July 21, 2010
The summer I turned nine, my family moved from Pennsylvania to Florida where my summers really did become endless. My favorite though was the short summer of my twelfth year when I was sent back to Pennsylvania to visit with my Aunt Gertie. Images of that summer flash through my mind and I remember the baseball games she took me to and the crowds of people running to get her autograph after the game ended - I didn't know why grown men, women, and children converged upon not just my aunt, but the other women as well.
[The photo on left is my aunt going in for a home run!]
That summer I visited aunt Gertie was my first indoctrination into the art of being a feminist, or a woman who walked the walk and spoke the talk. My mother and grandmother had been showing me in subtle ways all along. But it was my aunt Gertie broke barriers in an era when women were deemed unable to do more than just raise children and take care of the day-to-day life of running a household.
That summer I learned that my aunt Gertie was a celebrity in womens' baseball (though technically it was called softball). The larger version of the ball was considered less dangerous. I didn’t realize that womens' professional baseball was a big 'thing,' until long after the movie, A League of Their Own came out.
I was googling and typed in my maiden name - Alderfer - then led to several sites on Ebay. I did a double take - a picture showing a much younger version of my aunt stared back at me. The ad attested to the validity of her signature on the baseball even though her trading card wasn’t made until a later date. The bidding was already at $300.00. I called my dad. “Did you know that Aunt Gertie is a celebrity?” I told him. “Her autographed balls are selling on Ebay.”
[The image on the right shows my aunt on the day of her wedding with my mother who was her matron of honor.]
July 20, 2010
A. Clinton Miller was more than a prominent business man as the "Ask Sam's" column stated. Clint came from a quietly wealthy family. His father left in the neighborhood of $2,000,000 when he died in the early 1900s. All three children received a share and Clinton owned somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty properties in and around Salem as well as land in Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas. Prior to Charles Lindbergh's cross-country tour with a scheduled stop at Winston_Salem's Maynard Field in 1927, Miller donated $17,000 for the purchase of land to build a bigger field for the landing of Lindbergh and his Plane, "The Spirit of St Louis.
But as in the case of Miller field being renamed Smith Reynold's Field for a young aviator son of R. J. Reynolds and who died at the age of twenty-one under "mysterious" circumstances. Then even Ernie Shore Field has been replaced, rather the home of baseball moved to the new Winston-Salem Dash stadium which is called BB&T Ballpark.
I think it comes down to --- he who has the bigger wallet wins and just about any place can be renamed (except for Lincoln's tomb and others so aptly named after the final resident).
In 1942, Miller donated 30 acres of land on the west side of Winston-Salem providing that the city would donate another 8 acres of land. Miller Street had already been named and since the land passed through the new park, the park was named Miller Park. So at least Miler Street and Miller Park are still in existence though it is doubtful that few people survive who remember the Miller family and their contribution to settling this area.
My favorite letters are those that tell the story of youth and growing up, of weddings, births, and personal family matters which have turned me into a voyeur of life in a long ago bygone era of defiant grandeur, in the time when millionaires were made.
July 17, 2010
The cats were equally anxious and now there is a bit of a party going on upstairs of the shop. I hear thunder running down the halls, growls above my desk area, and definite hisses and yelps. The other humans have already left to attend to their typical Saturday routine, shopping, movie store, and the home improvement center.
I fell in love with Benny Carter and is Folk Art the same year I opened my antique shop. I've been an aficionado of Folk Art all my life and feel this venue has a place in the world of antiques and in decorations for the home. Eclectic is the word, and bon-a-fide conversational pieces.
Benny Carter is quite famous now, his Folk Art work hangs in galleries and homes across the country. Although Folk Art is not for everyone's taste, it's fun to look at when it's raining cats and dogs on a Saturday and you have nothing else to do.
You are always welcome to Bethania, North Carolina, stop in and say hi, or just browse for a while and stay dry.
May the force of the frog be upon you. "Brekekekex koax koax!"
July 16, 2010
We talked for a while and then he asked if I would be interested in two old trunks he was hauling off to the junk yard. Of course I was curious and followed him to his truck. I liked the looks of them, though one was in pretty bad shape but both were steamer trunks and dated to the 19th century.
I looked inside and quickly shut the lid. "How much?"
I didn't bat an eye lash and handed him a check. He said to just throw away the old papers, they were on the way to the dump pile anyway and what ever I wanted to do with them, they were mine.
The trunks sat in my back room for more than a week before I could go through the insides and sort through material. It took less then 60 seconds to realize that I had died and gone to heaven. I worked my way through dresses and gowns, an assortment of Victorian whites and under garments, children's clothing, blankets, vanity items, hair pieces and other oddities. The real treasures, at least to me were the endless yellowed envelopes, scrapbooks,photographs, cabinet cards, tin types, newspapers, booklets, and other paper items dating back to the Civil War.
I am finally ready to write the story . . . When Society Reigned and the Making of Millionaires.
July 15, 2010
I'm stuck on a question in my book about what metal was a sign of social status to the Victorians? I checked the internet, went to the library. And nothing is coming up. Only one little part about silver ...and I always thought it was silver, but I am confused because there is a line in my text book which reads...Britannia metal - This ware was made during Victorian times and was mass-produced in large quantities with the help of the large steam driven machines. Because of this sentence, I am really kind of lost. Can you help me sort my metal problem out? And where when I need to research something can I go , on the internet? I need a good source area or do I need a lot of reference books?
Britannia metal may also be called Sheffield, but you'll find items such as quadruple plate or Meridian wares that grew out of this material. Victorians liked having a specific utensil, bowl, plate, etc and so on for serving foods. Since good silver could not be massed produced because each silver item required a skill that machinery could not duplicate. Britannia metal could easily be mass produced, and subsequently became popular with the mass market.
July 7, 2010
The images fuel my imagination so that the person becomes a character in the story I am writing. I also use them in my writing classes to spark students imagination and in character building.
My collection of photographs comes from all over the country, world in fact. I used to have numerous Daguerreotypes, tin types, early glass negatives and stereo views, but this collection has dwindled.
Years ago, when I was a power seller on Ebay, and once sold old cameras and glass magic lantern slides for a consignor. Some of the images were identifiable, but many were not. I personally bought those that were left, thinking I would do something with them one day - until I found out how much it would cost to convert the glass image to a real picture. I showed them to several people I knew because the photographer was a local name. To my extreme delight, the images were of local people, places, and even things. I did have them reproduced and the images made a fabulous addition to my book, Bethania: The Village by the Black Walnut Bottom. Some of these can be viewed on my website along with modern day images taken by Bowman Gray IV. His photography is awesome and he is soon releasing a book by Blair Publishing - more on this later.
July 3, 2010
I've had this particular frog standing outside my antique shop since I opened in 1996. I cannot sell this frog because he reminds me of the Frog spirit "Ch'ing-Wa Sheng" and is associated with healing and good fortune in business. I could sell him almost every day but unfortunately they broke the mold. They - meaning the maker of the frog, rather the maker's mother who designed my frog, then got mad for some reason and killed the mold.
Frogs are very popular in many cultures, even play a role in the Bible; they are the second plague in Exodus and associated with unclean spirits in Revelations. Aristophanes wrote a play called "The Frogs" around 405 BC. A choir of frogs sings the famous line: "Brekekekex koax koax." Even the Modern Major-General from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera "The Pirates of Penzance" says; "I know the croaking chorus from "The Frogs" of Aristophanes! Brekekekex koax koax." (God Bless you.) I think the chorus means "kiss me and I will turn into a handsome Prince and love you forever." Either this or Aristophanes thought saying Ribit was uncool.
The Frogs to the left and below are for sale. The one on the left is already tall and handsome, and obviously caring because he always has flowers in his hands. On the other hand there is a strong possibility that 'He' may be a 'She' and is Heget, the Egyptian Goddess of fertility. The legend goes that if you kissed her, or even accidentally brushed against her, be prepared to "become with child." It's highly recommended that you kiss her only once. Women who have kissed a frog, have been known to have multiple births.
Frogs also play an important role in science and the study of Biology. There used to be a time when you had to dissect a frog or flunk the course. Today parents can request a waiver simply by stating that their family is vegetarian and they only eat food grown from the earth. Frogs are green (supposedly) and subsequently saving frogs means "going green."
The frog server below is the perfect height for holding business cards or holding a can of beer. He looks a lot like Kermit the Frog but even more so, like Froggy the Gremlin from the Andy's Gang TV show of the1950s. Froggy was called the Gremlin because he was a troublemaker and always getting into trouble. He was a lot like me.
My favorite frog story is the one I heard today --- from one of my customers. She said that the word Frog stands for --- Forever Rely On God. The story goes that a woman lay dying in a hospital and was visited by a lady with long blond hair wearing white. The two women spoke for a while, until the sick woman fell asleep. The lady left a small stone frog on the dying woman's bedside table. The next morning, the dying woman was sitting up in bed, miraculously showing no signs of her illness, when the nurse came in the room. The nurse saw the frog on the nightstand and said, "The Guardian Angel visited you last night, didn't she?" But the woman had no recollection of the vision, just a sense of peace, health, and love.
Frogs can and often do, mean a miracle is present. Just kiss the statue and find out for yourself . . . .
July 2, 2010
I watched almost hourly as the dirt came out of the ground. My girls and I would jump on the mounds and sort through the debris. Shards of pottery were plentiful as were old rusted nails. We were rewarded on occasion with several identifiable pieces such as these four early bottles. The small green bottle dates to the late 1700s and was most likely a medicine bottle.
This tattered piece of paper is really yellowed with age and was written by a doctor for a small patient around 1828. I found this along with many other amazing documents and letters inside a box destined for the trash heap.
I see this a lot and am often saddened to see someone's lifetime put up for sale at an auction or
estate sale. I have stacks of papers and images of people from the past. I can't bare to part with them because they also fuel my imagination and even play a major role in my writing and teaching. I take on their memories and their lifetime.
My students learn to place themselves inside the pictures. They learn to build stories based on other people's lives. They share dreams and learn to use all their senses in developing their own writing.
Back to the bottles and the doctor's orders. In the true sense of the cliche, one man's trash is another man's treasure, digging in dirt can be rewarding.