Mr. Tiger

At the corner of Michigan and Trumball Streets in Detroit stands a nice, new Police Athletic League baseball field.  Its cheerful astroturf spreads out over a rebuilding neighborhood, taking up a fraction of what it replaced, the old Tiger Stadium.

Once a summer in the 1960’s, my dad would load up a few of us kids and his own dad to travel from our home in Indiana to a Major League game in the overgrown city.   I remember the largeness of it, the old wooden seats and stairs, and the popcorn smell.  But most of all, I remember the names of the players.  Willie Horton, Bill Freehan.  Mickey Lolich.  Rocky Colavito  (loved to roll that one around on my tongue).  Norm Cash, Dick McCauliffe, and Don Wert.  But always, always, there was one we looked forward to cheering for the most: Al Kaline.

Al Kaline remembered for talent, graciousness | Baseball Hall of Fame

Happy Birthday Al Kaline!!! | 30-Year Old Cardboard

Albert William Kaline joined the Tiger organization straight out of his Baltimore high school in 1953, and never left.   Two years later he was the youngest player to win the American League batting title.  A right fielder, he played in the All-Star game 15 times, won 10 Golden Glove Awards and was elected into the Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, 1980.  He played 22 seasons before retiring.

I guess what made Kaline, who passed away at age 85 last week, the hero to us was what a good guy he was.  “I’ve always served baseball to the best of my ability,” he said.  “Never have I deliberately done anything to discredit the game, the Tigers, or my family.”  He didn’t have to tell us that, though.  We knew.

Brooks Robinson said Kaline was the best all-around player he ever faced.  The Detroit Free Press echoed that “he was a living monument of how gracefully baseball could be played.”

His #6 jersey was the first to be retired by the ball club.  Wearing it he had racked up 3,007 hits and 399 home runs.  In all, he scored over 1600 runs and drove in about as many.  He was a consistent defensive player in the outfield.

It was a racially dishevilled Detroit in 1968 when they played in the World Series.  Al had broken his arm that summer, and didn’t think he deserved to be in the lineup — but how could fans be denied a part for their favorite Tiger?  And they beat St. Louis for the title. 

He stayed with Detroit as a television and a radio announcer, side-by-side with George Kell and Ernie Harwell.  Many warm Saturdays I would open the front screen door to the sight of my dad listening to them broadcast a game as he washed the car.

In 2018 there was a 50th Anniversary celebration at Comerica Park for the great 1968 team.  My uncle, cousin, brother and I sat in “Kaline’s Corner” to see and hear the old players again.  

It was just as exciting as it was in the 60s.  Heroes are heroes.  Al Kaline was a gift, another star to look up at.  While readers may revere different baseball players, I, along with Mitch Albom and Jim Price, will always remember Mr. Tiger.

Information from AP reports and the Detroit Free Press.


Perfect title for a blog post. 

For a long time I wanted to use that word for a headline, and considered what the content might be. Pelted by Nicaraguan monkeys with fruit from a palm tree? Returning from a night out at the movies and a Big Boy restaurant in high school?  Or..

Better to go with the obvious.  The world tends to see us in the era we came from.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it just is.  

A barrage of senior photographs on Facebook honoring this year’s graduates who won’t get to finish their studies on campus has prompted memories of the way things were.  Of hair, of clothing, of thinner faces and whiter teeth.  Many of us have crossed the bridge of seeing the difference in ourselves then vs. now.  I commented to a friend that he looked the same almost 50 years later.  “I wish,” he replied, but it was true to me.

When does something go out of fashion?  Not only clothing, but music, architecture, furniture, art, TV genres?  I remember one time the press hyped President Reagan for setting a new style when he wore a dapper suit.  Surely well-dressed men would follow.  Then he simply told them, “It’s an old suit.”

Take being cooped up at home, like most of us have been in the last month.  Is it dated to put together a puzzle, talk more to family, write letters, send packages, invent new games, and read what you put on the shelf two years ago for lack of time?  Notice I did not mention cleaning out closets.  If you did that, you’re on your own.  Cleaners and avoiders each stand the test of time.

What’s never out of style is noticing sunrises and sunsets and marveling at spidery leaves of a crocus among its lavender blooms.  Spotting red cardinals, blue bluejays, and hearing woodpeckers hammering on trees in the distance.  Looking at photos of wedding cakes and videos of baby giggles.  And rediscovering the echo of a train moving through a crossing nearby.


Vintage Schwinn Girls Bicycle


Objects on The Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, and forgive me, Pawn Stars, date us when we recognize them as from “our time.”  Are they antiques?  I had a bike like that!

The black-and-whiteness of time discrimination dissolves a bit more, and turning off media reports helps, too.  When we get to get together again in person, may we keep in mind that the inside of all of us is more important than the outside.  And it is a privilege to have lived in whatever time from which we came.



Checked Out

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I think about what it would be like to drive a little horse cart to the general store in 1900.  It is 6:30 on a May morning and the birds welcome me along the path we share to town.  I loosely tie the leather straps to the post and give my “engine” half an apple for waiting patiently on me while I shop inside.

Two men playing checkers on the porch smile as I enter the door.  I take out a paper and pencil list from my reticule, choosing potatoes, a little sugar and flour, and some oyster crackers for soup.  As wooden floorboards creak under my feet, I browse the new fabrics on the shelf and wonder which color would make a nice shirtwaist to wear to church.  The storekeeper, not unlike Mr. Oleson, tells me bits of news as he totals my order in his head.  I pay in cash and he gives me change.

Well,  that was then.

This morning I decided to make an early trip to the grocery.  It was 6:30 a.m. and the traffic wasn’t too bad.  I followed my list pretty well, allowing for bargains I found in the toy aisle for Christmas boxes later on in the year.

Where was the friendly storekeeper?  Not behind even one of the 15 cash registers fronted by quiet, still conveyor belts and unlit ID numbers.  Self checkouts were the only option before 7:00.

I offered my store card to the glass counter.

“Scan your item and place it in the bag,” the voice pleasantly told me.  I don’t know her name, but I believe she is a cousin of Barbara, our GPS lady, or Lucy, our friend’s GPS lady.

This worked for three items.  I thought I was following directions and being courteous, especially since she hadn’t bantered over the news with me (but I did pick up a morning newspaper to buy, so that was a consolation).  “See attendant,” she said.  I didn’t see any.

Then I waved at a guy at the end of the computers, and he came over.

“These were BOGO,” I said, pleased I remembered the acronym for “buy one, get one.”

“It will show up at the end of the order,” he told me.

The UPC codes mostly scanned OK, including the fruit stickers.

But the lady kept telling me to place the item in the bag.  The bags were full.  There was no more room, and I still had half my order in the basket.  Could I put the half I’d “processed” in the basket with the unprocessed items?  Would an alarm go off?  Would she yell at me?

I thought that if I’d had a smartphone extension rod, I could have made one of those vlogs that I haven’t seen but a friend recently told me about, and send it to Jimmy Fallon.

Four more waves to the computer guy and I was almost done.  I had to have help with coupons; I guess the money I owed was more important to the lady than the cents off.   I paid with a check, handing it to the CG, and loaded the rest of the things into my basket.

I thought I heard her say, as I wheeled out the door, “Take your receipt and your bags, and get the h— out of here!”  But it was probably my imagination.  I was checked out, and she was already helping someone else.


Deep Freeze

The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K) at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983 by ground measurements (Wikipedia).

A hundred and twenty-eight degrees below zero!  I’m sure I don’t remember what I was doing on that summer day in 1983.  Probably making homemade popsicles for my two young daughters, or splashing in the kiddie pool.

Aerial photograph of Vostok Station, the coldest directly observed location on Earth.

The cold wave during the first two weeks of February 1899 is by far and away the gold standard for cold outbreaks in U.S. history.

For the first time on record, every state in the Union (there were only 45 states at the time) dipped below zero. Subzero cold invaded parts of south-central Texas, the Gulf Coast beaches and northwest Florida.

The Mississippi River froze solid north of Cairo, Illinois, and ice not only clogged the river in New Orleans, but also flowed into the Gulf of Mexico a few days after the heart of the cold outbreak.

A snowball fight takes place on the capitol steps in Tallahassee, Florida on Feb. 13, 1899. (Wickimedia)
Also under the category of How Cold Was It? —

Ernest Shackleton’s ship, The Endurance, was stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea near the South Pole for months in 1915.  While waiting for the ice around the three-mast boat to break up, sailors made their home in the hull.  They warmed up in minus 20 degree temperatures by playing football and hockey, but eventually had to give up the ship when it collapsed and sank.  They then maneuvered lifeboats among the floes to uninhabited Elephant Island, pitching tents at night.

The three healthiest men, including the captain, rowed to South Georgia Island where there was a whaling camp.  Upon landing, they had to hike across uncharted glaciers with screws in their soles for traction; all crew members miraculously survived on a sparse diet of (sadly) their sled dogs, penguins and seals (Liam Neeson narrated a documentary about the adventure in 2000).  Cambridge University has planned an expedition planned to find the sunken vessel this year.  Maybe lodged would be a better adjective.

The coldest temperature in the lower 48 United States ever recorded was 40 years later at Rogers Pass, Montana, at an elevation of over 5,500 feet above sea level.  It was 70 degrees below zero there in January 1954.

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And this past week, in January 2019, we experienced the effects of a polar vortex which pushed wind chills in the Midwest to 50 below.  Major networks had plenty of stories about it, so I won’t list details.  People of the future may look it up in their clouds.

I’m looking forward to Monday’s temperature of 50 degrees.  Above zero.

I apologize to readers who caught this blog in the first hours it was published.  After checking several more articles and watching the documentary about the Endurance, I amended some things.


Paint or Print?

Painted portrait of George Washington Image result for george washington photograph

 George Washington, left; and George Washington Parke Custis, right.  Technology changed the way we remember them.  National Portrait Gallery,

Try to imagine what it would like to meet George Washington.   Look at portraits painted in the late 18th Century (not hard to do each time you pay with a dollar bill) and read his diaries, details about his personality, upbringing, and military career; and his actions as president.  Surmise what he might have sounded like from accounts of dialect experts and those who knew him.

The most prominent visuals we have for getting to know him are portraits painted by Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, Robert Edge Pine and others.  They used their gifts to preserve the man to his country and posterity.  Colors in the Pine portrait above show Washington’s resolve in his face, fist clenched on a walking stick, and dashing uniform.

Less than 50 years later, the camera emerged.

An early photographer recorded the image of George Washington Parke Custis on a glass plate.  Custis was Martha Washington’s grandson, whom George adopted.  He built Arlington House, the grounds of which would become our national cemetery, and his daughter would marry Robert E. Lee.

The contrast between the painting and photo is striking.

The Washington Family

A scene too early to photograph: George Washington and George Washington Parke Custis  as a boy, with Nelly Custis and Martha Washington.  Painting by Edward Savage, National Gallery of Art.

'Washington Crossing the Delaware'

Several years ago I walked into a room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and stood looking at the famous Washington Crossing the Delaware.  It was the size of a school bus.

If Emanuel Leutze had had a camera available and was able to follow the troops on their way to New Jersey, what would the photos have looked like?  A bunch of ice and fog?  He probably would have lost his grip and dropped it in the river.  We’ll never know.

Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s PT-59 in the South Pacific in the Second World War.  It’s pretty hard to capture the determination in their faces from a live shot, as opposed to the soldiers in the painting of Washington’s boat.

I remember seeing a photo of Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, in his old age.  He was sitting outside near his wife, Louisa.  Why, that looks like it could be an picture of my great-grandparents!  Paintings must be of legends, photographic prints for real people,  I thought.

Timothy O’Sullivan captured this Harper’s Weekly artist sketching on a hill overlooking Gettysburg.

The Civil War was the first to be recorded by camera equipment (which required its own caisson).  It is reported that sometimes photographers moved bodies in the battlefield to enhance composition or purpose.

There are those who would dismiss photography as an art form.  And those who scorn oil paintings as reality.  I think they can be both.  If, while looking at a photograph or a painting, you ask yourself questions about the subjects, the landscapes, the furniture, or the architecture, how can you not learn about what was?

photography…a subject of enormous social relevance…not a pitiable craft.  –Osip Brik, 1926.

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The iconic Migrant Mother by tells the story of a  woman and her seven children during Depression in California.

Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?  –Pablo Picasso

A student once said that when she looked at a painting, she liked to think about what was going on in the world as the artist worked.  That’s critical thinking: cause/effect.  That’s key to trying to get to the bottom of things.  It is both concrete and abstract.

Paintings and photographs are irreplacable primary sources.   People can debate about their worth in the art world, but why choose between them as a teacher?  Each has a purpose.  The medium itself reveals part of history.

Western Wisdom

When Theodore Roosevelt was a young man, he blew a path through the untamed landscape of the arid Dakota Badlands: hunting, riding, bulldogging, and building up his health.  He would tell stories and write more than a few books on his experiences, prompting friends to travel west themselves.  One of them, Owen Wister, wrote a novel based in Wyoming called The Virginian in 1902.

Image result for gary cooper as the virginian

The story became a stage play two years later; when talking pictures were an option, it was made into a  movie starring Gary Cooper.   The character he played was a ranch foreman from Virginia, but that was about all we knew of his past.  We never heard his name.  Hired hands Trampas and Steve and a schoolteacher named Molly made the cattle-rustling plot more exciting.

Joel McCrea was the next reincarnation of The Virginian in 1946.  It was inevitable that the characters would join the television cowboy series  boom of the 50s and 60s.  So James Drury, Doug McClure and Gary Clarke brought us the Virginian, Trampas and Steve starting in 1962.  It had a different format than most — a weekly 90-minute movie with guest stars from Hollywood’s heyday, and others who would soon become popular.

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Steve became a nicer, funnier guy while Molly ended her tenure at the end of the first season, playing a newspaper editor rather than a schoolteacher.  But Trampas stayed for the nine-year run of the show, helping the bossman imprint an indelible image of adventure, comradery and honor of the Old West.

Recent airings via our modern multitude of networks have brought a new audience to The Virginian and its final season, Men from Shiloh.  The opportunity to meet the stars of the 50 year-old series has been made possible by western festivals, the most recent of which was in Ardmore, Oklahoma this month.

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In addition to regulars Drury, Clarke, Roberta Shore (above) and Randy Boone, other actors who greeted fans at the “Westfest” included Clu Gulager, L.Q. Jones, and Don Collier.  The latter three amassed hundreds of appearances in western TV shows and movies.  Mr. Collier said of working with John Wayne: “You got along fine with him if you did three things: show up on time, know your lines, and stay on the set until you were dismissed.”

Theodore Roosevelt once said he would not have become president if he hadn’t gone West.  He wouldn’t care much for more recent, more graphic versions of this movie genre.  But surely he would have a lot to talk about with the Virginian and his contemporaries, as he did with their creator, Owen Wister.

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Darn It

Does anyone do mending anymore?

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Someone wondered what one of the props was on an old TV show.  She thought it was a light bulb.  “It’s a darning egg,” someone else said.

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Of course — a darning egg.  A wooden oblong form to jam into a sock to have something to stitch over when you’re mending a heel or toe.  In use 1905.

But we don’t mend much after supper by the fire anymore. I buy new socks and use the holey ones for dust rags. When I lose a button off a shirt, it goes on top of my sewing basket for a few months.  When pants have shrunk up and their hem needs to be let out, I hang them up and forget about them.  And if jeans have a small rip, in today’s fashion world, all the better.  Most everyone hopes it will get bigger instead of hiding it until it can be fixed.

Love this idea for fixing holes in jeans--a great way to showcase some easy needleweaving. #weaving


The rule is, for sewing on a button, use two threads; for a hem, a single.  When darning a sock (or jeans like the cute example above), stitch a row of parallel thread or yarn across the hole, and weave another row at a right angle, just like those placemats in elementary school.

It’s just not like it used to be.  Thimbles are much smaller now (Was anyone else ticked off when they took that token off Monopoly?) and they make the holes in needles so hard to find.  Manufacturers of sewing supplies must be responsible.  It couldn’t be me.




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.


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Jean Arthur and Cary Cooper in The Plainsman, 1936.  They were also paired in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

The other night I watched a classic black and white western, The Plainsman.  Gary Cooper played Wild Bill Hickok, a gunslinger I always get confused with Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp.  I was prompted to cybersearch after the movie was over to check how facts played into it.

Facts?  Sources concur that reliable information about Hickok (1837-1876), whose real name was James, is sketchy.  He as well as Martha Cannary (Calamity Jane) seem to have spread rumors about themselves, which were perpetuated by Eastern publishing companies.

A few undisputed things about him —

  • Born in Illinois, he served as a guide and spy for the Union Army in the Civil War.
  • He knew George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Calamity Jane.
  • He was elected an officer of the law by citizens in Kansas towns.
  • He was quick with two pearl-handled revolvers he carried backwards in his belt.
  • He died at a poker table with black aces and eights in his hand, in Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Cooper movie and subsequent others used these facts, but wove the plot in imaginative ways.

In 1942 Bruce Cabot played him in Wild Bill Hickock Rides.

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In 1995 Jeff Bridges brought raw realities to the role in Wild Bill.

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With a masterful blend of music, cast and cinematography, TNT’s 1999 fantasy Purgatory placed Hickok with Holiday, Jesse James and Billy the Kid.  Sam Shepard had the main part in his hand.

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The most recent version of Wild Bill is played by Jeff Fahey in Wild Bill Hickok: Swift Justice, released just this year.  Lee Majors narrates the story.

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In these movies we see a bits of truth squeaked out of lives of flamboyant lawmen: they did protect us regular folks and try to uphold justice.

However stretched, it is assuring to hear along with flying hooves from an old movie in a dark room on a Thursday night.

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James Butler Hickok.

Dwelling in History



(6 1/4 in. x 5 1/4 in. x 4 1/2 in.)

At the end of my Wordpress blog every week I read a disclaimer, “Occasionally some of your visitors may see an advertisement here.”  That’s just a fact for a free blog network, and it is fine.  But you will see an ad in the regular space this time, too.

Dwelling in History, LLC, is a venture my husband and I have begun in the last year.  It grew out of our enjoyment from learning about buildings in our country’s past.

At first, he designed scale models with CAD (computer-aided design), and printed the nets (flat patterns) on card stock paper.  They had to be cut and precisely folded, but they were very good likenesses.

We thought with all the Math involved in dimensions and the geometry of architecture, this would be a great opportunity for hands-on, across the curriculum learning for kids.  The trouble is, it was a little too difficult for kids.  And for non-model builders like me.

So, we investigated making them out of wood, and the most efficient way to produce parts was to acquire a laser to connect to the CAD program.   A business loan, some consulting with the SCORE office in Fort Wayne, and some redesigning, and we had our first model kit: the Maltese Cross log cabin which Theodore Roosevelt lived in in North Dakota in the 1880s.  It appears at the top of the page.  It looks great decorated for Christmas, too.


(7 1/2 in. x 6 1/2 in. x 5 1/4 in.)

Next project: the bunkhouse from the television series The Virginian.  We know, it’s not an actual historic building, but it was important to the show and to the memories of those who watched it.  We made them for a fundraiser called Cowboy Up for Vets in Ohio this spring, and donated some  for the tables at the banquet.


(8 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. x 7 in.)

The first brick home in Indiana is represented by the model above.  It belonged to William Conner in the 1820s, and has been restored for all to see at Conner Prairie Settlement in Noblesville.  The beehive oven is an interesting feature on this house.   Kits are available at the gift shop there.


(10 3/4 in. x 6 in. x 7 in.)

A similar model is the Chief’s House from the Historic Forks of the Wabash in Huntington.  Miami Chiefs Richardville and Lafontaine lived in it, and treaties were signed here.  It has been moved closer to the Little Wabash River with some log cabins, including the one below.


(6 1/2 in. x 7 in. x 3 1/2 in.)

This is a one-room log schoolhouse from Huntington County which was taken apart and reassembled on the Forks grounds.  Children on field trips troop inside to learn about how the three R’s were taught long ago.


(9 in. x 6 in. x 9 in.)

The 1877 Collins School from Steuben County is my favorite model thus far.  I posted its history a few months ago.   It could also be used as a church — the classic design was repeated many times in the Nineteenth Century.  On this particular one, the steps are at the left; the right door is non-functional since the chalkboard took up the rest of the interior wall.  Our newest version has cutout windows so the inside can be illuminated by a flameless candle.  Makes a nice table centerpiece!


(3 1/2 in. x 4 in. x 5 in.)

I’ll end with a photo of a non-historic model, our faerie garden house, which I had fun helping design this summer.  It has a clear enamel finish to help it withstand the outdoors where faeries come to visit at night.

Dwelling in History has more models in the works.  The ones you see above are available already built or in kits with instructions.  We’ll soon have a website,, but for the present you can email us at the address below.  We are also available for workshops, and can tie in Indiana Math and History Standards as we build them.

Prices range from $10 to $25, plus shipping if you are outside the Fort Wayne area.  Please contact us at if you’d like more information.