Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Social Networking Time Warp January 30, 2011

Filed under: Family,Family history,Famous people,Memoirs,Memories — Janet @ 9:10 pm

In my Belmont High School Class of 1954 “chat room”, if you can call it that, a number of us have been sharing memories of our school days and classmates and our parents as they then were.  We were very fortunate in Belmont in that we were a sort of dormitory suburb for numerous faculty members of Harvard and MIT.  There were several quite famous people in our midst and we in our innocent youth didn’t even realize this.  Now that we have reached the age and are well beyond the ages that our parents were then, we are getting quite nostalgic in looking back.  One such famous professor was Harold Edgerton, known as Doc Edgerton at MIT.  Now, thanks to the internet and google,  I can find out more about him and his family and read many moving tributes to him and reviews of his many accomplishments.    He was a good-natured friend to all – but to me, and many of us, he was the parent who came and watched our sports activities.

A few years ago when I was in London and either being a tourist or visiting family or attending a meeting, or some combination of the above, I was wandering about in the Victoria and Albert Museum and I just about fainted in the photography section.  There was a photo on the wall – a photo with the caption Harold Edgerton, a photo of his daughter skipping rope, date 1940.  Although I knew he was famous for discovering how to capture split-second moments in speed photography, I still was not expecting to find this memory reminder there on the walls of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  After all, my association with the family was in 1940’s Boston/Cambridge/Belmont.  It was many years since I had left Belmont and/or thought about the Edgertons.

Now for the present.  My memory of his son closest to me in age. was fixed in time for say the 1950’s.  Now I find on Facebook, yes the famous Facebook bandwagon that everyone is joining, that this son is a member – and lo and behold at age 75 he is the image of his father.  My image of the father now comes up on the screen as the image of the son.  It was uncanny.

As a footnote, I’ll say that at my 50th reunion from high school, a classmate that I knew from kindergarten but hadn’t seen for maybe 35 years, exclaimed “you look just like your mother”.  So I guess the genes are there and that’s the way it is.  If you want to know what you are going to look like in 50 years, just look at your parents or photographs thereof.

  from a site on the internet, I found this Harold Edgerton photo dated 1934

  from another site, an Edgerton photo  more familiar one to me


What Were They Singing Then January 29, 2011

Filed under: Family,Family history,Music,Poetry — Janet @ 8:08 pm

As I explore the lives of previous generations in my family, I’ll shift the theme a bit from what were they reading then to what were they singing then.   As regular followers of my blog know, one of my grandmothers became a poet in her later years.  And the other grandmother, on my mother’s side, was an accomplished musician.  Her publications are listed in her entry in The Woman’s Who’s Who of America, A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915; John William Leonard, Editor-in-Chief.  Published by the American Commonwealth Company, New York.

She is listed as the author of the following:  Ten Easy and Melodious Recreations;  Twelve Melodious Etudes in Unfamiliar Keys;  Six Duets;  On the Playground;  Love’s Solace;  Ride of Revere;  L’ll Drum;  Love Lost;  Lullaby;  Eventide;  Romance in G.  This list indicates to me that she was a piano teacher.  I wonder.  I know she taught Sunday School after the family moved to Winchester Mass. in the mid-1920’s.  My cousin who lives near the family home in Winchester has met a person who was a Sunday School pupil of this grandmother.

What I’m leading up to here is to write about another venture of mine that is on the burner, so to speak.   Inspired by my daughter-in-law and my 2 grandaughters here in Seattle, I have been taking voice/singing lessons.  The teacher Krista of Krista’s Music Studio is most encouraging, as is my cousin in San Francisco who did voice lessons herself a few years ago.  I am really enjoying the experience.  Last weekend there was a recital featuring Krista’s students of flute, piano and voice  – my classmates, I would like to say although we don’t all gather round the piano at the same time.   The recital, held in Bethany Lutheran Church, was wonderful, and  daughter-in-law Susan and the grandaughters Ashley and Susan participated.  Caitlin performed early on and she played a Mozart piece, A Little Night Music.         Ashley was further along in the programme and her piece was Ode to Joy.    And eventually it was Susan’s turn.  She sang Mozart’s Ave Verum – it was beautifully moving.  The memories came flooding back of singing this piece when I was in Bhutan and participated in a small choir.  It was our piece de resistance for our performance in the Hotel Jumolhari there in Thimphu.

Krista has 9 adult students and for us neophytes there is going to be a soiree.  I am of 2 minds about performing in this more intimate setting but am probably going to do it.  But my debut will be in a duet with Susan, who is more keen on solo performances than I am.  Hopefully she can cover my mistakes or hesitations etc.  It’s supposed to be fun.  The song we are going to work on is Aura Lee, a Civil War song.  Since my grandfather served in the Civil War, I feel it’s legitimate to include this in my research of the generations and hence the title What Were They Singing Then.  Here are the lyrics I’m trying to memorize.  We have until March 5th to perfect our duet.

Aura Lee, from the Guitar Song Book
Words by W. W. Fosdick
Music by George R. Poulton
Verse 1 As the blackbird in the Spring

Neath the willow tree,

Sat and piped, I heard him sing

In praise of Aura Lee


Chorus I Aura Lee, Aura Lee,

Maid with golden hair,

Sunshine came a-long with thee,

And swallows in the air


Verse 2 Take my heart and take my ring,

I give my all to thee.

Take me for e-ternity,

Dearest Aura Lee!


Chorus I again


Verse 3 In her blush the rose was born,

‘Twas music when she spake

In her eyes, the light of morn

Sparkling, seemed to break


Chorus I again


Verse 4 Aura Lee, the bird may flee

The willow’s golden hair,

Then the wintry winds may be

Blowing ev’ry-where.


Chorus 4 Yet if thy blue eyes I see,

Gloom will soon de-part

For to me, sweet Aura Lee

Is sunshine to the heart

 But before we get to perform the above, here is the programme for last week’s concert and a few photos.


  before the concert, Caitlin and Susan

  after the concert, note baby Ethan as well.  All the performers did so well.  It was a wonderful concert.

  baby Sean was eager for it to begin – I got to hold him while Susan sang – thankfully he didn’t start crying!  I was the one who was shedding a few tears of emotion.

I don’t seem to have an individual photo of Ashley but she is in the front row of the group photo.



What Were They Reading Then, cont.

Filed under: Authors,Books,Social history,U. S. History — Janet @ 2:02 am

Still thinking about the books that my grandparents might have read, I have come across an author whose work my grandmothers probably read, and my mother and aunts would have read her novels, and also my sisters and I.  She spanned 3 generations of readers.  Edna Ferber.  That name rang a bell.  Born in 1885, a novelist, short story writer, and  playwright, died in April 1968, 2 months after my marriage in February 1968 (not that that bears any relevance to her achievements – just places her and myself in a certain time frame)

 Edna Ferber, a feminist in her time.  The female characters in her novels are strong protagonists.   A journalist who covered the political conventions of 1920.  Yet another activist from the Middle West.  Born in Michigan, grew up in Wisconsin.  A spokeswoman for social justice.


Object Identification January 28, 2011

Filed under: Rug making — Janet @ 12:56 am

     a few days ago a few of us had a few comments to make about rug making way back when.  See Jean’s Knitting  Did any of you use this gauge?  I just found it in my stash.


Just to Mention Knitting Again

Filed under: Authors,Books,Knitting — Janet @ 12:01 am

Since this blog started out as a knitting blog, I had better mention it now and again.  When I read (and knit at the same time) I am always on the look-out for references to knitting.  Not much chance of finding knitting in the last book I read, Manhunt, about the search for the person, John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.  There were plenty of women doing needlework at that time in the 1860’s but I can’t recall any reference to it in the book, not that I expected to find any there. 

 Now I am reading Laguna, by Barbara Kingsolver.    And much to my surprise I came across a wonderful few pages where knitting played an important part.   I refer to p. 442 and following.  The main character, a reclusive author, is at the wheel of his roadster and making a long drive with his eccentric secretary of some years.  The year is 1946.   The main character is a 30 year old bachelor who  has written a famous novel; his passenger the secretary has been a widow for many years.  She is a knitter, as will become evident.  They are travelling along and, I quote from page 442,  the driver says – “In life’s dampest passages, the driver often has to go it alone.”  His passenger replies “I ought to know that.  Here knitting socks without one child of my own.”  He replies, “Is that what you have there?  I thought it was an indigo porcupine.”  She had a laugh at that.  She has eleven nieces and nephews and planned to outfit the tribe on that journey, working through the socks from top to toe, all from the same massive bank of blue wool.  ” The coming holiday shall be known as “The Christmas of the Blue Socks from Aunt Violet.”  She worked on a little frame of four interlocked needles that poked out in every direction as she passed the yarn through its rounds.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll hurt yourself with that?’  the driver asks.  She replies “Mr. Shepherd, if women feared knitting needles as men do, the world would go bare-naked”


I think Barbara Kingsolver has a wry wit and a great sense of humour!

p.s. my current knitting project is a big brown sweater.  I’m halfway up one of the sleeves.  The intended recipient has long arms.


Old Postcards Relating to Spinning January 25, 2011

Filed under: Postage stamps,Postcards,Spinning,Spinning wheels — Janet @ 11:56 pm

What could be better than finding my collection of old postcards relating to spinning.  This just fits right in with the theme of what were my grandparents doing when.  Not that there is any mention of spinning wheels or weaving looms in my family history but my grandmothers certainly were needleworkers and knitters – like most women of their time.

My first postcard is not old at all.  But it is reproduced from an old photograph.  I purchased the card in Edinburgh at the National Museum.  The caption on the card reads Carding and spinning in Sutherlandshire, late nineteenth century, Scottish Ethnological Archive.

This card is somewhat old judging by the stains on the back, but it is the subject that is really old.  This card is of one of the Unicorn Tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn, in the Musee de Cluny in Paris.  The Lady is not spinning on a spindle, as I first thought when I stumbled upon this card in my collection.  Rather she is making a floral wreath and the maidservant is holding a tray of flowers.  I’ll still include the card here because this is such a famous piece of weaving – and before weaving comes spinning.

  This isn’t a postcard – it’s a photo of a girl doing spindle spinning.  The photo was taken in Bhutan by my husband Ian when he was there for four months in 1984.

       a postcard printed in Kobenhavn but with 10 different languages to say A Small Chat.  Note the spinning wheel.


a postcard of a painting by Millet.  Am Spinnrocken     published by a firm in Liverpool England


A postcard from 1906.  Postmark Rathdrum.  (Note the British stamp)  The message is to a Miss Webster in Tullow County Carlow.  Rathdrum is in County Wicklow.


This card is of a Welsh woman at her spinning wheel.  The postmark is 1906 Menai Bridge.  It is addressed to County Wexford Ireland

     a card with the caption Irish Life, Children Spinning and Reeling Wool.  Sent from Johnstown in County Kildare to a Miss Maxwell in Belgium.  Note the Irish stamps.

  this card is of An Irish Spinning Wheel but it is postmarked Jersey and addressed to someone in Jersey.  The date is 1909

  Irish Spinning Wheel, 1905, Kingstown (presumably present day Dun Laoghaire), addressed to someone in Queensland Australia.  Note the Dublin postmark and the stamp.    

        a simple card, really  just a modern photograph.  But it was done for Cleo Ltd., a famous old firm in Dublin where wonderful handwoven and handknitted items are to be found.  The caption for the photo reads Donegal Spinner, Glencolumbcille, Co. Donegal


What Were They Knitting?

Filed under: Family history,Knitting,Knitting revival — Janet @ 2:15 am

I posed the question a while ago about which books my parents and grandparents would have been reading.  Now I’m going to raise the question with regard to knitting.

  The current issue of Piecework Magazine is featuring historical knitting and there is an article entitled “First Lady Grace Coolidge and the Story of a Knitted Counterpane.”       Now Grace Coolidge was the wife of Calvin Coolidge.  Her dates are 1879-1957.  Her husband, the 30th President of the United States was born in 1872 and died in 1933.  He served as President from 1923-1929.  Coolidge was a Republican lawyer from Vermont.  When he was propelled into the White House upon the fatal heart attack of President Warren Harding, it was customary for the First Lady to remain very much in the background and to maintain her privacy.

Grace Coolidge, the new First Lady, was an accomplished needlewoman who according to this article loved to knit.  It is plausible that she would have valued a counterpane (bedspread) pattern entrusted to her as a family heirloom.  The pattern was a gift to her during the time she was in the White House and is here called Grace Coolidge’s Great-Grandmother’s Counterpane.

The pattern was part of a fund-raising effort for the Home for Needy Confederate Women in Richmond Virginia.  So that takes us back to the era of the American Civil War.  My grandparents were born in the early 1870’s, 1863, and 1836.    So they span that Civil War time.  And the pattern for the counterpane was knitted by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge when she was in the White House.  The author of this article in the current issue of Piecework, found the pattern for  Grace’s great-grandmother’s counterpane in a 1941 edition of a book entitled Decorative Bedspreads Knitting, published in Nashville Tennessee by the Anne Orr Studio in 1941.  And the fact that Grace Coolidge knit this pattern is testimony to the revival of knitting in the U.S. in the 1920’s when there was a general feeling that the homey household arts of the Revolutionary era should be restored.

So the question might be raised, did my grandmothers knit these huge coverlets?   Or did they confine their knitting to smaller practical garments for their growing families. 

A further question might be raised as to how my paternal grandmother came to marry a man 30 years her senior.  No internet partner searches back in those days, but my grandfather, living in Newark or Mt. Vernon Ohio, did advertise in the newspaper (what newspaper?) when he became a widower and needed a housekeeper for his 2 children.  My grandmother, in Crown Point New York, persuaded her father that she wanted to take on this job.  So she went West in the early 1880’s and became the housekeeper and in 1882 she married the man.  I don’ t know what happened to those 2 children by the first marriage, and their descendants.  But my paternal grandfather and grandmother proceeded to have 5 children, one of whom was of course my father, born in 1891.  My father was in fact born in Peoria Florida where the grain business pursued by my grandfather had taken the family temporarily.  My father grew up in Newark Ohio and his first wife hailed from there.


Abraham Lincoln and My Grandmother’s Poem January 24, 2011

I have been writing about my grandmother’s little book of poetry, Late Flowers, written when she was in her 70’s.  The poem I want to quote today is her tribute to Abraham Lincoln.  Having lived overseas for so long I had kind of forgotten my U.S. history or maybe my history lessons slipped to the back of the queue in my brain.  Whatever, now being back in the U.S. on a more permanent basis I am refreshing and renewing my interest in matters historical on this side of the Atlantic.  I recently read the book Manhunt, the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killers, by James L. Swanson.  One thing that struck me about the book was the fervor with which people reacted to the Assassination.  Abraham Lincoln is an icononic figure in U.S. history but in part it was the fact that he was assassinated that elevated him to such a prominent position.  Now I find a poem written by my grandmother long after Lincoln’s time.  My grandmother was only 2 years old when John Wilkes Booth fired that shot.  But in less than 20 years, in 1882, she married a man who had served his country faithfully in the U.S. Civil War and would have been a Lincoln supporter.  So in that way, by marriage, she was certainly a woman of that era.  Here is her tribute, written in the late 1930’s.


Of the soil a son, yet apart from man he stood,

Although to hew the wood and plow the field

His hands he trained.  His neighbours saw in him

Naught but the country rustic akin to them.

They did not see behind that thoughtful brow

The soul of beauty and the brain of power,

Which as the slow years wound along their way

Urged him to read and study, reaching ever

To those high realms of which the common soul

Knows not, nor cares.  Then came the time of stress.

The man arose and into those brown hands

Received the Nation’s cares.  Prepared was he

By years of toil and grief and by the greatness of his soul

For this vast trust, and through the darkest time

The Nation e’er has seen, he strode upon his way

Ever faithful to his duty, striking the shackles

From slavery’s bleeding limbs; turning ever

At call of human misery to give his aid.

In all the earth before was ever such a man?

He had the understanding of the warrior

Who conquers all upon the battlefield;

He had the wisdom of the statesman who can guide

The Ship of State through perils of the storm,

And over and above his courage and his lore

He had the love and sympathy for all mankind

Which, stronger than his other gifts, will ever

Bind our souls to him in love and veneration.

His work is done.  We know him now and lay

Upon his brow the hero’s laurel.  Ever his life,

So simple and so great, shall be to us a call

To do and dare and suffer for the right.


Trying To Date Old Postcards

Filed under: Norway,Postage stamps,Postal history,Postcards — Janet @ 12:39 am

I am going through some of my old postcards and trying to date a few of them.  I tend to like the tinted ones dating from the first half of the 20th century.  Here are a few from my collection.  Only one of them has a postmark – 1908.  I’m wondering about dates for the other three.

              This card is postmarked London 1908.  Sent to  Sister Paula at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.  Note, St. Vincent’s Hospital was on Stephen’s Green at that time.  The sender has had a message from St. Anville.  I assume this is the well known all girls Catholic School in Goatstown, maybe 2 miles from St. Stephen’s Green.  It is within walking distance of where we lived in Dublin.  Former President Mary Robinson, and many other prominent women in Irish life,  attended Mt. Anville.


No date or stamp or message on this postcard from Norway.  Sogn is an ancient traditional district in Western Norway.  The card was printed in Bergen.

           no date or stamp but the card is printed in Zurich, so it’s from Switzerland

         this card is from the U.S.  The color-tinted image is of the Blue Hills Observatory in Blue Hills Massachusetts.  The message was for someone in Salem Massachusetts.  Blue Hills is in Milton Mass., south of Boston; Salem is north of Boston.  Checking on google I now find that there are 2 Blue Hills places – a Blue Hill Observatory and a Blue Hills Observatory Science Center, several miles apart.  The Science Center is in Canton, Mass.         

  this image is from the internet and is of the Science Center.  Possibly my cousins can enlighten me on what has happened in this area.  The road system has certainly all changed since our family lived nearby.   I-95 is new to me.  And Route 128 was built long after the time of the old postcard pictured above.


A Little Known Family Fact January 22, 2011

Filed under: Family history,Memoirs,Poetry — Janet @ 12:30 am

  a little book of poetry written by my paternal grandmother in her so-called twilight years.  Self-published, written when she was in her late 70’s and a member of a poetry circle in Florida.

  her book of poetry was privately printed for her by The Beach Press, Daytona Beach, Florida.  She introduces herself as follows: 

     I was born in Crown Point, New York in 1863; married Major Charles D. Miller of Newark, Ohio, in 1882.

The best work, as well as the greatest joy of my life, has been the rearing of my four children to good American citizenship.

Spending winters in Orlando, Florida, in 1939 I was attracted to the Poetry Club and, although I had never before written any poetry, I found I could really turn out something with rhyme and rhythm.

The greater number of these poems were written for the Club before I left Orlando for Daytona Beach.

I hope, dear reader, that you like them and become my friend as I am yours.



How could you help but be proud of and have great fondness for this grandmother of mine.  A grandmother I did not see all that often, in fact only seldom, and who lived far away from where I grew up. 

  January 1, 1942,  my father and his mom,  Daytona Beach Florida

My grandmother in fact outlived her son by 5 years.  She passed away in 1954 at the age of 91.  I can only remember her through photographs, a few letters in the family archive,  and what my sisters now in their 80’s are able to tell me about her.

What struck me today though about her was when I opened up this little book of poetry and found the following:         

A poem she wrote To The Half-Century Club (At State College, Albany, New York, June 1941) on the occasion of their 60th reunion.

To the Half-Century Club

Half-Centuryites we are here today

To look back along the way

We trod together for awhile

Only a short, but lovely mile,

And gather up from here and there

Some recollections we may share,

So short a time it was, you know,

Only two years, that long ago

That teachers did their sturdy part

To us their wisdom to impart.

In seventy-nine I came to wait

For knowledge at old New York State,

In June, ’81, I left its hall

But where’er my footsteps fall,

In all my life, I’ll ne’er forget

The lessons learned, the friends I met.

I recall that building, old and gray,

Where Dr. Alden held full sway,

I still can see, as I saw of yore,

The faculty filing through the door

To seat themselves in solumn style

Upon the rostrum for awhile,

While Marsh, the temperamental dear,

Made music to delight the ear;

His eagle eye cast ’round the ring

Making sure that each should sing.

Today could Dr. Alden see

What his school has grown to be

A certain pride he’d surely know,

But other things would shock him so

He’s shed a tear and tear his hair,

Perchance, forsooth, he’d even swear,

Full well I know the dancing class

Would make him cry aloud, “Alas,”

Once on the carpet I was called,

Across the coals well overhauled,

Because one evening forth I pranced

Broke every rule and danced and danced.

Enough of this, we stand today

In life’s twilight, cold and gray,

Our work near done, our faces turn

To where the sunrise glories burn,

For well we know this life to be

Only a link in the chain which we

Make complete when, our lessons learned,

Last life lived!  last body spurned,

Strivings over and hardships past,

Perfect peace is ours at last.

So from Daytona’s Beach I send

Greeting and farewell to each friend

Until next year shall bring our way

Another glad Alumni Day.


I just love what she has written.  So long ago now.  My grandmother on the occasion of her 60th reunion from college – and only recently I celebrated my 50th reunion from college, relatively near where she was born and went to school.  Middlebury Vermont, Crown Point New York, and Albany New York are not all that far apart.  She went to the college (I guess what would have been called a Normal School or a Teacher Training College) at the age of 16.  Attended for the requisite 2 years.  Graduated in 1881 and then married in 1882.  The little known family fact – to me anyhow – was that she had even gone to college at all.