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.

Tough People

I have started accumulating a few photos that appear to have been taken in orchards. What this means is anyone's guess; however, I do know that at the time (early 1900s) there was a descriptive style to photo-taking. For example, if someone was a homesteader, it would be expected that there would be photos of the homestead.

This woman's stance suggests a no-nonsense approach in life -- one I have always admired but have had trouble pulling off in so-called "real life."

No-nonsense means no apologizing for who you are. For where you've been. For what you've thought and then alternately not-thought. Life shows us a lot of options and then we choose. We should all hope to choose best in order to find our own happiness.

This lady in an orchard wryly smiles on, knowing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Al Smith for President 1928

This little election button was recently given to me by a visiting friend from Ireland. She came to the U.S. 1) to see places she'd never been and 2) to be in Chicago during this historic election. I thought it was a very thoughtful little gift since I'm an enthusiastic collector of all things "olde" and I'm also keenly interested in the election.

I love the fact that this election represents so many "firsts" -- first woman candidate (sorry Hil), first African American candidate (go Obama!), first time in 8 years since there has been hope of lifting the heavy storm cloud of the Bush Administration.

However, this little token of an election long since past made me do a little research into the names Smith and Robinson, and I discovered that in his time, Al Smith was also a first in some ways. At the time that he gained the Democratic nomination, he was the first Catholic to be nominated on the presidential ticket. This was shocking at the time due to anti-Catholic sentiments that were felt in politics. Born in 1873 and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he began his career in politics in 1895 when a friend recommended him for a position as an investigator in the Office of the City Commissioner of Jurors. In 1903 he was elected to the State Assembly of New York, and eventually became a very influential reformer whose interest in the welfare of the working people gained him a reputation as a progressive. He worked hard to put in place safety measures for workers and investigated dangerous working conditions.

Al Smith eventually served four terms as New York Governor where he did a great deal for social conditions in New York, and helped pass reform legislation, including improved factory laws, better housing requirements, and expanded welfare services. In 1928 he was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate, but lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover. However, his politics ended up being monumentally influential, and he helped create the classless politics that became the New Deal under Roosevelt.

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner has since remained as an annual white tie charity fundraiser, and a traditional stop along the presidential campaign trail. It is customary for the opponent presidential candidates to roast each other lightheartedly, and this year was no exception as Barack Obama and John McCain met for the 63rd Al Smith Dinner on October 16th. There are clips on youtube which are pretty amusing.

I am very excited about this election and I hope that it will bring the positive changes in the country and world that so many have been praying for. Godspeed, Barack Obama!