Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Fish!

(continued from yesterday)
Jean-Paul grew up with a love of fish, and took his pet fish everywhere with him.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jean-Luc Loves Fish

Jean-Luc came from a family of fisherman, so it was natural that he should have a love of fish. It's just that his love of fish was, well, a little different. Fish were all he thought or dreamed about. Friends would try to talk to him about football or drinking, but he always found an opportunity to bring up the subject of fish.  When he was twenty, Jean-Luc proposed to his girlfriend, Marie-Claire, by presenting her with a basket of fish, the ultimate romantic gesture.

She said, "This is my engagement ring-a fish? I don't think so."
Finally, Jean-Luc found a girl who loved him despite his fish fetish. Margaux had never had enough to eat as a child and reasoned that at least you could eat a fish, whereas a ring was not really useful in any way.

They enjoyed a courtship of fishing and other romantic pursuits.

Finally, it was time to raise a family, and Jean-Paul was born.
(continued tomorrow)

Monday, March 29, 2010

General Electric Fan Advertisement Postcard

This is a wonderful advertisement postcard that seems to show a GE fan powering a Dutch windmill. The back of the card also shows a fan.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Manila, Phillipines

Manila had a strong start with trams in the American colonial period. The first electric lines were opened in 1905. By 1924, 170 cars were in operation, providing good service for a city of 220,000.  World War II left much of the City of Manila in ruins and destroyed the streetcar system. There was no saving it.

In the years following the war, as the city was reconstructed and traffic from automobiles and buses created traffic problems, there was a renewed interest in rail transportation, resulting in a limited monorail system in the 1960s. Since the 1980s, Manila has slowly been developing a light-rail system. There are currently three lines, with two more planned.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sepia Saturday - Vintage Bicycle Racing

Bicycle racing became popular in the 1880s. There were races with the high-wheeled bicycles, but they were fairly dangerous. One small rock and you were face-first over the handle bars. The new bicycles with two equal-sized wheels were called safety bikes. When they came along, racing really took off.  Bicycle like the ones shown here were developed in 1898.

In the 1880s, the 6-day races were very popular in England. Participants would race for six days or until they gave in to fatigue. That's how crazy people were about bicycles. In the U.S., the event was modified slightly to include two-man teams, so they could trade off and race for the entire six days. It's still total insanity if you ask me.

The first Tour de France took place in 1903. There were also road races in the U.S., but Velodrome or track racing was immensely popular as a spectator sport. It was exciting because of the speed that riders could achieve, racing in close quarters on a  banked track. These fellows were probably both velodrome racers, though their pictures were taken in a studio. Note the medals on the cyclists shirt below:

To find out more about the history of the racing bicycle, visit The Racing Bicycle. To see more wonderful old photos and rich family histories, check in with the Sepia Saturday blog.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bar-Le-Duc, France

The message reads:
Dear K.
Here is the street I live on just around the corner opposite the clock. I am coming to Paris Friday for Monthly Mtg. +  I hope to see thee, can thee ask Mrs. Shewell if there will be a place for me at the Brittanique for over Friday night. I return Saturday I suppose. I saw R. the other day but I suppose he has already told thee. Love from Ruth.

The reference to monthly meeting and use of the pronoun thee make me think that Ruth was a Quaker. There are still Quakers (members of the Society of Friends) who use the pronoun thee, though it is increasingly rare.  While it may seem overly formal and antiquated today, it was originally used by Quakers because they rejected the use of separate pronouns as a way of setting people apart. At the time, people of nobility were addressed with a plural pronoun (you) and servants were addressed with a singular pronoun (thee).  This distinction went against Quaker beliefs, so they used thee for everyone. Over time, common usage shifted to you, and the Quaker use of thee then seemed outdated.

Note: Next time you're reading Shakespeare, be on the lookout for possible double meanings in his use of you and thee.

I realize now that I focused on the card's message and didn't say a thing about Bar-le-Duc itself. The town of Bar-le-Duc is the capital of the Meuse department in northeastern France, about 147 miles from Paris.  Bar-le-Duc has many beautiful 16th-century houses and is divided into an upper town and a lower town. It is particularly well known for its currant preserves (red and white) and has been for hundreds of years. The currant preserves are very expensive, in part because they use goose quills to individually remove the seeds from each currant. You can buy many different kinds of currant jam at Dean and Deluca for $5 and under (for 12 ounces), but the Bar-le-Duc preserves will set you back $44 for 3 ounces.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jell-O as Food and Architecture

I know...this is a postcard blog and these aren't postcards. I just couldn't help myself. A little diversion is good every now and then, especially if it's a Jell-O diversion. I have harbored a secret desire to visit the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, New York ever since I discovered there was such a thing. In the meantime, I'll just have to be satisfied with these Jell-O recipe folders.

Recently I suggested to the man who steals my covers that I might like to make the recipe for Thrifty Salad from one of the folders. He was less than encouraging and made some idle threats, so it hasn't happened yet.

O.K., maybe the recipe is a little odd, but they used real fruit flavoring in Jell-O back then, so it might actually have been tasty. It must have been or they wouldn't have received all of these gold medals:

Jell-O is wonderfully architectural, so I guess it should come as no surprise that people want to construct things out of it. Still, to make a replica of the entire City of San Francisco out of Jell-O! A California Artist by the name of Liz Hickok has done that and more by meticulously creating her own forms and making a miniature model of the city. Here are some pictures of her San Francisco 
creations. The first one is Alamo Square. I think you can just see the Transamerica Pyramid in the background.
 This picture shows the Ferry Building:
Yes, it's a little wobbly. And here's a view of the whole city from Alcatraz:
Don't worry about the possibility of an earthquake, because Jell-O buildings are much more resilient than wood and concrete ones. A hot tidal wave would be truly disastrous though. To see more of Liz's work, click here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Tell the Beauty Parlor

The message on the card reads:

We are having a fine trip. As far as I know we will be home late Fri night Aug 4th. We are all fine and hope you are too. You be careful. Don't say anything to the beauty parlor yet about us coming home as Charlene doesn't want to go back to work yet. Love Mary Jane

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Locks at Lockport, New York

The message reads:
Your letter received yesterday. Will get you a job if I can. Andrew June 25, '09.

Lockport, New York is located about 18 miles from Niagara Falls. The locks at Lockport originally consisted of five locks on the Erie Canal, as shown above, built in the first half of the 19th century to try to overcome the difficulties of running barges up the 60-foot rise of the Niagara escarpment. At the time this postcard was sent, work was starting on reconstructing the locks. The message on the card probably refers to that work.

General Marquise de LaFayette declared the original locks to be one of the greatest engineering feats in the world. A new, wider set of canal locks opened in 1919. To view a fascinating history and images of the construction, click here.

When I think of Lockport, I think of its significance for shipping on the Erie Canal. I don't immediately think of the author, Joyce Carol Oates, but that's where she's from. I just finished reading her novel, Wonderland, which is set in Lockport and surrounding areas of New York. The blue tinting on the postcard would be totally appropriate for mood of this novel.The Smithsonian magazine recently featured an article by Oates about Lockport, which I highly recommend. The article gave me an entirely different perspective of the town, along with a sense of indebtedness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maitland Street - Bloemfontein, South Africa

This card dates from around 1910. Currently, Bloemfontein, with a population of about 370,000, is the capital and cultural center of the Free State Province (formerly the Orange Free State) in South Africa. It is also the seat of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal.

Bloemfontein is known for its flowers; it is also the birthplace of J.R.R Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was born here in 1892, but left South Africa for England when he was three years old. He and his mother and brother had actually intended to return to South Africa after visiting relatives, but Tolkien's father died in South Africa during their visit abroad, so the rest of the family ended up staying in England. Tolkien also suffered a spider bite in Bloemfontein, which gave him a lifelong fear of spiders.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Auckland, New Zealand

Last Sunday we looked at streetcars (or trams) in Sydney, Australia. This week we're off to Auckland, New Zealand.
This, from Wikipedia:
Auckland City had horse trams from 1884, and the electric trams was officially opened on 17 November 1902 - public service was delayed because the motormen from Sydney, Australia, were involved in the SS Elingamite shipwreck near Three Kings Islands 9 November 1902, in which three drowned. Public service commenced a week later, on 24 November 1902, and continued to 29 December 1956. They were replaced by trolleybuses and buses. While light rail is discussed as a future option for the city, there is currently only a heritage tram service between two main MOTAT museum sites, which runs parallel to part of the Point Chevalier tram route on Great North Road, but was not part of the original system.
With services running from downtown at the Waitemata Harbour, across to Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour, meant Auckland had the worlds' only 'coast to coast' tramway system.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sepia Saturday - Your New Family #2

I once had a friend whose father always reconstructed their family Christmas tree, sawing off branches, drilling holes in the trunk and gluing the branches back in different places to create the perfectly symmetrical tree. It seemed wrong to me. Nature creates the tree and you're supposed to accept it as-is.

In genealogy, it would be the equivalent of discarding unfavorable relatives from your family tree and replacing them with imagined ones, or pretending to be related to the British royal family when you aren't (and why would you want that, anyway?) But, my thoughts about amending trees changed when  I met this girl:

I found her in an antique store. Somewhere along the line, descendants may have decided the picture wasn't worth keeping. So, there she was - abandoned. Not only is she captivating, she's much better looking than most of my early relatives and unlike them, she's actually smiling! Of course I immediately made room for her on the family tree. I didn't saw off any tree limbs, not even the one that includes the great-great uncle who allegedly died by falling into the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park.  Nope, we're stuck with him, but I think we can find room for this unnamed girl too. I'll just drill a hole in the trunk of the family tree and glue in a visitors' branch.

To look at more old photos from organic, free-range family trees, visit the Sepia Saturday blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mystery in Dresden

Franz Walther, architect and building contractor, sent this card to Helmut Zimmer in Dresden in 1938. At first I thought Franz Walther was a city building official, but that doesn't seem to be the case. More likely, he owned the building that Mr. Zimmer lived in.
The message reads:
Dresden, November 23, 1938
By now you will have received my card from November 17, 1938 regarding bankruptcy case K.-Csb.
For the last time, I ask that you submit your answer to me no later than Saturday, November 26, 1938, and send you my greetings  Master Builder  Franz Walther

I'm not sure his plea was effective, because here is another card he sent nearly a month later.
The message reads:
Dresden, December 23, 1938
By now you will have received my letter of December 2, 1938 regarding bankruptcy case K.-Csb.
I ask you urgently to give me your decision so I can get Mr. Laemmerhirt moved in and I send you my greetings. Master Builder  Franz Walther

It looks like the bankruptcy had something to do with an inheritance, but generally it remains a mystery.  Here's the front of the second card, included only because it has such a great airmail cancellation.

Note: Originally, I was sure that this correspondence had something to do with seizure of Jewish property. Just a few weeks before the first card was sent, the horrific Kristallnacht resulted in the destruction of hundreds of Jewish-owned buildings and the beautiful old synagogue in Dresden.  After that, the state also took measures to confiscate Jewish property. Zimmer is a name that can be Jewish - or not.  I sent the scans off to someone who knows about such things; he was unable to draw any conclusions, but thought this was probably not related to Jewish property seizure. I mention it anyway, because it gives you an idea of the tension in Dresden and other parts of Germany and Austria at that time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Breakfast at the Frost Diner

Don't miss breakfast; it's the most important meal of the day. Just ask this Marlon Brando look-alike who's sitting down for his most important meal at the Frost Diner in Warrenton, Virginia. The diner was built in 1955, and is still serving up classic diner fare, though not at 1955 prices. This is one of those great old diners with lots of shiny stainless steel. In this early card, the diner appears to be all by itself on the side of the road; other buildings have since sprouted up around it.

Here's a recent picture taken by Michelle A. of her breakfast at the Frost Diner:

If this makes you hungry for more breakfast, head on over to the Theme Thursday cafe, where breakfast is served all day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Binghamton, New York

Here we have two postcards of Binghamton, New York. They are basically identical in that they were made from the same photograph, but printed by different companies. The first one was printed a little earlier. The second one was cropped a little bit, making the "Cobb Photo" on the bottom left disappear.  I'm not sure if that means the photo was borrowed without permission or if it's merely a coincidence.

There were obviously two different postcard tinters at work here. The first one went wild with the clouds and the second one liked awnings so much that she added an extra one. Who can blame her; it's the only place where you can add colorful stripes on a postcard. The picture was taken in winter, so there would have been no leaves on the trees, but both tinters added some for effect.

Here are the backs of the postcards in the same order:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Harvesting Bananas in Hawaii

If you could only see the expression on his face.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Streetcar Sunday -Sydney, Australia

According to Wikipedia, Sydney once had the largest tram system in Australia, the second largest in the Commonwealth (after London), and one of the largest in the world. It was extremely intensively worked, with about 1,600 cars in service at any one time during the 1930s. In 1945, the system provided 404 million rides.

As with most cities, Sydney started out with horse-drawn trams (or streetcars) in the late 1880s. These were replaced by steam-powered trams, which proved to be very popular, but by 1910 just about all of the trams were electric. The system was highly successful, despite competition from cars and buses. Still, the government was determined to shut it down. The system was shut down gradually, with the last streetcar making its final run in 1961.

If you want to know more about Sydney streetcars, there are lots of good resources. Dedicated individuals have put a lot of work into the Wikipedia reference for Sydney trams, so be sure to take a look. And don't miss this wonderful video, What Happened to Sydney's Trams:

You might also want to check out the Sydney Tramway Museum.
Oh, and here's the back of the postcard, just in case you want to see it.


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