It was one of THOSE days.  A late winter snowfall and multiple days of temperatures below freezing finally incensed me enough to do something about the pileup downstairs.  So at about 8 a.m. the “Sorting in the Basement” regimen began.

It was a crap shoot as to where to begin.  Bins or boxes first?  Left or right side?  Our stuff or our kids’ stuff?  They’ve told me they have all they want, but I know as soon as I give it to Goodwill, one will ask, “Mom, do you know what happened to my…?”

It was safe to start with our woodcrafting material.  We probably have 50 different historical models, all of which have leftover parts, so they started going in separate, labeled boxes.  It was a situation when we’d finished with one design and started on another, and didn’t quite get them filed correctly.  Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin, Indiana schoolhouse, Native American chief’s house, general store, Christmas ornaments, and so on.

Then (again) I got into my school leftovers.  After teaching hands-on projects in elementary classrooms for 25 years, I accumulated a wagon load of materials.  When I retired I gave much of it away.  But my grandchildren (right?) might want to have the inside scoop on how to remember art in Colonial America, so I can’t give up the scherinschnitz lesson, or the marbled paper.  I have Math and Science manipulatives, and still lots of books.

A cousin in another state just put out an SOS for books for her classroom library.  Bingo!  Filled a corrugated box full and wrapped it in packing tape.  My readalouds are on their way to a good home.

When your paper trail gets to be too much, do you ever put it in boxes to look at later?  I sorted through that stuff.  Half gone.  And Christmas wrapping paper and cards – put away in the underbed bin or trashed (Why do I keep smashed bows and wrinkled tissue paper?)


Behind the scenes life of a craft blogger. Boxes, boxes everywhere!  Not our basement, but you get the idea.  When we get it transformed into a media center for the old VHS tapes, I might take a picture.

General history memorabilia occupies another big department in our basement.  When we go on trips, we take lots of photographs.  Lately, they’ve been stored on our phones, but for the first 30 years of our marriage we took and printed them en masse, also foraging pamphlets and small, interesting souveniers.  It sure adds up.  This doesn’t include family history ephemera, which now occupies a large trunk in our living room.  That was the big job last year.

Of course I had to stop in the middle of the day to write this blog because I was so proud of myself.  Will I complete the initiative?  Already I’m thinking about PIG Day (Purging in the Garage).  But that will wait for warmer weather.  Maybe we’ll celebrate by grilling hot dogs.

Robert’s Rules

“Hi, I’m Robert Osborne.”  The silver-haired gentleman in jacket and tie stepped forward, introducing himself as he previewed another film.  He seemed like one of our parents’ friends from childhood we can’t remember not knowing.

His absence from the Turner Classic Movie channel will be difficult for many, as he passed away this month at 84.  An actor for a short time, he appeared in the pilot for the Beverly Hillbillies in the early 1960s.  While he worked for Desilu, Lucille Ball encouraged him to begin writing, and he authored many articles on the history of film including a classic book about the Academy Awards.

Always tasteful, always a class act, Robert was trusted equally by actors. coworkers and audiences.  In 1994 he joined TCM and quickly became its anchor, accumulating interviews of movie stars from the golden age of film.  He preserved for posterity Private Screening spots with Betty Hutton, Mickey Rooney, Robert Mitchum, Ann Miller and many more.

I remember one time, perhaps before Singing in the Rain was shown, he revealed he’d been on the set the last day Gene Kelley was in front of the camera.  It was for That’s Entertainment II, and the famous dancer wasn’t feeling well, but you wouldn’t know it because he carried on like he always had, with finesse.

Mr. Osborne had just as much finesse.  We identified with him and he with us.  He was interested in the viewers, as shown by his willingness to invite them to his program from time to time to help host their favorites.

He was the Dean of Movie Watchers; he was warm and gentle, and funny too.  A recent 20th anniversary special showcased outtakes that made me laugh out loud.  Apparently Olivia DeHaviland enjoyed his conversation, because they spoke on the phone every Sunday evening.

This is a history blog, but entertainment factors into history in a big way.  It is both cause and effect in our lives.  When Thomas Edison invented moving pictures, the new medium of expression transformed the way the world would be seen from that time on.

I am grateful that Robert Osborne decided to share his experiences with his wide audience.  His rules were simple, and he followed them well.  Rest in peace.

On March 18 and 19, Turner Classic Movies will air a special tribute to Mr. Osborne.


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The Art of TR

View of sculptures in Theodore Roosevelt library at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site 

Remington’s Broncho Buster at home with several other bronzes on the mantel of the North Room at Sagamore Hill.

Two familiar western artists of Theodore Roosevelt’s lifetime, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, were intermingled with the twenty-sixth president’s life as cowboy and lover of nature and history.

A sick, asthmatic boy, “Teedie” read The Leatherstocking Tales while resting indoors.  Living on the frontier appealed to his imagination and sense of adventure.  He yearned to be a western hero like the characters in the books.

So as an adult, he bought a ranch in Dakota Territory and roughed it himself (albeit as the cowhands’ boss).  Then he began to write about it.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail was serialized in Century Magazine in the late 1880s, and he hand-picked Frederick Remington for the illustrations.

The National Gallery of Art, “Stampede by Lightning”

Remington lived most of his 48 years in New York.  He attended Yale and was drawn to the romance of the west, working on ranches and in saloons for a time.

Douglas Brinkley says in his massive volume Wilderness Warrior (HarperCollins 2009) “To Roosevelt, at least before the Spanish-American War, Remington (who’d once herded sheep) was a plebian, not fit to share a private club.”  The artist was assigned by William Randolph Hearst to cover the Rough Riders in 1898.

And after the brief war, the volunteer soldiers presented their colonel with Remington’s The Broncho Buster while mustering out on Long Island.  He tells in his autobiography how touched he was at the gesture.

Remington also wrote his own novel of the west, John Ermine of Yellowstone, in 1902 along with 30 illustrations.  Roosevelt liked his description of roaming Crow tribes.  “It may be true that no white man ever understood an Indian…but you convey the impression of understanding him!”

Two years before the artist’s death during an appendectomy, Roosevelt said that he had done “real work” for this country and Americans owed him a debt of gratitude. “He is, of course, one of the most typical American artists we have ever had, and he has portrayed a most characteristic yet vanishing part of American life…”

In 1888, Century Magazine published a series of articles about the West written by Roosevelt and illustrated by Remington. In a May article, Roosevelt told the story of his daring capture of three thieves who had stolen a boat from his Elkhorn Ranch. Remington depicted their capture in this painting.

Remington’s 1888 illustration for Century Magazine, accompanying TR’s story of chasing boat thieves in North Dakota.

The president also said, “The soldier, the cowboy and rancher, the Indian, the horses and the cattle of the plains, will live in his pictures and bronzes…for all time.”

L164 RUSSELL Cowboy on a bay horse

Charles M. Russell, on the other hand, was born in St. Louis and lived his adult life in Montana, providing drawings and paintings for authors Bret Harte, Owen Wister and Roosevelt.

Iconic were the ones of dying cattle on ranches in the severe blizzards of 1887.  Skulls, ribs, skin and bones.  Devastation, starvation.  And the ruin of many cattle operations, including Roosevelt’s.

Correspondence between Roosevelt and Russell is housed at libraries around the country.  On the occasion of the loss of the Progressive Party in 1912, Russell relays to his friend the disappointment felt by the school children of Great Falls.

Guardian of the Herd 1899 By Charles M Russell - Oil Paintings & Art Reproductions - Reproduction Gallery “Guardian of the Herd”

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The Freer Gallery was built in Washington, D.C. in 1906 because Theodore Roosevelt, pounding on his executive desk, demanded the United States accept a large collection of art (including oriental paintings and the famous Peacock Room by James M. Whistler) and half a million dollars for the building to house it.  Smithsonian officials had been dragging their feet.

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                                                                             Remington, Russell, Roosevelt

TR established by Executive Order 1010 the Council on Fine Arts, a federal agency, in 1909.  President Taft replaced it with the Commission on Fine Arts the next year.

When Roosevelt saw works of cubism early in the Twentieth Century, he exclaimed “This isn’t art!”  Art was life to him, and life, especially among the landscape, people and animals of western plains and mountains, was never abstract.  It was real.

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The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, has an extensive collection of Remington and Russell art, which may be browsed at

Old School

When a school building has outlived its original purpose, it can be sold for apartments, a single family dwelling, or torn down.  My old brick high school in Angola, Indiana, was bought by the county for $1 in the 1990s and has a new life today, housing government offices and agencies.  Though many of the old classrooms have been partitioned off, there are features recognizable to former (notice I didn’t say “old”) students like me.  While visiting my mother this week, I took a walk through the well-maintained tile and terrazzo floors.

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The main stairwell from the front entramce continues up to the second floor.  Clamoring feet and ringing tardy bells come to mind when I see this shot.

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Ascending to the main hallway, the three doors to the auditorium still greeted me.  I remember kids flooding in for convocations, club meetings and play practice.

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Detail of fresco outside auditorium doors.

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Who doesn’t recall the view of the attendance and principal’s offices ahead?  And the porcelain drinking fountains…still there.

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As in Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree,” the old place keeps offering more of itself to students who walked its floors.

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The Steuben County Extension Office continues to support the tradition of 4-H.  The old home economics kitchen downstairs, where I first cooked a meal of boxed macaroni in the eighth grade, is still intact and used for demonstrations, etc.


A page from the 1920 Key, the Angola High School yearbook.

It was 1987 when my husband and I last entered the Magic Kingdom. Our daughters were seven and ten years old, and somehow we’d been able to take them to Orlando over Christmas Break. There was security then, but no double bag checks and X-rays. We also remember that in order to take a picture of Cinderella’s Castle in […]

via DISN-EYED — The Amazing Bird Collection



It was 1987 when my husband and I last entered the Magic Kingdom.  Our daughters were seven and ten years old, and somehow we’d been able to take them to Orlando over Christmas Break.  There was security then, but no double bag checks and X-rays.  We also remember that in order to take a picture of Cinderella’s Castle in the dark, we set our SLR camera on the top of a trash can.  In contrast, this year I pulled a smart phone out of my pocket and snapped these shots of the fireworks and light show.



So what else has changed at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” in thirty years?  Prices are higher, to be sure.  You scan your “magic band” to get in instead of presenting a paper ticket.  The customized bracelet also works as a debit card for hotel rooms, restaurants, and fast passes.



There are two more parks to visit now, but we stuck to the main ones: Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The Muppets have been ensconced on Main Street USA, greeting visitors with a performance about the founding fathers.  Miss Piggy (who else?) represents the royalty from which our new country broke away.  Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland — all still there, with modifications such as Pixar’s Monsters Inc. “Laugh Floor.”  Peter Pan’s ride, below, is fun as ever, along with the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Teacups and Space Mountain.  One can still float through “It’s a Small World,” and wind up with the tune in the head for the rest of the day.



At Epcot, time is best balanced among designing cars for the Test Track, navigating a mission to Mars, and taking in other countries’ shop wares and cuisine.  We had a wonderful experience at the Japanese grille, breaking bread (if not chopsticks) with an extended family from Pittsburgh.  And mouse ears of every color were everywhere: sprouting from headbands and caps; with sequins, bows, and fiber optics.  Those wearing them were all ages, all sizes, from just about everywhere, speaking their home languages.



Never changing is the fulfilled vision of Walt Disney.  Disney World is a place where you meet characters you grew up with, dance in your heart to music you’ve always loved; and dream more of what the future can hold.

That’s Funny?


Image result for presidents laughing  President Reagan liked a good joke, particularly on himself. 


“I love to laugh!” sang Uncle Arthur, drifting to the ceiling in Mary Poppins.  I remember laughing just because he did.

What was considered funny in the past and what we think is funny now can be two different things.

The first recorded jokes we know about are from Palamedes, a Greek who outwitted Odysseus just before the Trojan War.  While it seems there were a group of sixty who met in the Temple of Heracles to trade wisecracks, there probably weren’t any women present, due to the subject matter.  Or maybe they just didn’t care.

“Jestbooks,” such as one produced by a man named Philogelos, contained this conversation.

Talkative barber: How shall I cut your hair?

Customer: In silence.


A lady asked how she liked a gentleman’s singing (who had bad breath).

“The words are good, but the air is intolerable,” said she.


In Victorian times, jokes were known as facetiae.

“Waiter, I’ve found a button in my salad.”

“That’s all right, Madam.  It’s part of the dressing.”


Why should the number 288 never be mentioned in good company?

It is two gross.


In 1896, a Chicago publisher included this one:

Enfant: (patting his uncle’s bald head) “Say Uncle Jack, is that where you get spanked when you’re naughty?”


And a mother, trying to instill a virtue in her child: “There is more pleasure in giving than receiving.”

“That’s also true about castor oil,” the child said.


I’ve found more than a few jokes I hadn’t heard, so I’ll share these.


A man walks into the doctor’s office with two red ears.  “What happened?” asks the nurse.  “I was ironing a shirt when the phone rang,” he answers.  “Oh dear!  But what happened to your other ear?” she exclaimed.  “He called back!” moaned the patient.

How was the Roman Empire cut in half?  With a pair of Caesers.

That person is so classless he could be a Marxist Utopia.

A Roman walks into a bar, puts up two fingers and says, “I’ll have five beers, please!”

He was so dumb when he drove to Disneyland he saw a sign “Disney Left,” and went home.


Of course, hearing a joke is often half the humor.  I leave with this gem, from Rodney Dangerfield to Johnny Carson:

“When I was born I was so ugly, the doctor slapped my mother!”


Adam was the only one who could not say, “I’ve heard that one before.”


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