Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Hills Have Eyes

Deep in the heart of Washington State's southeastern wheat fields, many unexpected lost places emerge. Miles and miles of empty hills span as far as the eye can see while turkey vultures reeled overhead looking for carrion by the side of the road. This old house is a few miles away from the Lower Monumental Dam, which we had hoped to cross on our way home. However, when we got there it was a huge surprise to see a giant freight ship in the locks, as well as a sign expressing the difficulty we would have in crossing the locks. So, we turned back and stopped at this house. Its charm was lost when I noticed a very, very deep cellar to the left side of the house. I looked down into it where the light was weak and the smell was dank, and I decided it was time to go.

Later, cruising on a two lane highway with Subway sandwiches in hand and mouth, a turkey vulture emerged from the dark side of the road and met its death against our speeding car's windshield -- a loud thunk that cracked it directly up the center.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boston -- History Now!

Boston is so rife with history! What a place. The bottom two photos are of recognizable significance as the photo of the brown house used to be Louisa May Alcott's (Little Women) and the statue is one of a soldier at the place where the American Revolution began. I will be back one day... no idea when, but the place is much too interesting to only visit once!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grover, Colorado

I actually went into that grain elevator. In retrospect, I kind of wish I hadn't.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mystery Lady in the Bare Trees

These photos seemed surreal to me when I first found them. They are perplexing because you can barely make out any details. When was it? Where was it? The style of the woman's hair and coat suggest the 50s, but that's not even enough to be sure of.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brookdale Lodge

If you look closely, the sign above reads: "Wishing Well For Crippled Children" (and above that, there's a bullhorn for some reason). By typing those non-PC-by-today's-standard search words into my beloved Google (hey, even Victorian gentlemen love a good search engine) I learned that this photo was taken outside a place called Brookdale Lodge, located in the mountains near Santa Cruz. And what a fascinating past this place has!

It was built in the 1920s and featured a very innovative feature: a dining room with a live stream, lined with trees, flowing through the middle of the room -- with fish, even! It was decorated with trees and had a rustic lodge style of architecture. It also had a round window that was lit to appear as moonlight coming through trees. It became famous because of this fascinating dining room, and many celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and even Herbert Hoover visited it. People could fish in the stream from balconies in side of the lodge. However, the lodge is also known for it's more notorious side since it is rumored to have been a gangster hideout during the 30s and 40s (and there are said to have been several murders there) tragedy struck when the young neice of the owner drowned in the dining room in 1972. There are many people who claim to have seen her ghost since. Since that time, the lodge has undergone several face lifts, a few owners, and a change of focus from "lodge" to "spa." I read some online reviews of the Brookdale Lodge of today, and some seemed to suggest that the place is not being kept up well. That's too bad, if so.

However, I enjoyed learning about this place, and it's an interesting find. On the back of the photo I have it reads: "Clarence & Joe. Wishing well California."

I wonder how much money the "Wishing Well For Crippled Children" ended up earning. I can only hope it helped someone as a way of counterbalancing all of the weirdness this place seems to bring!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Outhouses and Other Important Places in History

Tonight I boarded a plane bound for Seattle from San Jose. It was a nonchalant flight until I realised I REALLY had to go peepee (pardon my use of the infantile word for 'urinate'). Coffee apparently seeks revenge on those daring enough to drink it before a flight. Anyway, it was all I could do to get off the plane with a quickness. "Can I please get by you? I feel sick" I implored, lying, to all the people standing in the aisle in front of me. They all looked annoyed but gave me the right of way. I trudged up the jetway slowly for obvious reasons, and was relieved to find a restroom right out of the gate.

Suffice it to say, I think that the conveniences of modern restrooms are one of the miracles of modern life. Of course, ancient civilizations like the Aztecs, and some more recent societies like those in Paris have recognized the need to channel human waste. I mean, if s*** has been happening since the dawn of time, there has always been a need to contain it... right?

Here are two photos of pooping locations that just happen to be in ghost towns. I guess that means they are the sites of many ghost poops. One of them is in St. Elmo, Colorado, and the other (on the open plains) is in the town of Keota, Colorado. How many butts have graced each location is anyone's guess, but the answer is clear: convenience is the answer when you've gotta go.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Train Ride Home and Wreath Making

These photos have sentimental qualities that remind me of traveling home for the holidays, with the sailors on the train and the woman making a wreath from a pattern available on the copy of Ladies Home Journal which is visible in the lower right corner of the picture. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

School's Out For... Forever

This spooky old school foundation was found in the ghost town of Keota, Colorado. It's not a big place and has only a few remaining buildings, including the foundation of a school, which is shown here. This place has an interesting history as the center of the cattle industry and certain kinds of agriculture. I also learned that the author James Michener based his book Centennial in the area. Now I'll have to go read it.

Words can't describe the scary feeling that crept over me as I approached this building. Unlike peering into the window of an abandoned building, there was something particularly affecting about the vacuousness of this building placed on such an empty piece of land. It was just too empty.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wide-Open Colorado

A lot of people don't realize that most of eastern Washington State consists of flat desert; in other words, much of the state resembles the high plains of Colorado or Wyoming -- treeless and desolate. Additionally, the weather is similar, reaching negative numbers in the winter and often over 100 in the summer. Washington is an interesting place! It seems that a lot of people think of Seattle and rain, but the state is quite varied.

This is a photo from Colorado. However, it could have been from a lot of places.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hypothetical Question...

If you were driving around in the remote bleak landscape in Northern Colorado in the middle of winter, and you encountered an abandoned house, would you go over to it? Well, 104 year-old bloggers don't have much to lose, and that's just what I did! However, I got an acute case of the heebie jeebies when I realized that most of the garbage littering the main room was from hundreds of video tapes that had been unravelled... seemingly in a deliberate way. They were also all over the branches of a tree outside, fluttering in the wind in a very creepy way. I have no idea why they were there in this old house, but I made haste getting out of there!

The Sunlit Road

Lydia E. (Estes) Pinkham was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1819. She had a background as a political activist who wrote pamphlets condemning slavery and supporting women’s rights, which came in handy later in her life. Her ability to write successful sales pitches would project her to later fame and wealth as the most successful female business women of her time. She had been of a Quaker background and her father was a profitable shoe maker, so she received a good education for her time. She married a shoe maker who became a real estate mogul, and started a family. Her husband eventually suffered a financial ruin in 1875 and was left unable to care for his famly.

At this time, Lydia, who had always been plagued by “female ailments” that today would be treatable with Midol, began selling a herbal concoction that she had invented herself. It was meant as an all-in-one women’s remedy containing black cohosh, life root, unicorn root, pleurisy root, fenugreek seed and a large quantity of alcohol. Lydia was smart to take a measure of protection by filing a patent on her remedy, and successfully kept the business as a family-run operation. It was a hugely successful company, too – by the time she died in 1883 her mainstay Vegetable Compound was selling $300,000 a year, and by 1925 her profits reached $3.8 million. Quite an accomplishment for a woman of her time!

Part of what made her company so successful was the publication of her “Pinkham Pamphlets” which touted the benefits of her concoctions, along with recipes and answers to medical questions that her compound was supposed to help.

One interesting fact about her vegetable compound is that it contained about 20% alcohol, which (in spite of her involvement with the temperance movement) she claimed was used as a solvent and preservative. Not surprisingly, the product experienced a surge of popularity during the 1920s when alcohol was prohibited in the United States!

The pictures shown above are the front and back cover of a Pinkham Pamphlet that I bought not too long ago. I had no idea what it was initially. The inside of the book features a lot of recipes that are suitable for picnics, as well as testimonials about the effectiveness of the Pinkham Vegetable Compound against virtually every ailment. It’s amusing to read.

I think Lydia would be proud of the legacy she left, and prouder still that a variation of her original product still exists on the market!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Towns Are Built From Pieces Of Old Towns

This photo is of old Seattle, and I mean, REALLY old Seattle. The picture shows the founding of the University of Washington, which is now a huge school of tens of thousands. The fact that this image shows what looks almost exactly like a mining boom town highlights just how differently we relate to the idea of what is "urban" now. Urban now means large towering buildings and dense populations. Urban then... well, it may not have even existed as a term, but it was sowing it's own seeds -- perhaps without knowing.

Tomorrow I will travel to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a week. I have never been there and I never considered the possibility that I would ever go there in December. I have joked to some people that I'm going there to work on my tan -- however it's much more likely that I'll end up with wind burn, if anything. Temperatures are in the teens and snow has been coming in flurries. In telling people that I'm going to Wyoming, I have received MANY quizzical looks, as if to question why anyone would go there. Well, why not? Whyoming? (Sorry! It was too obvious a pun!)

Cheyenne will have a lot of historical interest value, I'm sure. The attractions may be offbeat, but that's the way I like it. I know there there is a historic train depot museum, and Cheyenne is the state capitol (the largest "city" in Wyoming at around 50 thousand people), so I'm sure there will be some vague governmental intrigue. Wyoming also a lot of horizons -- or so I've heard. I will also be celebrating my 104th birthday on Sunday. Perhaps a good buffalo steak on the frontier is in order.

If time and weather permit, there is a chance I will be able to visit St. Elmo, Colorado, which is 200-odd miles from Cheyenne. I spent a considerable amount of time living an imaginary life there while I transcribed family letters from my great-great-great uncle, who was a telegrapher in St. Elmo for two years during the town's peak. Ever since I read his the stories of this place at the time it was alive, I have wanted to be able to say that I've been there. I have heard that road to St. Elmo is plowed all winter, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can see this place for once and for all!

I have been reading a book called Wyoming Ghost Stories by Debra Munn, and I am now feeling pretty exuberant about meeting Random JoeBob Ghost! Some of the stories in the book (all purportedly true) gave me real chills, so perhaps this is just the landscape to be in if you have an active imagination!

Wyoming is the least populated state in the U.S., in spite of being the 10th largest state. Hee-haw, everyone, I'm going to the Cowboy State!

The reason I posted the photo of Seattle is that I am drawn to the layers of time that put their marks on every place that people live. Many houses have many histories; there may have been three or four generations born and raised in a house, only to have it sold to a new family raising young children. I think that the feelings and realities of the past are really not that far; you can sense them in any place that has history -- which is all places, if you think about it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ghost Towns and Gold Rushes

I took this photo of a dilapidated house just outside of a small town called Fossil, Oregon. Eastern Oregon is full of ghost towns that emerge unexpectedly along hill crests on long, lonesome roads. Over Labor Day I took a trip out to the town of The Dalles, Oregon. It is a beautiful old town on the Columbia River which has a rich past as a home to the Fort Dalles. Fort Dalles was the final stop on the Oregon Trail. It is a very interesting place with a historic museum that was once part of the old fort, dating back to the 1850s.

Oregon boasts a total of 18 ghost towns -- more than any other state. Of course, there are always places that have been swept away without notice (and along the way I saw many abandoned buildings that were not part of any town). However, Oregon is full of ghost towns, and they sit casually at the side its winding highways. Many towns were built due to gold mining, but were abandoned after railways bypassed them and ended up creating and supporting different boom towns. Others were abandoned just because the settlers hadn't anticipated weather conditions which rendered their crops useless.

During their time, gold rushes represented a significant part of American history. Now, there is a different sort of rush at hand: the rush to find sustainable alternative energy. Wind farms now line many different parts of the Columbia River Gorge, which is a natural wind tunnel. Business in wind energy is now so lucrative that some describe the scramble to acquire the means/land to create these wind farms as similar to the gold rush. As a result, small communities experience an influx of population and business during the creation of the wind sites, and a waning when the company leaves in the direction of another venture.

Along the same trip, I also took this photo of wind turbines being assembled an hour east of The Dalles. A friend works as a field engineer for a company that specializes in putting up windmill farms. Each of these windmills are immense at 300 feet high, and have huge blades like jumbo jet airplane wings. They generate 2.4 megawatts each, and the power is harnessed by high voltage lines right nearby, and sent to California (among other places along the way, of course). The largest wind farm in the world may soon be along the Columbia River in Oregon.

After seeing buildings in various stages of decay all along the scenic Journey Through Time Scenic Byway (a beautiful drive that everyone should experience), I was left to wonder what around us is on the rise, and what is on its way to being outmoded.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Tis the Season... to know CPR

Statistically speaking, more heart attacks occur during the winter/holiday season, for a variety of reasons. When they do happen, they are often more serious than in the summer. Not to be a downer, but knowing CPR is essential! It's never a bad idea to take a class over at the local fire department.

I found this photo, as well as three others like it, of a group of people learning CPR in the 70s.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dreams and Realizations

This photo, which I bought at an antique mall (incidentally, a former Safeway with the recognizable 70s architecture) in Edmonds, WA, has some cursive writing in blue ballpoint ink on the back. It reads:

See Page 31

McGuire & Tyus USA won easily which was an upset. Taken From Press Box. LA Coliseum. July 25, ‘64

Several things about this photo caught my attention right away. First, it looks like a professional photo of a race like one that might be featured in a newspaper. This may very well be the case, as any photos taken from a press box were probably taken by media photographers.

Wyomia Tyus and Edith McGuire are the runners who are mentioned on the back of the photograph. Both were very accomplished sprinters for Tennessee State University during the early 1960s and ran against each other for a long time. As a runner, Edith McGuire was formidable; in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, she had accomplished a huge feat by winning three gold medals in track in field while struggling with a sprained ankle. She was instrumental in gathering attention to the sport of women’s track and field as a competitive athletic sport. Up until the Olympics, Wyomia Tyus had never bested Edith’s time. The race shown here in this photo marks a changing point that never reversed itself, for either runner.

Prior to this particular track meet, the Soviet runners had been far and beyond the American runners, to the point of dominating the sport. This particular run was staged on a day when the Cold War was still raging; any victory from the Americans was surely an “upset.”

The race shown here was in July of 1964, and Wyomia went on to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in October, where she equaled Edith McGuire’s 100 meter World Record in the heats. She ended up beating Edith McGuire (for the first time ever) by two tenth’s of a second in the finals. She also won a silver medal in the 4 x 100m relay.

The following years, Tyus won numerous national championships in the sprint events, and a gold medal in the 200 m at the Pan-American Games. In 1968, she defended, and won, her title in 100 m. In doing so, she set a new World Record of 11.0 and became the first woman to retain the Olympic 100 m title. Wyomia also qualified for the 200 m final, and finished sixth. Running the final leg for the relay team, Tyus helped in setting a new World Record, winning her third gold medal.

Wyomia Tyus retired from amateur sports in 1968, after having become the first person to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter dash. She had been the only daughter of an encouraging dairy farmer father. Her mother was more reluctant, thinking that running was un-ladylike. Wyomia started with basketball, but started track and field high-jumping. She realized that she had talent for the sport and continued to international success.

Edith McGuire retired from athletics sooner than Wyomia; she stopped competing in 1965 to become a teacher. She had broken Wilma Rudolph’s record at the 200 meter-sprint in 1964’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Edith McGuire is the only American woman to hold three different National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles at different times. She has been very successful since; he was a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for outstanding athletes who distinguished themselves in their careers. Ultimately, she did some humanitarian things by touring East Africa for the State Department. Now, along with her husband, Edith owns and operates three McDonalds restaurants in Oakland, California. She and her husband sponsor a program called “Hoop it Up For Education.”

The idea here is: no matter what your background and experience, a certain drive to achieve a goal can project you much further than you expected. Cheesy?

I should mention again: I bought a packet of photos at a run-down antique end-game kind of place, but it happened to include this gem. What do you have at home that should be in a trunk, wrapped against moisture and/or fire damage???

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reindeer Adventure

This photo shows a family, presumably the same man and woman I referred to as George and Dorothy in an earlier post. At the time I purchased the photos, there were several that appeared to be from one family and spanned quite a few years. The family seemed to really know how to have fun, judging by some of the photos.

I can't imagine where this was taken but I'm assuming it was probably not a Christmas-themed adventure park, such as the ones I found while searching Google to see what kinds of parks like that existed in the 1950s. In doing so, I found this page which looks back at some of California's Christmas theme parks of yesteryear. Of course, every state had something similar; what I wouldn't give to take a field trip to Santa's Village right now!

In this picture, the snow is clearly authentic, and the little girl is bundled up like a marshmallow. I suppose it could be someone's farm where they herded reindeer and offered sleigh rides.

I am looking forward to the holiday season, and this picture reminds me of what fun the holidays are for children.