Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sepia Saturday #154 - Our Fishing Boat

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photo is entitled "Rough Wooden Bridge over River,
Group with Dog on Shore." I very much liked the woman's back and found her the most
interesting figure in the photo. But where's the dog? Is that a partial mutt in the lower right corner....and is it...could it be, the dog's behind?? If so, why would the partial dog merit mention in the title and the boat with rowing occupants be overlooked? As usual, the photo is loaded with questions and food for thought, but I decided to take the easy path and tell the tail tale of our family fishing boat.

Hector with a few of his carvings.

My grandfather Hector Fortier was a farmer and a carpenter. When they were in their eighties, my grandparents decided they'd had enough of hard farm work on the prairie and moved from Letellier, Manitoba into the city of Winnipeg to a tiny little house - one bedroom, one bathroom, a living room and kitchen. 

Bored with carving small figures out of wood and doing odd jobs, Hector sat quietly smoking his pipe one day and decided as a practical matter to build his own coffin. He knew my grandmother would pitch a fit if she found out so he kept it in pieces for as long as he could, only fitting it together when she was out shopping or visiting. When he was finally ready to assemble it he made his announcement; she absolutely forbade him to continue. She wasn't going to live with that "thing" in the garage.

Marriage to my grandmother was not for sissies and Hector launched a resistance trying to persuade her to co-exist with his funereal creation - to no avail. Finally, he did the next most practical thing you can do with a coffin - he turned it into a boat! With a nice coat of maroon paint you could hardly tell what was originally intended and we had many pleasant fishing trips on it.
Hector in his "boat".

As we froze in "Winterpeg" for much of the year, the family took advantage of every opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the beach in the summer, in or out of the boat. This is a favorite beach photo of mine: my mother, me (blonde), my sister and Hector.

Despite the gloomy aspect of the coffin project, my grandfather was not a dour man - in fact, he seemed very happy to me. I'd say he was guilty only of planning a little too far ahead. Even if my grandmother Pulcherie hadn't vetoed the coffin, it would have languished in the garage for 15 years or so before he died at 95.

Some time after the coffin/boat incident, grandfather, always restless and inventive, began disassembling things to figure out how they worked. Unfortunately it was a one-way process and he'd forget how to put them back together. The TV, reduced to a pile of tubes and beyond redemption, had to be replaced; he started in on the car. That's when we began locking everything up. 

Fortunately the formidable Pulcherie was able to keep Hector out of further trouble and outlived him by a few years, dying at 100 with most of her wits. Just before he died they celebrated their 75th anniversary. 

Hector and Pulcherie in earlier years

Check out more rowing/boating/bridge stories on Sepia Saturday:

 Sepia Saturday

Monday, November 19, 2012

Madame Butterfly

We had to stand in line to check in at the Biltmore on Saturday. The Armed Services Ball was being held in the gold room and some kind of spectacular Asian wedding was underway with 15 or 20 bridesmaids -  plus the regular tourist traffic. The hospitality desk was mobbed. I've never actually stayed in the hotel, but used to eat lunch there every couple of weeks when I worked at Lawry's on San Fernando Road. Bernard's restaurant in the hotel was a favorite spot for visiting Unilever executives.

We enjoyed having a little extra time to wander through the public areas looking at the historical photos of early Academy Award dinners and the many famous visitors to the place. I'd forgotten how beautiful and elaborate the ceiling art is; our brother-in-law reminded us to take a look at the art deco swimming pool. If we stay there again, I'm packing my suit and one of those white bathing caps all the swimming ladies used to wear, just to get the mood right.

UCLA beat USC and the bar at Engine Company #28 was jumping. One half-crocked celebrant came running around to every table, yelling about his hatred for USC (my husband's alma mater) and attempting to pour wine for everyone. He was having fun and trying to be generous but I really didn't appreciate the dilution of my $12 per glass cabernet with whatever he splashed in my glass. Indeed, his cup runneth over - too bad it ran into my cup, but we enjoyed his energy and didn't want to be wet blankets.

In the rain, speaking of wet blankets, we dashed back to the hotel, changed into our best bibs and tuckers and got ourselves over to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion about 15 minutes ahead of the curtain rising on Madame Butterfly.

That audience was dressed to kill - no shoes on the floor, like we've seen at L.A. Phil concerts. Glittering with jewelry, swathed in long gowns, opera coats, expensive bags and fancy shoes, the ladies were fabulous. Fancy dress for men seems to be very eclectic - saw everything from a full Cleveland to tuxedos.  Devoid of jewelry, wearing my rubber soled flat shoes, I felt like a farmer from Fallbrook. Richard on the other hand, fit right in looking like Orville Redenbaker with his double breasted pinstripe suit and bow tie. Just as I began feeling sorry for myself, in rolled a couple with matching walkers, I'd guess in their 80's. She didn't look too bad, but he had Paget's disease (my guess) and was almost doubled over. To add to his challenges he was sporting a blood-speckled bandage that looked like WW1 vintage...kind of gauzy and wrapped so that it covered his face up to the eyebrows and around his hair. It was fastened with a safety pin. Two ushers helped get them into their seats and park the walkers.
During intermission we saw the couple in the foyer staring into each other's eyes and toasting with paper cups. The glitterati were swilling champagne but those two were probably taking their medications. I love the fact that nothing deterred them - not advanced age, not the need for walkers or even the freshly bleeding injury kept them from sustaining their romance or enjoying the opera. As Bette Davis said, "Age is no place for sissies".

The ladies room line was incredibly long, snaking it's way up and down the foyer like a Disneyland ride. As I stood assessing the time it would take, I saw a young man holding up a hand-scrawled sign on a stick that said, "END". As the mob moved forward, the END moved along with it, maintaining order, keeping line cutting to a minimum and indicating clearly where one joined in. I found myself laughing out loud about what kind of job description he has.

The opera was wonderful with subtle understated sets, sumptuous costumes and the soaring, spine-tingling voice of Oksana Dyka singing the Madame role. 2 hours 55 minutes passed in a flash and along with the rest of the audience, we were reluctant to leave. As we walked downhill to the Biltmore, Un Bel Di replaying in our heads, we enjoyed the cool air and admired the light reflecting off the wet buildings.

Sunday, we splurged on a hearty breakfast in the hotel and walked over to MOCA for a look. A few blocks away, a motorcycle policeman stopped us and asked if we'd wait a while. A movie scene was being shot; we watched a van equipped with one of those great swivel cameras filming while it raced ahead of another car. After a few minutes, they let us through.

Most of the MOCA art is lost on me. Huge canvases with burlap and other materials glued to the surface- then burned or smashed and schmeared with paint or splatters. We did enjoy a few of the sculptures and the people-watching...some very interesting types showed up there at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday.

Great birthday celebration weekend. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sepia Saturday 152: Less is More

The New York City Public Library is one of the largest in the world, with tens of millions of books in it's collections. In 1911 when it opened it boasted one million books and 30,000 to 40,000 visitors streamed through the building on opening day. The boys in this photo were no doubt blown away by the building and the amazing number and variety of books available to lend. I wonder what they heard at the lecture preceding this photo and I wonder which books they decided to lend or browse through? No doubt they were given instructions on how to treat a book respectfully and taught about the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal System.

They might have been instructed not to leave things in loaned books when they return them. My inside source on library matters, Nancy Javier, "Ladies of the Grove" volunteers at the Fallbrook library and she told me about an exhibition of such items the library hosted. Curious, I looked up the top ten things people leave in library books - things like unpaid utility bills, business cards, advertising flyers, pizza coupons, playing cards. My husband uses foreign currency for book marks and has left more than a few bills in library books.

Last week I started with the phone theme and ended up writing about phone booth recycling. I found that some inventive sorts have turned these booths/boxes into the very antithesis of NYPL - very tiny "honor" libraries of the "take one, leave one" variety.  This one with the line-up is in Wells, England in the village of Westbury-Sud-Mendip. I love British hyphenated hard-to-spell place names. When these towns were christened they didn't have to worry about repeating the name and spelling it three times for Fed Ex.  Our town would be so much more interesting with a name like Fallbrook-by-Pendleton, or Fallbrook-on-Santa Margarita. But alas, in this busy age brevity serves us better than romance.

On the interior of the phone box library you can see that the bottom shelf is the children's section.

Thinking smaller and smaller, which suits my pea brain very well, I bumped into the "Little Free Library" movement, started by Todd Bol of Hudson Wisconsin when he built a little free library box and planted in in his yard as a memorial to his mother, a lover of books and a school teacher. People loved it and a movement was started. Now there are more than 2500 little free libraries across the US and in 32 other countries.

Stories abound about why people were inspired to build them but primarily they were motivated to promote libraries and love of reading. They help develop a sense of community through shared commitment. You can read about them, order one and join the movement here:
Little Free Libraries

Here's the sign you can order for your tiny library:

Looking for an unusual, useful, long-lasting birthday present? Here's one presented to Diane Cors from her thoughtful husband Art. What a terrific present for a librarian! Art could give gift-giving lessons to husbands everywhere. 

This beautiful library box was painted by Helen Klebesedel. It was sold along with nine others and the proceeds went to charity. The basic box in many styles may be purchased from the web site of Little Free Libraries. Just add artistry.
 Here's a community effort. School classes, community organizations, wood working classes are typical of group efforts.
A specialty tiny mystery library.  I'll bet they don't really stand on ceremony and let you contribute whatever books you have - big mysteries, little mysteries, no mystery at all.

The mother of these three young girls, in Tustin California read about the libraries in a newspaper article. She and her daughters bought a terrarium, painted it red and stocked it with their favorite books, one of which was "The Book Thief".

There are hundreds of pictures of LFL's online and many wonderful stories about the people who build them and the ripple effect they have on the community and around the world.

Small Things Are The Start of Big Things
"All great things are only a number
of small things that have carefully
been collected together."
Source unknown 

"Check out" more stories about this library photo at
Sepia Saturday

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sepia Saturday #151: A couple of Nutts

After studying this week's photo of the lady telephone operators and googling a little I learned the original telephone operators were teenaged boys, most of them former telegraphists, who turned out to be unsuitable for the job because they were sometimes rude, playful, pranksters. They acted too much like.... teenaged boys.

The first female telephone operator was Emma Nutt hired in 1878.

The second female operator was Stella Nutt, hired a few hours later. Just a couple of Nutts, these ladies met the requirements for the job: they were single, looked good, had long enough arms to reach the top of the board, were courteous and had pleasant voices.

The Nutts and a couple of lads, likely on their way out

Before I learned about the Nutts, my favorite telephone operator, like many contributors to Sepia Saturday was Ernestine, the Lily Tomlin character from Laugh-In. "One ringy dingy, two ringy dingys..snort, snort" Who could resist her?

Not usually one to fight technology, for some reason I was late to use a cell phone and relied on phone booths when I was on the road. I knew where booths were located on familiar routes, mostly in gas stations or Denny's restaurants. Over the years, these phones gradually deteriorated - outdoor booths became three-sided shelters, lighting disappeared, the phone books would be in tatters - soon after there were no phone books, only a chain sadly dangling. Graffiti and hammer marks showed up on some of booths I frequented. Feeling unsafe standing in the dark using such phones, I finally succumbed and signed up for a cell phone. Frankly after more than a decade I'm still not used to the thing - forgetting to recharge it, fumbling to find it when it's ringing in my purse, clumsy at retrieving numbers, avoiding the extra features rather than exploring their convenience. We semi Luddites have little no choice now but to carry a cell phone because public phones have virtually disappeared.

I wondered what's happened to the remaining phone booths - have they simply landed on the junk heap? Here's what I found....

A couple have been used experimentally as pop-up libraries. John Locke, a Columbia architecture grad working in Manhattan has created a little bookcase that will fit over the phone and provide a few shelves for a take-a-book, leave-a-book library. 

Some have found homes in restaurant design, inside as a novelty or outside for entryways:

In Britain, the Red Phone Box company restores old red phone boxes and customizes them to your use. A few they mention in their interesting website: cocktail cabinet, washing machine, freezer, ice machine or bird cage. They mention that the Queen has a few preserved at Sandringham. More here:
Red Phone Box

In Japan, several booths have morphed into aquariums:

Here's a conversion into a homeless shelter: 

Probably one of the more practical conversions -  an electric car charging station in Madrid:

And finally and logically, wi-fi hot spots in Manhattan. These are FREE and viable for 100 to 200 feet
around the booth. 

And the big question -where does Clarke Kent go to change in the future? Poor thing - he'll be
running from phone booth to phone booth finding aquariums, showers, car charging stations and
meanwhile the world will go to hell in a handbasket!

Phones ringing! Gotta go.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Wilder has a great day

Wilder, our young cousin's dog, has been nudged out of premium position in the household by the arrival of the first child in the family. He's a wonderful little animal and gets along well with the baby, but he really savors the now rare moments when he gets Mom's attention all to himself. Doesn't he look, well...smug?

Wilder is a rescue papillon. Full of pep, he's an indoor-sized dog who enjoys running as hard as he can but also likes snoozing in your lap and having his head scratched.  He appears to be very intelligent and responds to teaching and commands. Wilder may be sturdier than the average papillon and although it's a toy breed, he doesn't seem fragile at all. We've volunteered to be foster parents if they decide they need a break from dogdom for a while. I don't seriously think this will happen - they love him madly.

The breed has magnificent auditory equipment - not only are the ears "butterfly-like" but they operate independently. Wilder will often have one ear up on full alert and the other relaxed...sort of like me, when I cup my good ear to capture sound.

Maybe I'm so attracted to Wilder because of his magnificent ears. Just one of his ears is the same size as his face..wouldn't we look interesting if we were so proportioned? Think of the hearing possibilities!

I heard that! A pin dropped in Temecula.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Tighten your garters lads - let's play to win!

How I wish somebody had leaned over to the "cell phone guy" wearing the long coat and whispered in his ear - "Hey mate, you know you've left your garters on?"

This week, once again, I'm drawn to an article of'd think I was a fashionista as I frequently focus on the clothes, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that I don't have a collection of antique postcards nor do I have an extensive catalog of family photos, so when I look at these pictures, I look for a smallish detail I can write about in a couple of paragraphs without being boring or pedantic. Or I maybe I should just confess to being a nit picker detail person by nature.

Why did men wear garters circa 1921? Socks were made of wool or cotton yarns without much inherent elasticity. Men with small calves might experience problems keeping their socks straight and smooth, not puddling up around the ankles - a fashion no-no. Men with very large calves had the same puddling problem. For fashion's sake the well-dressed man wanted smooth socks and for many that meant garters.  Not only for sartorial reasons did men endure the garter - in sport, sagging socks could be a tripping hazard; socks rolled around the ankles or pulling into the shoe might cause a kind of distracting irritation that could rob an athlete of focus. And for hurling, you need focus!

Before I went to Ireland this year,  the term "hurling" for me meant what my cat was doing on the living room rug to relieve himself of hairballs. Reading about hurling matches in Kilkenny I learned that the sport is like a cross between field hockey, baseball and lacrosse. With as much physical contact as lacrosse, but with no padding, you’ve got to be extremely fit, rugged and rugby-style tough to play the game. And your socks MUST stay up and out of the way. Presumably garters would be the answer but in this crowd of hurlers, why isn't everyone wearing them?

In the final analysis, "cell phone guy" looks like a disorganized type. He's the only one wearing a coat and I think he arrived late, flung on his shorts and didn't really think his finished outfit through. Did he really want to play the game in visible garters (a mere 17,000 people watched the match) or was this an unfortunate mistake in judgement.  I wonder how he would react if he knew that 90+ years later and half the world away some twit like me would be scrutinizing his legs with my computer's magnifying glass and passing judgement on his fashion sense?

Like many articles of clothing, the garter-seeking consumer in the twenties had many options. If you were brand conscious you might like the Boston Garter with "the name stamped on every loop":

 There was the two clasp option:
 Or "the choice of the Sea Shore" with no metal ever touching you:
 Brighton garters "worked in harmony with a man's legs":
The Pacer was a huge step forward - garters built right into the socks!

Thankfully, advances in hosiery fabric technology made the garter completely unnecessary and it virtually disappeared from the male wardrobe. We live garter free, but simply for the sake of research I did a Google patent search to see if there was anything new or interesting in the garter world. Much to my surprise I found the following patent application (U.S.3880160) in 1975 by a woman for the most diabolical looking garter arrangement I've ever seen! It's an athletic supporter with garters attached!

As necessity is the mother of invention I can't help but wonder what kind of situation prompted this lady to think this gizmo up. You can read the full patent here if you're interested.

Athletic supporter garter belt patent

Pull up your socks or tighten your garters and hurl on over to Sepia Saturday to read more interpretations of this week's thought provoking photograph:

 Sepia Saturday