Monday, April 16, 2012

Out of My Mind on Monday Mornin'

Years ago Bob Talbert was a daily columnist at the Detroit Free Press. He wrote about every day life in a fun and sometimes fascinating way. One would just have to read a few of his writings to get an idea of what life was like during the 1970's, 80's and 90's. My favorite of his columns was his "Out of My Mind on Monday Moanin.' " This was when he would break from the usual columnist format and just put snippets of thoughts, comments, and information he would gather from the previous week. It was a fun read and he would jump all over the everyday-life spectrum.
What I have done here was to gather bits of my own from blog postings that I have begun but never completed, therefore never published. So I copied and pasted the best parts of these unfinished articles and gathered them here, all in one place. I also threw in some of my own thoughts and quotes to add a bit more color. 
Nothing of which you are about to read are connected except that most pertain to history in one way or another. That's their only connection.
In a way this is my own personal tribute to Mr. Talbert, who died back in 1999. I suppose you could think of this posting as sorta along the lines of outtakes from old musical groups or salvageable film that never made it to the theatrical version of a movie but have been released as extra's on a special multi-disc set.
Or not...

Out of my mind on Monday Mornin':
Whenever I peruse Facebook, anytime I see a new posting from Old Sturbridge Village, Connor Prairie, Colonial Williamsburg, or Greenfield Village I get very excited. Almost giddy! History is alive!!


As one who has attended two open-air museums at the same time that Thomas the Train happened to be there (GFV and Crossroads Village), I can attest that the kids and their parents rarely venture beyond the "Thomas" realm, therefore receiving very little historical anything, which is a shame. Here, parents have a chance to show children, in a very real way, much of our country's history. But, no, they'd rather keep the kids "where the action is" and hear Thomas stories instead...such a shame.They just don't know how exciting history can be, especially when presented by the docents of Greenfield Village or Crossroads Village.
The youth of today have been raised with instant everything attitude with an expectation of being entertained. I realize museums struggle with that thought and do understand the need to attract the youth market. However, sometimes these hallowed places of history can't see the forest for the trees.
Here is an e-mail I received from a friend on how modern museums are vying to get more youth into their buildings by way of modern technology (computers, kiosks, face painting, Thomas the Train, etc.):  "As one of those in the... er... younger generation, I can say that I for one, do not need all this technology to "entertain" me at a museum. I'd rather see the items, or read/hear the 1st hand accounts of things before my own century. I am part of that 'younger generation', and I'm not that interested in history during the 20th century. When given a choice, I will invariably pick much earlier than that."
My daughter enjoys computer inter-action at the Driving America exhibit inside The Henry Ford Museum.
By the way, the Henry Ford Museum's revamping of the Automobile in American Life display (now called Driving America) earlier this year - and their With Liberty and Justice For All display - both of which utilizes inter-active computers, kiosks, and other technology, is wonderful, proving that modern technology and history can go hand in hand when done right. 
Now...about Thomas...


I like to think of this avocation of putting on period clothing and making the attempt to live in the early 1860's more as a part of my life rather than something to do on the weekends. As my friend Mike put it, "Our time in the past is interrupted only by our time in the present."

Mind your p's and q's - - - -
Some say this expression was originally from sometime in the 18th century; while serving patrons, a barkeep in a pub or tavern had to keep a keen eye on giving drinks to paying customers and had to "mind his p's and q's" since the liquor was dispensed in tankards holding either pints or quarts.
Others say this expression was meant for the typesetter in a printing office to be careful when setting the type because the p's and q's could easily become mixed up.
So, which is it?
Probably both, if you ask me!


James Cameron lived up to his perfectionist reputation during production of his movie, Titanic. The attention to detail became meticulous throughout the interior set design. Rooms, hallways, gangways, and decks were all exact replicas. Oak was used for the grand staircase and furniture, rather than more cost effective plywood because, if oak was used in the original, Cameron wanted oak too. The company that had woven Titanic's original carpet 1912 did it again for the movie. Crockery was authentic, down to White Star Line's logo stamped on each piece of cutlery. Deck heights and widths on the exterior were built to scale. Like the carpets, stage one's davits were also built by the same company that provided them to the original.


Quotes worth noting from the diary of Rachel (Bowman) Cormany
~spelling and punctuation left intact~: 
"September 29, 1859
After supper we took a walk through the principle part of town, went into the museum then returned to the hotel pretty well tired, and soon found ourselves easily fixed on the sofa and engaged in a tete a tete, where 10 oclock found us before we were aware of it, then drawing out his watch, and seeing the time it surprised him..."
Notice she wrote "watch" and not "time piece." Many in the reenacting world insist on saying "time piece" and have told me that "watch" is incorrect. 
Hmmm...not necessarily so.
Here's another:
"April 26, 1862
This has been a rather sad day to me. My Sml. (her husband Samuel) has another attack of dyptheria. Yesterday morn. when he wakened his throat was sore. still he went out to the sugar bush & worked hard all day & did not take time to attend himself. he ate no breakfast, but ate dinner & supper."
Ahhh...another source for discussion is the dinner and supper exchange. Some say it's dinner and supper, with dinner, eaten in the early afternoon, being the main meal of the day, while supper - the evening meal - was leftovers from dinner. Others say lunch and supper (or even lunch and dinner) with lunch, eaten in the same manner as dinner mentioned above, being the main meal of the day.
I was also told by my very elderly cousin named Bud, who knew and remembered my great great grandmother (who was born in 1858) that she called the afternoon meal dinner. However, while her father, a farmer, was working the fields, she would take a lunch out to him to eat. Bud told me that a carry out meal such as this was called a lunch.
In house was dinner.
That does make sense doesn't it? When Henry Ford worked the midnight shift at the Edison Illuminating plant in the 1890's he would eat at the Owl Night Lunch Wagon, an actual horse-drawn wagon which showed up for business at 6 pm and left by daybreak.
Owl Night Lunch Wagon was a carry out only joint - not in house.
I suppose, however, whichever term for dinner or lunch is used could also depend on one's location...


My family and I have spent three out of the four times we have visited Gettysburg wearing our period clothing the entire time we were there...and it was not during a reenactment. It is the only way to visit that historical place.


I had an interesting discussion with a former co-worker fairly recently: his "grandfather-in-law" passed away recently, and the remembrances flowed. The one memory in particular that stood out was how grandfather flew bombing missions over Germany during the age of 23. My friend remarked, "By the age of 23 my wife's grandfather had flown six bombing missions over Germany! I couldn't imagine that!"
And neither could the rest of us who were there, for to compare a 23 year old from 1944 to a 23 year old in today's society is like comparing apples and oranges.
Somewhere, somehow young adults stopped being young adults. They stopped taking responsibility not only for their actions but for their life's direction as well.
Maybe because they believe they live in the age of entitlement, asking "what can my country do for me?" instead of "What can I do for my country."


Did you know that in the 19th century hollyhocks were planted around the necessary/privy/outhouse? In this way, the respectable lady could say, "I am going to visit your hollyhocks" instead of saying "I have to use the necessary."


One great example of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's ability to feed off each other in their songwriting was in the 1966 tune "We Can Work It Out." Paul wrote the positive main body of the song

Think of what you're saying.
You can get it wrong and still you think that it's all right.
Think of what I'm saying,
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night.
We can work it out

while John plays a touch of the pessimist

Life is very short, and there's no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend.
I have always thought that it's a crime,
So I will ask you once again

This happens quite often throughout their body of work. That's why the Beatles were/are the best!


 Have you ever tried a full-immersion weekend in your own home? I mean, no lights but candles or oil lamps, no electronic devises at all to be used, no automobile usage - walk to the store for "provisions," no phones...all the while in period clothing?
It'd be interesting to see if you can voluntarily go from Friday evening until Sunday evening while in your own house immersed in mid-19th century (or before) living.


If someone tells me they are a history major, that doesn't impress me a lick. It only tells me that they either borrowed or were given a whole lot of money to get that piece of paper that says they 'know' history. I know so many who are not college taught history majors who can and will stand toe to toe with them. And sometimes pull out front!
You see, it's when that knowledge goes beyond the college text book by learning the whys and wherefores and getting into the mindset of our forefathers and foremothers that will impress me.
Unfortunately, most accredited history majors do not do this. But for those of you that do, however (accredited or not), my hat is off to you.


And along the lines of the above moan, a few years back I spoke with a period dressed docent who worked at Greenfield Village, who also happened to participate in living history, and she mentioned that an accredited history major she knows made a general negative comment about those of us who re-enact. She did not elaborate on what he said, only that he alluded to the opinion that we were not to be taken seriously; we are not true historians. In response she gave him a double-fisted knock upside the head and let him know that, although there are those who are just 'hobbyists', or spouses who only want to be near their husband/wife and look bored, there are those of us who take this "calling" we have to bring the past back to life quite seriously, and that there are many more of us in this vein than he might realize. And those of us that do are every bit the historian as those who have a college degrees.


 I have found that I am totally turned off of the ultra-modern contemporary churches. You know the ones I mean: a full rock band playing very hip Christian music during service, and the use of computer technology to allow the dazzling photos, lyrics, and scripture to be put on screens for all to see, a very hip preacher - a reminder (to me) of the television preacher - ministering to his flock.
I prefer a more traditional church service with traditional hymns played on a pipe organ and old-time preaching.
Are you surprised?
I thought not!
My daughter and I were watching a "Little House on the Prairie" episode - the one where Mary Ingalls travels to a town 40 miles from her home to be a teacher, and the town doesn't accept her. Anyhow, toward the end, Mary's character recites scripture from memory. That so impressed my daughter! She told me that she, too, wanted to be able to memorize and recite bible quotes. So, on our own, she and I have begun a father/daughter bible study.
Just thought I'd throw this in.


My wife and I - and many others in our circle of Civil War reenacting friends - speak quite frequently about time-travel. Some truly believe it can happen and that we just haven't found the means to accomplish it. Others feel that the past still exists but on another plane...or level...and that could also be the cause of ghostly sightings in older buildings and historic places; that they're not necessarily ghosts, just folks that still exist but in another era, living their lives, so to speak, oblivious to us here on this future plane.
My opinion? Well, it's right here in an earlier posting I wrote from a couple years ago.
What do you think?

Ladies of the 1850's
When I was a kid and I saw old photographs, whether in a history book or from and old family album, I saw...old pictures.
That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.
But, as I began to study social history and learn more of the people that lived in another era - research their everyday living habits - these pictures, all of a sudden, came to life for me. I saw more than just an image of some man or woman or little kid who was probably old and dead now...I saw a living, breathing human, one with thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears - not unlike my own. These pictures began to mean something to me, far more than I could have ever imagined.


Why do folks leave their homes "to get away" and then turn their "get-away" into what they just left?
Why do they want to live "out in the country" only to spend their time shopping in the big-city-type malls instead of living the country life?
Why do people that want to live and to give their children a better life move out of a rough area and yet bring - or allow others of their ilk to bring - that rough culture with them?


If this were 1862 instead of 2012 - - - - 
my birth year would have been 1811
My wife would have been born in 1815
We would have been married in 1835
My oldest son: 1838
My 2nd son: 1841
My 3rd son: 1845
My daughter: 1850


My father: 1777
My mother: 1779
My oldest brother: 1800
My oldest sister: 1802
My 2nd oldest sister: 1804
My 2nd oldest brother: 1808


Why do people insist on thinking that the Disney historical movies (or most Hollywood history movies for that matter) are historically accurate? Really? As much as I enjoy such movies as The Patriot and Braveheart (much in the same was as I enjoy cowboy movies), I don't take them for their historical accuracies.
By the way, men from the 1870's did not dress like the Charles Ingalls on the "Little House on the Prairie" TV show. 


And finally, for you living historians, here is something fun to do if you find yourself bored:
While dressed in period clothing, run into a store and ask what year it is. When someone answers, yell "It Worked!" and run our cheering.


Lenette Alfirov said...

I'm so glad you put this assortment of thoughts together. It's a great start to my week!

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Ken, this was so much fun to read! I see snippets of stories you did publish, but maybe omitted or altered. I am going to start using the "I am going to visit your hollyhocks" quote! I also love your final suggestion about running into a store, etc. You are quite an engaging writer, and even though I'm not a reenactor or Civil War aficionado, I really enjoy reading your thoughts and insights.


Historical Ken said...

Thanks Lenette!
Pam - you have a sharp memory. You are correct that a couple of the snippets found their way into my postings, but in an altered form as you stated.
Thank you for the kind comments.