Aunt Bea's 1939 Plymouth

Aunt Bea's 1939 Plymouth

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Girls with the Grandma Faces"

“The Girls with the Grandma Faces” were known to travel around and about in their “machines.” Only three drove, however.
My Aunt Bea’s 1939 Plymouth did not qualify as a suitable “machine.” It was but a three-passenger coupe and too old to stretch its tether from Pennsylvania to Montana in that autumn of 1966. Besides, it had no radio, a deficiency Aunt Bea considered correcting. 
“I talked to Mister Lamb about it and he’ll see if he can fit one in. Now that Erie might get an NPR station, I think I’ll try it.” Two other machines were enlisted for the trip west. 
Gladys Teasdale volunteered her pea-soup green Dodge. “The trunk’s big enough to fit eight two-suiters side-by-side.” Irene Waterhouse offered her new Olds, a Suitably Gray ’65 Eighty Eight with front seats that reclined.  
And so with transportation secured, “The Sisters of Sacajewea” set off for Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mount Rushmore on the return. United by the First Presbyterian Church, the Bird-and-Tree Club, the college, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and arthritis, they bundled into the “machines,” four apiece, silently acknowledging this might be their most ambitious and perhaps their last and grandest effort yet. Together.
They’d known each other for decades, some from girlhood. While most were amused by one honest young nephew’s label, the “girls” shared more than grandma faces. Bound by family ties, career and community, hope and disappointment, retirement, resignation, they decided a little folly might do them all “a world of good.” Fanylla Harper, Rebecca Cooper, and my Aunt Beatrice were cousins. Pearl and Gladys Teasdale, sisters. Irene Waterhouse and Virginia Carelton were fixtures at the college. Virginia Fendershot recently retired as the area’s Red Cross Administrator.
Yellowstone entertained them as predictably as Old Faithful. The Mission Range was mistaken for Glacier by one of the girls. They marveled and toured the birding sights as described by the guidebooks, rode the “Jammers,” luxuriated in the lodges, and pledged to paint the vistas of Russell Country when back home.
The arrivals and departures were captured largely by Irene Waterhouse and her “kodak.” Postcard memories were framed by “pleasant weather, though nippy . . . not an anxious moment . . . wonderful colors and wildlife . . . drove there and back, 4,000 miles and more, and not a hint of car trouble.” And, later, whenever my Aunt Bea shared her highlights, no account failed to mention what she called “the Missoula morning.”
“We’d left very early, wanting to reach our Glacier stop before nightfall,” she would say, “and the sunlight was just wonderful, with the sun following us along the river. The trees––we learned they were Cottonwoods––were turning nicely and led us right to Missoula where we tuned in and heard Mozart . . . Mozart in the morning on their national public station there! Oh my. It just set the tone. Both cars stopped for gas and then up the road for breakfast and we made sure everyone found the station.
“And we all agreed: if there’s an NPR station on the frontier of Montana, why can’t we have one back home?”
“The Sisters of Sacajewea” and the grandma-faced girls coasted back to old lives and some to new. Over the years that followed, a couple left the area to be closer to family. Another moved in with a daughter nearby. My Aunt Bea’s “machine”––the black 1939 Plymouth Road King Coupe––was sold to Mister Lamb who had maintained it faithfully all its years, and Aunt Bea settled in to what we call assisted living today. 

Erie did indeed acquire a National Public Radio station much to her pleasure back then. She became a faithful listener and supporter. “One of my treasures,” she’d say, then repeating Missoula’s magic morning from the grand tour. “We were escorted by Mozart one morning and drove to the sun, the next.”

From our recurring series published across our family of blogs and titled, "Aunt Bea's Plymouth." This vignette, an entry in Montana Public Radio's recent short story contest, was written to comply with the station's rule to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Here's Route 6 from VISIT PENNSYLVANIA

U.S. Route 6, which stretches for more than 420 miles in Pennsylvania, is lined with vast forests, fertile farmland and understated small towns.

View how local photographers interpret Pennsylvania’s natural landscape at The Potter County Artisan Center in Coudersport, which displays images of the PA Wilds by award-winning photographer Curt Weinhold and other local shutterbugs. Visitors can also shop for jewelry, books, treats and handicrafts created by other Potter County artisans.

Christian Dorflinger’s elegantly cut lead crystal adorned the tables of U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. See the largest collection of his work at the Dorflinger Glass Museum in the tiny village of White Mills and meander the walking trails within the serene 600-acre wildlife sanctuary that surrounds the museum.

Pick up some special stationery at Laughing Owl Press’ gift shop in Kane. The old-fashioned letterpress printing company ships its creations all over the world.

Sweet-smelling natural soaps are made at Sea Hag Soaps & Art Mercantile in Brackney (located in Susquehanna County). Locals love their natural formulas, commitment to local ingredients and delightfully named concoctions like “Plumeria — I Wanna Marry Ya” and “Prudish Potpourri.”

The Endless Mountains’ fiber artisans are the stars at The Home Textile Tool Museum in Rome — where you can try out old-fashioned spinning wheels, looms, and tools — and at Quilter Corners of Wyalusing, a self-guided driving tour of barns, businesses, homes and historic sites festooned with handmade quilts.

Artists at Pine Creek Pottery near Wellsboro incorporate local creek clay, wood ash, and cornstalk ash into wheel-thrown pottery pieces.

Many culinary craftsmen, who are using locally farmed materials and introducing new techniques and products, have set up shop on Route 6. Sample the sweet Allegheny Gold wine at Conneaut Cellars Winery and Distillery, the handmade Pennsylvania Jack at LeRaysville Cheese Factory or the aptly named Route 6 Red Ale at River Barge Brewing Company in Wyalusing

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just had to do it !

A mural by Wayne Fettro along the Lincoln Highway

This month's VISIT PENNSYLVANIA  posted such an outstanding "keeper," just had to trumpet it here on our blog. The article features the artistic treasures to be found on two highways crossing P. A.  Highlighted are the Northern Tier (US 6) and the "Lincoln" that winds its way further south from York through Gettysburg and beyond, US 30.

We're simply going to cut and paste the intro here. We're making plans to visit and we hope you'll be inspired to do the same. First the Lincoln Highway. . . . 

The nation’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway spans nearly 3,400 miles, from San Francisco to New York City. The route celebrated its centennial in 2013, and the portion of the highway that runs through south-central Pennsylvania is peppered with quirky stops and inventive attractions that highlight the area’s history. 

Don’t miss the Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe, where you can learn about the highway and iconic Pennsylvania roadside architecture situated along the route, including a lunch stand shaped like a coffee pot, a hotel shaped like a ship and a house shaped like a shoe.

The Pennsylvania Artist Experience Trail, which runs along the Lincoln Highway from York to Lancaster and continues on to New Hope, boasts a significant number of artistic landmarks. Notable stops include Keystone Art and Cultural Center and Phillips Museum of Art in Lancaster, Chester County Art Association in West Chester and Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern.

While Gettysburg teems with storied battlefields and historical sites, the city is also home to a thriving community of artisans. Eat your way though the city with Savor Gettysburg Food Tours, which takes visitors on a tour of esteemed locally owned restaurants and confectionaries. Or visit downtown Gettysburg to peruse artsy shops like Gallery 30 and Lark Gift Shop.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford is a worthy stop right off the highway for a nourishing meal, a night’s rest, or a souvenir. The establishment’s Cabin Shoppe offers books on local and state history, Pennsylvania metalwork and handmade soaps, lotions and candles.

Sign up for a workshop at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, where renowned craftsmen teach classes on blacksmithing, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, glass, painting, drawing, photography and more.

Spend an afternoon at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Ligonier, one of the museum’s four branches in central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Be sure to check out the museum’s exquisite paperweight collection, including vintage, antique and rare pieces in all sizes and shapes.

Muralist Wayne Fettro’s 11 works portraying life along the Lincoln Highway can be spotted while traveling along the route. In Bedford County, visitors can see his interpretation of two vintage cars traveling on the highway painted on the side of a barn near Schellsburg. Or stop in the small borough of Irwin to see a Fettro mural representing the community’s mining and industrial history.

We'll post more on US 6 tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Late Frost in early April

Robert Frost, the poet, that is. From a biography by Jean Gould, she writes: "Spring flowers, always so slow to come to New England, seemed later than ever the next year.

"When there was still no sign of blossoms at the end of March, he 'made some out of paper and put them down the roads on April Fool's Day.' And if the neighbors saw him strewing the bits of colored paper along the path, he paid them no heed––or if he did, it was just to give a friendly wave, inviting whoever wished to ask just what he was about." ––Jean Gould, Robert Frost, The Aim Was Song.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Back when . . . .

the federal government used to erect durable buildings built with timeless style. My father worked as a city carrier out of this U. S. Post Office in Meadville for 31 years. 

It says "elegant, strong, enduring" to me. Beautiful brick with the quoins on the corners. Quoins? Those light-colored stones reinforcing the structure's corners. A very good Scrabble word.

Friday, April 3, 2015

From the Online Book Club: A review

"One gripe I had with this book is the meandering plot. I am normally a fast reader, but this book took me an unusually long time to finish. Some readers may not mind this, as some of the side stories and passages are absolute gems. 

"This isn’t a book you should race through, as you might with a thriller; you should savor every sentence. The writing is lovely and lyrical. I enjoyed reading the book as much for the author’s use of language as for the storyline itself. The story is quite engaging and Claude is a likeable main character. All of the characters are vividly written, particularly Claude’s friend Tim, who is deaf and an orphan.

"The dialogue is easy to understand, even with the heavy use of rural Pennsylvania dialect. I usually find the use of a dialect distracting, although it was natural and flowing in this case. I felt like I knew these people well and became used to their manner of speaking.

"I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I wish I could have given the book 3.5 stars. The story will tug at your heartstrings. This book would appeal to anyone who likes to read wholesome stories about country life and boys growing up. Actually, I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing."

Thanks, Carolyn, for this insightful and accurate review. The Boys of Summers Run is now available through as an e-book or in a softcover edition.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Percheron Draft Horse

Here's my Uncle Fritz with one of my Grandfather Cotton's mighty Percherons. Alfred Banks Cotton became a noted breeder in the early 1920's and also maintained a "fine herd of Holsteins." Note the milk cans in the right of this photograph.

Quoting from the website The Percheron Horse Association in America, Fredericktown, Ohio: 

"This is how Alvin Sanders, author of A History of the Percheron Horse (©1917) describes the race of men who developed this race of horse: "Their horses are a part of their inheritance, particularly prized and accustomed to the affectionate attention of the entire household. Their docility, growing out of their intimate human relationship, is therefore an inborn trait".

From the Percheron website: "Traditionally it has been a race with a preponderance of greys. Old paintings and crude drawings from the middle ages affirm this. The French Knight is almost always portrayed on a grey or white charger. Their mounts are depicted as horses with considerable substance for that time, but without coarseness. . . .

Continuing: "When the day of the war horse (thanks to gun powder) was over, this color and that substance with style, was made to order to provide France with horses to pull heavy stage coaches.What was needed was a horse that could trot from 7 to 10 miles per hour and the endurance to do it day in and day out. The light colored greys and whites were preferred because of their visibility at night. . . .

"The Percheron is very versatile. They are readily adapted to varying climates and conditions. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and the graceful style to pull a fine carriage. Percherons can be ridden and some have been known to make fine jumpers. . . .

"The Percheron is very handy in saving the young trees in smaller wood lot operations as they do not need a wide road everywhere they work. They can get on and work ground where even the most modern tractors fail. Their independent four wheel drive conquers mud and snow to the shame of all man made machines. There is a definite place on almost every farm for a team of Percheron horses, whether it be for work or play. . . .

"The decades of the 1870s and 80s were years of massive importation's from Europe. Literally thousands of draft-type horses, especially stallions, were imported primarily from France and Great Britain. . . .

"The decades of the 1870s and 80s were years of massive importation's from Europe. Literally thousands of draft-type horses, especially stallions, were imported primarily from France and Great Britain. . . . 

"As the trade grew and importers ventured further inland in search of the best kind, the little old province of Le Perche was discovered. Or, more to the point, the superiority of its draft horses was discovered. For France had and still does, several races (breeds) of draft horses. . . . 

"The age of purebred livestock had dawned, stud books, herd books,  and flock books were rapidly spawned on both sides of the Atlantic.  In the winter of 1875-76, in Chicago, Illinois, a National Association of Importers & Breeders of Norman Horses was launched. By the time the 2nd volume of the stud book was published the name was altered to Percheron-Norman. In a matter of just a few years the hyphenated version became simply 'Percheron'. . . .

According to the website: "The Percheron quickly became America's favorite horse. In the decade of the 80almost 5,000 stallions and over 2,500 mares were imported to this country from France, mostly from Le Perche. The number exceeded importation's from Great Britain and the rest of continental Europe
. . . .

"Those heavenly days, leaving millions of dollars in little Le Perche, lasted until the financial panic of 1893. There were virtually no importations from 1894-1898. Breeding in this country came to a standstill. Much of the seed stock from the earlier period was lost or squandered as people were either broke or too cautious to spend it if they had it. One of the tens of thousands of businesses that went bankrupt was the young Association. . . . 

"The recovery was almost as abrupt as the downslide. Importations were resumed in 1898, averaging about 700 head a year from that time to 1905. In 1906, they reached the enormous number of 13,000 stallions and 200 mares. Happy Days were here again, both in places like Crossroads, USA and Le Perche. Annual registrations reached 10,000 per year by the teens. . . .

"In 1902, a new breed association was formed, picking up the records from the old. . . .

"These fortuitous circumstances were rudely interrupted in 1914 by the outbreak of World War 1. The days of great importations were over once and for all. . . . 

"The position and role of the draft horse was being threatened by trucks in the cities and tractors on the farms. The equine population of the Unites States crested about 1920. While the draft horse waged a determined campaign to "keep its job" it was a losing battle, particularly on the city streets. On the farms, the draft animal pretty well held its own during the 1920s, but the decade was a lackluster one for the heavy horse interests. You can't be loosing a substantial part of your market and be singing Happy Days are Here Again at the same time. . . . 

"The 1930s census is a good indication of the affection Americans had for the Percheron. Over 70 percent of the purebred draft horses in America were Percherons. Every major land grant school in America maintained a stable of Percherons. Much of the farm press was still loyal to the horse as the most economical source of farm power. . . . 

"Then came the great depression of the 1930s and the draft horse made a dramatic comeback. Corn was cheap, farmers were broke, gasoline wasn't free. Registrations more than doubled in a few short years. In 1937 they reached 4,611, a figure not seen for over a decade. Importations of a few quality horses were resumed on a modest scale. . . . 

"But the tractor had also been improved, put on rubber, and was selling like hot cakes as the decade closed. . . .

"Then came the 1940s and World War 2 and an almost complete mobilization of manpower. During that war an awful lot of the farming got done by old men and their wives, and high school and younger kids. Gasoline was plentiful. The use of drafters during the war declined. When the veterans came home they were, for the most part, mechanically inclined and their fathers were tired. The greatest liquidation of draft horse stock in history started and kept right on going clear through the 1950s until they were no longer considered worth counting in the official agricultural census of the United States. It was truly a vestige that was left as the 1960s dawned. . . . 

"The low point in Percheron registrations came in 1954 when just 85  head were recorded. The term endangered species was certainly appropriate though not yet in common use. . . .

"It was a relative handful of people, dedicated to the breed, unconvinced of the wisdom of the course being pursued by agriculture, and unwilling to relinquish their equine heritage, that kept the Percheron alive. They were aided in this by the thousands of Amish farmers throughout the country who stuck with the draft horse as their source of motive power. . . .

"This determination and patience was rewarded. Americans rediscovered the usefulness of the draft horse. Other Americans discovered the pleasure of working with them at a non-farm tasks. The shows welcomed them back. The growing recreation business discovered their attractiveness at ski lodges, etc. The wood lot owner looked around for a horse logger that would take out a few trees without ruining the rest. It became a combination of niche markets. . . .

"This resurgence in numbers and values has been nothing short of amazing. The growth of the breed in the last ten years bears testimony to that. Registrations totaled 1,088 in 1988, ten years later that had grown to 2257. Transfers numbered 1794 in 1989 grew to 3287 in 1998. Perhaps most significantly, members grew from 2155 to 3095. . . .  

"This is not, as was sometimes true in the old days, a case of a few people importing and recording hundreds of horses. The ownership of the breed is in many hands for many uses. . . .

The Percheron website reports: "And the sculpting goes on. In the 1930s the conventional wisdom was that the battle to the truck was lost completely and the heavy tillage on the farms was as good as lost, so a deliberate effort to downsize the breed was undertaken. Now, the appeal of the big hitches, has reversed that trend."