Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sepia Saturday 315: The Irish Bakery

I sat for a few minutes looking at this photo on my screen and I swear my old faded baking scars began to bark. I earned those scars grabbing sheet pans out of ovens similar to these in design, but not age. I'm old but not that old!

Our prompt photo is of an old Irish bakery. Many years ago I worked at Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers, a Los Angeles company which operated a bakery, a frozen foods company and a chain of coffee shops. They started out selling Saratoga Chips, which was the original name for potato chips or potato crisps. The chips were purchased in bulk ready made. In the store front a conveyor belt emerged from a hole in the wall while in the back room someone placed prepared chips on the belt; they traveled into the store where the chips were bagged for sale. "Clean" was apparently the advertising word of the day back then.

Saratoga chips were seasoned with salt only which seems a bit quaint in this day and age of complex chip and crisp flavors. You British take the cake for wacky and weird crisp flavors. Here's a few from a BBC website article that intrigued me.

For most of my career, I was involved with flavoring foods of various kinds and descriptions. At one point I conducted a great deal of flavor education. Here's an example of the kind of flavor analysis we would do...this is a record of a training session where we used a simple product, Heinz Ketchip, to analyze the aroma and flavor notes. Can you imagine how complicated the Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper would be? 

Back to the's the headquarters of Van de Kamps Bakery on San Fernando Road in Los Angeles, where I worked for many years

The company has sadly long since gone but the brand lingers on some frozen food products and a small line of doughnuts. Here's what the coffee shops menus looked like eons ago, even before my time. I think the design still holds up and yes....the waitresses did wear the Dutch girl uniforms. 

I don't bake often anymore but every once in a while our oven is called into service. Here's a Dutch Baby I made last weekend for breakfast. Scroll down one blog entry to see the recipe if you're interested. 

Grab your oven mitts and rush over to Sepia Saturday for interesting tales of kitchens, recipes, baking, ovens and MORE!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dutch Babies

While working for the California Egg Commission, I prepared many Dutch Babies. They're a wonderful breakfast dish incorporating a lot of eggs and they look spectacular. Best of all, they're incredibly fast and easy...a simple batter poured into an oven-proof skillet or pan and baked for 25 minutes. The big problem they share with popovers and souffles is that the dramatic loft they achieve in the oven quickly dissipates as the dish cools. You have to rush it from the oven to the table for the ooohs and aaaahs. When we took photos of them for ads or recipe books, the photographer would have to be super-fast to catch the dish right out of the oven and looking splendid. I can remember baking 15 or 20 of these, one after the other, attempting to get the photo just right.

Sunday, I whipped one up for breakfast and for some reason, it retained it's shape. After I removed it from the oven, I plopped the pan down on the Sunday Los Angeles Times on our kitchen island. I admired it for a few minutes expecting the inevitable collapse but it just sat there in the pan looking marvelous. After fiddling with it a bit, I found I could actually remove it from the pan and handle it with no detrimental result. This one was a photographer's dream. Aside from slight overbaking of the edges, which may have contributed to the stability, it was delicious.

I used Marion Cunningham's recipe from "The Breakfast Book". Here's my interpretation of the recipe wherein I added a "resting" period for the batter:

3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 F. Beat eggs, milk and salt together. Add flour a bit at a time, beating after each addition, so the batter is smooth. Add melted butter and beat well. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 10 minutes to hydrate the flour. Beat again and pour into a non-stick skillet or baking pan and bake at 450 F. for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 F. and bake another 8-10 minutes until puffy and brown. 

Various recipes (and there are many, many around) suggest adding a bit of sugar and/or cinnamon/and or nutmeg to the batter.  If you saute a few sliced apples in butter in the pan first and then pour the batter on top and continue with baking, you have an easy Apple Pancake.

Traditionally, the Dutch Baby is served with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Here's a rogue's gallery off the web of various other Dutch Babies to give you an idea of how unpredictable they can be - not that they wouldn't be delicious.

Mag 303: Spinning

Magpie Tales
Sunday, January 24, 2016

Magpie Tales is a site dedicated to writers, poets and others. Each week there's a prompt and people are invited to compose a post inspired by the photo. This week the photo transported me to outer space.

Mag 303

Photo by Francesca Woodman

Humana XX from Galaxy 569 emerged from the time travel light band safely and floated through the stratosphere, drifting through polar clouds and blue jets. When her entity hit earth's gravity, the spinning began on cue and she spiralled down to the planet's surface. Slowly, from the warmth of the blurred and milky vortex, she could sense her form beginning to appear. It would be only moments until she was completed and her life on earth would begin.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sepia Saturday #314: The Freckled Fannings

The Fannings
This family is almost certainly from Newtown in Waterford city, and Mr Fanning may have had something to do with a Butter Store. I'd say from the clothes, etc. that this is quite early for a Poole photo? (1884 is our earliest Poole glass plate.)

It's a great shot of parents, children, and puppy all en famille, and their freckliness (officially recognised medical term) is fascinating...

Date: 1880s??

The freckled Fanning family is featured in this week's photo. After thinking about them, it's difficult to put memories of the Farkle Family from the famous American TV show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, out of your mind. Unfortunately, there are few photos of the Farkle family extant, as a Google search yielded only this awful photo apparently taken from a TV screen.

The gist of the joke was that the Farkle children, all red-haired and freckled, didn't resemble their father, Frank Farkle, at all. However, the next door neighbor, Fred Berfel, was red-haired and freckled which fact seemed to be lost on Mr. Farkle for whom alliteration was everything. I always loved the twins, Simon and Gar Farkle - one black and one white, and their siblings Sparkle Farkle and Flicker Farkle. The fun was fast and furious in that family! Here's a clip - ignore the excessively silly intro - a first-rate Farkle frolic follows

Seriously, I studied the photo of the Fannings carefully to see how much latent humor I could detect in their facial expressions. I concluded that the father and two sons on the right side had laughed or smiled in the near past. The other family members looked pained or agitated. Mom is holding a very gay parasol, but she looks anything but happy. When I thought about her wearing that tight bodice with all the buttons, I could sympathize with her. 

Clothing designers of those days used the profusion of buttons to make the garments conform to the body shape. Underneath the buttoned top, women wore stiff corsets and often the dresses actually had "bones" sewn into the bodices.  Ugh. 

At least by that time, buttons weren't considered sinful. At various times in history, from what I read, buttons were considered a moral temptation; after all, they are easily undone (for some). A more conservative choice for garment closures was laces. Hmmm...I don't see it. A lace, it seems to me, is extremely easy to undo and takes little manual dexterity. In fact, I think laces became associated with sexy clothing, not modest clothing, somewhere along the line of fashion evolution. There are plenty of laced bodices on the covers of romantic novels, those novels we call "bodice rippers". And wouldn't you know it, those laces are almost always undone. 
Clearly, where there's a will there's a way. Buttons haven't posed much of a problem for this pair. 

The seemingly innocuous little button has played a few important roles in history. At one time, buttons were used to carry secret messages; some had small compasses built into them. The photo below is of a WW2 British RAF Escape Button Compass. There's a tiny working compass that unscrew from the front.

In 2011, a Barbadian woman who claimed to be a clothing designer was caught at a Canadian airport after more than a $1 million in cocaine was found inside the thousands of buttons for garments she was importing. 

In the book, "Napoleons' Buttons", the authors speculate that the tin buttons on Napoleon's army's uniforms may have been instrumental in their ultimate defeat. From the website, Napoleon's Buttons: 

 "In December of 1812, Napoleon's army consisting of 600,000 men was marching toward Russia. His Forces up until this time had been unmatched and undefeated. One reason for the downfall of the unstoppable French army was army uniforms themselves. All of the army's clothing, spanning from the highest general to the most lowly private, had tin buttons sewn on to their uniforms. When exposed to the bitter cold, as Napoleons army encountered in Russia, tin disintegrates into a fine powder. Was the army, as their buttons and uniforms fell apart, so weakened by the cold that it could not function? Were men using their hands to hold together their garments instead of carrying vital supplies? Could the disintegration of something as small as a tin button led to the downfall of one of the greatest armies throughout history? (Le Couteur & Burreson 1-19)"

I read on and on about buttons and one thing led to another as I cruised up and down the net. Strange little facts popped up - like why buttons are sewn on men's jacket sleeves? Obviously, they serve no practical purpose or do they? I read the answer and immediately posed the questions to my smarty-pants husband. "I bet you don't know why they sew button's on men's coat jacket sleeves." He paused for two seconds and said, "To discourage men from wiping their noses on their sleeves." I sighed. A little later he told me that he learned about the sleeve/nose wiping from his time as an officer and a gentleman.

From Vintage News, I found this fascinating photo of a Victorian exercise machine. How about the buttons on the woman's exercise costume.

I'm buttoning up my post for today by adding the only sepia family group picture I have of my paternal grandparents which resembles the prompt. My grandmother's gown features leg o'mutton sleeves which were fashionable in the 1890's and no doubt there are buttons on the bodice, but sadly, the photo is so bad that details are hard to see. 

And there's one final bit of my family story that hearkens back not to the Freckled Fannings but to the fictitious, funny Farkle family. My grandfather William died in 1902 and some years later my grandmother, by then in her 40's, married the boy next door. Bertie Massey was in his early twenties. Not exactly the Farkle family and Bertie was no Fred Berfel, but I bet there were a few raised eyebrows in that community. 

Around 1890 - my grandmother Lucy Armstrong Killeen and my grandfather William Killeen and children:
Percy, George, Hilda, Netta, Lornie, Pearl. My father was not yet on the scene. 

Monday, January 18, 2016


What do you call a group of?????
  • Elephants: a parade
  • Elk: a gang
  • Ferrets: a business
  • Fox: a leash, skulk or earth
  • Buffalo: a gang or obstinacy
  • Donkeys: a pace
  • Giraffes: a tower
  • Goats: a tribe or trip
  • Gorillas: a band
  • Hippopotamuses: a bloat or thunder
  • Hyenas: a cackle
  • Jaguars: a shadow
  • Kangaroos: a troop or mob
  • Lemurs: a conspiracy
  • Leopards: a leap
  • Martens: a richness
  • Moles: a labor
  • Monkeys: a troop or barrel
  • Mules: a pack, span or barren
  • Otters: a romp
  • Pigs: a drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Porcupines: a prickle
  • Porpoises: a pod, school, herd or turmoil
  • Rabbits: a colony, warren, nest, down, husk or herd (domestic only)
  • Rhinoceroses: a crash
  • Squirrels: a dray or scurry
  • Tigers: an ambush or streak
I'd heard of some of these terms used to describe animal groups but I'd never heard of a "dazzle of zebra" before going to Africa. And what a perfect name it is! When a group of zebra are together moving, the stripes juggling around on legs, bodies and faces is mesmerizing. Dizzying. In fact, a "dizzy of zebra" wouldn't be a half-bad term to use. With my eyesight and ever-wavering horizon if I watched too long I'd have to glance away to get re-stabilized. I'm sure there's a similar effect on lions and hyenas, the primary predators of the zebra. Mother Nature rewards success and the zebra evolved, striped, for camoflage. In the tall grass with deep shadows, they disappear. "Look at the zebra," someone exclaims and as the dazzle trots into the grass they disappear like a puff of smoke. Safe....for the moment.


In a typical zebra cluster, the safest place to be is in the middle. Standing out from the crowd increases the chance of being picked off by a lion or hyena. An animal standing alone could be sick and therefore easy pickings.

Every zebra has unique stripes; they're like fingerprints, and even though they all look alike to us, a foal can spot it's mother immediately from her striping. 

Zebra babies are up and running within a couple of hours of birth. They have to be able to keep up with the harem right away as the group is always on the move. This little guy has particularly beautiful stripes including the two on each ear. They're born after an 11 month gestation period; they stand one hour after birth and by two hours, they're running. They have to be able to keep up with the harem or it's curtains. At a week old, they start to graze even though they will continue to suckle for months.

When you see Zebra clustered together like this they are likely a harem. A harem is a stallion with a group of female zebras, or fillies and their offspring. The group typically numbers about a dozen. They stand very close together not because they are demonstrating affection but because the confusion of stripes makes it difficult for predators to visually sort out one animal from the pack. When harems come together for migration they become a dazzle.
Like all animals, they are most vulnerable while drinking. The cluster effect creates confusion for the eye and protection wherever they are. You see the animals in tight little knots around the waterholes or at the rivers' edge.

This guy is a handsome specimen. The males leave the harem when they are between a year and two years. From then on, their goal in life is to get a harem of their own, by displacing an older stallion and claiming his harem. If they succeed in driving out or killing an established stallion and taking over, the first they do is kill the foals. Nature drives them to get rid of the old genes and replace them with their own stronger genes. The mares will not come into estrus while they still have nursing babies so they aren't receptive to the males. Killing the babies takes care of that problem. The fillies come into heat for about a week - a glory week for the stallion after which the pregnant females are no longer receptive but his genes are "in the bag" so to speak. From then forward, he's defending his territory against a new crop of perhaps stronger, younger males.
A dazzle.

The beautiful stripes have inspired artists:
Colored Zebra
Zebra fragments

One cannot think of stripes without conjuring up the image of prison uniforms. Prison officials used the stripes so that prisoners would be immediately recognizable; in many ways, the exact opposite motivation of Mother Nature in her allocation of stripes to the zebra.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Magpie Tales # 301

"Thea! Bring another rose over here. I think we should put one under her chin," Dennis said, pacing around the set looking at his composition critically from the side, from the top, from the back. "No - wait. It's not more flowers we need - it's fewer. I'm not liking those roses at the top of her head."

"Listen, Dennis," replied Thea, with irritation. "We've got to get this finished...the roses are starting to look like crap! The girl is going have to move cannot expect her to lie there much longer. Stop fiddling around and get the shots!"

Dennis threw her a look, frowned and said, "You're right, the roses are fading, but I'm starting to like them better. Let's wilt them all. Can you do that? And I'm going to throw off the focus on the right side." He climbed to his camera and buried his face in his lenses. 

Thea sighed and trudged off to get her wilting sprays. "Here we go again!" she muttered to herself, "Making up the set for the third time."  As much as she resented the time spent agonizing over details, she had to admit that, as usual, he was right. The wilted roses would look better. The shot would be beautiful. 

Sepia Saturday #313: Shipwrecked

Shipwrecks! We have two shipwreck survivors in my family: My great grandfather, James Armstrong, who survived the 1830 wreck of the Newry on which he was immigrating to Quebec, Canada from Belfast, Ireland; and my aunt Helen, for whom I was named, who survived not one, but two shipwrecks either coming or going to Iceland from Canada. I don't know any of the details of her wrecks, only that she survived them both. An account of my great grandfather's wreck was reported in the "Gentleman's Magazine" and I have included it below should anyone be interested in the details. 
The Titanic
Photo from National Museums N. Ireland Collection

But when I saw that these two tiny children, Louis and Lola were survivors of the Titanic, I was reminded of a very famous person I met once, and by contrast, a very old person. I was living in Oxnard circa 1980 when my brother-in-law and sister came up to visit and we decided to spend the day in Ojai visiting galleries and museums. We happened upon the Beatrice Wood studio and at the time she conducted a sort of salon, depending on her mood. If you were lucky, she'd invite you to sit and chat. We were lucky the day we were there and we visited with her for half an hour. Beatrice, a renowned potter, was a presence of epic proportions, swooping around in a sari (the only garments she wore for the last 35 years of her life) and emitting a kind of electricity. She was in her late 80's when we met and very curious - she wanted to know something about her visitors. In other words, she wasn't "on broadcast" all of the time, although her life was so interesting most people would be happy to sit and listen to her tell stories all day. Our visit was short but unforgettable. 
Beatrice Wood in her Ojai Studio
Courtesy of

An original "Beato"piece for sale ($2,499.00) at Pacific Fine Art

Gloria Stuart as "Old Rose" from the movie "Titanic"
Courtesy of
What is the connection between Beatrice and the Titanic? When James Cameron was making the movie "Titanic", he was looking for a model for "Old Rose", the part played by Gloria Stuart. Someone told him about Beatrice and after Cameron met her he used her as an inspiration for his fictitious Rose. It wasn't the first time she inspired a movie role. In the famous Truffaut film "Jules and Jim," the character played by Jeanne Moreau was based in part on Beatrice, who was also known as the Mama of Dada. 
Jeanne Moreau in "Jules and Jim."
Photo courtesy of

When the movie was released, Beatrice enjoyed even more fame at the ripe old age of 104. She died in 1998 at 105 years old. Here's a link to her NY Times obit. Beatrice Wood Obituary.

Following is the account of my great grandfather's shipwreck. I wondered just how commonplace shipwrecks are/were, given the three in my own family. According to Wikipedia, there were 33 shipwrecks in April 1830, far more than I would have guessed. 

Shipwreck of the Newry 1830The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 100, Part 1

Transcribed, Compiled & Submitted by Teena

The following letter was addressed to a gentleman in Worcestershire. If you think it all calculated to interest the readers of the Gentleman's Magazine, it is much at your service.

Mr Dear Sir, Carnarvon, Saturday, April 24. 1830

When I wrote to you a few days ago, I told you that a distressing case of shipwreck had just occurred in our neighbourhood. I had then no conception of the real magnitude of the calamity, nor was I acquainted with any of the circumstances attending it. My means of gaining information on the subject have since been most ample; and some of the facts which have come to my knowledge, are of so peculiarly touching a nature, that I find it impossible to satisfy myself without endeavouring to record them. They cannot fail to awaken the tenderest sympathies of a heart like yours.

(The Newry was built at Quebec in 1825, and was the property of Messrs. Lyle of Newry. It is scarcely possible to do justice to the liberality and kindness which the surviving passengers have experienced from these gentlemen.)

The Newry, a vessel of five hundred tons burthen, Captain Crosby, set sail from Newry in Ireland, at half past two o'clock, in the afternoon of Wednesday in the last week, being bound for Quebec, and having on board between three and four hundred emigrants. These were not of the class that is commonly designated as the lower Irish : for, although there were doubtless a good many labourers among them, they appear to have consisted principally of small farmers, with their wives and children, and domestic servants. About the middle of the day on Thursday, the wind became unfavourable; and at noon on Friday, " it blew right a head," when a tack was made, and the ship changed her course to the south-east. She continued to pursue " her ocean way " in that direction till between nine and ten o'clock at night. There was then a thick haze, and the Captain entertained not the least suspicion that he was near the land; but as he was preparing to put the vessel about, she struck suddenly and with great violence upon a rock close to the shore at Maen Mellt, about three miles from Aberdaron in this county. The passengers had retired to their berths, and the lights below deck had for some time been extinguished. No sooner was the Captain aware of the danger, than he ordered the hatches to be fastened down. Appalling as the measure must have been to those who were below, it was in reality an act of prudence and of mercy; the tumult on the deck would otherwise have been such as to prevent the crew from working the ship, and from adopting any expedients to avert the catastrophe that was at hand. Within less than twenty minutes it was evident that all attempts to save the vessel must be ineffectual. The hatches were taken off; the Captain raised his voice and said, " Let us all have an equal chance for our lives;" while one of the crew exclaimed, " A watery tomb! a watery tomb !''
At these thrilling words, the passengers rushed upon deck, not more than three or four among them having on any other clothes than those in which they had sprung from their beds. The boat was lowered down from the quarter deck. Before it had well touched the surface of the water, eleven men jumped into it, as it were, at once. The boat was instantly upset, and they all perished. The ocean was their grave. Their entreaties for help, and their screams of despair, as they struggled with the raging billows, are said to have been terrific.

In hopes that he might be able to form a communication, or a gang-way, as it is technically called, between the vessel and the shore, the Captain ordered first the mizen mast, and then the main mast to be cut away, and to be employed for that purpose; but owing to the violence of the gale, each of them " fell short." The important object was afterwards accomplished by means of a spare boom. One end having with much difficulty been lodged upon a rock on the main land, while the other rested upon the vessel, a rope was carried out by the carpenter from the vessel to the shore; and by this contrivance, in the depth of midnight, more than two hundred of the passengers were enabled to reach the rocks.

At four o'clock on Saturday morning, David GRIFFITH, a seaman residing in the neighbourhood, came to the shore, and was instrumental in rescuing from their perilous situation between thirty and forty of his fellow creatures, men, women, and children, who on various accounts had been obliged to remain on the wreck. The fearless and untiring intrepidity of this young man is above all praise.

The vessel went to pieces on Sunday. The whole of the crew was saved. Of the passengers, it is supposed that at least between sixty and seventy have lost their lives in the remorseless deep. The survivors, on leaving the rocks at daybreak, sought refuge in the nearest farm-houses and cottages, where they were received and treated with almost unheard-of kindness.

On Sunday, about the middle of the day, a large body of them appeared at Carnarvon. They were then returning to Ireland. As soon as they told their melancholy tale to the Deputy Mayor and the Bailiffs, those gentlemen called together some of the principal inhabitants. A committee was formed : subscriptions were solicited without an hours delay, from door to door; collections were made in the evening at St. Mary's church, and in all the other places of worship; it was resolved to appropriate the Guildhall to the use of the poor sufferers, and I can assure you, without entering into a minute and tedious statement, that through the whole of this week every expedient which humanity and benevolence could devise for effectually relieving them, has been employed.

From their own lips I have heard a recital of their sorrows: and the following cases will give you a tolerably distinct as well as accurate idea of what has occurred.

Mary Ann WATT an intelligent little girl, thirteen years old, lost both her parents in the wreck, and knew none of the surviving passengers, except a young woman, who, like herself, came from the county of Tyrone. She never saw her father after the vessel struck, nor can she give any tidings of him. She was dragged through the water to the shore. Her mother, who was a woman of an extremely delicate frame, appears lo have been either too feeble or too timid lo trust herself to the boom. About eight o'clock on Saturday morning, as she was standing upon the deck, a large piece of timber struck her on her left side. She held up one of her hands, uttered a faint shriek, and fell. A sailor ran to her assistance, but life was extinct. The case of the daughter, as is natural, has excited an extraordinary interest. Among the tokens of sympathy which she has received, is a New Testament, bearing this inscription on the inside of the cover:

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Psalm xxvii. 10. Mary Ann Watt, given to her with the kindest wishes. Carnarvon, April 21, 1830. "I will sing of mercy and judgment : unto thee. O Lord! I will sing" Psalm ci

The poor orphan, you will be glad to hear, has since found a home in a respectable Irish family in this town.
Take a wander over to Sepia Saturday for more stories of family history, children, shipwrecks and more.... 

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Coronado Bridge

An old Sepia Saturday post here that I never published. But, in keeping with my New Year's resolution to write more, I'm going back through some 250 posts that didn't make my own editorial cuts and re-working them.

The beautiful Coronado Bridge, 2.1 miles in length, linking San Diego to Coronado Island, opened August 3rd, 1969. Why wasn't it designed to cross directly across the span; why does it curve like it does? To allow ships out of the nearby Naval Base to pass under it, there had to 61 meters of clearance under the bridge. The best design solution to achieve the required height was to build in the curve.  The first person to cross it after the official opening was Ronald Regan, then governor of the state.

Here's the bridge cloaked in our friendly San Diego fog. Coastal fog is our companion on many mornings but it quickly retreats giving way to sunny skies. Do I sound like the weather lady?

The bridge has inspired artists for decades. Here's a few examples:
Christopher Rooney 2011
Photo by Grant Pecoff
The bridge curving over the water with it's mission-inspired stanchions inspired great art, but wait, there's more! What happened under the bridge during and after it's construction is equally interesting. From wikipedia:

"The pillars supporting the bridge on the eastern end are painted with huge murals as part of Chicano Park, the largest collection of Chicano art murals in the world. This neighborhood park and mural display were created in response to a community uprising in 1970, which protested the negative effects of the bridge and Interstate 5 on the Barrio Logan community. Local artist Salvador Torres proposed using the bridge and freeway pillars as a giant canvas for Chicano art at a time when urban wall murals were rare in the United States, and he and many other artists created the murals when permission for the park was finally granted in 1973. " Chicano Park is home to the largest collection of outdoor murals in the country.

I live in San Diego County and have crossed the bridge many times, but I didn't know about Chicano Park until I wrote this blog. I can hardly wait to grab my camera and spend a couple of hours looking at these brilliant murals. My list of sights to see in my own backyard grows longer and longer.

Finally the sad part of the bridge's history: Like many iconic bridges around the world, Coronado bridge has been the scene of suicides; in fact, it's considered the country's third most "deadly" bridge. The first is the Golden Gate in San Francisco; the second Aurora Bridge in Seattle; and then comes the Coronado.  The first suicide on the bridge occurred three years after it opened and the sad event turned out not to be a suicide but a suicide at gunpoint

"After conferring with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, San Diego police determined the deceased was Jewell P. Hutchings, 52, and charged her husband, James Albert Hutchings, with murder. From their Cerritos home, the couple had driven to the bridge, where Hutchings threatened to shoot his wife unless she jumped. Their daughter and daughter's friend watched from the car, according to criminal records at San Diego Superior Court. Hutchings first told police his wife wanted to kill herself, but he later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He was convicted of that charge, incarcerated a few years, and then released on probation in 1974. The court's records end in 1976 with Hutchings's violation of probation resulting in more prison time.

The Hutchings case may be the only murder on the Coronado bridge. With the exception of one man in 1992, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office has identified all 202 people known to have committed suicide there. Each year the number varies: from none in 1985 to 16 in 1980. About 25 percent of the victims are women -- a breakdown that roughly approximates national statistics for suicide. Most people drive on the bridge, but some walk.

"As with other suicides, there's no common thread for bridge-jumping," said Lt. James E. Barker, commanding officer of the San Diego Police Department's emergency negotiations team, which, in its role of diffusing crises, has talked some people out of leaping. "We used to think it was during the holiday season, but during the last few years, we've had zero activity during the holiday. You can't say it's young versus old, successful people versus unsuccessful people, educated people versus uneducated people. It covers the whole spectrum."

I wrote myself into a box here...ending with such a downer I didn't have the heart to send it to Sepia Saturday. Suicide by gunpoint - such a happy family outing!

By way of antidote, here's an anti-suicide piece if there ever was one:

The morning after I committed suicide

The morning after I committed suicide, I felt the body awaken to a thousand vibrations. It left behind the many, many yesterdays in favour of a lifetime of naturalness. The ugly scars and bumps faded away with the mental clarity that ensued. The body felt at ease again, as if there were many, many tomorrows to come.

The morning after I committed suicide, I saw the mind take form in front of my eyes. I witnessed the despair melt, the hopelessness die, and the loneliness leave. Fear, which it had known so well, fell into a bottomless abyss... gone forever. What remained was a shapeless, nebulous mush with which I could have created beauty, wonder and belief.

The morning after I committed suicide, I rose at the touch of my mother's cold hands. The body, which had previously felt so empowered, became still. There were no tears, no cries...she looked into the coffin for a sign of life, yet refusing to see my face that would tell her otherwise.

The morning after I committed suicide, I watched my father from outside the window of our home. He sat alone, looking into the distance, with a cup of coffee on the table. Tears dropped into the mug, making the coffee bitter, but I don't think he cared. The man of the house, as my mother called him, was shivering on a hot summer day.

The morning after I committed suicide, I found my brother sitting on a tree in the garden. He was holding a piece of paper. It was an essay on his role model in life – me. 'Coming back home from school is fun because I know my sister will be around'. He is now an angry young man. He tore the paper up and threw it away.

The morning after I committed suicide, I wished I could tell my family how much I loved them, and how sorry I was for letting them down. I wished I could tell myself that flowers still bloom after a storm.

The morning after I committed suicide, I wished that I had lived.