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 - 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

Check out Sepia Saturday for more stories.  

Grab your cool summer beverage of choice and visit Sepia Saturday for more interpretations of the theme

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. 

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?


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 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.