Sunday, November 24, 2019

I have not done Sephia Sat. for a while. Retirement has found me too busy.

But I will try again starting this week, a day late.

This is my mom from some time in the Late 30's.

She can only guess now who the two little ones are. We think my cousins.

Love the old stove in the back.

Sepia Sat.

Monday, April 16, 2018

When the end draws near - A love story.

We met almost 37 years ago.

We were introduced by an old girl friend.

We have been in contact almost everyday since then.
Sometimes coming together several times a day.

While you are still working, as of yesterday, I know your days are numbered. 
Just a couple of years ago we lost your sister.

I will miss you.

Well, if you can fall in love with an appliance, I did.
When I came back from visiting relatives in England in 1980 I raved about an electric tea kettle my family had in Harrogate, Yorkshire.
My then girl friend took it upon herself to find me an electric tea kettle from England (she's also the one that got me my Scotty dog).  You couldn't just order one from England because an English pluggy thingy does not work in a US pluggy thingy.

Her dad at the time worked for J.C. Penny's and I believe that is how she located one. They weren't cheap, probably at the time around eighty bucks. Once I found them available we ordered one for my mom, we (I) called the two kettles sisters;)
While the girl friend (who is still a friend) did not end up being true love, her gift to me was. A relationship that has lasted all this time.
The one from her to me died about two years ago, after being used 6-10 times a day since I got it.
The electric parts still worked. The welds on the neck started failing. I tried to come up with all sorts of ideas to keep using it for something else, but nothing seemed suitable.

Moms started leaking around the neck also a couple of years ago, so we got her a new tea kettle.

I still use hers out at the cabin and am just careful when I pour from it.

Here it is yesterday after being used several times.

This is a relationship I will miss when the time comes.

No, I never did name it.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sepia Saturday contribution for this week - Nope, dad never needed a wheelbarrow.

Let's see; factory, fish, wheelbarrow? Which could we have that may contain one of those?

Sepia Saturday for April 14th.

My dad never needed a wheelbarrow for his catches.

Never caught more than you see here at one time.

This was probably one of his better days with the fishing pole.

Oh, he tried real hard. Got up early. Tried all the baits all the others were using.

Had the proper attire.

But he just never really ever caught that many.

He didn't care. It was all about being out there and trying.

And being with family.

He loved getting the camper ready, and cooking over the fire or on the camp stove.

This photo my actually be from the last time he went to his favorite river to trout fish.

I really love this picture.

Now my brother on the other hand ( he is on the left ), he had no trouble bringing them in.

Matter of fact, once he got his limit he would usually then work on mine. That was okay, I didn't like to fish anyway.

After mine, he would then work on moms limit.

And then, near the end of the weekend if dad hadn't caught all he was allowed by Sunday afternoon, my brother would finish his limit.

Here he is teaching his kids the art of filling limits.

Both these young gentlemen now have kids of their own.

But so far my brothers knack of catching fish seems to be skipping a couple of generations.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Yes, I was 'over there' before we were 'over here'.

The one time my family makes the headlines and I am no where to be seen.

These memories came flooding back with this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt.

My tale of woe goes all the way back to 1956, Friday, November 9th to be exact.
(But who's counting.)

Yea, I was around back then. Had been for a little over 13 months.

Not only did my family make the headlines, we (they) had a rather large photo placed on the front page under that headline. (This one to the left without me in it.)

But I am no where to be seen.

I have always been proud of the fact that we came ‘over here’ from ‘over there’ ( a lady in a grocery store once asked my dad if we had driven all the way ‘here’ from ‘over there’).

I like having that connection to a far away place, “We’re from over there.”

As much as I can, I celebrate my ‘over there’ heritage. (At least as much as one can without having to relive that famous revolution of the late 1700’s with my neighbors.) 
You know the kind of thing; president of the local Sherlock Holmes club, the Stars and Strips and the Union Jack stickers on my trucks bumper. A “Brown Betty” on my desk at work (you would be surprised how many pens you can get in a “Brown Betty”). I even named two of my dogs after that earlier dynamic duo, Sherlock and Watson. Teaching my daughter to eat beans on toast and kippers. That sort of thing.

Do you think I have an unhealthy need to prove that “yes, I too was born ‘over there’”?

Now I realize my brother is a couple of years older than me, and that that fact alone allows for more time to have had more pictures taken of him ‘over there’ before we came ‘over here’.

But it seems I have been left with this need to prove that I existed before ‘over here’, you know, 'over there'.

There are far fewer photos of me ‘over there’. Lots of my brother ( and did I mention, he does not have this need to prove he was ‘over there’ before we were ‘over here’). He hardly ever even brings up ‘over there’.

There are lots of pictures of him with uncles and aunts, at the sea side, in prams.
On grandmas knee.
Any photos of me seem a little blurred in comparison. Almost like an after thought; “Oh yea! Let’s get one of ‘what’s his name’”.

We came over on the Queen Elizabeth in Nov. of 1956. I was always told I was the only one that didn’t get sea sick. Apparently the sea can be kinda rough in November. So maybe during my best photographic moments everyone else was too sick to hold and use a camera. 
(Dad, however, never did mention missing many meals while mom was in the cabin sick with us kids.)

And there are several pictures of my brother on that great ship. Standing on deck. Seated with a life ring that says ‘Queen Elizabeth’ around his neck. One of dad holding him up as we passed that great lady in New York harbor.

But only one, yes one, of me. “Oh yea! Lets get one with ‘What’s his name’”. (Did I mention I hold onto that trunk my brother is sitting in to prove I was ‘over there’ also.)

So this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt again brought this sad longing in my life once more to the surface.

“Did I exist ‘over there’ before we had ‘over here’?

Some where buried within that now browned newspaper article I am indeed mentioned.

I comfort myself thinking that mom always said, and it says so in the newspaper, that we were only going (coming over) for a short time, “12 months, maybe three years.” So maybe they thought we would be back in plenty of time to take more pictures of me, while I was still young,  ‘over there’ after we got back from ‘over here’.

Maybe I had fallen asleep while the photographer took so long to set up the shot.
Maybe I had fallen down inside the trunk and the line for other people to have pictures taken was just too long to reset the shot.

As it turned out I had to wait 15 years to have another picture taken of me ‘over there’.

But I hold no grudge.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sepia Saturday - Feb 16th = Wet or Tall?

This is the prompt for this weeks Sepia Saturday post.
Lots to chose from here.

Something tall, something wet, playing, water sports, hanging out (thanks Alan), the list could go on.

I was hoping to find something similar but could not combine something watery and something tall.
So I had to make a choice.

  I thought about going with something tall. . .
. . . like this monkey bridge our Boy Scout troop built in the early 60's.
(and a tall signal tower in the background).

But this just wasn't enough.
While these are fun, I just couldn't come up with enough of a story.

So I went with the 'wet' theme, The Sea Side.

One of the pleasures my mom speaks of the most from childhood is the once a year trip to the 'Sea Side'.
She never said, vacation or beach, or even where. It was just going to the 'Sea Side'.

It usually meant a bus ride with her dads company holiday.

And she loved to 'paddle' in the water.
Not a strong swimmer by any means, 'paddling' probably meant going in up to about her knees.

In this picture is mom and three sisters and an unknown boy.
Mom is kneeling on the left.
Probably early 1930's.

 Here is my mom and brother 'paddling' on some 'Sea Side' trip.
Here my dad, never a big man, but strong, is lifting one of my moms sisters on his shoulders. My mom, on the left, and my cousin, on the right, seem to be the only ones really enjoying this experiment.
Here is a very early photo of mom and dad at the 'Sea Side'. It is either right before they were married or soon after.
Just after the war.

As children, my brother and I never had holidays to the 'Sea Side'. When we got a little older we did go to Florida. While Florida has all the same components it could never be called 'going to the Sea Side'. It is after all Florida.

Another interesting thing about the Sepia Saturday prompt is the dock on which the kids are gathered.

While we never had anything so elaborate here in Missouri (at least where we went), we did have something just as memorable.

 We had floating wooden docks and in the lake slimy wooden swimming pools.

These two photos show my brother and cousin diving or jumping off of one of these docks.

Like moms trips once a week with her mom and dad, for many years our ritual was one week a year at the Lake of the Ozarks, staying at the same place each year.

While mom staying in the wooden pool with the slimy bottom in the lake the whole time, my brother and I soon found we had more fun using the diving board into the lake.
Avoiding completely the slimy pool bottom.

A little closer to home we had a place called 'Suntan Beach'.
This was Missouri River water that was held in a shallow slough.

They had a picnic area, beach and a playground.
 Here is mom and the sister we followed to America getting some rays.

Early 1960's
When all else failed we always had the little inflatable.

We do not appear to be dressed to actually get wet.

While we never had a swim dock quite like the one in the prompt, I do remember we were very happy with what we had.

Although I would be 15 before I got to 'paddle at the sea side'.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I know there is a name for the condition. . . . .

  My parents never threw anything away. Since my dad passed away, now that can only be said about my mom.
  In this day of disposable everything, I am rather proud of that fact. Even if it does mean that the responsibility of going through that stuff now falls mostly on me.
  We check on mom by phone everyday, and usually make a visit a couple of times a week.
During each visit we collect recycling, and if we can, go through some of her stuff to make sorting at a later date easier.
Part of that has to do with getting rid of, and part has to do with finding and labeling family “heirlooms” while mom can still identify them.
  But back to the never throwing away of things.

  I am sure most of it has to do with the times in which she grew up; late 1920’s England. Also the fact the she had a rather large family; 2 brothers and 4 sisters.

  While her dad always worked, as a blacksmith, they were never well off. Although a happy family, making do was just that, making do.

  Then throw in a World War, when everything was in short supply, and , well you get the picture.
  My parents held on to anything that could in some way be repurposed again. Used bits of string and twine would be rerolled for a later use.

Moms old nylons would be cut into narrow strips and reused to tie up the tomato plants.

My dad would spend hours taking apart old things and sort the screws, nuts and bolts for reuse.
  Recycling was not in vogue when they grew up, it was called reuse and repurpose.
Bits of garden hose would find a new use.

  Jars and cans were cleaned and used to store the above mentioned hardware, along with many other uses.

  They did not grow up in a time when you had to have the latest before the current model wore out. You maintained, repaired, reused, repurposed many times over before you replaced.

  Shortly after my dad died in 2010 we decided mom needed a new refrigerator. She didn’t decide, we did. She would have kept on using the one she had and probably would have had it buried with her. But its seals were gone. Many shelves were cracked or missing. And much that was there was held together by tape. The freezer was small and formed ice quicker than the South Pole. If you were lucky you could make two ice trays fit and about six tv dinners.

  When we had a newer one delivered (yes we bought a used one. It’s in the blood) we asked the man if he could tell us how old the old Frigidair was.
He said it was 1957. 1957!

  That means it was probably the first refrigerator they bought after coming to America in 1956. They probably bought it used in 1962 when they bought their first house, where mom still lives.

  That means, since it was still working, it had worked, before being hauled away, for about fifty-four years. (Now I wished I had kept it!)

  Just think how many iPhones you will go through in fifty-four years.

  Well, this past week I was doing some cleaning around moms house and had a reason to use a few ‘rags’. That can mean that at one time these pieces of cloth could have been anything; old towels, socks, sheets, shirts, underwear (well maybe not underwear) or just about anything that could somewhat clean a surface.

  Today while sorting and folding said rags one very old one still had a printed impression on it. Barely discernible, but I could still make it out. At one time its purpose had been that of one of those dish towels that you hung on your wall with a calendar printed on it. I guess after its assigned year was up you were suppose to use it as a dish towel. ( I never have figured that one out.)

  Like I was saying, while folding one up today to put back with the other rags I noticed the imprint and its purpose. While most of the printing and images were faded the date was still clear.

It was 1962.
  I was only seven in 1962.
  John F Kennedy was President (and we didn’t have to worry about Trump for many years to come).

We had not yet landed on the moon.

And most of the parents of my daughters friends were not born yet ( boy does that make me feel old).

Dad was still installing airplane seat belts in ours cars, because the cars they had back then still did not come with them installed.

  I am not sure if there is an award out there for reusing and repurposing things for the longest out, but if there is, my mom would surely be in the running.

  And we have only just broken the surface of what 'heirlooms' may yet be discovered. ( I am saving all the old Tupperware for a museum.)

 We're probably going to use some of the old things we find to test kids on their use, you know, like asking a young kid how to use an old rotary phone or play music with a cassette tape.

  I know I have inherited this gene, and I am proud of it, while my wife, not so much.
But, someday, mark my word, when something I got for 10 cents becomes worth 3 dollars, she will be happy I held on to it.

  If you doubt my moms ability to hold on to things, I have included a photo of the towel.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What is it about American eating establishments and Tea? A rant.

I do not drink coffee. Never have. Love the smell of it, but can't stand the taste.

Tea, however, is a must. We were brought up with it. My aunt use to make it for us kids with lots of milk and lots of sugar and not too hot.

Now I usually drink it black with sugar. But milk, or cream, does occasionally make an appearance.

I almost (99% of the time) always start my day with a cuppa, usually putting the kettle on as I turn on lights in the kitchen.

A cup always leaves the house with me as I go to work (or for that matter, anywhere), all four seasons.

During cold weather tea is a staple all day. In summer, drinking hot tea ends after a couple cups, with me trading off for ice tea or diet soda later in the day.

My go to tea is PG Tips. Decaf most of the time (it is the only decaf I have found that I can call tea).
Many a morning I trade off a PG Tips for an English or Irish Breakfast tea. Twining's usually.
I have also started using a 'Builder's' tea in the mornings when I am out at the cabin.

Famous naturalist John Muir many times went hiking with nothing put a thermos of tea and bread. Perfect!

I have accepted an Earl Grey as drinkable and will sometimes still have one after having it be the only tea that was brought along on an 18 day Grand Canyon kayak/raft trip.
( I had told the man planning the trip that I did not drink coffee, a staple for outdoor trips, and that I was pretty picky about my tea, I offered to get my own so as not to make it hard on him, but he said no, it was okay and not a problem and that he would get a good tea. He proceeded to buy a big mix of different Earl Grey's thinking that Earl Grey was the brand and not the type. When I want to think about the Grand Canyon trip I make myself a cuppa Earl Grey.)

I like my tea strong, dark and with some sugar. And like I said earlier, sometimes with cream or milk.

I don't like "flavored'" teas; raspberry, Jasmine or any of her cousins.
Oolong is okay if I am having Chinese for dinner, but I still check to see if they have something darker.

A perfect afternoon for me is to sit in the one tea room St Louis has and have a scone, a pot of tea and read a book. (It doesn't happen often enough).

You could, and I am okay with it, call me a tea snob. I am after all a beer and bread snob already, so an accusation of another form of snobbery is okay.

With all that said, it probably is not hard for you to imagine that when we go out for breakfast, while my table mates are ordering coffee, I am the lone tea drinker.

I get it, coffee is a morning ritual for if not most, many Americans. And I also get it that there is different coffees and that everyone has their own preferences.

But at most breakfast type places the coffee making is habit, and the pots are emptied so quickly that most pots are served hot, fresh and often.

But if you order tea you are many times treated like a second class citizen.

Most times I have to send the water back to have it 'nuked' to make, I was going to say hotter, but instead I will say make it hot in the first place.

Although not a coffee drinker, as has been stated, I would assume the best coffee is made with real hot, boiling water.

But many, most?, restaurants don't understand that about tea. The water has to boil. (Most friends are surprised at how hot I can drink my tea, not that I try to prove anything by that fact. Just sayin')

We tea drinkers are not treated like the coffee drinkers.

Neither in quality or temperature.
And definitely not in quantity.

Most tea served over here in restaurants is Lipton's, or something real close to a 'Lipton' type tea.
Now, don't get me wrong, if Lipton's is served HOT and allowed to steep the whole time you drink it, it is very drinkable, and much better than some off brands. (Okay, till I found a better, it was my go to tea.)

Occasionally you will get a better tea, but in those cases the water is so tepid that the quality of the tea is lost. It doesn't matter how good your tea is if I can't steep properly.

There are some restaurant chains over here that I won't even bother ordering hot tea in because the chain is universally bad at making hot water (Denny's).

Their are some chains where I know the water will be good and hot but the brand of tea they carry is pretty bad. So in those cases I always bring in a couple bags I always keep stored in my truck. I am okay with supplying my own tea after my Grand Canyon experience and I appreciate the fact that their water is hot.

Another thing. While with most restaurants the coffee cup is bottomless, every time the server passes by they either fill your cup automatically or at least ask if you would like more.

With tea drinkers, at best you will be asked if you would like more tepid water poured on top of your already used tea bag.

Most times you have to ask for more water (nuke it please) and another tea bag.
And you really feel bad if you are enjoying sitting and talking to your wife over a late breakfast and she is on her eighth cup of coffee and you have to ask for a third tea bag.

Supply and demand I guess.

But occasionally you will be surprised.

Having an eleven year old child, over the last couple of years we have gone to a Disney theme park a few times. And once you do that, at least for a little while, you get all kind of mailings from Disney. Being big fans of anything Disney we are for the most part okay with that.

In every issue of one of their bigger magazines they usually talk to someone who helps make the park special. In one issue they talked to one of their head chef's. And he made a very fine point about treating tea drinks as well as drinkers of other beverages. Even going into the best way he believes it should be served. Another reason to love things Disney.

Another surprise I have found is that on rare occasions you will find a good tea in surprising places (it doesn't happen often).

Case in point, Waffle House. Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out, especially if you have a favorite place to get it. While Waffle House does not fit that bill, I do enjoy their biscuits and gravy, and omelets. So once every couple of weeks, or when I head out early to the cabin, I will stop in at one of three Waffle Houses I have to pass on the way to the cabin (or work).
99% of the time their water is good and hot. And I am also surprised that they use a pretty good brand of tea. At least the ones near me use a brand called Royal Cup, and I have come to look forward to it when I visit a Waffle House near me.

Rare indeed is finding a place with hot water and a good tea.

I will always keep tea bags in my truck. I will order something else at the places that just can't get it right. And I will savor the places that do get it right (The London Tea Room, St Louis and Waffle House).

But please, you may not love us tea drinkers as much, but try to treat us the same.

There . . . . I got that out of my system.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sepia Saturday 391 - Marching to a different. . . . . . piper?

I don't always get to take part in each weeks Sepia Saturday because a; I either don't have something relevant to add or b; I don't get a chance to go through my old pictures to find something.

This week I was ready.

While sorting through moms old pictures over the last few years I have pile, from back in England, that no one knows anything about.

Must must have something to do with something the family must have attend or they knew someone in the photo.

But no one remembers.

This is one such photo.
This photo has been in our collection of photos from England for as long as I can remember, but we don't where it was taken or by whom.

I tried researching the sign in the photo to see if I could pin down the town, but no luck.

I though it may have been Selby because there was a ship yard there, but I am not sure.
My folks were living in Selby in the 50's so it could well be.

So I decide to do some research on pipe bands that had just women.

One inquiry led me to The Dagenham Girl Pipe band and many of their members seem to think it is their group from the early 50's.

The uniforms seem to match.

They have also made some suggestions about the Ships Chandler in the photo.

Isn't the Internet grand?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Family Wheels - Sepia Sat. 383

I know, I am a little late, Holiday weekend and all.
But here goes.

As always with Sepia Sat. the themes can be as loose as we chose.

So I went with the theme of the bikes and wheels.

As with most American families, over the years we have had quite a set of wheels.

One of the first sets I can remember seeing pictures of was the wheels on the Ambulance my dad drove for St. John's Ambulance Brigade.

 He loved that job.

I loved working with and for people, and he also loved working with the youth program the brigade had.
Similar I would imagine to the Boy Scouts.

Dad is on the left.
This seems to be a different, perhaps older ambulance.

Dad is in the ambulance with the victim.

Then of course there are the wheels of our youth.

This is me on the first set of wheel I remember. I believe it came with us from England.

It seemed so big to me back then.

This is what makes me still believe it did follow us over.

This is my brother on the bike while we were still in Selby.

Shorts and a tie, it has to be England.

Here he is again, a little younger, but still in England.

I don't remember this one, although that is me in the back.

My brother doesn't look to happy to be hauling me around.

I hate to think what this wheels picture means.

Maybe I refused to pull him or something, but he looks pretty happy with himself there holding MY teddy bear!

I remember this bike.
Not so much because I ever rode it, but because I remember my brother riding down a hill that would have been just to the left of this picture and him flying over the handle bars and landing on his chest.
I think that is why to this day he has very little hair there.

The trike can be seen to the right in the photo.

Another set of wheels my brother had that I never did was four wheels on a 'soap box derby' car.
He is on the right.

 Of course over the years dad had some pretty cool wheels.

I remember more about when we got rid of this car than actually having it.

I cried at was left the lot with a newer car.
 I would love to have this one today. It would be worth quite a lot.

1957 Chery.

Left; me with my Teddy back. Mom. My brother with a big bunny.

Easter time.
Brother and bunny and car.

Of course, as we got bigger and family vacations and interests changed, so did our wheels.

1964 Ford station wagon.
A third seat, which I don't think we ever actually used folded up facing backwards in the back.

Dad finishing up the packing.

We have had many other cars and truck since then, but these are all I have in Black and White, and I didn't feel it fair to post any in color.

Well okay, maybe just one.

My 1962 Austin Sprite.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

As a Tea lover, I can believe this. . . .


No one example captures how deeply tea drinking was embedded in the fabric of British everyday life than the decision of the government in 1942 to buy up every available pound of tea from every country in the world except Japan.
Britain faced defeat by the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. Its troops had been forced to make a complete withdrawal from Europe, leaving it open to an expected and narrowly avoided invasion. The “impregnable” fortress of Singapore had fallen, essentially ending Britain’s colonial dominance of Asia. Britain was close to broke, as its reserves were drained to keep imports flowing in as Atlantic convoys were hunted and often destroyed by U-boats. The US had not yet mobilized its massive manufacturing capabilities, post Pearl Harbor.
And Britain was buying tea!
In huge amounts. One estimate is that the largest government purchases in 1942 were, in order of weight, bullets, tea, artillery shells, bombs and explosives.
The German High Command fully understood the importance of disrupting the tea chain. One of the primary targets for the sustained bombing of London in 1941, known as the Blitz, was Mincing Lane, “The Street of Tea.” This had been the center for the disgraceful opium trade that pumped masses of the drug into China to obtain the silver that was the only currency the Chinese government would accept for purchase of tea: feeding an addiction to fund an addiction.

Mincing Lane did not store tea but was the repository for just about all the records of 30 million tonnes of stocks, trades and finances destroyed by the bombing. That is when the government moved into action. Almost all foods and clothing items were rationed; this lasted until 1952, seven years after the war had ended. The weekly allowance was two ounces of butter and cheese, eight of sugar, four of bacon. And two ounces of tea, enough to make three cups a day, a far less stringent ration than cheese, for instance.


One historian summarized tea as Britain’s secret weapon in the War. It was certainly one of its most visible symbols of national unity. Like such patriotic images, there were many strands of sentimentality and myth in the stories of how tea was a social binding force in the days of the London Blitz where, night after night, fires blazed from bombed buildings, women and children huddled in the underground railway tunnels and the air raid sirens were a daily threnody. The cheery Cockney and famous stiff upper lip were by no means as evident as folk memory and films suggest.
That said, tea was powerful symbolically and practically. Churchill is reputed to have called tea more important than ammunition. He ordered that all sailors on ships have unlimited tea.
Its perceived value in boosting morale not just in Britain is illustrated by the Royal Air Force dropping 75,000 tea bombs in a single night over the occupied Netherlands. Each contained one ounce bags of tea from the Dutch East Indies and was marked “The Netherlands will rise again. Chins up.” Every one of the 20 million Red Cross packages sent to prisoners of war contained a quarter pound package of Twinings.
Tea helped restore at least a semblance of calm and normality in turbulence and danger. Its essence is that it is warm and comforting. It also provided an egalitarian sharing space in a society of rigid class distinctions. In the air raids, local Air Raid Wardens and Auxiliaries, mostly women, served tea to anyone, forming huddles, bringing strangers together, and providing a center for medical help.

A Teakettle in a Tank

Tea was a key factor in weaponry, too. In WW I, the “Tommies” were known to fire off their machine guns in a nonstop stream of bullets to get the barrels hot enough to immerse in water to get that hot enough for tea. The Germans noticed this, of course, just as they did the easy target made by tank crews leaving the safety of their vehicles for a brew-up. (Typically, they made an improvised “Benghazi burner” from empty fuel cans.)
The solution was to incorporate a BV (Boiling Vessel) inside the turret. Yes, that is indeed a Teakettle in a Tank. It has been a required feature in all UK (and Indian) army AFVs (Armored Fighting Vehicles) for the past seventy years. The latest is designated as “FV706656.” It is still standard practice for a junior member of a vehicle crew to be unofficially appointed “BV Commander” with the duty to make hot drinks for the crew.
The decision to upgrade the Challenger in 2014 maintained the BV requirement. This is one of the most successful tanks in military history, the best protected and with lowest battle losses. It served in combat in the Balkan, Iraq and Afghanistan – with the BV in daily use.
This all sounds like the spirit of Monty Python and British fuddy-duddy, but it made strategic sense. Tea was a social necessity, especially for the working class. And it was important to the war effort. The Army at rest was groups of soldiers around a metal tea bucket of, typically, six gallons. That applied to all ranks in all units.


Tea played a critical role in the British Army, with many historians attributing at least part of its success in the almost never-ending military campaigns, many of them small colonial policing actions. One of the keys that distinguished it from every other European fighting force was that its embedding or tea in its routines greatly reduced the reliance on alcohol to calm troops as they prepared for battle, relax them at its end and keep them sober and alert while they sat around waiting. One of the slang terms soldiers used for their morning tea was “Gunfire.”
The tea itself was not quite gourmet. It was very strong, all from Assam, Ceylon and Africa. China and Japan were not sourcing options; by the end of the war, China’s exports that once comprised almost all the global market were close to zero. Japan had been the leading supplier to the US but obviously was no longer a preferred supplier.
Army tea came as part of the soldier’s composite rations kit. Compo tea was in a tin, with milk and sugar pre-added. The food components of compo are best summarized as somewhat strange, with no further comment. The tea was basic and bulk shipped. There were constant rumors that bromide had been added to it, to reduce young males’ erotic interests; that gives a sense of what it tasted like. Soldiers reported that when hot it was welcome and pleasant but the surface took on the appearance of an unskimmed pool when it was lukewarm.
Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach. His own military needed to transport loads of heavy wine. They also had to forage for food, a euphemism for looting. Tea had the advantage of being light and portable. It contained important nutritional minerals. Sweetened by sugar, it was heartening and provided an energy boost. Caffeine combined both a pick me up and calm me down effect.
One of the central reasons for the explosive growth in tea consumption in the UK in the 1700s was that water was such a danger that it had to be avoided. Figures show a strong correlation among the general population between tea and reduction in dysentery and bacterial infections. It also reduced infant mortality, since the antiseptic properties of tea were passed on to breast milk.  

War in Assam: the Kohima turning point

There was a hidden price for the morale-boosting benefits of tea in World War II. It was mostly paid, somewhat ironically, by the workers of the tea gardens in Assam and ordinary Indians. Production in Assam and Ceylon was boosted to meet the needs of Britain, with heavy reliance on US merchant ships. India’s political organizations were split on the issue of supporting the military effort, with nationalist strongly opposed. However, the population of Assam was pulled into the conflict once Rangoon, the capital of Burma, surrendered to the Japanese. (Now Yangon, Myanmar). Throughout 1942, it was expected that Japanese troops would invade Northern India via the only two narrow passes through the Himalayas. Tea workers were conscripted to carve a supply path. Thousands died.
The Indian Army of 2.5 million was the largest volunteer force in history. Assam was also the base for the most dangerous air route in the world: the Hump that transported US supplies to China’s army fighting the Japanese. It was also central to the large Burma war theater and the site of the Battle of Kohima, which marked a crucial turning point.
The complex and protected Kohima-Imphal campaign led to the annihilation of the Japanese forces and reconquest of Burma; half its hundred thousand troops were casualties and it lost every single tank and artillery gun. The nature of the terrain is indicated by the deaths of 17,000 mules and ponies.
One regrettable aspect of writing on the history of “English tea in India is that it very much tends to showcase the English and overlook the Indian.                

”The simple act of being able to share a mug of tea”

Tea branding and marketing has always played up the peaceful side of its history and social context: medicine and health, spirituality and contemplation, and refinement and snobbery. These are real but a whole book or two can be written about its martial dynamics.
Tea and war have always gone together. The origins of its trade routes and its becoming a de facto currency for a thousand years comes from the urgent needs of the Chinese army to obtain horses from the tribes of Nepal and Tibet. In turn, they sought out tea for its immense value as a beverage that could help nourish them in their harsh climate, rather like Bolivian Indians chewing coca to suppress hunger pangs and give them extra energy in the high mountains.
A quote from an article in the UK Daily Tea in 2014 captures this dual nature of tea. It’s from a soldier reminiscing about his service in the early 2000s: “When you’re wet, cold and miserable, and feel that you need to curl up and die from tiredness,… you may be covered in mud, stinking from not being able to shower for days or weeks, cold and tired, but a brew seems to take all that away. The jokes will start and morale gets better. The simple act of being able to share a mug of tea with your mates, who look and feel just as bad as you do, is awesome.”
1942 was a pivotal year in history. Britain survived. Tea helped.

Friday, June 16, 2017

We could never afford an Airstream - The history of Pop-up Campers.

The History of Pop-up Campers.

I did a lot of camping in my youth. Mostly with the Boy Scouts.

This is like the first tents we used.

Canvas, heavy, prone to leaks, especially if you touched the sides when it was raining. And the waterproofing didn't smell all that great either and had to be reapplied every so often.

Very, let me emphasis very, very hot in the summer.

Four poles pegged together to form the inside horizontal frame which would then be tied to the sides to form the umbrella square of the roof.
Then a center pool supported the roof and formed the peak.
As can be seen in the photo, poles could be used to support the front door flap to make a some what dry entryway. Or for a little shade.
There was no way you were going to use these tents for backpacking. Car camping was their sole purpose. But boy did they look like real camper tents.

Eventually the poles would be made out of aluminum and moved to the outside. The canvas was maybe a little lighter, but otherwise maintained all the other characteristics of the above 'umberlla' tent.

Note the wooden toggle on the tent ropes.

There were even a few with 'extra' room.

The adults would eventually get something a little bigger so they could sleep on cots and be better rested for a pack (troop) of boys.

My first nylon tent looked somewhat like this.
It was made by Wenzel Tent and Canvas company, then headquartered in St. Louis.
(I will dig up a picture of it later.)
But was bright orange.
Front pole on the outside, back pole on the inside.
Lite weight and not very waterproof.
I used it a lot ( I think I still have it ).
Oh yea, and very small.
I did a lot of winter camping in it.
Heat from my body would form condensation on the inside so when I woke in the morning a thin layer of ice would have formed on the inside, and if I brushed against it getting out I would have a small snow shower inside the tent.
Did I mention it was very small?
Last time I used it was about 1994 in Yosemite. Two of us had to fit in it.

But that's not why we are here today.

We are preparing for a trip to Glacier next week, so I have started exploring our tent options for a tent big enough for one large male, a small female and a child.
And while checking out tents on line I came across the above linked site.

So the story of canvas continues.

In the late 60's (for those of you not old enough to remember the 60's, they came right before the 70's) my dad wanted a pop-up camper. I don't remember why. Maybe to make it easier on him and mom. We were getting to big to fit everything into the station wagon (remember those?)?
So that's where the above linked site comes in.
Like, to me, most old things hold a certain romance, just ask my family.
And seeing old photos of things like Coleman stoves (remember when I wrote about all my Coleman stoves?), tents and pop-ups are great fun for me.

This linked site goes through a pretty inclusive history of campers.

I love this picture.

From the 30's or 40's and although probably a lot heavier than campers are now, the style hasn't changed all that much from some modern pop-up campers.

Well, while at the site I thought I would see if I could find the one dad got for his family.

So there it was, The Bethany Chief.

A fiberglass roof.
Two pop-out wings that could (if you were smaller than me) sleep four, with the option of lowering the table to sleep another two.
So six altogether. The add says 6-8, but I don't know where the other two would have gone.
The table seemed pretty large. The bench seats on the sides held gear. And our other gear could be stored on the floor and under the table when travelling.

The tenting over the pop-outs were rubber coated nylon.
And just about very vertical surface opened for screened ventilation.

I think dad got it around 1968 or so. I remember we had it when we went to Colorado in 69 and my then 16 year old brother driving it on those mountain roads.

Most of them was this same pink color.

It was a very durable camper. We survived some big storms in Montauk on a few fishing trips.
There was nothing fancy about it; no stove, no frig., no AC and no lights.
But we used it a lot.
It only took a few minutes to put up; snaps and zippers. Even had a big dining fly for shade and rain protection when getting in and out.

And this is just how the inside looked. ( I still have a couple of the sleeping pads out at the cabin ).

My brother, not the most creative one in the family, even named one of his dogs Chief because when he brought the dog home, standing in the back yard he couldn't come up with anything else and spotted 'Chief' on the back of the camper.
The camper lasted longer than the dog.

Well it's back to checking out our tent options now, I just had to pause and go down memory lane for a little while.

Thanks for stopping by.

Found a few.

Here is dad in his backyard 1972 with his camper.
 Here is the camper all set up on a fishing trip.
Here is the dog named after the camper.