Monday, September 29, 2008
Music! Music! Music!
Every night when every-body has fun
Here am I set-tin' all on my own
It won't be long yeah yeah...
That's my seven year old daughter singing those classic lines from It Won't Be Long off of the Meet the Beatles album.
She can pretty much sing most of the Beatles tunes, as well as Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, Rock and Roll Waltz by Kaye Starr, Some Folks written in the mid-19th century by Stephen Foster, the latest hits by Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. And she loves the theme songs to Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Suite Life of Zac and Cody.
And that's not all: there's the soundtrack to the play "Wicked," Eh Compari by Julius LaRosa, and...well, you get the picture.
My 12 year old son loves classic rock: Feel Like Makin' Love by Bad Company, Stranglehold by Ted Nugent, Dream On by Aerosmith, and even I Am the Walrus by the Beatles and The Sunset and Twilight Time by the Moody Blues. Lately, his constant fave raves (as we called them back in the 70's) include See Emily Play by Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin's Dazed and Confused and Kashmir.
My next oldest boy, aged 17, loves the Punk Scene of the 1970's and 80's as well as the current punk sounds of Green Day. He also loves Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne. He has ventured to the early rock of the '50's - Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and Chuck Berry. For a while, he collected original recording of the WWI era (How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm, and It's A Long Way To Tipperary). Lately I've caught him listening to the big band sounds of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Louis Jordan.
And now, just within the past week he's been asking me about country music and has favored Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul cd.
My eldest (age 20) listens to the Stray Cats, Dean Martin, contemporary classical and jazz guitarists, Beatles - all of my kids listen to the Beatles - Adam and the Ants, and Renaissance madrigals.
Being heavily into music myself (I worked in a record store for 19 years!), I am very proud of the variety of music my kids listen to. Yeah, it's mainly in the rock category, but there is such a diverse mixture of sounds that one never knows what they might hear when they come to my house!But, I have to say the biggest kick I get is when my kids - especially my youngest - sing along to my absolute favorite group, The Beatles. Hearing my little girl sing every word to Little Child, I Feel Fine, I Want To Hold Your Hand, or even I'll Get You - songs I used to sing over 40 years ago - just makes me smile. And, yeah, we duet together as we walk to school - we do a great
Tell me why hy-hy-hy you cried,
and why you lie-hi-hied to me...!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Meet My Ancestors of Victorian England - A Guide to Putting Flesh on the Bones of YOUR Ancestors
“The foul language is due to the fact that from early childhood they have been employed in the fields. It was half articulate, nasal, guttural, made up almost entirely of vowels, like the speech of savages. (Farming) wears them out in body and makes them brutes in soul and in manners. They were shambling, slouching, boorish, degraded creatures, improvident, reckless, and always on the watch for what they could get out of the gentry."
This is a description of my English ancestors - my mother's side of the family. One might think that such a description is an afront to my heritage. Nope. It's fact, and there's nothing I can do about it. (Personally, I think it's pretty cool!).
Of course, the above description is not only of my ancestors, but of the lower class populace of the village in England from which they came, Great Oakley. I find it to be an interesting perspective on the dialect of the English language spoken by the lower class tiny village labourers - it sort of puts flesh on the bones of my long gone 2nd, 3rd, and 4th great grandparents (an elderly relative, who recently passed away, remembers her grandmother - my great great grandmother - from Geddington, near Great Oakley, speaking in a nasally tone).
This information about the type of dialect and style in which my ancestors spoke comes from the book Victorian People by Gillian Avery, a wonderful (and, unfortunately out of print) book about Victorian social history in England.
Another excellent book that I was lucky enough to obtain is one called Geddington As It Was by Monica Rayne. It is a local (to Geddington, Northamptonshire, England) history book and I found it through my genealogist and good friend who happens to reside near that village. In this particular book I found a gold mine of information on this tiny hamlet that my great great grandmother (born in 1858) grew up in. There are wonderful maps and detailed descriptions, by street name in many cases, of the tiny village, as well as the style of clothing, businesses, daily chores, food, lighting, bathrooms, and even the inside of the cottager houses, just like what my ancestors lived in. Like the other book, Geddington As It Was offers information that puts a flesh-on-the-bones description of the agricultural laborers (farmers) such as my ancestors:
"12 hours a day, six days a week, starting 6:00 am or earlier of hard, physical work. What was known as the 'eight hour bell' was rung at four in the morning, at noon, and at 8:00 at night to give the various labourers notice of the hour to begin their day, when to have dinner, and when to go to bed. This out door farm life was physically demanding, but not necessarily equally heavy all year round.”
The authoress goes on to say that, "there was a class barrier within the village, as there was throughout England. By and large, the children from the larger homes” (described as having three or more rooms) “were not encouraged to mix with children from cottages where families were forced to carry on all their activities in small cramped quarters. The residents of the West Street cottages for instance,” the street on which my ancestors lived "were frowned upon by the slightly more affluent occupiers of some of the larger Queen Street or Wood Street homes. (But) in spite of a strict hierarchy - the doffing of caps, addressing superiors as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am,’ and observing the pecking order down to the seating in church - Geddington was a close-nit community, within which the family unit was paramount. They shared a common background which created a strong sense of community feeling."
I write the above not only to share a little about my ancestors (whose surname was Raby), but to show the importance of social history books and, just as important, local history books. Most communities have them readily available, and the cost usually supports the local historical societies.
I have tried to collect the community history books of all of my ancestral home towns, such as:
A History of Great Oakley by Peter Hill
Burial Records of Northamptonshire 1813 to 1973 by the Northampstonshire Record Office
East Gwillumbury in the 19th Century by Gladys Rolling
Blue Water Reflections: A Pictorial History of Port Huron by Mary C. Burnell and Amy MarcaccioThe Halfway-East Detroit Story by Robert Christenson
(Unfortunately, I have yet to find any sort of local history books from Alcamo, Sicily. Maybe one day...)
The above mentioned books (and others I have not listed) truly gives the researcher a peek into the daily lives of those who have long gone before us - of a lifestyle seemingly archaic by today's standards. Again, putting flesh on the bones of our ancestors.
Then there are those books that can add meat to the flesh and bones: social history books such as Gillian Avery's that I spoke of and quoted at the beginning of this blog. One in particular that I find to be a must for any researcher of the 19th century is Juanita Leisch's An Introduction to Civil War Civilians. Don't let the Civil War moniker fool you - this book, in only 86 pages, gives an excellent overview of the lives, times, and, most importantly, the mindset of mid-19th century Americans.
And there are so many other books, individually covering virtually every detail of lives once lived; books on clothing (including one on period undergarments!), language, death and mourning, occupations, lighting and furniture, homes (and what each room was used for), religion, roads and travel methods...and on and on.
I would also recommend searching out (for usually fairly cheap on eBay) books of Currier and Ives prints. These wonderful collections of the sketches and paintings are a literal pictorial look at every day life of 19th century America. For the 20th century, we have millions of unposed photographs - 19th century photos are rarely unposed. Most show folks in a photographer's studio or of Civil War battle scenes. Currier and Ives are our main link to the everyday *mundane* life IN COLOR - of scenes and people from the 19th century. Yes, they are drawings, but they are as close as we will ever get to seeing that era in its natural state.
However, please do not take every author's opinion as law - there are many writer's books out there, particularly about religion in American history, that try to dispel the truth for their own agendas. Like the pollsters of today, they will take a minority and turn it into a majority.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Stitch Counters Ain't So Bad
Many reenactors have this fear of - or being known as - a thread counter, and I'd like to know why? If one does their homework and purchases (or makes) period correct clothing, what is there to be afraid of? And why do so many knock the thread counters for wanting to be as accurate as they possibly can?
Let's take all of this one step at a time. First off, no one should ever fear a thread counter or a stitch nazi. Like I said, if you do your homework - I mean really do your research - then no one can say anything derogatory to or about you. Yes, this research will take some time and effort on your part, but if you are doing actual living history and not taking part in some costumed Hallowe'en-type fun, you should try to be as accurate in your presentation as you can, correct? So, while at an event, ask a well-known stitch counter for their advice. Better yet, ask two or three. Chances are, if they're a stitch "nazi," they may have already given their two cents anyhow. But, listen to what they have to say. Take notes. Then double check their information. They may be thread counters, but that doesn't mean they are always correct.
Find reputable sutlers - on line or at an event. But, remember - just because they set up at an event or have the claim of being an authentic sutler does not mean that they sell period correct items. They are in a business to make money so they could very well tell you what you want to hear just to make a sale.
Magazines - especially Citizens Companion - http://www.amazon.com/Citizens-Companion/dp/B0000AFQJZ
is a great magazine to subscribe to (click the link to read my Amazon.com detailed review and to subscribe)
Something else to think on - - - - the men who do military impressions cannot - cannot - go onto the battlefield unless they have everything they need, from their kepis down to their brogans - they must be accurately dressed. And, they also - in nearly all units - have to attend numerous practice drills (the 21st Michigan has 5) before the new recruit is eligible to go onto the battlefield.
Why can't something similar to this be the case for the civilians as well? Are we less important? I repeatedly hold meetings for our civilians in the 21st Michigan, and have attended meetings with the MSAS - Michigan Soldier's Aid Society.
The meetings don't always work - there are still some who go their own way - but the rest of us do not give up. We continue to strive to represent our ancestors the best we can. And we can only hope those who go their own way will follow suit eventually.
If you are going to make the claim of being a reenactor / living historian, then do the rest of us a favor and don't just half-ass it. Please, take the time and do it correctly. I don't care if it takes you three years to get your outfit together, at least you are nearing your goal. Just throwing on whatever and saying "this is close enough" does not cut it, not when so many of us have taken the time and effort to present ourselves as correctly as we can possibly be.
Is this asking too much? Does this make me a stitch counter? Yes? Well, then, thank you. I take it as a compliment, even if you don't mean it to be so (although I do not go around giving advice to those who do not ask for it - I'm still learning, but at least I'm making the effort).
Sorry if I sound a bit harsh, but, as a friend of mine has said, I take my fun seriously. And if you plan to do something as important as living history, then maybe you should, too.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Free Games For May - See Emily Play
Now why would an amateur social historian care for something like this?
Well, in my youth, Pink Floyd was only a handful of groups that I tried to collect every album they released (the others being the Beatles, Moody Blues, and Led Zeppelin).
And of all the albums that Pink Floyd released, my favorite was Relics - A Bizarre Collection of Antiques and Curios http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relics_(Pink_Floyd_album)
Although it was not an "official" album - it was a collection of sorts of early singles and some album tracks. But, it had such great psychedelic tunes as See Emily Play, Bike, Paint Box, and Careful With That Axe Eugene.
From there I picked up other early Floyd albums (Saucerful of Secrets and Piper at the Gates of Dawn), then continued on all the way through the LP Animals. From the Wall on, I just didn't care very much for them. Yes, it's true - I know I'm a rarity here. I'm just not a Wall fan. Nor am I a fan of pretty much anything after that album. The music just didn't sound the same - it didn't have the feel of the earlier Pink Floyd albums. Oh, yeah, there was Comfortably Numb, and that was a fine song indeed, but the rest of it....not for me.
However, something I never really realized until very recently: During the recording of the Wall, Richard Wright was first fired and then relegated to the job of studio musician, never fully allowed to rejoin the group of which he helped to co-found. Roger Waters' ego, from what I understand.
Could the firing of Wright (which was wrong) be the reason the later Pink Floyd albums did nothing for me?
Or is it just a coincidence?
Whatever the case, another part of my youth left with the death of Richard Wright.
We still got the music, but it won't be the same.
By the way, if you want to hear (and see) the early Pink Floyd I love so much, check out their (I believe) 1st music video from 1967 of my favorite Pink Floyd tune, See Emily Play.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Out of my Sunday Morning in mid-September Mind
OK, it's been a while since I wrote anything contemporary, but there are a few things I must get off my chest:
Isn't it something how the supposed "bipartisan" media is just doing their best to clobber McCain and Palin, but yet those two are passing Obama by without the god-like accolades of the press. The media and celebrities hate it that the majority of middle America - who they feel they should control (look at the global warming farce) - do not listen to them.
Now, I'm not saying that McCain is necessarily my man of choice, but, at this time, I really like Palin. Will my opinions change in the coming weeks? One never knows. I will keep close tabs. I don't ever trust the press nor celebrities in their extremist liberal views. And I especially do not want who Europe or the middle east want me to vote for.
Nope. I may just end up voting against the two main parties by voting independent. But, for now, I do like Palin - oh, and McCain (as far as between him and Obama, for what it's worth).
Oh, and I also wanted to make this point as well: in an Obama ad it was stated that if McCain were elected, he would get rid of Rowe vs Wade. What? He can do that? When did the president get such power?
And as far as Palin being too religious because of the supposed Separation of Church and State myth, please read my blog (it would not fit on one line - sorry):
I would also like to point out the double standard the media has against Palin. Just this past week, Charles Gibson "interviewed" Palin, asking some pretty tough questions and did his best to make her look like she is not ready to be a vice president. But, when questioning Obama - the man who would be KING - the questions are, um...noticeably lighter.
See for yourself:
How does it feel to break a glass ceiling?
How does it feel to “win”?
How does your family feel about your “winning” breaking a glass ceiling?
Who will be your VP?
Should you choose Hillary Clinton as VP?
Will you accept public finance?
What issues is your campaign about?
Will you visit Iraq?
Will you debate McCain at a town hall?
What did you think of your competitor’s [Clinton] speech?
A little biased? You think?
Do you have enough qualifications for the job you’re seeking? Specifically have you visited foreign countries and met foreign leaders?
Aren’t you conceited to be seeking this high level job?
Questions about foreign policy
-territorial integrity of Georgia
-allowing Georgia and Ukraine to be members of NATO
-Iranian nuclear threat
-what to do if Israel attacks Iran
-Al Qaeda motivations
-the Bush Doctrine
-attacking terrorists harbored by Pakistan
Is America fighting a holy war? [misquoted Palin]
Folks, this is media bias at its finest.
But, you know what? The media is hanging on by a thread. They are slitting their own throats and they are dying. They are looking for any news to sell, and what could be better news than for the first black man to get elected President of the United States? How many papers would they sell and how high will their TV ratings be as compared to if McCain won?
That's all they're looking for.
And speaking of a black man possibly becoming president (I'm on a role, so pardon me if my words get a bit jumbled), I have been called a racist against blacks if I don't vote for Obama.
Wow! Now we have to vote by race!
Well, it's working for the black American population, for, according to this blog
because of Obama, the black vote will be up at least 30%. I have also read (in various places) that it is suggested over 90% percent of the black population will vote for Obama (google it - there are too many links and sources to cite on this one). If this is the case, isn't the black population a bit, shall we say, racist?
OK, off of the two political parties and on to something that folks should also be aware of:
Did you know that California has banned the words "Bride and Groom" from its marriage licenses? It is now "Party one and Party two."
I don't think this is a good way for gays who want to marry and be like everyone else to get the average American to back them. By removing these two words, a tradition that goes back to the middle ages is being destroyed.
Oh, what a world in which we live.
Yup, "Passion for the Past" indeed.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
De-stressing Yourself With Historical Therapy
And let's not forget my vacation this past April to Gettysburg.
A home in the open-air historic village of Waterloo
All of this in 2008.
And, to top it all off, my house - my 1944 bungalow - has a Victorian feel once you step through our doors. A Victorian that also includes a computer, digital TV, cell phones, etc.
Wouldn't you love to live here?
One would think that, after all of the above that I would tire of historic places. On the contrary, I cannot seem to get enough and the continued visits just make me want to go back again and again. It's a comfort thing, I suppose. Almost therapeutic.
Well, no, it is therapeutic. It gets me away from all of the crap of today.
As I have said before, yes, I live in today's world. I am up on news and politics. I am aware of 21st century lifestyles. I accept and use modern technology.
But we all need that place we can go - real or imagined (or, in my case, a combination of the two) - to de-stress ourselves. Some folks go to bars, others to the casinos, others to a sporting event, and still others love to travel. For me, though, it has to be something historical. And, I have been lucky - nay, BLESSED - to have a family who shares my passion for history. Oh, maybe not quite to the extent that I do, but they enjoy re-enacting as well as visiting and studying historic places, and even dressing up in period clothing on the off-season here and there.
One of the questions I receive is, "Don't you get bored looking at the same thing (buildings) over and over?"
My answer to them is a resounding "NO!"
Every time I visit Greenfield Village, for example, I learn something new. ~Every time.~
Or I catch a glimpse of something I've never seen before.
My daughter and I at the Loranger Gristmill in Greenfield Village
I also have learned to lower my stress level through my writing, whether it's my time travel story, this particular blog, or my Greenfield Village blog (see links below). And, I started another blog for Crossroads Village as well, and hope to begin still another for other historical places in the general area.
It's like it's my own personal therapy session, only my psychiatrist is myself and my medicine is history.
Works for me!
By the way, here are a list of websites of the above-mentioned museums. Just in case you want to check them out.
Greenfield Village http://gfv1929.blogspot.com/
Dearborn Historical Society www.cityofdearborn.org/departments/historicalmuseum/faq.shtml
Crocker House Museum http://www.crockerhousemuseum.com/index.html
Crossroads Village http://crossroadsvillageofflintmichigan.blogspot.com/
Witches Hat Train Depot Museum http://www.southlyonmi.org/Attractions/witch.htm
Charlton Park in Hastings http://www.barrycounty.org/parks-and-services/charlton-park/
Historic Fort Wayne http://www.historicfortwaynecoalition.com/
Wolcott Mill http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM1YBY
East Detroit Historical Society 1872 Halfway Schoolhouse http://www.macomb.k12.mi.us/EASTDET/FEATURE/SchMo.htm
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Detroit - A True Colonial City
Boston, MA 1630
Charleston, SC 1670
Philadelphia, PA 1682
Detroit, Mi 1701
Trenton, NJ 1719
Concord, NH 1725
Baltimore, Md 1729
Richmond, VA 1733
The above list shows the years these well-known colonial American cities were founded. And right smack dab in the middle is Detroit.
Wait! Detroit? A colonial city?
Yup. Ha! It's even older than Baltimore, and only 19 years younger than Philadelphia!
Here's a quick history from Wikipedia:
The church was built for use of the people who lived along the Detroit River.
During the French and Indian War (1760), British troops gained control and shortened the name to Detroit. Several tribes led by Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa leader, launched Pontiac's Rebellion (1763), including a siege of Fort Detroit. Partially in response to this, the British Royal Proclamation of 1763 included restrictions on white settlement in Indian territories. Detroit passed to the United States under the Jay Treaty (1796). In 1805, fire destroyed most of the settlement. A river warehouse and brick chimneys of the wooden homes were the sole structures to survive.
As you can see, Detroit played an important role in the history of our nation - much more important than let on by the history books.
And here's some descriptions from primary sources of everyday life in the late 18th century on the streets of old Detroit (taken from the book "Michigan Voices" by Joe Grimm:
The first I have here are of two offenses by a couple of residents: Two cows belonging to Mr. Wm. Scott were found in the street, and a Mr. G. McDougal left his cart in the street all night. Also, a number of hogs are running in the street daily, to the great detriment of the public.
Speaking of streets, they tended to be in just as bad a shape in the 1790's as they are today:
The street opposite the church was in bad order, and there was a log missing in front of George Leith & Co. And poor Mr. Hand had no logs at all in front of his house!
Neighbor troubles are nothing new, just ask the local tanner, Mr. George Setchelsteil. He was assaulted while on horseback by Simon Girty. It seems Mr. Girty seized Setchelsteil's horse by the bridal, making use of abusive words in doing so. Mr. Setchelsteil found some means to turn his horse away and was able to distance himself from Mr. Girty. Girty, however, was throwing stones at the man, one of which struck him in the head and gave him a wound from which much blood gushed out. Setchelsteil claimed there was no provocation given to cause this.
Ah, city life. Not much has changed, eh?
It is sad that when colonial settlements are spoken of, Detroit is never on the list - never.
And it doesn't help that Detroit very rarely celebrates its colonial past. In fact, nearly all history books I have of Detroit spends very little on pre-Civil War era Detroit. For example, in the book "Echoes of Detroit - A 300 Year History" by Irwin Cohen, only 8 pages out of 131 are dedicated to its first 100 years - the colonial period - and the next 18 pages takes us all the way up to 1874! Nearly 200 years in 26 pages and just over 100 pages to cover the last 125 years.
Another book, "Detroit: A Motor City History" by David Lee Poremba does a much better job by giving the city's early history nearly 60 pages out of 149.
But, "A Motor City History" is a rarity. Most others that I have looked at while browsing in the book stores tend to forget the founding years and concentrates mainly on the automobile years.
I would like to know why Detroit does not celebrate its colonial past. I mean, even it's 19th century past is rarely celebrated; if it wasn't for those of us who do Civil War reenacting, I believe most of Detroit's pre-20th century history would be forgotten. Even Greenfield and Crossroads Villages no longer celebrate Detroit's colonial heritage - both Village's have done away with their colonial festivals.
I would love to see Detroit mentioned on the national stage as more than just a blip on the pages of history until the automobile era.
And, unless we celebrate that here locally, it will never have a chance nationally.
(If you are interested in reading about the way our colonial ancestors lived, please click HERE)