Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Oct 4 thoughts...

Danvers has been in my thoughts many times today, for a variety of quite different reasons. At breakfast time, our morning newspaper contained a story about the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite put in orbit around the Earth.  I recall going out one night with my parents onto an open slope where we could lie down and see a large segment of the sky, watching for Sputnik as it passed by. We saw it! We were on a slope above Rte 1, facing west, looking at the sky above Pine Knoll and Ferncroft Road.

This afternoon I pulled up a few carrots from my garden, and recalled that I'd been planting Danvers Half-Long Carrots for many years. This year's crop hasn't grown very long, though. My husband says they must be "quarter-longs" instead. Still, they are tasty, and have a Danvers connection.

Several email messages today, from unrelated people, also involved Danvers. A student working on a research project is seeking information about a woman in my great grandfather's family, who lived in Danvers.  Another inquiry came from a friend in Falmouth, asking me what handouts and A/V equipment I plan to use during a workshop we'll be co-teaching October 19 at the Massachusetts Councils on Aging Annual Conference; she also wanted confirmation of where we'll stay during the conference, which happens to be in Danvers this year. She's not familiar with Danvers, so I sent her some directions, and a link to MapQuest showing the route from our proposed lodging (with a Danvers classmate of mine) to the conference center, which is on Ferncroft Road.  I reflected on the many changes that have come to that north Danvers landscape (and the network of intersecting roadways) since the night I lay watching Sputnik travel through that sky in 1957.

Meanwhile, an acquaintance from western Massachusetts, where I now live, traveled to Danvers to do a library workshop today.  I had sent her a brief note yesterday, and she replied this morning, saying that her expected audience would be middle school students. I hope she'll be a resource to help my local public library with some similar programming in the future.

All in all, Danvers seemed to be in the air today. This evening I read an email forwarded by Onye Kamanu's wife Lillie; it linked to a BBC News article about Nigeria, dated today, Oct 4, 2017. The article describes Onye's early excitement and pride about Nigerian independence, and mentions that soon after Independence Day (October 1, 1960) Mr. Kamanu gained a scholarship to study at an American university. The article doesn't mention Danvers, but Danvers was definitely his first introduction to America. My parents applied to host an African student for a one-month "homestay" to provide some orientation to American culture prior to the start of university classes and dorm life. Thus in August 1962 Onye Kamanu arrived from Lagos after a long ocean crossing, and was welcomed into our family. He stood on our front lawn, in bright sunshine, and exclaimed how odd it was to have "sun without heat!" Onye became well known in Danvers during the next four years, as he rejoined us for each holiday and break from college. Onye and I like to reminisce about those times in Danvers. I'm glad to see his photo in the BBC story.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hooked rugs

"What ever happened to those rugs?" asked my friend Pat, after I shared stories of colorful hooked rugs created at my mother's request and enjoyed for so many years in Danvers, long ago. Although I hadn't seen those rugs for a decade, I knew exactly where they were stored – rolled in an old sheet, hidden behind rows of boxes, tucked away under the eaves on the third floor of my current home.

Pat was visiting me, an overnight guest in that same house. The next morning I surprised and delighted her with a display of those rugs. As I unrolled the bundle on the living room floor, I warned her that these old rugs were in sad shape, too worn and fragile to use (or to clean), but of such sentimental value to my sister and myself, that we couldn't throw them away.

One rug was made in 1942 (75 years ago!) and the second one in 1958.  Pat was impressed by how well preserved they were, and I had fun pointing out various designs and telling Pat what those images meant to me. We probably spent almost two hours examining those rugs, and taking photographs. The rugs won't last forever, but the photographs can help preserve the stories of these unique rugs, hand-hooked by Sadie May Morse of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

I have already written about my memories of these rugs, and how they came to be made. (Type "hooked rug" in the search box of this blog to find previous postings and old photos.)  Today my purpose is to share photographs of how the 75-year old rug looks now:

[Click on any image to enlarge it.]




A Swedish "tree of life" design was one of the inspirations for this rug.  Sadie May Morse placed that design in the center.  If you look closely, note the letter R hidden behind that tree.  (Elsewhere she tucked other letters of her last name.)

In the 1950's my father loved to play Tiddly Winks Golf on this rug. He usually placed a dictionary between the 2 ovals seen above, challenging us to play the "wink" from one oval to the other by jumping it OVER the book in one move, or playing it around the book. I showed Pat the set-up:


My parents loved to play ice hockey

My mother loved horses; my father had a sail boat; and they lived in a tiny house (see above)
Although this 75-year old hooked rug looks remarkably good in the photos above, I took additional photos to illustrate problem areas. This rug was constructed of wool strips hooked through a burlap backing. The aging burlap has disintegrated in places, especially along one line where the rolled-up rug had once been stored on a damp cement floor.




My mother attempted repairs, adding patches of denim fabric (recycled from old "dungarees") on the back side. She also was always very cautious when using a vacuum cleaner, not wanting to suck broken pieces of wool into the machine. Her preferred cleaning technique was to bring the rug outdoors and sweep fresh powder snow across the surface. The moist snow, when swept off, carried away the dust and dirt – a good gentle technique for surface cleaning.

Deeper cleaning would be a challenge, even when the rug was new. My mother often told the sad tale of the house painter who dropped a can of white paint onto this rug, and her frantic efforts to clean off the paint. She succeeded to some extent. As a child, I couldn't see evidence of that awful spill. But as I grew up and the rug worn down with heavy use, the old white paint embedded lower in the wool began to be revealed.  See these photos: 

White paint from a 1940's accident is visible.

On September 13, 2017,  just days after I took these photographs, I happened to encounter an enthusiastic group of women hooking rugs. What a timely and welcome surprise!  (I had traveled to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals for a 5-day retreat, and they were staying on Star island for a rug-hooking retreat.)  I enjoyed watching them hook. I shared these photos (which were still on my cell phone) and learned that they call such rugs "Story rugs." An appropriate name!   Many more stories to tell...   I'll post photos of the second rug (made in 1958) on another day.



Monday, September 4, 2017

1937 Photo



Today this image came up on my computer screen. Wow! That's my grandparents' house in Danvers! I recognized it instantly, though I had never seen this photograph before.

For fourteen years (1943-1957) I lived right next door. The photographer in 1937 must have been standing about where our house (built in 1940) would later be constructed.

"Uncle Will" refers to the Rev. William S. Nichols, my father's father – "Grandaddy" to me. I wonder why there were so many cars in that yard that day. The location was 123 Preston Street (later called Nichols Street), in the Hathorne section of Danvers. Today the street is called Conifer Hill Drive, with an office park occupying the area where our houses had been.

This photo was in a photograph album that belonged to one of my cousins, Dudley Brewster. His nephew Dave Brewster (son of Dudley's older brother David) has been digitizing old photos from family albums and occasionally posting batches of scanned images for family members to review. Each batch is a surprise; we never know what might be included. Some photos are puzzles: images of people or places not now identifiable. But this photo stood out as VERY familiar.

By the time of my childhood a big dense hedge blocked some of this view, and shrubbery had grown to cover the foundation of that sunporch (providing great hiding places during games of Kick-the-Can or Hide-and-Seek). I'm surprised to learn that the two-car garage by the house was already there in 1937. I thought of it as the "new"garage; the old one (out-of-sight to the right) became the first location of my father's hearing-aid manufacturing business, Nichols & Clark, Inc.

We assume Dudley took this photograph. I remember Dudley well, and he frequently had a camera in his hand. His label reflects what the older generation (his mother Annie Nichols Brewster and others) would have said, because Will was their uncle. "Great Uncle Will" would have been more accurate from Dudley's perspective, but we all tended to use the language of our elders as we identified relatives.