Category Archives: Nostalgia

A different kind of daytime television

If you’ve been saving for a bigger screen TV but haven’t quite managed it yet, this will make you feel better.

In May of 1948, General Electric (GE) advertised “the one and only kind of television you can enjoy in broad daylight.”

daylight-television1

Their ads promoted a television with a “super-big” screen─3 square feet—and they promised clear reception of all 13 American channels.

These days “daytime television” means soap operas, inane talk shows or re-runs of sit-coms. In 1948, daytime television meant a physical TV set with an image bright enough to see during daylight hours.

We take our big screens with clear colour pictures that we can see in any light for granted. Every once in a while it’s good to pause and acknowledge with gratitude the technology behind it all, and the people in our past who harnessed that technology to create something that has become so omnipresent in our lives.

Isn’t it a shame that all that marvelous technology gets used for such frivolous, and sometimes harmful, drivel? Don’t you wonder what the great minds of our television pioneers, John Baird, Kalman Tihanyi,  Leon Theremin and Philo Farnsworth would think about the potential of their technology being harnessed for such beauties as Sharknado, or Duck Dynasty, or 19 Kids and Counting, or—God help us all—Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?

I think they would throw their hands up in despair. I think that if they had known what was coming they would have drawn up legal contracts forbidding anyone with the name Kardashian from ever appearing on their screens.

I hope that they are—right now—plotting ways to come back to haunt the producers of Toddlers and Tiaras. 

As I write this, my words appear on a computer monitor with a screen larger than the one in the 1948 GE advertisement. Its picture is bright and clear and colourful. I take a moment for gratitude for this incredible technology and the pioneer minds of the people who invented it.

Tonight, I think I’ll go home and kiss my big-screen television in all its bright, clear glory.  And I won’t watch The Bachelorette. I respect the great minds of television pioneers far too much to do that.

Drafting the Famous Five

“We take turns drafting as we make our way south, like cyclists in the Tour de France or geese, changing positions every ten minutes or so when the leader grows tired. I am surprised how much easier it is to follow someone else’s lead in those conditions, stepping where they step, trusting that they know at least something about the way we are going.” —Michael Yankoski in Mapping the Sacred Year

Michael Yankoski reflected on “drafting” when writing about a pilgrimage he made with friends. The walkers took turns leading into the wind, making the way easier for those who followed behind.

Pilgrims draft for each other, cyclists too, and geese. And so do we.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’ve been drafting the Famous Five my whole life. Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards were five Canadian women who sought to have women declared “persons,” so that women could be appointed to our Senate.

On this date 87 years ago, April 24, 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are NOT such persons: “. . .Understood to mean ‘Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada’ the question is answered in the negative.”

The women kept walking into the wind, drafting for each other, trusting that they knew at least something about they way they were going. One and a half years later, that ruling was overturned on October 18, 1929.

Thanks to them, I vote and own property. Heck, maybe someday I could even be in the Senate.

Then again, with everything that’s going on there these days, maybe not.

Nellie McClung: “Women are Persons” Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

 

 

Not auld, but new time’s sake

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Sometimes, yes, for your new time’s sake. 

At midnight on New Year’s we sing a song about the past instead of the future. For me, for the new time pelting me moment by moment, I prefer to look forward. No point in clinging to unhealthy, damaging relationships for old time’s sake. Choose healthy ones, look forward and go out and have some fun.

For New Time’s Sake

For new time’s sake, my dear,
For new time’s sake,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For new time’s sake.

We two will run about the hillsides,
Amongst the daisies fine,
And we will wander many a mile
For new time’s sake

We two will wade in lapping lakes,
From noon to dinner time
And seas we’ll cross, and lands we’ll see
For new time’s sake

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And give me a hand of yours,
And we’ll take a drink of goodwill ale,
For new time’s sake.

And surely I’ll pay for your pint,
And you will pay for mine
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For new time’s sake.

fireworks

Hallowe’en: Tickle Trunks and Friendly Giants

In a Hallowe’en store this week, the clerk selling me the cape for my son’s costume (Superman, NA NA NANA NA NA NA, Superman) asked me what my costume would be this year. I said, “I’m not sure. I’ll dig through what we have in the basement and find something.”

“We have a tickle trunk full of costumes in our basement too,” she said.

The clerk was about 20 years old, so I thought she would not know about Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk. I said, “I’m so happy to hear you use that term. I thought you were a little young to know that show.”

“What show?” she said.

I explained Mr. Dressup to her, and told her to look him up. “I will,” she said. “I had no idea. I just thought “tickle trunk” was what you called a costume box.”

Thank you, Mr. Dressup, for coining a timeless phrase.

The conversation triggered memories about other children’s shows. There’s no better way to celebrate Hallowe’en than with the wonderful opening to the Friendly Giant, Hallowe’en edition.

By canoe, with a two-year-old

shaws-pondOn the weekend of our Canadian Thanksgiving, my mother, my family and I went for a hike at the Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre. Before we left I downloaded their excellent information sheets about the trail we planned to take. (Ever the dutiful mother, I wanted our walk to be educational as well as healthful and fun.)

We had to drive for an hour and a bit from our home in Ottawa to get there, and my daughter fell asleep in the car. When we arrived, she was in a groggy, just-woke-up place. “Hiking,” she grumbled. “Why do we have to go hiking?”

We set out on our path, and I began to read aloud about John Shaw, a miller from Inverness, Scotland. “John arrived here in 1847 by canoe from Bytown [now Ottawa] with his wife Barbara Thompson . . .”

I stopped reading. “They came here from Ottawa by canoe,” I said. I pictured the two of them paddling through rain into strong winds. I imagined them straining under the burden of heavy loads as they portaged all their worldly goods around rapids.

What a hardship.

I read on. “. . . and their two-year-old son, John.” “They did all that and they had a two-year-old with them.” I said.

Toddlers in warm, safe homes are challenging enough. Imagine travelling by canoe for weeks with one. Were there even life jackets in 1847?

I turned to my daughter, “That sure makes our little hike in the woods seem pretty easy by comparison, doesn’t it?”

Forages into the past that dig up reminders of the hardships our ancestors faced help to put all our petty little problems into perspective. Whatever comes at me today, at least I’m not in a canoe in the rain with all my worldly goods and a two-year-old. 

tree-house-small

My daughter later in the hike, smiling.

Liverpool haunts: An ale and crisps birthday

Since my return from our London vacation, I have mined the experience for blog post material. Until today I hadn’t touched on the number one highlight of our trip: Liverpool.

We took an early train and arrived in Liverpool mid-morning. We promptly hired a Fab Four cab and spent two hours with a personal guide who took us to Beatles’ haunts: the house where Ringo was born, Penny Lane, the barber shop, Strawberry Field, and the church hall where John and Paul first met at a church fête. (The British pronounce this word like “fate,” for some strange reason.)

penny-lane

This all served as a fun warm-up for our afternoon activity: the National Trust tours of the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The National Trust maintains these properties with love and respect and allows wary access to others prepared to give the homes the same love and respect.

In front of Paul's house

In front of Paul’s house

The custodians share heartfelt personal stories of John and Paul, and they walk guests through the rooms where some of the most famous music in the world was born. We sang “Hey Jude” in Paul McCartney’s living room. We stood at his bedroom window and looked at what his view would have been like. We sang “Please, Please Me” in the front porch of John Lennon’s house, the same place he and John went for good acoustics. The doorknobs and light switches were original, so I think every person on our tour reached out to touch the doorknob and light switch of John Lennon’s bedroom. (Wouldn’t you?)

Beside the front porch where we sang.

Beside the front porch where we sang.

The evening found us at the Cavern Club, the music venue where the Beatles (and many others) got their start. We sang and danced under the ancient arches of the historic club—until we had to tear ourselves away to catch our London train.

cavern-sign

 

We happened to be in Liverpool on my birthday, so I can proudly say that for my birthday dinner, I enjoyed pints of ale at the Cavern Club and crisps on the train. (That’s potato chips in North America.)

Do I know how to celebrate 52, or what?

I was born in 1962, so I was too young to be a Beatles fan when their popularity first skyrocketed in the early 1960s. My interest in them came later. But my husband is a few years older than I am, and he had an older brother who was a teenager when the Beatles were prime time, so he is an avid fan and a trivia master of all things Beatles. Even though my passion for them should not even be measured on the same scale as his, I still visited these sacred sites with a sense of awe. I still reached out and touched the doorknobs and light switches. I slipped off my sandals and walked barefoot on the floors that Beatles’ feet touched.

They were simple human beings—not famous people—when they lived there, and tragic things happened. Both Paul and John were just teenagers when they lost their mothers when they were living in those homes. Paul’s stories had a before-and-after, “after Mom died,” theme. Paul’s father did his best, but “after Mom died” the meals weren’t as good, the cleaning not as thorough, and the furniture got a little shabby. Meanwhile, John’s mother was struck by a car—sent flying through they air—and killed instantly on the street where he lived.

Standing in the places where they lived when the world considered them ordinary and where they lived through those tragedies, I felt a “vibe,” a sense of the little pieces of them that still linger there. I felt it in the homes, I felt it when I danced and drank ale at the Cavern Club, I carried it with me to the train, and I remember it now.

Liverpool haunts.

strawberry-field

The gates of Strawberry Field

 

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