Thursday, December 30, 2010

My father's camera

In my recent search for photos of the Christmas trees of my childhood, I found instead my father's old camera!  

I remember this camera clearly.  It popped open, with accordion-like folds, when Daddy prepared to take a picture.

The old camera had been stored in a box with lots of old photos, but unfortunately no photos of our early Christmases were included.

The camera is still in pretty good shape.  It's a Jiffy Kodak Six-20, which used 620-roll film. It was made by the Eastman Kodak company in the 1930s.

I opened it gingerly and took these photos of it to share here.







This camera even had a little stand and a setting for delaying the shutter, so that my father could set it up and then run to join us in the picture.  He liked to do that!












 I have written this month's column about Daddy's camera and my discovery of why there are so few photos of the inside of our home.

See Remembering my father's camera.


I also found a little instruction booklet that accompanied the camera.  In the back is a PRICE LIST!  A roll of film cost 25 cents and contained 8 exposures.    

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1937-38 Xmas trees

One of my cousins, Dave Brewster, recently scanned and shared these old photos of the Christmas trees at Pine Knoll, the Nichols family home in Hathorne (Danvers).  The photos were taken in 1937 and 1938, well before my time, but I recognize the scene and many of the decorations, which continued to be used year after year.

1938 Pine Knoll sitting room



1937 Christmas tree at Pine Knoll

Thanks, Dave, for the photos!  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas trees

Remembering the Christmas trees of my childhood is the theme of my December column:
   Christmas trees small and large.

I've been looking for photos to post here.  The search has led to boxes of slides and prints in closets, the attic, and odd corners, but so far no photos of the little trees of my childhood.  Meanwhile, a cousin has helped by scanning older family photos (see next post).

I'm still looking for photos of the Christmas trees in our home in the late 1940's or early 1950's.  I did find this image of our little house (mailed out as a Christmas postcard with the message "Greetings from 120 Nichols Street" in my father's handwriting):

 
And this outside photo (below) from mid 1950's... Jean and I with skis, and note the squirrel track across the roof!    


The window on the left is in the living room window; Jean's bedroom on right.   Our Christmas tree would not have been visible in this view.  It was on top of a narrow table on the left edge of the livingroom, visible only through a window on that south side.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Swinging branch


While looking through a pile of old photos,  I found one of the swinging branch   -- the subject of my November column.   See The Swinging Branch, published in the Danvers Herald the first Thursday in November and posted online recently.

In this photo three little girls are enjoying the branch: my sister Jean, a visiting friend (Mary Nutt), and myself.  Our dog Heidi is being patted by Babs Nutt, a long-time friend of my parents.  Babs and her children were visiting from New Hampshire.

The hillside doesn't look as steep here as I had remembered it.   Today this hill is called Conifer Hill, part of what remains of the former "Dale's Hill" or "Nichols Hill"  -- location of the old Wentworth estate known to us as "Locust Lawn."

I understand that a new housing development (Conifer Hill Commons) is proposed here.  At right is a photo of an earlier construction project, the colonial house that my parents had built not far from the swinging branch tree.

This was taken in 1956.

My grandfather, mother, Aunt Millie, and I are standing in what would become the new driveway from Nichols Street.   I had lived for 13 years at 120 Nichols Street, just down the hill and across the street.  Our new address became 121 Nichols Street when we moved there in 1957.    It could have been called "1 Speedwell Place" because the new driveway came out at the corner of Nichols and Speedwell, named for the Speedwell School that had been run for some years in the former Wentworth mansion at this location.

Aunt Millie


I'm sad to learn that my Aunt Millie has died.  Last summer I wrote about Aunt Millie's encounter with my wild pet.  See Milk box holds surprise for Aunt Millie.

She and my Uncle Edward, picture here in 1996 during a family gathering in Danvers, lived in Florida during their retirement.   Edward died in January 2003, age 95 and a half.  Millie died November 11, 2010.    May they rest in peace.

While looking today for other photos of Aunt Millie, I found this family shot, copied from a slide my father had taken in the 1950's of family members posed near his portable ski-tow at Locust Lawn.  I'm on the left holding skis. Beside me is my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin and one of her sons. Next are Aunt Millie, Jed Derouin, Millie's son Bob Peters, my sister Jean (holding the Derouin's dog, Tuffy), my mother Janet "Cut" Nichols, and my grandfather William S. Nichols.     A happier time!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Enriching gardens and sharing bounty

I grew up in a family that had a natural tendency to save, reuse, and recycle resources.    It was against our religion to throw away anything that might be useful in the future.  Some might call us "Scotch" or penny-pinchers.  We were reluctant to buy new items, especially if something on hand would do.  "Making do" was a habit.   If we did need to acquire something, heading for a thrift store or an antique store was much more likely than visiting a store or shopping mall.

My mother, especially, disliked shopping in big stores.  She was much more comfortable at home in old "dungarees" working in her garden or riding her horse.

This month's column is about the recycling of resources from horse (or cows) to gardens.  Horse manure was consider a great resource, not a waste product.  My mother happily shared the manure with others.  She also trained us as kids to "harvest" cow manure from nearby pastures using a pitch fork and wheelbarrow.   Her garden and the gardens of neighbors benefitted.

See  Cleaning up paddocks, pastures, and gardens.



Friday, August 27, 2010

Old letters

This summer I sorted through boxes of old letters, mostly from my mother. Some were very old, before my time, before she married my father and came to Danvers. Some were from Danvers (actually, Hathorne, the address we always used for postal service). A batch from the 1960's were written to me while I was away at college or off on a summer job.



I'm struck by the frequency of letters --sometimes several in one week-- and the evidence of excellent postal service.   The postmark on the lower envelope pictured here, for example, confirms that my mother did post the letter as she intended when she wrote inside,

   "I'll take this letter via horseback down to the corner store mailbox and hope it gets to you on Monday."  

   She dated her letter  "Sunday morning July 15, 1962"
   The postmark reads  "DANVERS  JUL 15  2 PM 1962 MASS."

On a Sunday?   For 4 cents?    I wonder which corner store she meant.

I don't have proof that I really received that letter on Monday, especially since I was working on an island 10 miles off the coast of New Hampshire, dependent on one boat a day bringing mail and supplies.  But it's clear that my mother and I sometime exchanged two or more letters in a week, so 1-day service was what we took for granted in those days.

You can read the published version of this post at My mother's letters and the Postal Service (Danvers Herald, September 2, 2010).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Milkbox

Do you remember the milkboxes that sat by our doorsteps?   Such a common item.  I was rather surprised to see one in a MUSEUM recently.  Good grief!  Am I getting old?

I took this photo to share with Danvers readers because it reminds me of another story from my youth. Stay tuned.   I had planned to write my August column about another raccoon...  But now the milkbox story has my attention.



[My column about Aunt Millie and the milkbox was published in the Danvers Herald August 5, 2010. See Milk box holds surprise for Aunt Millie.]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paw prints


The day before we said goodbye to Danny Coon, we invited him to sign the family guestbook.

For clearer images of raccoon paw prints, visit   http://www.bear-tracker.com/coon.html

I remember Danny's paw prints all over the dark blue linoleum on the kitchen floor, especially when he had been eating Pablum baby cereal, which was very sticky.

Three years later, Rackety, our second coon, left paw prints all over my father's station-wagon.  In the early morning he'd walk in the dew on the top of the car. Then he'd push open one of the small ventilator windows (if it have not been locked shut) and walk around inside the dusty car, leaving muddy prints!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Raccoon photos

Here are some photos to accompany the columns I have been writing this summer about baby raccoons:



I carried this photo in my wallet for years (note fold line).

Another saved photo from my wallet is much older, from the summer of 1953.

I am at a day camp at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, a place of many happy memories.

My friend Jonathan Caron is holding a young raccoon that probably belonged to the nature camp.


Here's an early photo of Raquety, a coon I found and raised in the summer of 1960.  I named him Rackety because of the sounds he made.   His cries caught my attention. At first I thought I was hearing a bird call, but the insistent cries continued to come from exactly the same spot, high in a tree outside my second-floor bedroom window.  He seemed stuck and in need of help, so I sent my father (with tall ladder, gloves, big bag...) to the rescue. Daddy was not happy about this, neither was the baby, who backed away and fell off the branch, landing stunned on the ground. I picked him up and gave him a temporary home in Danny's old cage.  This time we kept the cage outdoors and left the door open, so Rackety was free to come and go.  He remained with us for at least two months.  


Young Raquety 

Rackety in a travel bag
One of my favorite pictures captures the moment that my mother tried to introduce Rackety to her horse, Sherry.  Rackety wasn't so sure about this...    

Locust Lawn barns in the background, and between them a boat rack.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A 1957 letter

A few days ago I visited my Aunt in Connecticut. She showed me a box of old letters to and from my mother (her sister). I pulled out one at random, and read with interest my mother's words, dated June 11, 1957:

"Our new house is progressing and this is the rapid stage when you get more for your money, so to speak. They are trying to get the roof on this week while the weather is good so that they can work during any rainy periods. Every evening we all go to inspect the progress. Last evening we saw a large raccoon coming down from a giant tulip tree. That tree will bear watching. I shouldn't be surprised if there were a coon family sheltered in its innards, somewhere. And last weekend, a baby owl fell out [of] a tree on to the road and there was much excitement trying to decide what to do with it. We ended up putting back where it fell in the hopes that the parent owls would look after it. You have to have a permit to keep a songbird or owl in Mass. But it was a sweet little bundle of feathers with tiny horns -- a baby screech owl, we think."

I don't recall seeing that baby owl. I do recall much about the raccoon raised that summer. And yes, we needed a permit to keep a raccoon. I've written more about this coon for my July column:
Adventures with Danny the Raccoon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Pet Raccoon

One summer many years ago, when I was barely a teenager, I found a baby raccoon, and brought it home to raise. I have just written the story of how I found the baby, and what happened in the first hours and days. [The story was published June 3rd in the print edition, and posted online 6-16-110, with title Rescued raccoon becomes a companion.]

In future months I will write more about Daniel Coon, or Danny, as I called him.

He was very cute, like a little kitten, but with soft hands and no claws. He moved his hands constantly, feeling and playing with everything. He would sit in my mother's lap and feel the wedding ring on her finger, and rotate it around her finger, around and around! We all became very fond of Danny.

I've just searched for a photo of Danny, and found only this very poor one.  It was taken in Marblehead, MA, while we were visiting Mr. and Mrs. Al Gardiner; Danny climbed on their patio wall.

Danny is hardly visible on the upper right edge of the small snapshot -- hardly worth reproducing here. The caption on the back, however, is helpful. "Daniel Coon ('Danny') ... Summer '57 Found at Locust Lawn on June 30, 1957. Taken with me to Wildwood; Delhi, N.Y., and Annijay's. Taken to ..."

Ah, but that is getting ahead of the story. Stay tuned for further adventures with Danny!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bottle Caps

Did you ever collect bottle caps?  My sister and I did.  I've written about my collecting experience in this month's column, which you can read on the Danvers Herald site: How I lost my bottle cap collection

While writing the column, I tried to find an illustration of the cap I most prized.  No luck yet, but I did find some extensive online collections of caps.  If you are interested in the hobby, take a look at these sites:

Bottle Cap O-Rama   http://www.bottlecaporama.com/

The Bottle Cap Man   http://thebottlecapman.com/

The Beauty of Bottle Caps (close up of 5 examples) Happy collecting!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pond water

My April column,  Bringing tadpoles home,  is about the spring ritual of collecting pond water and tadpoles, which we also called polliwogs.

A few days after submitting this column, I happened to be driving south from Newburyport on Rte 95 and realized that I'd be going right through Danvers.  On the spur of the moment I decided to stop and investigate whether there might be tadpoles yet in our old pond or in the former ice pond on Ferncroft Road.   Here's a close-up of the edge of the Ferncroft pond, which was easily accessible from the public trail.

I scooped water and leaves into a big plastic cup and watched as the contents settled.  A tiny snail crawled up the inside of the cup.  I didn't see any tadpoles or water bugs, but enjoyed the oh-so-familiar look and smell of the pond water.

Next I drove to the pond that used to be by our little house.  Not much of the pond remains, however.  It is bordered by an office park (on Conifer Hill Drive) that replaced our house, my grandparents' house, and the fields I played in.  I took a few photos and left without venturing down to the water's edge, which looked squishy.  I didn't have boots or a change of shoes with me,  nor did I wish to risk trespassing in search of tadpoles.

My next stop (visiting a library in Cambridge) would have been awkward if my shoes were oozing pondwater!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools

Today, the first Thursday of the month, is the expected time for publication of my "Remembering Danvers" column.   But this month you'll have to wait another week.  Sorry!  Both Cathryn O'Hare, Danvers Herald Editor, and I had our hands full with other projects and agreed to postpone my column.

You could re-read older columns, for example this seasonal one from 2008: High water in spring...

But some previous year links no longer worked this week, I discovered. Oops.   Cathryn assures me that the older columns are still online; she was able to view the ones I couldn't see.  The problem turned out to be the form of the link from this blog to their site.   One by one, I'll need to re-edit those older links to conform to the current practice used there.  I feel foolish that I had used a shorter address in each link.

 If you encounter an error page saying "This item no longer exists," please let me know.
   Thanks!    --  Sandy

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tadpoles

While visiting my daughter and her family in California this month, I joined them on a hike in a large park.  Rivulets of water ran down some trails; waterfalls and bright green grass sparkled in the sun.   It was a beautiful day.  A ditch beside a gravel road brimmed with water from recent rains.

"Tadpoles," my daughter said.  "There might be tadpoles."  We stared into the water, but I thought it was too early, and this shallow ditch seemed too transient a place for frog eggs to develop into tadpoles.   The dark leaves submerged underwater did remind me of the environment at the edge of the pond in Danvers where I had found tadpoles years ago.

Suddenly a ripple crossed the water. Something black had darted just below the surface. Then another, and another!  That ditch was teaming with tadpoles!   My four-year old grandson and I enjoyed watching them.   I wished I had a pail to capture some, as we used to do in Danvers.  What a fun springtime memory!  I resolved to write my next column (for April) about watching tadpoles in Danvers.

[Note added later:  I did write the column.  Bringing tadpoles home was published online April 9, 2010.]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music lessons

Piano lessons began for me at the age of seven, before I had interest in playing an instrument.   The lessons were initiated by older relatives who loved classical music, insisted that children be taught piano, and offered to teach piano at no cost.

I did learn to read music, but I did not learn to love the piano or play it well. I spent more energy resisting and complaining about the enforced piano lessons than I did practicing.

Read my March column about music lessons: Music lessons finally took hold.

You will learn that I did become a musician, but not with the piano.  I'll be performing at the New England Folk Festival on Saturday, April 24, 2010. 3:00 pm with the band Panharmonium.  See NEFFA Festival webpage for more information.

Perhaps an earlier musical influence --before piano lessons-- was accompanying my parents to square dances where live bands played.  Instead of leaving us home with a babysitter, they brought us along.  We played around the edges with other children too young to join the squares.  Thus we were exposed early to lively musicians.  The Joe Perkins Orchestra was a favorite.   This photo shows musicians my parents knew well (Dick Best on guitar, Walter Lob on fiddle, Jed Prouty on piano, and Joe Perkins, caller).  [I don't know where this was taken; if anyone can identify it, please let me know. The photographer was John Nutter, 1940s.]

Some of the dancing and live music happened in the cellar of our tiny house in Danvers.  John Nutter gave me (in 1996, before he died) these old photos showing my parents and friends dancing there in the 1940s.
John labelled these photos "Square Dancing at Nick & Cut's after Skiing."
On right, above, my father Nick Nichols.
Approaching him from left is my mother, Janet Cutler ("Cut") Nichols.

I am amazed at these photos, never realizing that square dancing could fit it in our tiny basement, which was normally filled with a ping-pong table.   My parents not only played ping-pong, but also used the table for dinner parties.   In this case, it's another after-ski party, also in 1940s.
My mother stands at back; my father is at the back left.

We didn't have a dining room, or even much of a kitchen table, in that small house, shown here in a typical winter scene.  John "Ace" Nutter's woody wagon is parked in front, on Nichols Street.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter scenes

Here are some photos from an old family album.


My mother and father, Janet and Nick Nichols, taking us out for a winter walk.  I'm in the basket on the sled; my sister is strapped onto the pack-board on my father's back.  We are on Nichols Street (now Conifer Hill Drive) right in front of our home.

Given the way we are dressed, I'd say we're probably headed to a family gathering,  perhaps at my grandparents' home around the corner to the left, or further along that road to great-grandfather's house, where several "Great Aunts" still lived (98 Preston Street, known as "Pine Knoll").




This photo of our home at 120 Nichols Street, Danvers, under a heavy blanket of snow,  was taken in February 1945.




A few winters later, my little sister was old enough to stand and pose on Mommy's big skis in front of the house.

Note the very large baskets on the ski poles.









Below is a winter photo of us with our dog Heidi.




We're playing in the front yard; the snow-covered tent behind us is the Army-surplus tent we used as a garage.  In my hands is a fuzzy round "muff", while my sister Jean has mittens hanging on a string through the sleeves of her jacket.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Early skates

My first skates weren't very effective or comfortable. I did enjoy playing around on the frozen pond near our home, whether in boots or on skates.

Read more in my February column:  Memories of my first skates.

This photo of me (with double-bladed skates) was taken when I was barely two and one-half years old.   Note the stiff oversized mittens.  I bet they were red.  I have a memory of shiny red mittens we called "lobster claw" mittens.

In the distance you can see the sloped lawn of the old "Locust Lawn" estate.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sledding

This month's Danvers Herald column, Sledding with my mother, has drawn several responses since its publication January 6. "You are exactly right on the hill" "we called it the big HILL." This writer goes on to mention that his mother participated in ski lessons on that hill.

Yes, I recall ski lessons there, too. Sometimes my parents gave lessons there BEFORE the snow fell. The carpet of pine needles was slippery enough on the steep side to allow skiers to move their skis and imitate skiing. The process was somewhat slow, but helpful for beginners just getting the feel of moving skis. As children, my sister and I helped by collecting more pine needles under the trees, carrying them in baskets, and spreading them out on the slope.

I also recall the popularity of saucer sleds on that hill. Those round things scared me. I didn't understand how anyone controlled them. I felt safer on a Flexible Flyer sled that I could steer. I was, as usual, timid about trying something new that looked fast and dangerous. In addition, the neighborhood kids added speed by creating a straight icy track down the steepest part of that hill. Snow had been scraped aside, revealing an icy base and leaving borders of lumpy snow. Elsewhere the old crusty snow covered the hill. I didn't want to try a saucersled, but they called me a sissy. I didn't want to be a sissy. I thought long and hard about how I could try the saucer, but not take the extreme risk of that icy track. After more taunts of "Sissy!" I gave in, but on the condition that I go down the snowy part BESIDE the track, not in the track. That's what I did. Or started to do. But the saucer wasn't in my control. It went slightly sideways, approached the track, went over the lumps beside the track, flipped over and threw me head first onto that ice. This happened just before school vacation week. My favorite cousin was coming from Maine to visit us that week. The doctor said I had a slight concussion and had to stay quietly in bed all week! That was the WORST part of this accident -- missing the fun with my cousin. I vowed NEVER to pay attention to a taunt of "Sissy!" again, and I never did.

Other hard lessons were learned on that hill. I heard from the mother of two young boys (now grown) who had encountered the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill. "Both boys were well aware of barbed wire but it was probably an icy day and they lost control." The older brother's chin hit the wire. He had to have several stitches, but first, before revealing his wound, he brought his 4-year-old brother safely home.

The current condition of the hill by Grandmother's Rock?
"It has overgrown now with evergreens so you would not even consider it today as an open slope."