Parts 1 and 2 of this series were about the six deities for whom the months of January through June were named and Part 3 was about the two rulers for whom July and August were named. This last part is about the "Wrong Numbers" in the names of the last four months: September through December.
As discussed earlier, Julius Caesar replaced the ancient lunar Roman calendar of 10 months with the solar calendar of 12 months, based on Earth's revolutions around the sun. His Julian calendar was the major western world calendar for 15 centuries, until refined and replaced in 1582 by the 12-month Gregorian calendar, under the direction of Pope Gregory XIII. Neither Caesar nor, 1500 years later, Pope Gregory changed the names of the last four months of the old 10-month Roman calendar.
The name of this month is from the Latin mensisseptember,meaning "seventh month." September is from Septem ("seven") and -ber (a suffix equivalent to English "-th"). Note that -ber is the ending of all four of the names discussed here and that mensis is Latin for "month. " Although September was the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar, since the year 46 BC (date of the Julian calendar) it has been the ninth month. The illustration on the right is described by Wikipedia as "a panel from a 3rd-century mosaic of the months, located at El Diem, Tunisia (Roman Africa)." It depicts two men making wine by crushing grapes with their feet, a characteristic activity of the month of September in Roman art. The remaining three mosiac photos in this article are from the same mosaic of months.
How many arms does an octopus have? How many keys are in an octave? What does the word October mean? Octo is Latin for "eight." Mensis October was the eighth of ten months on that oldest Roman calendar. In ancient Rome, October "marked the close of the season for military campaigning and farming" (Wikipedia). The mosiac panel on the right has a 8-pointed star (appropriately) above the heads of the two figures, seemingly men, who are facing each other. Their arms and empty hands suggest they are making peace, or perhaps congratulating each other after winning a battle or completing the hard task of harvesting.
Novemberis from the Latin novem, meaning "nine." Mensis November was originally the ninth of ten months. Once again, that's a wrong number for our 12-month calendar. The mosiac panel here seems very strange: a human figure with an wolf's head? But November was the month of the Plebeian Games (Latin Ludi Plebeii) in ancient Rome--a major religious festival held November 4 -17. The purpose of this festival was to entertain the common people (plebs) of Rome. The games included both theatrical performances and athletic competitions (Wikipedia). That mosaic apparently depicts some theatrical event, perhaps the myth of the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, reared by a she-wolf. Supposedly Romulus founded Rome after killing Remus.
The tenth month of the old Roman calendar was mensis December, from the Latin decem ("ten")--again a wrong number for our twelfth month. The famous festival the ancient Romans celebrated in December, the Saturnalia, honored the ancient Titan god Saturn (Latin: Saturnus)--the father of Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres and Vesta. Saturn was a god of many things, including both generation and dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal, liberation, and time. He reigned in the mythological Golden Age of peace and plenty (Wikipedia).
Saturn was usually depicted in art as an elderly man holding a scythe or sickle, as in the 2nd-century AD Roman bas-relief shown left below. The familiar figures of Father Time and the Grim Reaper both evolved from images of Saturn.
The Saturnaliawas a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry, held originally on December 17 but later expanded from the 17th through the 23rd of December. There was continual partying and a carnival atmosphere overturning social norms--e.g., gambling was allowed and the master-slave roles were reversed, with masters providing table service for their slaves (Wikipedia). The December mosaic above right is perhaps based on revelry typical of the Saturnalia, music and dancing.
Will we ever change the names of these last four months of the year, to rid those months of their wrong numbers? After almost 2000 years, I seriously doubt we will.
When Julius Caesar ruled the Roman Republic (October of 49 BC - March 15 of 44 BC) perhaps his most important achievement was reforming the ancient Roman calendar, which had only 10 months and 304 days, with the new year beginning in March. Under his direction, in 46 BC astronomers replaced that lunar calendar with a solar calendar based on Earth's revolutions around the sun. This Julian calendar, with 12 months and 365 days, and Leap Years of 366 days, was the major western world calendar for 15 centuries, until refined and gradually replaced in 1582 by the Gregorian calendar, under the direction of Pope Gregory XII.
After Julius Caesar's assassination on March 15, 44 BC, four months before his 56th birthday, the lower and middle class Romans, who loved him, rioted, and a civil war quickly followed. During this unsettled time, there was another calendar change. When reforming the 10-month Roman calendar, which began with Martius (Latin for Mars), Caesar had kept Quintilis as the name of the month after Junius (June). So the name of Caesar's birth month was Quintilis ("fifth"), even though Quintilis was then the seventh month. In honor of Caesar, his birth month was renamed Julius--in English, July.
Marble bust of Julius Caesar made posthumously (44 - 30 BC) and located in Museo Pio-Clementino, one of the Vatican Museums.
Head of the Augustus of Prima Porta statue, a high marble statue of Augustus Caesar from the 1st century AD. Discovered in 1863 in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome, the statue is now in the Vatican.
Julius Caesar had no living legitimate children under Roman law, so shortly before his assassination, he had made his grandnephew Gaius Octavius, son of his niece, his sole heir. Only 18 years old when Caesar died, the youth (called Octavian) inherited all of his adoptive father's property and lineage and changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar. He was then usually called "Caesar." However, most historians refer to him as Octavian between 44 BC and 27 BC to avoid confusion between the two Caesars, as I will do here.
After Julius Caesar's death, Octavian joined Mark Antony and Caesar's close ally Marcus Lepidus in defeating the assassins of Caesar, after which they divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators. Not surprisingly, the ambitious three soon fought among themselves for more power. Lepidus was driven into exile and Antony committed suicide after he was defeated in battle by Octavian.
A gifted politician as well as warrior, In 27 BC Octavian appeared before the Roman Senate and offered to retire from active politics and government. The Senate rewarded his seeming modesty by increasing his powers, making them lifelong, and awarding him the title of Augustus ("Great" or "venerable," from the Latin augere, "to increase"). He took the name Augustus from that time forward. Historians use this name to refer to him from 27 BC until his death, in 14 AD.
In the year 8 BC, the Romans honored the memory of Augustus by renaming the month of Sextilis (meaning "sixth") as Augustus (in English--August). As in the case of Quintilis, discussed earlier, Sextilis was the old Roman calendar name that had not changed in the switch from the 10-month calendar to the 12-month Julian calendar, so the month name and number do not match. The Romans picked this month, the eighth, because several of the most significant events in the rise of Emperor Augustus to power, culminating in the fall of Alexandria, occurred in that month. Augustus also had died in that month.
SOURCES for Part 3: Personal knowledge--plus Wikipedia and Internet photos.
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Published July 6, 2018
by A. Jane Chambers
Remember those early summer evenings when the lightning bugs began their twinkling fairy dances at dusk and you raced into the house to get a big jar to put them in? You jabbed some holes in the jar's lid so your captives could breathe and then raced back outside to catch as many of them as you could. I remember the damp grass cooling my bare feet as I ran here and there chasing those blinking lights.
What did you call these magical creatures with the glowing tails? In my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, we called them lightning bugs. As my knowledge of the world outside Charlotte grew, I learned that people living in the more western states called them fireflies, and still later I learned that these insects are neither bugs nor flies, but beetles.
Now that I am an octogenarian, I watch the lightning bugs through the windows of my air conditioned house. I watch the males darting about above my deck and back yard, their lights wooing the females who are watching them below from perches of grass and leaves and blinking back their own light signals of "yes"... or "no."
The male lightning bugs wooed us too, when we were children, teasing us with a game of "Catch me if you can!" And catch them we did, sometimes in great numbers, and usually with our bare hands. Even the most squeamish of us, who would scream at the mere sight of most insects, had no fear of these dancing fairy insects.
Our games of "Catch me" lasted until it got so dark that we heard "Come inside now." When "In a minute" and "Okay" no longer gave us another chance to catch just one last lightning bug, we would proudly show off our jar of lights and then, when pleas to bring the prisoners inside were denied, we would humanely release them.
The lightning bug's life cycle is not to be envied. Although, in all stages of its development, the horrible taste of its body protects it from all predators, it spends only a few weeks above ground, flying about and happily flashing its light. After the male mates, he dies. After the female lays her fertilized eggs, she dies too. But on the other hand (see below), that magical light never dies, from egg stage through adulthood.
Shown above, next to his most famous poem, is Lt. Colonel John McCrae (1872 - 1918), a Canadian poet, soldier, and physician. At age 41, as World War I began, he volunteered to join a Canadian fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer. He had previously fought as a volunteer in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and considered military service his major duty, having a father as a military leader in Ontario.
While McCrae's unit was fighting in the Second Battle of Ypres, in the Flanders region of Belgium, the German army attacked the French positions north of the Canadians with chlorine gas on April 22, 1915, launching one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. Luckily, the Germans were unable to break through the Canadian line although fighting for over two weeks in a battle McCrae described in a letter to his mother as "a nightmare" during which "all that time ... gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds....And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way" (Wikipedia).
Lt. Alexis Helmer (photo R), a close friend of McCrea, was killed on May 2 during this fierce battle. There was no chaplain available, so McCrae performed the burial service himself. He noticed with surprise that red poppies were growing quickly around the graves of his dead comrades. As Sarah Pruitt writes in her essay "The Poppy and the Poet," "the brutal clashes between Allied and Axis soldiers tore up fields and forests" in this region, "tearing up trees and plants and wreaking havoc on the soil beneath. But in the warm early spring of 1915, bright red flowers began peeking through the battle-scarred land: Papaver rhoeas, known variously as the Flanders poppy, corn poppy, red poppy and corn rose...classified as a weed" (history.com).
The sight of the blood-red poppies among the recent graves inspired McCrea to write "In Flanders Field" the very next day (May 3, 1915). Various friends urged him to publish it, and in late 1915 it was published in the English magazine Punch. The poem would be used at countless memorial ceremonies, and became one of the most famous works of art to emerge from the Great War. Its fame had spread far and wide by the time McCrae himself died, from pneumonia and meningitis, in January 1918 (Wikipedia).
An American woman, Moina Michael, initiated the practice of wearing red poppies to remember the deceased military. She read “In Flanders Field” in the Ladies’ Home Journal two days before the armistice. A professor at the University of Georgia when WWI began, she had taken a leave of absence to volunteer at the New York headquarters of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), which trained and sponsored workers overseas. Inspired by McCrae’s verses, Michael wrote her own poem in response, which she called “We Shall Keep Faith.”
As a remembrance of the sacrifices of Flanders Field, professor Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy. Finding a batch of red fabric blooms at a department store, she kept some for herself and gave others to her colleagues. After the war ended (1918), she returned to the university town of Athens, GA, and began making and selling red silk poppies to raise money to support returning veterans. Thus began her campaign to create a national symbol for remembrance. In the summer of 1920, she managed to get Georgia’s branch of the American Legion, a veteran’s group, to adopt the poppy as its symbol. Soon after that, the National American Legion voted to use the poppy as the official U.S. national emblem of remembrance when its members convened in Cleveland in September 1920. It quickly became a major symbol of Memorial Day (Sarah Pruitt).
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Published May 25, 2018
a Hundred Years Ago
by A. Jane Chambers
Recently, CNC First Decader Danny Peters (B.S., '71) emailed me a collection of old photographs that included three I have reprinted here (photos 4, 5, & 6). These motivated me to explore the internet for more photos of car camping in the 1920s and earlier. In my own twenties (not the 1920s, but the early 1960s) I enjoyed about six weeks of "roughing it" by car camping across America and back with two friends from my undergraduate college. I have added here a few ways in which our car camping experience was both like and unlike that of Americans a hundred years ago.
On our 1963 trip, my two friends and I had a much fancier (and larger) car than this fellow (above) had in the 1920s--a fairly new and very comfortable Pontiac, owned by one of the friends. But like this man's 1920s car, the Pontiac was not air conditioned--except by Mother Nature. We had NO TENT, but we did have sleeping bags and a heavy tarp. Sometimes we slept in the bags on the ground, on top of (or under) the tarp, or on top of picnic tables in campgrounds. Sometimes we slept inside the car, often with some doors open for air (and feet). About once a week, we stayed one night in a motel, enjoying real beds. Occasionally, we spent a day or two with someone's relatives or friends, who provided beds or at least living room floors for us. In our mid-twenties, we could sleep anywhere.
The lady shown abovehad much more hair to deal with than we three. We all had short hair styles, but we too had personal hygiene challenges, which varied with the summer weather. That's another reason we opted to stay in motels at least one night a week, if not staying with people we knew. Showers, shampoos, and Laundromat trips happened during those times.
This family above enjoyed a popular car-tent combination in the 1920s. We had no tent. This family was also better prepared for camping than we three were in 1963. Notice the cooking equipment, the table, and the chairs. We took along no chairs and no table, so ate in the car if we could find no campground with tables. We did have a Coleman stove and a coffee pot, and maybe a pot and frying pan--but we seldom cooked, and what we cooked came from cans. We also ate a lot of sandwiches and peanut butter and vanilla wafer meals. Occasionally we ate at a restaurant, or with friends and/or relatives in various states. There were virtually no fast food restaurants in the early 1960s. We stayed slender on that trip.
The above shows larger tent extensions than that young family had in the previous picture. Notice there are also windows. Another photo I saw showed these extensions opened on the back end of the vehicles.
The couple in the above 1918 picture were also well prepared for meal-making--very important 100 years ago, when not only restaurants but also towns and cities were in many states rather scarce. We three found that true in many states in 1963 too, especially in the desert areas of the southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada) and in states like Utah further north. Also, the Interstate Highway System was in its infancy then, having begun only in 1956, and I don't remember driving on anything except 2-lane highways on that 1963 trip until reaching the main coastal cities in California such as Los Angeles.
Driving this 1926 motor home above must have been challenging. However, although all highways were 2 lanes, traffic was extremely light then and few vehicles drove very fast. Was this motor home built by the car's owner, or manufactured at some plant? I don't know. But I expect it was expensive.
Here we have something only the wealthy could afford in the 1920s--a fancy sedan towing an even fancier trailer. The men in both are in suits and ties. They don't look like they are really going camping, do they? Maybe they are taking the car and its trailer somewhere to show them to prospective buyers.
I hope you enjoyed these pictures as much as I did.
Part 1 of this article discussed the histories of the names January, February, and March on the Gregorian calendar, which replaced the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar) that had been the western world's calendar for 15 centuries. In 1582 AD Pope Gregory XIIIreformed that calendar mainly to change the date of Easter, which had been falling further away from the spring equinox. Pope Gregory kept the Latin names for the months that had been used for untold centuries before and after Christianity. Below are brief histories of the names April, May, and June--also derived from the names of ancient deities.
The Romans named the fourth monthAprilis, derived from the Latin verb aperire, "to open," because this month is the budding or opening time for trees and some spring flowers. April was also the sacred month of the goddess of love, Venus, whose major festival, the Veneralia, was held on April 1. Her Greek equivalent was the goddess Aphrodite, whom the Roman poet Ovid associated with the month of April in his long poem Festi ("Festivals").
Although Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, she was, ironically, married to Hephaestus (or Vulcan), the lame god of fire and metals. She was frequently unfaithful to him. Her love affair with Ares (or Mars), the god of war, is well known (see Part 1 of this article). By him she had Eros, or Cupid, the god of erotic love, or desire. As in this 1555 painting by Titian (left), Cupid was most often depicted by artists as a winged boy with bow and arrows. This image is still very popular, particularly during Valentine's Day.
By the messenger god Hermes (Roman equivalent, Mercury), Aphrodite had a son named Hermaphroditus. When he was a shy youth, the water nymph Salmacis fell in love with him. He rebuffed her advances but could not resist swimming in her beautiful lake. There she forcefully embraced him and begged the gods to keep their bodies together. Her prayer was granted. He was transformed into a two-sexed person, with her female body and male genitalia--hence the term hermaphrodite, now being replaced by the medical term intersex.
Marble sculpture at Lady Lever Art Gallery, in Wirral, England.
In Greek mythology Maia was the eldest of seven sisters called the Pleiades, who were the daughters of the Titan Atlas and the sea nymph Pleione. Wanting to avoid contact with the gods, Maia lived alone in a cave; however, the god Zeus secretly impregnated her and she gave birth to Hermes. Maia was revered as a nurturer; in Greek "maia" means "midwife." Maia and her sisters were ultimately transformed into a constellation. The Romans identified this Maia with their goddess Maia, to whom the month of May was dedicated.
Pleiades, an 1885 painting by American artist Elihu Vedder located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This 1585 painting of Vulcan and Maia is by Bartholomaus Spranger.
The Roman Maia was the mother of Mercury (Greek equivalent, Hermes)--the protector of merchants and travelers and the messenger of Jupiter, the Roman king of gods (Greek equivalent, Zeus). She was also closely associated with the god Vulcan (god of fire and heat) and thus represented the concept of growth, which occurs in later spring, as the earth becomes warmer (more heated). On the first day of May, the priests of Vulcan sacrificed a pregnant pig to Maia, honoring fertility (growth) in all beings.
The month of June is named after Juno, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Hera. Juno was the sister of and wife of Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. In both mythologies, these were the chief gods and goddesses, superior to all others. Juno was often called Juno Regina (Juno the Queen). As protector of the Roman state, she was sometimes depicted as warlike, as in this second century AD statue in the Vatican Museums, showing her with a spear and shield. Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva, goddess of wisdom (equated with the Greeks' Athena) were the capitol city's triad of deities, most often worshipped and honored with temples.
Juno's roles were many. A major one was as Juno Moneta, "goddess who alerts people." She saved Rome from a Gallic invasion in 390 BC when her sacred geese sounded the alarm, forcing the invaders to retreat. Her chief role, however, was as goddess of marriage and childbirth. Under the name of Juno Lucina, she watched over women during pregnancy and delivery. Expectant mothers and people who took offerings to Juno on behalf of them were required to untie all knots in their clothing and remove any belts, because the presence of a belt, knot or the like could hinder the delivery of the woman on whose behalf they were making their offering.
SOURCES for Part 2: Personal knowledge--plus the Dictionary of Classical Mythology, by Pierre Grimal, Wikipedia, and Internet photos.
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Published March 30, 2018
Logos with Hidden Images
by A. Jane Chambers
Below are ten logos that have somewhat "hidden" images built into them. Can you find the images? Some are more obvious than others.
The gold arrow points from the "a" to the "z"--suggesting that Amazon carries virtually anything the consumer might want to order, "from A to Z." The arrow is also curved, creating a smile that suggests the buyer will be happy with results.
This Atlanta Falcons logo includes a falcon, with head pointing right (see the beak and eye?), talons below the head, and spreading feathers. In addition, the logo is in the shape of the letter "F."
It's easy to see the number "31" in the "B" and "R" in this logo. But do you also know why the company decided to offer 31 flavors of ice cream? The idea was to suggest that you should eat Baskin-Robbins ice cream every day of the month, with a different flavor each day.
Do you see the arrow pointing forward? It is between the capital "E" and the "X." It suggests that Fed Ex will deliver your packages with speed.
The "G" in "Goodwill" is also a smiling face, reflecting the idea of "good will to all"--both the workers and the consumers.
This zoo is in Cologne, Germany. Do you see the giraffe and rhino within the image of the elephant? There's also a famous gothic cathedral in Cologne--the 2 spires of which are suggested between the hind legs of the elephant.
Are you old enough to remember the original NBC logo--a realistic image of a peacock, whose tail feathers spread out as you looked at it. Today's stylized logo still has the peacock in the middle (see the beak?). The six "feathers" are the colors of the rainbow and also the colors from which other colors are made, starting with the 3 primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. Together, the colors suggest the great variety of programs available to NBC viewers.
Here's another zoo logo. Do you see the gorilla and lioness facing each other? The birds are easy to see, but do you also see the fish leaping up from the water?
Do you see the salsa bowl? It dots the "i." Above it is a triangular chip for that dip. Left and right (the middle "t" letters) are two people either sharing (or offering) that chip ... or fighting over it. Very clever, si ?
This famous bike race is a daytime event, so the orange globe might represent the sun. However, it is also the front wheel of a racing bike, and the "r" is a biker hunched over it, with a dot for a head. The big "O" with a dot inside it is the back wheel, and the small "u" suggests the bike's seat. Extremely clever, oui ?
Companies, groups, and organizations of all kinds often spend much time--and money--on their logos, and logo designers frequently make fabulous salaries--especially those who win designing contests.
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Published February 16, 2018
Our Peninsula's Frozen Waterways,
1780 - 2018
by A. Jane Chambers
“The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around; It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound!” *
-- from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
( * Noises heard when one swoons (faints)--i.e., is semiconsious. )
January is apparently the month for frozen waterways surrounding our Virginia Peninsula. In Millennial Moments: Hampton Roads' Frozen Rivers (Daily Press, Dec. 30, 1999), Will Molineux wrote that "at least three times extended cold temperatures in January locked ships in ice here and gave residents the opportunity to walk across rivers"-- in 1780, 1857, and 1918. The photo above, by Sandra Deans Snyder, was taken just a few days after this year's opening blizzard and first long freeze--in (of course) early January. It shows ice at Huntington Beach at sunset, with the James River Bridge in the background.
Molineux tells us that in 1780, Thomas Jefferson, then Virginia's Governor, wrote that the "York River was frozen over so that people walked across it" and the Virginia Gazette (Jan. 22 issue) reported that "six loaded wagons went over the James River, on the ice, from Warwick [Shire] to the opposite shore" and that several boats in the James were grounded by ice and several sank, including a large ship near Mulberry Island. Records in 1857 show that in that January of that year, the Chesapeake Bay was frozen for a mile and a half from the shoreline and that the Elizabeth River froze over so that a large number of people "crowded the thoroughfare on the ice between Norfolk and Portsmouth." And in 1918, the Daily Press wrote in January that "ice jammed the James River, although a few ferries were able to operate between the Peninsula and Norfolk."
The above photo and the next five are from Pictures: When it comes to bitter cold weather, 1977 is the winter Hampton Roads remembers, which is a Daily Press gallery dated 2018 and edited by Mark St. John Erickson. He wrote that "unusually cold temperatures began moving into Hampton Roads just before Christmas , and by January 2, the James River was frozen solid hundreds of feet from the shoreline." This first photo shows people walking on the ice, with the old Red's Pier to the right. The next picture, below, is another view of the frozen James, Red's Pier, and the old JRB and power towers.
Boats have never fared well in ice, whatever the century. They are stopped dead by heavy ice, whether wooden (as in Coleridge's poem) or metal or fiberglass (as in our time). Often they are damaged, or even destroyed, by ice either above or below the water line (as was the Titanic). Here in Hampton Roads, boat owners in January of 1977 found their boats ice locked in marinas, if not sunk by the weight of ice inside them, as shown in the picture below taken at the James River Marina in Deep Creek, in Newport News.
Coast Guard to the rescue! In the 1977 freeze, which lasted all of January and into early February, we were fortunate to have Coast Guard service nearby, to cut through ice in emergency situations. The cutter shown below was sent to help break up the ice at the NuclearPower Station upriver which was choking the water intake pipes.
These last two Daily Press photographs from 1977 are aerial views. The first is of the Menchville area with a heavily iced shoreline. The second is of Jamestown's shoreline. The three ships there were of course ice locked.
The remaining photos were all taken very early this year, shortly after the blizzard of January 3 -4 dumped as much as 10 - 12 inches of snow in Hampton Roads. Temperatures remained well below freezing for over a week.
The pictures above and below, both by Sandra Deans Snyder, were taken at the Hilton Pier behind Hilton Elementary School, in Newport News. Notice how the ice reflects the color of the sky. The children on the ice stayed close to the shore, where the water is very shallow. Notice the brave (or foolish?) one wearing shorts in the bitter cold!
The man in the Daily Press photo below was walking on the ice on Lake Maury, in the Mariners' Museum Park in Newport News. I wonder how deep the water beneath his feet was.
These final two pictures of people walking on ice are also Daily Press photos. Both were taken at Huntington Beach in Newport News.
These three women in the above photo seem to be testing the ice very close to the shore. The water is quite shallow at Huntington Beach.
I can't tell how far out the woman in this final photo has ventured, but it is clear that the iceextended then well past the first power tower beside the James River Bridge. The sun makes this shot spectacular!
A word of advice: Don't make any January travel plans! My Facebook photos show that it also snowed here on January 25, 2013 (but with no frozen rivers), and we had a blizzard here on January 28-29, 2014 (with the James frozen). Februaries are not so great either. On February 18, 2015, there was also ice on the James River.
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Published January 19, 2018
Deities, Rulers, and Wrong Numbers:
Our Latin Calendar
Part 1 of 3
by A. Jane Chambers
Our western world calendar evolved from the ancient Roman lunar calendar. It had only 10 months and 304 days, with the new year beginning in March and the time between December and March simply called "Winter." Under Julius Caesar's rule, in 46 BC astronomers replaced that lunar calendar with a solar calendar based on Earth's revolutions around the sun. The Julian calendar had the 12 months we know and 365 days, with Leap Years of 366 days. It was followed for 15 centuries, but it miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes. Therefore, in 1582 AD, Pope Gregory XIIIreformed that calendar, mainly to change the date of Easter. Traditionally observed on March 21, Easter had been falling further away from the spring equinox. Most of Europe then switched to the Gregorian calendar, but England and her colonies did not make that change until 1752. Until then, the New Year in England and in the American colonies began on March 25.
Pope Gregory XIII kept the Latin names for the months that had been used for untold centuries before and after Christianity. Below are histories of the names January, February,and March.
January (Latin Januarius: “of” or “pertaining to” Janus) was named in honor of the mythological Roman god Janus, whose festival month was January. Janus literally means “gate” or “passageway.” Janus was the guardian of portals (gates and doorways) and the patron of all beginnings and endings, from those of time (especially new years) to those of events (voyages, marriages, plantings of crops). He had two faces, one looking forward; the other looking backward. He saw past and future, day and night, beginnings and endings. He was greatly revered by the Romans, who erected a major temple to him. He's often depicted holding a large key, signifying his role as gate-keeper, guardian of portals.
God Janus and goddess Bellona. 18th century statue in Vienna by Johann Wilhelm Beyer.
The word janitor, meaning in Latin "doorkeeper," comes from the word Janus. Traditionally, janitors were entrusted with the keys that opened and closed buildings. Images of Janus vary. The statue above depicts him with a youthful face looking forward (at the war goddess Bellone) and an older face looking backward. Sometimes, he is depicted as a beardless youth, as on the ancient coin below left; sometimes as a bearded older man, as in the Vatican Museum bust below right. I believe the one face beardless and the other bearded might have signified the human progression from youth to maturity, innocence to experience, ignorance to knowledge.
February (LatinFebruarius: "of" or "pertaining to" Februa) was the month sacred to the ancient god Februus , whose name means "purifier." He was also associated with Dis Pater, a Roman god of the Underworld. To the ancient Romans, March was the beginning of the year, and February was the end of the year--thus the logical time to be rid of the old before welcoming the new. Romans purified themselves and their city and appeased the dead with sacrifices and offerings during yearly festivals called Februalia (plural of Februa), cleansing rituals which took place in mid-February. Such rituals were thought to drive out evil spirits and purify the city, thus bringing about renewed health and fertility.
The month of February is probably named more for the festival than for the god. Our traditions of Spring Cleaning and New Year's Resolutions possibly grew out of ancient rituals like these.
March (Latin Martius: "of" or "pertaining to" Mars) was named for the Roman god of war, Mars, identified with the Greek god of war, Ares. They differed however in that Ares represented war as destruction whereas Mars represented war as a means of peace. March was named for Mars for several reasons. Mars was thought to have been born on the first day of March, and March was also the month in which the Romans began resuming wars that had been suspended during the cold winter months.
Mars was the son of the chief Roman goddess, Juno, but conceived without the help of her mate, the chief god Jupiter. Juno was fertilized with a magic flower that had fertile properties, given to her by the goddess Flora. Mars was also the god of agriculture and the father and protector of Rome. He fathered the twins Romulus and Remus, whose mother was a Vestal Virgin, Rhea Silvia. Abandoned as infants, the twins were nursed by a she-wolf and sheltered by shepherds. Later, Romulus became the founder of Rome.
Mars is also known for his love affair with Venus, made immortal in the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphosis, completed in the year 8 AD. Ovid's myth of the adulterous love of Mars and Venus was based on Homer's account of the affair between Aphrodite and Ares. Above is one of many famous paintings depicting the story of Mars and Venus. It is titled "Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan," an 1827 painting by Alexandre Charles Guillemot that depicts the lovers being trapped by Venus's husband, who ensnared them in a net he had fashioned.
In addition to my personal knowledge, my sources for Part 1 of this article have been (for Janus) the Probert Encyclopaedia of Mythology, by Matt and Leela Probert and (for Februus and Mars) the Dictionary of Classical Mythology, by Pierre Grimal--along with occasional use of Wikipedia. Images used all came from the Internet.
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Published January 3, 2018
Rockwell's Rocking Horse Riders
Published December 22, 2017
Road Names in Brandon Heights
in Newport News
by A. Jane Chambers
with thanks to Alexander Bivins
While working on the article Cunninghams' Daughter Visits Brandon Heights Home, I wondered about the history of the names of the streets that make up this 80-years-old neighborhood located between Warwick Blvd. and River Road, next to Hilton Village and near the James River. After publishing my article, on Facebook I asked if anyone knew the origin of those names. Soon I heard from Alexander Bivens, who told me that all five parallel roads in Brandon Heights were named after plantations in Virginia.
The center of Brandon Heights is marked on the above map by the purple pointer. Left to right, after James River Drive, are Stratford Road, Shirley Road, Westover Road, Brandon Road and (but not named on the map) Milford Road. Following this order are pictures of the plantations after which road was named and a few interesting details about each of them.
All of the plantation photos in this article came from internet collections. Above is Stratford Hall, which Alexander Bivins described as"the plantation where the Lee family (as in Robert E. Lee) lived in Westmoreland County"--four generations of them, in fact, according to Wikipedia, which also noted that Robert E. Lee was born there but the family left when he was age four, although he retained fond memories of this home. Two previous Lees were signers of the Declaration of Independence. Much more information is available through The Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, a non-profit tax exempt 501(c)3, which began in 1929 by women who raised the money to purchase Stratford and still maintain it. The plantation is open to the public. The website link is www.stratfordhall.org.
Shirley Plantation is described by Wikipedia as "the oldest plantation in Virginia and the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating back to 1638." Located on the James River in Charles City County, between Williamsburg and Richmond, it is also connected to the Lee family. Anne Hill Carter Lee, mother of Robert E. Lee, was born, married, and lived there with her husband and children. Carter-Hill family members have occupied Shirley since 1738, when the "Great House" shown above was completed. On the rooftop is an emblem of a pineapple, a symbol of hospitality. An eleventh generation Hill family now lives in the upper floors. Shirley is open for tours. Thelink is www.shirleyplantation.com.
Westover Plantation is also on the north shore of the James River in Charles City County, and like Shirley, located on State Route 5 between Williamsburg and Richmond and open to the public. The official site (link:www.westover-plantation.com) describes it as "one of the grandest and most beautiful of the colonial plantations, built in the mid-eighteenth century by the Byrd family" and "a premier example of Georgian architecture in America." The Byrd family has a long history here.
Brandon Plantation, on the south shore of the James in Prince George County, is described by Wikipedia as "one of the longest-running agricultural enterprises in the United States," having been an active farm from at least 1614. Its original owner was Jamestown Colonist Captain John Martin. It was then owned by the Harrison family from 1700 until 1926, when it was bought and restored by Richmond banker Robert Williams Daniel. His son, U.S. Congressman Robert Williams Daniel, Jr., inherited it. After his death (2012) it was purchased by "a Florida family" for $17.8 million, who planned to "occupy the plantation, renovate the main house and continue farming the land" (Washington Times, July 4, 2014). The belief that the main house, completed in the 1760s, was designed by Thomas Jefferson is legendary.
Alexander Bivins provided the following about Milford Plantation: "The Brandon Heights streets were named in the 1930s. At that time, there was a 450-acre plantation in Caroline County (near Fredericksburg, Va.) named Milford. A prominent member of Virginia's colonial legislature who was a powerful figure decades before the Revolutionary War lived there. In the years since Brandon Heights was built, the name of the plantation in Caroline County has been changed to 'Newmarket' by an owner. The estate is still in the community of Milford."
With Alexander's information, I was able to locate Newmarket Plantation (www.facebook.com/NewmarketPlantation), in the small community of Milford. The farm is a wholesale business in vegetables and horse-food quality hay and straw. The owners are Robert (Robby) Caruthers, a farmer, and his wife, Ada, a horse veterinarian. There is no picture of the house, which they extensively renovated and occupy. An ad states the property was "a royal land grant from the King of England in 1726." A newspaper article of Sept. 16, 2017 gives background on the first owner, Colonel John Baylor, whose family owned the plantation 1726-1996. Baylor, who served twice in the Virginia House of Burgess, was a major importer of thoroughbred horses, had an extensive stud farm, and helped make horse racing popular in Colonial Virginia.
What I still cannot locate is information on the developer of Brandon Heights. Perhaps someone reading this article can solve that mystery.
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Published November 10, 2017
Impacts of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma,
and Maria on First Decaders
by A. Jane Chambers
Knowing that some of our First Decaders and/or some of their loved ones lived in the paths of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria, I recently sent this request to all: "Please let me and your CNC First Decade friends know your status. Many of us have been thinking of you with hope in our hearts and prayers for your safety. I will send any news you send to your former classmates and professors." The majority of those who responded reported they had experienced little or no serious damage. Each of the three hurricanes did, however, seriously impact some. Below are their accounts, edited at times for length.
HARVEY: Houston, Texas
The aerial photo above shows hurricane Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico on August 25, 2017-- bearing down at peak intensity on the Texas coast. Jerry Russell ('65), who lives in Houston, was lucky: "We did not flood. Just a couple of roof leaks." However, Jean Regone Henry ('65), who lives in Maryland, reported shocking news about her brother Bill Regone and his wife, Debbie, who live in Houston: "They lost everything in Harvey--house, furnishings, cars." Below is Jean's account:
The damage came, not from the rain, but from water released by the city when they opened the spillways; 21 inches of the most toxic residue the EPA officials had ever seen sat in Bill's house for almost two weeks, contaminating everything it touched. Bill and Debbie tried to save everything they could, but very little actually survived. They have no flood insurance. They also lost both of their cars, plus their daughter's car and their son's car, which were both parked in Bill's driveway. The spillway water rose so quickly, there was no chance to move the cars before all the roads were flooded.
They rented a townhouse a mile away so they could continue to work on their flooded home once the water receded. A team of Mormons (from a group of 8000) removed drywall and flooring (wood, tile, vinyl) after Bill and Debbie had cleaned out the house. Everything wound up near the curb, where city trucks continued the demolition of family heirlooms, the piano, most of the furniture, doors, and cabinets. The Red Cross has provided survivors with food, bottled water, and some other necessities while they work to salvage whatever they can.
Bill, who is really handy, has restored power so they can use dehumidifiers to dry out concrete, brick, and studs. Debbie and her sister have been decontaminating studs in preparation for a rebuild, if they can get permission. Debbie does not want to give up the house. The concrete slab foundation was saturated, of course, as was the brick fireplace. All the interior walls in their house have now been removed. After scrubbing and disinfecting the supporting studs, they'll have to wait to see if the mold and mildew continue to grow. Our family is worried about the contamination of the soil, the concrete, the brick, and the wood left standing and the effect that contamination may have on their health. The city has health inspectors to advise them, so perhaps things will fall into place.
IRMA: Lakeland, Florida (near Tampa Bay)
The above photo shows hurricane Irma headed toward Florida. Herminio Cuervo ('66), who lives in Lakeland, reported that all in his household (humans and animals) "survived without injury" and that his home was spared but his office "took in some water, so we had to go bail out/dry the carpet," later restored fully by Stanley Steamer workers. The main damage in Lakeland was loss of power, caused primarily by downed trees. Below is Herminio's often humorous account of his experience.
The storm came right over our heads: we were in the East side of the eyeball (as I prefer to call it). Wind gusts over 100 MPH. We had several large oaks (senior citizens) all around the house and we lost many. One of them took the power, TV, phone and internet connections down with him (trees are masculine). To show you how God works in interesting ways, the wires helped the fallen tree go west, away from the house. We lost a large tree which fell on the street and on Monday AM, a neighbor helped us drag it off the road. I did chain sawing to help things out.
At the end of the day, another neighbor, who happened to be a senior lineman at Lakeland Electric, stopped when he saw the downed lines. He looked at them, climbed to the transformer in his bucket, took the lines off, came down, snuck the lines out from under the tree, borrowed my chainsaw and cleared the way. Then he lifted the lines back to the transformer, and when he got down from the bucket, told me, we would get the lights back in less than 2 hours. I thought, wow, with neighbors like this, we are blessed. We had power back before 24 hours, but still no TV, phone, or internet.
My son, Pedro, had parachuted here from LSU Law the day before the storm, so he and I did a lot of hauling of broken limbs, branches, tree trunks to the roadside. The place began to look like a set for the "Walking Dead," which appealed to me. I lost 5 pounds in one day, just hauling things around. Thinking of developing a weight loss program coupled to disaster mitigation. We still need to get that huge oak off the side of the road and fence. Have tree guys doing that; it is very expensive.
At the time Herminio wrote (mid-September), some food staples ("like sliced bread and milk") were in short supply and many people were still without power. However, there was no loss of order in Lakeland ("We have excellent law enforcement here"), the airport was spared ("a hub for cargo in/out"), FEMA and the military were there, and there was no gasoline shortage.
MARIA: Naguabo, Puerto Rico
The aerial photo above shows hurricane Maria, as a category 4, moving toward Puerto Rico (small rectangle left). It hit first the south eastern end (right end), which includes the coastal town of Naguabo ( red spot on the map at right). Close to there is the home of the mother of one of our First Decaders, Kathy Benintende Monteith ('74), who is also the mother-in-law of CNU Alumni Relations Officer Katie Monteith.
On September 15, Kathy wrote: "My dear mom was affected by Irma. She's safe, praise God! She has fresh water and a gas stove. Electricity will most likely be out for awhile longer." The situation worsened in Puerto Rico as time passed, however, as we all know. Kathy heard no more from or about her mother for many days. Then, on September 27, I heard from Kathy again. She wrote the below news.
We received a call yesterday from a dear friend of mom's, that she is okay! She's living in her home and surrounded by a community of love & support! No electricity or water yet. The mountain road to her home is now passable. Gasoline is scarce but was available yesterday in the closest town. Some stores are reopening. USPS and local banks are not in operation since Maria. October 9 UPDATE: Progress is happening! As of last Friday, mom has running water and postal mail service! I'm hopeful to receive mail from her this week. My sister & I are flooding her with cards and necessary needs.
The impact of Maria will be felt by all who live in Puerto Rico for many more weeks, months--perhaps even years. Keep Kathy Monteith's mother, and all others who are there, in mind as you watch the news unfold.
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Published October 13, 2017
Bodie Island Lighthouse:
Worth the Trip
Article and photos by Ron Lowder, Webmaster
My wife, Maureen, is a fan of lighthouses. On sightseeing trips we have taken over our 41 years of marriage, there was often a lighthouse visit on the agenda. And I must say, she has made me a fan of lighthouses also. Even though all lighthouses have the same purpose of helping guide ships at sea, each has unique features and stories associated with it, some of which are fascinating.
Our visit last month to the Bodie Island Lighthouse (correctly pronounced “body”) proved to be the highlight of our week-long Outer Banks vacation. Located south of Nags Head on Highway 12 (about a 15-minute drive from the Outlet Mall) on 15 acres of land, the area is well maintained and well managed.
The name “Bodie” reportedly was originally spelled “Body” or “Boddy.” An early placard in the foyer of the lighthouse has the title “Body's Island Lighthouse.” Locals say that Body (Bodie) Island was named after the original owner of the land. Despite extensive research, I cannot verify that fact. The word “Island” is in the name because the area was once an island. Now it is a peninsula. The history of the land and the name are perhaps a subject for another article!
When Maureen and I visit any lighthouse, we always opt to climb to the top of it to experience the view of the surrounding area, which we did on this occasion also. When purchasing tickets required for the climb, we were provided with a time to report to the entrance to the lighthouse for the climb. Because of the age of the Bodie Lighthouse (construction completed in1872), the number of people that can be in it at one time (either climbing the stairs or at the top) is restricted. Our allotted entry time was about 1 hour away so we looked for something to do while waiting.
View of the Bodie Island observation deck taken from the top of the lighthouse.
We decided to venture down a well-built wooden pathway toward an observation platform in the distance. The foot trip to the platform took about 10 minutes winding through marsh, sea grass and other forms of vegetation including the blooming plants pictured. Sights from the platform and along the path were well worth the walk.
Among the scattered marsh and small lake-like bodies of water, the platform offered a unique view of area wildlife. In the distance, we observed a flock of egrets feasting on the cuisine offered by the marshy wetlands. Other birds that frequent the area are Canada geese, snowy white ibises, great blue herons, and even graceful white swans. Not only is the walk to the platform good exercise, but the views are quite worth the effort.
At about 10 minutes before our allotted time, we arrived at the entrance of the lighthouse to be greeted by a park employee who relayed some interesting facts about the lighthouse. The 15 acres of land upon which the lighthouse stands were donated by the lighthouse keeper of an earlier nearby lighthouse located on Pea Island. Several lighthouses have previously been constructed on the same 15-acre property that the Bodie Island Lighthouse currently occupies; the previous lighthouse was destroyed by the Confederate Army for fear that Union soldiers would use the lighthouse as an observation post.
There are 214 steps that lead to the top of the lighthouse with landings every 20 or so steps. Because of the age of the steps and the supporting structure, only one person at a time is allowed to climb the steps between each landing. In other words, when one person reaches a landing, another can venture up those same stairs. There are 9 landings in all on the journey to the top.
View from the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse staircase, looking down.
There were 8 folks gathered for our “time slot ascent,” the maximum for a time slot. I happened to be the first person in line. The other 7 folks (Maureen was the 2nd in line) had to wait to begin their ascent until after I had reached the first landing, then the second, and so forth. I felt pressured to complete my climb rapidly, since the other folks were waiting. After completing the climb to about the 3rd landing (about 60 or so steps), my 71-year age started to catch up with me and I paused and let my wife go ahead of me. But let it be told that I did reach the top without any “major” pauses, albeit a little tuckered out. I must say, the trip back down was much easier!
The view from the top of the lighthouse was truly awesome. We could see the Atlantic Ocean, the Albemarle Sound, Manteo, and the tip end of Nags Head including the bridge. Additionally, the view to the south highlighted the terrain toward Oregon Inlet. From the 360-degree perspective at the top, we gained an appreciation for the quite diverse landscape surrounding the lighthouse. Because the top outdoor platform around the lighthouse was quite breezy, we had to hold onto our hats before stepping out on the platform!
I would highly recommend a visit to Bodie Island Lighthouse. Of all the lighthouses Maureen and I have visited, this one stands out as one of the best managed. The staff of dedicated employees and volunteers are all well versed on local relevant history and eager to share their knowledge. The whole experience was well worth our time.
Published September 15, 2017
Norman Rockwell:Family Outing to the Lake,
Going and Coming,
August of 1947
Published August 18, 2017
Local Dance Band Soul Intent
Serves the 50+ Age Group with Beach, Motown, 60's and 70's Music
By Randy Boone,
Leader and Drummer for Soul Intent
Soul Intent originated in 2014, when I got the idea of reviving the music many of the baby boomers grew up with in the 1960’s. I placed the following ad on Craigslist: “Older drummer looking for likeminded musicians to play Beach, Motown, 60’s and 70’s music.” From that ad came a stream of musicians. I also called some musicians I had played with in the 60's to see if they had any interest in playing again. Thinking most of them would probably just laugh at the idea, I was surprised and thrilled that several were anxious to pursue it.
Between old contacts, Craigslist and friends of musicians, Soul Intent began to take shape. The band rehearsed in an attic in Portsmouth, and our first gig was played on January 31st, 2015 at the Elizabeth Manor Country Club. The band began to grow in numbers and the attic was soon too small for rehearsals. A friend offered a warehouse for our use. Band members came and went, and offers for more gigs began to come.
Randy Boone, Leader and Drummer for Soul Intent
All of our original band members were 60 plus years old, except a young sax player. At the time he was the heart of the horn section of the band. When he told us he was moving, we knew we were in a jam. Luckily however, one of our trumpet players had played with a Peninsula saxophone player in the past by the name of Ron Lowder. Ron came and played with us at the Seawall Festival in June of 2015. I met with him shortly after that and Ron agreed to perform with us for one year.
The band had no idea Ron would become such a valuable part of it. His skills go far beyond playing a saxophone. They extend into the areas of composing, computer science, publishing and most of all patience. Soul Intent is now in its second year of Ron’s one year commitment. The CNC family already knows Ron as the webmaster for this website and a member of the CNU “1961 Club” (a group dedicated to finding and preserving artifacts from CNC First Decade forward.).
The purpose of Soul Intent is to play the music of our generation. It is not our goal to make you remember the songs we play. It is our goal to actually take you back in time. Many in our audience actually tell us for a brief moment in time they feel they are back in high school or college with that special person. It can be a very moving experience for the band and the audience.
There is not another band in Hampton Roads that does what Soul Intent does. The band has an amazing following of very loyal people. We receive messages from folks telling us how much they appreciate what we do for them. Soul Intent has truly touched a nerve and is filling a need for our generation. Most people that come to see us do not just like this band...they love it! They love where this music takes them. Our band has been directly responsible for the rekindling of a number of relationships and at least one marriage.
In 2016Soul Intent played over forty gigs, and we are booked for over thirty so far this year. Come see us at Yorktown beach on Thursday, June 15, at the Banque in Norfolk on Sunday, June 25, or at numerous dates at the Portsmouth waterfront. Additionally, we perform monthly at Roger Browns Restaurant on High Street in downtown Portsmouth. Check out our website for all our dates: www.soulintentband.com.Soul Intent: “Your trip down memory lane.”
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Published March 31, 2017
Blue Star Diner Renovation Likely Soon;
Historic Status Possible
by A. Jane Chambers
Summary of Daily Press (DP) article of January 2, 2017
Daily Press photo by Judith Lowery (August 10, 2015, p. 5).
After six years of stagnation, The Blue Star project is likely to end happily, Daily Press reporter Reema Amin has suggested, if the necessary renovation begins this year. On December 16, 2016, the city of Newport News issued a building permit, now taped inside a window near the entrance. However, the permit warns that "it will be pulled if construction doesn't start in six months" ("RENOVATION RESOLUTION FOR EATERY?" p. 1).
Blue Star's owner, Michael Lessin, is the president of Sterling-based Belleville Diners, which specializes in buying and renovating historic mid-20th century American diners. When Belleville bought the Blue Star in 2010, Lessin promised renovations would start soon, "but unexpected costs delayed the process," he explained to reporter Amin, including "stolen air conditioning units" and "new green energy codes" ("RENOVATION," pp. 1 & 5).
Lessin said renovation could begin this month (January) but added: "Any time you're doing work on an old building and you're doing it historically correct, " there could be "surprises or unforeseen work," but the company is "committing to getting it done, and we will get it done" (p. 5). Most of the work will be renovation of the kitchen, in the back of the building. That work might take 9 to 12 months and will include "ripping up the concrete floor to put in new plumbing, putting up a new roof in the back, new electrical wiring, new heating and new air conditioning, which will extend to the diner," he explained (p. 5).
The article suggests that former customers of the Blue Star when it was owned and operated by Fannie and Angelo Blentson, from 1963 until the early 2000s, need not fear any significant changes to the customer area of the diner. To preserve historical accuracy, Lessin said, "Minimal work will be done on the diner portion." The company will simply "reupholster the booths, add more era-appropriate stools (the current ones are not the originals, he said), and rebuff and add new wax coats to the floor" (p. 5). The DP files photo above shows waitress Judy Presley during slack time at the diner in 2002.
If work goes as planned and the diner reopens, it might have an historical marker in its future. The article states Lessin "has been trying to get the diner designated as a national historic place" and Virginia's Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) notified him last September that "the diner is eligible to be nominated to the state landmarks register and the National Register of Historic Places."
In 2015, there was a real possibility that the city might demolish the Blue Star. In a July 27, 2015 DP article, summarized on this CNC website, historian Marc Wagner of VDHR stated he was "very concerned" when he heard that news, because Virginia has “only about 10 surviving diners, and this one is a gem.” He added that “the Blue Star is the last remaining classic, factory-made diner in Hampton Roads built before the 1970s” (Theresa Clift, “City Workers Seek Abandoned Homes,” p. 5).
The last part of the "RENOVATION" article is a tribute to the original owners of the Blue Star Diner, Angelo and Fotini (Fannie) Blentson, shown in the 1978 DP file photo above. Walter Gardner, owner of nearby Village Bicycles and regular patron of the diner from the 1980s until it closed, fondly recalls the reasonable prices and great food ("Fannie made the best fried chicken"), sentiments echoed by his co-worker Connie Maxwell. John Ottofaro, co-owner of Design and Consign, next door to the diner, states that his customers "ask us all the time when it's gonna open" -- a question Lessin cannot yet answer, because "unforeseen things could pop up."
RENIE BLENTSON THANOS, daughter of Blue Star's original owners, Angelo and Fannie, is a CNCalumna (B.A., English, 1990). AtCNC she was a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, and a student of mine. She earned her M.A. in English from James Madison University in 1992 and since 1998 has taught college English. At DeVry University in New York (1998-2015) she served as English Department Chair for 3 years. She and her family now live in Buffalo, NY, where she has been teaching in the Writing Department at Buffalo State College since 2015. Renie visits Newport News as much as possible and keeps up with news of the diner.
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Published January 6, 2017
The January 7, 2017 Blizzard:
Edited by A. Jane Chambers
The meteorologists were correct: this snowstorm was as big as they predicted it would be. The snow mixed with sleet began when they said it would (late Friday night, January 6), then turned by Saturday morning, the 7th, into a wind-swept blizzard of fine, dry flakes that did not stop falling until Saturday night. Temperatures remained below freezing for several days, even down into the teens at night, so there was no significant melting for several days. Schools and colleges remained closed from Monday until Thursday, much to the delight of countless children and teachers. The sunrise photo above, taken by First Decader Marie Boudreau Smith, who lives in Hampton, shows the Chesapeake Bay at Chesapeake Avenue in Hampton several days after the storm.
If you were where the blizzard was, how much snow did you get? The depths varied quite a bit in the Tidewater area, as you can see by this snowflake list above. Gusting winds also created places where the snow was much deeper in some spots than in others merely feet away.
If your area received at least 6 inches or more, you probably enjoyed a beautiful sight such as this one above, taken by First Decader Charlie Snead at his home in Hendersonville, NC. This lovely view of his balcony and backyard was taken from his bedroom window.
This above photo is a view of Charlie and wife Thommy's front yard. The snow-capped lights are the only way you can tell where the walkway is! I believe the other creamy mini-hills are small shrubs along the side of the walk.
Hampton and Williamsburg both received a FOOT of snow. First Decader Ellen Babb Melvin was shocked to see a snow bank of 17 inches piled up again her kitchen door in Hampton, and when she was finally able to open the door part way (photo below) she wondered if her young Collie Lucie, would be able to get outside to tend to her doggie business.
Luckily, Lucie's a good jumper, so she jumped right through the narrow opening (left above) and ran joyfully all over the back yard (see below), exploring her transformed world (photo below).
By Monday, as temperatures rose some, the icicles began forming--here, there and everywhere. Ellen Babb Melvin found them not only hanging from her roof, but also (see below), hanging from her bushes.
Elsewhere in Hampton, on Tuesday, January 10, Marie B. Smith found great long icicles hanging everywhere from her roof and took this close-up of a cluster of them hanging outside her living room window.
The above cluster of red berries covered with snow is one of four photos Marie B. Smith took in her Hampton backyard showing the blizzard's impact on wildlife. These particular berries, though abundant, colorful, and inviting, are of no interest to the birds. In contrast, the five finches on the feeder below stuff themselves happily with the less appealing seeds in the feeder. Are the red berries poisonous? Or are the bland seeds more nutritious?
The finches on the feeder above and the birds in the bush below share a trait seldom seen in wild birds except in times of great stress: a certain degree of civility. Whereas in time of plenty, they often indulge in territorial battles and selfishly refuse to share space at their feeders, in times of danger, when survival of the group is threatened, they show much better manners: sharing feeder space and even waiting to take turns at the feeders.
This snow-buried snowman caught my attention. Marie described this picture as that of "a snowman statue that I had out in my yard for the winter...sitting on a table by the pond. It was completely covered with snow. I had to wipe away some so you could see the face."
Marie took this picture above of the Bay and Chesapeake Ave. after the avenue was plowed (Jan. 10). Like virtually all of the neighborhood streets throughout Tidewater, however, the one in the foreground leading to Chesapeake Ave. was still dangerously ice-covered. The next two days (11th & 12th) brought significantly warmer temperatures, however, which finally freed us all from the blizzard's icy grip.
Finally, here's a photo of the backyard of the Chambers home, with the sunset reflecting in the sky and on the waters of the James River--my favorite place to be whenever we have blizzards. I love to watch all of our snowfalls, large or small, from here--inside my cozy home.
The striking view above of the decorated Buckroe Beach lighthouse area at sunrise was photographed by Sandra Deans Snyder. The following two Buckroe photos were taken by Leigh Crews Pritt. We very much appreciate the camera work of these skilled ladies, and we thank the Buckroe Beach Fire Department for delivering Santa to the scene.
These next five pictures were taken on the waterfront in downtown Hampton by Marvin Barnes. We admire his talent as a photographer as well as his willingness to brave cold weather to shot these fine photos of the decorated boats both at harbor and on the water.
These last two photos in downtown Hampton were taken by CNC First Decader Marie Boudreau Smith (AA, 1966), a skilled photographer whose pictures frequently are on Facebook.
Marie B. Smith also took these last four photos, all of them at Busch Gardens--Williamsburg. Notice that the theme of the first tree is "Six Geese," from the popular old song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
I hope you enjoyed these photographs as much as I did. Again, thanks to the four photographers for sharing their work with us!
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Published December 23, 2016
Graffiti with Greenery
Photos sent by Danny Peters (BS, 1971)
Edited by A. Jane Chambers
The graffiti artists shown in this article have combined brushes and paint with bushes and trees, weeds and even leaves, to create some very unusual images adorning everything from buildings and fences to sidewalks and curbs. Neither the artists nor the locates were identified in the email Danny forwarded. Nevertheless, I have greatly enjoyed these works and hope you will also enjoy the ten (of over twenty) I've chosen to post here. I'll post more of them at another time.
Human hairdos (photos above) are popular subjects with graffiti greenery artists, but popular also are images of full-length humans, especially children, interacting with nature (photos below).
Some of the graffiti is very simple in style, such as this cheerleader with pom poms made of weeds (below), possibly created by a child. Other pieces are much more sophisticated, such as the image of the man peeping through the hedges (below), which required hedge work as well as realistic art work. There is also a contrast suggested here between a happy, innocent and communal human activity and a slightly fearful if not sinister and hidden activity.
These next two works below show cartoon-like creatures interacting comically with autumn leaves. Each little creature has found a unique way to deal with dead leaves. The mouse has made a boat from a leaf, to row himself away from the other leaves; the little alien has made a rug from a section of concrete, to sweep his leaves beneath.
This artist has chosen an unlikely home for his mouse--a cement curb. But quickly we overcome our doubts and believe the curb is the little mouse's hollow home and the weed outside is a precious plant he is nurturing. In the same way we saw in the opening photograph not just assorted greenery and a bit of paint, but a loving motherbird feeding her babies. These graffiti artists are indeed talented masters of illusion.
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Published December 9, 2016
What's in a Name?
Witchduck Road and the "Witch of Pungo"
by A. Jane Chambers
The Court had "Antient and Knowing women... Serch her Carefully For
all teats spots and marks about her body not usuall on Others, and ...as they
Find the Same to make report on Oath To the truth thereof to the Court."
--1706 Court Records, Trial of Grace Sherwood
Stop sign in the Witch Duck Point area of Virginia Beach. Internet photos: 1, 2, 5, 6, & 7.
The story behind the name Witchduck Road, in present day Virginia Beach, goes back 300 years, when many people believed some people were witches in league with Satan, and could cause horrible events such as terrific storms, failed crops, and deaths of people and livestock. One victim of such medieval views was Grace White Sherwood (born ca. 1660), a widow of about 47 who was, on July 10, 1706, bound hands to feet and thrown ("ducked") from a boat into the Lynnhaven River, to test whether she was a witch. The belief was that if she sank, she was innocent; but if she floated, she was guilty, since water, being pure, would reject her. It was the only time in Virginia that a trial by ducking occurred.
The tranquil scene above is where Grace Sherwood was ducked: Witch Duck Bay, located at the end of North Witchduck Road and facing Witch Duck Point--20th century names acknowledging the 17th century miscarriage of justice suffered by the "Witch of Pungo." Imagine the shoreline filled with hateful people shouting "Duck the witch!" and "Send her to the Devil!" Who was this woman, and why was she believed to be a witch? Wikipedia has a rather good summary of her life, trials, and legacy, citing numerous sources, some of which I've also explored.
Grace white was born about 1660 in Pungo, then a part of Princess Anne County (now southern Virginia Beach), the daughter of John White, a Scottish carpenter and small-farm landowner, and Susan White, an English woman. In 1680, Grace married James Sherwood, also a small-farm landowner, in the Lynnhaven Parish Church. Grace's father gifted the newlyweds with 50 acres of his land, fronting on Muddy Creek, and upon his death the next year, left the young couple the rest of his land, 145 acres. Grace and James had three sons and the family farmed this land the rest of their lives. Grace also worked as a midwife and a healer, treating people and animals with medicinal herbs she grew ("Grace Sherwood," Wikipedia).
Princess Anne County Court Records detail Grace's court cases. Her trials for witchcraft began in 1697, when a neighboring farmer accused her of causing his bull's death. In 1698, she was accused of bewitching the hogs and cotton crop of another farmer. Later, she was accused of turning herself into a black cat, entering a woman's bedroom, tormenting her, then exiting through a keyhole. Guilt was never proven in these cases or any of the others before the "witch duck" case (1706), and after each trial, Grace sued for slander, but never won, so she and her husband, James, had to pay court costs. In 1701 James died, leaving the farm to her. She never remarried, and she and their sons continued their peaceful farming, but the rumors that she was a witch did not die and the court cases continued ("Sherwood," Wikipedia, & "Witchcraft," Encyclopedia Virginia). Grace's biographer, Belinda Nash, says Grace Sherwood's court cases, as defendant or as plaintiff, numbered about a dozen before the 1706 trial ("Virginia Woman Seeks to Clear Witch, USA Today, 7/9/2006).
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
The above pages are from "Witchcraft in Colonial Virginia," in the Encyclopedia Virginia (441 - 442). They are a 1914 transcript of the court proceedings of Grace Sherwood's 1706 trial in Princess Anne County Court, reprinted from Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648 - 1706, ed. by George Lincoln Burr, with some spellings modernized and contractions expanded for clarity. The heading on the left page ("Under July 5") is where details of the ducking trial begin.
That final trial (July 10, 1706) grew out of a fight in 1705 between Grace and a neighbor, Elizabeth Hill. Grace sued the woman and her husband for assault and battery and won damages on December 7 of twenty shillings (1 pound sterling). On January 3, 1706, the Hills accused her of witchcraft, a charge Grace ignored, not appearing in court. Next, they charged her with having bewitched Elizabeth, causing her to have a miscarriage, and the court ordered Grace to appear in court on that charge on February 7, 1706 (Wikipedia).
Court records above suggest that the officials were somewhat reluctant to try Grace yet again for witchcraft. There were problems getting "a Jury to Serch her" (for Devil marks) and there was concern that she have a fair trial. She agreed to the ducking, scheduled first for July 5, but "the weather being very Rainy and Bad" on that day, "Soe that possibly it might endanger her health," the court postponed the water test to July 10, 1706 (p. 441 above).
On July 10, before and again after the ducking, a Jury of "Ansient and Knowing women" undressed and searched Grace "For all teats spotts and marks...not usuall on Others" and swore they found "two things like titts on her private parts of Black Coller" (p. 442 above). These were seen as "Devil's marks," evidence of her being a witch. The major "proof" of guilt, of course, was that when she was put into the water, not only did she not sink, but all watching her clearly saw her "Swiming when therein and bound Contrary To Custom" (p. 442 above).
She was jailed "in the Common Goale of the country," near her parish church, with an expectation she would be retried later at the court in Williamsburg, the Colonial Capitol, but there is no record of that ever happening. Additional records of this case, if any, were lost in a fire in the next century (p. 442). We do know, however, that in 1714, she was released from prison, paid her back taxes, and with the help of Virginia's Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, recovered her property from Princess Anne County, after which she lived on her farm until her death in 1740 at the age of about 80 (Wikipedia).
Grace White Sherwood was virtually forgotten until 1973, when Virginia Beach historian and author Louisa Venable Kyle wrote a children's book of local folk tales with Grace's story as the title: The Witch of Pungo. Interest grew in this piece of Colonial history, leading in 2002 to the erection of the historical marker shown here, located near Sentara Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach (Wikipedia).
In the 1980s, Grace gained a champion, Belinda Nash, a Canadian who moved to Virginia Beach and became curious about the name Witchduck Road, near her home. Until her death in 2016, Nash researched Grace and spoke often and everywhere about her. In 2012 she and her daughter, Danielle Sheets, published their biography of Grace--A Place in Time: The Age of the Witch of Pungo (Wikipedia). Nash also led a movement to have Grace's good name restored and a nearly life-sized bronze statue of her erected. Nash and her husband donated $17,000 toward the $92,000 cost and on July 10, 2006, the 300th anniversary of Grace's conviction, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine restored her good name, recognizing Sherwood's case was a miscarriage of justice (Virginian-Pilot, "Grace ... Pardoned," Summer 2006, p. 17).
The statue (left) was unveiled on April 21, 2007, on the site of the present-day Sentara Bayside Hospital, close to the sites of both the colonial courthouse and the ducking point. California sculptor Robert Cunningham depicted Grace with a raccoon, representing her love of animals, and a basket of rosemary, representing her knowledge of herbal healing. Nearby is also the historical marker shown earlier(Wikipedia).
In 2014, this memorial stone marker (right) was placed in the herb garden of the Old Donation Episcopal Church, the site of Sherwood's own church, Lynnhaven Parish Church. Nash commented: "I was so happy when I heard this stone was going to be placed. My heart was relieved to hear the church was welcoming it" (Wikipedia).
Why was Grace Sherwood labeled as a witch? We have no drawings or paintings of her, but Nash summarized the contemporary descriptions of her she found: " Sherwood was a tall, good-looking and unconventional woman who grew herbs for medicine, owned prime waterfront property and wore trousers--taboo for women at that time--when she planted crops." She also "just knew too much." Nash thinks many of the Pungo neighbors "were jealous and made up witchcraft tales to get rid of Sherwood, perhaps to take her land" ("Virginia Woman," USA Today, 7/9/2006).
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Published September 16, 2016
40th Anniversary Cruise:
Anthem of the Seas' Maiden Voyage to Bermuda
by Ron Lowder - Webmaster
A 40th Anniversary occurs but once in a marriage. So my wonderful wife Maureen and I decided to take an anniversary trip. First stop was Arlington, Virginia where my son Sean manages 3 restaurants, Liberty Tavern (once visited by our President), Lyon Hall, and Northside Social (sort of a mega coffee shop with a bar upstairs). Sean set up a progressive dinner for us consisting of appetizers at Lyon Hall, main couse at Liberty Tavern and dessert at Northside Social. All three restaurants are within walking distance being no more than a few blocks from each other. The food was fabulous as was the company of my wife, son and daughter-in-law Jessica; truly an evening to remember.
We headed out the next morning for the cruise port at Bayonne, New Jersey, about a three hour trip, to board the Anthem of the Seas which is one of Royal Caribbean's newest and most "high tech" ships.
Yes, this is the ship that ran into extremely rough weather just a few months ago. The Anthem of the Seas, put into service just a year ago, is a 1,142 foot long cruise ship with a beam (width) of 136 feet at the waterline, 162 feet at the widest point with a capacity of 4,180 passengers. Having been a passenger this month on the ship, I can well imagine the impact of extremely rough seas on the ship. The ship appears to be taller than most other cruise ships which (my guess) might have an affect the vertical stability of the ship. Unlike other ships we have been on, even a mildly choppy sea causes a minor rocking of the ship which is felt more intensely on the upper 6 decks of this 18 deck ship (16 passenger-accessible decks). It is the world's 3rd largest cruise ship.
As the Chief of Operations of an engineering department before retirement, I developed an appreciation for excellent engineering that incorperates solid, modern technologies. I was delighted to experience that type of advancement onboard the Anthem of the Seas. Stand-out innovative engineering examples are as follows:
Paperless program announcements. Via a free smartphone app and free (limited) wifi, passengers can view a list of activities available onboard and make reservations to restaurants, theaters, and other activities in realtime.
Bumper Cars - How long has it been since you drove a bumper car? I can remember the bumper cars at the Buckroe Beach Amusement Park. Hadn't set foot in a bumper car in at least 53 years until our cruise on the Anthem. It was like being a kid again! This same facility (called the Seaplex) also hosted roller skating and basketball games (on different days, of course).
Photo by Royal Caribbean.
Photo by Royal Caribbean.
Bionic Bar - This ship feature was fascinating to watch. Patrons placed their order via an iPad like device attached to the tables. The bionic bartender mixed the drink and poured it into a plastic cup. The person who ordered the drink then placed his proximity card (same card that opens their cabin door) on a pad in front of the drink and the drink then slid down to the edge of the platform for the person to pick up. The bionic bartenders did a good job with only a drop or two spilling when they poured the mixed drink into a cup. Again, fascinating!!!
The North Star - This hydraulically lifted glass capsule can transport a group of up to about 15 people to a height of 300 feet above the top of the ship for unbelievable scenery. It was a little hard to take a good picture from inside the sphere because of the reflections off the glass. A truly unique experience. We rode this twice: once at sea and once while docked in Bermuda. Remarkable!
Arrow points to the North Star sphere.
Photo by Royal Caribbean.
Photo by Royal Caribbean.
iFly - this is a simulated sky diving experience in a large glass cylindrical enclosure. We didn't have time to try it out but it looked like a lot of fun...probably suited better for the younger generation.
The local newpaper posted this on their front page:
We were privileged to be on the very first visit by the Anthem to Bermuda.
The flag of Bermuda.
Bermuda was founded in 1609 (2 years after Jamestown) by the "Virginia Company" and became a British colony in 1707. The island is named after Spanish Sea Captain Juan de Bermudez who navigated around the island to create a map in 1503. Bermuda is 665 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and is the northernmost point of the Bermuda Triangle.
A unique aspect of the Bermuda landscape is the identical roofing system used on almost all homes and buildings. These white limestone roofs are designed to capture rainwater for later consumption. Another characteristic of the island is the narrow roads. Because of the limited real estate (whole island is only about 21 square miles), most homes and businesses are built very close to the roads. We experienced these roads "up close and personal" when we decided to take a city bus to the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse during our second day in Bermuda. The speed limits on the island roads range between 35 and 25 km/h (about 25 to 15.5 mph) though our bus (and other vehicles) seldom went that slow, making the bus ride more like an amusement park ride. This lack of speed limit adherence was wide spread and was evident even in areas of heavy tourist foot traffic. It is a good idea to be very vigilant regarding the vehicular traffic when on foot on the island, as vehicles do not slow down for pedestrians.
Another unique aspect of the island is the city bus system. Bus stops are marked only by blue poles: no signs, nothing else! Each stop has a 2" vertical pipe approximately 5' tall cemented in the ground and painted dark blue. We did not know this when we were looking for a bus stop on our return trip to the ship but were lucky to just be in the vacinity of a blue pole when the bus arrived at our stop.
Roof engineered to allow for the capture of rainwater.
Roof of the lighthouse (bottom left of picture). Picture taken from the lighthouse.
Fort Catherine - one of 12 forts on Bermuda.
I strongly recommend Bermuda as a great place to visit. We only scratched the surface in seeing the rich history that this island affords. Lighthouses, forts, museums are in abundance and the ones we saw made it well worth our trip.
View from the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse with the "Anthem of the Seas" in the distance.
Published May 13, 2016
Future First Decaders Featured
in Newport News High School's
by A. Jane Chambers
with clippings provided by
Jeanette M. Hornsby
(CNC freshman, 1966-67)
Three of the four outstanding Newport News High School seniors featured in these three undated, mid-1960s articles from NNHS's Beacon were destined either to become CNC First Decaders or to become closely associated with the First Decade students through marriage, although when these articles were published, apparently none of the three had any idea CNC would play a meaningful role in their lives. Although there was a Christopher Newport Society at NNHS in the mid-1960s, this organizationapparently had no connection with Christopher Newport College.
THOMMY ROWELL fulfilled her stated goal in the Beacon article of "attending William and Mary," where she double majored in history and English, but she became connected with CNC when she married NNHS sweetheart CHARLES G. SNEAD, who earned an AA degree at CNC in 1966. Despite higher degrees at W&M and ODU later, plus post-graduate work in public school administration, Charlie remained very loyal to CNC and is a very active CNC First Decader (FD), and Thommy has always joined him in attending every FD event held both on and off campus since the initial FD reunion in 2011. Both are looking forward to the 50th Reunion of his Class of 1966. As for the accuracy of other details about Thommy in this Beacon article, Charlie says that his wife "still likes to read, eat, and play the piano," adding, "She has played piano at a church most of her life. Currently she's musician for First Presbyterian Church, PCUSA, Hendersonville, and takes turns teaching adult Sunday School." Charlie ends his description of his lovely wife thus: "Thommy is a doting 'Jam Ma' for 2 grandsons living outside of Charlotte, and the wind beneath my tattered sails."
CHARLES MILNE, as the article stated, loved "all kinds of music, from classic to jazz" and wanted to attend "a northern Ivy League School" and "major in liberal arts." He ultimately reached those goals and more, but he had his first liberal arts experiences at CNC, where he joined the Dramatic Workshop, starring in the lead role in CNC's first production of a 3-act play, J.B., in 1966, and also co-edited the college’s first creative magazine, TheUndertow, in its second year, 1966-67. Then he went to NYC,earned his BA & MA degrees at NYU, and later advanced to Professor of Theatre and Dean of the Tisch School at NYU. A gifted organist, after retirement he became President of Providence Entertainment in 1996, in his own words, “Doing music full-time: composing, arranging & directing a 30-voice choir. Also gigging 3 nights a week & preparing & recording scores for musicals.” Unfortunately, he died from cancer at his home in Warne, NC, on November 6, 2011, at age 65, leaving behind a wife and daughter. During his illness, however, the founding of the CNC First Decaders enabled him to find some joy in reconnecting with favorite CNC professors such as Barry Wood.
STEVE KIGER, "president of his class for the third year in a row" and a basketball player at NNHS, planned to attend college after graduation but was not sure which one--"perhaps the University of Richmond." However, CNC's newly appointed first basketball coach, Bev Vaughan, convinced Steve and his NNHS teammate Wayne Owens to join CNC's first men's basketball team, beginning the year 1967-68. Although Steve's academic and athletic career was interrupted in 1969, when he was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, later he was able to return to classes at CNC while working full and part time as Physical Activities Director for the Virginia Peninsula Boys Club. He completed his BA in Sociology in 1975. Steve then served 25 years as a Probations Parole Officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections, retiring in 2001. Afterwards, he did substitute teaching (K-3) for Newport News Schools. I hear he still attends many CNU basketball games.
How many of us, as high school seniors, really had an accurate vision of our futures? I didn't. Did you?
All pictures of the locomotive were taken by Judith Lowery of the Newport News Daily Press (DP ) and are from the DP photo gallery Pictures: Steam Locomotive in Huntington Park.
The January 17, 2016 Daily Press photo above has caused some passersby on Warwick Blvd. to wonder if they are seeing only the ghost of C&O engine 2756 and its tender, on display in Huntington Park since 1963. The ghostly color, however, is merely primer paint. A gift to the City of Newport News from Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, the locomotive underwent removal of asbestos and lead paint in late 2015 and will soon, probably this spring, be repainted its normal black. The last time number 2756 had been cleaned and repainted was 1984.
The need for this latest restorative work on the Kanawha-type steam locomotive is evident in the above photograph showing the weather-related corrosive damage to the paint. The picture below shows the engine surrounded with plastic and scaffolding in the early stages of the process, the plastic serving to protect the environment from the old lead paint chips and asbestos.
In the photo below we see that the plastic and scaffolding have been removed from the engine (notice the man carrying sections of scaffolding) and that it has now been completely covered with primer. To the far left, a man can be seen working on the tender. It is hard to tell whether he is removing old paint or applying primer.
The picture below gives us a closer view of that same man at work. He does seem to be spraying primer, yet what he is spraying it on looks very much like a section of metal that has not yet been cleaned. What do you readers think?
A major reason the City began this restoration project at this time is that a decision was made to move the locomotive to yet another home, also located on Warwick Blvd.-- the recently restored Lee Hall Depot in upper Newport News. Internet speculations vary regarding when and how this move will occur, but apparently the engine and tender will travel separately, whether by rail or highway, sometime in 2016 and/or 2017.
Why move Locomotive 2756 to the Lee Hall Depot? It is a historic railway depot built in the 1880s, with later expansions into the next decade, by the C&O Railroad. Originally it served passengers, especially military personnel at Fort Eustis. However, passenger service ended in the 1970s. It was moved to the other side of Warwick Blvd. in 2009 to save it from being demolished by the CSX Railroad and listed in 2010 in the National Register of Historic Places (Wikipedia). The City and the non-profit Lee Hall Train Station Foundation worked together, with the help of federal grants, to restore the building, now a museum. Having the old train engine and its tender located there seems appropriate to many.
Both Lee Hall photos are from the Lee Hall Train Station Foundation's Facebook page.
The photo above, taken in December of 2014, shows the front of the restored Lee Hall Depot, including sidewalk, a piece of the parking lot, and a wheelchair ramp next to the main entrance. The photo below, taken at that same time, shows part of the back of the restored station. Notice the railroad tracks, which go across only a short length of ground. The locomotive well beloved in Huntington Park for half a century will be sitting on this section of track for the remainder of its life beginning sometime in 2016 or 2017. Go visit it there, and take your grandchildren!
Published February 12. 2016
Moving C&0 Locomotive 2756
to Huntington Park:
August 26, 1963
by A. Jane Chambers
with photos and information from Daily Press Archives
I wish I had been there. Were you? Or were any of your friends or relatives there the day steam locomotive 2756 was moved from C&O's tracks in Newport News to its new home in Huntington Park? Our webmaster Ron Lowder's father-in-law, Donald J. O’Brien, was there. "He was a railroad engineer, " Ron recalls, "and as my wife remembers (Maureen was only 13 then), he was involved, at least behind the scenes, in the train movement."
C&O's locomotive 2756 before being moved to Huntington Park in 1963, one of 33 photos from the Daily Press Archives titled Look Back: Huntington Park locomotive - Daily Press, the source of all pictures in this article except the last one.
A caption in the Daily Press Archives summarizes this historical event: Several hundred people gathered on Sunday Aug. 26, 1963, to watch a retired Chesapeake & Ohio steam locomotive be pulled across Warwick Boulevard and set in its resting place in Huntington Park in Newport News. The locomotive was donated to the city as a museum piece - an example of the type of steam engine used to carry million of tons of coal into Newport News piers over several decades. Police blocked traffic at 6 a.m. as a volunteer crew of C&O employees laid a temporary section of track across the road. By nightfall, the train was ready to be shoved into position.
No doubt the most difficult, and most time-consuming, task was that of laying and then removing the track. This work was done by C&O volunteers, many of whom seem to have been at or near retirement. Although heavy equipment was used, a lot of human muscle was used as well. Notice that it took four men to lift, carry, and put in place just one railroad tie.
All of the Daily Press photographs made of the rail laying appear to have been made in Huntington Park. Above left we see some people sitting on train rails while watching the work there. Do you recognize any of these people? If so, tell us! Above right we see locomotive 2756 on the other side of Warwick Blvd., waiting to be pulled across the 4-lane highway.
Finally steam engine 2756 and its tender completed the crossing of Warwick and entered Huntington Park, where the old "Iron Horse" would remain for over fifty years. In 1963, no one imagined that it would ever be moved again. But plans are underway now to move it in the near future to the renovated Lee Hall Railroad Station in upper Newport News. That move will be the subject of another article on this website.
See expanded caption below.
As these last two pictures show, locomotive 2756 quickly became a very popular attraction in the park among both children and historically minded adults. Virtually every child living in or visiting Newport News from 1963 until the mid-1970s delighted in fully and freely exploring it, as did the two boys in the photo on the left, dated 1974. Members of the staff of Christopher Newport College's 1968 Trident yearbook chose the engine as a setting for their staff photo, which, four decades later, the editors of Memories of Christopher Newport College: The First Decade,selected as a chapter photo. Free access to the locomotive diminished as time passed, however, and in 1976, according to the Daily Press gallery, the old Iron Horse "was fenced in after the city found asbestos and what might be peeling lead paint on the engine."
NOTE: If you and/or your children or grandchildren explored Engine 2756 and you have memories (including photographs) you'd like to share, send your comments and/or pictures to Dave Spriggs, at email@example.com, or Jane Chambers, firstname.lastname@example.org, ASAP. Your FEEDBACK will be published in the nextupdate of this website.
Published January 29, 2016
Snowzilla in Fairfax: Fred Hardy's Photos
Alumnus Fred Hardy (AA, 63) sent the following photos and comments regarding his recent Snowzilla ordeal (January 22nd & 23rd) at his home in Fairfax, VA. Northern Virginia clearly had much more snow than we had in Tidewater during that weekend.
After two days of snow, it took two days to dig out the driveway to the street. I simply wore out on Sunday with about 15 feet to go to reach the road, and then clear the sidewalk. Finished on Monday with a little help from my friends.Cheers..... Fred
I worked on it all day Sunday, but couldn't finish. Here what I had achieved when I quit Sunday.
Monday I had help and we finished around 2:00 P.M.
Published January 29, 2016
Nor'easter-Joaquin Flood Photos:
Tidewater and the Outer Banks
by A. Jane Chambers
The southeastern coast of America was fortunate recently to escape a direct hit from Hurricane Joaquin. Although the hurricane passed us far offshore, its winds impacted the force of the lingering Nor'easter we experienced, however, bringing more high winds and flooding to Tidewater and the Outer Banks than we would have had otherwise. Here are some photographs taken by various people between October 2 - 5 that capture some of the flooding and damage in our general area. The one above, taken on Hatteras Island at Rodanthe, by Brian Brumfield, captured the Atlantic surging over a protective dune and overwashing the beach road.
The Rodanthe Fishing Pier on Hatteras, so severely damaged in February that it took months to restore it, again suffered major damage. The photo on the left above, taken by Brian Brumfield, shows the pier being pounded on October 4 . The photo on the right, taken later that day, and focused on the same section of the pier, show parts caving in. This second picture was posted on a GOFUNDME page on Facebook. The community is being asked for financial help to repair the pier yet again.
Like so many before it, this recent storm damaged route NC 12, particularly in Kitty Hawk and on Ocracoke Island. These two pictures, both made by WCMS radio personnel, show one spot on the beach road (NC 12) in Kitty Hawk, near the Black Pelican (Mile 4), at two different times. On the left, the dune protecting the road has just been broken. Notice the car being sprayed. On the right, the collapsed road awaits yet another pounding four hours later, when high tide returns again on October 5.
Many businesses and homes located on waterfront properties in North Carolina and Virginia were flooded for several days, especially during high tides. The two photos above, taken by Paul Hurdle during high tide on October 2, show the flooding at Bubba's Seafood Restaurant and Crab House, located at Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach. The popular outdoor dining area (R photo) resembled a salt water swimming pool.
The waterfront areas in Norfolk and Portsmouth were heavily flooded. The October 2 Virginian-Pilot photo (L) shows the boardwalk flooded in front of the USS Wisconsin, anchored dockside in Norfolk beside Nauticus, on the Elizabeth River. The scene was similar on the other side of the river, on the Portsmouth waterfront. This photo (R) was also shot on October 2, by Harvey Siegal, a former of classmate of Paul Hurdle, who posted several Portsmouth photos made by his friend Harvey on Facebook.
These two pictures, also by Harvey Siegal and posted by Paul Hurdle, show major flooding in the residential areas of Portsmouth located near the Elizabeth River. The car in the second photo (R) was one of numerous autos damaged by tidal water, rain water, or both--not only in Norfolk and Portsmouth, but in low-lying areas all over the Peninsula, especially in Hampton and Poquoson. The entire east coast areas of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina had already had extensive rainfall for about two weeks before the Nor'easter- Joaquin event.
This picture of angry surf (L) at Peterson's, at Stuart Gardens in Newport News, was taken on October 4 by CNC First Decader John Hughes. On the same day, John also took the Huntington Beach boat ramp photo (R), showing the water near the James River Bridge quite tranquil, although flooding high up into the parking lot at the boat ramp.
Tides ran high throughout the extended storm, as shown in this photo (L) of the flooded Denbigh Park Pier on October 5, taken by Adam Bollinger. Jane Hammond of the Daily Press took the photo (R) of street flooding on Poquoson Avenue, at Pine Street, on October 2. Street flooding was a serious problem for days, causing frequent closing of schools and businesses.
These photos, posted on the Grandview Island Facebook page and dated October 2, did not identify the photographer(s). The dead tree in the beach photo (L) was also the subject of another photo on another site, showing the water even higher up on the tree, but that picture was not nearly as good as this one. The Grandview house photo (R) is artistic also, with the tranquility of the house contrasting sharply with the violence of the wave hitting the riprap that's very close to it.
This photo gallery would not be complete without a few pictures taken at Hampton's Buckroe Beach. Bennett Cosentino took the picture (L) of water flooding at the seawall, on October 4. On the same day, Cynthia Lynn Privette-Higgins focused her camera on sea foam covering the underside of the Buckroe Beach Pier.
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Published October 9, 2015
Flood Bound in Poquoson
Photos and Information from
Beverly Brooks Phillips
First Decader Beverly (Bev) Brooks Phillips, CNC Class of 1968, and her husband, James, have a waterfront home in Poquoson, an area well known for periodic flooding. Photos we posted here on October 9, showing some effects of the lingering storm in early October, prompted Bev to send these photos below on October 10, showing their yard and road during flood tides. "As I told a friend," she wrote, " sometimes we live on the water and other times we live in the water."
Above is a view of their backyard during a high tide. "We are on a point of land at the intersection of Bennett Creek and Floyds Bay... facing northeast, of course!" Bev wrote. "We were very lucky. We got a few inches of water in our attached garage. But our house was high and dry."
Flooded boat docks and high-riding boats were typical all over Poquoson, as shown in the second photo (L) of the Phillips family's yard. "For me the worst part was the repeated flooding," wrote Bev. "The road to our house flooded on every high tide. We were trapped" (photo R). "Fortunately, we had no damage," she added, but for awhile she and James were "swamped with the clean up."
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Published October 23, 2015
Power Towers Project on the James River:
Facts and Photos from The Smithfield Times
Summarized by A. Jane Chambers
with thanks to Smithfield Times News Editor Diana McFarland
and Editor John Edwards
Like so many before it, this recent storm damaged route NC 12, particularly in Kitty Hawk and on Ocracoke Island. These two pictures, both made by WCMS radio personnel, show one spot on the beach road (NC 12) in Kitty Hawk, near the Black Pelican (Mile 4), at two different times. On the left, the dune protecting the road has just been broken. Notice the car being sprayed. On the right, the collapsed road awaits yet another pounding four hours later, when high tide returns again on October 5.
Those of us who travel the James River Bridge have noticed for over a year that work of some kind has been occurring around Dominion Virginia Power's electric towers paralleling the bridge. After several unsuccessful attempts since January to learn from Dominion precisely what that work is, Smithfield Times Editor John Edwards was finally given permission to send News Editor Diana McFarland to the work site in early August to get some answers. Two Dominion PR people and two Dominion men connected to the project joined her at Huntington Beach, where the five were ferried to the main working barge. Shared here are nine of the photos she took, plus interesting facts from her front page Times story "Dominion extending life of aging James River Tower Legs (8/5/15, pp. 1 & 8) and her second front page photo spread "Maintaining the towers" (p. 9).
The photo left above shows the significant corrosion of many steel support beams found during a 2013 inspection. Mark Allen, Dominion's director of transmission construction, told reporter McFarland that "You could actually put your finger through" the metal of some beams. Although covered in the 1980s and 90s with marine quality fiberglass jackets, the beams had been attacked by salt water seeping through them. Dominion engineers found this solution to the problem, said Allen: "encapsulating the H-beams with fiberglass cylinders lined with rebar cages and filled with concrete" (pp. 1 & 8).
The photo on the right shows the two barges utilized together on this project. The concrete-mixer barge (with the seemingly smaller crane) is behind the main barge in this photo.
Diver Russell Martin (above left) has the difficult task of working in murky water where visibility below the surface is only six or eight inches. He has to work primarily by touch. He told reporter McFarland, "Sometimes I work with my eyes closed." The depth of the water at the towers varies from about six feet to over thirty. His main job, using an underwater hydraulic drill, is to install large metal clips to hold the fiberglass cylinders in place as they are lowered and then sunk four feet into the riverbed (p. 8).
Above right is a photo of two legs, each with three H-beam supports, on which work has been completed. Dominion hired Procon Marine of Chesapeake for this $28 million project, which is expected to be completed in December, said Dominion spokesperson Donita Harris. However, Jeff Malaby, who is overseeing the project, told McFarland, "There's nothing fast out here. You can't work fast," given factors like the weather, water depth and currents. There are 18 towers, 11 of them 165 feet tall and the other seven 290 feet tall. The project is expected to extend their life by another 40 years (pp. 1 & 8).
Shown above left are the concrete mixer, two operators and bags of concrete mix that weigh "a couple thousand pounds" each, said overseer Malaby. Depending on the depth of the water at each tower, he added, it takes five or six bags of concrete to fill each fiberglass cylinder (p. 8). And it takes that crane, on the left, to lift those bags. In the background is the James River Bridge.
The photo above right shows the rebar (steel) cages that are lowered into the cylinders before the concrete is poured. Another job the diver has is placing a wooden plug at the bottom of the cylinder before the mixture is poured. The plug forms a base from which the workers lay the concrete, which flows from the mixer through a thick black hose (p. 8). I have read elsewhere that the water for the concrete mix is drawn from the river and that each cylinder has a diameter of three feet. Since there are 18 towers, each with 4 legs (thus 12 H-beams), this project entails filling 216 cylinders with concrete and rebar. Dominion's Mark Allen told reporter McFarland that to date, four towers were finished, beginning with the tower closest to the Isle of Wight County side, while work progresses on another six (p. 8).
Dominion's project includes not only extending the life of the tower legs by 40 years, but also replacing the fenders left and right of the shipping channel running under the James River Bridge. As the photo left above shows, these steel and wood fenders meant to protect the towers near that channel from errant ship traffic are in terrible shape. The H-beams are severely rusted, the wood falling off. New fenders (photo right), made of a hollow fiberglass composite, are being installed now by W.F. Magann Corporaton of Portsmouth. These will not rust. Also they were "designed to have enough flexibility to deflect boats and barges that may veer off course," according to Allen (p. 8).
Although I have lived in the Newport News area since 1963, I never knew until reading this Smithfield Times article that the towers paralleling the JRB are bringing electricity to the lower Peninsula, not delivering it from the Peninsula to the Southside. Two sets of power lines feed into those towers: one from the Surry nuclear plant and the other from the Chuckatuck substation (p. 8).
When I asked Diana McFarLand if she found it difficult to take notes and shoot pictures on a barge filled with activities and materials, she wrote: "The only hard part was that I had to wear a hard hat that kept falling off, plus these steel toed things on my shoes that were clumsy, plus a lifejacket, not to mention my camera gear, notebook and pen. We also had to make sure we stayed out of the way... and there wasn’t a lot of room to do that." Overall, she found the experience delightful, "one of those situations where you realize there are jobs out there you just never knew existed -- and so hands on! It’s those types of assignments that make being a reporter fun."
Published August 28, 2015
My Top 30 Music Survey Sheet Collection
by Webmaster Ron Lowder
As a kid living in the Parkview area of Newport News, I was always fascinated by the music on Radio Station WGH and the advent of “Rock & Roll” music. It was an exciting time for pop music with some great songs being recorded by such “new on the scene” artists as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Pat Boone, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, and The Beach Boys, to name a few.
The Parkview area is close to the Newmarket housing development and I was delighted when the Newmarket Shopping Center was built on the corner of Jefferson Ave. and Mercury Blvd. around 1955. My friends and I would ride our bikes up to the new shopping center and observe the construction of the bowling alley and stores as they were rushed to completion for opening in the new center.
Within a few years, around 1957, The Record Shop opened in the center and I began purchasing 45 RPM records - 99 cents each plus tax. The AM radio frequency band was where most of the stations were. The FM band had mostly classical music. WGH Radio (indisputably the most popular AM radio station during that era) soon began publishing weekly Top 30 sheets that listed the top songs for the week for the Hampton Roads area. The Top 30 sheets were distributed to record shops where consumers could pick them up free of charge. I would faithfully pick up a copy of the WGH Top 30 sheet each week.
Note that the sheets were obviously created using a manual typewriter...no computers back then!
Shortly after WGH started publishing its Top 30 sheets, other local stations followed suit. Of course, I picked up copies of those sheets too as they became available.
The radio stations ascertained the ranking of the songs on the sheets by compiling listener request, juke box plays and record counter sales in Tidewater.
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
The WGH sheets evolved from a slender 4” X 9 1/4” sheet to a larger 7” X 10” sheet with even more features, one of which was the Platter Princess, featuring rotating pictures of high school girls. Two sheets with this feature are pictured below.
Eventually, with this larger sheet size, the radio stations would make use of the reverse side of the sheets. The sheets below feature pictures of their Disc Jockeys from two rival stations, circa 1961.
I have a collection of about 126 sheets spanning the years 1958 through 1973 (mostly 1958 and 1959) and I am in the process of scanning each sheet for placement on a CD. The CD should be ready for sale at our Decaders picnic on September 27 at near cost, $10. If you would like a CD copy, please let me know via email at email@example.com so I'll know how many CD copies to bring.
First Decader Ronald L. Lowder, Sr. retired as Chief of Operations for a local component of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Atlantic in 2008 and has enjoyed a second (parallel) career in music for over 50 years. He currently performs with several musical groups including the Peninsula Retired Musicians Band (a 10 piece group which performs mainly for retirement communities), The Sound of Swing (a 15 piece “Glenn Miller style” band), Magic Moments (a 7 piece party/convention show group), the Coast Guard Band in Yorktown, and Soul Intent (a 9 piece soul/beach music band). Ron also enjoys writing music with songwriting partner Jimmy Crank. Ron and wife Maureen take great pride in and much enjoyment from their 4 children and 8 grand children.
Published August 14, 2015
Republished August 4, 2017
Blue Star Diner Safe for Now:
City and Owner Agree on Deal
Daily Press Highlights
by A. Jane Chambers
Daily Press photo by Judith Lowery, (Monday, August 10, 2015, p. 5).
The August 12th article stated that the diner was inspected on Monday, August 10th, and declared safe by codes inspector Larry Payne, who said, "A lot of repairs need to be made, but it [isn't] unsafe," so the city has removed it from both the condemnation and demolition lists and given Belleville Diners 90 days to submit plans for renovations. According to the August 10th article, Belleville has already hired a local architect who will submit those plans. If the city approves these, the company expects to complete the remaining work and open the diner for business in six to nine months (8/12/15, p.3).
PROBLEMS AND PROGRESS
The "WHAT'S NEXT" article quoted Lessin as saying that soon after Belleville purchased the diner (2010), problems and unexpected expenses occurred. "Air conditioning units were stolen from the roof of the building, Lessin said, and they are difficult to replace" since any new units "will have to work with the older pieces in the system. Also, since the diner must meet new (2015) energy codes, Belleville will have to install "more efficient windows" (8/10/15, p. 5).
Both articles stated that the company has already painted the rear and sides of the diner, demolished and removed rear sheds and removed some trees. The big jobs yet to be done are building a commercial kitchen in the rear of the diner and replacing the air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems. Lessin also said in the August 10th article that after these major projects are finished, the company might remove the sloped blue roof over the diner, "not part of the original design," and might turn the adjoining white building into an additional dining room (p. 5).
The "WHAT'S NEXT" article reported that Belleville Diners LLC bought the diner for $240,000 and the family home of its original owners, Angelo and Fannie Blentson, for $150,000 in May, 2010. The plan was to fix up and sell the old home and use the profit to renovate the diner. The company sold the house in 2012 for $245,000. Loans on the house have been paid off, said Lessin, and the diner property has about $140,000 outstanding.
The City of Newport News currently assesses the Blue Star property at "$268,500---$33,100 for the diner itself, the rest for the land" (8/12/15, p. 5)--a reminder that a property's value today depends much more on its location than on any building that's on it, however historic or beloved.
*“City Workers Seek Abandoned Homes” (Monday, July 27, 2015, pp. 1 & 5). The information about the Blue Star Diner is in the article’s last column on page 5. This article was the basis for the July 31, 2015 article on this website entitled Blue Star Diner Might Soon Be Demolished: State Historian Concerned.
Published August 13, 2015
Blue Star Diner Might Soon Be Demolished:
State Historian Concerned
by A. Jane Chambers
A funeral spray in memory of deceased owner Fannie Blentson marked the entrance of the Blue Star Diner in September of 2009. Daily Press file photo.
There could soon be another funeral spray at the entrance of the iconic Blue Star Diner in Newport News. It is currently on the city’s demolition list. According to a recent Daily Press article,*Director of Codes Compliance Harold Roach has said that although the owner has made some minor repairs, “the diner needs serious work” to save it from the bulldozer, and the owner has only “a few more months to make improvements” (p. 5). A property that is owned can be razed by the city, Roach explained, if it is “deficient.”
Original owners of the Blue Star Diner, Angelo and Fannie Blentson, in 1978. Daily Press photo.
The diner packed with customers in 1982. Daily Press photo.
Located at 9955 Warwick Blvd., near Hilton Village, the prefabricated diner, built in N.J. in 1958, was purchased by Angelo and Fotini (Fannie) Blentson, who moved it to Newport News and opened it for business in May of 1963. When Angelo died (7/1/91), Fannie continued to operate the diner until a small kitchen fire forced her to close it in 2006. She died three years later (9/19/09). Soon after, her children, Pete and Renie, decided to sell the diner. Fannie’s Daily Press obituary stated that both were married with children of their own, Pete living in Atlanta, GA and Renie in Long Island, NY. According to theDaily Press article, the diner was assessed at $268,500 in 2010, when it was bought by Belleville Diners, an LLC based in Sterling (p. 5)—presumably Sterling, VA. Incidentally, Renie Blentson (now Thanos) was a CNC graduate, with a B.A. in English.
Zelly and Me’s title actress Isabella Rossellini and actor David Lynch in front of the diner in 1987. Daily Press photo.
Film crew preparing to shoot a scene for Zelly and Me outside the diner in 1987. Daily Press photo.
A highlight in the restaurant’s history occurred in 1987, when Hollywood came to Newport News to use the Blue Star Diner as one of the sets for a movie starring actress Isabella Rossellini, daughter of the famous actress Ingrid Bergman. The working title of it during filming was Phoebe (after the young orphaned girl in the story), but the movie was released in 1988 under the name Zelly and Me (after the child’s nanny, played by Rossellini). The film received mixed reviews and won no prizes, but since it was set in Virginia in 1958, a number of local citizens, especially those with 1950s-era cars, got to participate in the filming.
Happy waitress Judy Presley inside the diner during slack time in 2002. Daily Press photo.
Thanksgiving Special pinned to regular menu on November 22, 2001. Daily Press photo.
Historian Marc Wagner of the Department of Historic Resources was “very concerned” when he heard that the diner might be destroyed. He said that Virginia has “only about 10 surviving diners, and this one is a gem.” Wagner also told the Daily Press reporter that “the Blue Star is the last remaining classic, factory-made diner in Hampton Roads built before the 1970s.” Wagner hopes to convince Newport News officials not to demolish it. But Director of Codes Compliance Harold Roach had this comment: “Just because it’s historic doesn’t mean it can just sit there and decay” (p.5).
Will the Blue Star Diner be saved, or demolished? The outcome depends not only on whether the owners will now begin serious restoration of the building, but also upon whether there would be a sufficient demand for its return as a working old style diner with a friendly staff, tabletop jukeboxes, and good home style food at reasonable prices. Is any of that possible now? Or will the Blue Star Diner live on only in the memories of its former customers—and in a mediocre 1987 movie?
*Theresa Clift, “City Workers Seek Abandoned Homes” (Monday, July 27, 2015, pp. 1 & 5). The information about the Blue Star Diner is in the article’s last column on page 5.
Published July 31, 2015
Tech High “Gal Pals” Reunited at their 60th Reunion. Photo by Kay.
My 60th High School Reunion
By A. Jane Chambers
Seeing all my good friends from Tech and sharing the experience with my daughters have been something I don't think I will be able to do again.
Even though it has been 60 years, it seems like yesterday we were walking the halls at school. I haven't laughed that much in the 3 days we were together in a long time.
JoAnn Holder Parker
I completed my high school education at Central High School, in Charlotte, NC, in June of 1955. But I never felt actually attached to Central. It was not really my school. For five years, grades 7–11, I had attended Tech High, significantly smaller than Central and the alma mater of most members of my family. The same history teacher who had taught my father (valedictorian of the first class, 1927) and his sisters also taught two of my cousins and me. I came from a Tech Wolfpack family. I never expected to be a Central Wildcat.
We juniors were looking forward to our senior year at Tech when we got the shocking news: Tech would become a junior high the next year; all students currently in grades 9-11 would be transferred to Central. All 60 or so of us in my close-knit class were devastated. We would be forced to spend our senior year swallowed in a sea of over 1400 students, separated and scattered about in a senior class of over 400. Shocked, disbelieving, we protested—pleaded with city officials and wrote letters to the Charlotte Observer—all in vain. To pacify us, the school board gave us a choice of senior rings: Tech or Central. Many (including me) chose to have no ring at all.
My last year at Tech in the band and orchestra, as first chair drummer in both. I did not bother to try out for Central’s band or orchestra. Family photo.
Four of us are pictured on this page of 10th graders in our Tech High yearbook: Freida, Jane, JoAnn, and Evelyn.
I never looked back fondly to my senior year at Central, so I never attended any class reunions. My Tech High friends and I followed our various paths through life and soon lost touch with each other, with two exceptions: Evelyn (later “Scottie,” my roommate at Pfeiffer College) and Barbara (my friend since the third grade). I attended the weddings of both, rejoiced in their motherhood and shared in their sadness when death took their husbands. A few years ago, another Tech “Gal Pal,” Carolyn, sent me a letter, having found my address through the Tech Lunch Bunch, a Charlotte group that has monthly luncheon get-togethers. Modern technology then led our search for more Tech “Gal Pals.” The Central High Class of 1955 had both a website and monthly newsletters, enabling us four to find three more of those close friends from grades 7 – 11: JoAnn, Freida and Babs.
Living in five states, and now in our latter seventies, the seven of us very much wanted to get together somehow, somewhere, before too long. When we learned there would be a 60th Reunion in Charlotte of our Central High Class of 1955, we were delighted. We booked rooms in the same hotel where the 60th Reunion would be, and almost all of us booked for two or three days more than the one evening of the class reunion.
Photo by Chris.
Photo by Kay.
Photo by Chris.
The “Gal Pals” reunion began for four of us and our companions on Thursday afternoon, May 14, when we checked in at the Double Tree hotel after our flights from California (Freida & Tom), Texas (Barbara & Chris), Florida (JoAnn & daughter Tina) and Virginia (Jane & Kay). We got together for dinner at the hotel and stayed in the restaurant until it closed. Since the food was quite good, we met there again for lunch on Friday (photo above L), after the fifth “Gal Pal” arrived, Scottie, who drove up from Asheboro, NC. She brought all the yearbooks that we would enjoy pouring over later. Shortly after lunch, number six and spouse arrived (Babs & Richard, photo R), also living close enough to Charlotte (Rock Hill, SC) to drive. Carolyn, our seventh member, was unable to join us for the reunion, but some in the group would see her and her husband on Sunday.
The major event, the Central High Reunion, began at 5:00 p.m. May 15th in the hotel’s courtyard—with sign-ins, name tags, cocktails, a group photograph and the usual reunion excitement and fibs (“You’ve hardly changed at all!”). Our group had some trouble finding people we knew other than ourselves, because only a few other Tech people were there. Nevertheless, we were excited to be there. We made a point of getting into the banquet room early, so we could find a table with eleven chairs and place settings. Luckily, there was one right next to the speaker’s podium. The food was delicious (especially the Key Lime pie). Our table won two prizes—“Longest Distance Traveled” (Freida & Tom; photo L) and “Longest Time Married” (JoAnn & Bruce; 59 years).
The night’s main entertainment was provided by a singer who moved about the room singing Frank Sinatra favorites in a voice that sounded very much like Sinatra’s. I was somewhat surprised that nobody danced, but then I recalled that all of us in the room were close to if not beyond age 78; not surprisingly, there were also more women than men there too.
As the evening moved toward what I thought was a rather early close, shortly after nine, we were reminded to look at the displays, including an In Memoriam one, with 1955 Central High yearbook photos of our deceased classmates. I was surprised to see about 130 names and faces there out of our class of around 430. Among them I recognized some who, like the friends there with me at that evening, had once been close friends.
Our little group of “Gal Pals” and guests was the last to leave the party, but before leaving, the Tech Wolfpack attendees still there posed behind the decorated podium for this photo (R).
Photo by Kay.
Two mini-reunions happened the rest of the weekend. The first was in JoAnn’s suite, where we gathered Saturday morning to share a happy surprise JoAnn did not expect: the arrival of her other two daughters, who flew up from Orlando and would fly back with her and their sister Tina on the same flight Sunday. Everyone was delighted to meet everyone else (photos below). Afterwards, in a rental car, daughters and mother spent a long afternoon touring their parents’ “old stomping grounds,” including where Tech High used to be (demolished now) and where their parents used to live.
L-R: Scottie, JoAnn, Freida & Jane. Photo by Kay.
JoAnn & daughters. Photo by Kay.
L-R: Barbara, Carolyn, Freida & Babs. Photo by Richard.
A second mini-reunion took place Sunday afternoon, at Barbara’s sister’s home in Charlotte (photo L), where some in our group gathered to see the seventh Gal Pal, Carolyn, and her husband, Norris. That couple had been at an annual family reunion until Sunday so had missed our event at the hotel. Involved in our own Chambers family reunion in Charlotte by Sunday, Kay and I missed this second event, pictured.
Looking back, I realize that we had two majorreunions that weekend—the Central class reunion and the “Gal Pals” reunion. Both were great fun, but one was more meaningful than the other.
This group photo, taken by Hugo Peralta, was published in The Charlotte Observer on Sunday, June 7, 2015.
Published June 12, 2015
RETRO QUIZ: Remember These?
by A. Jane Chambers
If you make aperfect score of14 on this quiz featuring items from the 1950s – 70s, you are an unusually observant person with an incredible memory of your childhood and/or youth. If you miss only 1 or 2 questions, you are a very observant person, with a super duper memory of that era. If you miss 3 or 4, you’re a close observer of life, with an above average memory. If you miss 5 or more…, well, maybe this quiz is TOO HARD. I must confess that there is one item here that I had never seen myself!
1. The people in this photo are watching (A) the launching of a space rocket (B) a movie in a theater (C) a full eclipse of the sun.
2. This box of miniature lipsticks belonged to (A) an Avon lady (B) a child star’s make-up crew (C) a lady midget in a circus.
3. Pictured here is (A) a ribbon for a girl’s hairstyle (B) toy pistol caps (C) a ribbon for wrapping gifts.
4. This item was usually found in or near (A) bathroom sinks (B) garages (C) ironing boards.
5. This knob was found on (A) TV sets (B) AM radios (C) stoves.
6. The fabric for this bedspread was called (A) chenille (B) champagne (C) crinoline.
7. These items were used for (A) little girls’ hair braids (B) babies’ diapers (C) women’s scarves.
8. This hair style popular with young males was called (A) the Duck Tail (B) the Elvis sweep (C) the Dippity Do.
9. This hair style popular with young females was called (A) the bouffant (B) the French twist (C) the Flip.
10. These girls are playing a game called (A) Jacks (B) Tiddlywinks (C) Pickup Stix.
11. What is this small round object? (A) a coin purse (B) a radio (C) a kaleidoscope.
12. Many homes had these where? (A) on refrigerators (B) on children’s toy chests (C) in bathtubs.
13. This crocheted “dolly” was typically found where? (A) on teachers’ desks (B) in home bathrooms (C) at Tupperware parties.
14. These somewhat adjustable metal items were often seen (A) on clotheslines (B) in campgrounds (C) in playgrounds.
1. B (a movie)
2. A (Avon lady)
3. B (pistol caps)
4. C (ironing boards)
5. A (TV sets)
6. A (chenille)
7. B (diapers)
8. A (Duck Tail)
9. C (the Flip)
10. A (Jacks)
11. B (radio)
12. C (bathtub)
13. B (bathroom)
14. A (clothesline)
Published April 24, 2015
Mystery Picture Contest
Jan Giguere Clarke and Curtiss Pittman
Published April 24, 2015
Mystery Picture Contest: Win a Prize!
By Miss Marple
Ifyou look closely at the photo above, by Norman Rockwell, you will notice certain strange things about it. For example, the heads of the dolls being held by the old man and the girl are not typical; in fact, both look like the old man’s head! This is just one of numerous oddities about this painting. How many more can you find?
PRIZES (to be determined later) will be awarded to the first and second readers who (1) correctly identify the MOST oddities in this picture and (2) offer the MOST logical explanation for this painting’s having such peculiarities.
1. Oddities noted must be in a numbered LIST, and must be SPECIFIC. For example, it will not be enough just to write “Dolls,” or even “Dolls’ heads.” You must write something such as “Dolls held by man and girl have old man’s head.” [This one can be no. 1 on your list.]
2. Your list and explanation for these oddities must be emailed to Miss Marple through Dr. Jane Chambers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. DEADLINE: 11:30 p.m., Wednesday April 8.
4. Only one entry per household, please (see 5 below).
5. You must not cheat! Miss Marple has ways of knowing who cheats. You will be allowed, however, to have help from one person—a spouse, friend, or relative—so long as that person also does not cheat. You should also list that person’s name on your entry, but you two will have to share the prize (which might or might not be easy, depending on what it is).
Published March 27, 2015
Famous Insults and Comebacks:
Sir Winston Churchill versus Lady Nancy Astor
By A. Jane Chambers
Lady Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea!"
Churchill: "Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874–1965) and Lady Nancy Langhorne Astor (1879–1964) had much in common: wealthy and titled backgrounds, both American and British heritages, and long political careers as Conservatives. Churchill’s mother was a wealthy Virginian who married English Lord Randolph Churchill. New York City native Nancy Astor became an English socialite, then politician, when she married Viscount Waldorf Astor.
13. This crocheted “dolly” was typically found where? (A) on teachers’ desks (B) in home bathrooms (C) at Tupperware parties.
14. These somewhat adjustable metal items were often seen (A) on clotheslines (B) in campgrounds (C) in playgrounds.
Churchill giving his famous V for Victory sign during WW2.
Lady Astor in 1919, the year she became the first woman to serve in Parliament.
Despite these similarities, Churchill and Lady Astor could barely tolerate each other’s presence. The Prime Minister’s disapproval of women in government was no doubt part of their problem. When Lady Astor’s husband inherited his father’s peerage and thus moved from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, Lady Astor won his former seat, to become the first woman Member of Parliament (MP). She served 46 years.
Supposedly Churchill told herthat having a woman in Parliament was like having one intrude on him in the bathroom, to which she retorted, "You’re not handsome enough to have such fears."
Despite his love of cigars and alcohol, Churchill lived to be 90.
Lady Astor in 1949, at age 70. She lived to age 85.
Lady Astor’s strong opposition to alcohol and tobacco also created animosity between them. Churchill dearly loved his cigars and alcohol and was seldom without either, which occasioned such reported exchanges as this one:
Lady Astor: "Winston, you're drunk!" Churchill: "But I shall be sober in the morning and you, madam, will still be ugly." Actually, Lady Astor was known for her beauty and this exchange was probably instead between Churchill andBessie Braddock, a Labour Party Member of Parliament.
Lady Astor is also said to have responded to a question from Churchill about what disguise he should wear to a masquerade ball by saying, "Why don't you come sober, Prime Minister?"
Closing observations: (1) These are alleged exchanges, not well documented—“hearsay” accounts. (2) True or not, they show a certain cleverness in British put-downs too seldom found here, however, where insults are too often limited to crude name-calling and finger gestures.
Published March 13, 2015
My wife's lovely toes and the Oasis of the Seas. Photo taken by Maureen Lowder from a beach in Labadee - RCCL's private peninsula in Haiti
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas:
A Modern Engineering Masterpiece
by Ron Lowder, Webmaster
My last job before (semi) retiring was that of Chief of Operations for a large group of engineers working in support of shipboard electronics. Being a Computer Science major with a passion for how to logically and efficiently make software work best, I became fascinated at the positive effect of creative hardware engineering on floating vessels (a world apart from software engineering). Fast forward to my trip earlier this month on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. The meticulous planning required to put this ship together must have taken many, many months. And the mechanical calculations on stress, weight, balance, etc. must have exceeded the requirements of designing a “normal” ship, due to never-before-attempted features.
To explain my amazement, I'd like to share with you what seems to be unique features of the ship. Even though I am not a cruise ship expert (I've only been on a total of 5 cruise ships), these seemingly unique features might exist on other ships, but probably are duplicated only on the sister ship to the Oasis: Allure of the Seas. These ships have introduced a “Neighborhood” concept (seven in all) to help cruisers identify various places on the ship. We will concern ourselves with the three neighborhoods in bold/all caps below.
Oasis of the Seas Specs
Built in Finland at a cost of ~ $1.4B
Launched 4th Quarter of 2009
3 1/2 years to build
8,000 workyears of labor to build
150 miles of piping
3,300 miles of electrical cable
158,503 gallons of paint
18 Decks (16 passenger decks)
6,296 Maximum passengers
1,187 feet long
208 feet wide
Cruising speed 22.6 knots/26 mph
21 swimming pools and jacuzzis
2,165 crew members from 65 countries
18 lifeboats, 370 people each
(for additional passengers and crew)
The pictures above show the sheer magnitude of the departure of this ship from the norm. This area is open to the sky and exposes the 8 decks above. Our cabin balcony is shown with my wonderful wife Maureen gazing at the surroundings. The green vegetation is all real, not fake. There are 12,000 plants and 56 trees in Central Park. Occasionally, several birds will hitchhike in Central Park from one port to another. With stone boarders separating the trees and shrubbery from the walkways, one would be hard pressed to believe they were on a ship (if they hadn't walked on). I'm told the plants are watered from underneath. The foliage is also completely removable (at the cost of several million dollars) as the company must change the foliage when traveling to Europe, replacing it with plants that are native to Europe. I understand they use huge cranes overhead to accomplish this.
A big glass dome at the far end of the park (not visible in any of these photos unfortunately) houses the “Rising Tide Bar,” a real bar seating about 35 people constructed like a custom, glass enclosed elevator which goes from the PROMENADE deck (Deck 5) to the CENTRAL PARK deck (Deck 8) and back at scheduled times throughout the evening. An amazing sight to see! In the lower left photo above, notice the swimming pools in view on both sides of Deck 15.
This neighborhood is what you might expect, but with some far out features as the pictures above might suggest. The short video (click on icon above) is of our good friend Pat ziplining (one of her bucket list items). Miniature golf, a full basketball court, many pools and whirlpools, 4 enclosed table tennis tables, two wave riding venues...a full recreation area!!!
We were surprised to find a full-sized carousel in this area as well as several specialty stores and a Johnny Rockets restaurant. But the real feature in this neighborhood is the 750-seat Aqua Theater with a 17.9 ft. deep freshwater pool (deepest pool afloat) to accommodate diving (see video below) and two huge video screens. And just as amazing was the diving demonstration (see short video). Keep in mind that these divers perform on the front end of a MOVING SHIP which creates at least some air turbulence. Those are some brave performers!!!
The picture at the upper left contains a view of the diving pool, albeit covered. The giant screens (top and bottom right photos above) provided a great way to watch the Super Bowl under the stars while cruising south from Florida. Also in that photo is a view of one of the rock climbing walls and several balconies. The lower balcony provides access to the rock climbing wall while the top 3 or 4 balconies belong to the suites (which one of the staff referred to as "rich people suites").
It would take me many more words to fully explore the unique aspects of this fine ship. But I think I've hit the high spots, except...There was a great jazz trio on board (a rarity on a cruise ship) playing in a venue perfectly appointed and acoustically superior named “Jazz on 4” (4 referring to Deck 4), picture to the right. Needless to say (being a musician myself), I was there almost every night enjoying the sounds.
If you don't mind the massive size of the cruise ship (and if you like to walk a lot), I would highly recommend this ship. There were over 5,900 people onboard for our trip but with so many activities going on at once, there were seldom any bottlenecks.
Again, The Oasis of the Seas is truly an amazing feat of engineering.
Published February 27, 2015
The semi-frozen James River with downtown Newport News on the horizon, as seen from your editor’s home on February 21, 2015.
When Winter Came:
YourPhotos from February 2015
Edited by A. Jane Chambers
Mid-February of 2015 brought record-breaking temperatures with snow and ice to the southeastern part of our nation. Our Tidewater area of Virginia has experienced a long-lasting snow blanket and iced waterways typical of New England winters. It snowed again all day today (Feb. 24th) and yet another blizzard is forecast for Feb. 26th, expected to dump as much as 6”- 8”on us. A call for photographs by our CNC First Decaders resulted in this collection of images both somber and bright, made on the Peninsula and elsewhere. Hope you’ll enjoy them.
As the English poet Coleridge wrote, “The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around” (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). It was in Dandridge, TN, where Pat Garrow (AA, 63) took the above photos at his home of the Redbud twig with ice-encased buds and the iced-over Oak branches. It was in the waters of the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, where John Hughes (65) of Newport News took the pictures below of frozen tidal-edge tree roots on the James River near the Lions Bridge and, nearby, semi-frozen Kettle Pond with its ever-serene Selene.
Most of us had the snow first—6” or more—capped by a thick layer of ice that brought everything to a standstill for days. The outdoor creatures great and small coped as best they could, as seen in these photos below of a deer in the Williamsburg backyard of Lois Wright (AA, 62) and a bird in the Dandridge, TN yard of Pat Garrow (AA, 63).
Some domestic beings (especially the younger ones) frolicked in the snow outside, while others sought the comforts of the hearth. The above left photo is by John Hughes (65); the latter by Charlie Snead (AA, 66). The dogs sharing the bed in Charlie’s Hendersonville, NC, home are the dog bed’s owner, Peepers (white with black) and the “Alpha dog,” Maggie, who usurps the bed whenever she can. Here they’ve compromised.
The photo on the left below, by John Hughes, evokes Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The photo right of it, by your editor, shows the semi-frozen James River on a calm day.
Several readers sent winter nature scenes including water and trees as well as snow. On the left below is a scene on Kerry Lake Drive, in the Shore Park area of Newport News, photographed by Lew Richardson (61). On the right, a backyard scene with lake view below, taken from the Tennessee home of Pat Garrow.
Charlie Snead sent two views of basically the same spot in his back yard at two different times: the photo on the left below was made after the ice storm in Hendersonville early in the third week of February; the one on the right, after the snow storm about a week later—an interesting contrast. Note the low 1 degree temperature during that period. Was it ever lower where you were?
The unusual picture above was made by First Decader Bob Schlagal (BA, 71), now a professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Barely visible on the right side of the picture is an historic water wheel encased in ice.
Two views above of well known Mariners’ Museum landmarks, photographed by John Hughes during one of the sunny days, end this photo feature. As we await the NEXT blizzard scheduled for overnight Wednesday, Feb. 25th , and into Thursday, the 26th, we look forward to more pictures of interest—especially from our First Decaders in Hampton, Yorktown, Poquoson, the Southside, and Northern Virginia—none of whom submitted photographs for this feature.
Published February 27, 2015
Photos by MarieBoudreau Smith
These excellent photos were taken in Hampton by Marie B. Smith on January 14, 2014, and posted on Facebook. Marie is a First Decader who earned her AA degree at CNC in 1966, her BS in Biology in 1968 at William and Mary, and later her MEd at UVa. She taught biology in Hampton public schools. Now retired, she and her husband, Brian, still reside in Hampton.
Published January 16, 2015
Unusual Colonial Williamsburg Wreaths,
Photographed by Lois Wright
by A. Jane Chambers
The four photos below were accompanied by this December 27th note from Lois Wright (AA, 1962): “I ate too much and so did penance by taking a long walk into Williamsburg and down Duke of Gloucester Street. Being alone, I was unrushed and took my time shooting pictures of CW wreaths. It is really difficult to get good wreath pictures. So I just shoot away, hope for the best, trash, and edit! I have learned from my yearly Christmas treks down DOG Street that there are no bounds on what can be attached to a wreath!”
The basic rule about seasonal decorations in Colonial Williamsburg is that everything used has to be natural materials that could have been used for decorating during Colonial times—real greenery, fruits, berries and so forth. This first wreath (above left) seems to have violated that rule, because it includes a shoe (with its tongue hanging out). However, it is a handmadeColonial Williamsburg shoe, so the maker of this wreath did not really violate the natural materials rule.
The second wreath (right) is also of natural materials, even though it primarily consists of corks from wine bottles. The final touch was adding a Colonial Williamsburg style wine bottle in the center. Was the maker of this wreath a winery worker, or just a wine connoisseur?
Dried flowers are often used in Williamsburg wreaths, but the makers of these two wreaths above were more creative than most, as these close-up pictures show. The wreath on the left features flowers made from scallop shells; the one on the right, flowers made from oyster shells. Such shells were readily available to the inhabitants of Williamsburg in colonial times, who enjoyed a great variety of seafood from the nearby James River and Chesapeake Bay.
As Lois wrote, “there are no bounds on what can be attached” to a Colonial Williamsburg decoration—as long as what’s attached is natural material readily available to the Colonial inhabitants.
LOIS WRIGHT was the first (and only) graduate of CNC in 1962 (See “The Graduating Class of One,” pp. 182-185, inMemories of ChristopherNewport College: The First Decade). She next earned an AB in English at William and Mary (1964), an MS in Social Work at VCU (1968), and then an EdDin Counseling at W&M (1978). After a long and distinguished career at the University of South Carolina's College of Social Work in Columbia, she retired in 2002 with the rarely bestowed title Distinguished ProfessorEmerita, having served USC as Professor, Assistant Dean, and then Director of The Center for Child and Family Studies. She then retired to Williamsburg. During the 50th Anniversary of CNC/U (2011-12), a special display (photo right) was in CNU’s library, featuring Lois’s diploma and photos of her in 1962 (receiving the diploma) & in 2012. During CNU’s May, 2012 Commencement, Lois was given an honorary doctorate (see our website article in Archives, Your News).
Published January 2, 2015
Ancient Beliefs and Traditions
Reflected in Old Halloween Cards
By A. Jane Chambers
When the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the British Isles, the church decided that the best way to convert the pagans was not to ban their religious customs, but to accommodate them. It happened that the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day and the Celtic New Year Samhain (pronounced so-wen, so-ween, or saw-win) both occurred on November 1st. Celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end” in Gaelic), like that of All Saints’ Day, began on the previous evening: October 31st.
The evening before All Saints’ Day became the Eve of All Saints, or All Hallows’ Eve—then, Halloween (or Hallowe’en): a word combining Hallow (meaning “holy,”“sanctified”)and evening ( even, or e’en). It was for Christians a time to gather in churches to pray and fast before the feast on All Saints’ Day. However, since their Samhain traditions never faded, it was also for the Celtic British a time of superstitious beliefs and fears. They believed that during the transition between summer and winter, the veil between this world and the next was particularly thin, allowing the spirits of the dead to reenter this world, as well as devils.
Immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and some parts of England brought Halloween to America in the mid-1800s. The holiday became very popular by the early 1900s. Halloween greeting cards of that time (most of them postcards) reflect some of the beliefs and traditions once strongly embraced but now rapidly receding if not altogether lost.
JACK O’ LANTERNS
The greeting card above reflects the old belief that the pumpkins, with their carved faces illuminated from within by candles, would protect the children from witches, once the children “got them out”—put them outside the entrances to their home on Halloween or carried them with them when they went outside. The Jack O’Lanterns would scare away ghosts or evil creatures as light dispels darkness. Firelight of all kinds was believed to drive away the evil spirits, so bonfires were popular also at Halloween.
The first Jack O’Lanterns were carved from large turnips (Wikipedia photo, right) or, sometimes, potatoes, or even beets. Such lanterns were used to light paths for people traveling at night as well as to protect them from evil spirits, particularly at Halloween. Native to North America, the pumpkin was unknown in the British Isles. Immigrants were quite delighted to find this large melon here, which quickly replaced the turnip.
Photo from Wikipedia
The term Jack O’ Lantern (“Jack of the Lantern”) is disappearing in America, as is the story behind it—an Irish legend (in several versions) about a scoundrel called Drunk Jack or Stingy Jack, who made a deal with the Devil to give the Devil his soul in exchange for some favor. When the Devil came to collect his soul, Jack tricked him into forgiving the debt. When Jack died, neither Heaven nor Hell would let him in, so he was doomed to wander endlessly in the twilight world of lost souls. Oddly enough, the Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell to light his way, which Jack put inside a carved turnip. (Wikipedia gives a fuller history).
Severalold beliefs are evident in the Halloween card on the left. The lady is “guising,” disguising herself, by wearing a white burial shroud to protect her from any ghosts of the dead, who will mistake her as one of their own and leave her alone. Devil and witch disguises were similarly used. She carries a Jack O’ Lantern for light and protection. There is a full moon, associated with both evil (werewolves and lunatics) and good (fertility, sweethearts, and visions of one’s future mate). The owls are a reminder that witches might be around and could mean good or bad luck.
Thewitches in the cards below are strikingly different: one ugly and old, the other beautiful and young—reminding us of the ancient belief in both good and bad witches. Remember The Wizard of Oz with its wicked and good witches? (The 1939 movie popularized the color green for bad witches and black for their clothing.) This evil witch looks longingly at the children inside. It was believed, especially in German folklore, that witches were cannibals and they preferred eating children, like the witch in Hansel andGretel,because devouring the young and healthy renewed them.
The children bobbing for apples are safe from the evil witch because of the tub of water. Remember how the Wicked Witch of the West dissolved when Dorothy threw water on her? (I played that witch role in high school.) From Medieval times into the 18th century, a common test used at witch trails was to throw or duck the accused into a body of water. (There’s a road in Norfolk called Witch Duck Road.) If she floated, she was guilty and would be burned at the stake. If she sank and drowned, she was innocent (yet also dead). The belief was that water, used for baptism and spiritual purification, was deadly to evil beings.
Whereas the bad witch above is accompanied by dark and nocturnal creatures, a black cat and a hovering bat, the good witch on the other card is accompanied by an owl, which can represent, depending on the context, either good or evil. Primarily, however, the owl has for ages symbolized wisdom. It was the favorite bird of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. The owl reminds us that witches originally were prophets — seers like blind Tiresias and Cassandra, in Greek mythology; astrologers like the wizard Merlin, in Arthurian legends, humans with magic powers who studied the heavens and could foresee the future. They could cast spells for good or ill, and were both revered and feared. The large smiling moon and shooting star, a traditional good luck sign, add to the positive tone of the Good Witch card.
ROMANTIC HALLOWEEN BELIEFS
By the early 20th century Apple Bobbing was largely becoming just a children’s contest with prizes, but originally it was a means of discovering one’s future mate. For example, a young woman who put under her pillow the apple she caught bobbing would dream that night of her future husband. A complete, unbroken apple peel thrown over the left shoulder would fall in the shape of the initial of one’s intended mate. An ancient symbol of love and fertility, as well as hate and discord, the apple is featured in many myths (The Judgment of Paris) and fairy tales (Snow White). Candied apples were once a favorite Halloween treat. For safety and health reasons, apple bobbing has virtually disappeared now, and few parents let children accept candied apples now for fear of razor-blades or poisons.
Beliefs about love potions and signs or visions of one’s future spouse during Halloween used to be popular. The four cards below reflect a few of these. Although in Europe and Great Britain most romantic rituals were performed almost exclusively by young women longing for husbands, in early 1900s America they sometimes were performed by bachelors as well, although, as seen in the last card, often in a humorous manner.
TRICK OR TREATING
This tradition goes back over a thousand years. On All Souls’ Day (November 2nd, following All Saints’ Day) Christians gathered in churches to pray for the souls of their deceased loved ones who were believed to be in Purgatory, being cleansed of sins before entering Heaven. Poor people, especially children, would go to the doors of the rich and ask for small “Soul Cakes” or other food in exchange for delivering prayers for the dead in those families.
“Souling” evolved over centuries into the practice of children, often dressed in costumes, going to the doors of people and entertaining them by singing, dancing, doing acrobatic tricks, or reciting poems. They would then receive treats such as sweets, fruit, or coins. In this first card, “We make the welkin ring” means that they make the sky ring with their noisy merrymaking. Notice the costumes include two court jesters, precursor of today’s clowns.
The mischief element of Trick or Treating was an American addition to Halloween, and grew to be a bad tradition. The “Pumpkin Boys” in this second card are doing “tricks” that are actually criminal. By the 1950s, acts of vandalism and property damage had grown so serious that most cities enacted laws restricting Halloween “Trick or Treating” to small children. This tradition is now almost entirely commercial, although collecting for charities such as UNICEF retains an element of the original “Souling.”
This last card, beautifully executed, reflects the overall light tone of virtually all of these early Halloween cards or postcards, reminding us that in early 20th century America, All Hallows Eve was not being taken very seriously. It had already evolved into a time of mirth more than a time of dread. The goblins hovering behind the bed of the sleeping girl are more comical than scary. Further, they seem unable to pass through the thin veil (the curtain) between their world and this one. In contrast, the three fairies have passed through that veil and are protectively hovering over the sleeping girl, one seemingly touching her with her magic wand. Any “good versus evil” struggle seems already won by these three good fairies, who by their number might recall the Christian belief in the Trinity that defeats the host of demons.
SOURCES: CONTENT in this article is largely from my own knowledge resulting from research I did while (1) creating and teaching a 400-level topics course at CNC called “The Gothic Tradition in English and American Literature” and (2) writing my doctoral dissertation (Coleridge’s “Christabel” in Context) for my Ph.D. degree at UNC-Chapel Hill.
PHOTOS of Halloween cards were collected from various websites on the internet that feature vintage cards. These collections duplicate one another and the cards, over 100 years old, do not have copywrite protection.
Published October 31, 2014
Re-published October 13, 2017
Dance Clubs, Bands, Music of the '60s and early '70s by Ron Lowder, Webmaster
The 1960s and early 1970s seemed now to be a magical time for music...so many really good dance songs. And there were so many really good local bands that performed regularly at colleges and local clubs such as Barry Darvell and the Encores, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Jo Jo and the Wailing Frets, Ben Dale and the Co-ops, Terry and the Pirates, Jerry Leggett and the Flames, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Invaders, The Royale Seven, Black & White...I could go on and on. Thought you might enjoy photos of some of my favorite "CNC Decader-era" clubs. I had the privilege of performing in all of these clubs frequently and I'm sure many of you can remember great times at these establishments. The magic of those times seemed to diminish in the late '70s and only exists now in occasional musical reunions and of course in our memories. It's funny how you really don't know how special certain aspects of your life are until they are all but gone...I guess that is a tragedy of life. Reminds me of a quote from George Eliot: "The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone."
Pictures of several "Decaders Era" Bands can be found under MEMORABLE PLACES tab OR BY CLICKING: GO THERE NOW
Published September 12, 2014
THE FROG'S LOAN
A frog goes into a bank andapproaches the teller. Hecan see from her name platethat her name is PatriciaWhack.
"Miss Whack,” he says, “I'd like to geta $30,000 loan to take a holiday."
Patty looks at the frog indisbelief and asks his name.The frog says his name isKermit Jagger, his dad isMick Jagger, and that it'sokay, because he knows the bankmanager.
Patty explains that he willneed to secure the loan with some collateral.The frog says, "Sure. I havethis," and produces a tinyporcelain elephant, about aninch tall, bright pink andperfectly formed.
Very confused, Patty explainsthat she'll have to consult with the bank manager anddisappears into a back office.
She finds the manager andsays, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there whoclaims to know you and wantsto borrow $30,000, and hewants to use this as collateral." She holds up the tiny pinkelephant. "I mean, what inthe world is this?"
The bank manager looks backat her and says, "It's a knickknack, PattyWhack. Give the frog a loan.His old man's a RollingStone."
(You're singing it, aren't you?Yeah, I know you are.)
(Come on now, you grinned, I know you did.)
Sent by Danny Peters
Class of 1971
Published August 8, 2014
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RE: 41 and 14: A Study in Contrast and Likeness (article located below)
From Dr. Jane Chambers
Ron, I found your article quite interesting, especially the part about Blackouts during WW2 Air Raids. My father, exempt from military service because of his age (early 30s) and children (3 of us then), served as an Air Raid Warden. I found this card among my late mother’s belongings. At the time shown there, I was not quite 4½ years old. I vaguely remember that once my mother was bathing me, in our big old claw-footed bathtub, when the Air Raid siren went off. She covered the bathroom window with a big, thick towel and put a dim light—maybe a candle—on the chair near the bathtub, so that she could continue bathing me after turning off the bathroom light. Her cover up worked—maybe because Daddy was our neighborhood’s Air Raid Warden.
41 and 14:
A study in Contrast and Likeness
by Ron Lowder
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Front Page. Photo by Ron Lowder
While surveying the contents of some old boxes, I came across the pictured Daily Press newspaper from December 17, 1941. It was among contents belonging to my parents. The headlines immediately caught my eye and I began to imagine what it must have been like to live back then at the beginning of WWII. There was no internet, very few television sets, no cell phones, no almost instant communication of important events around the world. All news of major events and local happenings came via the newspaper and radio. The world then was quite different than in 2014.
Certain things jumped out at me while reading this 72-year-old newspaper. I hope you'll enjoy my journey and perhaps share it with your kids and grandkids and perhaps great grandkids, who never have experienced and most likely never will experience the lack of instant, multimedia communications of the 1940s.
The three pictures immediately below show the depth of concern that existed ten days after the Pearl Harbor attack. Assurances from the President of William & Mary, Blackout drills, and Air Raid instructions all point to the uneasiness of that period of time. The alert system back then was sirens, the only way to get everyone's attention at the same time. The same is true today. Hopefully, WE will never have to contend with these things.
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 8
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 9
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 8
PRODUCTS AND PRICES
Like all things, companies come and they go. It was amazing to me how many businesses that advertised in the 1941 paper are still around. And equally amazing is the evolution of some of those businesses. For example, the Firestone ad below shows various consumer products that are not automotive related. In that same ad, we also learn that the Government halted the sale of tires for a period of time to ensure sufficient stock for military vehicles going to war.
Also of note is the fact that most, if not all, of the businesses in this article were located in the downtown area of either Newport News or Hampton...no malls, no shopping centers, no online ordering. Nachman's was one of the first department stores to venture out of downtown to a suburban area. Notice Nachman's ad: card tables for $2.98. I can remember that when I was a child, my mother, like most women in the Parkview area of Newport News, belonged to a Bridge Club. I can remember many nights when our living room was filled with card tables and ladies dressed to kill, all discussing events of the day and smoking cigarettes while heavily engaged in the game of Bridge or Canasta. Today, I play Solitaire on my iPhone when I'm bored so I guess card games will never go away.
Phillip Levy was a cornerstone of the downtown Newport News area for many years. Note the G.E. refrigerator advertised in the ad below. My parents purchased a unit just like that one in 1942 and it lasted until the 1970s. There was no automatic defrost back then; the tray located to the upper right, under the small freezer (which was only big enough to accommodate a few ice cube trays) was conveniently engineered to catch the water during manual defrost. Also, there was no storage for milk, drinks, and foods in the door. The panel on the front near the bottom of the unit was actually where the motor/compressor was hidden; no storage there! But, albeit small, the unit never required service during its 28 years of service. They just don't make 'em like that anymore!
Also below is a Florida Orange Store ad. My father used to work part time at that store to supplement his Shipyard income. He always said what a great store it was and was sad when it closed. Notice the price of the various items...Bacon for 35 cents a pound?!
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 7
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 7
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 5
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page 16
Still a popular diversion, the movies back then were one of the few sources of recreation (and you couldn’t watch them on your TV or iPad). Note that the Village Theatre (ad partially shown below) is still standing while all the others are gone. Also of note is the Mountain Moonlite wine ad...20% alcohol? …55 cents for 4/5 QUART?
The WGH ad brings back memories. Back then, since radio was like today's TV programming, schedules of radio programs were followed by many. The first entry on this schedule was EDWARD TRAVIS. This was my Uncle Eddie. He also played saxophone (an interest which I inherited) and had a band called the Jolly Jazzers. He was a very talented individual! Note that, back then, WGH was located at 1340 on the dial. When I was a kid, it was at 1310 (and still is).
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page Sixteen
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page Sixteen
A 1941 WARNING FOR 9/11
In the middle of page 8 of the newspaper along with the daily stock market quotes was this sketch. I immediately thought of 9/11. At first glance, I thought I was seeing part of the 9/11 account. "But that is not possible", I thought. The rendering of the explosion near the top of the skyscraper is almost surreal. Wow! Didn't happen in 1941, but DID happen 60 years later!
The Daily Press, December 17, 1941, Page Fourteen
CONTRAST AND LIKENESS
We've come a long way as a society, a nation and a world since 1941. Technology has provided us with a wealth of communication, creature comfort, and mobility options that would have seemed unbelievable back then. But at the same time, we still must be concerned with security, both as individuals and as a country. The horror of 9/11 taught us that we are not immune to the whims of extremists. I'm not sure if that will ever change.
Published June 27, 2014
The Green Thing
Checking out at the store the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."
She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things; most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters not always brand-new clothing.
Back then we had one TV or radio in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?) not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?
Published May 16, 2014
OBITUARY: Pillsbury Doughboy
A great icon of the entertainment community has left us. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.
Doughboy was buried today in a lightly greased coffin. The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 10 minutes. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects. Among them were Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours. Aunt Jemima delivered the Eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded.
Although he rose quickly in show business, Doughboy’s later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flakey at times, he still was considered a crusty old man, and was considered a positive role model for millions.
Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough, and three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough. His wife also has one in the oven. Doughboy is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.
Published May 2, 2014
Of New Years, January, and Janus
By A. Jane Chambers
As we welcome the beginning of another year, I thought a bit of history might be of interest. The first calendar in the western world, the ancient Roman calendar, was reformed in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. This, the Julian calendar, was followed until it too was changed, in 1582 AD, by Pope Gregory XIII. Long after most of Europe had switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, England and her colonies finally made that change too, in 1752. Until that year, the New Year in England and in the American colonies began on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the Virgin Mary. The reason Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar was to change the date of Easter, traditionally observed on March 21. With the Julian calendar, the date for Easter had seriously “fallen out of sync with the seasons” (Jennie Cohen, “6 Things You May Not Know About the Gregorian Calendar,” in History in the Headline). The result was also a new date for the beginning of each year: January 1.
Drawing from The Probert Encyclopaedia of Mythology. Most scholars say full-length images show the key in the right hand. Here, however, it is in the left hand.
Pope Gregory XIII kept the Latin names for the months that had been used for untold centuries before Christianity. January (from the Latin Januarius, meaning “of” or “pertaining to” Janus) was the month named in honor of the mythological Roman god Janus. January was his festival month. The Latin word Janus literally means “gate” or “passageway.” In Roman mythology, Janus was the guardian of portals (gates and doorways) and the patron of beginnings and endings. He had two faces, one looking forward; the other looking backward. He saw past and future, day and night, beginnings and endings. He was greatly revered by the Romans, who erected a major temple to him that ran east and west, where days begin and end. Between its two doors stood his statue with two faces. He was worshiped at times of important beginnings, such as days, months, years (New Year’s Day especially), the planting of crops, and so forth. If Janus granted a good beginning to something, it was believed, then there would also be a good ending to it.
Images of Janus vary. In full-length depictions, as shown above left, he is always holding a large key, signifying his role as gate-keeper, guardian of portals. It is interesting that the word janitor also comes from the word Janus. Janitor means in Latin “doorkeeper”—keeper of the keys to a door, gate, or passageway. Traditionally, janitors carry the keys that open and close buildings under their care.
Below are three images of Janus showing only his heads. In the earliest such images Janus was often depicted as a beardless youth, as shown on the ancient Roman coin below, left. Most scholars believe he originally might have represented the sun and moon. Sometimes, however, Janus was shown with one face beardless and the other bearded (below, middle). I believe this representation might have signified the human progression from youth to maturity, innocence to experience, ignorance to knowledge. Most images of Janus, however, show him with both faces fully bearded, suggesting, I feel, the maturity that understands the past and thus can often predict the future.The third image below (right) is that of a sculpture (bust) that is in the Vatican.
For more information about Janus, I recommend you type Janus into Google and then locate the Probert Encyclopaedia of Mythology, designed, edited and programmed by Matt and Leela Probert in the UK.
Ancient mythology is peopled with human-like creatures that seem to have originated purely in people’s vivid imaginations, but might there have been, in some cases, connections with reality? The rarest kind of conjoined twin, a diprosopus twin—Greek di (“two”) and prosopus (“face”)—occurs in 1 per 180,000 to 1 per 15,000,000 births. Such a twin has one body and one skull but two faces, with various degrees of development. In the rarest of the rare cases (see photos below), there is facial duplication and four separate eyes. Almost always, such a child is stillborn or dies within a few hours or days. If interested in learning more, type diprosopus (also called craniofacial duplication) into Google. You will learn that this abnormality exists not only in humans, but also in birds and other animals (type Janus cat) and that sometimes (as in the case of Lali Singh of India, born in 2008) the child lives for a short time. The villagers in India quickly worshipped Lali Singh, seeing her as a reincarnation of a Hindu goddess. Does that throw some light on the origins of myths and legends?
Lali Singh of India (b. 2008) might have lived beyond 2 months had her parents not refused medical help.
Sonogram taken at 27 weeks of a diprosopus female fetus in Brazil, whose mother was only 13 years old. This photo and the next are from the March 1, 2010 issue of the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, Vol. 29, No. 3, 501-503.
Postmortem photo of the same child, who died soon after birth. Diprosopus twins usually have multiple medical problems that make survival rare.
Published January 3, 2014
Re-published January 2, 2015
Re-published January 1, 2016
Christmas Words and Cards:
A Bit of Xmas History
by A. Jane Chambers
Here's a little word history (etymology) of possible interest at this time of year, along with a few photos of very early Christmas cards.
The English word Christmas goes back to the 8th century, when England’s Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity by Roman missionaries. It was formed from the Old English (OE) words Crīstes(possessive form of Christ) + mæsse ("mass," the Roman Catholic Eucharistic service), and meant “the festival of Christ,” celebrating the birth of Christ. Crīstesmæsse evolved during the middle ages to become, in Middle English (ME), Cristemasse, or Cristmas, and then finally the modern spelling Christmas.
People sent handwritten Christmas greetings for many years before the first printed Christmas card was made. In 1843, in England, Sir Henry Cole, founder of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, paid artist John Calcott Horsley to create the card shown here on the right, printed for Christmas of 1843. In the center, in bright color, is a large, prosperous 3-generational family enjoying a Christmas toast of red wine. Left and right are less colorful scenes depicting charitable acts of feeding and clothing the poor. Framing the card are grape vines with both green and brown leaves, suggesting the natural cycles of spring and fall that in turn suggest the human cycles of youth and age, life and death. The 2000-plus copies of this card were sold for one shilling each (12 pence) and mailed in London for one pence each (Wikipedia). The card’s wording had long been popular, as reflected in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (also published in 1843), in which, near the end, a reformed Scrooge calls out in glee, “A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world!”
Strangely enough, these earliest Christmas cards seldom depicted religious or even winter themes, but favored reminders of spring, such as flowers, as shown in this second card. Popular also were humorous and sentimental images of children and animals. In 1873, the English lithograph firm Prang and Mayer began creating greeting cards for the popular market. Since that company was the first to offer the first Christmas cards in America the followingyear, 1874, its owner, Louis Prang, is sometimes called the “father of the American Christmas card” (Wikipedia).
The first Christmas card, by John Calcott Horsley, published in London , England,1843 .
Christmas card from the English Victorian era.
Frog band Christmas card by Louis Prang, late Victorian era.
Christian fish symbol discussed in text.
Xmasis even older than the word Christmasand isproperly pronounced as "Christmas." The first letter of the word Christ in Greek (Xpioto) is X ("Chi"), and X is an abbreviation for Christ that is as old as the symbol of the fish, which also often included the Greek word for fish--IXOYE (see photo left). For early Christians, those letters stood for "Jesus ( I ) Christ (X) God (O) Son (Y) Savior (E).” Another early abbreviation for Christ was Xp, the first 2 letters of the word Christ in Greek. The combined letters X (“Chi”) + P (“Rho”), symbolizing Christ, were first used by Roman emperor Constantine on his military standards, or labarum (see detailed photo left) and are still used on labarum in some Christian churches. Xr, meaning “Chr,” was yet another abbreviation for Christ (Wikipedia). In England, the Old English words Xresmæsse ("Christ's mass") were in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (ca. 1100). Early scribes and early printers also used X + other letters to form words such as Christian (Xian).
Labarum of Constantine with the Chi-Rho (XP) symbol at top. The flag suspended from the crossbar symbolized the crucifixion of Christ and the 3 spheres the Trinity.
As shown in the examples below, the word Xmas was used from early years forward in Christmas greeting cards and postcards with a clear understanding of its meaning: Christmas. Xmas was often prefaced also with the word Merry. In recent decades, however, particularly in America, some people, not knowing the etymology of this word, have erroneously concluded that the X is an attempt to “X out,” or erase the word Christ—to "Take Christ out of Christmas." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Card from the 1930s. The words are in the snow: L- R, “To Greet” and “On Xmas Morning.”
Xmas postcard from 1910
Early English Xmas card. Wording is vertical, L & R of picture: “Wishing you” and “a Merry Xmas.”
The wordHoliday, meaning “holy day,” comes from the Old English word hāligdæg,a compound of the words hālig(holy) +dæg(day). Like Crīstesmæsse, it goes back to the early days of Christianity in England. Hāligdægs (holy days) were days of religious festivals on the Christian calendar, particularly Christmas and Easter. Over the centuries, the spelling and pronunciation gradually changed. By about 1200, the word was spelled halidai, later haliday. During the 14th and 15th centuries, as Old English evolved into Middle English (Chaucer's English is a Middle English dialect), the word came to mean both "religious festival" and "day of recreation," since those celebrating the holy days were freed from work on those days. The modern spelling, holiday, came into being about the time of William Shakespeare. Below are two Christmas cards sending “Holiday Greetings.”
I hope this bit of history has been of some value to you. The greeting I personally prefer to send at this season, which seems to me appropriate for everyone, is the following--slightly modified from the wording in Luke 2:14 of the King James Bible:
Peace on earth. Good will toward all.
Published December 20, 2013
Re-published December 9, 2016
Re-published December 8, 2017
(Christmas Words and Cards)
Re: That first (1843) card in Christmas Words and Cards, FDDan L. Coleman asked:Wonder if this was saved with forethought, discovered in someone's attic, or preserved in a museum early on?
Jane replies: Your question sent me to Google, Dan, where I found several articles of interest. In 2001, a colored copy of the card send to his grandmother by Sir Henry Cole (who had commissioned the card) sold in the UK for 20,000 pounds ($28,158). Not all cards were in color, since color had to be applied by the artist himself. Those cost more than the black and white copies, of course and are worth more now. As of 2010, there were only 18 copies of the card still available at auctions both in England and America . Since a great many of the cards were originally sent to Sir Henry Cole’s friends and relatives, probably a number of those people kept them in their families for generations. If you look up Sir Henry Cole, you will learn much about his connection with museums also.
Reader Stephanie Wilson Vassar wrote:Thanks, Jane. The article is fascinating. I didn't realize early cards depicted pictures of spring and such.
Reader Patsy Kelly Smith wrote:Jane, I read your article and it is most informative, reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you for posting this; it is lovely.
A Different Kind of Christmas Book:
Fern, the Little Christmas Tree,
by Jo Berry Sinclair (FD 63)
Reviewed by A. Jane Chambers
This small book (27 pages, 12 with illustrations) is quite different from most children’s books about Christmas. There are no gifts, no Santa Claus, no reindeer, no animated toys in it. But there is one adult human—“a big, strong man with a gentle smile”—and his presence makes a great difference in the life of the book’s main character, a young Christmas pine named Fern.
The book’s story is told from Fern’s point of view, and I expect that
young children will almost immediately identify with Fern, especially when they look at the very cleverly drawn black and white illustrations. The little tree has a human face, expressing emotions evoked by the events in the plot. Notice the look of slight apprehension on Fern’s face on the book’s cover. This drawing, repeated in the book (with even more distress shown) reflects the little tree’s unhappiness over being so overshadowed in the forest that she is not getting enough sunlight and space for her to grow properly. Like a human child, Fern needs and loves a healthy natural environment—warm sunshine, sweet-smelling flowers, puffy clouds, clean water—and she longs for companionship and music (provided by birds in her boughs) and hopes for the approval of the “nice man” who rescues her from the shadowy forest.
The book offers several opportunities for a child’s scientific and even spiritual education. For example, it opens (see above) with Fern as a seed peeping out from a pine cone attached to her mother, a large Christmas pine living in a forest. Fern is stretching, for it is time to leave the cone. Both the picture and content offer an opportunity to talk about how living things begin and grow from seeds: whether trees, flowers, fruits—or human babies. Beginning with this sentence on page 3—“That is how Christmas trees are born, and God looks after little seeds like Fern”—there are several mentions in the story of “God,” but there is no sermonizing: just statements that there is a God who “looks after” Fern’s welfare and happiness. There is room here for the adult reader to discuss this concept with the child listening to the story.
Fern being transplanted at her new home. p.18.
Fern decorated with silver balls and big red bows. p. 23. A good time to discuss living versus cut Christmas trees.
This little book would make a very nice gift for young children on your Christmas list. It is a good quality paperback, well written and excellently illustrated. It should last through many readings. You can order copies directly from the author, Jo Berry Sinclair, who lives in Hampton, by calling her at (757) 618-4306 or emailing her at email@example.com. Cost per book is $7.95 plus postage. Personal checks only.
Published December 13, 2013
What’s in a Name?
Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Tidewater
by A. Jane Chambers
No doubt you know that virtually all of the place names in this area of Virginia are either British or Native American in their origins. My purpose here is to tell you a bit more about a few of these names than you might already know. I’ll limit this adventure into etymology to just a handful of our place names that are about a thousand years old, going back to the Anglo-Saxon era. This long period in English history (ca. 450—1066) was the time between when the Romans left the island and the Normans invaded it.
During those centuries, three Germanic tribes (Scandinavian and German) from the northeast of Europe—the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes—over a long period invaded the island from the North Sea and settled it. They killed or drove out most of the natives, the Celts (except in upper Scotland, Wales and Cornwall), bred with many Celts, and created independent kingdoms. The three tribes shared a common history, culture, and language (with variations in dialects), which we call Old English, or Anglo-Saxon.
For over 300 years (757-1066), there was an informal confederation
of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the island that they came to call Engla land (land of the Angles), then England. These kingdoms were (see Map 1) Wessex, Sussex, Kent, Mercia, Essex, East Anglia, and Northumbria.
Map 1. From Portraits of British Monarchs 1, by Michael A. Stecker.
Map 2: East Anglia (settled by Angles). From Wikipedia.
East Anglia (earlier, East Angles) was settled by the Angles. By the early Middle Ages (see Map 2) this kingdom consisted of two parts: the North Folk (people of the north) and the South (or Suth) Folk (people of the south). In time, these became the names Norfolkand Suffolk—used here, in the New World, as they were in England, to indicate the location of each settlement.
The namesWessex, Sussex, andEssex have nothing to do with sex. The earlier forms of these names were Wesseaxen, Suthseaxen, and Eastseaxen—Seaxen meaning Saxon. These were three Saxon kingdoms located in the west, south, and east below Mercia and East Anglia (see Map 1). In the lowest point of Mercia (gray on Map 1), the area between Wessex and Essex was known around 700 as Middelseaxen (Middlesex). If you used to wonder about that name (I know I did), now that mystery is solved!
On Virginia’s MiddlePeninsula, we have an EssexCounty and a MiddlesexCounty, and on the Southside, south of SurryCounty, we have a SussexCounty.
The tribe called Jutes settled essentially only the small area called Kent(See Map 1). No doubt NewKent County owes it name to this tiny kingdom from England's “Dark Ages”—the Anglo-Saxon period.
If you are interested in etymology, particularly Tidewater area place names, let us know. There might be more This-N-That articles on this topic.
Published November 8, 2013
(What’s in a Name?
Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Tidewater)
Re: What’s in a Name? Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Tidewater, Patty Lottinville Kipps (FD 63) wrote: “I enjoyed the place names article, and would enjoy other similar pieces. I can remember as a child talking with my friends about all those ‘sex’ names and wondering to what they may have referred!”
Re: What’s in a Name? Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Tidewater,Barbara Rhyne Jacobs of Texas (previously of MA) wrote: “This history is fascinating. Now I understand why Massachusetts has those names for THEIR counties. I would definitely be interested in more etymology history.”
Carved by Ray Villafane
‘Tis the season for carving Halloween pumpkins—some scary, some funny, and some just…different. Enjoy these photos of carvings by master pumpkin and squash sculptor Ray Villafane. The last one shows the artist with a 2,200-plus pound pumpkin he carved at an autumn festival in Switzerland. If you want to see more of his art work, or learn more about how he does it, just type Ray Villafane into Google. Warning: Do not start looking unless you are prepared to spend the next 2-4 hours (or more) doing nothing else but marveling at his talent!
Published October 25, 2013
Obituary: Catherine Wright
by Lois Wright
Miss Catherine Wright, daughter of CH Kirisisha’s Special Blend and Tehy Midnite Special of Kirisisha, died on August 27, 2013, in Williamsburg , Virginia , just short of her twelfth birthday. Catherine, a Calico Persian, was born in Lexington , South Carolina , on September 30, 2001. On February 16, 2002, she began living with her adopted parent, Dr. Lois Wright, CNC’s first and only graduate of the Class of 1962.
Catherine led a full and interesting life. After nine months at the University of South Carolina serving as special assistant to Dr. Wright, in charge of chasing pencils, rearranging papers, and pulling books from shelves, she moved to Williamsburg , VA. There she continued to work as assistant to Dr. Wright in her home office, taking on increasingly complex duties, including hiding earrings, typing short letters (such as “aaaaaaa” and “rrrrrrrr”), tantalizing her neighbor’s Yorkie, and tuning her adopted mother’s Steinway grand piano.
Catherine’s most important function, however, was as chief mood control engineer, for which she had an innate talent. It is in that capacity that she will be the most sorely missed.
Catherine Wright shortly before her fatal illness.
Baby Elizabeth Wright
In April of this year, Catherine was diagnosed with kidney disease. Despite excellent medical and home care and heroic efforts on her own behalf, by early August Catherine was signaling that it was time to let her go.Arrangements were made with her comfort and happiness the paramount concerns.
On the morning of August 27, 2013, veterinary technician Morgan came to the house. Morgan administered a tranquillizer while Dr. Wright held Catherine in her arms, rocking and kissing her, whispering sweet nothings, and singing the Brahms Lullaby. During these last conscious moments in her mother’s arms, Catherine looked peaceful, relaxed, and almost ethereal. Then, good-byes having been said, she left with Morgan a little before 10:00 a.m., comfortable and absolutely beautiful.
Catherine is survived by both her mother and her new baby sister, Elizabeth, a Richmond area-bred tortie point Himalayan. Catherine's cremains are now on the mantle of her home, where she can keep watch over Elizabeth.
Editor’s Note:For more information about and photographs of Catherine Wright, go to the Website ARCHIVES, subtab THIS-N-THAT, and scroll down to the article Catherine the Cat.
Published September 27, 2013
The CNC First Decaders T-Shirt
by A. Jane Chambers
The unique CNC First Decaders T-shirt was made possible because of Claude Stanley (FD 63), who sent me in 2010 an old, well-worn William and Mary green sweatshirt to add to a small collection (still growing) of memorabilia of CNC’s first decade (1961-71) temporarily being housed in my home, with a hope it will eventually be housed at CNU.
In the College’s beginning, Claude received permission from then Director H. Westcott Cunningham to have a CNC sweatshirt made for the students to purchase. Centered on it was an image of the first seal of what was then Christopher Newport College of the College of William and Mary. Almost half a century later, Claude agreed to my request that he design a CNC First Decaders T-shirt, including that same original seal, for our first decade alumni and professors to purchase, and to make copies of the tee available in time for people to wear them during the first evening (casual dress night) of the weekend Reunion of the earliest CNC students and CNC emeriti faculty (Sept. 16 & 17, 2011).
Thus was born this unique tee shown in these photos. Worn by many in 2011 and also at the 2012 FD Reunion Picnic, I’m sure our tee will be worn again at our third gathering this September 29th.I’ll be wearing mine. Hope you'll wear yours.
Claude Stanley's 1961-63 era shirt, in W&M green, with the original CNC/W&M seal.
1963 graduates Patty Lottinville and Judene Branch Hartless compare their First Decader tees on the first afternoon of the 2011 Reunion at CNU.
Inside the Banquet Hall at CNU, our T-shirt designer Claude Stanley (FD 63) sits center at the table in his light blue tee, next to his wife, Karen Graeb Stanley (FD 64) in the purple tee. Standing In the distance are 1966 FDs Wayne Rammell (blue tee) and Dave Hall.
Emeritus Professor Barry Wood (R) has an animated conversation with 1965 FD Jack Harrison (L) on Casual Night of the 2011 Reunion.
Emeriti Professors Sam Bauer (L) and Barry Wood (R) sport their CNC FD tees at the 2012 Reunion Picnic in Newport News Park.
Professor Mario Mazzarella (foreground) is one of three in this 2012 photo wearing the CNC tee. Beside him is his wife, Becky.
1966 FD Ellen Babb Melvin and FD Chair Dave Spriggs.
Published September 13, 2013
The When, Where, Why and More ofT-Shirts
by A. Jane Chambers
I have always loved T-shirts. I currently have about 10 “dressy” tees (worn beneath blouses) and more than 50 casual ones—with graphics ranging from dachshunds, lighthouses, flowers, and birds to places I’ve visited at home (“Mystic Harbor”) and abroad (“London”). I have literary tees (“Carpe diem”), attitude tees (“Outrageous Older Woman”), nightshirt tees, and of course two “CNC First Decaders” tees. So when I recently learned on the TV news that 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the T-shirt, off I went to learn more about this simple but universally-loved garment. The following is my summary, with selected photos, of the history of the T-shirt.
One-piece Union Suit.
ORIGIN AND NAME
In the beginning, according to Wikipedia, there was the Union Suit, a one-piece, front-buttoned underwear garment (cotton or wool) created in the 1860s ( Utica , NY ), with long sleeves and legs and a rear flap whose purpose I need not explain. This was followed by Long Johns, a two-piece version of the same, with the upper garment made long enough to be tucked into the bottom piece. During the late 19th century, the upper part of the warm-weather version of this underwear, made of cotton and with short sleeves, with or without buttons, became a popular garment warn by stevedores and miners in hot environments. From this garment, came the slip-on, button-less top called a “T-shirt”— because of its “T” shape.
The white cotton T-shirt—crew-necked and short-sleeved—was issued by the U.S. Navy in 1913 as an undershirt, to be worn under uniforms. MilitaryTimes: NavyTimes cites a source as giving this motive for the decision: “The T-shirtwas introduced … as a way to get sailors to cover up the chest hair revealed by their V-neck uniforms.” The motive was more likely to be that of comfort, however, as stated byWikipedia: Sailorsand Marines in work parties, inside the early submarines, and in tropical climates removed their uniform "jackets" to be more comfortable and toavoid soiling them. The “tees” were lightweight and easy to clean. It was not long before “the Army followed suit, paving the way for the T-shirt to become the go-to top for dockworkers, farmers, miners and other workers who appreciated the comfortable lightweight cotton and short sleeves. By the 1920s ‘T-shirt’ became an official American-English word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary" (Mother Nature Network).
Sailor wearing a T-shirt while working in the galley of a submarine in 1945. U.S. Navy photo.
“Property of USC” tee that began a trend.
According to a 2007 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Jockey International Inc. developed what became the modern T-shirt in 1932, at the request of the University of Southern California Trojans football team. Officials were looking for an inexpensive undergarment to absorb sweat and to prevent a player's shoulder pads from causing chafing.” The shirts became so fashionable, however, that"students start pilfering them for casual wear. In response, the school began stenciling ‘Property of USC’ on its T-shirts as a crime-prevention tactic" (Neatorama).That decision only increased the thefts, so the university’s bookstore soon stocked and sold the athletic tees. “Property of” T-shirts are still very popular today, with endless variations—not all of them related to school athletic programs.
Two 1950s Hollywood heart throbs made the plain white T-shirt a must-have item for young males—Marlon Brando and James Dean. Brando, then a handsome, well-built young actor, played brutal but sensitive Stanley Kowalski in the movie version of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, black & white) and James Dean, equally handsome, fit and young, played troubled teenager Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955, black & white). As I recall from my own teen years in the late fifties, young men imitating Brando and/or Dean also frequently wore their plain white tees with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one of the short sleeves. The sailor’s and laborer’s work shirt was well on its way to becoming a fashion statement of the young—but not yet a garment worn also by females and small children.
Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski.
James Dean as Jim Stark.
To be continued next Friday, August 23.
Published August 16, 2013
The When, Where, Why and More of T-Shirts
by A. Jane Chambers
The first article on this topic can be found immediately below this one.
This decade was an explosive one in the history of the American T-shirt. Among other things, the tee became a medium for commercial advertising, political campaigning, anti-war protesting, and expressing cultural and social views on numerous subjects. Artists and designers also experimented with the shirt, in one case creating an extremely successful vogue: tie-dye clothing. In the sixties, the lowly male undershirt morphed permanently into an extremely popular garment for women and girls as well as for men and boys—a trend whose end today is not in sight.
The t-shirt as an advertising medium began in 1939, when Warner Brothers distributed Wizard of Oz t-shirts in children's sizes to promote ticket sales for its film starring Judy Garland (SGIA BLOG). In the early 1950’s , Miami company Tropix Togs, founded by Sam Kantor, acquired exclusive rights from Walt Disney to print images of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and his pals on T-shirts, to promote the Disney brand. Tropix was also the first company to decorate tees with various Florida resort names to promote tourism. Another company important in expanding the T-shirt business was Sherry Manufacturing Company, founded in 1948 by Quinton Sandler and also based in Miami . Started as a screen print scarf business, Sherry quickly evolved into one of the largest screen printed resort and licensed apparel companies in the United States(Wikipedia).
I threw out my ancient Mickey Mouse shirt like this one, which today might be very valuable.
Though Dewey lost to Truman, his campaign shirt was the beginning of a major trend.
The first known use of the T-shirt in political campaigning in America was in 1948, when N.Y. Governor Thomas E. Dewey was running for President against Harry S. Truman (Wikipedia et al). The “Dew it with Dewey” tee (shown here) was white with black printing. It is considered the earliest recorded printed T-shirt and is on display at the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. Below are color graphics used on 2 campaign tees that you might remember from the early 1960s.
Would you pay $1,500 for this tee?
The protest tee became quite popular at this time, particularly the anti-war and anti-nuclear armament T-shirts. While exploring Google for an early protest tee, I came upon the one shown here, on E-Bay, described by its owner as a “Rare Vintage 1960’s Hippie American Peace Flag Anti-War Protest T-Shirt”—for sale at “$1,500 or best offer.” The peace symbol on it (in black) originated in 1958 in England. I remember seeing it occasionally chalked on sidewalks in London during my 2-month stay there in the summer of 1962, especially in the area of Trafalgar Square. I had no idea what that symbol meant until someone explained it to me. It was designed as the logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Wikipedia states it was created by the artist and designer Gerald Holtom, who made it originally as a ceramic badge protestors wore during their 1958 march from London’s Trafalgar Square to Britain’s Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. The symbol quickly was adopted by anti-war activists in America during the Vietnam War and is now a universally recognized symbol for peace. Wikipedia gives a thorough explanation of this symbol for those wanting more information.
The tee became a pop-culture medium for expressing views on numerous subjects other than war. In the late 1960s Richard Ellman, Robert Tree, Bill Kelly, and Stanley Mouse set up the Monster Company in Mill Valley, California, to produce fine art designs expressly for T-shirts. Their tees often featured emblems and motifs associated with the Grateful Dead and marijuana culture. American illustrator, artist and graphic designer Warren Dayton, best known for his psychedelic art posters, was a major pioneer of the T-shirt as a wearable placard, producing political, protest, and pop-culture art tees (Wikipedia). Below are pictured five of Dayton’s shirts of the late sixties, including images of Cesar Chavez, the Statue of Liberty, and polluted lungs.
Young women modeling Warren Dayton tees. Photo from the MotherNatureNetwork, crediting warrendayton.com.
The tie-dye tee was created by the artist Zubin in New York City in the sixties. He and a friend held creative “interactive imaginative events” in a loft in Greenwich Village, including a “Tie-Dye Plunge,” showing guests how to tie and dye various fabrics. Soon they had a “night-time boutique (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.)” that drew such rock stars as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who purchased their luxurious dyed silk, satin and velvet items. In 1969, according to Zubin, he and his friend “tie-dyed and sold (and gave away!) 5,000 T-shirts at the Wood-stock Festival, therefore launching the whole colorful craze” (Zubin, A Living Legend). This appears to be the true tie-dye story, as opposed to the account given in Wikipedia, which credits advertising whiz Don Price with starting the tie-dye fad with hippies at Woodstock as a way to promote Rit Dye. Zurbin’s account of his giving the Rit Company the idea to market its dyes with Rit Tie-Dye kits is more credible. Tie-dyeing is enjoying renewed popularity today, especially among the young.
SOME 1970s TEES
THE IRON-ON TRANSFER
A major innovation in T-shirt art in the 1970s was the iron-on transfer, which made it easy to mass-produce hundreds of different designs. Anyone could go to a T-shirt shop (every mall and shopping center had one) and have a shirt made to order in a short time. With development In the later seventies of a new photo-realistic iron-on transfer called a "litho transfer," the quality of the graphic images was vastly improved. Two of the earliest and most famous litho transfers shown here. In 1975 200,000 copies of this JAWS tee were produced to promote the movie of that name. In 1976, this photo (from a poster) of Farrah Fawcett in a one-piece red bathing suit (NorthShoreShirts.com) had record sales. Today, on sites such as E-Bay, you can find originals of that famous Farrah Fawcett tee for sale at prices ranging from $50 to $400, depending on the condition of the iron-on image.
The problem with the iron-on transfer, however, was that it did not wear well. It was rubbery, unpleasant to the touch, and hard to clean. It would eventually crack and peel. I remember having such tees, but not really liking them, for these reasons. In the 1980s, the iron-on transfer fell out of favor, although now it has returned for home use on all sorts of clothing.
THE “I ♥ NY”SHIRT
The man who created this now world-famous logo did not make a penny from it. Milton Glaser, a graphic designer in New York City, was asked by an advertising agency in 1977 to create a logo for an advertising campaign to boost morale in the city and encourage tourism at a time when crime was at an all-time high and the city was close to bankruptcy. He did the logo for free, not expecting it to last beyond the campaign. At the same time, composer Steve Karmen wrote the song "I Love New York" as part of this campaign. Ironically, both the song and the logo became quite famous and indeed helped the city get back on its feet. Glaser’s innovative pop-art logo quickly became closely associated with the city; white T-shirts decorated with it were in great demand, and Karmen’s song was declared New YorkState's anthem in 1980. The logo remains today a pop-culture icon, inspiring imitations in every corner of the globe. Merchandise proclaiming "I ♥” this or that place, person, sport, animal, food and so forth are found everywhere. NYC has tried (not very successfully) to uphold its trademark by filing (as of 2005) nearly 3,000 objections against imitators (Wikipedia).
In closing, I offer these words from Melissa Breyer, from her brief piece “13 iconic moments in the history of the T-shirt”:
In the 100 years of its history, the T-shirt has grown up from a workwear staple to one of the most flexible garments known to mankind, an article of simple clothing that can be found in just about any clothing store for anywhere from a few dollars to hundred. Or a few thousand? Indeed, last year French fashion house Hermès debuted acrocodile T-shirtwith the not-so-humble price tag of $91,500, illustrating just how far the T-shirt has come.
Published August 23, 2013
Dr. Seuss’s You’re Only Old Once!
Reviewed by A. Jane Chambers
I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. –Dr. Seuss
Theodor (Ted) Seuss Geisel—not yet ancient.
A friend gave me a copy of Dr. Seuss’s You’re Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children a decade or so ago. Thinking I wasn’t old enough to read it, much less “Obsolete,” I just smiled, said a polite “Thank you!”—and put the book aside. Recently, I came upon it while doing some cleaning. I sat down and read it. And I laughed, and then I laughed some more. I’m old enough to read it now! And maybe you are, too. In fact, you don’t have to be very old at all to enjoy this delightful little book about a balding Everyman who patiently endures the poking and prodding (and “pilling” and “billing”) that are part of his medical checkup with all sorts of weird specialists (like “Oglers”) at the “Golden Years Clinic.”
If you’ve had or known a child, or just owned a TV, you know who Dr. Seuss is, but here are a few facts you might not know (courtesy of GOOGLE): that “Seuss” was in fact the middle name of Theodor (Ted) Seuss Geisel (his mother’s maiden name), that “Seuss” does NOT rhyme with “loose” or “goose,” but with “voice” (no kidding! “voice!”), and that though he is probably the most famous writer and illustrator of children’s books in the world, Dr. Seuss and his wife of many decades had no children, though they sometimes pretended they had a daughter to brag about when the braggers got to them at cocktail parties.
Dr. Seuss celebrated his 82nd birthday, in 1986, with publication of You’re Only Old Once! He died four years later (1991), at home, at age 87, attended by his second wife. I hope you’ll enjoy the following excerpts, and if you decide you want a copy of this book, for yourself or for someone else, go to GOOGLE and type in the title. There are copies galore available, new and used, ranging from $1.99 (Barnes & Nobles) to $12.05 (Wal-Mart).
Our hero is wheeled throughout the Golden Years Clinic, to speed up the testing process.
“The Oglers have blossomed like roses in May! And silently, grimly, they ogle away.”
“They’ll test you with noises from far and from near and you’ll get a black mark for the ones you can’t hear.”
Dr. Van Ness, with “pioneer work in the Study of Stress,” administers his stress test.
The What-When-Where-Why Pill Drill.
The most painful part of the Clinic ordeal: signing those papers that mean you'll be billed.
The happy ending.
Published July 5, 2013
Catherine the Cat:
Lois Wright’s Calico Persian
by A. Jane Chambers
When First Decader Lois Wright (AA, 62), at my request, emailed me photos of her beautiful and unusual calico Persian, I was intrigued. I had to know more about Catherine. Back and forth emails led to this article.
JANE: Where did you get such an unusual cat?
LOIS: I found her at a cat show in Columbia, South Carolina, in February 2002 and loved her at first sight. I knew that she would come home with me after my friend Frank drawled, “Oh, Lois, she’s precious! You have to have her!”
JANE: Did she have siblings, or a parent, with that same face?
LOIS: She had a sister at the show, but she was a solid color, not calico. I don't know if there were other siblings. Both of her parents were solid colors, and I don't know if they produced any calicos other than Catherine, much less any with a black/orange split-face pattern.
J: That face is really unique!
L: Actually, each calico cat is unique, with its own arrangement of color patches, and the split face is not that unusual.
J: As you can tell, I know nothing about calicos! Tell me more.
L: Calico is a specific color combination. Since genetic information about color is found on X chromosomes, a set of two X chromosomes is required to produce a calico, so calico cats are almost always female. And there is no guarantee that breeding will result in calico cats. It happens once in a while when an embryo acquires the specific genes for this color combination and develops into a calico cat. Size and arrangement of the patches of color vary, but it is not unusual to have a black/orange split-face pattern similar to Catherine's.
Catherine thinks it's impolite of you to stare. Photos by Lois Wright.
Catherine poses regally on the two-headed ram in Lois’s dining room.
J: You were still at USC-Columbia as an administrator when you got Catherine?
L: Yes. It was my last year. She was raised in my office at The University of South Carolina for her first eight months with me, as I spent more hours there than at home. She never liked riding in the car and made the kitty-siren noise every day to and from the office. However, once there, she enjoyed herself, chasing pens across the desk, sitting on papers, and hiding among the books in my library. Occasionally, she would escape into the hall, where someone would invariably scold, “Catherine, get back in your room!”
From October through December of 2002, Catherine and I lived in the Adam’s MarkHotel on Main Street in Columbia, as I had sold my house in preparation for retirement and my move to Williamsburg. She took well to hotel life and particularly liked to attack “the other kitty,” who lived in the mirrored sliding doors to the closet.
J: I’ll bet it was fun driving to Williamsburg with her!
L: I hadn’t believed that she could yell and howl for the whole trip, but she could—and did! She protested loudly from Columbia to Charlotte the first day, where we spent the night with my brother (her uncle), and resumed howling during the next day’s drive to Williamsburg.
J: Cats and cars seldom mix well. Shehas such a regal air. Did you name her after Catherine the Great?
L: Catherine’s the name of saints (Catherine of Sienna, and of Alexandria) and queens (Catherine Howard, Parr, of Aragon, the Great, and de’ Medici), so it seemed a fitting name for her, yes.
J: Did you plan this picture of her sitting on the two-headed Egyptian ram? It seems to have some symbolic import.
L: I in no way planned the ram photo. None of her pictures is ever staged by me. She selects the venue; I just snap the picture. She knows how to choose just the right setting for displaying her beauty, doesn’t she?
J: How old is Catherine?
L: Ten. She’ll be eleven on September 30. But, as her Aunt Marsha told her on her last birthday, “No! You don’t look a day over nine!”
J: I love this piano photo. Is that a grand, or a baby grand? Could it possibly be a crème de la crème, a Steinway?
L: Yes, that is my Steinway grand (not baby) piano, the second love of my life after Catherine. I spend much time with it. When I found Catherine in the piano, I knew I should have yelled "shoo!" But instead, I ran and got my camera!
J:Does she play the piano (walk on the keys) or just PLUCK the strings?
L: Catherine does not generally use the piano keyboard, though she might strike a key now and then. She prefers walking on the strings directly. Maybe she is a frustrated harpist.
J: Does she enjoy your piano playing? Or ignore it? Or object vocally?
L: Catherine likes to sit on the bench with me—two-thirds for her, one- third for me—
when I practice piano, but she hasn't commented on my playing.
J: No comment probably means approval. How does Catherine feel about being the subject of a website article?
L: She’s enjoying the attention, though she refuses to admit it. She adores attention—
J: I look forward to meeting her.
Catherine explores the inside of Lois’s Steinway.
My Post Office Encounter
with CNU President Paul Trible
by Ron Lowder
My Post Office Encounter
with CNU President Paul Trible
by Ron Lowder
I was at the post office in Hidenwood the morning of December 10 waiting in line to mail a package and this voice behind me said “Ron.” I turned around and it was Paul Trible! What a memory he must have! (or he recognized my face and saw the return address on my package).
We chatted about the First Decaders, the FD website, our banquet last year and the alumni house. He made it a point to tell me that the Alumni House must be funded with private funds.
All the while, I was thinking: Paul Trible was the last person I expected to see waiting in line at a post office! He was quite cordial and said he thought it was great that we (and I mentioned your name) have a website and have found so many pictures, items, stories, etc. from that era of the University.
Just thought you would find that interesting.
FD Webmaster and musician Ron Lowder. Lowder family photo. 2012.
CNU President Paul Trible at the First Decaders 2011 Reunion. CNC FD website photo.
Drawing of proposed CNU Alumni Building. CNU website photo.
You'll remember that Paul Trible stopped by on Friday night (Sept. 16) during our 2-night 2011 FD Reunion and spoke to the 200+ people there. I'm sure he's been kept informed of our website and activities (including your being in that FD Focus Group in April), so I'm not surprised he knows who you are. Our group is now well known in what used to be called "The Power tower"! (Do the present CNU students call it that?)
I'm glad Trible mentioned the Alumni House, because I hope to see a room in that named "The Cunningham Room," decorated with First Decade Memorabilia. However, as he said to you, the Alumni House will have to be funded 100% by donations; the State won't fund alumni houses, alas! Fortunately, however, FD Jim Eyre (FD 64 & BS 75) is on the Alumni House Building Campaign Executive Committee, charged with the fund-raising. As you know, we hope also to have another FD known by Mr. Trible connected with the Alumni House project as well.
Most of us Decaders probably owned at least one bike between the age of about 5 and 17. Some of us were lucky enough to have had a few during that age range. Growing up in the late 40s through the 50s and early 60s was sure different from what many youngsters experience now. In my lower-middle class neighborhood, the streets were pretty safe and a bike was the primary mode of local transportation. And the bikes were sure different than most kid bikes today...big seats (much more comfortable than modern seats), big tires (smoother ride), substantial handle bars (which seemed more ergonomically correct than today's configuration), built in horn (to aggrevate the dogs), built in headlight (cool, but only good for others to see you), shock absorber (to smooth out bumpy roads), a built-in lock and a back fender built to carry a passenger (the girlfriend or boyfriend). No gears to shift and the brake was simply a reverse pedal motion. Some of the most popular bicycles back then were made by Schwinn and Huffy. Huffy had one of the neatest bikes out in the late 50s; they had a built in AM radio. One of my friends had one (a similiar one is pictured below on the right). The radio worked as long as you were within a mile of a radio station...but that wasn't the point. You were the coolest dude in the neighborhood if you had a bike with a radio!
Appeared January 11, 2012
New Technology - stuff not present during the Decader Years
This is another article on the effects of technology. Sometimes I feel we get so caught up in today's world that we forget "How I Was". Of course, every new technology, while offering benefits, also comes with unforeseen negative effects. Reflecting on Dr. Jane's article above, my wife and I were just talking about the future of newspapers, magazines, books and the like. Will there come a day when the phrase "Curl up with a good book" is replaced by "Curl up with the reader app on a good tablet computer"? And what will happen to printed books? Will there come a day when books are no longer printed? The data below was compiled by several organizations using mostly information provided by the "owner" of the technology. I can't vouch for the degree of accuracy in these numbers, but I suspect they are somewhere in the "ballpark". It is hard for me to believe that almost NONE of the computer-internet enabled capabilities listed below were with us in the '60s. Wow! We've come a long way...especially social networking. Hope we haven't lost too much from the negative impacts (e.g., most people do not take the time to ever sit down and write a personal letter, send a hand-written note, etc.) The expediency of message transfer has sent some of the nice "human touches" to the back seat.
The year 1961
The year 2012
In 60 Seconds...
168 Million emails sent 695,445 Search Queries on Google 70+ new internet domains registered 600+ new videos on YouTube 100+New Linkedin Accounts 320+ new Twitter Accounts 370,000 + minutes voice calls on Skype 12,000+ new ads on Craigslist 11.000+ hours music streaming on Pandora 11,000+ iPhone applications downloaded 4,000 USB devices sold 2,500 ink cartridges sold 1,100 acres of land farmed in FarmVille 950+ purchases on eBay 12 Websites got hacked 450 Windows 7 CDs sold 11 XBOX 360 Consoles sold 925 iPhone4S sold 81 iPads sold 11 Million conversations on instant messengers $291,000 of total PayPal payments
Appeared January 10 - 11, 2012
DANIEL SCHOOL'S FAMOUS FIRST GRADER: WILLIAM STYRON
In her essay "The Graduating Class of One," Lois Wright wrote of the former Daniel School, "Had we known then that Pulitzer Prize winner William Styron (author of The Confessions of Nat Turner) had spent most of his first year of grammar school there, we might have felt more reverence for the old building. Not certain I was correct on this point, I e-mailed Styron's biographer, James L. W. West III, author of William Styron: A Life, who wrote back: '"Billy" Styron, as he was then known, did go to first grade in the John W. Daniel Grammar School. He entered in the fall of 1931. Near the end of that school year, his parents bought the house at 56 Hopkins Street in Hilton Village, so Billy finished first grade at Hilton Village Elementary School'" (Memories of Christopher Newport College: The First Decade, Hallmark, 2008, p. 183).
Born in Newport News in 1925, his father an engineer in the Shipyard, William Styron first gained international attention for his novel Lie Down in Darkness (1952), set in "Port Warwick" (echoing what was then Warwick County). In 1967 he published The Confessions of Nat Turner, based on an actual slave revolt in South Hampton, VA, in 1831. This novel earned Styron a Pulitzer Prize in 1968.
Five years later, during the presidency of James C. Windsor, Styron was the first internationally famous person to speak at Christopher Newport College. He delivered the Commencement Address at CNC's May 20, 1973 graduation, held in Ratcliffe Gymnasium.
Other famous works by Styron are Sophie's Choice (1979), which resulted in a movie in 1982 starring Meryl Streep, and Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990), the author's autobiographical account of his long struggle with depression. The title came from John Milton's Paradise Lost, in which Milton described Hell as "darkness visible." William Styron died in 2006 at age 81.
Below is a photo of Styron's boyhood home in Hilton Village and more information about him, courtesy of Jane Carter Webb, CNU Professor Emerita of Physics and Computer Science. The photo and caption are from p. 104 of her book Newport News (Arcadia, 2003).
As those of you who viewed this website over the last few days learned, your webmaster was “under the knife” on Tuesday for a back operation. The operation took place at (what is now called) Riverside Regional Medical Center on J. Clyde Morris Blvd. in Newport News. I was fortunate to have only a one night stay. My operation was successful with only some drilling and nerve rearrangement; no metal plates, bolts or screws. And the whole healing process, so far, seems less painful than I had anticipated. But then, the industrial strength drugs do help with that. And my wonderful wife has made these last few trying days as pleasant as possible.
My last hospital experience (as a patient) was just over 20 years ago at Riverside Hospital. But to contrast the progress this great facility has had, let's consider difference with a hospital stay in the '60s.
First, let's take the topic of AUTOMATION -
'60s – Crank-style lift of both ends of the bed to adjust to desired angles.
Now – An amazing (and very comfortable) bed outfitted with the (now standard) switches to automatically raise and lower various parts of the bed, buttons to call a nurse, etc. but most amazing was the sensors that (with the help of automated intelligence) would automatically adjust parts of the bed for both comfort and to help prevent bed sores based on pressure points.
'60s– none visible
Now – Laptop computers were used by almost all hospital personnel...nurses, nurse assistants, specialists...on and on. Especially interesting was the special carts (with laptops) used by nurses when delivering medication. They appeared state-of-the-art stable and must have been custom engineered for their purpose. Wristbands were scanned to document the delivery of the proper medication.
Next (and very close to my heart) FOOD -
I realize that all hospitals have quite a challenge in this area with the many diets prescribed by physicians and the number of custom meals they must prepare in a day.
'60s – (based on a hospital stay by one of my parents during that period)not the best tasting food.
Now – I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the food I received during this visit. In fact, I must say “it was great!”...quality, taste, preparation... all first class. Bravo to Riverside!!!!!
And finally, HOSPITAL PERSONNEL -
'60s - I don't have a '60s comparison for this topic.
Now – EVERYONE I encountered during my 30 hour stay was absolutely top notch...professional, courteous and all displayed that all important “I care” factor. I can't say enough about how comfortable that made me feel.
All in all, I consider myself very fortunate. I had a serious operation and a very positive experience.
Lastly, I would be remiss to not thank the “man upstairs” who undoubtedly had a hand in all of this.
Appeared December 29, 2011
1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner
1961 "Decader" Cars
Thought I would give us a break from this column's theme of the last few days to remind you possibly of a car you might have driven to school during your CNC years. I chose 1961 since most of us could not afford to drive a new car and might have driven one of these cars later in the "decade". Big was in and fins were big!!!
1961 Chevy Impala
1961 Chrysler 300
1961 Ford Thunderbird
Appeared December 28, 2011
The Cost of Computer Storage during the "Decader" Years
Well, being a Computer Science Major and spending over 40 years in this field, I guess we had to get stuck on computer-related topics sooner or later. The topic today has me thinking about the future of data storage...perhaps a topic for a future article. I hope you can tolerate my obsession with this stuff. With the current cost of a 2 Terabyte (2000 Gigabyte) Hard Disk Storage device costing as low as $129.00, it seems amazing that the cost of the same storage in the '60s (if available) would have cost over a million dollars. Here is how the cost of hard drives have come down. Below is the year and approximate cost of 1 Megabyte of disk storage: 1956: $10,000 1980: $193 1985: $71 1989: $53 1995: $0.85 1996: $0.17 1999: $0.02 Now: $0.000065 (if my math is correct)
To put this in perspective, one gigabyte of data is equalivant to about 559,240.53 pages of text (assuming about 80 characters per line and 24 lines per page).
Appeared December 27, 2011
1966 - Data Storage
Memory sticks, SD cards, Compact Discs, hard drives, solid state memory: all of these things have appeared in the last 45 years. Actually, the first hard drives were in existence in the '60s but only on the gigantic first computers. One standard form of data storage that many Decaders will remember is the 80-column punched card. I can remember using punched cards to load a program at CNC in the early '70s. And you might remember that John Scull was one of the staff members working in the Computer Lab during that period. The cards had to be in the right order and a simple program could take several hundred cards. They worked great until you dropped your cards on the floor and then had to put them back in order by hand. Below is an image of an 80-column card to refresh your memory.
Appeared December 22, 2011
Christmas traditions (Christmas Trees, gift giving, religious celebrations) have changed little over the years (thank goodness). Hope this holiday season finds you healthy and happy.
Appeared on December 21, 2011
Christmas Lights Today's topic is more of a "HOW IT IS" rather than a "HOW IT WAS". In keeping with the Holiday Season, here are a few outstanding Holiday Light display photos. Enjoy!!!
Winchester, VA - Apple Blossom Festival - 1962
Decaders who took Band in High School are likely to have participated in the Apple Blossom Festival in the Spring of your high school days. These photos were taken during my trip to Winchester with the Warwick High School Band in the spring of 1962.
The Apple Blossom Festival was a great experience for most of us (at the time) teenagers. The Warwick High School band would stay at the South End Fire Station in downtown Winchester (see picture, lower right). The fire station had a big empty room upstairs. They would drape a tall curtain from one end of the room to the other. We all had our sleeping bags, all 70 of us. Boys would be on one side of the curtain and Girls on the other. There were a handful of parent volunteers along with the band master, Mr. Lyle Smith, to monitor the room all night and make sure everyone stayed where they were supposed to be. Now, as a parent, I look back on those trips and wonder how Mr. Smith and those parent volunteers did it. What an awesome responsibility. Those were great times and great experiences. I wish I could go back in time and thank those adults for putting up with us!!!
Appeared December 9, 2011
Dance Clubs, Bands, Music of the '60s and early '70s
The 1960s and early 1970s seemed now to be a magical time for music...so many really good dance songs. And there were so many really good local bands that performed regularly at colleges and local clubs such as Barry Darvell and the Encores, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Jo Jo and the Wailing Frets, Ben Dale and the Co-ops, Terry and the Pirates, Jerry Leggett and the Flames, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Invaders, The Royale Seven, Black & White...I could go on and on. Thought you might enjoy photos of some of my favorite "CNC Decader-era" clubs. I (your webmaster) had the privilege of performing in all of these clubs many times and can remember many great times. The magic of those times seemed to diminish in the late '70s and only exists now in occasional musical reunions and of course in our memories. It's funny how you really don't know how special certain aspects of your life are until they are all but gone...I guess that is a tragedy of life. Reminds me of a quote from George Eliot: "The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone."
What? No "Pay at the Pump"?
How did we survive our younger years with no "Pay at the Pump"? And, oh wait: "I can't pump my own gas?" Well, it was my experience that, while the lack of those features made the "fill up" experience not quite as convenient, it did force us to get to know the service personnel at our local gas stations. I remember several good friendships I enjoyed at my neighborhood gas stations. And ultimately those service personnel would go out of their way to help with mechanical emergencies. I remember specifically an instance at the station that was located on the corner of 74th Street and Jefferson Avenue. I had a band by the name of the "Sheepherders". We played mostly college gigs throughout the state. I had purchased an old 50 passenger Trailways bus and had modified the interior to sleep 8 so we could travel more comfortably. One day just before a trip, the clutch on the bus suddenly wouldn't engage fully and was obviously in need of adjustment. My friend at the service station (even though they were not "bus" mechanics) were able to adjust the clutch so we could proceed to our gig at UVA. I think he charged me $10 for the service. I'm sure you also had positive experiences in the "pre-computerization" service station era. In ways, automation has set us back a notch when considering "real customer service".
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