Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Girls with the Grandma Faces"

“The Girls with the Grandma Faces” were known to travel around and about in their “machines.” Only three drove, however.
My Aunt Bea’s 1939 Plymouth did not qualify as a suitable “machine.” It was but a three-passenger coupe and too old to stretch its tether from Pennsylvania to Montana in that autumn of 1966. Besides, it had no radio, a deficiency Aunt Bea considered correcting. 
“I talked to Mister Lamb about it and he’ll see if he can fit one in. Now that Erie might get an NPR station, I think I’ll try it.” Two other machines were enlisted for the trip west. 
Gladys Teasdale volunteered her pea-soup green Dodge. “The trunk’s big enough to fit eight two-suiters side-by-side.” Irene Waterhouse offered her new Olds, a Suitably Gray ’65 Eighty Eight with front seats that reclined.  
And so with transportation secured, “The Sisters of Sacajewea” set off for Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mount Rushmore on the return. United by the First Presbyterian Church, the Bird-and-Tree Club, the college, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and arthritis, they bundled into the “machines,” four apiece, silently acknowledging this might be their most ambitious and perhaps their last and grandest effort yet. Together.
They’d known each other for decades, some from girlhood. While most were amused by one honest young nephew’s label, the “girls” shared more than grandma faces. Bound by family ties, career and community, hope and disappointment, retirement, resignation, they decided a little folly might do them all “a world of good.” Fanylla Harper, Rebecca Cooper, and my Aunt Beatrice were cousins. Pearl and Gladys Teasdale, sisters. Irene Waterhouse and Virginia Carelton were fixtures at the college. Virginia Fendershot recently retired as the area’s Red Cross Administrator.
Yellowstone entertained them as predictably as Old Faithful. The Mission Range was mistaken for Glacier by one of the girls. They marveled and toured the birding sights as described by the guidebooks, rode the “Jammers,” luxuriated in the lodges, and pledged to paint the vistas of Russell Country when back home.
The arrivals and departures were captured largely by Irene Waterhouse and her “kodak.” Postcard memories were framed by “pleasant weather, though nippy . . . not an anxious moment . . . wonderful colors and wildlife . . . drove there and back, 4,000 miles and more, and not a hint of car trouble.” And, later, whenever my Aunt Bea shared her highlights, no account failed to mention what she called “the Missoula morning.”
“We’d left very early, wanting to reach our Glacier stop before nightfall,” she would say, “and the sunlight was just wonderful, with the sun following us along the river. The trees––we learned they were Cottonwoods––were turning nicely and led us right to Missoula where we tuned in and heard Mozart . . . Mozart in the morning on their national public station there! Oh my. It just set the tone. Both cars stopped for gas and then up the road for breakfast and we made sure everyone found the station.
“And we all agreed: if there’s an NPR station on the frontier of Montana, why can’t we have one back home?”
“The Sisters of Sacajewea” and the grandma-faced girls coasted back to old lives and some to new. Over the years that followed, a couple left the area to be closer to family. Another moved in with a daughter nearby. My Aunt Bea’s “machine”––the black 1939 Plymouth Road King Coupe––was sold to Mister Lamb who had maintained it faithfully all its years, and Aunt Bea settled in to what we call assisted living today. 

Erie did indeed acquire a National Public Radio station much to her pleasure back then. She became a faithful listener and supporter. “One of my treasures,” she’d say, then repeating Missoula’s magic morning from the grand tour. “We were escorted by Mozart one morning and drove to the sun, the next.”

From our recurring series published across our family of blogs and titled, "Aunt Bea's Plymouth." This vignette, an entry in Montana Public Radio's recent short story contest, was written to comply with the station's rule to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Here's Route 6 from VISIT PENNSYLVANIA

U.S. Route 6, which stretches for more than 420 miles in Pennsylvania, is lined with vast forests, fertile farmland and understated small towns.

View how local photographers interpret Pennsylvania’s natural landscape at The Potter County Artisan Center in Coudersport, which displays images of the PA Wilds by award-winning photographer Curt Weinhold and other local shutterbugs. Visitors can also shop for jewelry, books, treats and handicrafts created by other Potter County artisans.

Christian Dorflinger’s elegantly cut lead crystal adorned the tables of U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. See the largest collection of his work at the Dorflinger Glass Museum in the tiny village of White Mills and meander the walking trails within the serene 600-acre wildlife sanctuary that surrounds the museum.

Pick up some special stationery at Laughing Owl Press’ gift shop in Kane. The old-fashioned letterpress printing company ships its creations all over the world.

Sweet-smelling natural soaps are made at Sea Hag Soaps & Art Mercantile in Brackney (located in Susquehanna County). Locals love their natural formulas, commitment to local ingredients and delightfully named concoctions like “Plumeria — I Wanna Marry Ya” and “Prudish Potpourri.”

The Endless Mountains’ fiber artisans are the stars at The Home Textile Tool Museum in Rome — where you can try out old-fashioned spinning wheels, looms, and tools — and at Quilter Corners of Wyalusing, a self-guided driving tour of barns, businesses, homes and historic sites festooned with handmade quilts.

Artists at Pine Creek Pottery near Wellsboro incorporate local creek clay, wood ash, and cornstalk ash into wheel-thrown pottery pieces.

Many culinary craftsmen, who are using locally farmed materials and introducing new techniques and products, have set up shop on Route 6. Sample the sweet Allegheny Gold wine at Conneaut Cellars Winery and Distillery, the handmade Pennsylvania Jack at LeRaysville Cheese Factory or the aptly named Route 6 Red Ale at River Barge Brewing Company in Wyalusing

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just had to do it !

A mural by Wayne Fettro along the Lincoln Highway

This month's VISIT PENNSYLVANIA  posted such an outstanding "keeper," just had to trumpet it here on our blog. The article features the artistic treasures to be found on two highways crossing P. A.  Highlighted are the Northern Tier (US 6) and the "Lincoln" that winds its way further south from York through Gettysburg and beyond, US 30.

We're simply going to cut and paste the intro here. We're making plans to visit and we hope you'll be inspired to do the same. First the Lincoln Highway. . . . 

The nation’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway spans nearly 3,400 miles, from San Francisco to New York City. The route celebrated its centennial in 2013, and the portion of the highway that runs through south-central Pennsylvania is peppered with quirky stops and inventive attractions that highlight the area’s history. 

Don’t miss the Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe, where you can learn about the highway and iconic Pennsylvania roadside architecture situated along the route, including a lunch stand shaped like a coffee pot, a hotel shaped like a ship and a house shaped like a shoe.

The Pennsylvania Artist Experience Trail, which runs along the Lincoln Highway from York to Lancaster and continues on to New Hope, boasts a significant number of artistic landmarks. Notable stops include Keystone Art and Cultural Center and Phillips Museum of Art in Lancaster, Chester County Art Association in West Chester and Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern.

While Gettysburg teems with storied battlefields and historical sites, the city is also home to a thriving community of artisans. Eat your way though the city with Savor Gettysburg Food Tours, which takes visitors on a tour of esteemed locally owned restaurants and confectionaries. Or visit downtown Gettysburg to peruse artsy shops like Gallery 30 and Lark Gift Shop.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford is a worthy stop right off the highway for a nourishing meal, a night’s rest, or a souvenir. The establishment’s Cabin Shoppe offers books on local and state history, Pennsylvania metalwork and handmade soaps, lotions and candles.

Sign up for a workshop at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, where renowned craftsmen teach classes on blacksmithing, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, glass, painting, drawing, photography and more.

Spend an afternoon at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Ligonier, one of the museum’s four branches in central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Be sure to check out the museum’s exquisite paperweight collection, including vintage, antique and rare pieces in all sizes and shapes.

Muralist Wayne Fettro’s 11 works portraying life along the Lincoln Highway can be spotted while traveling along the route. In Bedford County, visitors can see his interpretation of two vintage cars traveling on the highway painted on the side of a barn near Schellsburg. Or stop in the small borough of Irwin to see a Fettro mural representing the community’s mining and industrial history.

We'll post more on US 6 tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Late Frost in early April

Robert Frost, the poet, that is. From a biography by Jean Gould, she writes: "Spring flowers, always so slow to come to New England, seemed later than ever the next year.

"When there was still no sign of blossoms at the end of March, he 'made some out of paper and put them down the roads on April Fool's Day.' And if the neighbors saw him strewing the bits of colored paper along the path, he paid them no heed––or if he did, it was just to give a friendly wave, inviting whoever wished to ask just what he was about." ––Jean Gould, Robert Frost, The Aim Was Song.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Back when . . . .

the federal government used to erect durable buildings built with timeless style. My father worked as a city carrier out of this U. S. Post Office in Meadville for 31 years. 

It says "elegant, strong, enduring" to me. Beautiful brick with the quoins on the corners. Quoins? Those light-colored stones reinforcing the structure's corners. A very good Scrabble word.

Friday, April 3, 2015

From the Online Book Club: A review

"One gripe I had with this book is the meandering plot. I am normally a fast reader, but this book took me an unusually long time to finish. Some readers may not mind this, as some of the side stories and passages are absolute gems. 

"This isn’t a book you should race through, as you might with a thriller; you should savor every sentence. The writing is lovely and lyrical. I enjoyed reading the book as much for the author’s use of language as for the storyline itself. The story is quite engaging and Claude is a likeable main character. All of the characters are vividly written, particularly Claude’s friend Tim, who is deaf and an orphan.

"The dialogue is easy to understand, even with the heavy use of rural Pennsylvania dialect. I usually find the use of a dialect distracting, although it was natural and flowing in this case. I felt like I knew these people well and became used to their manner of speaking.

"I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I wish I could have given the book 3.5 stars. The story will tug at your heartstrings. This book would appeal to anyone who likes to read wholesome stories about country life and boys growing up. Actually, I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing."

Thanks, Carolyn, for this insightful and accurate review. The Boys of Summers Run is now available through as an e-book or in a softcover edition.