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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The strangest letter to a camper you'll ever read (1930's)

What I found in a Bethlehem attic a few months ago was a series of 1930’s era letters received by a young girl while attending a week or 2 of camp. Though the camp was still in Connecticut, it was a world away by available transportation. 

Instead of being the secret thoughts of a young teen, they are instead a crazy quilt of details revealed by the people around her in a small town in a much simpler America. (click on the image, or scroll for transcription below)

 “Breezy Crest” July 22. 1931

 My Dear young friend; Knowing folks like to receive letters, cards, etc., while at camp I thought I would send you a little letter. 
I’m sorry to hear of your misfortune, but trust nothing serious will come from it, also (un readable) the poison is late better(?) 

Aunt Ima has “Hives” which are causing her much annoyance nights, not much in the daytime. We are having a lovely day for a change and it surely is welcome especially to the farmers who have been trying to harvest their grain, in between rain storms. 

Uncle Matt cut his oats this afternoon (over a hill from here.) The A.M. he and Anthony were down to south land mowing. Dave and Bobo were there too, were playing in the deep hay. Bobo out of sight. Uncle Matt was running machine along did not see dog until he yelped then he found machine had cut his leg off. I believe. Mr. Manger’s chauffeur went over and shot him and poor Bobo is no more. 

We all felt pretty badly and especially Uncle Matt who was the unfortunate person to do it though Mrs Kelsey felt that he would have been hit sooner or later for he would run in front of dklfjsl and machines of all kinds, and they could not teach him not to. 

Hope this will find you having a good time generally.

 Jean is expecting to go to camp up in New Hampshire first 2 weeks in August, which will soon be here. 

 I will bid you a “Good Afternoon” and am your friend, Mrs. Adams 

Forgot to say Aunt Ima and I went down with car took a wooden box, put Bobo in it in a nice white bag put some flowers in with it and they gave him quite a decent burial while Dave stood and howled. Ima thought that seemed strange. 

As she seemed to be a friend of the family, it appears at least that the dogs was not the campers and maybe belonged to the this Aunt. Between the hives and blasé attitude of dog-icide it’s a wonder that the camper would want to come home. 

Dad writes the best letter and seems to wrap things up in a much better package: 

 From the letters it seemed that a couple of weeks at camp for this young person was more of a challenge for her relatives to keep their own spirits up than it was for her to be away. However, I only have half the story, as there are no letters saved from her to the people back home – guess I’ll have to keep looking.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Helen Thomas, I found your book. RIP

Helen Thomas, who passed away today, held the kind of career most news journalist’s dream of – front row in the White House press briefing room. In front of all the other representatives of the print and electronic media, she had the opportunity to ask the first question and often the hardest question of a president, press secretary or other official who took the podium.

I purchased her autobiography at an estate sale a while back and it was only because I was prompted to. Inside, Helen Thomas, the author, had signed it. Even better was to whom it had been signed, Joy Hodges.

Her name may seem unfamiliar, but then so are the names of all the people who are there when someone comes along and needs to be guided or assisted to their place in history. Joy Hodges had run into Ronald Reagan once before and he had clearly made an impression on her as someone who could act. Let’s go with communicate – for Reagan’s sake - he was a good actor, but probably a better communicator.

Helen Thomas autograph
Reagan, on his way to cover a sporting even in California, stops in Hollywood to see Joy Hodges. She convinces him that this is where he needs to be and eventually gets him a meeting with her agent’s boss who brokers a deal with Warner. Ronald Reagan the actor is born. Which leads to his experience as president of the screen actors’ guild, there’s some movie with a monkey named “Bonzo” and then it’s on to Governorship, and finally presidency, though not that quickly.

Helen Thomas' note to her friend points out that which is fairly well known, but re-affirms it nicely in this personal inscription.You can read Joy's obituary from 2003 here

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Mystery of the Putnam Phalanx

The Putnam Phalanx was an organization whose members were made up of Connecticut’s elite, leaders, and businessmen and though likely formed in Hartford, their numbers came from around the state. The organization was named for the American Revolutionary War hero, General Israel Putnam, who was know for his reckless courage at the battle of Bunker Hill. You can read more of his exploits here

 Little is know of the beginnings of the Phalanx and recorded history of their gatherings does not begin until 1858 when a report is published of their interest in forming together to fete a Colonel Thomas H. Seymour returning to Connecticut from his success in the Mexican War. 

They were more of a social organization than a military one and their ranks did grow to large numbers over the years. Part of there gathering included various excursions to important places. Though not listed anywhere it is likely that the ticket book is the only record of this round trip excursion to Niagara Falls. 

The tickets were custom printed and bound in an expensive book. On the front and back of each ticket is a picture of Genera Putnam. 

You can read the bulk of what is know about the Putnam Phalanx at the Redding Historical Society’s website. 

I was able to learn more about the Putnam Phalanx thanks to Newtown and Redding CT Historian and Author Daniel Cruson. My friend who had allowed me to see and borrow the ticket book also convinced his brother to donate the book to the Redding museum located in Putnam Park. This was the location of the last encampment held by Putnam in 1778-79. There it will be preserved as proof of this organization’s dedication to this Revolutionary War hero.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ads and Products you'll never see again-1944

I never tire of looking through old magazines for all the products that took themselves so seriously at the time, and then some how disappeared and were never seen again. I'm sure there's a good explanation for their demise  discontinued, merged, bought-out, wartime product only, etc. But to me some of these products look like they were named in an elevator trip from board room to lobby, without any thought at all for creating a good lasting brand. Case in point:

 This may be old information, but if you know anyone that still has mothballs in a closet somewhere, for corn sake, get rid of them! They are dangerous can cause nerve damage just from inhaling the vapors.
 Really!? You couldn't come up with a better name than that?
Glider is not a bad name, but it just doesn't sound like a name that would last longer than a good shave.
 Who decides to call the name of a bra company Hickory!? Wouldn't a gal be nervous of splinters from her Hickory bra?
I just read old Life magazines for the sexy ads anyway, but aside from that what is the benefit of a slip that's seam proof, OK so maybe you wouldn't see any unsightly seems lines coming through on clothing, but then why not just say seam Proof instead of "prufe?"  Maybe Seam proof was already a trademark. 
 Orange Crush may still be around, or it should be after the free advertising from the R.E.M. song with one of my favorite misheard lyrics: "I've got my Sprite, I've got my Orange Crush." I realize Michael Stipe was singing about the Vietnam War-era nickname for Napalm and the lyric I twisted was actually Spine and not Sprite.
Canada Dry had a cola product? Wish I could find it. This next one is my favorite because of the poor attempt to point out how all US residents were chipping in to help the war effort. Why they chose to point out Native Americans must be from a deep-seeded guilt for their part in displacing them from their land to reservations. 

 Thanks for the history lesson that clears up who was infringing on who's rights.
 Yup, heart warming to see displaced indigenous peoples reduced to slaves while we go whizzing by in modern comfort.
Sorry, to let my politics leak through on this one, I suppose if I ever get an award for blogging I'll use it to bring attention to the plight of the native Indians or Marlon Brando, whichever garners me a bigger headline.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Your 1913 Summer Destination Guide!

The 1913 Summer resort guide for Southern New England, published by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad is a local history gem. 
The shape is interesting because the design is meant to be about the size of a train schedule (of the era) so the obverse is similar but different:
Or, maybe that was the front. When opened it look as as though it is missing its cover as the first page gets right in to the geographical descriptions of the region. However, if you notice the page numbers, one full page is considered 2-pages. I supposed if you were cramped on a train you would be reading this folded in half?
 I am not complaining; the detail of the interior is like that of a train schedule.Columns and rows of the most important facts to plan your train excursion and then the conveyance for getting from station to hotel.

The column headers ( I left out): Station: Name of House: Proprietor: Address: Location: Miles from Station: Conveyance (see legend below): Price per day: Per Week: Capacity 

(You can click on any of these for a larger image. )

The book has numerous images of resorts, most of which are sadly no more. The most interesting on I pick up on was Fenwick Hall

The story of Fenwick is interesting. Begun as farming property by the governor of the Saybrook Colony, the farm was sold to a group of business leaders who eyed it as a summer vacation spot in 1870. It was the place for Connecticut's business elite who also held ownership of the rail line that went there.  Fenwick Hall was a luxury hotel and though it changed hands a few times was an architectural wonder that lasted until a fire around 1917. You can read more about the Fenwick historic district here.

I have added the first 10 or so pages of this terrific manual as a PDF you can download here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let Freedom Ring! It never gets old.

I found these items in the past year one old, one not-so-old, unless you consider 1957 old. They both depict important icons of this nation's importance. I saved them for a holiday post and I hope you enjoy them.
Found at a Danbury sale, the previous owner thought enough of it to keep it this long, I am happy to hold for a little longer. I'm not sure where this pamphlet would have been found, maybe in a state building where applications for citizenship are processed. It is bland but important.
 The most important fact I can provide is that 1 day after her 126th birthday Hurricane Sandy beat the you-know-what out of the 12 acre island. Lady Liberty was not damaged, but everything else was, including nearby Ellis Island. After 59 million in repairs she is officially  re-opening on July 4th to the millions of tourists who visit each year. Ellis Island was in far worse shape and has no immediate plans to re-open.
Take a moment to appreciate what she stands for, despite the reputation others would smear on her, she still means hope and the fulfillment of liberty to individuals who have none.

 This has to be early 20th century and that it has survived this long is amazing. If you hadn't ever seen or sung them, the 3rd and 4th parts are included below. (click for a larger image).
Have a safe and happy fourth of July