Sunday, October 13, 2013

Magpie Tales #190

It's been a very long time since I did a Magpie. I'm a bit out of practice, but I loved today's prompt pic, so with my own pooch snoring away under the desk, I decided to give it a whirl. As I said, it's been awhile, so...

It was that feeling of being watched – that shivery sensation that makes your heart cough and the fine hairs on the back of your neck rise to attention – which caused me to first spot the dog peering through the hole left by the missing board in the fence. I'd often thought about repairing the fence, something that would have been taken care of the day after The Incident had Paul been here to handle it, but somehow I'd never quite gotten around to it. I try to pretend that my neglect is because I'm too busy, but truth is a much more critical judge.

I chuckled mirthlessly. The Incident. Initial caps. That how I think of it now, almost a year later. Still sugarcoating it, refusing to use the harsher words that defy my need to soften reality and make it more palatable, less frightening, seemingly less permanent. As a freelance writer, I knew the power of words, yet I had never been afraid of them, had never hesitated to call a spade a spade, until now.

Was it really almost a year ago? That stupid cliché about time flying certainly seemed appropriate, but for me, time hadn't flown. It had crawled, a slow agonizing progression across a dry arid desert with no oasis in sight. Each day bled mindlessly into the next, one never ending Sunmontueswednesthursfrisaturday. The only divergence from that course would be when old friends, so scarce these days, would take pity on me and pry me from the confines of this too-large-for-one-person house, forcing me to attend a dinner or a movie or to go shopping.

Then there were those times, like now, when I was reminded I hadn't yet repaired the fence.

I had been in the kitchen, lifting a freshly baked apple pie from the oven when I'd heard the odd noise from the backyard. I'd looked out the window … the grille of the riding mower had been resting against the fence, one of the rotting boards split and laying across the hood. Paul had been slumped over the wheel, motionless. I'd dropped the pie, grabbed my cell phone and ran outside, but it was already too late. The words “massive heart attack” had echoed in my ears long after the emergency room doctor had squeezed my hand, long after the minister and the funeral director had been called, long after my son and his wife had driven me home and tucked me into bed in their guest room, refusing to leave me alone that night.

I really had meant to fix the board. But each time I remembered it, each time I thought to add it to my to-do list, I revisited that day, and the pain which had receded to a dull constant ache would flare anew, bringing with it a fresh flood of tears and hours of I miss you's and I love you's and I wish you were here's and It's so hard without you's whispered to the familiar gentle ghost which resided just beyond my right shoulder.

I could hear that specter teasing me now as I reached for my glass of wine, my hand shaking so that the liquid sloshed out over my fingers. It's just a dog, Dee. I thought you liked dogs. I glanced across the yard again and forced a deep breath, my posture relaxing. The dog hadn't moved and I realized that he was too large to fit through the hole. But he could smell the chicken I'd put on the grill and was no doubt salivating. His ice blue, otherworldly eyes followed my movements as I flipped the meat and his ears perked when he heard the sizzle of the marinade hitting the flame. He suddenly shifted and sat, prepared to keep a watchful vigil, his face hopeful and still squeezed between the boards of the fence.

I wondered if he was a stray.

The house on the other side of the fence had been abandoned during the financial crisis of 2009 and had remained unoccupied ever since. A landscaper came once a week to care for the lawn, and someone checked the house periodically during the winter months to make certain everything was all right, but the home remained empty. I'd never seen the landscaper with a dog and no one else on the street had a pet quite that large. From where I stood, I couldn't see if he had a collar, but I decided against getting any closer. Just because he wasn't growling and snapping didn't mean he would be friendly if approached by a stranger.

I'd never had a fondness for large breeds, although my opinion had been formed by one lone experience with a Rottweiler named Bear who had fancied himself a lapdog and no amount of shoving or cajoling could convince him otherwise. Paul and I had toyed with the idea of getting a pet many times over the years, but had never agreed on feline as opposed to canine. Paul was a cat lover, something I most definitely was not. But I had campaigned for small dogs, more cat-like dogs, unobtrusive dogs which could be stuffed in a handbag or forced to wear a sweater on chilly mornings. Paul had not conceded, arguing that small dogs would yip and yap and get underfoot, since they weren't smart enough to know better, like cats.

It was an friendly disagreement that was never reconciled.

My own curiosity piqued, I determined that, if this dog and I were going to meet, he was going to come to me. On a whim, I decided to let the chicken do the talking for me. Retrieving a bowl from the house, I placed one of the chicken breasts I'd grilled in it and set it just off the patio in the grass. Then I took the other chicken breast over to the patio table with my glass of wine and sat down to eat … and wait.

I pretended to ignore him as I dined, all the while keeping him just in my peripheral vision, so I knew the moment he made his decision and retreated from his observation post. Several long minutes passed and I could hear him rustling in the bushes along the fence as he searched for a way into my yard. I smiled to myself and continued eating. By the shaking of the shrubbery which spilled over the top of the fence, he was headed in the right direction. It was only a few minutes later when I saw his head poke around the end of the fence by the street.

He hesitated, then skirted the perimeter of the yard, pressing himself close to the inside of the fence until he drew even with the bowl. I could now see he was a beautiful mixed breed: part boxer, part something I couldn't identify. His coat was a creamy white except for some dark gray on his chest and the inside of his hind legs, and he was thin but not starving, his ribs just barely visible. He was collarless, and he watched me pretending not to watch him for a long moment before raising his nose and sniffing the air. Satisfied with his exploration, he lowered his head to the ground and snarfled his way to the bowl, his eyes periodically lifting to fix on me, as if to reassure himself that everything was as it should be.

I remained seated, seemingly oblivious to his approach.

Reaching the bowl, he hesitated again, not skittish but cautious, perhaps a bit distrustful. My overactive imagination envisioned a myriad of tragic occurrences which could have led to this poor dog's arrival in my yard, and I was determined not to add to the list. I stayed silent and still, allowing him to assess the situation and come to his own conclusions.

You big softee.

I wordlessly shushed the ghost, my attention focused on my visitor. Either he concluded that he was safe, or hunger won out over better judgment, because seconds later his head was buried in the bowl and that chunk of meat was practically inhaled. When he finished, he licked his chops, then licked the bowl again, just to be sure he'd gotten every last bit. The bowl flipped and he sat down beside it, his head cocked in disappointment, as if waiting for something unexpected to happen. When it didn't, he rose and turned his attention to me. The ice had been broken and introductions needed to be made. He loped casually toward me. I merely dropped my hand to dangle over the side of the chair. He stopped and studied me a moment, then bowed his head and walked under my hand, allowing it to skim the top of his head and slide along his back.

A potent thank you. And in that moment, I knew I was lost.

He turned and retraced his steps under my hand a second, then a third time, after which he stopped and licked my fingers, then rested his chin on my knee. Those unsettling blue eyes looked into mine, and I swear I saw the wisdom of the ages reflected in them. This was a soul like mine – old, damaged, and alone. In him I could see love and loss. In him, I'd found a kindred spirit.

My hand slid along his side. There were a few burrs and a bit of mud. A bath was in order, and a trip to the vet and the pet store in the morning. I would, of course, advertise, but I knew without a doubt that no one would claim him. I spoke softly so as not to startle him, in a voice just loud enough for him and I and the specter to hear. “You can stay here tonight, once you're clean. And we'll see if we can find your owner tomorrow.” I scratched gently behind his ear. “Until then, you'll need a name, since I don't know yours. What shall I call you? How about Casper? You look like a Casper. What do you think of that?”

The dog merely sat and cocked his head again. If dogs could shrug their shoulders indifferently, I imagined he'd be doing it.

The specter, however, never answered.

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Check out other Magpies by clicking ==> HERE!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yaz's Rules for the Road

Today's guest blog post is brought to you by Yazzer the Beagle, who has some great tips on canine etiquette for making those outings with your human more memorable:

1 ~ First and foremost, even if you love car rides, resist getting in the car. This sets an immediate tone for the outing and lets the attending human know who's really in charge. Pace beside the car with your nose to the ground, pretending to sniff everything, while making sure the mud left by the heavy rain thoroughly coats your paws. This is especially effective if the car has cloth seats.

2 ~ Once in the vehicle, prance enthusiastically from window to window, leaving multiple nose prints on all glass surfaces. Climb from the back seat to the front. Be sure to drool on the dashboard, the door panels and any personal items within your reach. If the driver does not consider this "Dog Art" but instead is squicked by the slobbery mess, be sure to lick your nose often before pressing it to the glass. This will help the driver more easily appreciate your talent.

3 ~ While leaving snot-graffiti on the door windows, be sure to stand your front paws on the power window button. Lower the window enough to stick your head out and sniff the wind, then shift your weight and close the window on your snout. Yelp loudly. This causes the car to swerve while the driver fumbles frantically to free you.

4 ~ Be sure to perch on the edge of the seat so that when the driver brakes, you slide off and tumble head-first to the floor. This produces additional swerving (see #3) and possibly swearing as the driver attempts to rescue you from your calculated misfortune. Try to keep your head tucked under the glovebox/compartment, thereby making it infinitely more difficult for your human to retrieve you. Bonus points for clawing the driver.

5 ~ Let the driver know that their car isn't the only thing with a smelly exhaust. Car rides, while exciting, may give you digestive distress. Share your discomfort with others. Repeatedly. Works especially well in conjunction with #4 to add insult to injury,

6 ~ If the driver is dropping off a passenger, whimper pathetically when the passenger exits the car. Struggle to escape. If you find yourself still inside the vehicle, whine and bark loudly for at least five full minutes, allowing your vocalizations to echo smartly in the confines of the enclosed space. This puts your human on a state of High Alert, as evidenced by their white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, and warns them that you are immeasurably displeased.

7 ~ When those feelings of passenger drop-off rejection become too overwhelming, attempt to find solace by forcefully climbing into the driver's lap, seating yourself between their torso and the steering wheel, and staring imploringly into their face, nose-to-nose. This is especially effective if you weigh fifty pounds or more and haven't been considered a lap dog in at least two years.

8 ~ Finally, when returning home, climb over the driver as you seek your freedom, being sure to press your full weight into any sensitive human tissue in your path. It is imperative that you DO NOT let the driver exit the vehicle first. If, despite your best efforts, the driver does manage to get out of the car ahead of you, dive between their feet before they manage to stand fully upright, thereby tripping them. Then put your snout in the air and strut into the house with buckets of swagger. After all, you are a dog.

Yaz is a 5 year old pure-bred beagle who lives with his partner in crime,Timber, and several humans. Despite a previous owner's ill-advised name choice synonymous with faulty birth control, Yaz has a burgeoning dog's life. His best known work to-date is Upsetting the Christmas Tree and Poo-ing in Becky's Work Shoes. His current project is Sneaking Food Wrappers Out of the Trashcan Without Anyone Noticing.  He writes from Shippensburg, PA.

Sepia Saturday #190

I must begin this week's post with a heartfelt apology. It has been well over a year and a half since I have either participated in Sepia Saturday or visited the posts of other Sepians, and I have sorely missed it! While I could wax poetic about the greed of the modern schedule or the elusiveness of time, I will instead simply make my post as if the gap year didn't really exist.

Of course, I'm still posting these on Sunday. Some things just can't be helped.

This week's photo prompt shows four fashionably dressed young ladies having a picnic in the grass.  Sadly, I have no personal family photographs of picnics or outings to share. Growing up, my immediate family (and extended family, as well) didn't seem particularly inclined toward outdoor celebrations of any kind. "Too much work" and "too many bugs" were just two of the excuses I remember hearing. And from the definite lack of evidence to the contrary, it would seem The Fam came by that inclination honestly -- there are no photographs of such family activities back through three or four generations. 

That doesn't mean I come to the party empty-handed, however!

In working with my local historical society, one of the projects I have begun is identifying some of the dozens and dozens of unknown photographs in our collection, such as the above image.  While the names are lost, the image is nonetheless fabulous! I love the formality of the fashion and the table setting, even though the event is outdoors in a tent. Speaks volumes about the nature of the dining experience a century ago - there's even a vase of fresh-cut flowers on the table. Whatever the occasion, it's obvious that this gathering is incredibly elaborate, unlike the more spontaneous picnics on the grass.

Come see what other Sepians have posted by clicking ==> HERE!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Piece of My Youth ...

... is gone. Davy was my first "Hollywood" crush.

I think my heart is breaking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

If These Walls Could Talk

After having lived in our 140-year-old house for over 20 years, I was under the impression that we had discovered just about all the house's secrets that were meant to be discovered. We know exactly how cold it has to get before we need to put a heat lamp under the kitchen sink to keep the pipes from freezing. We know to check for leaks in the spare room upstairs when the driving rain comes from the west. We know that too much rain or snowmelt in March will cause flooding in our cellar. We know when someone starts the dryer because the kitchen light dims.

You get the idea.

But while all those quirks give an old house character (and the homeowner some frustration), it's the history and anecdotes and stories from previous owners which, added together, give a house personality.

I've seen maps and photographs of the house through the years, proving that it's led an interesting life. But all of the former owners have moved away or passed on, as have many of the old neighbors, and so I have no collected stories about my house, save my own. At least, I didn't until the November meeting of my local historical society. The presentation that night was entitled, "Murder in Oakville," and I'd attended with anticipation, eager for a good tale about my little village and expecting the crime to have been committed in one of the houses across the street, which is purported to be haunted.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Yup. My house. Yellow crime scene tape, detectives in long overcoats chewing pen caps. All right ... not really. They didn't have yellow crime scene tape in 1885. But there was lust and jealousy and, in my opinion, a bit of set-up for the man who was killed. Let's start with the actual crime itself.

Daniel Clever, aged 42, and his brother William lived about four miles from Oakville on adjoining farms. William Martin, aged 20, was a farmhand for both farmers, but was currently living with his younger sister, Ida, on the William Clever farm. On May 2, 1885, Daniel sent his wife, Annie, about aged 25, and their infant daughter, Dora, along with his sister to visit a friend, Sarah Varner, who lived in Oakville. When it was time for the evening meal, Annie went up the street and retrieved Elizabeth Varner, Sarah's grandmother, so she might dine with them. When the meal was finished, Annie insisted on returning to Granny Varner's house to spend the night. The old woman argued with her, asking Annie to remain with her granddaughter and her husband's sister, as she had been ill for some time and wasn't up to keeping overnight company. But Annie refused to be persuaded and left her sister-in-law to bed at one end of the block, while she and her daughter set off to retire at the other end with Granny. Before leaving, she asked Sarah to send for her in the event her husband should arrive in the morning before she returned.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, the evening meal commenced. For whatever reason, Daniel was at the store and not present at table, so his brother, who knew that his sister-in-law and the farmhand had been secretly talking and flirting with each other for some time, first asked young William Martin if her knew that Annie had traveled to Oakville, and then told him that he need not finish the plowing that evening if he had somewhere to go. Set free, young William immediately went to Oakville, where Annie had asked him to meet her.

Having sent the young man off, William Clever set the upcoming tragic events in motion. Seeking out his brother, he was observed having a long, animated conversation with him. Daniel then sent a lad into the church which Martin attended. Upon finding out he was not there, Daniel proceeded to ride to a nearby farm under the pretense of finding out if Martin was visiting a girl there. When the answer was again negative, Daniel rode, not to Sarah Varner's house, where he had sent his wife to visit, but straight to Granny Varner's house.

In the meantime, things had gotten interesting at Granny's house. After having forced the old woman to take her in, Annie had Granny make up a bed for the child while she opened the kitchen window and the shutters so she could keep watch. After a few minutes, she told Granny that there was someone at her door, and when the elderly woman opened the door, she was surprised to find William Martin. She didn't say anything at first, for fear that something had happened at the farm and Martin had been sent to retrieve the young wife. But when Annie next told the old woman to take Dora and go to bed, Granny realized the couple's intention and she refused to leave them alone. Annie wouldn't be deterred, however, and in an incredibly selfish move, took the lamp from Granny and led Martin into the adjoining room, shutting the door behind them and leaving Granny and the infant in the dark.

Granny spent the next few minutes struggling to find a fat lamp and light it. No sooner did she have that accomplished then there was yet another knock on the door. This time, it was Daniel Clever seeking his wife. When he learned that not only was Annie there, but behind closed doors with Martin, he pulled out a pistol and, in a blind rage, kicked at the door until it gave way. He then shot three times into the room. Young Martin ran out the back door and collapsed in the neighbor's yard, where he was found by several neighbors and taken first to the DeWalt workshop and then to the warehouse office owned by Mr. Manning.

Inside the house, Annie chastised her husband for shooting at the boy. Daniel said little, but instead set to work repairing the door that he'd damaged. Annie insisted that she liked Martin and he liked her, and Granny scolded her for her foolishness. Daniel said he should have shot her instead and threatened to take the child and leave her, but in the end he took both his wife and his child home, without seeing Martin again or checking to see if the farmhand still lived. Once home, Daniel sent his wife into the house to retrieve his overcoat, then left her and the child there and roused his brother, William. They rode to the neighboring Justice of the Peace, where Daniel confessed to having shot William Martin and transferred his property to his brother in preparation for his flight to Canada. The JP tried to talk Daniel into turning himself in, but Daniel refused.

Back in Oakville, the physician was sent for, but Dr. Israel Betz refused to treat the young man until he confessed who shot him and why. It would appear that Dr. Betz held out little hope for the gunshot victim's survival anyway, and told him as much. Ida Martin was sent for, and she returned her brother to her parents' home, where he died two days later, May 4, 1885. Daniel Clever consulted a lawyer and turned himself in to authorities three weeks later.

In a trial that began August 27, 1885, the jury found the defendant, Daniel Clever, not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

If you're interested, the transcription of the trial is part of the Harvard Law Library's Studies in Scarlet Virtual Collection, and can be found at Just click on the URL link marked Digital Object. The Studies in Scarlet Collection contains over 420 individual trial narratives for cases involving domestic violence, bigamy, seduction, breach of promise to marry, child custody, rape and murder from 1815 through 1914.

The transcription makes for fascinating reading because you get a real taste of century-old court drama. And it is drama! The prosecution took approximately thirty pages to make their case. It's very straightforward and factual. Daniel Clever killed a man, he admitted he killed a man. Hang him. The end. But the defense takes over one hundred and fifty pages to paint the portrait of a man who had complete faith and trust in home and hearth, a church-going man who suspected no hint of wrong-doing on the part of his deceptive wife and who, once shown the reality of the situation, went mad with grief and anger. Her betrayal drove him to the edge of insanity. I haven't made it the whole way through the transcription yet, but the defense's opening statements are impassioned and emotional, designed to tug on the jury's heartstrings in a way that mere facts alone cannot do. And according to the speaker who gave the presentation, the defense went on to show that others in Daniel's family exhibited that genetic predisposition towards less mainstream behavior. In other words, they were all crazy!

And I'd love to know exactly what role the brother, William Clever, played in all this. I still think it was a set-up, I just don't know why. Was he trying to protect Daniel? Or was there some other, more sinister reason he betrayed the young couple's affections? More research is needed, definitely.

So now I have a fun story to tell about my house! I wonder what else these walls could tell me, if only they could talk.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Acquisitions Department Strikes Again!

As a neophyte antiques collector, I don't often have the disposable income to purchase those wonderful items which catch my eye. But I also consider myself a bargain hunter, and I'm proud to say that my most recent additions didn't cost me a dime, just a bit of labor on the part of my Dear Hub to wrestle them out of their former home.

This is my favorite new item:

Looks pretty grungy, doesn't it? Taken from the basement of the financial institution where I currently work, this piece is actually two separate sections. The bottom cabinet has shelves and some large cubbyholes for storage. But what really made me fall in love with it was ...

... the top section, which opens to reveal dozens of little cubbies!! The individual slots themselves actually have dates on them, and this was used to organize bank documents, etc. There's a twin to this upper section in the original bank vault which is in the basement of the building, but that twin is anchored to the wall of the vault and has extensive mold and insect damage. This one was free standing and kept in a separate, drier part of the basement. The dates are in the 1930s, so it's entirely possible that this part was in use up until the original financial institution was bought out after being in business for almost a hundred years. The cabinet does need a good bit of TLC:

There's some places where the wood needs repaired, too, but I think once we're finished, this will be an exciting piece to own! I can't wait to get started on it!!

Also from the depths of the old bank vault:

A step stool for reaching the higher shelves. This also needs some sprucing up, but it, too, will be a really nice piece once it's repaired.

There were dozens and dozens of old ledgers both in the vault and just stacked in the basement, some dating as far back as the bank's inception in the 1860s. Everything paper found inside the vault will be shredded, as it has mildew throughout. But some of the old books in other parts of the basement were salvageable:

This small one serves a dual purpose. The front section, as indicated by the front flyleaf, is a list of who owns stock in the bank and how many shares they have. I've searched for the word "apepment" in both regular and financial dictionaries, to no avail. I'm assuming it means distribution or ownership, but I'll keep looking for an actual definition. Notice the date -- July 28, 1863.

The back section of that ledger is an accounting of bank notes issued and destroyed, including dates and denominations.

The medium-sized ledger is a book of transient deposits, beginning with the date 1867.

Love the fancy pensmanship!

The biggest ledger is in the best shape, probably because it's the newest. The first date is April 15, 1943.

It's a receipt book of stock sales. Again, I love the signature!

He could have taught his successor how to write. Things got a bit sloppy in 1950!

There was also a very large, very heavy leather and corduroy binder:

The leather needs cleaned, but the embossing on the side is still crisp and really nice.

The rings of the binder open with a key. No, unfortunately we don't have it.

I also picked up an old empty coin box. They don't ship coin like this anymore!

So, those are all my new "finds." It looks like I have some work to do, but I'll definitely post photos of the cubbyhole cabinet once I get it finished.

And I must report that Yazzer, while impressed with the wealth of bank antiques brought into his home, was nonetheless disappointed none of them were edible. Poor puppy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sepia Saturday #97


Happy Sepia Saturday! ... er ... Sunday! ... uh ... Saturunday!!

Alan's prompt this week was a wonderful photo of some Irish schoolchildren being adorably candid and child-like, with quite a few of them looking everywhere BUT at the camera.

It immediately brought to mind this photo:
This charming group of clowns is part of a May Day celebration in my hometown, dated 1956. Notice some of the clowns are smiling, some have their arms crossed in a tough guy stance, almost all of them are looking at the camera, and all the little clowns have their faces painted. Well, all except one, back row, second from right. Yes, one lone clown apparently defied conformity and decided she wasn't going to participate like all her classmates. Like I said, there's one in every crowd.

Because it's turning cold here, I'll veer off away from children and follow the path to a warmer theme ...

The celebration of May Day on or close to May 1 was a tradition in my home school district for many years. There was a theme each year, with events for elementary, junior high and high school students. There was even a May Day Queen, chosen from the junior class, and her court. This photo is from our high school's 1939 yearbook, and the queen was a classmate of my mother's. In later years, the girls had male escorts, decked out in tuxedos, selected by the teachers.

And what would a May Day celebration be without a May Pole? I have no idea what you had to do to be selected for this ritual. Note the bare feet, although I don't see any Beltane fires burning in the school gym. While the celebration of May Day is an ancient tradition in many parts of the world (May 1 was actually considered the first day of summer, which made the summer solstice, June 21, mid-summer) the practice died out in the 1960s here where I live.

Now I'm off to check out the rest of the Sepia Saturunday participants. Come join me by clicking HERE!

Oh, one more thing ... that defiant little clown, the one who didn't want her face painted? That's my sister! And yes, she still acts that way. Shhhh ... don't tell her I said that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sepia Saturday #95

(I guess I'm going to have to start calling these "Sepia Sundays" since I keep posting a day too late!)


Alan's photo prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday was reminiscent of suffragettes and parades, and we were invited to select a theme. I chose the theme of "banners," and in so doing I offer the following:

The Chamberlin Building in Lewisburg, PA circa 1910. The banners and other patriotic decorations are to celebrate an I.O.O.F. convention. Two different stores occupied the commercial space in the "Iron Front Building" as pictured here, a general store on the left and a shoe store on the right. Built in 1855, the building, with a cast iron over brick facade, was also home to the Independent Order of Oddfellows, the Red Cross, county welfare, a hardware store and an electrical supply store. The building still stands today and is on the National Register.

In the next block, more buildings are decorated in a similar fashion, although the photo is undated. From the left: a grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, and a dry goods store.

This is the Saturday News newspaper office, circa 1918, decorated to celebrate the end of WWI. The paper was owned by Benjamin Focht, who served as both a PA State legislator and as a US Representative. Given the relative size of his banner, it would seem politicians were ostentatious back then, too!

And finally ...
The Banner Store! Built in 1835, it housed, in its lifetime, the above dry goods store, a jewelry store and a drug store, among others. I remember it being a men's clothing store where my father often purchased clothing and accessories, long before the advent of mega-huge shopping malls and the internet.

For more variations on a Sepia Saturday theme, clicky ==>> HERE!!

**Photo of the Chamberlin Building is part of a private collection. Photo of Market Street buildings is in the Packwood House Museum collection. The Saturday News and the Banner Store photos are from the Union County Historical Society collection. Information about the buildings is from the book "Lewisburg" by Marion Lois Huffines and Richard A Sauers, part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing. Buy the book here. It's fabulous, as are other books in the Images of America series.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sepia Saturday #94

"Willing Hands to Save"

Grabbing onto the theme of 'horses' from Alan's photo prompt, I decided to share the story of William Cameron's Silsby Steamer.

William Cameron was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1795, the oldest of eight children. The family moved to Lewisburg, PA in 1810. During his lifetime, William served in the War of 1812, was Justice of the Peace, had a dry goods business, and then started the Lewisburg Savings Institution, which eventually became the Lewisburg National Bank. The bank was run out of William's home for 34 years before acquiring its own building. While William was well-known locally in his own right, his brother, Simon, had a claim to national fame, as he had served as a Pennsylvania Senator, as Lincoln's Secretary of War from 1861-1862, and then as Ambassador to Russia from 1862-1865.

Needless to say, William was a very wealthy man. In February 1874, he gifted the town of Lewisburg with a much-needed piece of fire equipment -- the Silsby Steamer.

Purchased from the Silsby Manufacturing Company of Seneca Falls, NY, the horse-drawn Steamer was a coal-fired water pump able to build enough pressure to shoot water 175 feet over the spire of the Baptist Church, and was delivered along with 2,500 feet of hose and three hose carriages for the then-impressive sum of $10,000. A parade was formed the day of delivery which started at the firehouse and included the Lewisburg Silver Cornet Band (I wish I had a photo of that!), the newly appointed Chief Engineer Samuel D. Bates, the Steamer itself and all its accoutrements, and "Little Valiant," the old hand-cranked pump which tried its best to serve the community but was now a broken relic. The parade, with over 1,000 spectators and participants, ended up at Squire Cameron's house, where he made the following speech:

Gentlemen of the town council of the borough of Lewisburg - I am happy to present to you for the citizens of Lewisburg the steam fire engine, hose carriages and hose now before you. And let me say to you, this is not the first time I have thought of making some gift to the Boro of Lewisburg. I had intended making an entirely different one; but when I saw the steam fire engine exhibited here a few weeks ago, and found the people were so strongly in favor of council purchasing one like it, the idea struck my mind that here was an opportunity to make a gift which would give more real pleasure or lasting benefit than a steam fire engine and the necessary accompaniments.

From the large outpouring of the people on this occasion and the very many expressions of kindness, I believe the people are satisfied, and my heart is rejoiced to feel that this is the case.

If in the future I am the humble means, through this gift of saving a single tenement of a poor family in or about Lewisburg, I will feel extremely thankful. I now turn over the steam engine and the accompanying apparatus to the town council to keep as the property of the citizens of Lewisburg.

In return, the town renamed the fire company the William Cameron Engine Company. William died three years later, in September 1877.

Although not uncommon to see horses on the streets of Lewisburg well into the 1930s, the Silsby Steamer was finally retired from service in 1932, a 58-year veteran of the fire company. Pictured above is the next generation of fire equipment to serve the community. Notice the double doors on the front of the building have been replaced with a single, wider door to accommodate the larger engines, and the original wooden floor was replaced with poured concrete. This firehouse was eventually torn down in the 1960s along with the residence beside it, and a newer, larger firehouse was built at the engine company's present location. The old property is now a municipal parking lot. (On a personal side note, the church to the very right of the picture was where I was married in 1988.)

The current building, Company 2:

Both the Silsby Steamer and its predecessor, Little Valiant, are currently on display at the WCEC's Liddick-Stephens Museum.

NOTE: The title of today's post, "Willing Hands to Save," is the motto of the William Cameron Engine Company.

**All black-and-white photos in today's post are part of the collection of the Union County Historical Society. Color photos are courtesy of the William Cameron Engine Company. William Cameron's speech along with other historical tidbits can be found on the William Cameron Engine Company's website.

For more of this week's Sepia Saturday fun, clicky RIGHT HERE!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Magpie Tales #84

A beautiful prompt. As always, many thanks to Tess for feeding our Muses. She is a gem!


You just don't get it, do you? The most important people in my life are in that room!

The most important people in my life ...

The most important people ...

The most important people ...

His words echoed in my mind, drowning out all other thoughts, save one -- GET OUT! The rising bile in my throat made the decision for me, and I fled, desperate for fresh air and a clear, quiet head. I vaguely heard the valet ask if I wanted him to call a cab as he held the door for me, but I didn't stop to acknowledge him. I wasn't stopping for anything; not for a cab, not for my wrap, not even for Geoff. Not that he tried to stop me.

The light mist that had accompanied us to the party had changed into a driving rain, but I didn't care. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I'd walked in the rain -- or danced, or splashed in puddles -- and I hoped it wouldn't be my last. Like Cinderella, I paused on the front steps of the mansion to kick off my uncomfortable strappy shoes, leaving them behind for one of those wretched partygoers to find and wonder about, then walked on tiptoe until I reached the cool, wet grass. With a sigh of relief, I took off across the lawn, relishing my freedom from the suffocating evening while at the same time trying desperately not to cry.

Damn him! Damn him and his stuffed shirts and his rigid agendas and his making me fall in love with him against my better judgment. I'd given him a year of my life, twelve months devoted to him, at the expense of others whom I held dear, time unable to be reclaimed. 365 days, give or take, of getting to know each other and changing and adapting our lifestyles to the other person's. Only it seems that I had been the one doing all the changing. I could kick myself for being so short-sighted, for allowing him to slowly but surely take little pieces of me that he didn't find suitable and banish them as if they -- the real Me -- never existed.

I reached the edge of the woods which bordered the Woolsey's property and hesitated, then noticed the well-worn trail, took a deep breath and set off under the dark, leafy canopy. There certainly couldn't be anything scarier living in the trees than that which lived in the resplendent house I'd left behind. Adam Woolsey was a formidable attorney and head of the largest law firm in the four-county region. According to rumor, it was expected that he would ask Geoff to be a partner this evening. If I hadn't spoiled it for him, that is. I walked faster. What did I care if his evening was ruined? My life was ruined because of him.

A bit melodramatic, yes. But, I argued with myself, he used me! And what angered me even more is that I allowed it to happen. Against all reason (because opposites really do attract), against the polite warnings of my friends, even against my own niggling feelings of doubt, I allowed myself to be manipulated and used; I willingly surrendered myself to be sacrificed on the alter of Geoff's Agenda. I had no one else to blame but me.

I slowed my walk, winded, my anger suddenly dissolved. The rain had gentled, and I undid the complicated, salon-crafted updo for which I'd spent hours being combed, teased, curled, pinned, twisted, gelled and sprayed. At the time, I'd been appalled at the extravagance, but now the wasted money was irrelevant. It felt good to let my hair down, to feel the soft raindrops tickle my scalp and wash away all the product which transformed me into someone I'm not. The tears which had threatened their own escape along with mine now fell freely, mingling with the rivulets of rain on my cheeks.

Oh, Geoff.

I'd met him almost exactly a year ago when he'd come into the bookstore where I worked part-time; a tall, handsome man in a polo shirt and jeans so new they still had a crease in them. I'd been setting up a display of new arrivals and he'd been looking for a thank you gift for a former professor of his. We'd hit it off immediately. He'd found me quirky and irreverent and refreshingly unlike any woman he'd ever met. I'd thought he was charming and intelligent and ... sturdy. There was something incredibly appealing about a man who knew exactly what he wanted and had set about systematically striving toward his goal. Besides, there had been a decided lack of sturdiness in my life. What I hadn't realized at the time, though, was that while he had liked and maybe even envied my free-spirited attitude, there was no room for 'quirky' and 'irreverent' on his sturdy agenda.

We'd begun dating with my friends, going out for pizza and indie movies and very bad late-night bowling. He didn't exactly fit in, but my friends had been welcoming and non-judgmental, if not a little surprised. Over time, however, we'd seen less and less of them, and had spent more time with his friends, meeting them for drinks or going for dinner at any number of trendy dining spots around the city. At first, his friends had included me in their conversations, but they'd seemed more amused than impressed by me, and their tone when addressing me had been patronizing more often than not. I'd chalked it up to the newness of our relationship, but as time had gone on things didn't improve. Geoff's friends may have included me, but they'd never accepted me, while mine no longer bothered to call.

This should have served as enough of a warning, but I'd been too far gone to listen. Ignored, too, were the red flags when he'd started buying me clothes and encouraging me to get rid of my thrift store apparel. I prided myself on my low-budget shopping skills and on being able to have fun with fashion. I really didn't care what was 'in' so long as I was comfortable and I liked it. But Geoff had seemed a bit embarrassed when some of my clothes had drawn attention to me -- to us. So he'd started dressing me, revamping my wardrobe like I was his own personal Barbie doll.

He'd also found me a job at an art gallery. I'd balked at first, but it paid almost three times what I was making at the bookstore, so I could hardly refuse. He had actually used the word 'respectable' in reference to the gallery job. Perhaps that's why I'd resisted so; to me, nothing was more satisfying than working with a book. But I had a student loan to pay, and a broken down car, so I had reluctantly taken the job, grateful that at least he cared enough to look out for my best interests.

And here we were, a year later. Some days, I barely recognized myself, but I'd convinced myself that Geoff and I were happy and that we belonged together. Sure, I missed my old life, my friends, the bookstore. I missed laughing -- it seemed I didn't do a lot of that anymore -- and pizza and bowling. People in his crowd didn't bowl.

When Geoff had asked me to accompany him tonight for what would undoubtedly be a defining moment in his career, he'd handed me his credit card and told me to buy something spectacular. I'd taken it to heart. But instead of visiting one of those upscale boutiques he seemed so eager for me to frequent, I'd returned to my old haunts: the thrift stores and consignment shops on my side of town. I'd been thrilled to find a vintage gown with matching opera gloves in a blue so blue it was almost black. It fit me beautifully, and I'd spent only a fraction of what Geoff was expecting. A year ago, I'd have considered wearing my red Chuck Jones with it, but I decided to behave and bought a pair of matching navy sandals instead.

I could hear the rush of water as I entered a clearing in the woods. Moonglow filtered through the thinning clouds revealing a stream, its banks swollen to overflowing with many days' worth of rain. I was tired, exhausted physically and emotionally, and I wiped the water from my face only to have the tears surge again as I recalled what a fool I'd been.

The party had been very prim and very proper, the attendees very fashionable and polished, and although I'd felt woefully out of place, I'd been proud to be his escort. He was a rising star and this was to be his night. He'd not commented on the dress, had never even glanced up from his Blackberry when I'd gotten in the firm's limo, but I hadn't really expected him to. He'd stopped telling me I was beautiful when the laughter and the spontaneity had faded away, but I'd gotten used to his emotional distance. This had merely been more of the same.

I'd known he'd been under enormous pressure during the weeks leading up to this party, and it had been obvious that he had other things -- other than me, that is -- on his mind tonight: shaking the right hands, saying the right things, making the right impression. He'd forgotten to introduce me as we'd mixed and mingled, but I'd forgiven him; I wouldn't have remembered all the names anyway. When we finally had a moment alone, he'd sighed deeply and I decided that I desperately wanted to see him smile, just once, just for me.

Of course, that's when the evening fell apart.

It was a game we'd played when we'd first met, where we'd pick a stranger out of a crowd and try to guess things about them, each of us trying to top the other with our outlandish suppositions. I moved to stand directly behind him, leaning into his back so that I could whisper in his ear in a voice that he, and only he, could hear.

"Adam Woolsey wears pink ruffled boxers."

He froze, his glass half way to his lips. But when he turned around to look at me, the smile I'd been hoping for was instead a murderous glare. He placed his glass on the nearest table and grabbed me by the upper arm, dragging me into an unoccupied hallway.

"Ouch! Geoff, you're hurting me!"

"Keep your voice down!" He released me with a shove. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I was stunned. "What are you so upset about?"

"You know this night could make or break my future."

"I was just trying to make you smile."

"By insulting my boss?" He spit his accusation out through gritted teeth and his eyes were so cold that I shivered involuntarily.

"It was just the Stranger Game, Geoff, that's all. I wasn't trying to insult anyone. You seemed so tense, I wanted ..."

He cut me off. "This isn't a game, Lydia. When are you going to grow up, huh? When are you going to stop acting like the world is one big playground and you can just say whatever comes to mind whenever you feel like it, without consequence?"

"I'm sorry! It was a joke!"

"A joke? I don't need a joke. I need you to be serious. Can't you ever be serious?"

"Don't be stupid! Of course, I can be serious!"

"I'm being stupid??" He was practically yelling now, drawing some unwanted attention from the other room. "I'm not the one making inappropriate comments!"

"Fine. I ... I'm sorry! "

He didn't acknowledge my apology as he ran his hand back through his hair in exasperation. "Unbelievable. You just don't get it, do you?" Geoff pointed behind him. "The most important people in my life are in that room!"

And just like that, my universe was shattered. He hadn't told me anything I didn't already know, or at least suspect. But with that one sentence, Geoff made me fully aware, in no uncertain terms, of who was important and who wasn't, and exactly where I stood in his life. Humiliation made my cheeks burn, and I felt like a traitor -- to myself, to my friends, and to everything I'd given up in the name of love.

That's when I ran.

My tears were spent. On a whim, I carefully climbed up onto a large rock overlooking the stream and spread my arms wide, my face lifted skyward. I lost track of time as I stood there, allowing the rain to wash away the hurt and the shame and the anger, feeling it cleanse my soul. A raven had been circling overheard as I'd walked and I heard it alight nearby. My superstitious grandmother had always told me that ravens were the harbingers of death and that seeing one meant that someone close to you was going to die. In a way, I guess she was right; the person I had become died tonight, along with my relationship with Geoff.

But out of the ashes of death arises new life. The rain slowly lightened to a drizzle, and I lowered my arms and opened my eyes with a new resolve. In the morning, I would call around to all the bookstores and see if there were any openings, then I would call the art gallery and resign regardless. Next I planned to call all my friends, one by one, to seek their forgiveness. If I was lucky, they would let me back into their lives. Finally, I would dig out the box with my old clothes, my thrift store treasures which, unbeknownst to Geoff, I never quite got around to throwing out. Instead, I would fill the box with all the clothes he bought me to make me respectable and donate it to Goodwill.

My gown wouldn't be going in the box; it was ruined, but I didn't care. I peeled the gloves off my arms and tossed them into the swiftly flowing water, startling the raven into flight. I watched the gloves float away downstream and then, with a heavy sigh, I climbed back down off the rock and headed down the path toward the main road and home. My broken heart wouldn't mend overnight, but tonight taught me a valuable lesson, and I had taken the first step toward healing.

It was good to be me again.

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