Fun has been in short supply lately due to the pandemic, so it was with some anticipation that I attended a summer theatre production last month – a musical set in the Roaring Twenties. It was my first time in an indoor venue with 500 other people in several years, but we were lucky as we had great seats, mid-way left orchestra, and the three seats in front of us were empty. We put my mother on the aisle, and wore our masks, although many people did not.
The entire season from 2020 was held over until this year. I ordered the tickets way back in February and was lucky to get a cancellation, as people are so desperate for fun after two years of lock-down, that most people held onto their seats. It was really nice to be in a theatre again.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Roaring Twenties decade – Downtown Abbey, Fitzgerald & Company, the hairstyles and fashions of the flappers, but have to admit that other than the Charleston and a few other tunes, I didn’t know much about the music of the era.
The setting was a speakeasy on New Years Eve 1928 and it was two hours of non-stop music, dancing and fun. Here’s the songlist.
I was surprised how many of the songs I recognized (and my mother, being born in 1926, knew them all) but some of them were surprising as I associate them with other decades and singers – like Ray Orbison’s Are you Lonesome Tonight, Guy Lombardo’s Auld Lang Syne and It Had to Be You, which I always thought of as a 50’s crooners song.
The lyrics of some of these songs seem almost quaint by today’s standards – Tea for Two and Ain’t She Sweet for example, with Let’s Do It and Making Whoppee being the most risque. Although after googling Ain’t We Got Fun – see below – perhaps the lyrics (Mr. Stork?) are not so innocent after all, but better suggestive than downright crude.
“Are you tired of smutty lyrics that make the air turn blue” says the opening song on Zoomer Media’s – Your All Time Classic Hit Parade TV show. (My mother watches this on Vision TV Channel 24 on Friday nights at 8:30 – it’s a half hour of pure nostalgia.) Alicia Ault from the show’s trio, The Ault Sisters, played a lead role in the Roaring Twenties musical, although I didn’t realize it until after I read the playbill. The sisters look so much alike it’s hard to tell them apart.
Many of these songs are memorable even if you don’t know what time period they came from. Will the songs from today’s 2020 decade be remembered a hundred years from now? Somehow I doubt it. When you think of all the changes music has gone through over the years, I wonder what they’ll be listening to then? (Hopefully we’ll be listening to a choir of angels.)
The costumes were lovely.
Yes, I know, no photos allowed in the theatre, but I did ask one of the ushers if I could take a picture of this dress. If I ever go to a Roaring Twenties party I want a dress like that, complete with the fringe on the bottom. Her headband was nice too.
The choreography was wonderful, ending with the Charleston,
and a toast to the New Year. I don’t know how they can sing and dance like that and not be out of breath….or in need of a beverage or two.
All in all, it was a swell performance, or in the lingo of the decade, the bees knees, the cat’s pyjamas….well you get the picture! (Here’s a link to more slang from the 1920’s.)
PS. The second Downton Abbey movie – A New Era, also set in 1929, is out for home viewing soon. Has anyone seen it?
Imagine being stuck inside, in a small space, for two years, where going out meant risking your life. No, it’s not the pandemic – it’s WW2, and the people in hiding are Jewish.
Like many teenage girls of my generation, I read The Diary of Anne Frank, written by a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl in Amsterdam, when I was in grade school. So when I saw The Betrayal of Anne Frank – a Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan – on the new releases list, I knew I had to read it, and having read it, I knew I needed to blog about it. The book is a captivating read, and a cautionary one. It’s a timely topic, as with so much political turmoil in the world today, and so much divisiveness and hatred, it seems like history is repeating itself.
Goodreads Publishers Blurb:
Using new technology, recently discovered documents and sophisticated investigative techniques, an international team—led by an obsessed former FBI agent—has finally solved the mystery that has haunted generations since World War II: Who betrayed Anne Frank and her family? And why?
Over thirty million people have read The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal teen-aged Anne Frank kept while living in an attic with her family in Amsterdam during World War II, until the Nazis arrested them and sent Anne to her death in a concentration camp. But despite the many works—journalism, books, plays and novels—devoted to Anne’s story, none has ever conclusively explained how the Franks and four other people managed to live in hiding undetected for over two years—and who or what finally brought the Nazis to their door.
With painstaking care, former FBI agent Vincent Pankoke and a team of indefatigable investigators pored over tens of thousands of pages of documents—some never-before-seen—and interviewed scores of descendants of people involved, both Nazi sympathizers and resisters, familiar with the Franks. Utilizing methods developed by the FBI, the Cold Case Team painstakingly pieced together the months leading to the Franks’ arrest—and came to a shocking conclusion.
The Betrayal of Anne Frank is their riveting story. Rosemary Sullivan introduces us to the investigators, explains the behavior of both the captives and their captors and profiles a group of suspects. All the while, she vividly brings to life wartime Amsterdam: a place where no matter how wealthy, educated, or careful you were, you never knew whom you could trust.
The Author: Rosemary Sullivan is the author of fifteen books, many of which are biographies, and the recipient of many international awards. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and has lectured worldwide.
I found this book to be a fascinating but disturbing read. Cold cases are always interesting, but a famous cold case which is part of history, even more so, and trying to solve one seventy-five years later when all of the suspects are dead, almost impossible.
Part One, the first hundred or so pages, deals with the background story. For those unfamiliar, Anne Frank and her parents and older sister, along with another Jewish couple and their teenage son, and a local dentist – eight people in total – were hidden for two years in the upper annex of her father’s spice business, with the assistance of four of Otto Frank’s employees who brought them food and supplies. The annex was at the back of the building facing a courtyard with a tree, Anne’s only glimpse of the outdoors for two years. Based on an anonymous tip, the address was raided a few weeks before the liberation of Amsterdam, by a German Gestapo agent and three Dutch policemen. They were all sent to concentration camps, and only her father Otto Frank survived, and later went on to publish Anne’s diary.
Part one introduces us to Anne’s world, and the complex politics of Amsterdam at the time, including the collaborators and the resistance movement. It’s a fascinating look at just how quickly a normal life can deteriorate into one of treachery and survival. It describes the political environment and the raid in detail, and the background and history of the people involved, including the policemen.
Part Two deals with the investigation of who had betrayed them. The investigative team of thirty people, led by the retired FBI detective, narrowed thirty possibilities down to twelve scenarios, and then a further four, until they reached their final theory, based on a random note found in the archives, (no spoilers here) and note it is a theory, as there is no absolute proof which they made clear.
Like any cold case, they looked at three factors – Knowledge, Motive and Opportunity. Knowledge could come from rumors, observations, or resistance people being tortured. Motive could have been for money (there was a bounty of $7.50 guilders or $47 US for each Jew turned in), hatred or self-preservation, trying to stay on the good side of evil. (Which begs the ethical question, could you turn someone else in to save yourself or your own family?) Opportunity was having knowledge and access to the Germans or SD police.
Some suspects could be eliminated as they weren’t in the area at the time. The team systemically went over lists of known collaborators and addresses from extensive war archives, reconstructing a detailed map of the area. They also designed a computer program to handle the masses of data. There was so many archives to wade through that solving the case took several years.
Vince Pankoke, the lead detective said “there was no aha moment to end the investigation – the emergence of the betrayer was a slow coming together of evidence and motive, a jigsaw piece that suddenly undeniably fit. He remarked that there was a weight of great sadness after the case was solved which has stayed with him since.”
Additional Points of Interest:
Originally born in Germany, Otto Frank had served in WW1 but had fled Germany in 1933 and set up a business in Amsterdam, a city known for its tolerance. Yet the Netherlands transported more Jews to their deaths in concentration camps than any other country in Western Europe. Of the 140,000 Jews living there, 107,00 were deported and only 5500 returned. There were an estimated 25,000 in hiding, one third of whom would eventually be betrayed.
We have the greed of the Gestapo agent to thank for the survival of Anne’s diary. During the raid, Anne picked up her father’s briefcase which contained the diary to take with them. The German police officer threw her diary with it’s checkered cover on the floor and filled the briefcase with the valuables and money that Otto and the others had managed to hold onto. Had she taken it with her to the camp, it would have been destroyed. After the raid, the two female employees rescued it and tucked it away for Anne’s return.
It was interesting to note how some of the interviewee’s memories (and their descendants), changed over the years. Sometimes how people remembered things, did not jive with the documented reality, particularly after Anne’s fame grew.
In a particularly poignant section, Otto Frank describes Anne drinking in the natural world that had been denied her for so long, on the last train to Auschwitz. It was summertime and she reveled in the fresh air and sunshine.
In one of the last pages of her diary, Anne writes, “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impossible. Yet I keep clinging to them, because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
It’s something to remember, that feeling of hope, especially at a time when the world seems to be tilting towards intolerance, that things can always be made right again.
One final thought, you don’t have to like someone to help them. My grandmother grew up in a southern rural area of Holland, and I remember her saying that her family had helped refugees during WW1. (The Netherlands remained neutral during WW1 and attracted a flood of refugees.) They were from Turkey, and I also remember her saying that they were not nice people, but they helped them anyway. My grandmother would have been 16 and it is debatable what would constitute not being nice at that age – being made to give up her bed, possibly being leered at, or the fact that they were gypsies, I believe was the word used. Her parents were gone by WW2, although she had many brothers and sisters back home, but I never asked her, to my great regret, for any stories of those years.
PS. You can visit the Anne Frank House and Museum in Amsterdam, (see online website for a one hour history and virtual tour of the annex) but anyone I know who has gone there has not been able to see it because of the long lineups. The Annex was accessed via a secret bookcase, (link to a 2 minute tour) and was fairly small to have housed eight people. Here’s a youtube link to the only known video of Anne Frank on a balcony watching a wedding party.
PS. One of my readers has mentioned that there has since been dissension about the research and conclusion of the book, to the extent that the Dutch and German publishers have suspended publication until they do a further review. Considering their end theory was a shocking revelation, and that Otto Frank (and his secretary) knew who had betrayed them for years and kept silent, and that the Switzerland foundation he set up in her name refused to cooperate in the research, it is not entirely unexpected for the book to be controversial. Readers wishing further information may google for more details.
“It was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play….”
No – if my memory serves correct, the lyrics are, it was twenty years ago today.
You know you’re getting older when the Beatles are considered senior’s music and many younger people don’t even know who they are. One youngster upon hearing an early Paul McCartney track remarked that he thought the singer would go far. If you haven’t seen the cute British movie, Yesterday, it’s based on the same premise – a world where no one knows the Beatles music. (Aside – British actors must get annoyed when every lead role goes to the lovely Lily James.)
I recently turned old enough that the government is now sending me money – along with an information package that I’m now eligible for free drugs and pneumococcal and shingles vaccines and reminders to get routine tests done so I don’t become a drain on the heath care system someday. I’m right smack in the middle of the baby boomers, and the problem with my generation is that there are so many of us.
I came across this list in a magazine geared to boomers the other day, and yes, we are still a marketing demographic.
Suddenly I’m fifteen again in the kitchen of our old farmhouse waiting for the bus, with the radio tuned to the local FM station. It’s 7:30 and I’m wearing a mini-skirt and trying to grab a few bites of breakfast with the smell of perked coffee in the air. I’m sure my mother sat down and enjoyed a cup when we were all out the door and peace and quiet reigned once more. Maybe she changed the station to some easy-listening music.
The bus stopped frequently as practically every farm had kids and my brother playing lookout at the window could see the flashing lights down the road, thus giving me a few extra minutes to gather my books and fringed suede purse, (all the rage then.) The bus picked up students for six different high schools in town so it was crowded. (Did I mention there were so many of us?) As we were the last ones on we often had to sit three to a seat, and someone from another school would reluctantly move over to make room, but the advantage to being scrunched in like sardines near the front, was close proximity to the bus-driver’s radio and more top ten hits. I got in at least an hour of music a day that way. (A few years later when I was in my senior year, the peak had thinned out and there were empty seats. Now there are only three high schools left.)
Even though we lived in the country, we weren’t country music fans, unless you counted cross over artists like Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, so the only one I recognize from the country list is Charley Pride – Kiss an Angel Good Morning, but I know every one of the top ten billboard hits.
Of the movie list, I only remember seeing Billy Jack (with my cousin) and Fiddler on the Roof (my mother’s choice), both rather forgettable, other than perhaps one memorable song each. We didn’t have the money or the wheels to go to the show very often. I think Love Story was out that year too, a more popular film for teens, but not all movies were good, then and now.
We might have had better music but would I want to be that age again – no! Too much homework, and not enough money.
Many of my fellow boomers are retiring. My dentist recently retired and when his millennial-aged children took over the practice, the first thing to go was the oldies-but-goodies radio station. During my last checkup I heard Spirit in the Sky for the first time in decades, (possibly not the best soundtrack for a root canal.) Now it’s some variation of that horrible rap music. I turned the radio on the other day and heard this snippet of a lyric, “I held your hair back when you were throwing up.” Now, there’s a romantic visual. Contrast that to “Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean…” Not that all those hits on the list were great though – Knock Three Times on the Ceiling was pure cheese – the same thing could be easily handled today by a text message.
My financial adviser recently retired – I’ve been with him since I was 32 and took an “Investing in the 80’s” evening course he taught at the local community college. We had a meet and greet to introduce me to his much younger replacement, and I swear we both had tears in our eyes reminiscing about old times and 12% interest rates and that $150 dot.com stock I once sold for $10. I only saw him once a year at RRSP time, but he was someone you could count on for wise advice, well except for that one stock whose name escapes me, although it caused much angst at the time. Now I have to start all over again with someone else. The same with my doctor, my accountant, my hairdresser. I’m already on Lawyer Number Three. The previous two died young, and as the replacement is the same age, I’m worried. You see all that expertise and work ethic walk out the door, and it can be unnerving having to adjust to someone new, whatever their age.
That’s the other thing about being in your sixties. People YOUR OWN AGE start to die on you – cousins, work colleagues, the spouses of friends. You start to read the obituaries online. I lost a work colleague last week, a kind soul who always used to call me SISTER, and I felt incredibly sad that I hadn’t gone to visit her, hadn’t even known she was that sick.
I remember the head nurse of chronic care once saying that the key to a successful old age, was being able to adjust to change and loss. No wonder they say, “old age isn’t for sissies” but really what is the alternative? Another approach is accepting the limitations that come with age, not necessarily giving up but pursuing more realistic and meaningful goals. I won’t be backpacking in Europe anytime soon, but I might still become a rich and famous novelist and rent a villa in Tuscany and invite all of my blogging friends…..
It also helps to have a passion in life, a sound mind and good health. It’s hard to enjoy yourself at any age if you are in constant pain or suffering from any of the many indignities of growing older – bad knees, hips, cataracts, etc….many of them fixable, but reminders all the same.
Now that I’m officially “young-old” my mother must be “old-old” although she has never really seemed her age. She has certainly been an inspiration when it comes to aging (she built a new house at 72, took up painting at 87 and has had several solo exhibits) but somehow I doubt if I’ll see her age. I have more of my dad’s genes, hence the need to start taking better care of myself. (You might have noticed there have been no baking blogs lately…..maybe next week)
If there’s one thing that scared me when reading Keep Sharp – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new book about building a better brain, it’s that our habits in middle age (good or bad) help determine how we will live our old age. Number one was exercise. Some people were motivated to make positive changes during the pandemic, others waited it out like hibernating-couch-potato-sloths addicted to multiple streaming services. I recently signed up for Netflix – the last Canadian holdout – as I figure it’s going to be another long winter ahead.
If anything I think the pandemic has aged us all to some extent. We stay home more, get more sleep, take afternoon naps, watch more TV, have tea and toast or Meals on Wheels/Door Dash delivered when we’re sick of cooking and fill our days with errands and appointments to minimize exposure……plus scan the flyers for bargains as food costs soar! I’m sure I’ll be taking up bird-watching any day now – seriously, I have three sets of binoculars and this is on my Bucket list for next year. If old age is for the birds, I want to see them!
Apparently albums are back in style again for music connoisseurs, so I’m thinking I might pull some of those old records out of the basement and crank up the stereo (Pioneer with vintage 70’s turntable – make me an offer) and listen to some Carly Simon if “it’s not too late.” Let the Music Play!
PS. A neighbor of mine lived to be a vibrant 105, but she was always young at heart…
By this time of year many of us are experiencing Cabin Fever – loosely defined as “irritability, listlessness, and boredom from long confinement or isolation indoors.” That feeling of being trapped is generally caused by snowstorms when you can’t go out even if you wanted to – those severe blizzards where they’re telling people to stay home, off the roads and wait for the snowplows to do their thing – but it’s been made even worse this year by the pandemic lockdowns.
Although we may be stuck inside, we have all the comforts of home – a warm dwelling, good food and plenty of entertainment available. It’s even possible to ignore things altogether if you don’t look outside, especially if you have a cozy fire to sit beside, a hot beverage and a good book or movie. Winter can be very hygge.
While I would normally appreciate these quiet January days after the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, lots of time to read and write and putter about pretending to reorganize, this year when we’ve been cooped up inside so much already, it seems downright claustrophobic. So let’s call it pandemic fever instead. In fact the term cabin fever had an early association with typhoid fever and quarantine.
As the term originated with the pioneers who spent long winters by themselves, when severe weather and long distances from neighbors were truly isolating, let’s take a look at how people coped with cabin fever way back when there were cabins.
I often wondered how my ancestors survived their first winter here. They came from Ireland in 1846 during the potato famine, three brothers and their families, and after jumping ship in the St. Lawrence to evade the cholera epidemic, arrived in Toronto, starving and penniless. They had to borrow one pound from the Immigrant Land Agent (National Archives Document Oct 16 1846) to pay for water transport to the area where they would settle. The land was all wilderness then, and arriving so late in the year, they would never have survived the first winter were it not for the help of the Indians and a neighbor who helped them build a hut dwelling and showed them how to hunt for game. (Most likely they ate a lot of venison stew). They were unprepared for the cold and the snow as the posters advertising Upper Canada boasted about its abundant game (true) and tropical climate (well maybe in the summer). Did they even have any warm clothing? My great-grandfather, who had stayed behind to go to school, arrived later wearing a straw hat. They would gladly have returned to the misery of Ireland in those early years.
Their first homestead was on swampland and the water was bad, so eventually they moved to a different site a few miles down the road, where they build a log cabin, similar to this one I blogged about in my Pioneer Village post.
This cabin dates from 1870, and is fairly large, with room for a farmhouse table and a sleeping loft above.
Another cabin on the site of the local Heritage Museum is much smaller, and housed just two people, a widow and her young son.
It was constructed in 1857 of lumber rather than logs, as there was a sawmill nearby – the interior is pine. With only two rooms, this typical first home was built quickly, as more effort went to clearing the land and planting crops.
While small in size, it was snug and warm with the long stove pipe circulating the heat across the house. There was an additional sleeping space in the attic over the kitchen.
The rope bed was covered with a straw or feather mattress.
While the quilt is nice, it does make me grateful for my comfy bed, with its deep mattress, soft sheets and down comforter, and there’s certainly not much counter space in that kitchen!
Now the local heritage museum is fund-raising to restore another log cabin.
This one has an interesting and well-traveled history. Originally built in 1840 in the Goderich area, it was disassembled in the 1930’s and floated down Lake Huron to a lakefront property where it was used as a summer cottage. In the 1970’s it was donated and moved to it’s current site in a local park where it was used for community events such as Christmas in the Park, until it fell into such a state of disrepair that it was deemed unsafe and they decided to tear it down and build a replica. A great hue and cry ensued from the public and the local historical society, so they relented and at a cost of $50,000 are paying to have it relocated to the museum site for future restoration. I know, it seems a lot of money to spend on a derelict old building but they waste money on other things, and how many 180 year old log cabins are left? This will be it’s third move, but just look at that solid construction.
No chilly drafts would come through those thick walls, but they do need to do something about the broken windows.
I’ve been feeling bad about my house lately. My renos remain undone, dust bunnies abound and I don’t seem to have the energy to give it a good cleaning. My cleanliness standards have slipped considerably since no one is seeing it but me. Hopefully in March I’ll be motivated to give it a good spring cleaning.
But after a look at these humble abodes, I’m appreciating my own home and hearth more, and feeling better about cabin fever. We have so many more creature comforts today and all the modern conveniences. Maybe it really is all about perspective.
With no internet or Netflix to occupy themselves with what did they do for entertainment back then? Being Irish, I’m sure there was music – the fiddle – and story telling often took the place of books, and I hope there wascomfort food too – warm bread and apple pies and taffy treats.
So perhaps some things haven’t changed – after today’s dose of wintry weather it’s time for some beef stew.
PS. While researching this, I came across two books, The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie by Cecily Ross, a fictionalized historical novel based on the life of Susanna Moodie, a genteel English writer who immigrated to Canada in 1832. Moodie wrote about her experiences in the Canadian wilderness and subsequently published her memoirs as Roughing It In The BushandLife in the Backwoods. I enjoyed the fictionalized book more, as it was rich in historical detail, although the first half in England was not as interesting. Both books depict a harsh life with many hardships and little in the way of fun or luxuries, a sobering look at the reality of pioneer life for many women.
This would have been the 170th year of the largest county fair in my region. Traditionally held mid-October on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, it attracts over 50,000 people every year – except this one, when it was cancelled like everything else. It originally took place near a tavern in 1850 and featured only cattle and horses. Now it has its own permanent fairgrounds and features the usual fair fare – midway, exhibit halls, livestock barns, grandstand shows and more junk food than you could possibly eat.
Everyone wearing their Sunday best…..in 1900?
My ancestors immigrated in 1846 and I like to think of them attending those early years. My dad remembers the fair being a highlight of his Depression childhood when he would be given the princely sum of 25 cents to spend as he wished. Back then everyone went to the fair, and they still do.
It was our tradition growing up to attend the fair on Thanksgiving Monday, (we had our big turkey dinner on Sunday), in order to catch the noon parade. After a tour of the exhibition halls and a walk through the midway my dad would spend the rest of the afternoon in the cattle barns watching the judging of the livestock while we womenfolk would head for the much more interesting horse competitions.
We would meet up at 5 pm when they would be awarding the prize for the last show of the day – the 4H Beef Cattle Grand Champion, with the winner headed straight to the abattoir. (This is probably TMI for all the vegans out there, but it’s a fact of rural life, you eat/sell what you raise.)
So imagine my surprise to come across this ceramic creature when I was buying fall bulbs at a city nursery.
Sure it made a nice fall display, sitting there on that bale of straw, but at $198 I can’t imagine anyone who would buy it? Farmers aren’t known to be too sentimental about their livestock. Now if it was a horse maybe….
This cute little fella reminded me of my short-lived 4H calf. For those of you who are city folks, 4H (their motto is head, heart, hands and health) started out as a rural Boy-Scout-type organization, fostering life skills in youth ages 7-21, learning by doing etc. Although they have branched out into other programs, they are still going strong in many rural areas. According to last years Fair Exhibit Prize Booklet we have a local 4-H sheep club, a 4-H beef club, a horse club, baking club, quilting club and one for the younger set age 7-9 called Clover Buds.
We never belonged to 4H growing up in the sixties, as life was busy with school, chores and my brothers had baseball and hockey, but my sister joined the 4-H cooking club one year when she was 12. They met on Saturday mornings at a neighbors farm to prepare a dish, but she was to try out the weekly recipes at home. She was teased so mercilessly by my siblings, over such delicacies as Welsh Rarebit and Blueberry Buckle, that one night at supper she burst into tears and declared, “You guys never want to try anything!” And it was true, we weren’t very adventurous. (I can be absolved as I was always a picky eater who had zero interest in cooking.) The Purity cookbook states that Welch Rarebit is a cheese sauce and egg on toast concoction, but it might have been the dry mustard/cayenne pepper/Worcester sauce we objected to. The Blueberry buckle wasn’t too bad, more cake-like, but we were pie people. Then there was the long blue calico dress that had to be sewn for Pioneer Days, which involved many tears and much work, and was tossed aside after a few hours wear. So that was the end of 4-H until one summer afternoon when we were bored to tears, the way kids used to get when there wasn’t a constant source of entertainment streaming at them 24/7.
The Barn in Winter – painting by Joni’s mom
While my brothers helped with the chores when they got older, I wasn’t out in the barn that much – there was nothing to do there. Sometimes there would be a new batch of kittens, and if my cousins were over, we might jump in the hay mow which we weren’t supposed to as the middle section had rotten floorboards under the bales. My dad had Holstein milking cows then and I remember the pails of milk being lined up in the hallway, but you had to stay out of the way and you definitely couldn’t go near the milking stanchions or you might get kicked by a cow. Occasionally, we would take the dog for a walk back the lane-way to get the cows for milking, but mostly they came up on their own, like clockwork. Here I am with Sally Ann, the oldest and head cow, and the only one with a name.
I’m really liking this jacket I have on. L.L. Bean still sells this type of barn coat.
So we decided one bored afternoon that we would train our own 4-H calves and parade them around the barnyard on a rope, like they did at the fair. Here’s a photo of mine.
What surprises me about this picture is my outfit – I’m wearing a cute white eyelet top that surely was not part of my regular play clothes. And my hair, a towhead after a summer of sun. Now cows aren’t the brightest of animals to begin with, and the poor little thing was not very obedient, so the 4-H calf was abandoned after a few short hours. Judging from the size of my brother in the background, (my mother is supervising and taking the picture) I’m likely seven years old, much too young for a 4H calf anyway, although I don’t recall my older siblings lasted any longer with theirs.
Although not obvious in the picture, the calf had a big ugly goiter on its neck. I wish I could say that’s what first inspired my interest in pursuing a medical career, but I just found it yucky. Besides, it was really a horse I wanted anyway.
I don’t know what happened to my 4-H calf – it was gone in a few weeks. It’s unlikely you could treat a hypothyroid calf back then, and you certainly couldn’t sell it for veal. (My mother served veal exactly once, as we all refused to eat it on principle.) Although I took a veterinary medicine course in 4th year (an easy elective we called Barnyard) I’ve never dispensed any thyroid for animals, large or small, although I’ve seen some strange meds (Ventolin inhaler for a horse?) as we had a veterinarian’s office close by. Most likely the calf went on to the Big Barnyard in the sky.
My dad eventually sold his milking herd and switched to cash cropping and beef cattle, as they were less work than milking twice a day. A milk quota is worth a million plus now, and the majority of dairy farms are mechanized and large scale. Those small family farms hardly exist anymore, it’s a way of life which has mostly disappeared.
So, when I visit the nursery for plants next spring, I expect to see that ceramic calf on sale for a substantially reduced price, and I hope to be able to attend the fall fair again next year.
PS. I should add that our animals were treated humanely, with grazing in the fields, and no antibiotics or growth hormones. We also had free range chickens for eggs long before it was popular. I guess you say we were organic before organic was cool.
PS. No matter where you may sit on the vegetarian/carnivore spectrum thedecision to eat red meat or not is a personal choice. In the early 80’s my brother married a vegetarian (or a herbivore as my young niece delightfully described her, they must have been studying dinosaurs) which was not that common back then when 10 oz. porterhouse steaks were a fixture on restaurant menus, but nothing was ever said by my dad who raised beef cattle and my mother just added a few extra dishes to the holiday table…mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, deviled eggs for Easter and rice….yea bring it on! Not that my new SIL expected anything, but you know, to be hospitable. I know I lucked out in the parent department as my folks were nice easy-going people who were always willing to set an extra place at the table….but I wonder if people generally were just more tolerant to differing viewpoints back then? Now it seems like you can’t even give a dinner party without a long list of someone’s dietary restrictions and an accompanying lecture on why they are right!
Last fall I attended a museum exhibit called On The Waterfront, where they displayed a number of old photos and postcards of the waterfront from days gone by. I thought I might share a few of these, for those interested in history and vintage memorabilia.
In this postcard, we see swimmers enjoying the beach in Grand Bend in the 1920’s. One hundred years later, it remains a popular beach resort, but my how bathing suits have changed, although these may have seemed daring in the flapper era.
Imagine paying five cents for a dance – if you ran out of money, you were done for the night and maybe went for a moonlight stroll instead!
Many of the waterfront amusements then involved dance halls or pavilions which attracted people for the nighttime entertainment, as much as the beaches did during the day.
My great-grandmother lived across the river from this resort and dance pavilion. One of my father’s earliest memories was of hearing the music floating across the water while being babysat – with the probability of a cookie and a reassurance that his parents were not too far away. Built in the the early 19th century, it hosted parties coming down river on steamships to attend the dances and stay at the hotels and cottages. Long torn down, it is now the site of a private clubhouse with a beautiful wood floor which would make a perfect dance floor.
Before there were bridges and motorcars, you, and your horse and carriage, could also hop on the ferry to get to the party.
Fast forward to the Big Band era…
Care to jitterbug anyone?
When my parents were dating in the late 1940’s, they attended the Big Band dances at this venue on the shores of Lake Huron. Opened in 1946, it had an outdoor dance floor, as dancing under the stars was very popular back then. It attracted big name bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, and Glen Miller who played to crowds of up to 3,000 on weekends. My mother recalls going for a hamburger and a Coke at a nearby diner after the dance – hamburgers were 25 cents, a sum they could barely afford.
Moonlight Serenade – by Glen Miller and his Orchestra
By the 1950’s as musical tastes shifted, it attracted the likes of rock and roll’s Bill Haley and the popular crooner Pat Boone. I’m certain my parents did not attend this crowded Pat Boone concert, as I was born a few days later.
By the 1960’s when we used to picnic in the park there on summer Sundays, there was nothing left of it but some broken cement from the dance floor and a few crumbling walls. Now, it’s a tennis court, with a historical plaque marking the site, although a few years ago they held The Simply White Dinner(link) there, and dancing under the stars resumed for one enchanted evening.
When we see pictures of young people congregating on the beach this summer, partying and having fun in the midst of a pandemic, it seems crazy, but youth is ever optimistic. Although, looking back at these old photos, it does seem a much more romantic time. Perhaps music and moonlight never go out of date.
A friend sent me this in an email so I can’t credit the source, but it’s deja vu a hundred years later. In 1720 there was the plague, in 1820 a cholera epidemic, in 1918-20 – The Spanish Flu, and now 2020 COVID-19 Coronavirus. It seems history repeats itself every hundred years.
They Shall Not Grow Old is a 2018 documentary produced by Peter Jackson which debuted last year on the BBC on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of November 11 1918. Now available for viewing in North America, the film was created using original WW1 footage from the Imperial War Museum’s archives. Most of the video has been colorized and transformed with modern techniques and sound effects to better reveal the soldier’s experiences, rather than the sped up blurred clips of vintage newsreels. Intended to be an immersive experience of “what it was like to be a soldier”, the film crew reviewed 100 hours of original film footage and 600 hours of interviews from over 200 veterans to make the film, including audio from 120 of them talking about their war memories. The director Peter Jackson, dedicated the film to his British paternal grandfather who fought in the war. The title was inspired by the line, “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old” from the 1914 poem, “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, which is often quoted on Remembrance Day, especially the famous fourth stanza. The poem was written in Sept 1914 in the early days of the war when the first deaths were being reported…..there would be millions to follow.
The Movie Trailer
Note: I have not actually seen the movie yet, but have it on reserve at the library. (Edited to add – it was powerful and moving to watch these young men go off to war as if on a grand adventure and to see the actual footage of the sad reality – I really have no words.)
I have blogged before about my Uncle Charlie WW1 Vet. Like many of his generation, he never talked about his war experiences, other than being gassed and convalescing for six months with the Spanish Flu before being shipped home, but I have tried to reconstruct his war journey through his WW1 memorabilia. (link – Uncle Charlie WW1 Vet)
Being the faithful library patron that I am, the staff requested one of my mother’s paintings (above) for their Remembrance Day display. I spied this book on the shelf and skimmed through it. It’s quite gruesome in parts, so not for the faint of heart – but that is the reality of war.
At the risk of sounding like an old fogy, it’s been years since I visited a movie theatre – 22 to be exact – the last movie I saw at “the show” as we used to call it, was Titanic. Yes, the year was 1997 and those actors are now middle-aged. There hasn’t been a movie since where I felt I could not wait the minimal few months for it to come out on DVD, or it isn’t even called that anymore – become “available for home theatre viewing.”
So it was with much anticipation that I awaited the opening of the new Downtown Abbey movie. For stalwart fans of the Masterpiece TV series it was like coming home again, for it’s been three long years since we last had a glimpse of the Crawley family and their downstairs servants. (See my Febrary post – Downton Abbey Revisitedfor more on their famous world. Ah, the food, the fun, the fashions….)
The old Cineplex theatre where Titanic last sailed, has been torn down and a new multiplex Cineplex built, as that was the most requested addition according to a recent mall survey. As the average box-office movie-goer is now a teenage boy who is into Marvel/Star wars movies, that’s probably who they surveyed. No one I know goes to the movies anymore, so we have only ourselves to blame for the dearth of watchable movies.
We decided to attend the noon matinee on the opening weekend, thinking the crowds would be fewer, and they were as when we walked in there were maybe fifty people at most. The set-up reminded me of an IMAX theatre, an enormous screen with the seats facing downwards, but at least no one could obstruct your view. I remember the last time I was in an IMAX theatre, decades ago for a Grand Canyon documentary, definitely not a good idea for someone who doesn’t like heights. Speaking of heights, I wondered why almost everyone was sitting near the top. We soon found out, as wow – that surround sound is certainly loud. Even my mother, who denies being a bit deaf, thought it was way too loud. As she was unable to climb higher than five rows up we stopped there, and had a lovely conversation with the lady in the seat behind us, who had recently had knee surgery and also found the stairs a chore. Although there was a space below to store her walker, these places are really not designed for the handicapped…..steep uneven stairs, a long reach to the side handrail, and an elevation requiring a sherpa to achieve. I watched the people coming down afterwards, mostly an older crowd, and everyone was navigating slowly as if coming down off Mount Everest.
The seats were fake leather, non-tilting and horribly uncomfortable – gaming chairs really. They must have surveyed their 15 year old target audience.
The lights dimmed – therein followed thirty minutes of previews – lots of dark intergalactic forces at work on the planet these days, plus one unappealing Christmas rom-com staring nobody I knew. I didn’t know they still made rom-coms, but Meg Ryan would not be caught dead in a silly green velvet elf suit. The only one I was remotely interested in was Judy, and I can easily wait the three months to see Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, which I’m sure will be an Oscar-worthy performance. Most younger people would not even know who Judy Garland was, nor maybe Renee Zellweger either.
At least ticket prices are still reasonable…..$9 for a senior and $11 regular. Big boxes of popcorn were $9 but small ones were $7 so you might as well spring for the larger size. And what a variety of hot foods available, my lord – poutine at the movie theatre? I happen to think poutine is a code word for future heart attack, but hey the target audience is invincible.
Oh yea….I was supposed to be reviewing the movie.
The Movie: (no spoilers here)
There’s a big difference between writing a weekly series with an ongoing storyline and having to construct one from scratch in such a way that people tuning in for the first time are not hopelessly lost. There were lots of intro scenes establishing the background and introducing the characters. This probably accounted for the slow first half – I glanced over and my mother had fallen asleep, (1:30 pm is her usual nap time), but when I nudged her awake, she said she was just resting her eyes. My eyes were sore too, as I found the screen way too close even from five rows in the midsection and wished we were higher up the mountain. Where is a sherpa when you need one….
The characters seemed somewhat subdued. It took them awhile to don their familiar roles, which is to be expected I suppose as when you are playing someone weekly it’s easy to slip into character again. They were rusty – not Mary or Violet though. Although everyone had a story, some were larger – Mary, Tom, Thomas and Daisy. Daisy really seemed to be coming into her own. Maybe they should give her a spin-off series? Some characters barely had a part – Cora, Robert and Mr. Bates, and Henry just showed up at the end leaping of a car in time for a ball, although for a tall skinny guy he does leap well. The plot line seemed thin and weak to me – but then I’m not really a monarchist. It’s hard to get too excited about a visit from the King and Queen when they couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance the past six years – much ado about nothing – but I suppose for the time period, serving king and country and all that. Perhaps I am unfairly comparing it to the fast-paced series where scenes seldom lasted more than a minute or two and you were constantly left in suspense, wondering how things were going to turn out. This ending was preordained.
The sets and costumes were lavish as usual, as Julian Fellowes is one for details, but perhaps a wee bit less extravagant than usual. As I had read it cost 1 million pounds/dollars to film each episode of DA, I wondered if having already dismantled all the sets (except for Highclere), they had to make do. Big box movies have a budget too. If the substitute rooms didn’t seem as familiar or as opulent then maybe I have just watched too many episodes and know that the place settings would never be that close together for a formal dinner with the King and Queen, where Mosley makes a speech…..oops small spoiler. The table did seem rather crowded.
Will we get a sequel? We could – there were a few unwrapped hints, Edith’s comment about missing her job, Tom’s new romance, but I suppose it depends on how much money is made.
Most newspaper reviews have rated the movie a three star, but of course to DA fans it’s a five star. I would tend to agree with both of them. While I enjoyed it – it was good, not great. Actually, I think I enjoyed any of the two hour spectacular Christmas specials more, except of course the one where Mathew died, a tragic ending so unexpected it made some people tune out permanently. So don’t feel bad if you don’t have access to a mountain near you, you can easily wait until it comes out for home viewing…..and you can save on the popcorn too.
Overall, while it was slow to start, it picked up speed and finished with a grand, if somewhat sad, flourish – leaving us wanting more. But there’s a small part of me that wishes he had just left them frozen in time at Christmas/New Years 1926 where everything was wrapped up neatly with a big bow.
Postscript: My apologies for not commenting on anyone’s blogs this past month. Real life has interceded with the Cold-From-Hell (me), plus my mother was hospitalized for a week, she’s home now and on the mend, but I have not had internet access so I have not been able to read here at all.
They say that being a senior is just like being a teenager again, only you have more money. You have no responsibilities, don’t have to work and can stay up late and party all night, if you wish. While many of the today’s younger seniors may remember Woodstock, you definitely know you’re getting older when a local retirement home holds a Woodstock 50th anniversary night and you agree to go because your neighbor has free tickets and it would be a shame to waste a nice meal. My mother agrees to go with us, although neither of us really remembers Woodstock. My neighbor has more recollection of it, but I feel like I missed the whole hippy era, as at almost 13, I was just a bit too young and by the time I was old enough to peace out, disco had arrived. While I remember much of the music from the era, I was more into the clean-cut Monkees than the Beatles, who had by then morphed into those long haired dudes strolling across Abbey Road. My mother was a forty-something housewife back then who only listened to our music because the radio was on in the morning while we were getting ready for school, but I’m sure the station got changed as soon as we left for the bus.
For those of you younger folk who may be unfamiliar, Woodstock was a famous music festival held on a dairy farm in upstate New York in Aug 1969, which attracted almost half a million young people and which became a symbol of the hippy era. It rained over the three days, people camped and slept outdoors in the mud and listened to music and generally a peaceful groovy time was had by all. Surprisingly there was no violence, considering the size of the crowd, but then the mood was mellow-yellow.
Peace, Love and Fame!
(The couple in this iconic photo of the era, which first appeared on the Woodstock album cover, got married a few years later and are now seventy years old. In a recent interview they said they didn’t even recall the photo being taken because they had just woken up. Here’s a link to more on their story.)
Woodstock had a music lineup of some of the best rock and roll groups of the time. A friend of mine has a copy of the original festival poster, with the band playlist.She was on her way to the show with a group of friends, complete with camping gear, when for reasons she doesn’t remember, they turned around and came back to Canada. Most likely it was due to the negative publicity at the beginning – the drugs, the rain, the traffic, the lack of washroom facilities etc. As she later went on to work in the music industry, she recalls it as one of the regrets of her life. Here’s the playlist.
Of the groups who played, I only remember Creedence Clearwater Revival CCR (Bad Moon Rising), Blood Sweat and Tears (And When I Die), Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love), Santana (Evil Ways), and Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summer Time). While I recognize some of the others, (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix), I don’t recall what they sang, so Linda over at Walking,Writing,Wit and Whimsy (who has a great Woodstock post), shared this link with me,where you can check out the songs each band played at the venue.https://www.woodstock.com/lineup/ The site also has some great photos and videos, and man do those kids look young, as do the performers. Of course that was in the day when we didn’t trust anyone over thirty.
Many of the musicians who were asked to play, turned it down, (The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, The Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkel) and have expressed regret, including Joni Mitchell, who went on to write this famous song, after seeing the news clips on TV.
I was surprised to read that the music went on so late, but being out in the country there were no noise bylaws, although I’m sure the neighboring towns weren’t too thrilled about the sudden descent of half a million hippies. John Fogerty of CCR, remarked that most of the fans were asleep on the muddy ground by the time they went on at 3am, so he played to one guy way at the back, who was flicking a Bic lighter. (Wikipedia link)
Imagine hosting that kind of party today, half a million people united by music, singing in peace and harmony.
Not likely to happen – there’s too much violence in the world now. The organizers of the 50th anniversary bash ended up cancelling. (Sorry Jay Z and Miley Cyrus, no soggy fields for you, although I’m not sure why you got invited in the first place). There will never be another Woodstock. There was however a smaller anniversary gig held in Bethel Woods, with performances by Arlo Guthrie, John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, who were all there at the first one – what a trip that must have been for them to play again at the same site so many years later.
But back to my Woodstock party….
So maybe it was a good thing the retirement home stepped in to fill the void – keeping the flame alive for all us aging hippies. (I believe they are called hipsters now if Taylor Swift lyrics are correct).
This particular retirement home is a bit of a white elephant, the product of a poorly developed plan hatched by some company in Toronto where the rest of their buildings are located and fully occupied. It opened several years ago, and fewer than 25% of the units are rented. I’m not sure who it’s actually marketed for, as many in this small town could not afford the high prices, most seventy somethings would want more space (the apartments are very small), and the over-eighty crowd who might inhabit such a place, might need some medical help of which there is none available. But I give them A for effort, as they are trying hard to fill it up. One of their marketing ploys is to offer community events and free dinner tickets to anyone who might have expressed even the slightest bit of interest. (My friend went to a yoga class there. They even sent my mother a Christmas gift in the mail – a puzzle of one of her art works). They host monthly theme nights, Roaring Twenties, Casino, Neil Diamond, and while older people in the community might support the events, it seems no one actually wants to live there.
There is a big atrium, like in a fancy hotel, wasted space, but it’s supposed to be a social area. A perfect spot for a sit in or a love-in or at least a free buffet with some folk music.
I have a hard time deciding what to wear, and have to visit the basement and unearth a few old Seventeen magazines to refresh my memory of the clothes of the era. I found the magazines in the attic when my mother moved off the farm. They’re from 1970, the summer I entered high school, when I must have been worried about looking hip, although why I don’t know, as we wore uniforms, other than the first Friday of the month which was Dress Up Day.
Dig those blue tinted shades!
Back then, Seventeen magazine came in the the big twelve-inch size format, like Life and Look magazines. The ads alone were a trip down memory lane. We seemed to be consumed with lightening our hair (Sun-In, Lemon Go Lightly), darkening our tans (Coppertone, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Sea and Ski, Noxzema), and wearing blue eye shadow (Bonne Bell, Yardley, Max Factor).
But back to the fashions, and the all important question, when Jupiter aligns with Mars will you be dressed for it?
You will if you sew your own threads!
That song was far out – Aquarius – by the Fifth Dimension.
In the fashion pages, we wore bell bottoms, embroidered peasant shirts and gauzy skirts, mini skirts, maxi skirts, tie-dye, leather sandals, headbands, love beads, rose or blue tinted granny glasses and anything with fringe.
Model Susan Dey before The Partridge Family and L.A. Law
And don’t forget the flower for your hair, preferably a daisy.
The song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas,to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It also gave birth to the flower-child movement and the phrase flower-power.
At age ten, I remember being annoyed when my first pair of bell bottoms got caught in the spokes of my bike, but later being quite envious of my grade eight teachers mini skirts and especially her long black maxi coat. By high school short skirts were all the rage even in Canada, and my mother, who made our navy uniforms, made them short, but we still rolled them shorter, until the nuns caught you out. By grade eleven she had given in, but it does make me cringe now looking my high school year book that they were that short. I believe the nuns had given up by then too. One year hot pants were in, but not part of the uniform. The nuns would have fainted at that. I had a pair I wore under a matching mini dress. By grade twelve we were allowed to wear navy pants, but nobody did as jeans were in, wide and flared by then.
But back to party prep….(which as I recall was often the best part of a night out).
I found a pink cotton embroidered shirt, last worn fifteen years ago, in the back of a closet, and piled on some beads and bracelets. As luck would have it, I had also found a suede necklace with a peace symbol at an outdoor craft show the weekend before, a bargain at $10.
Finishing touch, some dangling feather earrings. I had a problem with my gold chain headband, as I have bangs and it did not sit quite right. Alas, I did not have any bell bottom blue jeans, faded or otherwise, as in this famous Cat Stevens song, so regular skinny jeans had to do. (How is it that I now own only one pair of jeans, which I admit haven’t been worn in two years, and seemed a bit snug, but isn’t that why yoga pants were invented).
The residents really got into the spirit of the evening. There were prizes for best costumes and I got some great ideas should I decide to resurrect my hippy costume for Halloween. Daisy chain headbands, flowing caftans, ponchos, embroidered jean jackets, with most of the guys looking like cool cats in their bandannas. Obviously, many of these people had lived through the era, and had a better idea than I did. Someone had tie-died some white sheets to hang as a backdrop behind the stage. As my only memory of tie-dye was a blue and white t-shirt which came out uneven, I had no idea it could be so colorful.
Unfortunately, after Bad Moon rising, the musician/guitar player wandered into the wrong decade and stayed there, as I’m sure Tequila Sunrise and Margaritaville were not played at Woodstock. His final nod to the sixties was Love Potion Number Nine, when really it was Diovol I needed, as the food was – well the polite word might be – institutionalized. Can you dig it? No I could not, and this is coming from someone who ate hospital food for years way better than that. Unlike the original Woodstock, no drugs were allowed, well at least no psychedelic ones. Although marijuana is legal now in Canada and they are even trialing it in nursing homes for pain control (don’t get me started), there was none in evidence. Thank God, smoking inside buildings is not allowed.
As parties go, it ended fairly early, but I was tired (one of the disadvantages of getting older is you can stay out all night but you don’t want to), and this hippy-chick was happy to go home to my nice comfy bed and grateful I did not have to sleep out in the mud with half a million other people. While not quite as exciting as the first Woodstock, it was a fun happening. Maybe they can do it again in another fifty years and invite the Rolling Stones – they’ll be 125 and on their final world tour.
PS. In these strange and tumultuous times, maybe we need to be reminded of those famous slogans, “Make Love, Not War” and “Give Peace a Chance.”
PS. Do you remember Woodstock and the hippy era? Do you remember any of the fashions and music?
PS. I think we had much better music back then, a lot of which is still listened to today. I may be showing my age, but I have a dislike for much of the current music scene, especially rap, which I feel is totally lacking in lyrics and melody. I listen to classic rock, oldies but goodies stations, and even the really old classics like Sinatra and the Big Band era. Younger readers, how do you feel about your generation’s music versus the older stuff? Do you think it will have staying power? I read recently that Drake has now surpassed the Beatles record of eleven number one hits in a single year/album, but I could not tell you one single song Drake song, or Beyonce or Justin Beiber for that matter – I guess I have turned into my mother and just change the station!