Friday, March 29, 2019

STARworks ... glass blowing

Crystal  Heliconious

I spent the afternoon at this lovely spot in Star, North Carolina today with two friends.  It is a many facetted business set up in what used to be a Fruit of the Loom plant many years ago.  They have a huge showroom with all sorts of glass blown items on show and you can actually watch as they blow them.   We has a good conversation with Joe Grant,the STARworks Glass Director, also.  

He is the creator of the beautiful Glass and Metal butterfly wings that you see above and these others.
If you ever get to Star, North Carolina be sure to visit here. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

My Grandmother’s Glass-plate Photographs, 1899

Photography was a cumbersome business in my Grandmother’s day, but this did not dampen her enthusiasm. She loved the art of taking pictures and she was very adept at it.

Around 1885 the gelatin dry plate glass negative was introduced. It replaced the wet plates that were not only messy but actually dangerous to the user. And, best of all, the dry plates were made in a factory, came in a box, and could be stored for months either before or after exposure.

These plates went into a light-proof holder that fit into the back of the camera which was placed on a tripod. The subject would be checked through a view finder and then a black cloth tent would be draped over the camera and the photographer to keep out light. The cover of the plate holder would be removed, as well as the lens cap. This would allow light to enter for exposure.

The key to good photography then was knowing the exact time needed to get the correct exposure. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and live subjects would have to retain their pose for that length of time. This could explain why so many family portraits of that day seem stiff and unfriendly.

My Grandmother also developed and printed all of her pictures. She continued to do this even when George Eastman brought out his first Kodak camera in 1889 using flexible roll film. She was a purist and believed in having control over her technique from start to finish.

My family is lucky to have retained many of my grandmother’s glass negatives and we’ve been able to make prints from them. The little girl in the picture is her daughter, my mother. She and her sister were favorite subjects, as were landscapes, structures and, of course, the formal family portraits.

I wonder what my grandmother’s reaction would be to the age of technology that we live in today? She was still marveling over the invention of the (now obsolete) Polaroid camera when she passed away in the 1960’s !

Monday, March 18, 2019

An antidote to White Supremacy

A little over a year ago I posted this adorable picture and I just had to repeat it. To me it is the perfect antidote to Trump's obvious condoning of white supremacy and all the divisive garbage and hatred that he tweets out daily from the swamp of his making.

The little boy on the left is Jax, son of Lydia Rosebush of Louisville, Kentucky. She took this picture after her son and his best buddy Reddy got identical hair cuts. “He wanted it buzzed down to his scalp so he would look like Reddy,” his mom explained.

It was all part of a plan the boys hatched to fool their pre-school teacher. They are such close friends that they figured she wouldn't be able to tell them apart if they had the same hair cut !

Thanks Lydia. It's parents like you who can proudly say, “Maybe my son or his buddy will grow up to be President some day”. We can only hope ….

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Joe Lebermann, New York City 1956

In 1956 I was working in NY City where I met a gentleman by the name of Joe Leberman. He was much older that I but we often attended the same affairs and we enjoyed each other's company. He was an out-of-work actor and I remember one night when he was very excited because he has just been given the role of the station master in “The Visit”, a play in 3 acts written by the Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt.

The Visit” was scheduled to open in the city at the Lunt-Fontanne theater in May but would preview in Boston first. I was excited because that was near where my parents lived and, with Joe's help, I was able to get two tickets for the out-of-town performance.

A night at the Shubert theater was a rare treat for my folks and they were thrilled Their seats were second row center in the orchestra and Dad said they were almost blinded by all the diamonds “aglitter on the bosoms of all those Boston blue bloods.”

After the performance they were invited backstage where they met Joe. They had a good chat and Joe told them he had been a character actor since the age of 21. He also introduced them to the other performers including the stars of the play Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

I attended the opening in May and it was fun to see a friend on stage although the play was a bit too dark for my taste. However the reviews were laudatory, the play had a successful run and I was happy for Joe.

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Staten Island ferry ...A New York bargain

I told a friend recently about working for WABC Radio in NY city in the 50's and she  was interested in how much I'd been paid then. I told her that my yearly salary had been $13,000 and that it was more than adequate to pay for a rental on a nice apartment and to stay up to date on the Broadway shows.  This seemed unbelievable compared to what an apartment in Manhattan costs today so we did a "cost of living" check. 

I was blown away when we found that I, as a 23 year old, was paid the equivalent of $117,000 in today's analysis.  It reminded me of the only thing that I've ever known in New York City that costs LESS TODAY than in 1956 !  

I wasn't prepared for the incredibly hot August days in the city. Air conditioning was not an option then and the big overhead fans were a help but not with this extreme heat.
Luckily a friend told me about the ferry. I couldn't believe that the subway, which cost 10 cents to get there was double the price of the ferry. 5 cents was all it cost to take the trip to Staten Island … complete with refreshing breezes and spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The nickel fee for the ferry lasted for many years but then it steadily increased to a high of 50 cents per ride in the '90's. Then in 1997 the city of New York decided to suspend all charges. The same trip that I paid 5 cents for is now FREE … amazingly making it an even bigger bargain today that it was 53 years earlier.

The 5 cents fare was established in 1897. On October 10, 1972 the fare was raised to 10 cents. In 1975 the fare was increased to 25 cents. On August 1, 1990 the fare went up to 50 cents. Finally, on July 4, 1997 the fare for foot passengers on the ferry was eliminated.

Monday, March 04, 2019

The 1950's … a wondrous time

In the 1950's Jergens lotion was already on the scene but they decided to launch a new campaign to boost sales. They did this in the form  of magazine ads.  Each ad told a short story that always ended up with Jergen's lotion making all the difference in the lives of the people in the ads. The ad you see here here is an example: 
This didn't particularly interest me until I learned that my Grandparents Brattleboro, Vermont neighbors had been chosen for one of the Jergens ad series.I hate that I don't have a copy of the actual ad but what I do have is the original Jergens' script.

The script is entitled “Four youngsters to feed, Daily Housework & Chores on her Vermont farm” and it features the dutiful wife Bertha, husband Herman and their 4 children. The script calls for 4 pictures (with instructions on how to stage them) and then a short blurb under each to promote Jergens' Lotion. It reads like this:

Ad # 1 (Bertha gazing dreamily into the camera)
My secret for pleasing Herman is always to be cheerful and prettied up when the day is done. I have a shower, put on an attractive dress, fresh makeup and, of course, Jergens Lotion in case we might hold hands across the table”.

Ad # 2 (Bertha and daughter) “Mary and I love to wax and polish and it doesn't bother my hands at all because Jergens Lotion keeps them so smooth and soft. Herman says they look as if I am a lady of leisure”.

Ad # 3 (Bertha washing dishes)) “Those hungry wolves of mine make every meal a production but I don't mind the dishes. Jergens Lotion gives my hands a 'never put them in water look' because I keep a bottle in the kitchen”.

Ad # 4 (Whole family seated for dinner. Bertha and Herman holding hands across the table and gazing into each others eyes.) “Herman beams at Martha across the table and gives her Jergens-soft hand an extra squeeze that seems to say 'we're just about the happiest couple in the world aren't we ?”

The 1950's … a wondrous time … when a bottle of Jergens Lotion and lots of hard work and blind devotion on the wife's part could solve all your problems.