Friday, May 31, 2013

Sepia Saturday Carts and more wagon train travelers of the past

This prompt raised my memory of  travelers we met in California, in December 1983, wagoneers,  of the oddest, adventurous, aspiring to live in the 1800's.  It was a family of four, man, woman and   two children.  Fortunately I had some photos of them, fading now and not of the sepia era but on theme as you will see. 

It was right after Christmas in 1983, when we lived in Newcastle, CA but this  took place in  the then rural area of  Penryn, a village established by Welsh  quarry miners in the 1800's.  We were at the home of friends for cocktails and were to meet others for dinner but this couple announced that they had a meal to take to a traveling family before we all went for dinner, the delivery would be on our way.  It was and remains the oddest traveling group we have ever known of then or since.  Today we recall little about  the particulars and unfortunately at that time I was not journaling  faithfully nor blogging, else I  would have more information to share today.  When we arrived at this rail road property  less than a mile from our friends'  ranch, with the platters of hot food she delivered,  my mouth fell open at the sight.  The weather is cold in Northern California in December and January, damp and foggy, bone chilling at times. 
Home base on railroad property of the 4.  The big sacks in front are
bush , tree, shrub branches trimmings brought by local farmers
for the animals.  Notice they were neat about their litter in a pile to the
left.  And someone had  given them two plain Christmas trees.
This family was from Arkansas and were journeying on their last leg through northern California with nothing more than wagons, mules and burro.  They were some sort of early survivalists perhaps or what?  John, the man was intent on making this journey to the central valley of CA where his family lived and employment  awaited but that was not his primary vision. He wanted to do this adventure while he was still young enough, was fascinated by the western tales of wagon trains and the like and wanted to be able to say he did this, the old time way.   One could say he lived his dream or nightmare.  They had been on the road over a year when we met them, an extremely long slow journey. This is before easily available cell phones, Internet and Facebook.   

Apparently John had some connections with the rail road lines and was able to stay on rail property so they rather followed the lines when they could.  They stayed in this spot for a couple weeks and accepted  charity of food and animal feed but would not accept cash.  They allowed us to take photos after we returned with food and blankets.  By that time they had become acquainted with many locals who all came out to see this sight and help them out.  

Another  local man brought them supplies while we were there
and the woman was moving them with the burro
It was 1983  how could this be?  Notice the bicycle off to the side which
they had for trips into a nearby store.  It was the most modern vehicle
in their homestead.  On the left you can see the rail line down the hill below them. 
They had a type of double expandable cart system which the man
had designed and built himself.  Some one had given them the two
geese they kept in  a cage.  More of their menagerie
This is the woman, mother of the two children.  The boy was about four
years old and the girl about six.   
The burro
One of their mules....
 We  wondered before what ever became of them,  there were no news stories about them, respectful of their  request for privacy perhaps.  So we assume all went well and John was satisfied with  his dream.  Jerry recalls that John was very  handy,  mechanical and able to fix most everything.  Well he would have to be to  do all this.  This is my Sepia post for this week, the oddest arrangement. 

Click on the link to  see what others have to share in this week of carts and beasties.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sepia Saturday 178 Memorial Day back to 1943, my father

2013 Some things of my father, insignia, leather pilot cap
An open theme this week allows me to travel from today to 1943 with a  Memorial Day tribute to my father and all the brave souls who gave their all for our country and freedom.  The color photo to the left has mementos from my father, US Army Air Corps Lt. Lewis S Ball.  You know the story, I never knew him born  months after he and his entire combat flight crew disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean, June 20, 1944, WWII, The  aviator cap is in perfect condition and most likely could  have been a spare which seems to counter to the sparse gear the US Army distributed back then.  This cap was amongst many  documents and items I found it in an old  suitcase in 2004 after Mom died.   I have wondered as with so many  unanswerable thoughts, where did he get it and how did it stay in perfect shape?  There are letters on the top, "USN"  which I think are for US Navy, curious, my father was US Army Air Corp.  Did they get aviator caps for whatever service branch, did it matter?  

This photo of my father at the propeller is 1943 with him wearing this or another identical cap at Dorr Field, Arcadia Florida during his early flight training in P-38's and PT's. 

1943 July Lt L S Ball  Dorr Field
Lou  liked flying and especially  those small planes and aspired to be a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps, but Uncle Sam needed ever so many more B-24 pilots and although Lou was not a large man in height he was strong and eager and assigned to fly the B-24 Liberator.   The following post card was one of the few things Mom shared with me although she would always call it, "that damned plane."  I don't know what he thought but I have some of his own notes and drawings from training, he was a dedicated student.   It has been said that the B-24's  were flat faced, rectangular and had  the look only a "myopic mother" could love.   The cockpit  was cramped requiring pilot and co pilot to live cheek to jowl during missions.  One WWII pilot wrote, that the first time he entered the cockpit of his B-24 "it was like sitting on the front porch and flying the house."  The Liberator was one of the heaviest planes in the world, the D model  weighed 71,200 pounds loaded.  Flying it was like "wrestling a bear" which left the pilots tired, and sore.  B-24 pilots were known to have huge muscles on their left arms which they used to man the yoke while their right hand worked other controls.  

This is the cover of my father's  August 1943 "Dorr Way", a booklet for the pilot trainees, they were the class 44-a.   I am  mindful of the task these  men faced  and grateful that I have these historic items.  It is a wonder that in the times of WWII the U S Army Air Corp would take the time to photograph and document their times at these different training sites.  It was a time when they would move quickly through and advance to the next training or wash out and be assigned to another task, not able to make it as a pilot.  Many hundreds of thousands of men went through the training but most did not achieve pilot status. The wash out rate was  at it lowest 30 percent but in  later years 45%; but the men who were not pilots would be given other flight status  jobs, bombardier, gunner, radioman, all with an appreciation of the difficulties they faced.    
 Louis Zamperini discusses the huge fatality rate of B-24 crew in his marvelous  book ,  "Unbroken" authored by Laura Hillenbrand,  the dangers that abounded even before they flew off to war theater.  The men called the B-24  "The Flying Coffin"   "Stories of its dangers circulated among the would be airmen all over the country.  Pilot and navigator error, mechanical failure, fuel leakages, sinkability, inability to ditch, and bad luck were killing trainees at stunning rate.. 52,615Army Air Corps stateside aircraft accidents over WWII killing 14, 903 personnel...In August 1943  590 airmen would die stateside, 19 per day." 
My father's squadron, # 6 at Dorr that Class of 44-a.  There were 6 similar
squadrons according to this book.  He is seated to the far right on the ground.

I cropped and enlarged the photo to the right of my father from the Squadron photo.  There again is that aviator cap, and goggles.  He looks happy and excited.  Look at his sparkling smile and his eyes.   He had less than one year of life left ahead when this photo was taken.  Maybe he did not yet know that the Liberator awaited. He was a positive young man.   Lou would  confide  in  his young brother, Henry, on his final leave home  that he was not so sure he had done the right thing in taking the pilot's training.  I doubt if he had much choice, he was in the Army and they made the rules.  It was not today's Army by a long shot and how could he have declined pilot training for which he scored very high in aptitude and  preliminary  screenings.   The aviators gathered in the photo below are waiting solo assignments.   

1944 June, short  newspaper clipping about
disappearance of my father
 and ..Combat crew 193

Last photo Dorr Field book 1943, an almost
spooky quality to the men now ready to meet their destiny, whether  to the next phase of training  as in Lou's case or...,.

This is  my Sepia Saturday contribution.  Click here to the Sepia host site where members of the international community respond to the prompt.  This week many consider the  eyes  in the   photo.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rain outside so inside, the dreaded Room

Deserted back thistle finch feeder

It's a rainy day which means a break from the outside chores and adjournment indoors.  As Bea mentioned over at the Frog and Penguinn, seems irrelevant to say much these days with the OK tragedy.  We sent checks to Red Cross and Salvation Army immediately and many prayers.  Our friends there are safe thankfully, but  so much devastation...Despite the normally actively used black thistle seed finch feeder out back today, one odd lone gold finch decided he wanted into the top of the mini Alberta spruce out front.  Was he off course?  Was he trying to stay dry?  Who knows.  So seldom do they venture out front away from the back seed feeder that he caught my eye.  But all I could  capture was this glimpse.  I know it is a he because the males are the more brilliant gold.  Meantime the back feeder is deserted as they all avoid the showers.  

View out front window. A gold finch hides atop the mini
Alberta spruce and the tulips are about done
blooming,  grass is growing

I have tried to dedicate  two hours a day to clearing the mess of paper in our downstairs back bedroom,  results of my attempts to consolidate  and winnow photos, ours and all the inherited ones I brought from PA.  So far I do not reach my goal of two hours a day, because I allow distraction to occupy and divert my attention.  I see  something about the photos that sends me to the computer to look up genealogy and then to determine whether or not I have scanned that photo and if so it can be tossed or set into a very small stack which will go into an album. Once at the computer it is easy to check Facebook or a multitude of things and then soon it's time to return upstairs and start dinner.  I have justified the mess in that room because no one is here to use it, it is downstairs and out of the sight of any guests and if I keep all this stuff out and about I am more likely to deal with it.  But lately I cannot stand it any longer and so I made the two hour a day vow.  Today with the late April showers is a good day for inside work and I am avoiding the Room. 

The Room:  Dresser and boxes and vintage suitcases which store
 photos and documents.  Assorted stacks on top the dresser

The Room:  Across from dresser the daybed houses albums and more
photos and ephemera.  Old  48 star nylon flag atop one pillow
A friend said she has seen far worse and  so what, who cares, well that only encourages me.  Yes, I could quickly put the  photos into those vintage suitcases and boxes and  be clear if I needed to, but just as surely as I do that I will want something for some reason and will have to retrieve by releasing the stuff from its container.  That's why I decided a year ago to leave things be.  No, I have not been merely dawdling but gave two good hours to vacuuming upstairs,  and downstairs and the stairs themselves and rearranging some of the sunroom furniture, one of the  few if not only portable rooms in this house.   But this does not "redd up"  the mess in The Room.  Redd up is a western PA term, but friends from Indiana say it too,  while others look at me as though I have uttered a foreign language when I say I'm going to "redd up now."  Jerry is used to these idioms, and of course when in PA, no problem, but here?  No they do not understand. 

Here's a corner of  the  rearranged sunroom,, a favorite place in good weather and a walk in ice box in winter.  No sun today but good sitting, reading, pondering place or for storm watching.  Activity happened there because I  acquired a new ladybug doormat and allowing the distraction I shuffled furniture.  But now I  return back to The Room,  wish me concentration and progress, then again as my neighbor said, "why get it all done at once, we are something for a rainy day.."   oooops, that's today.  

New lady bug door mat for sunroom door onto back deck

Monday, May 20, 2013

Woe is I,me and time a wasting.

I have been tinkering again, here with some keystrokes,  trying to master Google +  with all it seems to want to offer me from phone, tablet and PC.  As I  become  bored with routine  and rote,  I accepted the + challenge to migrate both blogs  to Google +.  This led me to  tinker with my profile and  tag line there.  When I looked back Google said it could not save it.  I looked again, it was saved. Another look and it's the previous edition, now you see it, now you don't.   It's not that I need something to do, I am merely tinkering to determine which is the better venue for me to use on our impending August Alaskan adventure.   But the more I dabble,  the more circular my thoughts become and by now I have gone  back to , "whatever..."  Alice has once more slipped down the rabbit hole and is no longer in Kansas, which by the weather  news of today is a good thing because Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas have had whirls of ill wind blown their way.  If this makes no sense to you, never mind, you likely don't know me that well or have no appreciation for  how I can follow and toy with distraction beyond all hope of focus.  And how on earth did I become a follower of my own blog?  Well Google + , explain that to me and why can I not delete myself as one of my followers?  Sheesh!    Meantime I am adjourning back outside to the bench with a nice tall cold beverage....plenty of ice and enough of this computer business. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sepia Saturday 177 Fences

This week's prompt immediately reminded me of several  fence photos  and one nearly upside down boy, but finding them, ahh that took time.  I remember hanging upside down just like the  children in the Sepia prompt off the cross bars of swings or other things.  It was all the better to startle adults who would shout, "get off there right now before you fall and break your neck!"  And then would come warnings about too much blood going into  the head from upside down.  It never bothered any of us.  Today, I don't like an overly  upside down  tilt to my chair in the dentist office when I have exams and teeth cleaned and protest, as I did a couple weeks ago, "Better let me up for a while, too much blood going to my head."  Ahh how childhood warnings stick in the psyche and emerge so much later in life amongst our truisms. 

I snapped this photo of our late son, Steve in 1976 climbing over one of our pasture fences that were not all that sturdy.  He was 12 years old then.  Fences were a necessity when we lived in Newcastle in northern California because we had a bottom pasture with a pond and we and the neighbors had horses, which had to be corralled, "good fences make good neighbors."  This pasture  fence had a gate farther down the hill that could be opened but Steve could not bother with walking farther when he could go over.  I remember shouting many warnings about this activity to no avail because he was typical country roughneck boy,  always tearing holes in his pants and shirts climbing over  fences to shortcuts.  

I don't know how I happened to have the camera with me just in time to snap this but I must have yelled something, like, "you are going to break your neck and go over upside down someday yet.....walk down the hill to the gate."  He  never did.  There in the left lower corner is  a glimpse of Cookie, one of  our German  shepherds who went wherever Steve went on the hillsides, she could not have climbed over that fence  but she would have found a way under because wherever he went, she shadowed.  Steve's birthday is this coming week, we will still feel pangs from loss although after 5 years we have accepted.

It was less than half a mile all the way down that old dirt road to the pond, lower pasture, too far for a boy on foot to be bothered walking to reach a gate when he could hop over and run through the pasture.  The following photo shows how run down those fences had become by 1980, weather and age taking a toll and necessitating  replacement at a healthy investment.  By that time we had given up our horses so it was not as critical to mend and keep up fences.  I will have to copy this and send to a neighbor who still lives back there.  Today that old dirt road has been paved and before we sold off, many homes had been built farther down on subdivided and developed property, making the old dirt path a daily speedway.  It was just one more reason why we no longer wanted to live there on those seven acres.  Country life was going away.   

I took a photography class in 1981 which included film development and working only with black and white photography.  I took and developed this photo  March 1981 showing the partial replacement  from run down rail fence to post and barb wire along the upper pasture.  I was advised that the photo was too busy and to focus down, but today I am glad I have this "busy shot."  We no longer live there and it does bring back the memories.  I tried to post it as an extra large photo but my blog lay out will not permit it, so here it is a bit smaller than I would like. 

This has been my Sepia post for the prompt of upside down urchins on fences.  To see what others have shared this week, click this link to the Sepia site, an international community.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sepia Saturday 176 Our Town and the chick chick chick

I have few photos from my own school days or anyone else's in the collection here being predigital, we lacked ready use of  cameras at school and film developing was considered for special occasions.  Maybe that is all for the better, but this week's prompt recalled my obligatory high school chemistry class which I enjoyed  but no photos of our experiments. 

Louisa Lucy Leidel Wetchen
However  following my meandering mind while I was adjusting some ancestral documentation and errors this week, I found this photo of Jerry's maternal  great grandmother,  Louisa "Lucy" Leidel Wetchen taken about 1888 with a brood of chicks.  Lucy was a force in her own right, a straight arrow distinctive MN woman of farm and prairie who lived to be 86,  and as a widow for her last 18 years.  My in laws always said  "Grandma Wetchen was a stickler."   

This photo  immediately reminded me of one of my high school plays, "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder and my  role as Mrs. Gibbs and my lines, "here chick, here chick, here chick chick chick"  That  I  recall my opening lines 51 years later, is a tribute to memorization insisted upon by Mrs. Klinke, our drama teacher.  Not only that we all had to speak up and out, we had no fancy microphones nor sound systems as in  today's school auditoriums.  She drilled us, rehearsing up until opening night, again and again and again; until we could  deliver just right, according to her ear while I thought, "what is the big  deal about some woman feeding chickens?" some other lines are much more important, but not to Mrs Klinke, every line had to be projected and delivered. 

 As I recall I did quite well in my performances, Mrs Klinke signed my yearbook, "to Mrs. Gibbs."  as you can see here.   Back in that day, we all had our yearbooks signed.  I wonder if they even have year books that we had, they were quite the production for us. 
Mrs Klinke

In 2008, on this blog,  I wrote about my  Our Town experience, sans photo of Lucy. Here is the link to that post.

I suppose one could draw some mystical curious coincidental connection  that my 1962 high school play role would have been portrayed in real life years previously by my husband's great grandmother, someone I would never  know. Strong  women were not really on the radar screen back then, but I was fortunate to have many of them as teachers and my  relatives too.  There was one page of the yearbook with photos of that play.  I have scanned it here and you can enlarge it to see us in our poised glory.  I am "Patty" seated front row top photo and gazing at the bride bottom photo.  Bobby Ormesher who played  Doc Gibbs, my MR. wrote across that page.  We were so young back then, in the times of our lives.  We celebrated  our 50th class reunion in September,last year, it was a good time , and Bobby was a good dance partner.  

his is a Sepia Saturday post.  To read others,  click here to the main Sepia site.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sepia Saturday 175 Smoking and our marriage

Each week I think I will return but finally, I have.  Gotta admit I despise smoking, its awful smells and its dirt, always thought it gross.  But Jerry smoked for a long time and finally, wisely gave it  up, many years ago because at first he said he could no longer tolerate my nagging (I do not give up when I know I am  right!)  and then he reluctantly admitted it really was not healthy.  Besides it became very expensive and today neither of us understand anyone just burning up their dollars, but they do.  While in the past smoking was common, it is a rarity today.

People thought nothing of lighting up wherever they were.  Here is Jerry at maybe under a year old with his dad and Grandpa Morrison, both smokers, 1938.    

1938 Jerry as a tot, held by his dad and his
Grandpa Morrison alongside.  Notice both men have cigarettes

Mom and her husband both   smoked and I hated it when I was a child and would ask her to please not leave her dirty ashtrays all around.  She paid no attention to me.  I put a sign on my bedroom door, "No Smoking"  I might have been an early anti smoker, ahead of my time.   I tried smoking briefly in my 20's to be sociable, many friends smoked, many people smoked at work, at their desks, so I tried it too.  But I was never converted, and soon  quit because I hated the smell, and honest to goodness, I NEVER inhaled. I know our former president made that statement famous, but I can believe that because I did likewise.   I would get a mouthful of smoke, not even think of inhaling but blow the smoke away from me while furiously waving it away.     

1971 Christmas Day  Me with Jerry and his cigarette

1986 Jerry to the left, Uncle Carl to the right outside
Uncle's home in PA;  you can almost see Jerry's cigarette
I banished Jerry to the outside of the house if he was going to light up following our 1986  trip to Pennsylvania when my late Uncle Carl took Jerry outside if he was going to smoke.  I never knew Uncle Carl to smoke but he admitted he had all through his US Army days in WWII but quit in the  1950's.   I decided that would add another trick to  my bag of getting husband to stop smoking, once home I announced I was adopting the Uncle Carl method.  Up until that time he had only been allowed to smoke in the den anyway, so outside was not all that surprising to him.  It was awkward to have smokers around our home but I would simply state, "only outside for smoking.  I am allergic."  I suppose that might have been true and perhaps why I never climbed on the smokers wagon.

1986  Jerry to the right with his late cousin Kip Cook
The Cooks visited us in Newcastle, and Jerry went outside
for his smoke
Not so long ago smoking was accepted, even touted as glamorous, the habit of the gorgeous and the virile, remember the Marlboro Man cigarette ads, the "'d walk a mile for a Camel".  We lived in California when the anti smoking campaign started and I really was very happy when restaurants and bars and other public places were required to become non smoking. Besides  the dirt and stink, the way it burned my eyes I worried about all those workers who had to be exposed to the smoke from others' cigarettes. Yes, I was all for the smoking bans. There are still some places in our country where smoking is allowed but when we stumble upon such a place on our travels, I do not go in. I do not even like to walk by smokers outside of buildings and show my grumpy fce while covering my mouth and nose and holding my breath as we pass them. Suffice, that I think it is a filthy habit and no good can come of it.

Funny how 1986 fits a Sepia theme this week.  As does our 2010 trip in North Carolina where amongst other sites we toured the a Durham Museum dedicated to the preservation of the history of  tobacco in this country and its importance to revenues in the South. I cannot find my photos or perhaps that day I took none, only this of an old poster.

It was fascinating to see cigarette dispensing machines, now artifacts of a time when the country touted smoking and tobacco was revered.  Today there is an organization, Artomat,  that refurbishes the old cigarette vending machines to dispense various kinds of artwork or crafty items.  I think that is clever.  Here is their website, and we have seen these in Louisiana.

Refurbished cigarette vending machine
I  now dismount my anti puffing soapbox and invite you all to peruse the various contributions on this week's Sepia site hosted by Alan.  Some have been faithful posters all along and others like me are dabblers.  Time has a way of slipping by us as it has here, travels and tasks take their share of the 24 hour days. Click here to get to the Sepia site to see what others have done with or without the theme.