Friday, June 27, 2014

Sepia Saturday #234: Wading

Here we are, my Dad and I -  up to our ankles in water! I guess that's a good enough match for the prompt this week. My Dad was not exactly in his milieu at the beach.  More comfortable in a suit and tie than bathing trunks, he'd have been far happier with a glass of whiskey in his hand than with the inner tube we're carrying here. From his determined look,  it must have been close to cocktail hour.

Dad never drank before 5 o'clock; that was a hard and fast rule. I have memories of sitting around with him in the kitchen on a Saturday waiting for the hands of the clock to reach 5 so that cocktail hour was ON. I would assist by getting the ice cube tray out of the freezer and putting a few cubes in a glass for him. We didn't just sit and watch the clock in silence; he talked and talked and talked while waiting. Dad was never at a loss for words which I'm sure was a blessing for all of us. He served in both World Wars and if he'd been the silent type and bottled up his emotions,  he might have ended up in the "nut house" as we used to call it. How politically incorrect can you get? The alcohol was palliative (I think in retrospect) and he controlled his consumption.

Most of our old family pictures have my Dad's white ink writing on the front with the date recorded and sometimes the place. Nothing noted on this one, but I'll guess about 1950 from the size of me. Oddly I have few memories of "playing" with my Dad at the beach so this is a very special photo. My beach day memories are of my mother, my sister and myself, who are the main players in the summertime stage play in my head. Mosquitos, fish flies and horse flies are the secondary characters. The whole memory is overlaid with snippets recalled of sun burns slathered with butter or lard to ease the pain; baking powder paste plastered on our bites; skinned knees with scabs we weren't to pick; slivers in our hands from swinging on the wooden fences; wet wool bathing suits scratchy, stretched to the limit by entrapped sand and the ambrosial smell of vintage cooking oil wafting over the "fish and chips" counter while we waited for our weekly treat of skinny french fries, limp with grease, soaked with white vinegar, loaded with salt and served in a newspaper cone. Such happy days!

Jill, Eilleen, Helen

Wade on over to Sepia Saturday for more stories. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sepia Saturday 233: Our Fancy Shmancy Wedding

Weddings are the subject du jour as our Sepia Saturday founder Alan's son is getting married today in Yorkshire. 

Morning mist at the Villa
My husband and I got married in a beautiful house,Villa Uma, nestled in the jungle near Ubud in Bali. Here's our wedding party: Wayan, Ketut, me, my sister Eilleen, Nyoman and the little boy was Wayan. Next comes my husband Ketut, just kidding - my husband is Richard (if he had been born in Bali he would named Made* as I would be also). The gentleman on the end right was, you guessed it -  another Ketut. 

After the big elaborate wedding, featuring the exchange of our expensive silver wedding rings ($30 per pair in Bali), we ate onion sandwiches, drank a few celebratory Bintang beers and went to bed early listening to the sounds of the jungle. We've always been party animals. 

And here's our marriage certificate. Because I changed my name to my husband's, I had to show evidence of the marriage for everything -social security, banks etc. It was a conversation starter (who?what?when?where?how?) whenever I produced it.

Congratulations to Alexander and Heather on their wonderful day!

* To be ultra-simplistic, four names are used in Bali: Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut and they signify birth order. Then it starts to get complicated.

Get in the limo and head off to Sepia Saturday for more wedding stories hopefully featuring better food than mine. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tree Houses

Who hasn't wanted to live in a tree house? I came close to buying one twenty years ago - it was the most impractical structure you could imagine: little privacy, one big room, hard to climb up to, dangerous balconies for kids - it would have been like living in a well equipped tent. Cooler heads prevailed and I was convinced by others that it would be a mistake. 

Recently I read about these great bamboo houses in Bali and found out that you can rent them. We're going there at Christmas and we might stay in one of the "Green Houses" if we can work out the dates. The concept of building out of bamboo makes so much sense in Bali. If you want to read about Elora Hardy, the designer, and the whole project, take a look here. All of the photos below are from airbnb who are the rental agents or from the Green Village project web page. 

Sepia Saturday - My rich uncle

The subject for this week was, as usual, whatever catches your fancy in the photo. How could it be anything but HAIR?
My rich uncle James, an unknown woman, Aunt Hilda, Stuart Carroll

Letter from cousin Norma
Resurrected! An older blog, spiffed up a bit for Sepia Saturday but too late to post. 

The letter from my cousin Norma reads: 
Dear Helen
Sure did enjoy our visit. Found these pictures and thought you might like them. This
picture of Eilleen was probably taken in Fort William. The other picture is of your rich
uncle who died in Hawaii in 1924. (The one with all the hair). Hilda (second from right) and Stuart Carroll (far right) had a love affair for years but they were cousins far removed and that's why they didn't get married. 

All the best to you and your sister in 2003. This is the only address I have. Hope it gets
to you. 

Norma enclosed the "rich uncle" photo (see above) with the letter.  "Hairy" James Armstrong was my grandmother's brother. He had plenty of hair and plenty of money; the money he acquired from real estate dealings in Hawaii and Los Angeles - don't know where the hair came from because the rest of the family had rather wispy heads. He died in 1926  and his estate was managed by the Hawaiian Trust Company which did a fine job of distributing monthly stipends to his sisters and brothers who survived him. Upon each sibling's deaths their share of the fund passed along to their children. As James had 8 siblings, at final count, when the last few pennies were distributed, several hundred people shared the wealth. Looking over the list of Irish names I think I'm related to most of the Micks in Canada. 

James married but his wife pre-deceased him; he didn't have any children so his hair gene didn't get passed along. Too bad.  Thick and plentiful as it was, I'm sure he complained about it. It looks unwieldy and I doubt he could have crammed all the frizz under that hat. The beard and mustache should have had some attention and I'm guessing a decent tailor could have fixed that jacket! But Uncle James spent most of his time in Hawaii and on the pineapple plantations (he had a few), the dress/grooming standards were pretty lax. 

Too bad about my aunt Hilda and her cousin, Stuart, falling in love. She fell only once and I guess she was never interested in anyone else. You can't tell much from this photo but she was quite beautiful even as a white-haired old woman which is how I knew her. Competent too...she worked as a book keeper and had a life long career. She had a strong hand at home where she lived with her mother and two sisters. Hilda ran the roost quietly and firmly. 

One Christmas Eve I went over to Hilda's house after midnight mass. She was all aflutter because her purse had been snatched as she walked to church. "God damn you" she'd shouted after the thief as he ran away. She was more upset that she couldn't go to communion than she was with the snatched purse. After all, she had the sin of curse on her soul. As I recall she was having a "bit of a nip" to calm herself down. The Aunts in those days never actually had a drink as in a regular glass, or with ice or an olive or anything like that.  A tiny stemmed sherry glass about the size of a thimble is what they took - and always after a bad shock, or a chill, or for fortification in rare justifiable instances like the time they had to go to the funeral home to sign for the remains of an uncle none of us knew we had.  But that's another story. 

Catholics in our family (that was everybody) used to follow all the rules of the church back then; they paid attention to the details and really believed you could go to hell on a technicality (they had me convinced for a while).  How ridiculous it was to think Hilda, who never harmed a soul in her life, would be punished in some nit-picky way if she suddenly died before being absolved for paltry lapse . If anybody was damned in the purse snatching incident it would in all fairness be the snatcher and not the snatchee. "God damn you!" was more a statement of the inevitable destiny of the thief and not a case of taking the Lord's name in vain. In modern society where we're assaulted daily by a constant storm of profanity, Hilda's curse seems so innocent....

But hair is the subject du jour, not curses, heaven, hell or damnation. Other than my hairy uncle picture I could find no long flowing locks on the women in my family. I did find this splendid picture though of the entire complement of Sutherland sisters, the one pictured in the prompt and her six sisters,who it seems were sort of like the Kardashians of the time. They had 37 feet of hair between them. 

From the website Collectors Weekly:

According to Stickney, the Sutherland women achieved such “It Girl” status, they dominated the front page of newspapers, knocking U.S. presidents like Rutherford B. Hayes and William Howard Taft below the fold. Hair historian Bill Severn said, “Everything they did was news and for years their hair made Sutherland a household name.” Besides the gossip cycle, features on the Sutherlands appeared in The New YorkerTimeThe New York Times, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York WorldHarper’s,McClure’sCosmopolitan, and Reader’s Digest.
Poems, prose, and stage plays all furthered their legend. Of course, at the height of their popularity, Sutherland Sister memorabilia became instantly collectible, as concert programs, photos, calling cards, and postcards of the women would be framed, particularly when they were autographed. But the obsession with getting a piece of the septet’s hair got creepy, too. According to Stickney, one fan is said to have offered Victoria $2,500 to cut off all her hair. “She refused that offer, but sold one strand of hair to a jeweler for $25,” he writes. “The jeweler suspended the hair in his shop window with a seven carat diamond at the end.”

Even though they were raking in millions at the turn of the century, the women’s spending on such extravagances—servants, clothesfine jewelry, seconds homes, globe-trotting, booze, and lovers—was out of control. Outwardly, they maintained the appearances of proper, educated Christians, but behind closed doors, they engaged in love triangles, in-fighting, drug use, and bad financial investments. Their antics and wild, over-the-top parties were the talk of Niagara County, as people speculated about whether they were polyamorous or practicing spiritualism or witchcraft.
Admission 10 cts. Seats Free???

Their father developed a hair tonic, variously called a hair fertilizer and hair grower, which became a huge success and was sold all around the world. By 1890 they'd sold over 3 million dollars worth of the stuff at about a dollar a bottle. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sepia Saturday #232: Rubbernecking?

The prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday was trains, track, lines disappearing into infinity, things piled on other things etc. Anything you could relate to the scene. My photo box yielded "The Harvesters Dugald 2-9-47".

Famous response to gawkers. "Go ahead. Stare. Take a picture it'll last longer"

I set this photo aside along with several dozen others because of the white ink captions which my father added. He frequently wrote on his pictures and at the time I thought it was corny and that he was defacing them. I've changed my mind and realize what a good idea the notes were. Dad's been dead for 45 years and aside from one diary he wrote in sporadically I have little tangible evidence of his wit; these photo notations capture some of it so even though he's not actually in most of these photos, the notations make him a part of them. 

The white ink bottle and the pen he used were stored in the same dining room buffet drawer as the photo box and the negative box - both of which I sift through now looking for Sepia Saturday material. He wrote on the photos on the winter weekends when it was too wickedly cold to go outdoors, the jigsaw puzzle was complete and it was too early in the day for cocktails. 

The "Shadow of Frankenstein" note, referring to himself as the photographer, was both amusing and a bit macabre; I wondered what my Uncle Louis (on the left) and the other man (unknown) were doing out in the fields dressed in their office attire. The date turned out to be a big clue as to what was happening. It certainly explained the knot of people in the background.

Inspired by the sleuthing done by so many on Sepia Saturday and also by my friends Barbara and Nancy, great researchers who never miss a detail in a photo, I discovered that on September 1st, 1947, the day before this photo, thirty-one people died in a disastrous train wreck in Dugald, Manitoba. The Minaki Camper's Special loaded with students and families riding the rails back to Winnipeg after the long weekend, hit a standing train head on. It was one of the ten worst train accidents in Canada. 

From the Manitoba history website : 
"Fire spread at a frightening rate, as the old wooden coaches of the Minaki Special were lit by gas lamps. Only seven of the victims could be identified and the remaining 24 were buried in a mass grave at the Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg."

From the Lethbridge Herald Alberta paper, Sept 3rd, 1947:

"While relatives and friends returned to the Transcona morgue again today, hoping that in a second visit they might recognize jewelry as belonging to the missing, work was resumed at Dugald of clearing away the maze of debris covering the tracks by the little red-walled flag station. Their overnight rest was the first the workmen had had since the collision took place late Monday. Even before they retired last night carloads of spectators thronged the area, anxious to get a first-hand glimpse of the wrecked train.

Twelve R.C.M.P. constables were needed to control the traffic, while others were constantly on the alert to prevent the almost 10,000 visitors from pushing their way through the ash-strewn wreckage. Today the number of visitors was down, only the odd automobile stopping at the small village. Workmen continued sifting through the ashes and police officials said that some of the dead would probably never be discovered, even if the sifting continued for a week, so devastating had been the flames which swept the train.

I'm assuming my Dad, my Uncle and their friend decided along with 9,997 others to rush over to Dugald (population in 2011 was 384) to take a look. The crash site must have been an incredible situation to keep under control - only 12 RCMP constables and 10,000 rubberneckers! My guess is that the two men are "playing" in response to having viewed the gruesome scene; A bit of comic relief perhaps. Dad must have taken the camera along with him thinking they'd record the event, but if he got any photos, they weren't in the photo box. Maybe he thought better about keeping disturbing photos of the wreckage at home.  Here's one from the scene on that horrible day after. 
Transcona Historical Museum

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bhutan Tiger's Nest Monastery Climb - Balance Challenge

Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan is now on our travel agenda.

Preparing for the long trek up the mountain, I'm working on building up my stamina. The climb requires decent balance (no railings in several spots)* and I wonder if my chronic dizziness will prevent me from making a complete ascent. Halfway up there's a cafeteria and that'll be my goal. Meanwhile I'm trudging up and down my staircase at home aiming for completion of 800 stairs (50 flights) on the upwards treads in two hours. Boring as heck on my staircase, clumpety clump, clump, but I can imagine it will be a thrill on the mountainside. The curious cat followed me up a couple of times today but quickly stopped and just watched, finally opting for a nap. I didn't last very long either before my thigh muscles were twitching and protesting. 

This National Geographic photo was taken on a splendid day. In reality, you can encounter rain, which means slippery stairs and mud. In September we can expect 14 days of rainfall; the average for the month is 7.6 inches. We have one shot at the climb and will be prepared to bail out if conditions aren't good. En route to Bhutan from Kathmandu we fly over the Himalayas. If it's clear we should be able to see Everest.

* What a way to go! Falling off a cliff in Bhutan climbing up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery. Beats dying in bed or in your living room.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

RIP Buster

We had a sad day yesterday. Buster didn't show up for his dinner on Sunday night. We started to worry about him and began searching the property. Monday morning we found him dead in the stream bed. Dr. Jones said he was likely bitten by a rattlesnake because he had no visible marks on him and his guts and heart were in good condition. 

Buster was a splendid pet for all his seven years. Brother Pink will miss him sorely as they were litter mates and inseparable. They ate together, hunted together and usually slept within eye shot of each other.  My keyboard is getting splashed.....

I don't believe in people heaven but I'm sure there's one for cats. RIP Buster. You'll be missed.

Gambling Gains

Our neighbors threw a Preakness Party May 17th. Richard and I both drew California Chrome out of a hat and turned out to be big winners - $185.00. Winnings are donated to charity and we picked the Acoustic Neuroma Association to be our beneficiaries.  At the 3-2 odds on Chrome, at the race track we would have had to bet $360.00 on the horse to win, in order to get $545.00 and net $185.00. For a 2.00 bet. 

Will Chrome win the Belmont Stakes? My guess is that he's going to be a triple crown winner. 
I might put a $100 bet on him and add the scant winnings to the $185.
Money from my various neighbor's piggy banks
After some controversy the horse gets to wear his horsey nose bandage. Instead of betting on the horse, it might be smarter to buy stock in Breathe Right, that would be  GlaxoSmithKline. It paid a 4.8% dividend this year. However, the horse breathing strips are another matter made by another company. Called Flair Equine Strips, they were invented by a couple of smart veterinarians. From what I can gather, it looks like a privately held company. 
Horse Nasal strip

California Chrome. What a great horse!