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Casey Kasem

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

April 27, 2021

For anyone who was a teenager in the 1970’s, these words were said by the one person who – each week – united millions of baby boomers.

That person was Kasey Kasem, born April 27, 1932.

Casey Kasem in the early days of American Top 40

For those who are younger than about 40, you can be forgiven for not knowing WHO Kasey Kasem was. But for the rest of us he was the voice of American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown show which began in the summer of 1970.

Kasem began his career in radio, but branched out to pursue acting. He only found limited success in television and movie roles. It was his distinctive voice, however, which catapulted him to fame.

From the ever Infallible Wikipedia:

“Kasem acted in a number of low-budget movies and radio drama. While hosting “dance hops” on local television, he attracted the attention of Dick Clark, who hired him as co-host of a daily teenage music show called Shebang, starting in 1964. Kasem’s roles on network TV series included Hawaii Five-O and Ironside In 1967, he appeared on The Dating Game, and played the role of “Mouth” in the motorcycle gang film The Glory Stompers. In 1969, he played the role of Knife in the film Wild Wheels, and had a small role in another biker movie, The Cycle Savages, starring Bruce Dern and Melody Patterson, and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (also with Dern).

Kasem’s voice was the key to his career. In 1964 during the Beatlemania craze, Kasem had a minor hit single called “Letter from Elaina”, a spoken-word recording that told the story of a girl who met George Harrison after a San Francisco Beatles concert. At the end of the 1960s, he began working as a voice actor. In 1969, he started one of his most famous roles, the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He also voiced the drummer Groove from The Cattanooga Cats that year.”

The creation of American Top 40 – which he devised in collaboration with three other individuals – is what made him a household name. He was the on-air voice of the program for the next 18 years.

For many Baby Boomers, Kasem was like a friend we’d never met or an older brother. None of us probably realized he was of our parents’ generation. He seemed to ‘get’ us and our music.

When he left AT40 in 1988 it was due to a contract dispute. He then created a competing countdown known as Kasey’s Top 40.

He later regained an ownership interest in AT40, once again doing the countdown for several years. Additionally, he continued his voice acting work well into his late 70’s.

Ad for AT40 in a trade publication

By the fall of 2013, it became known that Kasem was suffering from either Parkinson’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia (it’s unclear which it was). From then until his death in June 2014, a fight over his care erupted between his second wife and his children from his first marriage; the travails of that fight spilled into the pages of the tabloid press for the next six months.

It would have been exactly the sort of story he would have shared on AT40; one filled with conflict and intrigue, definitely tabloid worthy.

I think, perhaps, it was his storytelling ability which was most compelling. He ferreted out interesting facts about the musical artists, the songs, and songwriters and you could tell he was truly interested in what he was sharing. This, to me, is much like writing Tuesday Newsday each week as great part of the enjoyment of writing is in researching and learning new things.

Despite the rather messy situation at the end of his life, I think Kasem filled his years doing what he loved. There is no better way, in my opinion, to live one’s life except to find and pursue the thing which brings you joy and fulfillment. Certainly he faced challenges – just like all of us – but on whole it would seem that his chosen path led him to the top of the charts . We should all be so lucky to live such a life.

The link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_Kasem

Answer to the Facebook question is for the other three besides the ATF photo, are all voice characters of Casey Kasem: Shaggy, Robin, Cliffjumper

Otis Elevators

‘Get Out’

March 23, 2021

I have buttons but I’m not a shirt
I have doors but I’m not a house
I go up and down but I’m not an umbrella
I need at least two stories but I’m not a book of fairytales
I’m found in tall buildings but I’m not a penthouse

What am I?

The first commercial Passenger Elevator 1857

I’ll even add one more clue… I was first installed into a commercial building on March 23, 1857.

The answer, of course, is an elevator.

It’s a device which makes high rise buildings possible and literally changed the urban landscape. The story, however, began five years earlier when inventor Elisha Otis developed a freight elevator that remained stable even if its ropes were cut.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“At the age of 40, while he was cleaning up the factory, he wondered how he could get all the old debris up to the upper levels of the factory. He had heard of hoisting platforms, but these often broke, and he was unwilling to take the risks. He and his sons, who were also tinkerers, designed their own ‘safety elevator’ and tested it successfully. He initially thought so little of it he neither patented it nor requested a bonus from his superiors for it, nor did he try to sell it. After having made several sales, and after the bedstead factory declined, Otis took the opportunity to make an elevator company out of it, initially called Union Elevator Works and later Otis Brothers & Co.

No orders came to him over the next several months, but soon after, the 1853 New York World’s Fair offered a great chance at publicity. At the New York Crystal Palace, Otis amazed a crowd when he ordered the only rope holding the platform on which he was standing cut. The rope was severed by an axeman, and the platform fell only a few inches before coming to a halt. The safety locking mechanism had worked, and people gained greater willingness to ride in traction elevators; these elevators quickly became the type in most common usage and helped make present-day skyscrapers possible.

After the World’s Fair, Otis received continuous orders, doubling each year. He developed different types of engines, like a three-way steam valve engine, which could transition the elevator between up and down, and quickly stop it.”

The Otis Elevator company endures to this day, now a $13 billion a year company which employs some 64,000 people.

As a child, getting to ride on an elevator was an event. Although I cannot recall my very first ride I would venture to guess that it might have been the Space Needle elevator during the 1962 World’s Fair. That elevator is particularly memorable as you get to watch, through the windows, as the world below grow smaller during your 500 foot ascent in just 41 seconds.

Most modern elevators have sleek doors which slide open and close and then almost imperceptibly take you to your destination floor. There are, however, some older elevators which exist that hearken back to a different era when having a job as an elevator operator was a thing. I had the 1940’s experience back in the 1970’s one night at the old Masonic Temple in downtown Tacoma. There for a dance which took place on the fifth floor, I recall stepping up to elevator which was caged behind an accordion grid. When the car arrived and the doors opened, a grumpy looking older man – the operator – opened the grid and motioned us in to the car for our ride to the fifth floor. There was something elegant about that ride; a civility and protocol lost to later generations.

But perhaps the most memorable elevator belongs to the tallest building in Seattle: the Columbia Center.

The Columbia Center, Seattle

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The 76-story structure is the tallest building in Seattle and the state of Washington, reaching a height of 933 ft (284 m). At the time of its completion, the Columbia Center was the tallest structure on the West Coast; as of 2017 it is the fourth-tallest, behind buildings in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

The tower, which was completed in 1985, boasts 48 elevators!

The company the hubby worked for in 1989 rented office space on floor 67, just nine floors below the very top of the building. Needless to say, riding one of those 48 elevators was a necessity.

As it turned out, it actually took riding on three different elevators to travel from the garage to floor 67. On any number of occasions when I visited the hubby there, I always enjoyed the dizzying and panoramic views of Elliot Bay to the west from his office.

But it was the elevator ride one day which provided the most amusement. As you might imagine from a building of that size it was easy to get confused as to what floor you were on and where you needed to be to get where you needed to go. Thankfully, a calming elevator voice would announce the floors as you arrived so that you didn’t exit sooner than you should.

We were on the descent to the lobby level this particular day. When the doors opened I startled at the gentle female voice which intoned ‘Get Out.’

Of course we did as directed and then, as we stood outside the elevator, I said to the hubby, “Did the elevator just tell us to ‘Get Out?’”

One of the 48 elevators in the Columbia Center

I think we determined the elevator was announcing the name of the street closest to where we had landed. But it didn’t matter. From that moment on whenever I visited at the Columbia Center I looked forward to the elevator voice as I arrived in the lobby telling me to ‘Get Out.’

It’s become one of our go to phrases whenever we take an elevator, always providing a bit of levity. I have a hard time imagining those old timey operators speaking to a passenger in such a way; on second thought I conjure up the image of that grizzled old guy from the Tacoma Masonic Temple and figure he’d have no problem telling rambunctious twenty year olds precisely that.

Links for your exploring pleasure:

https://www.riddlesandanswers.com/tag/elevator-riddles/#ixzz6prD1Mw4c

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masonic_Temple_Building-Temple_Theater#:~:text=The%20Landmark%20Convention%20Center%20in%20Tacoma%2C%20Washington%20%28Historically,the%20National%20Register%20of%20Historic%20Places%20in%201993.

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

Answer to the FB question: The building pictured is the One World Trade Center in New York city. It requires all 73 of its elevators to reach all 1, 776 feet of height, no doubt.

Scott Hamilton

King of the Ice

February 16, 2021

The 1984 Olympic Men’s Skate medalists, left to right: Brian Orser(2nd), Scott Hamilton(1st), Jozef Sabovčík(3rd)

This 1984 Olympic Gold medalist was, perhaps, the most unlikely of stars to achieve brilliance. To this day he is, however, one of the most popular U.S. men’s figure skaters ever; an individual who is a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and a positive attitude.

It was on February 16, 1984, when 25 year old Scott Hamilton won Olympic Gold at the games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (Now Bosnia and Herzegovina)

His skating story began 14 years earlier when he first took to the ice at age 11. Two years later, he was entering skating competitions. For the athletically inclined Hamilton, choosing an appropriate sport was likely a challenge.

When he was two years old he stopped growing. What followed were tests and speculation over why. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After numerous tests and several wrong diagnoses (including a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis that gave him just six months to live), the disease began to correct itself. His family physician sent him to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a Dr. Shwachman. He was told the doctor had no idea what was wrong and to go home and stop the diets in order to live a normal life. Years later, it was determined that a congenital brain tumor was the root cause of his childhood illness.”

The impact was huge. During the years of his greatest amateur skating success he was only 5 feet 2 ½ inches tall and weighed 108 pounds. Obviously, playing football or ice hockey was not an option.

Hamilton parlayed his small stature – what many would see as a liability – into his greatest asset. Not only was he was fast on the ice, but he developed his athleticism such that he made the jumps and his intricate footwork look effortless. Although not allowed in competition, his signature back flip at the end of his exhibition routines always brought fans to their feet. Only the strongest and most daring of skaters can successfully execute the move.

When he retired from amateur skating, he was the 1984 reigning world champion in the Men’s division. From there he went on to have a successful professional career and has, arguably, done more to elevate the sport of ice skating than any other individual ever. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After turning professional, Hamilton toured with the Ice Capades for two years, and then created ‘Scott Hamilton’s American Tour,’ which later was renamed Stars on Ice. He co-founded, co-produced and performed in Stars on Ice for 15 years before retiring from the tour in 2001 (though he still returns for occasional guest performances).

He has been awarded numerous skating honors, including being the first solo male figure skater to be awarded the Jacques Favart Award (in 1988). In 1990 he was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.”

His road in life has not been easy. He survived testicular cancer in 1997 only to have a second brain tumor be discovered in 2004. After a successful surgery for the benign tumor, yet a third tumor was found in 2016. So far he’s been successful in shrinking the tumor through dietary changes.

Although I’d watched Olympic figure skating before, it was the 1984 Olympics and Scott Hamilton particularly, which became the impetus for a decade of following the sport. And what better place to be for watching the Olympics than in a magical place such as Whistler.

The hubby and I – along with his sister and mother – had joined a Whatcom Community college group for a weekend skiing sojourn. Yes, I was 26 years old when I took my first lessons… at Whistler. At the end of each day, we’d return to the rental house (a precursor to the AirBnB concept) for food and fellowship and to watch the Olympics. And what an Olympics it was. We rooted for hometown favorites Rosalyn Summers, Phil and Steve Mahre, and Oregonian Bill Johnson.

The memory that sticks with me most is of the hubby and my sister-in-law out at a pub in Whistler Village. The TV is on over the bar and we are watching the events. But we can’t hear the play by play because there is no sound. Instead, dance music is blaring through the bar. And the pair of them – hubby and sister – are ‘dancing’ while sitting in their chairs, and making quite the spectacle. I imagine the pub owners had second thoughts about those chairs as they were on wheels which allowed the chair dancing shenanigans. Shenanigans which, I might add, nearly got us kicked out of that bar.

Home a few days later, I cheered as I watched Scott Hamilton win the Gold medal, the first US man to do so in the Olympics in 24 years.

What followed over the next six years was attending the US National championships at the Tacoma dome in 1987, and seeing “Stars On Ice” at least twice at the Seattle Center Arena. It was during Stars on Ice that we finally saw Hamilton skate in person. It was worth it. What an amazing skater and showman, his performances unforgettable.

I leave you with this from a publication titled ‘CancerTutor.com.’

“Hamilton is a firm believer in ‘getting up’ after the fall. He pointed to a chapter in his book, The Great Eight, titled ‘Fall Down, Get Up, Smile Like Kristi Yamaguchi.’

‘In one of her [skating] programs, she took a hard fall on a really difficult jump — and she got up, went right back to her program like nothing happened. I realized in that moment there’s a life lesson: I’m gonna fall down. I’m gonna make mistakes. But it’s what’s next — it’s how you get up. The more times you get up, the stronger you are.’”

Some links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Hamilton_(figure_skater)

Akwa-Skees

Teenage rite of passage

October 27, 2020

As any native Pacific Northwestener knows, boating is a top activity in this region. You can be forgiven if you think that the rainy, gray skies so common here might preclude water activities. But you would be wrong. Westsiders, particularly, are a hardy lot when it comes to aquatic sports. And no sport better epitomizes this than water skiing. It was on October 27, 1925 when the water ski was patented.

Ralph Samuelson, the inventor of water skis

The individual who first donned a pair of ‘skis’ and be pulled behind a boat on the water was one Ralph Samuelson who tried a variety of materials and designs for his devices. It was 1922 when the Minnesotan invented the sport. He spent the next 15 years performing and teaching people how to water ski. But he failed to patent his designs.

The Infallible Wikipedia, however, tells us:

“The first patent for water skis was issued to Fred Waller, of Huntington, NY, on 27 October 1925, for skis he developed independently and marketed as ‘Dolphin Akwa-Skees.’ Waller’s skis were constructed of kiln-dried mahogany, as were some boats at that time. Jack Andresen patented the first trick ski, a shorter, fin-less water ski, in 1940.”

The original Akwa-Skees

There must have been something in the water, so to speak, since on the opposite side of the United States, a Washingtonian had similar ideas. Also from the IW:

“In 1928, Don Ibsen developed his own water skis out in Bellevue, Washington, never having heard of Samuelson or Waller. In 1941, Ibsen founded The Olympic Water Ski Club in Seattle, Washington. It was the first such club in America. Ibsen, a showman and entrepreneur, was one of the earliest manufacturers of water skis and was a leading enthusiast and promoter of the sport. In 1983, he was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in Winter Haven, Florida.”

It wasn’t until the 1940’s and 50’s, however, before water skiing began to gain popularity with the average person, thanks to a Floridian who took advantage of his state’s abundance of sunshine and water:

“Water skiing gained international attention in the hands of famed promoter, Dick Pope, Sr., often referred to as the ‘Father of American Water Skiing’ and founder of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. Pope cultivated a distinct image for his theme-park, which included countless photographs of the water skiers featured at the park. These photographs began appearing in magazines worldwide in the 1940s and 1950s, helping to bring international attention to the sport for the first time. He was also the first person to complete a jump on water skis, jumping over a wooden ramp in 1928, for a distance of 25 feet. His son, Dick Pope, Jr., is the inventor of bare-foot skiing. Both men are in the Water Ski Hall of Fame. Today, Winter Haven, Florida, with its famous Chain of Lakes, remains an important city for water skiing, with several major ski schools operating there.”

As a teenager in the 1970’s it was likely one was friends with at least one other teenager whose Dad owned a boat. And, with any luck, you got the opportunity to try water skiing. My opportunity arrived in August of 1972 when a large contingent of fellow participants in the Masonic youth groups, descended upon Hood Park at the Snake River near Pasco, Washington.

It was a hot day, perfect for water sports. I watched as kid after kid donned the water skis and, with seemingly little effort, popped up out of the water on the skis and cut and angled their way across the glassy water. Sometime in the early afternoon, my opportunity arrived and one of the dads, as helper for beginners, tossed out instruction after instruction: “Get your tips out of the water… no, no, not that far. Less. Okay, that’s good.” “Lean back and relax… no, no, not that far. A little further forward… oh, NO! Too far.”

My first time ever on water skis… August 12, 1972. Not sure who had my camera but they immortalized that day for me.

And so it went until that moment when he declared I was in the correct position and all I had to do was yell “hit it.”

Which I did. And promptly lurched forward, ending up face down in the Snake River. This went on for hours… okay, probably not hours. It only FELT like hours. I could hear the exasperation in the spotter’s voice. Could hear the frustration of the boat’s motor as it circled back to get into position once more. I just knew that they were thinking ‘how uncoordinated can one teenage girl be.”

About to faceplant in the Snake River. Back of the photo says “try, try, again.’

But I persisted and, finally, after about a half hour of trying the rope grew taut, the ski tips glided up onto the water’s surface and then, miraculously, so did I. I would have jumped for joy except to do so would have landed my sorry behind in the water once again. I would have given thumbs up except to do so would mean I’d lose my already shaky and precarious hold on the tow rope. Instead I hung on for dear life and attempted to enjoy the ride.

In the ensuing years I did have some opportunities to water ski. The year I turned 16 I skied Crescent Lake. Crescent Lake, for those who do not know, is one of the deepest, glacier carved lakes in the United States. At its deepest it is nearly 600 feet. To say the water is cold is like saying Minnesota gets a little snow each winter.

But the real waterskiing adventure was the first year I was dating the hubby. He and his brother had purchased a boat in the spring of 1979 which was named “Beat Boat.” It was purple and it was sleek and fast. Every weekend that summer it was off to water ski, mostly on Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, or camping and skiing further north at Lake Goodwin.

Beat Boat on Lake Tapps August 1979

While I was never as good as either my hubby or brother-in-law, it was a lot of fun. Mostly I served as the spotter when it wasn’t my turn.

All that fun came to a crashing – literally – halt on Memorial Day 1981. We had been down at Lake Tapps but the weather turned rainy and cold. The decision was made to pack it up and head back to West Seattle where everyone lived. The boat never made it. On a slick corner along West Marginal way, the vehicle and boat carrying trailer behind it jackknifed, sending the beloved purple beat boat skidding across the road, irreparably damaged.

“Hit It!” – the hubby before he was the hubby at Lake Goodwin, 1979

The hubby and I, a few years later, bought a boat for fishing and waterskiing… but it was never quite the same as beat boat. My hubby’s Wiley slalom water-ski has been carted from house to house whenever we moved since, perhaps, it would be used once again. But, alas, it has not; instead it is relegated to a corner of the garage to pay homage to the great American pastime of waterskiing, a reminder that waterskiing is best done when one is young and foolish.

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

Relegated to a corner of the garage

The Great American Road Trip

May 26, 2020

Are We There Yet?

Memorial Day is, in the United States, the unofficial beginning of summer; it’s a time for picnics, camping, and outdoor activities. In many ways, however, it is the quintessential automobile road trip which has come to define the American spirit and quest for adventure and the start of summer.

Leaving Pasadena

The Murdock family about to leave Pasadena

With the advent of cars in the early 1900’s, a few intrepid souls can be credited with establishing that it WAS possible to drive from coast to coast in an automobile. Although not the first to do so, Jacob Murdock, his wife Anna, children Lillian, Alice, and Jacob, Jr., were the first family to embark on such a trip. They, along with their mechanic, Phillip LeMay, departed Los Angeles on April 24, 1908 and arrived in New York City, 32 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes later on May 26th.

876904lMr. Murdock – much to the joy of this writer who has a love of such history – recorded their travails on the trail in a short book which I found preserved by the University of Michigan. (see the link below). Alas, the Infallible Wikipedia has not heard of Mr. Murdock. Instead, I enjoyed a delightful read while sitting in a comfortable chair trying hard to imagine all the family and the mechanic – along with an occasional sixth passenger found along the way – experienced.

In 1908, paved roads were few, especially through the great American west. Their vehicle was a 1908 “Thirty” Packard with a canvas roof, folding windshield and speedometer. They started in Los Angeles, then followed the path of modern I-15 to Daggett. Those 141 miles were the first day of their journey.

mdp.39015071565041-seq_8As they continued northeast through the Mojave desert and along the southern boundary of Death Valley, they became mired in quicksand, and eventually hit upon the use of heavy rope to create makeshift chains for the tires. This experience helped prepare them for the next day when, as Murdock says in the book, “We soon found that our drift and sand experience at Coyote Lake had been merely a kindergarten for us in the art of tractionless travel.” It took 13 hours to drive 67 miles, many of those “where we again shoveled, groveled, plowed and floundered.”

From there it was northward into Nevada and Utah. They drove around the north end of the Great Salt Lake to Ogden, completing the first leg of their journey, nearly 1000 miles.

I found it interesting to ‘map’ their journey. Once they arrived in Wyoming their path was generally along modern day I-80 clear to Iowa before tracking north a bit for a straight line in to Chicago; from there they dropped down into Pennsylvania for a brief stop at their home in Johnstown before completing the journey. On May 26th, they ended their 3,693.8 mile family trip when they arrived on the corner of Broadway and Sixty-first street in New York City.

murdock family new york

The Murdock family on May 26, 1908 upon their arrival in New York City

Along the way they had encountered oppressive heat, a blizzard, and much rain. The tracts they drove on went from sandy, to muddy, to rocky, to impassible in places. They experienced flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, and the car becoming mired in sand and mud. They got lost. While Murdock highlighted these challenges, rarely does he address what riding in that car for eight to fifteen  hours a day was like for the passengers.

Which got me thinking about my first multi-day roadtrip. It was the summer of 1970 and my parents, my slightly older sister, and I drove from Yakima to California in a 1964 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. My dad had a strong need to connect with his family, having just lost his mother in January. So off we drove to Elk Grove, California, staying in motels along the way and eating most of our meals at Denny’s.

In retrospect, I doubt my parents WANTED to eat every meal at Denny’s. But they had a picky eater along who ordered a French dip sandwich for pretty much every meal. It’s actually surprising that I still like French Dips. I don’t recall much of the scenery along the way. What I do recall is we stayed at my Aunt Arlene and Uncle Dick’s place outside Sacramento and my sister and I got to hang out with my very cool, two years older cousin, Sally. For a couple of days we got to swim in the pool at the apartment complex they managed and do awesome teenage girl stuff like sunbathe and talk about boys.

rawImage

San Francisco’s famous intersection

Our trip next took us to San Francisco where, unfortunately for me, we could not locate a Denny’s. Lunch that day took us to a drive in burger joint in the heart of San Fran (after a ride on the cable cars and navigating Lombard street). As we sat in the car eating our food, either my sister or I noticed the street signs at the intersection: Haight and Ashbury. In 1970 this WAS ground zero for the counter culture movement of the day. It was there I saw my first real hippie.

Further south we continued, arriving in Anaheim where we stayed at the Jolly Roger Inn. The next day we spent at Disneyland. Yes, just one day… enough time in my parents’ book. I know we stood in line a really long time to ride both “Pirates of the Caribbean” (it was the newest attraction then, having opened 3 years earlier) and “The Haunted Mansion.” We also rode on the “Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland” which was a pedestrian trip on a tiny railroad engine through scenes from the American West. It was replaced less than a decade later with one of my favorite roller coasters, “Big Thunder Railroad.”

The perfect pairing

A place for fun and a place to eat!

Along the way, my sister and I were introduced to a bunch of second cousins and our great aunt and after a couple of days, we headed back north, winding our way up the Pacific coast all the way through California and Oregon.

As a young teen, I had zero appreciation for how special that first road trip was. I wish I had been able to drink in all the sights, sounds, and experiences of that time. Alas, as my mother – who was fond of homilies used to opine – ‘youth is wasted on the young.’

There have been many more ‘road trips’ over the years as the hubby and I have made it a mission to travel the vast lands of the United States by car. In other blog posts I have shared some of those adventures (here, here, here, and here) . But it is Jacob Murdock who captures the spirit of the American road trip in this one paragraph:

“If there ever is a national highway from ocean to ocean, the tourist will find many wide perspectives and long, beautifully-colored vistas which are well worth his while. Some of the scenes which we enjoyed were so beautiful that we thought them worth the trouble and hardship to which we had been subject in getting there over districts without any roads at all.”

Indeed, Mr. Murdock. Indeed.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015071565041&view=2up&seq=8

National Cleaning Week

March 24, 2020

Americans spend, on average, six hours a week doing this? With the recent pandemic, however, the amount of time may be even greater. What is it?

Grumpy cat vacuum

Cleaning their house.

The last Sunday in March marks the beginning of National Cleaning Week. While the origins of this week are not entirely clear, the term ’spring cleaning ‘ is common and for our pioneer ancestors involved many back breaking tasks. One was the removing the stuffing of one’s mattresses, washing the cover, and then refilling it.  It does not take much imagination to envision how those beds may have smelled or what sorts of critters also used them when they were only changed every six months.

In fact every inch of the pioneer home was scrubbed into submission with the cleansing of curtains and bed sheets, the scrubbing of all walls and floors, the polishing of stoves, and the cleaning out of drawers and cupboards.

For many people, the task of cleaning is onerous. While a full time, live in housekeeper and even maids was once common for a wealthy household and even upper middle class ones; today’s American middle class has embraced the weekly or every other week, house cleaner. This is especially true for those where a job outside the house takes up the majority of daylight hours or the physical demands of cleaning are not possible.

Rather than quoting from the Infallible Wikipedia, the National Day’s Calendar shares this advice on how to ‘celebrate’ National Cleaning Week:

“Clean. The folks at Home Team have these recommendations to make cleaning week less intimidating: Tackle one room at a time, start from the top and work down, dusting ceiling fans door moldings and window tops. Don’t be afraid to move furniture. Donate to (a) thrift store those things you gather when you clean out closets, basements and storage space.”

Hmmm… that sounds a lot like what the pioneers did. With the exception of thrift stores.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have had housekeepers to help me stay on top of cleaning. I’ll never forget the first… the hubby and I had recently purchased a 1910 fixer upper in West Seattle. We were both working full time and this housekeeper was recommended to us.

I imagine this woman took one look at me and thought (not incorrectly) that I was a snotty 24 year old who knew nothing. So she shows up on week one and tells me HER rules. I could live with her rules since I really, really wanted her to clean the house so I didn’t have to. Especially the bathrooms. Did you know that for 52 percent of people that’s the most dreaded task? But I digress.

When she arrives, she is thrilled to learn that we have a cat. His name was Porsche. She immediately picks up Porsche to pet and cuddle him. Then it’s time for me to leave for work, so I put the cat outside. This sparks a conversation as now said housekeeper is upset that Porsche has to be outside for the day. I explain to her that he is the worst thing that ever happened to furniture and point out our badly damaged, and fairly new, couch which has been shredded by cat claws.

I leave for work. When I return later that afternoon, I do discover a cleaned house… and the cat is inside. Upon examination, I also discover that the new housekeeper has given Porsche a pedi.

In a subsequent conversation with her she refused to not cut the cats claws and refused to leave the cat outside per our instructions. I think we had the housekeeper for some three weeks before it was back to no housekeeper.

I’ve had others over the years. My favorite was a woman named Karen who only worked for people who appreciated her. She helped me when my children were little and I just couldn’t keep up with everything. One day she said to me that she liked coming to our house because she felt like her services were very much needed! Hah! Yes, I was truly a horrible housekeeper.

Now that I’m older, I don’t worry quite so much about having the house spotless and neither does my current housekeeper. She is, actually, rather lazy. I never quite know when she might show up and clean the dreaded bathrooms or mop the hardwoods. It’s very hit and miss. Eventually, she gets it done even if she grouses about how her back hurts, or she sits for a while, claiming she needs her frequent breaks.

These past couple of weeks with ‘social distancing’ edicts has really thrown my world into a tizzy. My lazy housekeeper says she won’t come in to clean and has instead declared that she’s staying at her own home to watch Hallmark movies, read trashy romance novels, and eat Bon Bons.

Lazy housekeepingSo it’s back to me having to clean the house once again. The hubby pulls out the vacuum when it gets bad. And I’m on constant vigil for signs that the bathrooms need attention. But a funny thing has happened with being forced to stay home. I’ve gotten through a number of boxes of stuff which needed sorting. I’m catching up on some mending projects. I’ve gotten the hubby to take on the task of fixing the barbecue table and plan to have him help me hang a few pictures and a display cabinet I brought back from my Dad’s house.

All in all, The Great Quarantine of 2020 and National Cleaning Week, have coalesced into the week when – I’m pretty sure – households all across the nation are at the Zenith of being clean.

Cats, however, cannot figure out what the fuss is all about. They wrote the book on social distancing and being clean… experts at staying six feet away, only interacting with their favored family members, and spending hours licking their fur clean. Just don’t trim their nails.

 

Our most dreaded of cleaning tasks:

  • cleaning the bathroom (52 percent)
  • kitchen cleaning (23 percent)
  • dusting (21 percent)
  • mopping (20 percent)
  • doing the laundry (17 percent)

National Clam Chowder Day

February 25, 2020

In search of the perfect soup

By the end of February, most people are longing for spring to arrive. Alas, the warmer days still elude in the northern hemisphere. So what better way to celebrate on February 25th than with a steaming bowl of Clam Chowder. Today is National Clam Chowder day.

Clam-Chowder-664In thinking about this particular soup I cannot recall a time when I did not know of it or eat it. Always a staple in my household growing up, my mother used to make it from the frozen razor clams my family dug each summer.

Which got me to wondering, what WAS the history of clam chowder?

As always, the Infallible Wikipedia sheds some light for us:

Clam chowder is any of several chowder soups containing clams and broth. In addition to clams, common ingredients include diced potatoes, onions, and celery. Other vegetables are not typically used, but small carrot strips or a garnish of parsley might occasionally be added primarily for color. A garnish of bay leaves adds both color and flavor. It is believed that clams were used in chowder because of the relative ease of harvesting them. Clam chowder is usually served with saltine crackers or small, hexagonal oyster crackers.

The dish originated in the Eastern United States, but is now commonly served in restaurants throughout the country, particularly on Fridays when American Catholics traditionally abstained from meat. Many regional variations exist, but the two most prevalent are New England or ‘white’ clam chowder and Rhode Island / Manhattan or ‘red’ clam chowder. (snip)

The earliest-established and most popular variety of clam chowder, New England clam chowder, was introduced to the region by French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers, becoming common in the 18th century. The first recipe for another variety, Manhattan clam chowder, known for using tomatoes and its consequently distinctly red coloring, was published before 1919, but it did not take on the current name until 1934. In 1939, the New England state of Maine debated legislation that would outlaw the use of tomatoes in chowder, thereby essentially prohibiting the ‘Manhattan’ form.”

I chuckled to myself when I read that last sentence about Maine considering a way to keep Manhattan chowder out of New England. Having grown up on New England style clam chowder, the red kind does seem a bit blasphemous.

My mother cooked wonderful clam chowder but me, not so much. I have, though, made it one of my fairly recent life’s missions to try clam chowder whenever I find myself in a coastal town which features the soup.

Fannizis Provincetown

Fanizzi’s in Provincetown was, I think, the restaurant where we ate.

While on Cape Cod in 2008 with my hubby and then 15 year old daughter, we happened into a quaint restaurant in Provincetown and enjoyed steamy bowls  of the nectar on a cool, but clear, early April afternoon.

Provincetown, for those unfamiliar with Massachusetts geography, sits at the very furthest away (by land) part of Cape Cod. It was where the Pilgrims first landed in 1620. Although I can no longer recall the name of the restaurant where we had lunch, it was that trip which began the quest for perfect chowder.

One summer, while on an annual trip to Long Beach Washington with my sister, we went to several local eateries to try the clam chowder. I was surprised when the place where we had always gone turned out to not be my favorite.

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Not as flashy as Fannizi’s – but their chowder is top rate.

It was on the fourth day – and fourth restaurant – I declared a winner. Castaway’s has been a fixture on Pacific Avenue for years. But I’d never been there. So my sister and I got a high table in the bar rather than wait for seating in the restaurant portion which seems to always be full up. I ordered the clam chowder in a bread bowl.

From the first bite I knew it was a winner. Even better was getting to consume every last drop which the soft interior of the bread bowl had absorbed. It was heavenly.

Now, whenever I am lucky enough to visit the beach, Castaway’s is a required stop for a bread bowl full of their clam chowder.

Writing this article has inspired me to look for recipes and try my hand at recreating the very best chowder I can. The following claims to be the BEST clam chowder ever. I think I will mosey out to the fresh fish market on Highway 20 (between Burlington and Anacortes) and buy some clams to make the chowder. I will update the blog later this week with the results!

The recipe includes butter, half and half, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce. What’s not to like? Here is the link:

https://www.favfamilyrecipes.com/best-clam-chowder-ever/

And a couple more links on the history and variations of the eponymous clam chowder:

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

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-clam-chowder-day-february-25/

The National Christmas Tree

 A 96 Year Tradition

December 24, 2019

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The 2019 National Christmas Tree

At 3 p.m. on Monday, December 24th, 1923, an American tradition began which continues to this day. That event was the lighting of the first National Christmas tree.

Now, 96 years later, the event occurs earlier in the month – this year on December 5th – as it has since 1954 during a month long event known as the Pageant of Peace. But back to the beginning.

The concept of a National Christmas tree was the idea of Frederick Morris Feiker, an engineer with General Electric. He, along with Vermont US Senator Frank L. Greene, convinced President Calvin Coolidge to light the tree.

Alumni of Middlebury College in Vermont paid for the transport of a 48 foot tall balsam fir to be transported to Washington, D.C. with GE providing 2,500 green, red, and white electric lights.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

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President Calvin Coolidge and dignitaries at the first National Tree Lighting ceremony in 1923

“At 3 p.m. on December 24, 1923, a 100-voice choir from the First Congregational Church assembled on the South Portico of the White House and began a two-hour concert of Christmas carols. At 5 p.m. (dusk) on Christmas Eve, President Coolidge touched a button at the foot of the tree which lit the lights and electric candles adorning the tree, but he did not speak. A searchlight from the nearby Washington Monument was trained on the tree to help illuminate it as well. The Coolidge family invited citizens of the city to sing Christmas carols on the Ellipse after dark. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people thronged the park, joined by 3,000 more people by 9 p.m. The crowds were joined by the Epiphany Church and First Congregational Church choirs, which sang carols, and the Marine Band played Christmas-themed music. The singing ended shortly before midnight. After the white residents of the city had dispersed, African American residents of the city were permitted on the park grounds to see the National Christmas Tree. An outdoor Christian worship service was held, and a mass choir composed of signing groups from area community centers sang more Christmas carols. An illuminated Christian cross was flashed on the Washington Monument, and men dressed as shepherds walked from the National Christmas Tree to the monument.”

300px-US_National_Christmas_Tree_1923The following year Coolidge objected to cutting down a tree for the event so a 35 foot tall live Norway Spruce was located and planted in a new location near the Treasury Building. This tree survived until 1929 when it was determined that the plant had been damaged and needed to be replaced. This began a series of live trees being planted, dying, and being replaced until, in 1934, the last tree was cut down in that location.

In December 1934, the tree and the ceremony were moved to Layfayette park, north of the White House. There it remained for only a few short years before returning to its original site on the Ellipse where it remains to this day. Over the years there have been many, many trees which have served in the role. Additionally, the ceremonies and events associated with it have become quite extensive. If you’d like to read more about its history, here’s the Wikipedia link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Christmas_Tree_(United_States) and also the link to the official website https://thenationaltree.org/lighting-ceremony/2019-national-christmas-tree-lighting-ceremony/.

Although I’ve never seen the National Tree, I do love driving around during the Christmas season and viewing all the wonderful outdoor decorations. There is nothing quite so beautiful as a blue spruce or fir tree at night covered with lights AND an inch or two of snow on its branches.

My first memory of such a tree was when I was probably 7 or 8. My bedroom in Yakima faced towards our backyard. Our neighbor, Ray Broten, spent a lot of time keeping his yard perfect. No matter the season, his was always manicured and trimmed to perfection. That particular December, the spruce tree located in the southwest corner of his backyard cut through the darkness with blue, green, red, and white lights, illuminating my bedroom each night. After I went to bed there was many a time I stole back over to the window and just stood and looked out at his beautiful tree. My favorite nights were when a soft snow was falling, muting the darkness with a blanket of white.

When I got too cold, I’d crawl back in to bed, and as I warmed up and drifted off to sleep, the shine of those lights would bathe the room with a soft glow.

This tradition continued for a number of years until the time I moved away from Yakima. Although those years are long ago, the memory is etched with clarity as Mr. Broten unknowingly created one of my fondest recollections.

May your Christmas also be one of wonderful reminiscences and the creation of new memories. Merry Christmas one and all.

Shiny Brite

A Christmas Tradition

December 17, 2019

Shiny Brite box

Shiny Brite box. Note Uncle Sam and Santa shaking hands.

Long before Hallmark introduced their line of annual Christmas ornaments, another American Company  had taken the market by storm, selling millions of baubles every year from 1940 to 1962. Marketed as Shiny Brite, the distinctive green boxes which featured Santa Claus shaking Uncle Sam’s hand were a fixture in the average home of the 1950’s and 60’s.

The story begins in 1937 with importer Max Eckhardt who, seeing the clouds of war encroaching and feared that his supply line would be cut, went to the Corning Glass company in Pennsylvania and made a deal with them to begin producing ornments. Thus was born Shiny Brite. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Eckardt had been importing hand-blown glass balls from Germany since around 1907, but had the foresight to anticipate a disruption in his supply from the upcoming war. Corning adapted their process for making light bulbs to making clear glass ornaments, which were then shipped to Eckardt’s factories to be decorated by hand. The fact that Shiny Brite ornaments were an American-made product was stressed as a selling point during World War II.
Dating of the ornaments is often facilitated by studying the hook. The first Shiny Brite ornaments had the traditional metal cap and loop, with the hook attached to the loop, from which the ornament was hung from the tree.
Wartime production necessitated the replacement of the metal cap with a cardboard tab, from which the owner would use yarn or string to hang the ornament. These hangers firmly place the date of manufacture of the ornament to the early 1940s. (snip)
Shiny Brite ornaments were first manufactured at Corning’s plant in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, and continued there for many decades. During its peak, Shiny Brite also had factories in New Jersey, located in the cities of Hoboken, Irvington, North Bergen, and West New York. The company’s main office and showroom were located at 45 East 17th Street in New York city.
Shiny Brite’s most popular ornaments have been reissued under the same trademark by Christopher Radko since 2001.”
Although there were other companies which manufactured and sold ornaments in that era, Shiny Brite was by far the largest player.

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My collection of vintage ornaments

As a child in the 1960’s I loved the December day when our family’s tree would be put up. I always watched as my father strung the C-7 bulbs on the branches. It seemed as though it took forever for my mother to declare the moment when the ornaments could be hung. Out would come the green shiny brite boxes, their lids lifted, and one by one the delicate glass balls would soon dangle from the branches.

Each year it was as if seeing old friends arrive for the holidays. By the 1980’s – with their children all moved away – my parents quit hanging ornaments on a tree. Instead, they kept an artificial tree – lights already placed on the branches – in their basement storage room. Mid-December my dad would carry it upstairs, plug in the lights, and call it good.
The ornaments were squirreled away in a box in the storage room where they remained untouched for 30 years.
This past summer, as we worked to clean out my parent’s home after my Dad had moved to an Adult Family home, my sister and I kept waiting for the Christmas Box to be unearthed.
Finally, in late August, that day arrived. We sat on the floor and opened the ornament boxes, each picking out those we wanted to keep. Last week, after my tree was up, I went searching for my parents’ ornaments. I looked in box after box which had been stored in my garage since summer, but no ornaments.
Following a two day search, I lamented to my son that I could not find them. He, however, said he had seen them and a few minutes later produced a small box from a section of the garage where I had not looked.
Just like when I was a little girl, I opened the box and said hello to my old friends. But unlike during my childhood, I could not bear to hang them on my tree, fearful they might fall and break. Amazing how something so ordinary and familiar had now become precious and irreplacable. Instead, I placed the treasured ornaments in a bowl and, along with a pair of ceramic angels and two ceramic bells, set them in a place of honor.

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Precious ceramic Angels and bells

I can only hope that one day my own children will also cherish these heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.
The links:
I loved this story about Wellsboro, PA, where Shiny Brite’s were manufactured:
And a nice story about Shiny Brite:

The Fourth Thursday in November

November 26, 2019

…A National Day of thanksgiving

v-70 first english thanksgiving in virginia.jpgThe celebration of harvest by setting aside a day of ‘thanksgiving’ is a tradition long observed by people the world over.  Most Americans embrace the idea that the first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts, by the pilgrims who settled the wilderness there in 1621.

Virginia Thanksgiving

An early Thanksgiving in Virginia 1619

But a historical look at ‘thanksgiving’ celebrations indicates a more haphazard approach. In fact, colonists in Virginia also held feasts of ‘thanksgiving’ during the early years of European settlements and a number of years before the New England events. In subsequent years such feasts were declared from time to time, occurring whenever it seemed a good idea for a few days of eating and celebration.

It was George Washington, as the first president, who by proclamation made Thursday, November 26, 1789, a national day of Thanksgiving.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“As President, on October 3, 1789, George Washington made the following proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.’”

Although additional ‘days of thanksgiving’ were proclaimed over the years, it was during the Civil War when the last Thursday of November became the traditional celebration date. And, in a coincidence, it was also November 26th for that official celebration.

Controversy arose, however, when – during Franklin Roosevelt’s term as President –there was a ‘fifth’ Thursday.  Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“On October 6, 1941, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in 1942. However, in December of that year the Senate passed an amendment to the resolution that split the difference by requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was usually the last Thursday and sometimes (two years out of seven, on average) the next to last. The amendment also passed the House, and on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed this bill, for the first time making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law and fixing the day as the fourth Thursday of November.

For several years some states continued to observe the last-Thursday date in years with five November Thursdays (the next such year being 1944), with Texas doing so as late as 1956.”

Eventually, however, everyone got on board with the change which, of course, made the planning of parades, retail sales, and football games much easier.

For me, Thanksgiving was always a long anticipated day. My family moved to Yakima in 1961 and, as a small girl of four years, I had no prior memories of the event.  All my recollections are of the two holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – being spent at either my family’s house or that of my cousins.

Being that my cousins’ house was a short walk down 31st Avenue, it became tradition that our two families of six each – along with my maternal grandparents – would spend Thanksgiving together.

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Royal Doulton Country Roses China

I loved going to their house for the holiday for a number of reasons, the first being that my Aunt Helen set the most gorgeous table.  Even as a child I loved china and hers – Royal Doulton Old Country Roses pattern – was exquisite.

Second, her dining room was not big enough to accommodate 14 people… so the five younger children (2 boys, 3 girls) were relegated to the kitchen table WITH the pocket door closed. It was glorious. Behind that closed door, mischief abounded with my brother – who was four years older than I – the main mischief maker. There were jokes told, inappropriate noises, and much laughter. We thought we were the lucky ones not having to endure the boring adult conversations which seemed to center on who was sick or had died that year.

The third, and my favorite, reason I loved going to the cousins’ was because of their basement.  After dinner (which was ALWAYS served at 1 p.m.) we were sent downstairs. That basement was the one place in my fastidious Aunt’s house where we could play without concern over too much noise.

Oh the adventures we had. Like the time we set up the Ouija Board and invoked spirits (of the dead relatives) only to have the basement window bang open at the exact moment of contact! And the time that my sister and cousin Tim put on a play in the basement, complete with a curtain and props, and a surprise ending. 145568-004-DE99C63D.jpgMy uncle had an old pump organ down there which fascinated me as I pumped the pedals and pulled on knobs to create different sounds as I ‘played’ the instrument.  We never ran out of things to do and I was always sad when the hour grew late and we had to return home.

When I think of my many blessings in life, I’m especially thankful for my childhood and those special holidays I spent with my siblings and cousins. At the time I did not appreciate the transitory nature of life and thought it would always be that way.

I’ve come to cherish Thanksgiving and have to say that it’s truly my favorite holiday. At no other time do we pause to give thanks for all our blessings and the people who make our lives richer and better.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

As always, a link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)

Answers to the Facebook quiz: ALL occured on November 26th!