photography, Uncategorized

Summertime ~ ghost stories in the park

Image

“Burnside’s Bridge” across Antietam Creek. A bucolic scene of a graceful old bridge, built in the 1830’s by the local German-American farmers. On September 17, 1862, hundreds of soldiers were shot down trying to cross it. I kayaked under the bridge, and you can still see countless pockmarks from bullets.

 

 

The bridge in 1862. Hand-colored photograph from Library of Congress

 

 

The “Dunker” Church at Antietam. The German Baptist Brethren were a pacifist sect. Their simple church was pockmarked with hundreds of bullets during the battle, and served as a field hospital, filled with the wounded and dying. After the battle, it was used to embalm bodies – –  just one of the many wonderful areas of technological advances during 1861-1865.

 

 

 

 

 

Repeating rifles using metal cartridges were available during the war, but the majority of soldiers were still using muzzle-loaders. So to be a soldier, all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth, to bite off the top of the paper cartridge holding the gunpowder and bullet.

 

 

Old house overlooking the Antietam battlefield.  If I remember right, it looks out toward Bloody Lane.

 

 

Gettysburg

 

 

“Little Round Top” is a rocky hill at Gettysburg. General Gouverneur Warren climbed it and instantly realized that if the approaching Confederate forces occupied it, the battle was lost. Yankees won the race up the hill, and held it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civil War, Decoration Day, History, Memorial Day, photography, Uncategorized

Memorial Day 2017. Pictures of Gettysburg & Antietam

Image

The “Flags on Parade” stamp was first issued on May 30, 1991 in Waterloo, NY, for the 125th anniversary of the village’s Memorial Day observances.

 

1908

 

c. 1900-1910

 

 

1908

 

1908  Grand Army of the Republic. Membership in the G.A.R. peaked at 490,000 in 1890. Their last “encampment” was held in Indianapolis in 1949, and it’s last member died seven years later.

 

1908

 

 

 

Decoration Day, History, Memorial Day, Uncategorized, Waterloo

Memorial Day Postcards V ~ ~ ~ 1900 – 1910 ~ ~ ~ Old Glory

Image

 

The Spanish-American War provided another opportunity for reconciliation between Civil War vets. “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, the Confederate general, later commanded the U.S. cavalry fighting in Cuba. (Although while watching the Spanish troops retreat, he forgot himself and yelled “Let’s go, boys! We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run!”)

 

An odd juxtaposition — a solemn admonition “Lest we forget” with pretty women in uniform.

 

I count 46 stars, so 1908-1912. Until the Spanish-American War, soldiers wore blue wool, winter or summer, and even after khaki was adopted, the blue survived as the dress uniform. I thought this hat was fanciful, but other than the gaudy gold trim, it’s actually the correct style of dress cap for that era.

 

1908. Horrifyingly indiscreet, but at least the young lady isn’t revealing any ankle.

 

In the 1890’s, this became a day for hugely popular bicycle races, followed in 1911 by the Indy 500. It’s a neat poster, but again, it seems like a strange partnering of soldiers, aged vets, and bicyclists. Library of Congress

 

This one puzzles me — has he enlisted to escape his formidable-looking wife? Or was he shooting at that hat by mistake, hoping to have pheasant for dinner?

Civil War, Decoration Day, Memorial Day, Uncategorized

Memorial Day Postcards IV ~ ~ ~ A Bit Less Serious

Image

c. 1900-1910 Even as the number of surviving Civil War soldiers dwindled over the years, cards continues to display the emblem of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), a fraternal organization, and a powerful lobby for the interests of Union veterans and war widows. In later years, you also see the emblem of an offshoot, the S.U.V. (Sons of Union Veterans), which was formed in the 1880’s.

 

c. 1900-1910

 

c. 1899 “To My Comrade” A Spanish-American war uniform, however, with the G.A.R. insignia and badge

 

This postkarte, like a lot of the ones I’m posting, was printed in Germany, which may explain the unusual two-finger salute. As far as I know, it’s used in the U.S. only by the Cub Scouts, but hasn’t been used by our military. It was apparently more customary in the German and Polish armies.

 

c. 1917

 

illustration from a 1917 “Youth’s Companion”

 

 

 

Decoration Day, First World War, History, Memorial Day, Uncategorized, WWI

Memorial Day Postcards III ~ ~ ~ 1900 – 1918 ~ ~ ~ Passing the Torch

Image

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some pre-WWI postcards from Memorial Day, which used to be called Decoration Day in some parts of the country. My hometown, Waterloo, NY, was the first in the country to begin an official, community-wide, non-sectarian observance of Memorial Day, starting in 1866. Two years later, General John “Black Jack” Logan, head of the largest organization of Union veterans, the G.A.R., began observances at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, when it became a day to remember the dead from all our wars, most southern states began participating. The cards were at first sentimental portrayals of old vets, children and widows remembering the fallen, then later scenes of reconciliation, and over time, sometimes show the day becoming a less solemn, springtime holiday, until the losses of the First World War.

 

 

Tuck's 1900-1910

 

This one isn’t a postcard, but rather a c. 1893 pictorial premium from a coffee company. A bit clumsy – the artist probably didn’t intend to make it look like a geriatric quoits tournament.

 

Tuck's 1900-1910

 

1912.

 

 

 

Memorial Day cover of the 1894 “Youth’s Companion”

Civil War, Decoration Day, History, Memorial Day, NY, Uncategorized, Waterloo

Memorial Day Postcards I ~ ~ ~ 1893 – 1912 ~ ~ ~ Remembrance, Reconciliation, Floral Tributes

Image
architecture, Canada, Fallout Shelter, History, Uncategorized

A few snapshots of the end of the world (Canadian version) ~~~~~~~~~ The Diefenbunker

 

 

I was walking into the Atomic Age, but all I smelled was fossil fuel and something very, very organic.

 

A “sniffer,” placed outside the bunker, to measure levels of radiation

 

The stale air of what used to be an ultra-secure subterranean government facility, was permeated with the faint, but inescapable, odors of diesel fuel and something like a stopped-up toilet.

This was a few years ago, outside Ottawa, walking around the underground “Diefenbunker,” the 1961 fallout shelter for Canada’s government.

A shelter for government officials, but not their families.  Not even the Prime Minister’s wife.  They did however, find room for the gold.

The first picture is a huge vault, down on the lowest level, to keep Canada’s gold reserve warm & safe, in the event of a nuclear war.  The country held over 1,000 tons of gold ingots at the time.

 

The vault is now quite empty.  I checked.  Great acoustics though!  Almost no one had ventured out on the cold, wintry day we visited, so my inner Pavarotti could be unleashed, with no fear of bothering other tourists, or bringing the roof down.

(Canada, like every other nation on earth, has since abandoned the gold standard, and completely liquidated the reserve. The U.S. currently is maintaining the largest hoard, of over 8,000 tons.)

 

A control room with tiers of desks, one for each important government function. The unpleasant odor in some areas, made me think they hadn’t planned adequately for other, bodily, functions.

 

“Diefenbunker” is a nickname, of course, after the Prime Minister at the time the facility came online.  The real name is “Central Emergency Government Headquarters CEGHQ Carp”.

(Carp refers to the town in Ontario where it’s located, and not to “complaining querulously about Armageddon.”)

 

Prime Minister’s office

 

The underground facility, roughly 100,000 square feet, was kept supplied and staffed for decades, until the mid-90’s.  It is now deactivated and just a weird sort of tourist attraction.

One level is mostly diesel generators, for the lights, TV and radio gear, etc. which explains the stale fuel smells.   The toilets were all rubber-mounted, so they wouldn’t shatter from concussive waves, and I have no idea how they work, so far below ground level, except to say, apparently, not that well.

Ugly office furniture, filing cabinets, typewriters, rotary telephones, and old computers with tape drives.  Fluorescent strip lighting, ugly linoleum floors, a sea of brown, beige, gray, and plastic wood-grain.

We wandered around at will, going downwards floor by floor.  Basically, it is not a particularly creepy place, just homely and banal.

 

This place was in use until 1994, so some of the gear is at least recognizable.

Some of the computers and gear that the over-50 crowd could identify, like telex machines, still seem to be plugged in.

At one point, we were surprised to hear voices and static, went round a corner, and found a ham radio club happily operating down there in a dimly-lit back room.  They’d gotten permission to hook into the antenna system.  The bunker was equipped with a complete radio and TV studio.  (“Hello, viewers!  The weather forecast today is…nuclear winter.  Have nice day and will the last person up on the surface, please turn the lights out.”)

 

It’s not a cheery place.  The medical facilities looked pretty primitive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A notice informs you that the food storage area, would also serve as a morgue in a pinch.

 

My parents have always talked a lot about their childhoods, and The Way Things Used to Be.  Their childhood anecdotes have all blended together in my mind:  brands of automobiles that no longer exist, idiosyncratic pets, bygone relatives, the incomprehensible loss of 45’s & 8-tracks, and the decline and probable extinction of the woolly mammoths, etc.

Sometime during these Old Times, but after the invention of canned goods, because they figure into this, there was something called the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my father’s story about his family’s fallout shelter.

People built a lot of things in the old days.  We’re always having to trim the grass around pyramids, coliseums, playhouses, obelisks, garden sheds, Parthenons, and so forth.  Apparently, in the days before internet and cable and DVD’s, they were just looking for things to do, once the woolly mammoths weren’t around anymore to entertain them.  People went from playing with Lincoln Logs and building blocks, directly to actual building.  Carpentry and masonry, in those days, was considered to be a form of entertainment, like Canasta and Yahtzee.

So when the Russians shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba, the immediate response in 1961 Middle America was obvious…let’s get some bricks, and build something.

US New & World Report, LOC

At my dad’s childhood home, in an excavation under the front porch, there was soon a brick room, equipped with folding beds, canned goods, and carbide lanterns.  These lanterns, if you could cajole a parent into testing them, would usually spit sparks and small jets of incredibly dangerous acetylene flame – pretty cool, right?!  The canisters of calcium carbide, which somehow fueled the lanterns, through a process involving chemistry or physics (algebra?) were kept under much closer supervision than our nuclear secrets.

A battery-powered radio, sorry, I meant to say, a Transistor Radio. Food, water, waterproof crackers, toilet paper, buckets, blankets, Readers Digest.  Check.  The fancier dugouts included hand-cranked ventilation systems.

Little known science fact:  Velveeta, if kept sealed, has four times the shelf life of strontium!

pocket radiation detector

Of course, then and now, there are people who just are not do-it-yourself’ers, and there are people who invent things, and there are people who want to make a buck.   Apparently there is still a market for the underground life – –do a web-search, and take a look at how many prefab shelters are being peddled, right now.  Some are also good to store root crops, others are convertible to wine cellars.

I found dozens of news articles around the country, where renovations of schools, courthouses, stores have turned up forgotten public shelters in basement rooms, still stocked with drums of water and vitamin-enriched crackers.  New York gave tax credits to parking garages, if they’d simply designate some subterranean space in this way.  Some years ago, NYC auctioned off the outdated Civil Defense supplies, including crates of vitamin-enriched crackers.  An upstate farmer bought them to use as animal feed, but then found out, there had never been any organized effort to identify and list these shelters.  Local civil defense committees were long gone, and no one could tell him where the shelters, and his animal crackers, were located.

Photo from the Smithsonian’s site – – a prefab shelter from the late 1950’s. According to the narrative, during a rainy spell, this one popped out of the owners’ lawn like a surfacing submarine.

 

Global Zero, the anti-nukes organization, has moved their Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight.

This is an interesting place to visit.  You can pose in the press room, and look for your home on the fallout maps.  But after two hours, I was glad to get into the fresh air.

I do not like being underground.

I do not like Velveeta.

And I do not like the idea of creating hidey-holes or bunkers for politicians.

They need to be kept out in the daylight as much as possible.  Taking their chances with the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard