Tag Archive | Yakima

Mount Rainier

The Mountain Is Out

March 2, 2021

The Mountain Is Out.

These four words, for anyone who grew up or has lived in the Greater Puget Sound region, mean but one thing: it’s a clear day and from all vantage points, one can see Mount Rainier.

Photo taken by the author one cold January 1980 morning near Graham, Washington

Of all the natural features which define Washington State it is, arguably, Mount Rainier which is most associated with the state. And is it any wonder? At 14,411 feet it is one of the highest peaks in the United States. What gives Mt. Rainier its prominence, literally, is the fact that you can see an uninterrupted 13,210 feet of the volcano, making it the largest mountain in the contiguous 48 United States and the fourth largest mountain on the North American continent.

It was on March 2, 1899, when Mount Rainier National Park was established as the nation’s fourth national park (after Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Yosemite).

My parents on the White Pass ski lift headed up for a hike.

The Infallible Wikipedia provides us with some fascinating geologic facts:

“Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc that consists of lava flows, debris flows, and pyroclastic ejecta and flows. Its early volcanic deposits are estimated at more than 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (about 2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early deposits formed a ‘proto-Rainier’ or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is more than 500,000 years old.

The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 ft (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow approximately 5,000 years ago. In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows), due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Sound, a distance of more than 30 mi (48 km).

The hole in the middle is the entry to the Paradise Ice Caves

Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top 1,600 ft (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 ft (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.

After the major collapse approximately 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.

In the world of geology, a thousand years is like a blink of the eye. Which is one reason why Mount Rainier is one of 16 mountains worldwide known as ‘Decade Volcanoes.’ To put it succinctly, it means that these volcanoes have given indications that they are likely to erupt AND they are located in areas where an eruption would no doubt result in catastrophic property destruction and/or a large loss of life. 

With my parents at the Paradise Ice Caves early 1980’s

That could mean that we will witness such an eruption of Mt. Rainier in our lifetime or, perhaps, it will be hundreds of years from now.

It’s hard to imagine Mt. Rainier as being any different than how it’s been during my lifetime. I simply cannot recall a time when I did not know of it. Perhaps my earliest memory would be on a trip from Yakima to Long Beach, Washington with my family including my grandmother – my Dad’s mother – in the 1960’s.

The most direct route to the coast was via White Pass which, coincidentally, follows a route just south of the southeast park entrance. And there is this spot on the other side of the summit where you come around the corner and, on a clear day, feel as if you can touch it. Over the years that moment has always been the one which says ‘welcome to Western Washington.’ My grandmother snapped a photo from the back seat of the car. It was only the first of many photos I have of the mountain.

I would venture that I’ve driven through the National Park well over 100 times and have visited both Sunrise and Paradise multiple times. Back in the early 1980’s, the hubby and I – along with my parents – hiked up to the Paradise ice caves. It was a truly ethereal experience to be standing in a blue translucent cave made of ice. Today, they are gone.

The hubby in 1980 something on one of many trips to the mountain.

As a newspaper reporter in Eatonville in 1979-80, I learned that the folks in Pierce County think of Mount Rainier as ‘theirs.’ Afterall, it was originally named Tahoma or Tacoma by the natives of the area. And it dominates the region. 

One summer evening shortly after I moved to Eatonville, I was on the phone with one of the town council members to ask him a few questions about a story I was working on. It was around 8:30 p.m. and getting on towards sunset. We were talking when all of the sudden he says, “Strawberry Ice Cream.”

“Excuse me,” I replied, “What’s this about strawberry ice cream?”

“The mountain,” he replied, “Looks just like strawberry ice cream… and then it will be blueberry.”

And so it did. Although I didn’t have a view from my place of the mountain like he did, it only took a few steps outside my apartment and to the north for me to have a nice view of Pierce county’s ice cream ‘Sundae.’

White Pass viewpoint with the hubby in 2016. On this particular day we were treated to a phenomenon known as lenticular clouds.

But it was on a trip from Nashville to Seattle a few years ago which reminded me that not everyone understands what an impact Mount Rainier has on those who see and enjoy it regularly. I was seated on the aisle and as we approached Seattle, I knew we would be passing the mountain to the north. As its massive white flanks came into view through one of the windows a row down and across the aisle, I craned my neck for a look. My frustration grew as the couple directly across from me kept their window covering closed. No longer able to hold back I said to them, “You really should open your window. Mount Rainier is right next to us.”

The man slid the opening up and both he and his wife exclaimed over how close and how immense it was.

Then he proceeded to say to me “Are you sure that’s Mount Rainier?”

I suppressed a laugh at the absurdity of the question. It’s easily one of the most recognizable peaks in the world, especially when you are right next to it and its larger than life.

“Trust me,” I replied, “I grew up here and that most definitely is Mount Rainier. Isn’t it nice for the mountain to be out today?”

Bobsledding Along

The Debut of Sledding in the Olympics

February 9, 2021

Over the years, a variety of competitions have been added to the Winter Olympics. On February 9, 1932, the two-man Bobsled made its debut and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Photo of a USA 2 man Bobsled team at the 1932 Olympics

For anyone unfamiliar with the event, think sledding but much, much faster. The first competitions, predating the Olympic Games, occurred in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the 1800’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Its foundation began when hotelier Caspar Badrutt (1848–1904) convinced some wealthy English regulars to remain through the entire winter at his hotel in the mineral spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. He had been frustrated that his hotel was only busy during the summer months. By keeping his guests entertained with food, alcohol, and activities, he quickly established the concept of ‘winter resorting’. Within a few years, wintering at Badrutt’s St Moritz hotel became very fashionable in Victorian Britain. However, with increased numbers this led some guests to search for new diversions. In the early 1870s some adventurous Englishmen began adapting boys’ delivery sleds for recreational purposes.”

The hotel guests loved the sleds and soon they competed in races down the streets and alleys of St. Moritz. The ‘runs’ became longer and the speeds faster which led to crashes and injuries. Complaints from the townspeople increased.

Sledding the streets of St. Moritz circa 1903

(Badrutt’s) “solution was to build a basic natural ice run for his guests outside the town near the small hamlet named Cresta in the late 1870s. Badrutt took action because he did not want to make enemies in the town and he had worked hard and investing a lot of time and money in popularizing wintering in St. Moritz so he was not going to let customers stop coming due to boredom.”

The Bobsled – either the two-man or four-man – is controlled by a steering mechanism in the nose of a bullet shaped ‘car.’ The participants sit in a crouched position facing forward inside the car which is guided by the pilot. The additional participants serve as pushers to gain initial speed and then as ballast which helps the Bobsled go faster down the icy track.

Besides Bobsled another winter event, the Luge, also involves excessive speeds. The Luge, however, is sport where the participant lays face up on an open, lightweight sled and uses his or her feet to guide it.

You can ride an actual bobsled on the Olympic Track from the Whistler games… just a six hour drive from Seattle!

Both sports are rather heart stopping at times. The world record for Bobsled speed is 125 mph! Lugers generally race between 75 and 90 mph.

Given a choice between watching the summer or winter games, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the snow sports whether it’s skating, skiing, or sledding.

I think this may stem from my childhood days growing up in Yakima. While most of winter in Yakima tends to be marked by sunny, cold, and dry, there are usually a few big enough snow events which made sledding – which is an inexpensive pastime – possible. The street I grew up on was perfect for a beginner sledding experience. It had a slope, but was gentle enough that a five year old could manage it.

As the years went on, I graduated to bigger hills. A walk south to where 31st Avenue crossed Tieton drive brought we adventurous sliders to the top of a rather daunting slope. At the bottom of that slope lived my cousins. When we got bored with our pedestrian hill we ventured to theirs.

Then, the year I was twelve I was allowed one day to head to the holy grail of all sledding hills in Yakima: Franklin Park.

From top to bottom, the hill is probably about 60 feet. The center of the 45 degree slope is flat like a cookie sheet. But on either side are terraces, each of the half dozen around 10 feet high. After a big snow, of course, the hill comes alive with hundreds of kids and every one of them wants to slide down the sloped ‘cookie sheet’ in the middle. It doesn’t take long for the snow to reveal the un-slidable grass from the activity of all those kids.

Franklin Park in Yakima is a magnet for kids after a big snowfall. The center section was always the most popular spot but when the snow was gone even the terraces (the lumpy looking sides) beckoned the brave.

On the particular day I was allowed to go I ended up relegated to trying to figure out how to sled the terraces. I lay down on my sled, hands on the cross bar and inched my way to the top of the highest terrace; the sled dropped down over the edge and I flew. For exactly 10 feet before the sled lurched to a stop in the deep snow.

This was not, you might imagine, a particularly successful method of sledding. But I persevered and dragged the sled to the next terrace ledge, lay down and once again pushed the sled over the ledge, pretty much bouncing down the next terrace with a similar result.

Now I cannot recall for sure on which terrace disaster struck, but strike it did during this, my first and only time sledding at Franklin Park.

Down the slope I went and when I got to the bottom of the third level, the front of the sled reared up and smacked me in the face. I rolled off the sled, the stinging pain letting me know my decision making abilities were not very good. But the worst part of all was that my glasses, which I needed for distance vision, lay broken in two in the snow.

Despite that experience, I have persisted. There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as when you gain momentum and go hurtling down a slippery slope, knowing that you are likely out of control, but loving the speed and the flying sensation.

Kids having fun sledding at the family cabin near White Pass

Our family cabin was, for years, a destination for New Year’s or President’s Day weekends. When the kids arrived, we introduced them to the joys of sledding and everyone looked forward to those trips.

On one particular afternoon, we were all outside playing in the snow and my dad had driven up from Yakima. He had to have been in his late 70’s at the time, but there he was sliding down the hill with the kids and having a great time. Or he was right up until the boat sled in which he was riding sailed over a berm and he landed hard, bruising his tailbone. It was at that moment he declared his sledding days over. About five years ago I did the exact same thing in the exact same spot and, like my dad, ended up bruised and battered.

We all frequently ended up sprawled out on the snow at the end of the sled run

I have my doubts that I’ll ever get back on a sled but I haven’t counted it out quite yet. After we sold the cabin this past summer, two of the metal boat sleds came to live in my garage. Now all I need is a snowy day. Not too far from where I live is an epic hill which would be perfect for a run.

But, with no big snow storms on the horizon, I’ll do the next best thing. I typed in ‘virtual luge’ on my computer and got hundreds of hits. For best results, view it on a full size TV. And for a couple of minutes you can see what it would be like to ride a two man bobsled. And you won’t even need to wear a helmet or your mittens. But a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whip cream would be heavenly.

And a couple of links:

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

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

Facebook answers, clockwise from upper left corner: 2 Man Bobsled, Ski Jumping, Single Luge, Ice Hockey, Ice Dance

Like A Song on the Radio

Thank you, Mr. Marconi

June 2, 2020

 

Marconi RadioThere is a saying that he who gets to the patent office first matters more than who invented it. This is likely true for the invention of radio. Guglielmo Marconi – first to the patent office – filed on June 2, 1896, eclipsing others also working on the budding technology.

The story begins decades earlier and, as is often the case, the Infallible Wikipedia sums it up:

“The idea of wireless communication predates the discovery of ‘radio’ with experiments in ‘wireless telegraphy’ via inductive and capacitive induction and transmission through the ground, water, and even train tracks from the 1830s on. James Clerk Maxwell showed in theoretical and mathematical form in 1864 that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. It is likely that the first intentional transmission of a signal by means of electromagnetic waves was performed in an experiment by David Edward Hughes around 1880, although this was considered to be induction at the time. In 1888 Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was able to conclusively prove transmitted airborne electromagnetic waves in an experiment confirming Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism.”

Fascinated by the possibility of transmitting sounds via Hertzian (as radio waves were called at the time) waves, Marconi began experiments building the equipment needed in the attic of his home. He was only 20 years old.

“A breakthrough came in the summer of 1895, when Marconi found that much greater range could be achieved after he raised the height of his antenna and, borrowing from a technique used in wired telegraphy, grounded his transmitter and receiver. With these improvements, the system was capable of transmitting signals up to 2 miles (3.2 km) and over hills. The monopole antenna reduced the frequency of the waves compared to the dipole antennas used by Hertz, and radiated vertically polarized radio waves which could travel longer distances. By this point, he concluded that a device could become capable of spanning greater distances, with additional funding and research, and would prove valuable both commercially and militarily. Marconi’s experimental apparatus proved to be the first engineering-complete, commercially successful radio transmission system.”

Encouraged by his parents, he left Italy for England – his mother accompanied him – and was able to gain the interest of the British Government and, eventually, financial backing. While Marconi’s system was used primarily for short distance maritime communications at first, his company continued to experiment and expand the distance the radio waves traveled. It was Marconi’s system which made it possible for 700 passengers aboard the Titanic to be rescued.

GE F-96

My brother had a radio like this one given to him by our grandparents. His is currently in a storage locker… this beauty belongs to someone who graciously posted it on the internet.

Innovation in radio proceeded at an amazing pace with the commercial side of it soon eclipsing the more mundane maritime uses. By 1938 four of every five homes had a radio. Families gathered around for favorite programs, whether they were music, ‘theater,’ or the news of the day. The radio became an essential part of society.

 

All of today’s wireless digital communications via phones, pads, and portable computers, began with the invention of the radio.

Marconi – along with Karl Braun – shared the 1909 Nobel Prize “for their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

transistor radio

My sister was the queen of the transistor radio with one nearly glued to her ear for several years.

By the 1960’s, despite the fairly recent addition of commercial television, radio was still king. Especially for teenagers. It was radio which helped foment the rock and roll revolution; it was radio which unified the baby boom generation. Every town seemed to have at least one radio station and the wise ones were spinning the popular teen records of the day.

 

In Yakima – where I grew up – there were three stations of note in the later 1960’s and early 1970’s. I remember my dad always wanting to listen to KIT. At 1280 on the dial it featured news and WWII era music. As a card-carrying teen that was not on my list of cool radio stations. There were, however, two stations I listened to: KMWX and KQOT.

Being that I kept a diary (note to my younger self – what you wrote about was mostly ridiculous) and that listening to the radio was so important, I recorded this gem from April 25, 1971:

“Today was Pete’s Birthday. He liked the Grippu Sue and I gave him.* We went on Daylight Savings, so it stays light till almost 8:30. That means KQOT stays on the air until 7:45 and on May 1st, they will stay on until 8:30. That means I get to hear Neal Gray all through the ‘Sommer.’ (Sommer? Get it? Bob Sommers D.J.) YEA!”

Three days later, I posted this entry:

“Today was an interesting day, you see, today was Patty Hooper’s dog’s birthday, so I told her I would dedicate “Me and You and a Dog named Boo” to her dog, Sairy, if I could get through… well I got through and dedicated it but it is really weird to hear Bob Sommer’s voice on the radio and telephone, then your own. Patty was listening and called right after the song was over. Command Performance is kind of fun.”

It was, apparently, about this time that I became radio obsessed, even going so far (Two days after that!) to try to figure out the trick for getting through to the D.J.’s. For one of my dialing adventures, it took me… 292 times to get through.

Scan_20200602

The author at age 14 in my room. Cassette recorder, radio (it was an older one my parents had). I’m not sure where the clock radio is… and you can see my blue 1972 diary off to the side. I was kinda messy.

The rest of the 1971 diary has occasional references to the two radio stations. What I do recall during those years is sitting on the bed in my room, listening to the radio and waiting for my favorite songs. I cannot recall what sort of radio it was, but it was my daily companion. I was given a cassette tape recorder for my 13th birthday, and a new clock radio for my 14th. Together they afforded me the opportunity to ‘record’ songs when they came on the air. Many a tape was filled with badly recorded favorite songs AND, often, the D.J.’s playing the live requests. Those tapes were played over and over.

 

In today’s world, the importance of radio for young people has faded. Kids pop in their earbuds and open their Spotify or Pandora** apps on their phones; in an instant their favorite songs begin to play. Somehow I think they are missing out on the experience of calling the radio station, requesting ‘the’ song, and then listening for hours to hear it.

I’ve included a video of Al Stewart’s ‘Song on the Radio’ as it seems to capture the spirit of the 1970’s

For those of us who grew up during AM radio’s golden age of rock and roll we did not realize at the time that it wouldn’t always be that way. No doubt there will be more amazing innovations for wireless digital communications and, one day, I imagine the teens of today will pine for the good ole days. It’s the way of the world.

 

*I have no idea what this thing was… in another entry I write that the gripper is ‘a big blow up plastic hand.’ Who knew?

**It’s highly likely that Spotify and Pandora are ‘last year’s’ hot apps. I await correction from those in the know.

A couple of links:

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

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

KQOT operated as a ‘rock’ station from 1962 until 1979 and is now Christian station KYAK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KYAK

 

The First Tuesday in September

September 3, 2019

On Saddle Shoes and Pee Chee Folders

The first Tuesday of September was always a day which struck fear in my heart. In fact, no other day of the year caused more anxiety and distress than this one.

The reason, of course, was due to the fact that when I was growing up school always started on this day.

Unlike in today’s world, where we are inundated with back to school ads for supplies and equipment beginning in late July, in the 1960’s and 70’s, we didn’t much think about going back to school. That is until one day in late August my mother would ominously announce that school started the next week.

Pee CheeSo off we would go to get things. Our back to school supply list included Pee Chee folders, notebook paper, #2 pencils, and BIC pens. That was it.

For clothing, I was lucky to get one new outfit for the first day of school. And the most evil of all footwear ever invented: saddle shoes.

I’ll get back to those in a bit.  First off, however, I imagine you are wondering about the Pee Chee.  What is a Pee Chee? And why do so many people my age wax so nostalgic over a folded in half piece of cardstock? I knew it deserved Tuesday Newsday status. Since I couldn’t find the official day they were introduced, the first Tuesday in September seemed the perfect date to learn about them. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The yellow Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio was a common American stationery item in the second half of the 20th century, commonly used by students for storing school papers. It was first produced in 1943 by the Western Tablet and Stationery Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pee-Chees were later produced by the Mead Corporation. (snip) These inexpensive folders are made of card stock with two internal pockets for the storage of loose leaf paper. The pockets are printed with a variety of reference information including factors for converting between Imperial and metric measurement units, and a multiplication table. The folders had fallen out of general use by the 2000s, but are available from Mead as of 2014.”

useful information.jpgNote the words “multiplication table.” This was probably the most valuable thing a Pee Chee provided as we were expected to memorize this table. By the time you got up to the twelves, it got a bit difficult. The handy dandy Pee Chee came to your rescue. Of course our teachers knew this and we had to put our Pee Chee’s away during test time.

When I walked home from elementary school I only carried a Pee Chee and rarely any books unless it was one checked out from the library. By the time I was in Junior High and High School, books were part of the equation. Along with the Pee Chee of course.

That brand new, unmarked, non-dog-eared Pee Chee was the best part of being forced to go back to school. And paper, pencils and BIC pens, of course. Oooh, and Flair pens starting in Junior High!

The worst part? From first grade through sixth I was subjected to torture by being forced to wear saddle shoes. Whoever invented this shoe should have been required to wear a new pair every week for their entire lives just so they would know what pain they subjected multiple generations of girls to endure.

Yakima NordstromMy mother would take me and my sister to Nordstrom’s Shoe store… in the 1960’s in Yakima that’s all it was… a shoe store. We would bypass all the beautiful shiny black patent leather shoes and the cute Mary Janes and go directly to the rack of clunky saddle shoes. There they sat, big, bulky, and ugly. They had brown soles thicker than a slice of French toast. Across their beige bodies was a second strip of stiff brown leather, with laces through the holes, just waiting to cinch your foot into bondage. Heaven forbid that you got shoes which fit… no, they had to be a bit big so you’d grow in to them and not grow out of them before the following June.

We would wear them around the house for several days before school started in a futile effort to ‘break’ them in. It never worked. The first few weeks of school our feet bore witness to the horrors of saddle shoes; oozing red blisters were covered with adhesive tape and we’d limp through the day. Eventually the leather softened and the blisters abated… usually by October. Kids today just don’t realize how lucky they are to have been spared the scourge of saddle shoes.beige and brown saddle shoes

Even now the first week of September is my least favorite time of the year; despite the fact I do not have to go back to school nor do my children.

I am, however, very, very tempted to go hang out in the office supply store and indulge myself in the smell of paper and ink and the plethora of notebooks, papers, pens, and paperclips. Anyone who has seen my office knows that I have stacks of spiral notebooks, hundreds of colored paperclips (many with decorative tops), and a collection of G-2G 2 pens pens of every hue. In fact, just writing about it inspires me to head to my nearest Office Depot Max to see what’s on sale. Unlike saddle shoes, office supplies never go out of fashion!

As always a couple of links:

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

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

Yes, it is true. In 1960 Nordstrom’s only sold shoes. The store in Yakima was one of only 8 stores at the time.

https://shop.nordstrom.com/content/company-history

 

 

That’s The Pits!

Cherries!

July 2, 2019

The item which caught my attention for this week’s blog is the amusing ‘contest’ of cherry pit spitting. Yes, it’s a thing.

cherry spit site.jpgHeld annually in Eau Claire, Michigan, since 1974, the record ‘spit’ of a cherry pit is 93 ft 6.5 inches. The competition has been dominated by one family with the patriarch, Rick Krause, holding the record for longest spit (over 72 feet) until 1993. Since then, his son, Brian ‘Pellet Gun’ Krause has won 10 times with his record breaking discharge occurring the first week of July in 2003. In recent years Brian’s sons have also competed.

rick krause.png

Patriarchal Cherry pit spitter Rick Krause in 2010. Photo from Lifecompassblog.com

Others have stepped up to put their spitting skills to the test, but the Krause family continues to dominate.

It is appropriate, therefore, as we celebrate all things red, white, and blue this week, to pay tribute to one of my favorite red things: the cherry.

Every July I can hardly wait for the harvest of this fruit to begin in the Yakima Valley. For there is truly nothing better than picking a cluster of the ruby orbs and (after they’re cleaned off) biting into the soft, juicy flesh. As a fan of the sweet varieties such as Bing and Sweetheart, an explosion of flavor reminds me how much I’ve missed them since the previous year.

The cherry has a long history of cultivation with evidence that the fruit has been grown since prehistoric times. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The English word cherry derives from Old Northern French or Norman cherise from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region, Kerasous (Κερασοῦς) near Giresun, Turkey, from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The indigenous range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia, and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.

Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent, by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.

Cherries arrived in North America early in the settlement of Brooklyn, New York (then called ‘New Netherland’) when the region was under Dutch sovereignty. ”

In the United States, the first record of cherry trees being planted was 1639.

Bing cherriesSweet cherries are grown most successfully in Washington, Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Michigan (hence the location of the cherry pit spitting contest). Most sour cherry varieties are grown in Michigan, Utah, New York and Washington.

To successfully grow cherries, the climate must have cold winters although varieties have been developed recently which have allowed California to compete in cherry production. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Most cherry varieties have a chilling requirement of 800 or more hours, meaning that in order to break dormancy, blossom, and set fruit, the winter season needs to have at least 800 hours where the temperature is below 45 °F (7 °C). “Low chill” varieties requiring 300 hours or less are Minnie Royal and Royal Lee, requiring cross-pollinization, whereas the cultivar, Royal Crimson, is self-fertile. These varieties extend the range of cultivation of cherries to the mild winter areas of southern US. This is a boon to California producers of sweet cherries, as California is the second largest producer of sweet cherries in the US.”

My relationship with the cherry has not always been an enjoyable one, however. In the 1970’s, my father took over managing a cherry orchard which my grandfather – a banker – had gotten as way of repayment of a loan gone bad some years earlier. In those years Dad had two jobs: Junior High School history teacher and orchardist. My first summer ‘job’ as a teenager was picking cherries.

By early July in Yakima the weather usually turns quite warm. It is common for there to be a spate of days when the thermometer inches into the upper 90’s and low 100’s.  It’s then that the cherries ripen and harvest begins. For the pickers, work commences shortly after daybreak while the orchard is still cool.

One summer, with my then boyfriend and his younger sister, we arrived – along with all the migrant workers – to begin our job. Each person was assigned a tree, given a ladder and a bucket. Now when I say bucket, we are not talking about a pail like those favored by children at the beach. Nope. The metal buckets I knew held a lot of cherries, some 4 1/2 gallons worth, and it seemed to take forever to fill one up.

ladder in cherry orchardPicking cherries requires a delicate method. You must hold the fruit at the very top of the stem (stem less cherries are not saleable in the fresh market) and gently twist so that the stem is removed from the branch without pulling the spur off the tree. Then you place – do NOT drop – the fruit into the bucket. Lather, rinse, repeat. My rough estimates are thus: 80 cherries for a gallon times 4.5 gallons equals 360 cherries for one bucket. It takes a long time to pick 360 cherries plus, with one’s assigned ‘tree’, you also had to climb up 12 to 15 feet while balancing a bucket of heavy fruit.

Now what, you may ask, is ‘the spur’?” It’s a knobby growth at the end of a branch and if it’s pulled off that branch will not produce cherries the next year. My father the orchardist was rather persnickety about those spurs being preserved.

By noon time – having been there picking since 5 a.m. – the heat would have arrived and I would have picked… seven buckets of fruit. That’s 2,420 cherries each day of harvest… and be paid seven whole dollars. Some of the migrant workers could pick up to 200 buckets a day. I’ve never figured out how.

Okay, the job truly sucked. Although seven bucks went farther in nineteen seventy something than it does today. But it wasn’t a lot of money.

My experience as a cherry picker makes me appreciate the delicious fruit even more. When my sister brought a bag of the freshly picked delights to me yesterday, it was a taste of heaven. For the next few weeks I will jealously guard my cherries, making the bounty last until late July. By then I will have satisfied my craving for the fleshy fruit for another year.

The best part? I didn’t have to pick them!

patriotic pie

Happy 4th of July everyone!

A couple of links for you:

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

http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/loc.afc.afc-legacies.200003151/default.html

Survivor

The Tribe Has Spoken…

September 25, 2018

S37 Logo

The Logo is updated for each season but always include the tagline: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. This is for the season which begins on September 26, 2018.

In the year 2000, this program captured the imaginations of millions of American’s and was catapulted to the top of the TV ratings. Now, 18 years later, it remains a perennial favorite for some 10 million viewers. The show: Survivor.

In the course of its 36 ‘seasons’ the program has featured 536 contestants who vie for the one million dollar prize and the coveted title of ‘sole survivor.’ The premise of the show is summed up by the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Sixteen or more players, split between two or more ‘tribes’, are taken to a remote isolated location (usually in a tropical climate) and are forced to live off the land with meager supplies for 39 days (42 in The Australian Outback). Frequent physical and mental challenges are used to pit the teams against each other for rewards, such as food or luxuries, or for ‘immunity’, forcing the other tribe to attend ‘Tribal Council’, where they must vote off one of their tribemates.

20121113-jeff-probst-survivor-philippines-interview

Jeff Probst, host and producer of Survivor. “The Tribe Has Spoken.”

Signaling the halfway point in the game, survivors from both tribes come together to live as one, making it to the ‘merge’. At this point, survivor will compete against each other to win Individual Immunity; winning immunity prevents that player from being voted out at Tribal Council. Most players that are voted out after the merge – form the game’s ‘jury’. Once the group gets down to three people, a final Tribal Council is held where the remaining players plead their case to the jury members. The jury then votes for which player should be considered the ‘Sole Survivor’ and win the show’s grand prize. In all seasons for the United States version, this has included a $1 million prize in addition to the Sole Survivor title; some seasons (particularly earlier seasons) have included additional prizes, such as a car.

The U.S. version has introduced numerous modifications, or ‘twists’, on the core rules in order to keep the players on their toes and to prevent players from relying on strategies that succeeded in prior seasons. These changes have included tribal switches, seasons starting with more than two tribes, the ability to exile a player from a tribe for a short time, hidden immunity idols that players can use to save themselves or others at Tribal Council, special voting powers which can be used to influence the result at Tribal Council, chance to return to regular gameplay after elimination through the ‘Redemption Island’ or ‘The Outcast Tribe’ twists, and a final four fire-making challenge as of season 35.”

This description does not, in my opinion, capture what is so fascinating about Survivor. To me, it is seeing how individual people respond to a difficult environment, difficult people, and difficult physical challenges. It is a great study of human behavior and relationships. It’s impossible to predict just who will successfully navigate each season to emerge the victor.

hatch wigglesworth season 1

Final Tribal Counsel from season one… Kelly Wigglesworth and Richard Hatch.

When the show first started, the producers imagined that a physically strong man would be the most likely winner. The world was shocked, however, when an overweight, 40 something, gay guy, took the title. Viewers were appalled because Richard Hatch had been manipulative, performed poorly in challenges, and offended his fellow contestants. What they all missed was how persuasive he was and his early vision that to win, one needed to build a coalition – which he called an alliance – and carried him to the end.

In the 35 subsequent seasons his methods have worked – sometimes – but not always. Ultimately, a combination of a person’s social skills and their ability to convince a jury that they deserve the title has proved to be more important than prowess at challenges.

It’s this element of the game which I find most intriguing and, despite not always liking the results, I will tune in this Wednesday, September 26, to watch Season 37.

Back in 2000 and 2001 I considered applying to be on the show. But, with elementary aged children at home, it wasn’t an option. In the subsequent years I determined I would not do well being forced to live in deprivation or sleep on a bamboo platform. Although I’m pretty certain I’d be voted out early due to the fact that I’d suck at the physical challenges and my tribe would (accurately) see me as a detriment to winning.

So instead I have enjoyed each season, but especially the ‘Millennials versus GenX’ and ‘Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.’ Why?

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The autographed photo I received from Michelle Schubert in September 2016.

When they announced the participants for the Millennials season a young woman, Michelle Schubert, from my hometown of Yakima, Washington, was on the show. I got to attend the September 2016 premiere at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, meet her and have all my ‘behind the scenes’ questions answered during Q &A sessions before, during and after each segment of the premiere. It was a bucket list sort of evening for me! Although Michelle didn’t make it to the finals or win, it was fun to root for the hometown favorite who was one of the members of the ‘jury’ that decided the winner.

The next fall I found myself rooting for contestant Ryan Ulrich as I share the same last (married) name. Cousin Ryan, as I called him, DID make the finals but ended up in third place.

Million Dollar Night

“Cousin” Ryan (right) in his final three appearance in 2017. Ben Driebergen, middle, won Season 35 with Chrissy Hofbeck, second, and Ryan Ulrich, third.

If you ever want to have a conversation about Survivor, I consider myself a super-fan, and can discuss any season! If you ask I’ll tell you my favorite winner and the winner I most disliked. I can discuss bad strategy decisions and my theory on how they give a winner’s edit to the person who ultimately prevails. So bring it on. The tribe has spoken.

As always, a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivor_(U.S._TV_series)

https://www.cbs.com/shows/survivor/

The Oracle of Bacon

One Degree or Another

September 4, 2018

kevin bacon kyra sedgwickToday’s historical event really isn’t that much of an event but more an excuse to write about a topic which amuses this author. First of all happy 30th wedding anniversary to Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. They were married September 4, 1988. Unlike a great number of Hollywood marriages, their marriage has lasted three decades and, apparently, they’ve only ever been married to each other!

But as I said, that event is but an excuse to write about the cultural phenomenon known as the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

The genesis of the concept first appeared in 1996 when four Albright college students watched two movies one evening, both of which featured Kevin Bacon. No doubt, as these things go, the four probably had been consuming alcohol when they began speculating on the connections between Bacon and other actors.

Bacon himself said in an earlier interview, in January 1994 with Premiere magazine, that he “had worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who’s worked with them.”

From the Infallible Wikipedia, here’s how it works:

animal-house-kevin-bacon

Kevin Bacon (Right) as Chip Diller along with Kent Dorfman – played by Stephen Furst in the classic Animal House.

“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a parlor game based on the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and prolific actor Kevin Bacon. It rests on the assumption that anyone involved in the Hollywood film industry can be linked through their film roles to Bacon within six steps. In 2007, Bacon started a charitable organization called SixDegrees.org.”

In the past 20 years, the concept has become a cultural phenomenon, and references to the game have been made in movies, books, TV and even a couple of parody songs. Despite his initial dislike of the game, Bacon himself has come to embrace it and, no doubt, it has been a benefit to his long career.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 2009, Bacon narrated a National Geographic Channel show ‘The Human Family Tree’ – a program which describes the efforts of that organization’s Genographic Project to establish the genetic interconnectedness of all humans. In 2011, James Franco made reference to Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon while hosting the 83rd Academy Awards. In the summer of 2012, Google began to offer the ability to find an actor’s Bacon number on its main page, by searching for the actor’s name preceded by the phrase ‘bacon number’. EE (UK internet provider) began a UK television advertising campaign on November 3, 2012, based on the Six Degrees concept, where Kevin Bacon illustrates his connections and draws attention to how the EE 4G network allows similar connectivity.”

oracleTo find any actor’s ‘Bacon Number’ you can go to this link: https://oracleofbacon.org/

Even those of us who are not actors and have never appeared in a movie with or without Kevin Bacon can, however, discern our ‘Bacon Number’.

I went to the link and then figured out ‘who’ I personally know who might have a connection. What I discovered: my Bacon number is Three.

Kyle MacLachlan Twin Peaks

Kyle Maclachlan in Twin Peaks

How? I went to high school with Kyle MacLachlan (he spelled it McLachlan then) at Eisenhower HS in Yakima. Kyle, for those who do not know, starred as Special Agent Dale Cooper in the TV show Twin Peaks and also as Paul Atreides in the movie Dune. He’s had a decade’s long, solid acting career. His Bacon number is Two assigned as follows: He was in a Twin Peaks episode with James Marshall who was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon.

michael Tucker

Michael Tucker

Or, I can get to Kevin Bacon through my brother who had a minor walk on role in the movie The Secret Life of Archie’s Wife (1990) starring Michael Tucker. Michael Tucker was in Diner (1982) with Kevin Bacon. So via this connection I also get a Bacon number of three. Kevin (0) – Michael (1) –Peter (2) – Barb (3).

Now let the games begin… what is YOUR Bacon number?

And a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon (Yes, there really is a Wikipedia page JUST for this!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Bacon (And one for the actor himself)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyle_MacLachlan (Yakima’s famous son has one too!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Tucker_(actor) (As does Michael Tucker)

I plucked this historical photo of Kyle (right photo, wearing the all black outfit) from the pages of my high school annual (I was the Editor so I probably handled this photo and, possibly, either wrote or made changes to the caption) in one of his early roles acting. He would have been 16 in this photo. Kyle M early years.jpg

This entry was posted on September 5, 2018.

… the Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days and Cat Nights

August 14, 2018

beagle with fanWhen the heat arrives in July and August each year inevitably someone comments that it is the “Dog Days” of summer. What, exactly, are Dog Days?

It’s actually in reference to the star Sirius which, ancients believed, contributed to the excessive heat beginning in mid-July. Although you can see Sirius – it is the star which is nearest to our solar system – throughout the year, it is in summer when it rises in conjunction with the sun each morning. It is this phenomenon which prompted the term Dog Days. There is some debate as to when Dog Days occur and it depends on who you ask.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Various computations of the dog days have placed their start anywhere from 3 July to 15 August and lasting for anywhere from 30 to 61 days. They may begin or end with the cosmical or heliacal rising of either Sirius in Canis Majoror Procyon (the “Little Dog Star”) in Canis Minor and vary by latitude, not even being visible throughout much of the Southern Hemisphere. Sirius observes a period of almost exactly 365¼ days between risings, keeping it largely consistent with the Julian but not the Gregorian calendar; nonetheless, its dates occur somewhat later in the year over a span of millennia.

In antiquity, the dog days were usually reckoned from the appearance of Siriusaround 19 July (Julian) to relieving rains and cool winds, although Hesiod seems to have counted the worst of summer as the days leading up to Sirius’s reappearance.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the dog days ran from various dates in mid-July to early or mid-September. Canonical “dog daies” were observed from July 7 to September 5 in the 16th-century English liturgies. They were removed from the prayer books at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and their term shortened to the time between July 19 and August 20. During the British adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they were shifted to July 30 to September 7.

Many modern sources in the English-speaking world move this still earlier, from July 3 to August 11, ending rather than beginning with or centering on the reappearance of Sirius to the night sky.”

The star Sirius is the brightest star in our skies as it is a mere 8.7 light years from Earth. It is best observed in the winter as it is seen quite near the very recognizable constellation Orion. Orion dominates the night sky, appearing on the southern horizon. Sirius can be seen just below and to the left of Orion’s ‘belt’.f0895f14aed5a68fee572ee10326772f--orions-belt-sirius

Dog Days are not exclusive to the American experience, however, and on August 16th each year, it is celebrated as follows:

“It is possible that the Roch, the legendary medieval patron saint of dogs celebrated by the Catholic Church on 16 August, owes some of his legacy to the dog days. From the period of his self-proclaimed protectorate over the island, the Danish adventurer Jørgen Jürgensen is remembered in Iceland as Jorgen the Dog-Day King (IcelandicJörundur hundadagakonungur).”

I would be remiss if I didn’t also share the legend of Cat Nights. I had never heard of such a celebration until researching for this post. But according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, they are described thusly:

The term ‘Cat Nights’ harks back to a rather obscure old Irish legend concerning witches and the belief that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time (August 17), she couldn’t regain her human form. This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, ‘A cat has nine lives.’ Because August is a yowly time for cats, this may have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place.”kliban cats walking dogs

But back to Dog Days. One of my earliest memories is of the very first summer after my family moved to Yakima… must have been late July or August 1962. My mother was insistent that we ‘younger’ children (I turned 5 in 1962) go to bed at 8 p.m. It did not matter that it was still light outside. Since, in the northern hemisphere the sun does not set until well after 9 p.m that time of year and in Yakima is was closer to 10, we went to bed regardless. And it did not matter that it was uncomfortably hot. We went to bed regardless. It was a few years later that we got air conditioning which made the hottest of days bearable.

What I vividly recall is lying in my bed – which was under a window and watching the lightweight cotton curtains billowing in the hot wind and hearing the sounds of children playing outside. I know I thought it was terribly unfair that I had to be in bed, unable to sleep, while the rest of the neighborhood was having fun.

I moved away from Yakima in great part to avoid the excessive heat which arrived in mid-July each year and often remained until late August or early September.

Ironically, these past nine years I have found myself back in my hometown to help with my dad (who is now 95).

20180810_082117This year and last – as his body fat diminished – he has a much more difficult time managing his body temp. He’s frequently cold, even on the very hottest of summer days, and a battle rages over whether the thermostat is set to cooling or heating! Frequently the furnace is running and the indoor temperature is close to 80 degrees. Either my brother (who lives with my dad) or I will switch it to AC only to have dad turn on the furnace despite the outdoor temp being over 100 degrees. The picture to the left is one I took a few days ago in Yakima, right after switching the thermostat back to cool.

On a recent trip I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, and harkened back to 1962… and just like then it was hot and difficult to get comfortable. Of course the reason was because my dad had turned the furnace on!

A couple of links about Dog Days and Cat Nights:

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

https://www.almanac.com/fact/cat-nights-begin-the-term-cat-nights-holiday

Drive In Movies

An environment ripe for shenanigans!

June 6, 2017

drive in theatre

June 6 is an important day in US History. But since we all learned about D-Day in our US History classes (or you can pick up my friend Irene Fernandes wonderful novel ‘They Also Served’ for a firsthand account of a war-bride in England during WWII) I have instead chosen another ground breaking event for the subject this week.

Yes, it was on June 6, 1933, when the first commercially successful drive in movie theatre opened in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The father of the drive in movie was one Richard Hollingshead. From the infallible Wikipedia:

“Hollingshead conducted outdoor theater tests in his driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue in Riverton. After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard, he set a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his car windows down and up. Blocks under vehicles in the driveway enabled him to determine the size and spacing of ramps so all automobiles could have a clear view of the screen. Hollingshead applied for a patent of his invention on August 6, 1932, and he was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537 on May 16, 1933.”

The American public, already in love with the automobile, also loved the drive-in movie. They reached their peak of popularity in the 1950’s and early 1960’s when some 4,000 Drive-ins existed throughout the United States.

The phenomenon was not without its detractors, however, and drive in movies – which allowed people to view films from the privacy of their car – were labeled ‘passion pits.’ Teenagers, particularly, adored them as it afforded an opportunity to, well, you know.

1950 cadillacSpeaking of which, there were several drive-in movie theaters in my hometown of Yakima, Washington. One evening my sister and I and two of our friends decided to go to the Fruitvale Drive-in (sadly, no longer there). The car my sister drove was a 1950 yellow Cadillac with a red roof; a hand me down from our grandparents.  This tank of a car had all the whistles and bells popular in 1950 including a gauge which told you how good your driving was. Ok, not really, it had to do with gas mileage, but as children our grandfather told us it was evaluating his driving with an arrow that point to words like ‘poor’, ‘fair’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent.’ But, most important of all, it featured a movable spotlight affixed to the car just outside the driver’s side window. There was a handle inside the car to control the light.

On this particular night my sister, Sue, and our friend Wende were in the front seat and me and our other friend Pam were in the back. Our attentions were soon drawn to the activities taking place in the backseat of the car parked in front of us. We watched with intense teenage curiosity as the silhouetted heads of the couple descended lower and lower until they were no longer visible.  Now THIS was interesting (unlike the movie whose name I forget). We, of course, giggled and speculated on WHAT exactly might be going on in that car and then my sister remembered ‘the light.’

“Do it!” we encouraged. So she did. A moment later a blaze of floodlight swamped the erstwhile lovers and you never saw feet flail or heads snap up so fast! We descended into paroxysm of laughter. The light was off a moment later but then we worried that we would be in trouble for the illumination during the movie. A few horns honked in objection of the sudden light and both Pam and I ducked down so as not to be seen. Our prank, however, was not exposed and I do believe the lovers in the other car spent the rest of the movie upright. Talk about coitus ‘interrupt-us’.

If you want to know more about the rise and decline of the drive-in movie theater click on this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drive-in_theater

Do you have a story from when you went to the drive in? Please post it in the comments section! I would love to read it.