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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Boys' Life - The old covers were better. . . . . .

But then I have always felt you could dream more in a painting than you could in a photograph.

I am a life long lover of the Boy Scouts. I may not agree with everything they do now, but they still have my support.

Even now I can still remember some of my favorite covers from the Boys Life magazine.
And being a real big Norman Rockwell fan, his covers were just magic. He was active with the Boy Scout program for many years.

When a cover was illustrated by an artist, I am able to transport myself into the image or scene. While there are wonderful photos, they have never been able to move me the same way. Photos are exact and don't allow much in the way of imagination. Paintings, being less exact allow one, me, to adjust the image in my mind. ( I am not sure what that says about me?).

Here is a new cover. . . . and while it shows a young boy out on an adventure, it doesn't really invite me in or create a scene I want to participate in.

And here is another I feel the same way about.

While he looks like he is having fun I don't in any way feel I could be part of it.

And here are some older covers that I remember to this day. . . .

 I see these old illustrations and I am remind that I wanted to be in those 'pictures'. I wanted those adventures, and gear, etc.
 For some reason this is my all time favorite.
Two wonderful Norman Rockwell's.

And these two covers were so fun for so many reasons.

See if you can name all the images.

While the illustrated cover had been slowly going away for a while when I got into Scouts, many covers were still done by artists. And I also had my brothers older copies.

Here is a self portrait of Norman Rockwell painting at a Scout camp.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Going with the unknown. . . .

Sepia Sat. for June 10th.

What an interesting photo Alan has presented to us this week.
Once again one of those that leave it to us to decide what we want to take from it.

Did we have a box maker in the family? No.
How about a hat maker? Nope.

Did any of our family wear bowler hats? Not that I have seen. Although not to long ago I tried one on and thought it suited me. Wife said no it didn't. In all our old photos we seem to have only one family member that made a point of wearing a hat; Uncle John in London.

He is a tradesman of some sort I suppose. Maybe in veggies. It seems like it would be a good box for veggies. Pack them in and send them off to market. It's not a fancy box. Something made to us maybe just a few times, made out of rough lumber, then burned our used for something else.
He has on a tradesman's jacket. Something to wear over his clothes.

I love the moustaches and his eyebrowes.

But I couldn't come up with anything I could associate with the old pictures I have (probably find one tomorrow).

So I thought I would go with, 'In search of the unknown.'

We have a photo in my moms collection that is an unknown, and intriques me.

 On the back is written, 'Your father and Gorden'.
That's all.

This is the photo.

I have been assuming the older of the two individuals is the one called, 'Your Father' while the younger of the two would be 'and Gordon'.

It is a wonderful photo. The small pipe, the covering on the table. The watch chain. The ring on the mans finger. The glass of I hope Guinness on the table.
Even the 'binky' on the end of the ribbon for the baby.

The pipe appears to be clay, and the man seems to have happy eyes. Is he finally our Irish connection?

There is a drain of some sort coming out of the wall just behind the table.

But other than those four words on the back, I don't know anything for sure about these two.

We do have a Gordon on my mothers side of the family.
Here he is in his uniform from the British Army in WW2.

I have written about him, here, a few times and his time in service.

He is the one I think is the above 'and Gordon'.
If that is the case the photo was taken around 1915.

As I do with most pictures I don't know, or mom doesn't remember, I us Facebook to send them to cousins overseas and see if any of them know anything about it.

None did. 'Your Father and Gordon' remained a mystery.

At least for a while.

A couple of years ago I got in touch with some cousins on my moms side and asked them to send me any old photos they may have of the family so I could add them to my collection.
Well a copy of 'Your Father and Gordon' was amongst my cousins collection.
Except on his file it was labeled 'Cyril'.

One more piece of the puzzle?

So with that bit of information I once again inquired of overseas relatives and asked if anyone knew of 'Cyril'.

None did.

Jump to yesterday.
Each time I go over to moms now I usually pull out some of her 'old' stuff and start to go through it.

My daughter had a blast going through old jewellry with her,  (she even went home with a couple of pieces!).

Well, while they were doing that I discoverd a bunch of old letters exchanged between my mom and dad and family 'back home' from the late 50's through about 2005.

So I brought the letters home and over the last few days have been going through them finding wonderful bits of family history that I was to young to remember back when they were going back and forth over the ocean.

A couple of the letters were from an aunt I never met.
She died before I was old enough to know her.

Well last night before we went out I had a bit of time to go through a few more letters dating about 1956, just after we came to America.

Now as many of you know letters like these were often the only way relatives overseas found out about the passing of someone, whether family member or family friend. So the letters were a source of news to distant relatives.

Well while going through one of the letters from that aunt last night she wrote a line about '. . . how Auntie Edith was missing Cyril.'

CYRIL! Could it be one and the same? This is the only other mention of Cyril other than the label on the photo from my cousin.

It at least gives me somewhere new to start. One more piece of the puzzle.

There have been other pieces of puzzles to come out of some of these old letters about other family members, and I hope to share some of those discoveries here some day.

For now, I'm off to hunt the elusive 'Cyril'.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ode to the cigar box. . . .

I have been going through some old cupboards of mom's over the last few months, with her.
We have come up with many fun, historical, hysterical and interesting finds.

One item brought back many memories, The Cigar Box!

 We use to ask at the old '905 Liquor Store' when ever dad took us in, it they had any empty cigar boxes.

At least that's the one I remember asking for them in. There were probably others, but that's the one that sticks out.

I came across this one this past weekend.

It must hold treasures, right!
 This is a view of the contents.

An old clipping that a friend of the family had written about her memories of living through the 'Battle of Britain'.

An old Scotch tape container, which held other things.

A Lucy from 'Peanuts' ornament of some sort, made of wood. Unknown age. My family never expressed any warm feelings for the Peanuts people, so this one is a mystery.

And a letter from my uncle Alvin, who served in WW2 and passed away a few days before Kennedy was shot. We were in the funeral parade when we hard about the assassination.

I have not read it all yet, I think my cousins will like a copy, but for some reason it was written to my mom to give to my aunt.

It's not always about what's inside as much as finding something new/old to explore.

Do they still make cigar boxes?
I wish they did, I would get some for my daughter to explore when I get old.

What do you keep your treasures in?