The Big Blow

Storm of the 20th Century?

October 12, 2021

While many may think of the Pacific Northwest as having benign weather – albeit rainy and drizzly for months at a time – it does get occasional severe weather.

One such event occurred on Friday, October 12, 1962. Dubbed the Columbus Day Storm or, by some, as the Big Blow, it has become the ‘standard’ by which all other PNW wind storms are judged.

Yes, there IS an Infallible Wikipedia entry for the event:

“The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (also known as the Big Blow, and originally as Typhoon Freda) was a Pacific Northwest windstorm that struck the West Coast of Canada and the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States on October 12, 1962. It is considered the benchmark of extratropical wind storms. The storm ranks among the most intense to strike the region since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 ‘Great Gale’ and snowstorm. The storm is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 ‘Storm of the Century’ and the ‘1991 Halloween Nor’easter’ (‘The Perfect Storm’). The system brought strong winds to the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, and was linked to 46 fatalities in the northwest and Northern California resulting from heavy rains and mudslides.”

For weather geeks, there are all sorts of statistics which confirm the magnitude of the event. The highest sustained wind speed recorded during the storm was 115 mph. For comparison, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale would place that in the category of a major hurricane. The highest wind gusts registered were in the 170 mph range. The gusts – mostly along the northern Oregon and southern Washington coasts – were so strong that weather station anemometers were taken out by the wind.

A church steeple is toppled in the wind

When all was said and done, many records were broken that day and the storm continues to be studied and used as a textbook example of an extratropical cyclone.

Although I did not live in Western Washington at that time, the hubby’s family did. I asked my mother in law if she recalled that day and her recollection involved two things: one, it was her oldest son’s 10th birthday and he loved the fact that his birthday fell on a national holiday; and, two, was that she had taken a group of girls to a Campfire Girls camp for a cleanup event. And, yes, the day was stormy.

As we move into fall and winter, I ponder the possibility of another big storm. They do not happen every year, but when they do they make an impression. In 1993 when the January 20th Inauguration Day storm hit, I was at home in Sammamish with a three year old and was 7 months pregnant. The power went out around nine that morning and my son and I moved our location to the living room. It got so intense at one point that I distinctly recall us sitting on the couch looking out the east facing window and watching the lids of garbage cans fly through the air like giant Frisbees. The huge cedar trees behind the houses across the street were whipped by the wind, swaying wildly.

A house is crushed by a fallen tree in Clark County

It was only later, after the storm, that I heard the most harrowing account of the day.

On the next street east, which was down the hill from our house, lived another young family. And like me, she had a pre-schooler. The big difference was that she was not pregnant but instead had a less than 3 month old baby.

That morning she had been in their family room/kitchen area, the baby lying on a blanket, her preschooler playing. Around 10 a.m., she picked up the baby and the trio went upstairs. It was a fortuitous decision. Within a couple of minutes of that change of venue, a seventy foot cedar tree crashed through the roof, smashing into the family room… exactly where the baby had been minutes earlier. Someone was watching over that family that day.

When the wind died down later that afternoon, neighbors emerged from their houses to assess the damage. We had some trees down in our back yard, but for the most part escaped without loss.

So consider this your PSA for this year. When a big storm blows in to Seattle and the Puget Sound, you can be pretty assured that it will come from the southwest. Stay home or at your office – I personally don’t drive in windstorms – and look to see where the big trees are. If possible, seek out the northeast corner of the structure.  And remember, it probably won’t be as bad as the Columbus Day storm of 1962… but then again records do have a way of getting broken.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Day_Storm_of_1962

https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php

https://climate.washington.edu/stormking/January1993.html

Scituate, Massachusetts

What a Mann!

October 5, 2021

When one thinks of the earliest communities settled by the European immigrants, no doubt the word ‘Plymouth’ rolls off most people’s tongues.

New England was not, however, just that one community, but a whole network of towns and villages, dotting the east coast like sand dollars.

As someone who loves history and genealogy, I was thrilled to learn in my research that I can trace several of my family lines to some of the earliest settlements of the now northeast United States.

One of these places is a small town in Massachusetts named Scituate. The spelling alone is enough to cause most people to stop and say ‘how do you pronounce THAT!?’ So let’s get that out of the way. It’s pronounced ‘SIT – U- ATE.’ Just think of it as something you do at dinner each night.

It was on October 5, 1636 when the town was incorporated. Happy 385th birthday!

For those who don’t recall, Plymouth was settled in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived. Following the success of the early settlers, no doubt word got back to England, and more people made the treacherous sea voyage seeking refuge in the new land.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us this about Scituate:

“The Wampanoag and their neighbors have inhabited the lands Scituate now stands on for thousands of years. The name Scituate is derived from ‘satuit‘, the Wampanoag term for cold brook, which refers to a brook that runs to the inner harbor of the town. In 1710, several European colonizers emigrated to Rhode Island and founded Scituate, Rhode Island, naming it after their previous hometown.

European colonization brought a group of people from Plymouth about 1627, who were joined by colonizers from the county of Kent in England. They were initially governed by the General Court of Plymouth, but on October 5, 1636, the town incorporated as a separate entity.

The Scituate lighthouse at sunrise.

The Williams-Barker House, which still remains near the harbor, was built in 1634. Twelve homes and a sawmill were destroyed in King Phillip’s War in 1676.

In 1717, the western portion of the original land grant was separated and incorporated as the town of Hanover, and in 1788, a section of the town was ceded to Marshfield. In 1849, another western section became the town of South Scituate, which later changed its name to Norwell. Since then, the borders have remained essentially unchanged.

Fishing was a significant part of the local economy in the past, as was the sea mossing industry. The sea was historically an integral part of the town with occasional incidents such as that described February 13, 1894, in which eight men clinging to the vessel’s rigging on a schooner grounded off Third Cliff apparently died before a large crowd watching from shore ‘literally frozen to the ropes’ while unsuccessful rescue efforts continued through the day and their apparently lifeless bodies were covered by nightfall. A small fishing fleet is still based in Scituate Harbor, although today the town is mostly residential.”

Sign outside the Mann house in Scituate. Photo taken by author 2008

In April 2008, the hubby, daughter, and I took a trip to Massachusetts. We spent two nights in Plymouth. Day three was designated as the day to drive north and stay in the greater Boston area. But something had started niggling at me. Didn’t I have ancestors who came from Massachusetts? I had done research some 10 years earlier and hit the genealogic jackpot when I was able to connect up with a whole string of people who zoomed the family line back from 1848 Wisconsin to Scituate and before that across the Atlantic to England. I now have the Mann’s traced back to 1457.

Although it was the days before Ancestry.com or 23andMe, there were programs on the internet where one could store their family trees. So I logged in and, low and behold, as I worked backwards I found Richard Mann, an early founder of Scituate.

Armed with this information I knew we HAD to go through Scituate! Once headed north, we soon found ourselves inching our way there. There were no interstate highways or tollways, just idyllic backroads decorated with budding deciduous trees and bright spring flowers dotting the landscape. The houses we passed were classic New England colonials and saltboxes. It was all very charming.

Scituate was, well, situated on the coast; still primarily a fishing village three hundred and seventy some years later.

And, of course, I was determined to find the home of great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great -grandpa Dick.

As it turns out, my direct ancestral line left Scituate sometime in the early 1700’s when one Abigail Mann married the (it turns out) scoundrel Simon Baxter, Sr. and moved to Connecticut. That didn’t work out so well for her in the long run as Simon got involved with another woman. Divorce, though rare, was granted in this case to great-great-great-great-great-great grandma Abby since Simon had engaged in “fornication with the widow Rebecca Berg” according to the documents of the day. Yikes.

My Mann ancestry

Fortunately for me, they had managed to produce a son, Simon Baxter, Jr. and HE had a daughter Prudence who fared much better than her grandmother and married one Aristides Huestis (my son is, no doubt, thankful I didn’t want to name him after Aristides). The Huestis family lived in Crown Point, New York. They were hardy people and produced a large gaggle of offspring including my great-great-great-great grandmother, Polly Huestis Noyes, who ended up being an early settler into the state of Wisconsin in 1848.

And on the western migration went clear to the other side of country in only 275 short years.

But I digress. Because there are moments in life when one takes a step back and says ‘this explains so much.’ The visit to Scituate was one of those times.

Poor grandma Abby didn’t have a chance, of course, since the way of the world was very patriarchal at the time. While she married scoundrel Simon and moved away, her brother stayed. And his eldest son, and the eldest son after that, and so on and so forth with a new male heir produced each generation. All the way to the 1970’s when the last direct male descendent of Richard Mann, Percy, died without offspring.

Oh dear. What to do with the house in Scituate? How about we make it a museum?

Which is exactly what they did.

This is a nice thing to do for ancestor hunters because much of the heritage of that particular family line has been preserved for all us ‘Mann’ descendents.

So we arrive at the Mann farmhouse on a cool, but sunny, April afternoon. The house (now the museum) is shut up tighter than a reticent New Englander’s mouth. But the gardens and property were open, so we wander about.

And then we find it – the prize which all genealogists want – that thing, that one thing which makes you say “Huh? So THAT’s where that trait comes from!”

Tucked away behind the house and far from the gardens is a tree… surrounded by a car. That’s not entirely accurate. This whitewashed account is from the Scituate Historical Society:

“After Percy Mann had a run-in with the town’s officials in the 1920’s, he decided that rather than pay vehicle registration fees, driver’s license fees, and car insurance, he would just drive his automobile into the back yard, park it and never drive it again. Over the course of time a tree grew up through the middle of the car, which remains where Percy left it almost a century ago.”

The remains of Percy Mann’s car in 2008

I still laugh when I imagine how this whole thing REALLY went down. Old Percy must have been as stubborn as a Nor’easter in November. No one, not even the town leaders, were going to tell him he had to pay fees and get a license to drive a car. “Ah, hell,” one imagines he railed, “I did fine with my horse and wagon and no one’s gonna force me to buy a g-damned license for it!”

So he did what any rational Mann man would do. He drove the car onto the property and never touched it again. That’ll show ‘em.

There is absolutely no doubt my DeVore family is related to the Mann’s, possessing that same stubborn New England Yankee obstinate spirit. It’s in the genes.

As always, a link or two:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scituate%2C_Massachusetts

http://scituatehistoricalsociety.org/mann-house/

http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~dyer/genealogy/Mann/D1.htm

Hayride!

A fun fall tradition

September 28, 2021

Autumn seems to be a season of traditions which celebrate our rural and agricultural heritage. There’s just something about shuffling through a carpet of red, gold, and orange leaves or sipping a cup of apple cider on a blustery day.

One uniquely North American tradition which has been enjoyed for generations now is a hayride. I turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for a more in depth history:

“Hayrides traditionally have been held as celebratory activities, usually in connection to celebration of the autumn harvest. Hayrides originated with farmhands and working farm children riding loaded hay wagons back to the barn for unloading, which was one of the few times during the day one could stop to rest during the frenetic days of the haying season. By the late 19th century and the spread of the railroads, tourism and summer vacations in the country had become popular with urban families, many of whom had read idealized accounts of hayrides in children’s books.

Red Tail Farm in Leavenworth offers hayrides in the autumn.

To capitalize on the demand, local farmers began offering ‘genuine hayrides’ on wagons loaded with hay, since one could make more cash income selling rides to ‘summer people’ than by selling the same wagon-load of hay (although most farmers did both). During this era, farming was transforming from a subsistence system to a cash system, and there were few options for bringing real money into the average farm.

Over time the hayride became a real tradition, although the original concept of riding on top of a load of hay was gradually replaced with a simple ride in a wagon sitting on a layer of hay intended to cushion the ride. This was considered far safer than (if not as fun as) riding perched 15-20 feet on top of a slippery pile of hay on a moving vehicle.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, in her book The Long Winter, describes the work of loading a hay wagon and her ‘ride’ from the fields back to the barn:

“There Pa walked beside the wagon and drove the horses between the rows of haycocks. At every haycock he stopped the horses and pitched the hay up into the hayrack. It came tumbling loosely over the high edge and Laura trampled it down. Up and down and back and forth she trampled the loose hay with all the might of her legs, while the forkfuls kept coming over and falling, and she went on trampling while the wagon jolted on to the next haycock. Then Pa pitched more hay in from the other side.

Under her feet the hay climbed higher, trampled down as solid as hay can be. Up and down, fast and hard, her legs kept going, the length of the hayrack and back, and across the middle. The sunshine was hotter and the smell of the hay rose up sweet and strong. Under her feet it bounced and over the edges of the hayrack it kept coming.

All the time she was rising higher on the trampled-down hay. Her head rose above the edges of the rack and she could have looked at the prairie, if she could have stopped trampling. Then the rack was full of hay and still more came flying up from Pa’s pitchfork.

The illustration of Laura in the haywagon from The Long Winter

Laura was very high up now and the slippery hay was sloping downward around her. She went on trampling carefully. Her face and her neck were wet with sweat and sweat trickled down her back. Her sunbonnet hung by its strings and her braids had come undone. Her long brown hair blew loose in the wind.

Then Pa stepped up on the whiffletrees. He rested one foot on David’s broad hip and clambered up onto the load of hay.

‘You’ve done a good job, Laura,’ he said. ‘You tramped the hay down so well that we’ve got a big load on the wagon.’

Laura rested in the prickly warm hay while Pa drove near to the stable. Then she slid down and sat in the shade of the wagon. Pa pitched down some hay, then climbed down and spread it evenly to make the big, round bottom of a stack. He climbed onto the load and pitched more hay, then climbed down and leveled it on the stack and trampled it down.”

For Laura, that ride on top of the hay wagon was a well deserved and needed break from hard physical labor.

Those of us who grew up in urban or suburban settings will never know how difficult life was for farmers.

For me, a hayride conjures up memories from when I was 14 and 15 years old and the Rainbow Girls – along with the members of the boy’s group DeMolay – looked forward to that day each fall when we met at a farm and all piled into the back of a large farm truck for a ‘hayride.’

Unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘hayride,’ ours consisted of bales of hay and a layer of straw on which to sit. We were well enclosed by the sides of the truck and squished together as the vehicle lumbered down the dark back roads of the Yakima Valley. By late September or October, the temperatures in the evenings were down into the 40’s – sometime’s the 30’s – and we were all bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves.

Three things which I most remember about the hayrides:

  • Constant jostling
  • Singing
  • The bonfire and hot dog roast when we arrived at our destination

Sadly, despite keeping a diary for several years as a teenager, the only thing I wrote for 1972 about this event was “Tonight was the hayride. It was fun.” A peek at the weather that day informs us that the high was 63 degrees but the overnight temperature was in the low 30’s. So nice and crisp, exactly how I remember. For a young teenager it was the ultimate fall activity.

Nowadays, being jostled about in the bed of a truck and sitting on hay is, perhaps, not the most fun thing to do on a brisk autumn Saturday night. But if you happen to get a hankering to go on a hayride, there’s a helpful website appropriately named hayride.com to fulfill that desire. Enjoy!

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayride

https://www.hayrides.com/

Washington Wineries

The State takes it’s place in viticulture

September 21, 2021

View of Mount Adams from the Red Willow Vineyard. The vineyard has, historically, produced grapes for Columbia Winery but now grows for a variety of other wineries.

With over 940 wineries and 14 distinct American Viticultural Areas, Washington State is one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. The majority of grapes are grown in the rich valley’s East of the Cascade Mountains in a climate which is just about perfect for the crop.

Although Washington’s earliest settlers planted grapes at Fort Vancouver in 1825, it is unknown if they used them for wine production. By the 1860’s and 70’s both Italian and German immigrants were planting grapes and producing wine.

With the advent of prohibition – Washington State was an early adopter in 1917 – every commercial winery went out of business.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the fine wines which have made the state a leading producer finally emerged.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

This map shows the various AVA’s

 “The roots of the modern Washington wine industry can be traced to the middle of the 20th century when a group of professors from the University of Washington turned their home winemaking operation into a commercial endeavor and founded Associated Vintners (later renamed Columbia Winery) and focused on producing premium wines. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were merged into a new winery that would eventually become Chateau Ste Michelle. Both Chateau Ste Michelle and Associated Vintners became the driving force in premium wine production for the early modern Washington wine industry.”

During the 1970’s new vineyards proliferated from Yakima to Walla Walla, Goldendale to Grand Coulee. Today there are over 80 different grape varieties grown in the state.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Washington produces a full spectrum of wines ranging from mass-produced to premium boutique wines. It also produces nearly every style of wine including rosé, sparkling, fruit, fortified, still and late harvest dessert wines. Some years can even produce favorable conditions for ice wine production. In 2006, The Wine Advocate gave two perfect scores of 100 points for Cabernet Sauvignon wines made by Quilceda Creek Vintners using grapes from several Washington AVAs. Only 15 other American wines have ever been scored so highly by The Wine Advocate, all from California. Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the largest producer in the state, owning more than a third of all vineyard land in Washington.”

Chateau Ste Michelle Rieslings have been a staple in the household for decades

For the complete experience, one should do a tour of some of the Eastern Washington vineyards. The hubby and I did such an event waaaaay back in the early 1980’s when there were only a handful of wineries to visit. Along with my parents – with my teetotaler mother behind the wheel – we started the day by driving down to Patterson from Yakima and going to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In those days the people running the tasting rooms had not yet been overwhelmed with wine enthusiasts and were eager to share a variety of wines – all for free.

At that first stop the guy behind the bar must have decided I was cute because it seemed that my tasting glass was filled fuller than either my Dad’s or hubby’s glasses. Not wanting to be rude or waste perfectly good wine, I drank all the wine he gave me, which was at least three different varieties.

What a fun day that turned out to be. I was buzzed before we left Ste. Michelle to work our way back north. I know there were other stops, but I couldn’t tell you where.

There was another memorable trip with a group of friends who – during the past 30 years – formed a monthly luncheon group. One year we decided it would be fun to do a girls’ only weekend wine tour. We rented several hotel rooms, arranged for a limousine, and away we went.

All over the lower Yakima valley the limo carried us to a variety of wineries. Some were fancy and others were converted barns. We sampled reds and whites, sweet and ice wines. Everything was going great until  the driver of the limousine we had rented informed us that she was lost!

For those who have ever traveled around the dirt roads of Eastern Washington, you will know that most of the roads follow the contour of the land OR they go in straight lines and then go at 90 degree angles tracing the edges of farms. It’s easy to get turned around.

The Benches Vineyard near Pasco on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

We were someplace east of Benton City and the one person who had grown up in the region was pressed into service as the navigator. Yes, that would be yours truly. A half hour later, I directed the driver well enough that we emerged from our wilderness wanderings, finally back on track.

The driver felt so bad about getting lost that she agreed to pick us up at our hotel later and transport us to dinner. It was a bonus!

Last year, I had an idea to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with an Eastern Washington wine tour… sadly, the hubby and I had to postpone due to the Covid shut downs.

I have a hunch that when we do get to do the tour, there will be more wineries to visit than we could go to in a weekend, a week, a month, or even a year. Cheers!

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_wine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateau_Ste._Michelle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Winery

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Willow_Vineyard#:~:text=Red%20Willow%20Vineyard%20is%20a%20grape%20-growing%20estate,Yakima%20Valley%20AVA%2C%20within%20the%20Yakama%20Indian%20Reservation.

https://longshadows.com/vineyards/the-benches-at-wallula

Mork and Mindy

Na-Nu, Na-Nu

September 14, 2021

Na-nu, Na-nu! This phrase – unknown before September 14, 1978 – became a part of the American cultural vernacular thanks to the incomparable Robin Williams in his role as Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The show catapulted Williams to fame and fans of the show tuned in every week to see what crazy new thing Mork would do.

The story of Mork began the previous year as a plot line in the popular TV show Happy Days. In one episode Richie encounters Mork – an alien from the planet Ork – who attempts to capture Richie and take him back to his planet for study.

Apparently fans loved the Mork character and the concept. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode ‘My Favorite Orkan’, which first aired in February 1978 and is a take on the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. Williams’ character, Mork, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode, it all turned out to be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending in the syndicated version was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.”

The spin off show catapulted to the #3 spot on TV during its inaugural season, leaping ahead of Happy Days in the ratings.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mork arrives on earth in an egg

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). Snip

Culturally, the impact was huge and spawned a variety of toys and games

Storylines usually center on Mork’s attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Orkan customs. For example, lying to someone or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called ‘splinking’) on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to humorously comment on social norms. Snip

This series was Robin Williams’ first major acting role. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter and ruining the take, often a difficult task with Williams’ talent.”

In the fall of 1978, I was 21 years old and in college so I didn’t see every episode of Mork and Mindy. But the show, specifically Williams’ role, made an impression. My fellow sorority sisters and I loved Mork and soon mimicked some of his outrageous phrases and antics.

People magazine cover October 1978

We greeted each other with “Na-nu, Na-nu” and the accompanying hand gesture; we used the term “Kay Oh” instead of “Oh Kay.” The crazier male students attempted to ‘sit’ on their heads. In many ways Mork provided a primer on how to be outrageous which, when you are in college, is a goal for many.

Mork and Mindy was like fireworks, bursting onto the television scene, in a soaring arc of sparks and light. Many tuned in just to see what crazy thing Williams would say and do. I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for Williams to keep it up week after week.

Although the series remained popular in subsequent seasons, nothing quite compared to its meteoric season one.

Occasionally, I still find myself saying “na-nu, na-nu” or “K-O” without even realizing how these terms – so very novel when first uttered – have become a part of American culture. All due to an alien named Mork who conquered the world in September 1978.

The link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy

Answers to the Facebook post: Three’s Company (1976), Mork and Mindy (1978), Taxi (1978), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), and Laverne and Shirley (1976)

Boston, Massachusetts

To Wooster and Beyond

September 7, 2021

One of the best parts of travel is climbing behind the wheel of a car and exploring interesting historical places. Boston is one of those places where history seems to live on every corner.

The Old North Church, Boston Commons, Bunker Hill, and Paul Revere’s house are but a few of the many  locations one can visit.

Paul Revere statue on a rainy day in April 2008

Boston – which was named as a settled town on September 7, 1630 – was one of the earliest and most influential places in America.

Of course The Infallible Wikipedia has something to say on the subject:

“Boston is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States, founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from the English town of the same name. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill and the siege of Boston. Upon American independence from Great Britain, the city continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub as well as a center for education and culture. The city has expanded beyond the original peninsula through land reclamation and municipal annexation. Its rich history attracts many tourists, with Faneuil Hall alone drawing more than 20 million visitors per year. Boston’s many firsts include the United States’ first public park (Boston Common, 1634), first public or state school (Boston Latin School, 1635) and first subway system (Tremont Street subway, 1897).

Today, Boston is a thriving center of scientific research. The Boston area’s many colleges and universities make it a world leader in higher education, including law, medicine, engineering and business, and the city is considered to be a global pioneer in innovation and entrepreneurship, with nearly 5,000 startups. Boston’s economic base also includes finance, professional and business services, biotechnology, information technology and government activities.

In the United States today, the greater Boston area is the tenth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area and the largest city in New England.

The hubby and daughter at Ben Franklin’s birthplace

The hubby, daughter, and I had the chance to visit Boston in 2008 when she was the representative for Massachusetts for the Washington Idaho Rainbow Girls. We only had one day in Boston proper, but visited a number of the historic sites. The city was a busy, vibrant place even on that cold and rainy April day. We walked around the city and thoroughly enjoyed the historical immersion.

Now, getting into Boston was a completely different experience. Because our trip would take us into western Massachusetts, renting a car was essential.

On the day we arrived at Logan Airport we picked up our luggage then made our way to the rental car lot. The clerk was not too concerned about which car he assigned us; instead he told us to pick one from this one particular row of vehicles.

So out we wandered to the dozens of identical make cars. How to choose? We decided on one with New York license plates for no other reason than our niece and my sister were visiting in New York while we were in Massachusetts.

Soon we were ensconced in the car and off on our adventures. On our second night – after our first down in Plymouth – we stayed in a hotel out in Revere. This afforded us reasonable access to Boston proper with about a 20 minute commute.

Soon we learned that to get to Boston the most direct way was to head south on Everett Street and then merge into the traffic rotary (we call them roundabouts in Washington) and then on to the 1-A.

It was a great plan in theory. In fact there were two things wrong with our plan. Did I mention that we were driving a car with New York plates?

New York license plates? Not a good idea.

As it turns out, people in Massachusetts pretty much hate New Yorkers. Might be related to the Red Sox and the Yankees, but I’m speculating. Or it might be that they just have no patience for anyone who does not drive as crazy as they do.

We were honked at, gestured at, and given the double middle finger salute multiple times over the course of the week.

But back to the rotary. This particular roundabout was HUGE… and the cars were doing at least 40 miles per hour and, in some cases, traveling three abreast.

The death trap rotary as seen from my map App

The hubby, like a good granny driver, pulls up to the stop sign and then waits for a break in the traffic; but there is no break in traffic. Cars whiz by at speeds which made my head spin.

Meanwhile there are now cars backing up behind us. Horns are honked at us as if doing so will somehow motivate the hubby to hit the accelerator and dive into the path of oncoming death.

Then the weirdest thing occurs. The car behind us – his patience apparently all used up – pulls around us on the left and, in a life endangering move, zooms into the rotary, squeezing between a truck and a car. This happens a couple more times – honking horns, hand gestures, and illegal passing – while the hubby is evaluating the possibility of success. Eventually he spies two feet of open space, floors the gas pedal and we rocket into the rotary, somehow emerging unscathed.

In fact our visit to Massachusetts was one driving adventure after another. Heaven help you if you miss your exit and end up in Jamaica Plain. But that’s a story for another day. And woe unto you if you are relying on paper maps… by the time we got to Worcester (pronounced Wooster, by the way) street signs had all but disappeared. I guess most people have lived there for so long that they don’t need street signs.

The street signs we found were mostly of this variety…

Somehow we made it to Barre (pronounced Barry) for our event despite the navigator (that would be me) making wild guesses as to which road we needed to take.

So just remember this… if you are flying into Boston and need a rental car, never ever, under any circumstances agree to drive one with New York plates. On second thought, hiring an Uber might be a better plan.

A link or two:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout

Wedding Woes

“You’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

August 31, 2021

By my count, I have only 137 Tuesday Newsday posts before I hit the magic number of 365. That’s a whole lot of posts. So some days, like for August 31, it can be difficult to hit on just the right topic.

As I was surfing the web… er, researching… I found myself watching a documentary on The Carpenters. For those who have been reading my blog posts for a while, you know that I’ve featured something about The Carpenters twice so far.

Richard Gere and Debra Winger in the romantic movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman

To be fair, I WAS researching actor Richard Gere whose birthday is August 31, 1946. I had watched a couple of clips from two of the movies he was in (Looking For Mr. Goodbar and An Officer and a Gentleman) when a Carpenters video popped up and then I remembered a connection between myself and Karen Carpenter.

So, my friends, this is the third post for arguably one of my two favorite musical acts.

It was on August 31, 1980, when Karen Carpenter was married. Unfortunately, her marriage lasted only 14 months and, in many ways accelerated her downward spiral that ended with her death in February 1983 (https://barbaradevore.com/2020/02/04/goodbye-to-love/).

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In early interviews, Carpenter showed no interest in marriage or dating, believing that a relationship would not survive constant touring, adding ‘as long as we’re on the road most of the time, I will never marry’. In 1976, she said the music business made it hard to meet people and that she refused to just marry someone for the sake of it. Carpenter admitted to Olivia Newton-John that she longed for a happy marriage and family.(snip) After a whirlwind romance, she married real-estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A few days prior to the ceremony, Karen was taped singing a new song, ‘Because We Are in Love’, and the tape was played for guests during the wedding ceremony. The song, written by her brother and Tom Bettis, was released in 1981. The couple settled in Newport Beach.

James Burris and Karen Carpenter at their August 31, 1980 wedding

Carpenter desperately wanted children, but Burris had undergone a vasectomy and refused to get an operation to reverse it. Their marriage did not survive this disagreement and ended after 14 months. Burris was living beyond his means, borrowing up to $50,000 (the equivalent of $142,000 in 2020) at a time from his wife, to the point where reportedly she had only stocks and bonds left. Carpenter’s friends also indicated he was impatient. Karen Kamon, a close friend, recounted an incident in which she and Carpenter went to their normal hangout, Hamburger Hamlet, and Carpenter appeared to be distant emotionally, sitting not at their regular table but in the dark, wearing large dark sunglasses, unable to eat and crying. According to Kamon, the marriage was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.’

In September 1981, Carpenter revised her will and left her marital home and its contents to Burris, but left everything else to her brother and parents, including her fortune estimated at 5–10 million dollars (between $14,000,000 and $28,000,000 in 2020). Two months later, following an argument after a family dinner in a restaurant, Carpenter and Burris broke up. Carpenter filed for divorce on October 28, 1982, while she was in Lenox Hill Hospital.”

By August of 1980, I was no longer obsessed with The Carpenters. My life had moved on. I had graduated college in May 1979 and also met the man who would become my hubby.

That year I took a job in Eatonville, Washington, as the sole reporter (and grunt of all things small town newspaper) for The Dispatch. When I wasn’t out covering a story, weekends often involved driving to Seattle to spend time with my boyfriend. Life was full and busy. Then in May of 1980 we became engaged and planned our wedding for the end of August.

The soon to be hubby and I discussed having an outdoor ceremony in a park in West Seattle. My mother had other plans.

Instead we ended up at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima on August 30. We had not given much thought to that particular date. As it turned out, that was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend which prompted more than a few declines of guests due to other plans.

Reciting our vows at Westminster Presbyterian Church

A couple weeks prior to the ceremony, the soon to be hubby was on the phone with one of his friends, encouraging him to attend. It was in this conversation when one particular phrase was uttered which has come back to haunt the hubby over the years:

“You should definitely come since you’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

According to WeatherUnderground at the time our OUTDOOR reception in my parents backyard was to take place, it was a decidedly un-summerlike 61 degrees with rain. An even more astonishing fact is that the record low temperature for August 30th in Yakima was 36 degrees set on that date in… 1980.

There were a few other glitches that day also. The hubby’s brother never arrived as he was attending a Porsche car rally near Mt. Hood and his car broke down.

Then, as I was literally about to start the traditional walk down the aisle, the photographer whispers to me, “There was a problem with the camera and none of the pictures I took turned out. We’ll have to do them over.”

Pro Tip to photographers everywhere, this is NOT something you tell a bride just before she walks down the aisle.

Turns out that some of the outdoor photos did turn out… like this one of us, our attendants, and our soloist before the rain started. Note the gray stuff in the grass. Yup. Mount St. Helen’s ash – a little more than three months after the eruption – was still everywhere in Yakima.

So there I was, standing in the church on what is supposed to be the perfect day and all I can think about is what the heck are we going to do about the photos AND listening to the rain drops echoing on the skylights overhead wondering how the party next to the pool will turn out.

With our greatest role models… The hubby’s parents recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Mine celebrated their 70th in 2017 a couple months before my mom passed.

But all things being equal, it actually was a perfect way to start a marriage. Because weddings are not marriages. Marriages are all about overcoming the various challenges which life tosses at you. In the 41 years since that cold and rainy summer day, there have been broken bones, illness, and challenges which have all but swamped us. But there has also been laughter, adventures, and joy.

So Happy 41st Anniversary to the hubby. It’s been quite the ride.

The links:

https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/wa/yakima/KYKM/date/1980-8-30

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Carpenter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gere

Jane Eyre

Groundbreaking book by Charlotte Bronte

August 24, 2021

It was on August 24, 1847, when Charlotte Brontë finished her manuscript Jane Eyre. Less than two months later, the novel was published.

My 1920’s era copy of Jane Eyre which I purchased in a British bookshop the summer of 1980.

For those writers, like myself, who aspire to having our works in print, the pace with which she saw success and the subsequent praise for her novel, inspires.

Victorian England serves as the backdrop for Jane Eyre. From page one the reader sees a harsh world where one’s circumstances dictate where life will take them. The first person protagonist, orphan Jane, learns these lessons early due to poor treatment at the hands of her cousins and aunt. She is sent off to a boarding school where additional cruel handling awaits her; it’s a central tenet of the novel.

The book was considered groundbreaking as to its style and themes. Unlike most literature of the day, Jane Eyre delves into the deeper thoughts of the heroine. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“The novel revolutionised prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist’s moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity. Charlotte Brontë has been called the ‘first historian of the private consciousness,’ and the literary ancestor of writers like Proust and Joyce.

The book contains elements of social criticism with a strong sense of Christian morality at its core, and it is considered by many to be ahead of its time because of Jane’s individualistic character and how the novel approaches the topics of class, sexuality, religion, and feminism. It, along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is one of the most famous romance novels of all time.”

Haworth, Yorkshire Postcard circa 1980

Jane Eyre – along with Wuthering Heights by Charlotte’s sister Emily Brontë, – was among a handful of novels which inspired my interest in the romance genre. At the time I first read the books, I did not truly understand how these two sisters had to overcome societal gender prejudices to live a very non-traditional life. Jane Eyre was initially published under the pen name of Currer Bell to provide legitimacy to the novel since female writers were unheard of at that time.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Brontë’s first manuscript, ‘The Professor’, did not secure a publisher, although she was heartened by an encouraging response from Smith, Elder & Co. of Cornhill, who expressed an interest in any longer works Currer Bell might wish to send. Brontë responded by finishing and sending a second manuscript in August 1847. Six weeks later, Jane Eyre was published. It tells the story of a plain governess, Jane, who, after difficulties in her early life, falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. They marry, but only after Rochester’s insane first wife, of whom Jane initially has no knowledge, dies in a dramatic house fire. The book’s style was innovative, combining Romanticism, naturalism with gothic melodrama, and broke new ground in being written from an intensely evoked first-person female perspective. Brontë believed art was most convincing when based on personal experience; in Jane Eyre she transformed the experience into a novel with universal appeal.

Jane Eyre had immediate commercial success and initially received favourable reviews. G. H. Lewes wrote that it was ‘an utterance from the depths of a struggling, suffering, much-enduring spirit’, and declared that it consisted of ‘suspiria de profundis! (sighs from the depths). Speculation about the identity and gender of the mysterious Currer Bell heightened with the publication of Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell (Emily) and Agnes Grey by Acton Bell (Anne). Accompanying the speculation was a change in the critical reaction to Brontë’s work, as accusations were made that the writing was ‘coarse’, a judgement more readily made once it was suspected that Currer Bell was a woman. However, sales of Jane Eyre continued to be strong and may even have increased as a result of the novel developing a reputation as an ‘improper’ book.

Charlotte Bronte was only 38 when she died.

In the summer of 1980, while on a trip to Europe with my parents and sisters, we stopped into a bookstore in a town a bit south of London. My mother, particularly, was a huge fan of Victorian and Edwardian novels and loved nothing better than time spent perusing the stacks in a library or bookstore.

It was there, this particular July day, where I found a used copy of Jane Eyre. What a great choice of a book to read while touring the English countryside.

Soon I was lost in its pages, absorbed by Jane’s story. And soon my father – behind the wheel of the car we had rented – began chastising me for having my nose in a book rather than looking out the window.

For me, reading the book while traveling in Bronte’s homeland was the ultimate experience. One can only imagine what a place might look like unless they have been in that location. By the time we visited Haworth, Yorkshire, I knew what a moor looked and smelled like. I could see Jane struggling across them, sleeping among the crags, enduring the rain. I could envision the town, the church, and the geography.

To glance up from the pages and then out the window of the car stimulated my imagination in ways which induced the images to remain long after my return home.

I often see the book on the shelf in my office, a reminder of that trip so many years prior. Bound in a mottled brown and black leather, the volume at the time seemed contemporary to Bronte’s own life.

When I showed the book to my son our curiosity emerged as to the date of the printing. The only hint was ‘Printed and Bound in Great Britain by Greycaine Limited, Watford, Herts.’ A Google search revealed that the book was likely produced sometime between 1927 and 1936.  Even so, its cover, pages, and typestyle bespeaks of a different era.

I’m certain for Charlotte Bronte her fiction was borne of personal experience as to how the world was in her time. As a contemporary fiction writer, my own prose is reflective of my own time. Perhaps some future reader will be able to glimpse, if only for a short time, what the world of today looked like.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Eyre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Bront%C3%AB

From the Facebook post: Emily – Wuthering Heights; Charlotte – Jane Eyre; Anne – Agnes Grey.

The Ice Cream Truck

The best thing on a hot August afternoon

August 17, 2021

Lost in the hazy memories of childhood summers are the snippets from hot afternoons spent playing outside with the gaggle of kids who lived on my street.

Our days were filled with pick up softball games, bikes, Barbie Dolls and board games. But there was one distinctive sound which caused our collective to drop everything and run home. That sound was the blare of the song Greensleeves.

In suburban communities throughout the United States, the ice cream truck has been a summer fixture for several generations now.

It seemed to me that the ‘truck’ which roamed our streets was open like this one and the driver turned in his seat to get the treats

They also, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, are very popular in Britain and are described thus:

“An ice cream van (British) or ice cream truck (North American) is a commercial vehicle that serves as a mobile retail outlet for ice cream, usually during the spring and summer. Ice cream vans are often seen parked at public events, or near parks, beaches, or other areas where people congregate. Ice cream vans often travel near where children play — outside schools, in residential areas, or in other locations. They usually stop briefly before moving on to the next street. Along the sides, a large sliding window acts as a serving hatch, and this often displays pictures of the available products and their prices. Most ice cream vans tend to sell both pre-manufactured ice pops in wrappers, and soft serve ice cream from a machine, served in a cone, and often with a chocolate flake (in Britain), a sugary syrup, or toppings such as sprinkles. While franchises or chains are rare within the ice cream truck community (most trucks are independently owned and run), some do exist.”

When one is a child, we often take for granted certain things. One of those things was the ice cream truck which came down our street frequently during the summer. Of course I didn’t think about it much. All I thought about was how I was going to get my hands on the nickel (and when the price went up, a dime and a nickel) I needed to buy a treat.

In the houses up and down my street, our mothers’ doled out the coins needed. Soon we all lined up, patiently or not, for our turn to peruse the desired frozen treats, the cloud of cold steam from the dry ice billowing out like some magician’s trick. The truck always stopped between our house and the Tuttle’s house. This strategic location often produced a dozen eager customers as my family boasted four children and the Tuttle’s had six. Added to our ten were several groups of three additional children within a few houses and even more further up the street. That was a lot of potential customers!

Vintage ad for a Creamsicle from the late 1960’s

Soon I’d have the frozen delight in hand and would sit on the curb with the others. I can envision our gangly group, in pedal pusher pants or shorts and the summer footwear of choice: thongs. For those born after about 1970, we never called them flip-flops, they were thongs and every single one of us wore them all summer long despite the occasional bee sting or stubbed toe.

But I digress. Although I often thought about buying something new and different, I always got the same thing: an orange creamsicle.

My mother, no doubt in a futile attempt to cut back on the money spent at the ice cream truck, developed her own frozen treats. She would fill an ice cube tray with (I think) chocolate fudge jello and freeze the little squares. Into each square was inserted a wooden popsicle stick. These would be doled out on hot August afternoons when the ice cream truck did not come up our street.

When my own children were growing up I would often make Koolaid based popsicles in specially designed holders. My daughter could go through several every day.

Of course one of the reasons for this is that there were no ice cream trucks which ventured the steep driveway up to the house where we lived. Unlike the street where I grew up, my pair of children mostly played with one another or with a friend or two invited over for the afternoon.

A delicious fudge bar and ice cream cone.

When we moved to Kirkland in 2004 the kids were 14 and 11 and past the age where the ice cream truck was a motivating factor. Even so, there were many afternoons when I’d hear the familiar Greensleeves, it’s Pavlovian tune beckoning to youngsters.

In the past three years I have yet to hear or notice an ice cream truck in our neighborhood. Perhaps, with the advent of instant grocery deliveries, it’s now been swept into the dustbin of history. I think our society is a little less rich if that is the case.

Perhaps the next time I’m at the store, I’ll purchase a package of creamsicles, blare Greensleeves from Spotify, and then close my eyes and imagine I’m 8 years old once again, sitting on the curb and savoring that wonderful childhood treat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream_van

Lackadaisical. Loafing. Slacking. Slothful. Idle. Laggard.

August 10, 2021

By now there is one word which should be at the forefront of your brain: Lazy. Of course I couldn’t be described as lazy and do the research for this week’s Tuesday Newsday. But here I am writing about August 10th, which is National Lazy Day.

It’s that one day a year when we are given permission to sit back and relax.

The Infallible Wikipedia has several entries on laziness, but I got bored reading them as they started discussing all the psychological reasons someone might be perceived as being lazy when in fact they might be depressed, or have ADHD, or a variety of other syndromes.

Instead, the National Day’s Calendar website had the right idea with this tongue in cheek summation on how best to celebrate and observe National Lazy Day:

“Take this test to prepare yourself for the day. Lazy people fact #72432143726413424.

If you were too lazy to read that number, you’re ready to celebrate this day.

The number one rule of any lazy day is if you can’t reach it, you don’t need it.

Don’t break the rule.

We assigned an alternative word for lazy for the day.

We call it very relaxed.

What is the official exercise of #NationalLazyDay?

Diddly squats.

For some tips on how to enjoy a successful lazy day visit A Pint-Sized Life Blog.

We were too lazy to give you our own list.

NATIONAL LAZY DAY HISTORY

The creator and origin of #NationalLazyDay could not be found.

Have a great day!”

I would venture to guess that there is not a person alive who hasn’t used the phrase ‘I’m being lazy today,” when, in fact, what they’re really saying is that they need a break after an intense period of activity.

As I have, ahem, matured, I’ve decided that being ‘lazy’ is necessary. Unlike my younger days, I find that a bit of a nap midway through the day is imperative to getting things done. Although chores may not get completed as quickly as they once did, eventually the things which need to happen are accomplished.

Last year in one of my posts I wrote about keeping house and discussed the luxury of hiring someone to come in and clean for me.( https://barbaradevore.com/2020/03/24/national-cleaning-week/)

I know many of you are familiar with my ‘lazy’ housekeeper and how she eats chocolates all day and reads trashy romance novels rather than work.

But my lazy housekeeper really isn’t that lazy, it’s more that she is easily distracted and can find dozens of other more interesting things to do with her time. I attribute her inefficiency to ADHD because she simply cannot stay focused on one thing for too long.

She might vacuum for 15 minutes and then remember that she needed to send an email to someone, so off she’ll go to take care of that. On her way she might notice that the hummingbird feeder is empty, so will stop to make new nectar. When she returns a half hour later to finish the undone housework, she might actually mop the floor before she remembers she needs a few things from the grocery store or have an inspiration for a scene in a story she’s writing.

These bursts of energy and activity are quite exhausting and soon it’s time to play a game on the phone or, better, shut her eyes for a short respite.

Which, finally, begs the question “Is being ‘lazy’ actually beneficial?”

Internet research provided plenty of articles to support this hypothesis. I decided it was too much work to quote anymore articles on the benefits or pitfalls of laziness but will paraphrase the conclusions.

A person we perceive as lazy might not, in fact, be so. Such an individual is often thinking about the easiest and most time effective way to complete a task. Others might, in fact, be writers. For those who don’t know, writing requires having time to cogitate what it is you are going to write.

Like this article. Before I started to type I spent quite a bit of time considering how I would present the topic and decided to research the synonyms to start it out; additionally, I wanted to find a personal angle on laziness, hence the lazy housekeeper. It really did involve a great deal of deliberation which, to the casual observer, might present as laziness.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this brain work has left me feeling a bit droopy and a nap sounds like a great way to spend August 10th, National Lazy Day.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laziness

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-lazy-day-august-10/

http://news.ku.edu/2018/08/15/new-research-suggests-evolution-might-favor-survival-laziest