10. You know you can't drive too fast on the back roads, because of the deer.

 11. You know Beaver Valley, Turtle Crick, Mars, Slippery Rock, Green Tree and New Castle are names of towns. And you've been to most, if not all, of them.

 12. A girl walks up to three of her girl friends and says, "HEY, YINZ GUYS!"

13. You hear "you guyses" and don't think twice. Example: "yunz  guyses hause is  nice."

14. You know the three rivers by name and understand that "The Point"  isn't just  on a writing instrument.

15. Someone refers to "The Mon" or "The Yough" and you know exactly  what they're  talking about.

16. You remember the blizzard of 1993 (or 1976, or 1950, or 1939, or...) and  remember not being able to go outside because the snow was over your  head and you  would have suffocated.

 17. Someone starts the chant, "Here we go Still-ers!" and you join in. In the  proper cadence, waving the appropriately colored towel.

18. You drink pop, eat hoagies, love perogies and one of your favorite  sandwiches  actually has coleslaw and french fries ON it.

19. You know what a "still mill" is.

20. You expect temps in the winter to be record-breaking cold and temps in the  summer to be record-breaking hot.

21. You order "dippy eggs" in a restaurant and get exactly what you wanted.

22. You've been to the Braun's Bread Plant or Story Book Forest for a school  field trip. We went to the Heinz plant and the Isaly's plant for Cub Scouts..  Commentary: A bus ride to  the Heinz factory was an achievement of 6th grade.  We  would never have dreamed of what schools do today, bus trips to another state and flights to Hawaii from CA.  Doubt they will treasure that as much as we did the Heinz outing;   I still have my little old  pickle pin.  

H.J. Heinz, a marketing genius, developed the idea for the pickle pin at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. In hopes of drawing attention to the company's second-floor display, Mr. Heinz hired a few local boys to scatter the fairgrounds with cards promising a "free gift" if visitors ventured upstairs to the Heinz booth. People climbed the stairs by the hundreds of thousands to the Heinz Co. exhibit, where they tasted samples of the company's many varieties and received a pickle charm.

  23. "Chipped ham" was always in your refrigerator when you was growin'up.  It's how you first ate barbque!  Isaly's was the very best.

24. When you call the dog or the kids you shout, "Kum-mere" and they come.

 Wonder how many of yinz guys actually understood all dat? Some folks just don't.

Pesky spammers at it again

My messy desktop computer area
We bloggers enjoy our online friends  and often make contacts we otherwise would not have had were it not for our readers and followers.  I removed word verification for current comments at the suggestion of fellow bloggers particularly those on Sepia Saturday but lately I am considering reinstalling that feature because, I am being pestered beyond my tolerance by spammers.  These clowns appear to be  from Turkey, Korea, Russia and God knows where; fortunately because they are focusing on long ago previously published posts on which publication of their solicitous comments requires my approval,  I simply mark them as spam and flush them into the delete land.   They always post anonymously inviting me to  link back,  yeah  that is not gonna' happen. I picture  them hacking away with their laptops or smart phones in some tacky Internet cafe.  There is even a Facebook site, something like Third World Internet Cafe, I saw when I began to think more about this annoyance.  How they happened here I do not know. 

A Google internet site somewhere in ??
Here is an example of  one of the comments from my spam filter today..."Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Favorite Stanley Kunitz Poem The Layers":      Terrific work! That is the type of information that should be shared round the net. Disgrace on Google for now not positioning this blish upper! Come on over and seek advice from my site . Thank you =)"   Usually they are comically misspelled.  Thankfully I am not craving attention and know to ignore these.  Those who may be drawn in are bound to experience problems with virus' and who knows what else. 

Consequently  I have resorted to setting aside some of my older posts as drafts to retitle and republish  later.  One or two seemed to be favored by spammers promoting or pushing cigarettes.  What a weird world, I detest smoking so it is ironic they would  try to link with me.  I wish that Blogger had the block feature or a blacklist as in email,  but it does not. 

I transferred one former book review written  in 2010 to my other blog, which has avoided  spammers.  Trouble is that book blog is avoiding followers too. Two sides to everything, attract followers  and tolerate spammers?

As with everything, there is some good  coming from this prompting me to get to the clean up work on previous posts.  It is revealing how I have progressed in my  blogging over the years, and in my opinion I have improved with inclusion of photos and labels.  Maturing at the keyboard is a good thing, it means I continue to learn.  I suppose I could  let this blog lie dormant and create another, but really prefer not to do so,  two are more than enough for me. Well besides online clean up I have  some physical tidying tasks awaiting me right here in this corner,  later of course. 

I find less time to sit at the keyboard, because while our weather continues to shine, I must be outside getting my laps around the track.  My chiropractic visit this week confirmed that it is not good to be sitting for long periods, giving thumbs up to  my fidgeting.  The chiropractor said, not good to sit for more than an hour, kind of like a church service, here is where the Catholics have it in spades, they are up and down and kneeling and standing, movement the life force is the way to be. 

 Is anyone else out there experiencing this plague of solicitous spammers and if so what  else to do? 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sepia Saturday 153 Lady of Beardstown

Today I share an unknown,  to us, woman in a photo from the collection of Jerry's late Aunt Marie.  There were no names nor year noted and no one seems to know who she is/was. 

It was a professional studio photo taken by "Berniece of The New Shoemaker Studio in Beardstown" so noted on the cardboard folder. 
She is attractive posed  in somewhat formal attire, long skirt with one foot upon the bottom of the  post, her  necklace looks as though it might be carved from some stone, onyx or?  What was the occasion for the photo?  The sleeves of her blouse echo the folded fabric on the posts.  My guess is this might have been in the 1940's.  What was happeing then in Beardstown?

I googled the Shoemaker Studio  and learned that it was founded by M R Shoemaker and thrived for over 50 yearsuntil his 1939 sudden death. I googled  Beardstown which is in  west central Illinois and learned some of its interesting history thinking that might give me a clue, it did not.  I have never before heard of the town but post what I learned here.
 Beardstown, located on the Illinois River was founded by Thomas Beard, from Granville, New York, when he started a ferry service crossing the river in 1826. By 1834 it was a growing port that shipped grain, hogs, and provisions to the interior of the state and downriver to markets. Beardstown became known as "Porkopolis" because of its stockyards and slaughterhouses, where more than 50,000 hogs were processed annually.  Beard's license authorized him to charge $.75 for a wagon and four horses (or oxen), $.37 1/2 for a cart and horse, $.05 per head of cattle, and $.06 1/4 for a pedestrian, among other tolls. The ferry ran until 1888, when a private wooden toll bridge was built. In 1898 the city built a steel toll bridge that afforded the town revenue until 1955, when the state built a bridge a mile south. In the mid-nineteenth century steamboats were built at Beardstown. A plank road was built between Beardstown and Bluff Springs to the east, to cover a swampy area that impeded wagon trade over the otherwise clay surface of the area.

The railroad came to Beardstown in 1869 with the laying of the Rockford, Rock Island, and St. Louis Railroad track. Beardstown was an important division point where engines and crews changed on the Galesburg to East St. Louis run and where the branch, or "jack," line to Centralia merged.
At the turn of the century, the Beardstown Fish Company frequently reported catches of between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds of fish. Black bass, carp, buffalo, crappie, eel, catfish, frogs, and turtles were caught, sold, and shipped from Beardstown. Fishing declined as the river became polluted and levees were built, draining lakes.

Another short-lived industry was mussel and freshwater pearl fishing. Button factories opened along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers in the 1890s. Hundreds in the Beardstown area were given employment shelling mussels and selling their shells and pearls to commercial buyers. Prices as high as $1,500 for a large pearl were not unusual. Irregularly shaped pearls, called "slugs," sold for as much as a hundred dollars. By 1909 local shell beds had been played out. They were rejuvenated by the 1970s, when prices per ton were high enough for a few shellers to work the beds again. The shells are sold to Japan, to be ground up into "seeds" for oyster pearls.  I have heard of this industry  near here along the Mississippi River in Iowa. 

A third industry, ice cutting, was prosperous until 1909, when the first plant making artificial ice was installed. Ice was packed in sawdust and stored in large icehouses to be sold locally in the summer months, and it was also shipped out by the train-carload.

Today it is the site of two grain terminals where farm products are transferred to barges for transport. A large Cargill meat processing plant is a major employer and has attracted a substantial immigrant population to Beardstown in recent years. By the 2010 US census it had a population of slightly over 6000.

So who was she and what was she doing in Beardstown, all dressed for a gala?

For others posts on this long holiday weekend here in the states, go to the Sepia site at this link

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

Pilgrim children and pumpkins
on an end table in living room
I just have my orange decor on display and after tomorrow, Thanksgiving day, it will be time to put it away for another year.  Already the next holiday harbinger of red and green is showing around town as it has been in the stores before Halloween.  Thanksgiving has been an orange holiday for us hearkening back to  our lives in Newcastle, CA where we had a mandarin orange orchard and which meant the beginning of  orange harvest. 

The Sunday local newspaper featured Thanksgiving for empty nesters like us and showed how easy this holiday centering on  food can be.  Unlike so many years in CA when we hosted large gatherings and I cooked for a week after getting home from a long day at work in the bureaucracy, today it is just us two. When I am nostalgic for those gathering times, quickly Jerry reminds me how much work it was because none of the inlaws who descended lifted a hand or finger to help out.  It was all on me and some years I really resented all that work but still I would persist, and everyone enjoyed themselves.Once in awhile the sister in laws might load the dishwasher.  But setting the table, rearranging furniture to accommodate the crowd, and more including a housefull of overnight  and week long guests was on us.  I looked but  found no photographs of those times, long before digital cameras and we were both too busy to think of taking photos as well as we were not thinking ahead to when those days would be no more except in our memories, like the song, "those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end,....." 

 I am content without all the work for the fuss and nowhere as exhausted at days end after feast preparation, yet today we have more room to gather a crowd and the time to do so, but  we are all over the country and like Steve many are gone from this earth.  We have tried  eating out  on this day and neither of us like that, the crowds are great and despite reservations restaurants cannot control how long diners will linger, so there is always a wait.  No, besides we enjoy left overs the next day and turkey sandwiches and well, the aromas of that good stuff baking in the ovens.  This year I have downsized no turkey with carcass instead a simpler turkey breast for us two accompanied by all the trimmings,mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli casserole,  stuffing for me (Jerry does not eat it), cranberry for me (another delicacy of which he will sample a spoonful and then pass), pecan pie following dinner for him (a bite or two is all I want of that) and a relaxing day with time for a predinner walk to prepare for the consumption of calories. 

Tom turkey and pumpkin Patty
So now I photograph so many things, like the autumn decor in the house, my orange.  To the left is Tom, a turkey fellow  Aunt Jinx bought and dressed for Uncle Carl along with a wooden pumpkin that I painted and sent to him.  He  referred to these as in the caption and when I found them at his home, I had to keep them.  Tom has traveled in the motor home sometimes too when we were not sure how long we'd be gone.   After their spouses were gone they both dined on Thanksgiving dinner at her home and Uncle Carl would drive "out to the country" to get a fresh turkey from Pounds turkey farm.  When we first moved  we went back to PA to have Thanksgiving dinner with them.  Somewhere I do have those photos. 

I  close with something I found in an old Ideals magazine while looking for an appropriate Thanksgiving ode.  This is  Ben Franklin and his satire.  When humor and satire are gone, then so is the fun of life. We cannot take  everything so seriously or we are done for.  You may have to click on the copies to enlarge and read them.  And to all a joyous feast wherever life winds you, this  Thanksgiving.  May you celebrate with gratitude.     

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sepia Saturday 152 Males gathering

Although the week's prompt shows boys reading at the library and I am a voracious reader and a library lover I had no library type photos to share.  After pondering  while on one of my morning walks, I decided I could find something with males gathering.  Uncle Carl's archives of photographs offered up these from 1986-88, not really Sepia but some years back, from his man cavers  episodes.  He was fond of these hunting and fishing camps that he and several of his friends built as their retreats spending men only weekends, card playing, imbibing their favored spirits, passing time, clowning around and maybe some hunting but lots of camaraderie.  No women or children were ever included.  Well, the camps were rough, outdoorsy as you will see and I know my aunt Marge, his wife,  would have opted out even if the wives had been invited.   This was a time and a group of men who liked to get away from it all, be outdoors and spend time together. 

This camp is/was in Wharton, Pennsylvania, Potter county which is  in  the north central mountains of the state, about 170 miles from their homes in the southwestern region.  According to the 2000 US census this township had a total area of 61.8 square miles (160.1 km), all of it land and there were 91 people, 41 households, and 28 families residing there.  The population density was 1.5 people per square mile (0.6/km).  So it remains today a rural area where there is natural gas exploration as well as hunting for fowl, deer and other game.   I wonder if this old camp is still there and if men still gather for man cave weekends.     

Pennsylvania Map, Potter County in red,
Wharton is  in the southwestern tip

The men's gathering 1986 Wharton Camp
I do not know the full story  of the photos other than Carl delighted in being there and taking photos, above the men are gathering for their time sometimes a week sometimes  several days. Another photo not as clear, faded now shows maybe twice this number of men.   I think that is Carl sitting on the porch, he was the official trail boss and  bookkeeper for the group and made sure that all necessary supplies were stocked and accounted for and that each man paid his share. I imagine he would have addressed that at the beginning of any event.   The back of the photo merely says, "we are just gathering for the week."    Sometimes they had a day or two work detail and from the following photos that looks like what happened this time  but wait there is a mysterious ceremony of sorts occurring as well.  There are checkered shirts too as in the library prompt.  

Is that a monk in a brown habit, sack cloth,  anointing one of the men wearing the yellow garb?  Well he does have some sort of book in his hand and a big cross round his neck.  And pay attention to the bald man to the left of the one being blessed or baptized?   

The next thing we know the men are "taking measurements for the back porch" according to  Carl's note on the back of this photo. 
Here the father has gone into the ditch to help his son, Carl wrote their names and identified them as such and he says that "progress."  Strange how there are few workers among that crowd we saw gathering.   Where did they all go?   Evidence of the old adage, 20% of any group does 80% of the work.  
Progress continues, notice that small building in the background.
 One man in the ditch and  3 overseers now.
I told you these camps were primitive, men only.  
The man in the denim jacket with cowboy hat appears to 
have a mug of some  type of liquid refreshment. 
Good grief the monk returns, with the bald man in a robe of sorts.
The porch appears completed.  Are they blessing it?
The woodpile has been covered.

Uncle Carl loved a good laugh so I can only imagine how he enjoyed this escapade.  I do recall overhearing him say that they always had a ceremony of some sort at camps. 

 I have one last photo for this post dated 1988, two years later and it looks like they have had another ceremony.  The man on the far right in the spotted jacket  is Stan Debick (I met him when he came to Carl's funeral in 2011; he's the last of the elders of this group).  Why is  his  boot off and on the floor beside him?   The jug on the porch is Seagrams whiskey and it looks like the party is  underway...  

This is my Sepia post of men gathering, a stretch from the library, but I did have a book, checkered shirts and lots of boys grown to men.  

To enjoy others posts, click  on this link and as Alan says, sit back and spend some time

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Autumnal Inspiration

I love the brilliant colors displayed  this time of year like nature's last hurrah of brightness anticipating the  drab  browns  of winter that will soon be covered with a renewal coat of white.  I have borrowed both of these photos  from Old Moss Woman on Facebook.  Both show a brilliance of autumn and  reflections in the water.  All the brilliant leaves are gone now from the trees in town and on our property (yes  raking and leaf blowing is done at last.  

On my morning walks which sometimes become early afternoon depending on the temperature, I see barren brown branches  but here and there some pods of sorts add a glimmer of left over red or burnt umber.  The photos remind me of a poem I'd memorized in childhood by Robert Louis Stevenson, about burning leaves in fall.  That was  back when we did such things as memorize poems, considered inappropriate today the age of Cyber computers and supposedly  a different, some would say superior style of education.   I still believe we  gained mental skills by memorizing and the poetry has stayed with me my entire life.    

We sang or shouted this and other verses to jump rope and to count out time so others could hide when we played hide and seek.  We entertained ourselves and would never have imagined today's world where children exercise only their thumbs on electronics, not their imaginations....   Here's the poem although I do not recall its title I remember the words and the last line which was my favorite...yes we had bonfires....

                      In the other gardens and all up the vale,  
                      From the autumn bonfires see the smoke trail.

                      Pleasant summer over and all the summer flowers, 
                      The red fire blazes  the grey smoke towers.
                       Sing a song of seasons! 
                      Something bright in all!  
                      Flowers in the summer, fires in the fall!

 Someone unseen along that bank has tossed a pebble into the shimmery mirror of water or maybe there is a frog near or a bird has just dipped in.  What do you think.... 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sepia Saturday 151 Phones and party lines

I have so many thoughts and memories about phones  that I had to stop pondering and post...such have been the changes over the past 50 years.   

I still recall 748R, our home telephone number back when we had party lines, a number I memorized at about age 4.  That was a time when the phone exchanges were growing.  Party lines were predominant in our town for some time.  Mom knew  the folks on our line and sometimes they would just talk, to each other,  if a conversation was in process whoever picked up felt free to chime in or to ask for the line to make a call.  This photo from 1975 is of the last party line telephone operator in  Minnesota.  Wow, I thought they were long gone by then but this was in Cotton, a rural northern part of MN,  beyond Duluth near the Iron Mountain Range.  
1975 January  Miss Gellerstedt  
"Hello Cotton"  answers Miss Sigrid Gellerstedt, chief operator of the Cotton telephone exchange, the last hand-crank system in the state.  The late evening sun poured in the windows of her cozy little white house in Cotton, about halfway between the Iron Range and Duluth on Highway 53 where the system was set up.  Miss Gellerstedt sat at the massive old oaken switchboard, a headset crowning her curly hair. On top of the board and the closet full of circuits behind it were a picture of her parents, a plaque with the opening lines of the 23rd Psalm on it and two small American flags. 

The old switchboard in her home, looked very much like an upright piano and she “played” it with the skill and artistry of a true virtuoso.   But it’s all part of history now. She was the Cotton operator for more than 30 years, starting her career in the communications industry on May 4, 1944. At first she had it all alone and worked about 15 hours a day, seven days a week, although her mother helped out.  After many years she had two assistants, local women to fill in and take over. 

When Cotton’s hand-cranked telephones were disconnected the 200 subscribers joined the outside world’s dial system in the form of Arrowhead Communications Corp.  The party lines with up to 17 households on them became historical lore, with installation of automatic dial phones.  Sig and her  assistants, were replaced by a small windowless building filled with automatic dial equipment on County Road 52 about three miles east of Cotton.”  “It’s the end of an era,” said the independent company relations supervisor for Northwestern Bell. He had mixed feelings about the progress that comes with the discontinuance of the crank telephone.  “These people don’t know what they’re going to miss,” he predicted.  The operators, particularly Miss Gellerstedt, recognized many callers by voice. That’s personalized service you probably won’t find in other places.  And if you were lonely or bored, they were glad to discuss local events, give evaluations of the weather or chat about anything you cared to mention and had the time to talk about.  They were a social service and a news medium all rolled into one."  
This is courtesy of a site, attic voices at this link  where you can look for more about the last party line story.

That reminds me me of a passage in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days, ( a Minnesotta writer) in which he writes about a former switchboard operator for whom it seems Sigrid Gellerstedt could have been a model. Here are a few lines:  "The pantry off her kitchen holds the old switchboard, still in good condition, and also the steel cabinet with the switching equipment that took over from it when they went to dial telephones in 1960. … If someone doesn’t answer their phone by the fifth ring, she does, and usually she knows where they went and when they’re expected. … If you do reach her instead of your party – say, your mother – she may clue you in on things your mom would never tell you, about your mom’s bad back, a little fall on the steps the week before, or the approach of Mother’s Day, or the fact that when you were born you were shown off like you were the Prince of Wales"

This 2011 photo is of the vintage, old and  very heavy immobile dial phone that my late uncle Carl kept on his desk in his home; he had a special arrangement with the phone company to accept and translate  the dial sounds. I tried to convince him to convert to a new push button phone but he was not having it. I bought a new phone with big push buttons for him, he made me return it.  This black dinosaur  had worked well over the years and he saw no need to change.   We sold it in the estate sale when he passed.  It limited him all the times when one was asked to push a number for different choices, but he would patiently just sit tight until a live person  finally came on line. If no one came on the line, he would hang up and be done with whatever he had called about.  This frustrated me and I asked him once, "well how will you finish that...."  he grinned and replied, "not a problem, it's their turn to call me..."  I suspect this black behemoth dated back to about 1952 when they built the house, it was used until 2010 when he went into assisted living.

I close with "Party Line" written by Coleman Lee Williams,   late father of our friend, Tom who graciously shared many of Coleman's works. Can you see the women talking....

Hello! What are you doing today?
Well, I just called up to say ---
What's that? She DID? How'd you hear?
No! Wait, this line's not very clear.

Did you say she ---? That's what I thought.    
Well, that's the first she ever bought!
What time was that? I mustn't forget;
Hold it 'til I get a cigarette.

Why, they were here until after eight.
Well, gossip's one thing I simply hate,
But I told her more than a thing or two.
O - Oh! Someone on the line, or was it you?

Of course! I know just how you feel,
(Quit clickin' this phone, you lousy heel!)
No, not you, but the way some act,
It's a pity they don't use a little tact!

I'd like to see it. How's it made?
But where did you put the rick-rack braid?
Bet it's cute. I'd like to see her in it;
Oh! Before I forget, have you tried Pinit?

No, I didn't. Never said a word.
Well, that's not the first, so I've heard.
That's what I say --- like an open page,
It's a wonder she wouldn't act her age!

Well, just thought I'd give you a buzz;
Wish I knew who that guy was,
Didn't you hear him try the line?
Yeah, been doin' it since almost nine!

Where were we? Oh, now I remember,
Didn't you hear? Nine, next November!
I thought so last week on the street.
Yeah, everybody thought her so stinkin' sweet.

You don't mean -- ? That awful clown!
Well, I did hear he left town.
You know that other, -- yeah, skinny legs,
Looked like a dog caught suckin' eggs.

Did you see --- Oh! That makes me mad!
If that guy needs the phone so bad
Looks like he'd get another line,
I pay this bill so this one's mine!

I guess that'll hold HIM, -- now, where was I?
Oh, if you're gonna be home, I'll drop by;
If there's any one thing that'll make me balk
It's some guy cuttin' in when I wanta talk!

Bye, see you in a few minutes!                Written by: Coleman Lee Williams  4/28/1900 - 5/5/1988

Short on photos long on words, today.  Click here to  the Sepia host site where others
share responses to the prompt...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sepia Saturday 150 Carl and the Art Institute

To match the Sepia prompt of hurling men, this week, I scanned the photo of artists in the graduating class of February 25, 1950 from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where my late Uncle Carl attended using his World War II GI benefits. I have shared many previous photos and stories about Carl here and on my blog.   I found his diploma with the group photo below, none of the folks are identified but I spotted him, standing in the back row, which sort of weaves, he is the 5th man from the left, between the man in overcoat with hat and black man with overcoat.  This is quite a large class for this specialty type of study, a nice mixture of women and men, though fewer women for 1950.  The sidewalk in front of them is crackling and the building behind is the multi level facility of the institute. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

1950 February 25  Graduates of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh

AIP  July 2008
The Art Institute founded in 1921, still exists with modern state of the art curriculum. Known as AIP it is the oldest of all The Art Institutes in North America. It occupies nine floors and maintains academic oversight of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online. It has had a history of producing all types of art and artists (such as watercolorist Frank Webb and the late science fiction illustrator Frank Kelly Freas), but specializing primarily in design disciplines, including graphic design, industrial design, advertising and game art and design. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh is the flagship school of the Art Institute System, and was the original model upon which the others were based. The Art Institutes comprise the largest collegiate art and design education system in the world."  

Carl  would have relished the graphic design capabilities of today with all the  computers facilitating the process.  While he never achieved his dream of full time artistic or illustration work, up until his late 80's he continued to engage in commercial artwork producing precisely lettered signs for politicians or businesses in his area, he was particularly interested in advertising and illustration and drafting, having a very sharp hand and eye for extreme detail. Some of the signs he painted are still in use today in the area.

This is one of his early sketches, her
slippered feet did not scan in this
but I show it here as evidence of
 the precise  attention he paid to detail,
 AIP,  known as the College for Creative Minds, has as its symbol the T-Rex dinosaur, which seems odd to me but perhaps it links antiquity of the ages to art..  "The main campus of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, located in downtown Pittsburgh has grown and relocated six times, expanding each time into larger facilities with a broader curriculum, resulting in one of the largest arts colleges in the United States. In 2000 the school's moved again from its previous facilities on Penn Avenue to the historic landmark building at 420 Boulevard of the Allies, the former Equitable Gas Company building. I find this interesting because Uncle Carl retired from Equitable Gas Company.  The school has some of the most extensive arts-oriented technology facilities of any school in the United States, including over one thousand computers equipping numerous general and specialized computer teaching laboratories. Among the specialized shops and laboratories are a 3D rapid prototyping laboratory, sound, video and digital film editing studios, theatrical makeup, wood, metal and ceramic shops, culinary kitchens, and television studios.  
 I kept many of his sketches, some are from his student days, some were too large to scan completely, most all are pen and ink or charcoal..They are so good that they look like photographs, but they are original works.  I am  still sorting to determine which to frame.  .
Chair by Carl
Dining in Style  by Carl
The man at the table has no face, so this was likely not complete

Lady in Plaid by Carl
Dated 1947 on  the back

This sketch of a family enjoying  the TV is iconic,  the miniature size of the old black and whites when TV's first became an important part of home entertainment.  Today we have massive flat screens. 
This is one of my favorites, a postcard size sketch
Everyone who sees it thinks it is a photograph

TV Watching by Carl

This is my contribution to this week's Sepia,  click on the link to the Sepia Saturday site and enjoy postings from others in the world wide community