Friday, November 30, 2012

Old Style Photos - The Sixties

Does your family have these kind of pictures?

This is just the latest set I've found.  My parents also had each of us photographed when we were one year old.  They also were delivered as a Tube O' Photos. 

You may not know if your family ever purchased a Tube O' Photos, if your family happened to show foresight.  If the photos had been cut apart and put into frames or into a photo album, they would not have become set in their curl over the course of years.

This big long strip of photos is only laying partially flat because it's being stretched between a heavy diet vanilla steamer (not milk) and a box of photos.

Were you to reach into the photo and lift up that cup of milk, that strip would snap back into its tube shape fast enough to startle you.

The tube was taken in the early sixties.  So those unseparated pictures have been rolled up like that for fifty years.

These are my Uncle B's step children.  I don't remember their names.  I only met them once or twice.  I'd have been about eight and it was, as mentioned, about fifty years ago.  The marriage didn't last very long and while Uncle B was in it, they lived in San Jose, which was Somewhere Far Away to my eight year old mind.

I used to think that my parents had handled the Tube O' Photos years wisely.  They had taken each of us to be memorialized for posterity when we were one year old.  I knew that they had received a Tube O' Baby Faces for each of us.

But I had seen a few of the photos in frames, on the wall.  And I had been shown other photos, cut apart (as below) and laid flat in the cedar chest (a place of deep storage).

So, although they talked about the tube, I thought that they had done what was necessary to forestall the effects.  But, no.

Later I was to find that they had cut a few pictures loose, but had left the rest to fossilize in their tubitude.  True, Mom had gone back at one point, and cut one tube into three-picture sets, then laid that out in the cedar chest with things weighing them down. 

But the rest had been left to curl.  I wonder how widespread this is.  True, my parents and my uncle are only two instances, and they're related instances at that.  But I've inherited other tubes. 

I also wonder why photographers in the sixties would deliver photos in a tube like that?  Was it a recent change in technology, so that it looked new and modern?  Was it supposed to be cool, seeing all those faces in a line?  Were these the proof copies, with the tubeness implying that you'd get a nice flat picture if you paid the full price?

I don't know.  I only know that I've cut apart those photos.  And I'm flattening them out.  And I don't even know if I'll be throwing them out when I'm done.  Because I may never know these people's names and after fifty years there really isn't much of a connection. 

I Can See Why She Kept Them

Last night I sorted through two full file boxes of old paperwork and put most of them in the recycling bin.  That makes the stack of boxes sitting in the back yard that came from my mother's place just a little noticably shorter.  Not significantly shorter, just noticably.

I can see why she kept them, though, so I don't feel even a little bit of frustration or annoyance.  Most of them are papers related to Uncle B's estate and to the trust that it set up for Grandma & Grandpa. 

Uncle B was Mom's older brother.  He died of leukemia in middle age.  Mom was his executor and then the executor of the trust for the rest of their parents' lives.  It was a big job and she was diligent at it.  I don't find it odd that she kept the evidence of it packed in boxes for decades. 

She probably could have pruned out G&G's old utility bills, but what the heck.  She probably just put all of the old files in a box at some point without sorting through them at all, just to get them out of the way fast.  And she'd have no reason to go back through them once they were packed away.

Some of the papers were official documents, and I'll be keeping some of those.  I probably have other copies of Uncle B's death certificate, but I know I don't have copies of his birth certificate, honorable discharge, and military reserve papers. 

The big stack of continuing education certificates, on the other hand, I scanned and then recycled.  The older ones were police related and the newer ones were real estate related. 

I'm going to keep what look like public relations photos.  They're professionally done and taken at the police station.  I recognize Uncle B but have no idea who the other folks are.  The shots are obviously posed.  No one is looking at the camera.  Everyone is looking up and away at exactly the same sort of posed angle. 

I'm wondering if that was a standard pose back then.

I also found several more copies of my mother's high school portrait, in nice thick book-style cardboard matts.  Guess what my sister's will be getting for Christmas.  Well, maybe not Christmas.  That might be ghoulish, since Mom died last May.  But I'm starting to get quite a stack of these and it only seems fair to share the wealth.
Last night was also the night for opening what looked like a Rubbermaid bin full of pictures.  There were pictures in it, and I was surprised at some of them.  But a fair bit of bin space was taken up by six boxed In Memoriam books. 

I made a bet with myself on what I'd find when I opened them, and I won that bet.  The ones from my family were mostly empty.  We've never been good at filling these kinds of things out.  Two of them were for Gerry's first and second wives. 

Gerry was Mom's second husband.  He was a great guy and an appreciated addition to the family.  (Here comes the guilt.) He was also adopted.  He had no children and his parents are dead.  So far as I know, he has no relatives, certainly none that I know about.

I've been collecting his pictures and papers.  For instance, there were a handful of his pictures mixed in with pictures of our older relatives in that bin.  It kind of made it hard to sort relatives that I didn't recognize from Gerry's friends.  Eventually I learned to recognize Gerry when he was young, and that made it easier.

I was able to remove the pertinent pages from the In Memoriam books.  Tossing the bindings and the blank pages will save a lot of space.  I may recycle even the pertinent pages after I've scanned them.  I'll have to look at them again before I decide.

Two surprising things in the bin were military photo albums.  One was Gerry's and one was my Dad's.  Dad had pulled out his military mementoes from time to time to share with us, when we were kids.  It's odd that he never showed us this album.  Stray thought - it might have been something that Grandma L kept tucked away, so that Mom and Dad didn't have it until after she died.  But that's just a stray thought.

Dad was an airplane mechanic during the Berlin Air Lift.  Gerry was in World War II.  His album includes a picture of him in a kilt, but I don't think that had anything to do with his military service.  If I had to guess, I'd guess that there was a photographer near a base who supplied costumes for photos and some of the guys liked the Scottish Costume thing.  It's definitely done by a photographer, rather than snapped by a friend. 

The biggest thing in the bin was a photo album that turned out to be Grandma D's.  It's a huge, square album.  Its cover was made of wood covered with quilting with lace ruffles around the edges to make it look even bigger.  It's heavy. 

The pages are those thick sticky things with transparent covers that can be pulled back.  I know from experience with other albums I've inherited that those things don't age well.  I'll be taking the album apart and just keeping the pictures that I don't already have copies of.  And it looks like I have copies of most of them.

Oddly, there are a lot of pictures of Presidents in this album.  I would have really been shaking my head over them if one of them didn't have a printed statement on it that it had been presented to Uncle B.  Either Uncle B was more of a go-getter than the family acknowledged or they give those out with donations.  I'm going to have to check on this.
Let's see how the guilt's doing.  I got rid of some papers that I don't feel guilty about.  I got rid of some book covers that I don't feel guilty about.  I've filed some papers and pictures that I don't feel guilty about.  And I have a plan for some of the rest of it.

I kind of feel guilty about the little voice in my head that just wants to chuck Gerry's things.  I'm feeling a little down about the military albums, because they're bulky if I just keep them and work if I take them apart and sort and scan them.

And at the moment, my desk looks like this:

Beside my desk looks like this:
But I have a plan.  You may not be able to tell, but those stacks on my desk are sorted stacks.  They will not stay there long. 
Oh, and those thin cardboard boxes under the ipad in the lower right of that last photo - those are the Fortune Magazines that are going to be Worth Something One Day.  I'll tell you about them another day.  Right now I need to clear that desk.  See you on the other side

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I Should Have Said About the Lottery

In the previous post, I talked about what I answered when someone asked me what whacky thing I'd do if I won a big lottery.  It was an honest answer, and it was something I'd been thinking about doing for years.  But there's a better answer, or at least a whackier one.  And it's also something that I've though of doing for years, although it's something that's probably completely beyond me.

Let me explain.  Once upon a time, I read The Panda's Thumb, a book by Stephen Jay Gould.  In it was an essay titled 'Nature's Odd Couples' that told the sad story of hermit crabs in Bermuda. Other crabs may make their own shells, but hermit crabs borrow theirs.

Hermit crabs have fairly good shell on their heads and claws, but their backsides are much more exposed.  They cover it by sliding it into an appropriately sized snail shell, which then rides on their back, protecting them.

Unfortunately for Bermuda hermit crabs, the shells that they have been using come from a species of snail that has been extinct since the 19th century. They survive by fighting over old shells, which are becoming rarer and rarer.  The day will eventually come when the hermit crab of Bermuda become completely homeless, unprotected to the world. They are expected to die out completely when this happens.

Fortunately, for me if not for the snails, I was reading this essay while my oldest son was at work.  He had been working at Jack-in-the-Box.  It was his first job and he was kind of stoked about it.  He had brought home a Jack antenna ball for everyone in the family, even his brothers, neither of whom had a car to provide them an antenna to stick it on.  They enjoyed the smiling balls, though, and found creative ways to display them.*

The idea of the homeless hermit crabs combined in my head with the image of the Jack Ball, which sort of looks like a snail shell if seen in dim light on the floor where one of your kids has carelessly left it.

A Jack Ball is a promotion, right?  How nifty a promotion would it be to make Jack Balls in the actual shape and weight and strength of marine snail shells.  Scatter them around Bermuda in various sizes and soon every hermit crab will be sporting a Jack-in-the-Box advertisement.  Jack gets credit for saving a species, the crabs get homes.

Of course, that would also make the crabs a target for tourists.  Perhaps it would make them a more attractive target for preditors as well.  Or maybe it would scare preditors off.  Jack does look kind of spooky in the right light.  So maybe Jack could throw in some plain shells along with the Jack Shells.  All the housing benefit and not as likely to get them grabbed by a guy in a Speedo.

If it worked for Jack, maybe other companies would try to get in on the action.  Baskin Robbins makes antenna balls with a similar shape.  Disney is sure to throw in some hidden Mickeys.  It could go places.

Yes, I know it isn't that simple.  Use the wrong material, and the shells could become a matrix for algae mats, or bacterial slimes.  There would have to be research and testing to develop a good substitute shell.  Do I imagine that I'll be able to convince a big company to pony up for that research?  Only in my dreams.  I'm not feeling guilty at all about not working on this one. 

But if I were to win a big lottery?  This would be a much whackier way to waste that money.  If anyone wants to photoshop a picture of a hermit crab in a Jack Ball shell, I'd be willing to post it here.  Come on, you know you want to. 

* Did you know that if you take the head off of a Ken doll, a Jack-in-the-Box antenna ball will fit right on in its place.  And then you have a Jack doll. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not Really Waiting for the Lottery

Someone asked what whacky thing I would do if I won a big lottery.  There are all kinds of things that I’d do, but the only one that’s a little odd is that I’d set up random contests and scholarships.

$500 for the best song/poem about sewage* treatment.

$500 for a floating, remote controlled mini-raft that strains small trash out of a small lake or pond - must be powered by a shop vac.

And one that I keep fiddling with thinking about doing small scale: $25-50 grants to fund elementary school science projects.**

I'm sure I'd come up with bigger and better ones if I had the cash at hand.

* wastewater for the PC

** I keep trying to put together the ideas that:

1) a lot of kids dismiss the possibility of a science career when they're very young, just on the grounds that it's not the thing that their sort of person does,

2) not just kids, but most people don't know that scientists spend about a third of their time writing grants to get next year's research funded, and

3) a lot of kids don't think about doing science projects because they don't have the equipment or the funds to do them.
Maybe some day I'll do more than think about that last one.  In the meantime, this blog was meant to be a place to list the things that I've wanted to do and feel guilty about not doing, and I haven't been doing that much.  In fact, this might be the first time I've done it.

I've thought about this idea for years. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Recently Thrown Out

I was not the one who started saving this elementary school workbook.  My parents did that.

It may have been in one of the boxes that my mother brought down a few years before she died "to get things sorted out."  I kept it for years because the comment that my dad had written on it was just so like him.  He took our education seriously and deliberately showed that he was attending to what we learned. 
Fun with Dick and Jane would have been about first grade.  I know I was less than excited, at that age, to sit while he reviewed my work.  Fortunately, he did not keep the in depth review process in place for very long.  I don't remember drawing my own comment on it, but I approve of the idea. 

I threw this one away awhile ago, but just ran across the picture on my computer.

That's the pictures of my knee before and after the ortho surgeon cleaned it up.  The feathering is typical of osteoarthritis.  In addition, I got a high tibial osteotomy, which I affectionately refer to as a bone wedgie. 
I suspect that it was G, Mom's second husband that collected the coins from other countries.  I still haven't done anything with them.  They sit on my desk and would get in the way if I didn't have them covered with other stuff that's getting in my way. 

Yes, I feel a bit guilty about that.  Counting by the picture, I've been successful with two out of three items.  I refuse to count by the coin. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Older Legacy

This is a replay of an old guilt release from before I started the blog.  When Grandma D died, I was given her shoes.  They had been bought for her after she had moved to the nursing home and had only been worn when she was taken to visit one of her children, usually my Aunt E.

When I say "when she was taken," I mean that the shoes were put on her, then she taken by wheelchair to the car, driven to Aunt E's house, taken by wheelchair inside, and sat where she wanted to sit.  Then the shoes were taken off, so that she could be more comfortable.

She had Parkinsons and was largely immobile by that time.  So when she died, the shoes were far to much like new to be thrown out.  By communal consent, or maybe just because my feet were the same size, I was given her last shoes.  I wasn't broke at the time, but I had been recently, and I had been raised by the people who considered it a family duty to be frugal and see that someone got the use out of those shoes.  Even if I hadn't had a recent memory of scrimping and pinching, it would have felt perfectly right.

As you can see, I got the full use from them.  In honor of Grandma and in honor of my thrifty relatives, I wore them until they wore out.  They were yardwork shoes after one sole came lose and had to be duct taped.  Then another pair of shoes descended to yardwork status.  No one needs two sets of yardwork shoes.
So I entered the phase of guilt.  Do I throw it out, and feel guilty about throwing out Grandma's shoes.  Or do I not throw it out, and feel guilty for having an extra pair of ugly shoes taking up space in my small closet.  (Throwing out the better pair of worn shoes wasn't an option.)
So I took a picture.  To remember.  And it worked.  I could throw the shoes away.  And now I've written about it, which is even better.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Sometimes it's the little things that are hard to get out of the house.  For instance, this:

is my Mother's bowling league champion patch.  It doesn't take up much space, does it?  What can keeping it hurt? 

Well.  Now the picture is here, as a memorial, and the actual patch has been thrown in the trash.  It may be just one little thing, but there's alway one more little thing, and another after that.  And yes, I need the space. 


was, oddly, a little harder to get rid of.  It's one of those sets of sunglasses that your optometrist gives you when you weren't expecting him to dilate your eyes.  It unrolls and clings to the sides of your face.  It will get you home, but that's about it.

It was rolled around the turn signal stem of Mom's van.  In case she ever needed them.  She had a pair of actual sunglasses in her purse, so the odds of her ever having to use these were slim.  But they weren't broken, so there was no reason to throw them out. 

They stayed tucked out of the way, but ready to leap into action for years, maybe decades.  She and I both wore/wear bifocals.  I tested it.  It won't stay on over a pair of glasses.  So she never could have used them. 

They left the house a week or more ago.  I don't remember if I chucked them or sent them to the thrift shop. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Collage of Mom's Frogs

This is a collage of photos of some of Mom's frogs.  Many of them were given to her by her good friend, DeeDee.  They were all over her house and yard.  I got most of the obvious ones in the house, but didn't get more than one or two of the outside ones.  By got, I mean photographed, not kept.  Photographing them was enough.

I kept the little candle holder frog.  I don't remember if my sisters took one or not. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The House Clears (Photo Later) And NaNoWriMo 2012 Starts

Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend have cleared the front room.  Well, they've cleared it of most of the things that they brought back from Mom's place.  Some of it is in the garage waiting to be sorted, but that counts because Dear Son first had to clear the garage to make space and then he assembled the wire rack shelves that everything to be sorted is now sitting in.  This is Great Progress (a Capitalized Essence).  I am grateful.

I am also able to walk around in the front room, which is nice.  I'm feeling far less claustrophobic.  Many boxes in the kitchen have been cleared away as well, making the kitchen a much more useful place.  (Contented Sigh.)

Dear Son motivated us to gather a Young Friend and to go IHOP last night so that we could all begin NaNoWriMo at midnight.  I'm keeping the gathered words in a separate blog.  I'm surprised that Patchwork Riddle was already taken as a blogspot address.  I had to add the nano to it. 

Thankyou to Dear Son for getting us all started.  I'm up to 1,092 words so far.  Only 48,908 to go.