Friday, July 21, 2017

Sepia Saturday #377: Watching TV on a hot summer day


Recycling this blog with a few edits from a couple of years ago.....

This is my only photo featuring a TV set as part of a little tableau. My Aunt Addie is on the left with a proud aunt hand on my cousin Brian's shoulder. The 24" TV set, encased in its shiny blond wood cabinet, is hogging most of the scene. Atop the TV are miscellaneous items typical of the period. T he tiered lamp (orange was involved) is now back in vogue.
Qind Comfort.  Volta Tribal Print Shade £230



No serious photographer would be caught without his or her package of Westinghouse flash cubes or magic cubes. House plants were fashionable. My aunt's stem of ivy was struggling to escape from the planter box built into the wall on the right. The warmth of the TV set attracted the ivy which would regularly launch escapes from its roommate, the stern sharp "mother's in-law's tongue" plant. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's those two leaves sticking straight up. Addie's MILT was the Canadian indoor version of the plant seen below which is the California type that has lush leaves jammed tightly together. When there's only one leaf on the plant, with sharp points and edges, you can see how the plant inspired the name. By the way, it's almost impossible to kill, which also could have had something to do with the moniker. 


You couldn't pair up two more opposite plants—the curving, undulating ivy full surprises (where will it go next?) and the rigid, stiff tongue, stuck in place and content to stay there. During the summer months with more light, the ivy would curl around the rabbit ears and across the TV. Addie would wind it round and round the lamp to keep it neat. 

Behind the pleasant scene hang chic black drapes decorated with a bird-of-paradise motif. I'm guessing the date to be the mid-50's when Hawaiian/tropical themes dominated home design, even in Canada. Many of us had aluminum flamingo screen doors but had never seen a live flamingo or a real bird-of-paradise plant. Truer to our own geography, we should have had robins on our aluminum screen doors and pine trees or wheat sheaves on our wallpaper. 

The cast of characters: 

Aunt Addie
My aunt had a classic heart-shaped face with a broad forehead and a little chin. I cannot remember ever seeing her without a smile. She was petite and fluttery. We loved her visits because she didn't have children and spoiled us—not with things, but with her very desirable attention. She was the person closest to my mother, emotionally. 
Addie and Mom tipsy in a water-hole on a hot summer's day.


They would giggle together, confide in each other, commiserate over my aging grandparents, complain about their husbands and for holiday dinners, they'd cook together, pumping out a turkey dinner for twelve to fifteen people out of our tiny kitchen, which was like a boat galley. As I recall, everything was served on warmed plates and when we sat down to the table there was no jumping up for the forgotten this or that. They would have considered "Jack-in-the Boxing" during dinner very poor form. Organization for these events was key in the small houses and the meal was expected to be carried off without too much fuss. How the two of them managed to turn out the feasts they did is a wonder to me. I took their culinary accomplishments totally for granted. If I could spend just one more Thanksgiving with them in our kitchen on Dominion Street, I would present them with diamond tiaras befitting the experts they were. 

Cousin Brian
My cousin Brian, with the pipe, probably rarely looked at that television or any television. I think he was attending St. Paul's college at that time, where he studied for a couple of years. He was always studying. Later, he passed the Actuarial exams at a time when most of us had no idea what an Actuary was. Now they are sometimes lumped together with Data Scientists (who do not have to pass stringent exams). Pipe smoking was in fashion in those days with intellectual types. 

The TV
During this era, typical TV shows we would have enjoyed were The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, The Honeymooners, American Bandstand and perhaps La Famille Plouffe, a teleroman series, like the telenovelas of Latin America. The show was about a Quebecois family during the end of the depression and through the forties. The characters, Theophile, his wife Josephine and their four adult children: Napoleon, Ovide, Cecile, Guillame were very popular with my French Canadian relatives. The clip is in French but a quick glance gives you an idea of Canadian content so typical of those times.


The host near the end extols the virtues of Players and Matinee cigarettes. 

Aunt Addie, my mother and grandmother enjoyed the shows thoroughly and would compare notes about the programs the day after they aired. The show was probably subsidized by the Canadian government which feared Canadian culture would be over run entirely by U.S. entertainment with the advent of wide-spread broadcast TV.  

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said said he felt that: "Living next to you [The United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

The government set up strict laws regarding the amount of Canadian content TV stations were required to air. There were regulations governing daytime content and prime time content. As a consequence, our TV's in the 50's mostly broadcast this: 

"RCA Indian Head test pattern" by RCA - http://www.high-techproductions.com/testpatterns.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -  caption
Until I googled the image below, I'd never seen how each portion of the test pattern was used. 


I wonder why the Canadian government didn't require a Canadian Indian to be on our test pattern instead of the generic American Indian? How about this splendid photo of a Cree Indian? They could have used the designs on the blankets for the fine tuning.
"Cree" photograph by George Foley, Maple Creek Saskatchewan

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Sepia Saturday 376: Memoir: Paul-Hector Fortier




“However faded the print may be,  the celebrations are clearly visible, with flags flying and the very best hats being worn. The occasion was the opening of the new pavilion for the Beverley Town Cricket, Bowling and Athletic Club, in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The eagle eyed amongst us may just notice a cricket score in the background. Whatever game you play and whatever theme you care to identify and follow in this fine old photograph, all you have to do is to post a post on or around Saturday 15th July 2017.”



All I have is the hat as a match for the prompt this week. Happily, my favorite poet, Billy Collins, our former Poet Laureate, wrote about hats. 



THE DEATH OF THE HAT
by Billy Collins
Once every man wore a hat.
In the ashen newsreels,
the avenues of cities
are broad rivers flowing with hats.
The ballparks swelled
with thousands of straw hats,
brims and bands,
rows of men smoking
and cheering in shirtsleeves.
Hats were the law.
They went without saying.
You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd.
You bought them from Adams or Dobbs
who branded your initials in gold
on the inside band.
Trolleys crisscrossed the city.
Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor.
Men with hats gathered on the docks.
There was a person to block your hat
and a hatcheck girl to mind it
while you had a drink
or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato.
In your office stood a hat rack.
The day the war was declared
everyone in the street was wearing a hat
and they were wearing hats
when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea.
My father wore one to work every day
and returned home
carrying the evening paper,
the winter chill radiating from his overcoat.
But today we go bareheaded
into the winter streets,
stand hatless on frozen platforms.
Today the mailboxes on the roadside
and the spruce trees behind the house
wear cold white hats of snow.
Mice scurry from the stone walls at night
in their thin fur hats
to eat the birdseed that has spilled.
And now my father, after a life of work,
wears a hat of earth,
and on top of that,
A lighter one of cloud and sky--a hat of wind.



Pictured above is my grandfather, Paul-Hector Fortier, aka Onesime but known in our household, to my parents as Hector—to me, he was Grandpa. In his arms is J. Hector-Louis-Ovide Fortier, known to me as Uncle Louis. The pose—a man, holding an infant son—is striking for the times.

Hector was twenty-five; Uncle Louis was six months. The year was 1908. They were in in Letellier, Manitoba, Canada, living on a farm. Or they may have been in Provencher nearby on another farm. I can't pin them down at this period. 

The hat is positioned at a jaunty angle; I wonder why? Was it was deliberately positioned so the photo would reveal his hair? He had expressive eyebrows that didn't change as he aged.  

Uncle Louis appears to be sitting on his father’s arm. You could mistake him for a girl, with the longish hair, the curls, and the dress. He would have three more children who lived to adulthood and three children who died in infancy. 

By the time I was born, my grandfather was fifty-nine. I never saw him wearing a hat like this one. It may have been borrowed from the photographer. In most of the pictures I have, he was hatless. His hair was gray and wavy. 

Hector was soft-spoken and quiet, deaf after about the age of sixty with ugly beige plastic hearing aids protruding from each ear, huge and ineffective. He didn’t understand much English and only spoke a few words himself. Our communication was limited to the bare necessities but I felt his love in his looks and his interest in my little accomplishments. He showed his love rather than talked about it. 

Grab your hat and head over to Sepia Saturday for other Sepians interpretation of this week's action-packed prompt. 

Would you believe me if I said I forgot to include this Billy Collin's poem?

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart. 




Monday, July 10, 2017

Sepia Saturday 375: My Goose is Cooked


We've had record-breaking heat around here and who would think about turning on the oven and roasting a goose when it's 100 degrees outside?

I blame the prompt which disappeared before I could copy and paste it here. In the copy accompanying the picture, goose fat was suggested in jest as an accessory for a dip in a cold lake. 

Yes, the man diving into the lake is a cool and refreshing image, perfect for July. I did enjoy that photo and the stimulation of attempting to identify the lake in California the scene was on. The trees around the lake look like they are suffering either from beetle infestation or fire, both of which are regular occurrences in California. I did manage to find a weak match...my grandfather, mother and her two sisters at the beach. The men's bathing suits are similar. My grandfather's was of a later vintage. 
But the comment about rubbing your body with goose fat interested me, far more than the diver did. Sorry old chap. Googling goose fat (for a food person) was like falling down a rabbit hole. Two hours later I emerged from the website of the Goose Fat Information service, older and wiser. The entertaining English chef Mike Robinson hosted the site (which seems to have begun and ended in 2009) with lovely recipes and a video of himself roasting potatoes. I found the video informative but also astonishing. He cooks the potatoes in about a quart of goose fat . They should have linked to a cardiologists website too!!

Here you can link to the service and read the recipes. And the video...

I worked for the California Egg Commission during the height of the cholesterol madness, for Lawry's Foods (seasoned salt) and for Equal when it was being reviled everywhere for all manner of problems. So, it interests me when I see others in the same position. At a culinary school lecture once, the students called me an apologist for the egg industry and compare me with someone selling cigarettes. I never got booed, but the audience was close a couple of times. People get passionate about these things. 

Mike's recipes are fun to read. His writing is breezy and casual— different from our American recipe writing style. Compare to Mike, we are painfully stiff and serious about writing instructions. There are rules, mostly promulgated by the food editors of food magazines and it would be impossible to have a recipe published years ago if one didn't conform. The internet changed all of that. Thousands of food bloggers now write whatever they want. Mike has a good time and invites us to have a good time too. He "tosses" ingredients into pots and pans, "scatters" garnishes and for doneness—"prods food with a good deal of assertion." 

Once I wrote a recipe for the exterior

of a box, instructing the reader to prick the bottom of a pastry shell before baking. My boss, who I concluded had never read a recipe in his life, blushing from his shirt collar to his hairline, told me I couldn't use the word "prick." Even though I showed him many illustrations of the word used as a culinary term, he couldn't stand it. We said, "pierce with the tines of a fork." I wonder how Mike would have put it.

In the end, I read that long distance swimmers, particularly Channel swimmers use Vaseline all over the bodies instead of goose fat, which was abandoned years ago—too heavy, smelly and not enough lubricity. It's used to protect against chafing, not for retaining body heat. Chafing is one of the major problems with executing 50,000 or so strokes for a channel crossing.

But that's another rabbit hole to go down. For now, I'm joining the cats in my pool.







Friday, June 30, 2017

Sepia Saturday 374 July 1 2017: Cat Play





I've had a few dogs in my day but for today's prompt, a dog and it's toy, I'm sticking with my cats.

Despite the head lock, Sandy—our cat, looks pretty content in my 1947 photo below, but as I recall she had to go outside in the snow and cold to pee. We had a stinky sand box in the basement Sandy would use in a pinch and which everyone hated cleaning. The year of this photo, everything changed - for cats and for cat owners. Kitty Litter was invented. From Bloomberg Business Week, Dec. 4th, 2014.

"In 1947, Ed Lowe was working at his father’s delivery business in southern Michigan when he had a brilliant idea: take some fuller’s earth (a type of clay) and sell it to local farmers for chickens to nest. He called it Chicken Litter.

The farmers weren’t interested—which is why Lowe had a big pile of it when a local woman came by. She’d brought her cat in from the January cold and needed some sand for her cat box. On an impulse, Lowe offered her some fuller’s earth instead.

The stuff turned out to absorb the ammonia smell of cat pee. The woman soon came back for more. So did her friends. After enough requests, Lowe put some fuller’s earth in bags, wrote KITTY LITTER on them, and dropped them off at a hardware store. The product sold, and it sold in supermarkets and pet stores. The market grew ever outward, from southern Michigan to the world.With an odor-free litter box in the house, cats could stay indoors and live compatibly with their owners. The biggest barrier to cat ownership was broken down for good. "

The Bloomberg report describes the invention of Kitty Litter as a disruptive invention and places it on a list along with the cell phone technology. Read the Bloomberg article here.
Strangling the cat with love. Little did we know the kitty litter box was on it's way.

That was seventy years ago. Here are our 2017 Somali cats with their toys. One likes to wear a Kleenex box, as if a suit of armor,and chase a stuffed mouse. He has a popcorn box he uses when he's after larger prey.

The older, more mature cat, is subtler in his play choices. He does imitations: Mrs. Tischel and Grouch Marx.


They have a "Tower of Power" which becomes a battle ground from time to time. When one of them sits on the top, the other tries to knock him off. Anything goes in these battles for the top. Often, the whole tower is knocked over and both cats are losers. I try to explain it to them, but the generation gap is too large to bridge. 




Do more than scratch the surface - climb the stairs over to Sepia Saturday and read other stories
about pets and their toys.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sepia Saturday 373: Camping Ugh.

Mr and Mrs Foley and dog, of Waterford, camping at Tramore. (July 1918) National Library of Ireland
Camping, RV'ing, tenting...whatever you call it, it's not in my repertoire. The last time I accompanied friends in a RV for a weekend we parked in one of the beach lots along the coast here in California. The people in the RV parked next door had a drunken party until very late; people on the other side might very well have been a circus act. There was possibly a dozen and maybe more people sleeping in a vehicle designed for four. The whole scene was crowded, noisy and we had to take showers in a public facility, far from glamorous. Quelle horreur! I just don't get it. Our standard of living which we worked hard to attain, plunged to near-primitive status. We didn't get much sleep and couldn't do much with our meals. Our friends were having a great time; I was counting the minutes until I could go home, or to a nice hotel.

Maybe if we'd been camped next to Mr. and Mrs. Foley, pictured above, who look like lovely people, I would have been willing to try it again.


It's not that I don't like traveling...I love it. And I'm willing to sacrifice creature comforts to see sights around the world that require staying in remote places. But we get a big pay-off in the end. Not just the beach—with a few frisbee throwers, fat men in speedos and screaming kids. Uh oh...I should delete the last curmudgeonly sentence, but that's where I am in life. 

It's not surprising that I have no camping photos. My French-Canadian farm family did love picnics however and I have a few photos of them.


My grandfather, Hector Fortier, in the above photo is doing something with a frying pan and a tree. I hate to think there was a fire in there somewhere...it looks dangerous. I don't know who the others in the photo are but they are clearly enjoying themselves. Hector has been marked "HF". My grandmother in her late 90's marked up many of her photos...probably because she could no longer remember the people. Some of her photos have only scribbles on them—I suspect she had some dementia. 

The second photo is of my grandparents, Hector and Pulcherie with three of their children: my mother Jill, Addie and Jean. They are enjoying a feast of Paulin's fancy biscuits or they were shooting a commercial for the product. The biscuit box seems too prominent in the photo for accident. Plus my grandfather's hand looks posed. My mother on the right was never so casual and that curl on her forehead??

Picnic

Last I have a few photos from a walking tour my husband, friends and I did a couple of years ago in Japan...the Nakasendo Way, which is a walk from Tokyo to Kyoto along an historic route. We had a glorious time and most days picnicked along the way. At night we stayed in very comfortable Ryokans and ate beautiful meals. Close enough to camping for me. 
The ryokans supplied the kimonos every night.

We were so exhausted from walking all day we could have slept anywhere.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sepia Saturday 371: A Grumpy Old Man?


It's the box! As soon as you get rid of the box in the photo, the disgruntled gentleman in the prompt looks a bit happier. My wild guess (with no evidence whatsoever) is the man is a creative soul trapped in a terrible job making wooden boxes all day long. Doesn't the scarf look artistic? Or am I reading too much into it? Without the box, one might imagine he's on the verge of saying something. 

A sketch treatment cleans up some of his wrinkles and makes him look thoughtful and scholarly.

 With the addition of a film strip frame, he looks like a character actor.
 And I think his looks are improved considerably when he's presiding  over the thousand dollar bill.

 I hope he wouldn't be offended by an Instagram alteration of his face...just for a laugh.
Finally, I think he looks very engaged when transported to a place he couldn't in his
wildest dreams have imagined. I really enjoyed putting him here.

Check out interpretations by other Sepians at Sepia Saturday

Friday, May 26, 2017

Seeing Stars

I don't know of a serious baseball player in my family. I loved the sport and had fun playing it in junior high school. My career ended after ninth grade as I wasn't serious enough to practice and I developed other interests. The point being, I have no photos in my collection to match the prompt.



One baseball memory that persists in my aging brain is when at eight or nine years, I got whacked in the head by a batter, during his wind-up. I can remember falling down and seeing stars but that's where the memory stops. I've read that one sees stars after a whack like mine because the occipital lobe, which processes sight, bangs up against the skull. You can replicate the same effect when you press your eyeballs hard.




What did catch my eye in the prompt was the base the batter is standing at. It looks like a piece of newspaper, hardly similar to the home base we know today which may help to date the photo. I read on the website www.todayifoundout.com that prior to 1899, the rules regarding home plate were extremely loose. Any object round in nature could serve as home base. At times, even a dish served as home base, which some think may have led to the alternate name–home plate.

The base in front of our batter isn't even round which leads one to think that the person in the photo wasn't a ball player at all . . . but dressed up only for the photo.

More from www.todayifoundout.com

"The irregular pentagon shape of home base that we know and love today was developed by Robert Keating and introduced as a viable option for the 1900/1901 baseball season. Robert Keating was an amateur pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. His less than stellar performance in the single game he pitched for the Orioles did nothing for his baseball career, especially since an arm injury ended his days as a pitcher- but not the impact he had on the game. Off the field, Keating became an inventor. Best known for his shaving devices, bicycle wheels, and motorcycles, Keating also, as mentioned, developed the irregular pentagon-shaped home base. Despite this, in Keating’s January 21, 1922 New York Times obituary, his contributions to baseball, both on and off the field, were not mentioned.

The rear corners, which extend to a point, are made to be perpendicular to the first and third base lines. The biggest advantage of the new shape was that it made the edges of the strike zone more visible to pitchers and umpires and, therefore, improved the consistency of calling strikes.

Beyond the shape, although rubber had been occasionally used prior to this, the new design specifically required home plate be made of rubber. Keating’s reasons for picking rubber here were that the springy nature of a rubber base would give base runners a bounce to their step when they took off for first base; it would not harshly vibrate the batter’s hands when he struck the base with the end of his bat; and it would prevent severe injuries from occurring when base runners base slid into home.

So, in the end, home base is primarily shaped differently than the other bases because its purpose is different. Whereas other bases are used primarily for base runners, home plate has an added use in being essential in determining the strike zone."

Hit a nice long drive over to Sepia Saturday to read about other Sepians baseball memories.



Scar: Written for Thursday Writing Group




I began this tale yesterday when my husband bought Gorilla Superglue to repair his shoe, which was separating from the sole. After I wrote for a while and the story seemed dull, I was ready to quit but then stuck with it.

It all began when I was cleaning the house. As I dragged the vacuum from floor to floor, my acrylic fingernail popped off. I had Superglue on hand for just such small nail repairs.

Do you remember the TV ads for Superglue where they showed a ship hung off a lift bonded by only two drops of the stuff? Back then, the formula was powerful and it would stick objects together instantly. We loved the glue for household repairs and it was excellent for fingernails.

But my eyesight wasn’t great and when I worked close-up. I’d have to get within inches of my target. That day I crouched over my nail and squeezed the Superglue onto it. Zap! The side of the tube ruptured and a glob shot straight into my right eye—the one that does most of the seeing. The pain was horrible. I sat stunned for a few seconds. The acute, piercing pain persisted as if I had needles in the eye. I felt my way to the medicine cabinet, got the eye drops and squirted them in. Nothing relieved the searing pain.

My husband was away; I was alone, and I didn’t dare try driving myself. Using my unglued eye, I called a cab to take me to the ER. When I checked in holding a towel over my watering, burning eye, the first thing they did was drip an anaesthetic into it. Instantly, it was like going from hell to heaven. Even though this event occurred over thirty years ago, I still recall the whoosh of relief. Soon, a doctor entered the room and after a few jokes, presaging what was to come, he removed the congealed glue glob with tiny tweezers. All was well, but the damaged cornea required rest. They sent me home wearing an eye patch like Moshe Dayan*, with instructions to keep it on for ten days.

Walk around with an eye patch for a while and see how many people ask you what happened. Over and over, I repeated my story until I had it reduced to three words: Superglue, fingernail, eye. Almost everybody had their own Superglue story to tell me and I couldn’t ignore them. I realized the fifty-page book of cautions and “do nots” inserted in the glue package was essential. People will try to glue anything onto everything, given the opportunity.

I heard funny stories and sad stories. One unforgettable tale which I heard from a nurse friend, was both. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

She worked in an ER where they admitted a man with his penis Superglued to his abdomen. A crude note by his wife, glued into the mess, revealed the gist of his problem. It seems he was a serial cheater and his wife was sick of his behavior. That night when he came home in the wee hours and fell asleep drunk on the sofa, she woke up and wrought her fury upon him. Carefully she lifted his over-used pecker and stretching it to full capacity, Superglued it to his abdomen. When he woke up and realized what had happened he headed to the hospital. The ER people got him unstuck and send him home, embarrassed and chastened. I wonder what they recommended for his at-home care? My advice to him would be to drive to a hotel and never go back. I’m betting there was a divorce and I wonder who would was the “injured party” in the farcical scenario?  (I googled this story and found similar things reported in the news over the years.)

As for me, I learned my lesson. I never cleaned a house again.

“I have only one eye. Do you want me to look at the road or the at the speedometer.” Moshe Dayan