Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More History - A Love Affair And A Wartime Wedding

The popcorn wagon emails and searches through old photo albums (see yesterday's post) inspired another exchange between my sister and me. This one began because my sister wanted photos, dates and any other information about our parents' wedding. They didn't get along well at all during our childhoods, so their wedding was not discussed. At their deaths, my sister and I split up their photo albums, so we separately began searching through them. It turned out that I had the pertinent information and pictures. It began with my discovery of the official wedding portrait:

I learned that the wedding had been at my grandmother's home in McMinnville Oregon on August 24th. But I could find no records of what the year was. I know that my father was already married and in the Marines in 1945, so the wedding was sometime before that. Here's a photo of the happy couple with, I presume, their Best Man and Maid Of Honor. It's in color (sort of) because my mother had taken up the hobby of colorizing photos by hand. As I remember, this involved hand applying tints with a brush:

Well, this was a fun and enlightening journey into my own family history, and it almost ended there. Then I noticed an old envelope pasted to the inside cover of the photo album. It was addressed to my mother from the Navy's Air Mail Center:

And inside that envelope was this wrinkled, mud splattered envelope. I noticed that air mail letter service cost only 6 cents in 1945:

Inside the second envelope was this typewritten note from the Navy:

The letter inside was a bit difficult to read, but demonstrated a love affair which my sister and I were never privileged to see. I'll show each page and provide a transcription:.

Page 1:
September 8, 1945

My Darling Peggy:

Hello honey, today I have a few free moments so I will start my letter.

Our boats came in last night and everyone is busy unloading. This will really be a crowded place when all the men get up here. As yet I haven't seen Otto or any of my boys. We have to unload as fast as possible because MAG-24 is going to load for
Page 2:
China. The are sending most of the marines out of here into China. I don't think that we will. We hear we are going to Hawaii in 2 months to decommission. PBJ's are to (sic) costly to operate for patrol duty. If we do that I might be home in January or February. Don't count on it though.

This Jap money is invasion money they used in the Philippines. I found a bunch of it. I thought you might want to see a bunch of it.

Page 3:
Darling, I am so lonesome for you. Each night I think and think about everything we have done and plan to do. I am sure tired of this life. It is OK for a single fellow but not for me. I just want to be with the one I love and thats (sic) with you. In a year I should be a civilian. If I was home now we could start buying me clothes. You are allowed to wear them in the states when not on duty:

Page 4:
We have a little monkey in our tent we sure like. He doesn't like me any more though. We got him drunk on beer and it really was a picnic.

Some of this money is duplicated so you can split up with my folks.

I love you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Bit Of Popcorn Flavored History

I recently received an email from a cousin in Oregon with this old photo of an antique popcorn wagon:

Now, this is not just any old-time popcorn wagon. This is the one which was operated by my grandmother on a downtown street corner of McMinnville, Oregon for thirty years. This is the popcorn wagon from which my family received Christmas gifts every year of caramel corn and red and green popcorn balls. This is where my sister and I sometimes used to spend the day when we visited Oregon for the summer. This popcorn wagon has lots of memories for me and for my family:

My grandmother, a divorced mother of six, supported her family by selling popcorn and by renting out apartments in her large, old Victorian home. It was a family business and in the evening, we might be expected to help out mixing up huge batches of caramel corn in the giant copper kettle (that's my sister on the stairway watching):

Because we only visited in the summertime, we never got to help make popcorn balls. But we certainly helped (well, we were young so perhaps I should say we watched, not helped) with the making of caramel corn. This is my mother sometime in the 1950s putting it into bags after it'd been spread out to cool:

My sister and I searched through all our old photo albums for photos and newspaper clippings. "Mom Jenkins Knows Her Corn" was a favorite sign in downtown McMinnville, Oregon for thirty years:

And it became known widely across the state from human interest stories which appeared in many cities' newspapers:

In January of 1966, my grandmother retired and sold her popcorn wagon:

It was loaded up and hauled to a museum in the State Capital of Salem, Oregon:

That's McMinnville's J.C. Penny store in the background. Just around the corner is the city's only movie theater. She made it a point to be making popcorn when the movie crowd let out so that the aroma would draw them over to buy a bag of REAL popcorn (and she also roasted peanuts):

These are only a few of the many newspaper clippings from around the state, but you can see that it became a beloved symbol of old time goodness, honest dealing and wholesome food:

I found this City Vendor's License from 1952 interesting, mostly because it cost forty dollars. That was a lot of money back then, especially for an elderly lady with a big family to support:

Eventually, the museum in Salem decided it no longer wanted to display the old popcorn wagon. Local civic groups in McMinnville rescued it and the last I knew, it was displayed proudly in the City Fire Department Building. But I'll always remember it sitting next to J.C. Penny in downtown McMinnville:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recreating The 1950s, A Room Full Of Knitted Memories

I found this video on another person's blog (I follow quite a few of them on various subjects) and found it pretty darn wonderful. A group of grannies in a nursing home in Tasmania started knitting things that reminded them of the 1950s...and ended up knitting a whole house AND a garden (including the people inside the house and animals outside!). I loved it:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Gathering Of The Tribes

I attended the Fort Crailo Harvest Festival (see previous three posts) on a Saturday after I got home from work. When I left Fort Crailo, I began to drive to Wal-Mart to do some shopping. But along the way I saw a hand lettered sign pointing down a country road saying "Gathering Of The Tribes." Well, it was a beautiful day and I had both the time and a camera, so I turned down the road and pulled into the parking lot (a hay field the rest of the year). It cost $5.00, so I paid, entered and began my exploration. I found booths with vendors of Native American crafts and ornaments:

I found tepees and encampments both within and outside of the public area:

There was a good crowd, a large percentage of which were bikers, and everyone seemed happy and friendly:

The center of the gathering was a ceremonial fire around which an Aztec couple were performing and explaining traditional tribal dances. This was a big crowd pleaser and lots of folks sat on hay bales to watch:

This animal skin covered lean-to was especially interesting to me as it so closely resembled the branch and leaf covered lean-tos I'd recently discovered while hiking in Dyken Pond Nature Preserve:

There were lots of items for sale, but I wasn't in the market for anything so didn't investigate very closely:

This bear head was decoration at one of the vendor's booths.

I didn't stay long as it had already been a very long day for me and I still had my weekly shopping to do. But I found the gathering to be a fascinating idea and may go again in the future:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fort Crailo Harvest Faire - Part 3

I was attending the Fort Crailo Harvest Faire and had explored the outdoor exhibits (see previous posts). Then I went indoors to see the exhibits. I've lived close to Fort Crailo for a long time and have therefore seen the displays many times. But I always enjoy seeing them again. Near the front door and shooting holes in the front wall was this diorama of a Mohawk trapper trading with a Dutch woman:

And old Dutch artifacts and a brief history of the interactions between the Mohawk and Dutch settlers:

And down in the cellar, this man was playing old Dutch songs on a lute:

And he was pretty good. Here's a sample of his music:

An upstairs room had been furnished to show how it might have looked way back in time:

And more from inside the room:

This authentic reproduction of a Dutch fireplace was recently built and I got to talk to the man who'd built it. The Dutch style fireplace had no sides and one might imagine that the room got pretty darn smoky:

Back outdoors in the sun, it was evident that everyone was enjoying the festival and the spectacular weather:

This woman looked especially authentic in her period costume and bare feet:

Bowling on the front lawn. The first reference to bowling being played in America was in Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," where Van Winkle, asleep for 20 years, was awakened by the sound of "nine pins," a Dutch style of bowling:

And as it came time for me to leave and resume my life in my own century, I chanced upon this touching and appropriate farewell:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fort Crailo Harvest Faire - Part 2

I ambled around the grounds of Fort Crailo, taking in the sights and snapping pictures. Men and women in Old Dutch and Mohawk costume were demonstrating how life along the Hudson River used to be:

This man was demonstrating outdoor cooking:

And this man had many tools, mostly for woodworking, which he was showing people:

These women clad in period Dutch clothing were, I think, selling something - but I didn't ask:

Out behind Fort Crailo was this man and woman with an outstanding display of medical paraphernalia including, I learned later, medical leaches. I suppose that's them in the glass jar on the table. I wish now I'd stopped to learn more:

Wooden shoe decorating for the kids:

This young lad was learning the Old Dutch method of making rope:

Fort Crailo was bustling and with all the folks in period costume, one could sometimes forget for a moment which century it was:

In the front of the house were these keyhole shaped holes out of which the early settlers could shoot their muskets at whatever threatened them. I'd guess that the most likely threats would have been from Mohawk or British rogues:

And inside the building, one can see how these shooting holes were placed in the wall and plugged with wooden plugs when not in use. Now that we're inside Fort Crailo, I'll post some photos of what it was like. But that will have to wait until tomorrow:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fort Crailo Harvest Faire - Part 1

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I headed down the road from my house to Fort Crailo, a New York State historical site. They were holding a "Harvest Faire," a celebration of the area's Dutch and Mohawk heritage. A friend who works there told me I would find period costumes and a young pair of oxen named Hank and Yogi. The oxen were the first thing I saw when I arrived, but I was surprised to discover they were still calves-in-training. They were friendly and very well behaved, however:

I've wanted to train oxen for a long time, so had done some research on the subject. On this day I had a lot of opportunity to discuss oxen and cattle in general with the farmer and his wife. And the little boy in me was as excited to pet them as was this young lad:

On the lawn across from Fort Crailo I found a tepee and many actors in period Dutch costume:

Many booths were displaying and offering for sale artwork and other items. The vendors were friendly and happy to discuss the old Dutch settlers:

Old Dutch costumes were also for sale:

But soon after I arrived, I heard loud booms and, going to investigate, found a musket firing demonstration:

These two men were demonstrating the loading and firing of muskets, and they drew a large and interested crowd. I found it curious but not unexpected that the crowd of people fascinated by the muskets had a preponderance of men. I guess it's a gender thing:

I went right inside the tepee:

Inside the tepee was a display of bark baskets, beaver pelts and other Mohawk artifacts:

This woman dressed in Mohawk costume was explaining about it all. I remember her saying that it was especially common for Mohawk basket makers to wear beaver top hats as she was doing:

Downtown Albany was across the Hudson River. As you can see, it was a magnificent day for a Harvest Faire:

This woman in Dutch costume was caught using her cell phone and we all got a chuckle out of it, calling it her "Old Dutch Cell Phone." I'll post more about the Harvest Faire tomorrow: