Thursday Havering

A lot of the ads popping up lately on YouTube have been to promote Canadian tourism. Mostly the ads depict, in music video style, young people doing the kind of vigorous activities that (some) young people must imagine is the essence of traveling to exotic places like Saskatchewan. Actually, one today featured the Yukon.

I’m all for visiting Canada, and encouraging people to do so, but the ads don’t really speak to me. Besides, Canada’s not really top of my mind in November. Then again, it’s good to plan ahead, so you can visit Canada, and even the Yukon, during that short window of opportunity when the place is pleasantly warm.

I never knew until recently that The Proclaimers did a charming version of “King of the Road” back in 1990. No one does it like Roger Miller, but I smile when I hear lyrics like, “destination Bangor, Maine” in that burr of theirs.

“King of the Road,” in the way things go on the Internet, soon leads to a song stuck in mid-60s amber, “Queen of the House.” Even better, the song is done in a Scopitone.

I was in the city not long ago with a camera in the front seat, so I took a few pictures while stopped at traffic lights. Such as this place. So very Chicago.
Then there was Thunderbolt.
It’s an ax throwing venue, only the second one in Chicago, according to the Tribune, opening this spring.

“Ax throwing — indoor or outdoor — is a skill-based sport; [owner Scott] Hollander likens it to pool or darts, where participants can take the competition as seriously or lackadaisically as they please,” the paper says.

“Easygoing ax throwers can book an hour at a lane for $15 per person Wednesdays and Thursdays, and for $20 per person Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Food and nonalcoholic drink is allowed and can be consumed at the plywood stands behind each pair of lanes or at the picnic tables in the building. Thunderbolt also is available for bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday parties and corporate events.”

What do I think of when I hear about ax throwing? Ed Ames, naturally. Tomahawk, but close enough.

Normandy 1994

Normandy was surprisingly green in November 1994.

Normandy94Then again, that winter was, at least until December, reportedly mild. I believe the shot above was taken from the train near Bayeux, where we stayed a few days.

The coast near Omaha Beach, so busy 50 years earlier in a way that doesn’t attract tourists, was comparatively empty by late fall.

Omaha Beach 1994I’ll bet there were a lot of visitors, of the tourist kind, along with old soldiers, during the summer of ’94, especially in June. Pennants hanging in the town — which unfortunately I didn’t document on film — still welcomed such visitors in English for the 50th anniversary, especially the old soldiers.

Former German pillboxs, left to the elements.

img507All well and good, to visit Normandy. But I need to get back to France someday, to see former trenches.

Thursday Tidbits

Last night Northern Illinois dropped below freezing, and it wasn’t a lot warmer during the day. A taste of winter, dressed like fall.
Fall colors, ChicagoI didn’t know until recently that Lotte Lenya, who can be heard here singing “Mack the Knife,” or maybe more properly “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,” played Rosa Klebb, the SPECTRE operative who tries to off James Bond with her poison-tipped shoe in From Russia With Love.

Not an important thing to know. Just another one of those interesting tidbits to chance upon.

A rare thing: a YouTube comment that’s actually funny. It’s at a posting featuring “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile!” sung by Oscar Seagle and the Columbia Stellar Quartette, recorded January 25, 1918.

Someone calling himself Xander Magne said: ” ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ ain’t got s–t on this, sonny. Damn 30s kids with their jazz and their swing and their big band and their ‘World War 2.’ We used to have a Great War and it was Great and you liked it!”

One more thing I saw at the International Museum of Surgical Science, a polemic cartoon by Edward Kemble that was part of a display about patent medicine, the Pure Food & Drug Act, etc.

International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago“Palatable Poison for the Poor.” Whew. Good thing that’s not possible in the 21st century, eh?

Again, too melancholy a note on which to end. Here’s something I saw just before Halloween. Pumpkin π.

Pumpkin π

A bit o’ pumpkin whimsy.

Iron Lung & Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

Today I said to Ann, “Don’t forget, it’s the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.” She wasn’t much impressed by that odd Bolshevik-calendar curiosity.

At the International Museum of Surgical Science recently, I saw a number of things I’d read or heard about, but never seen before, which is one thing I want from a museum. Two items stood out in that way.

One was an iron lung.

International Museum of Surgical Science

An Emerson device. Apparently that was the most successful kind of iron lung, invented and manufactured by John Haven Emerson (1906-97), a collateral descendant of Ralph Waldo and nephew of Maxfield Parrish.

I stood there for a while looking at the thing, thinking about the terror of such a disease. An iron lung sums that up pretty well. Something dim-bulb anti-vaxxers need to see.

Some ephemera next to the iron lung drove home the point.
Polio Pamphlet 1951Only 10 years before I was born.

In another room was another device I’d heard of, but never seen: a shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

Shoe-fitting fluoroscopeA x-ray machine found at shoe stores, in other words. Put your foot in and see the bones inside. Ostensibly for a better fit, but mostly as novelty. I can believe that kids wanted to see the inside of their feet.

X-Ray Shoe Fitter Inc. of Milwaukee made this particular one, ca. 1940-50, according to the museum. Feet were inserted into the side not visible in my picture.

As many as 10,000 such devices were in use in the United States during their heyday in the 1950s, after which time state legislatures, worried about radiation poisoning and the like, started banning the things. I doubt that any customers were harmed, but you have to wonder how many shoe salesmen suffered from their exposure to x-rays oozing out of the non-leaden boxes over a number of years.

Skulls and Bones and Things

Want to see some particularly good momento mori? Look no further than the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. I visited recently and came face to face with these fellows.

International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoAlso, a fuller version.
International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoGlad I didn’t see these exhibits when I was a kid. I found skulls and skeletons particularly creepy then, which I guess is a fairly common feeling among youngsters.

The feeling is long gone. Now I look at a skull and wonder, who was that? How did his headbone come to be here, instead of in the ground, or made into ashes?

The museum is a division of the International College of Surgeons, which is headquartered on Lake Shore Drive and includes about 10,000 square feet of public galleries committed to the history of surgery. Much more than skulls and bones. A good deal more, mainly artifacts from the history of cutting people for their own good, as well as other aspects of medicine.

There’s a large array of surgical tools from the last few centuries, medical machines from the late 19th century onward (such as antique x-ray machines), photos, paintings, drawings and a lot of reading material next to the exhibits. Some of the surgical tools, such as Civil War-vintage amputation kits, give me the willies more than any old skull could, even a trephined one.

Some paintings depict highlights from the history of surgery. Such as a copy of Rembrandt’s famed “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.”
International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoOne room is given over to larger-than-life luminaries in the history of medicine — the “Hall of Immortals” — commissioned by the museum in its early days, in the 1950s, and mostly done by sculptor Louis Linck. That’s just old-fashioned enough to make me smile.
International Museum of Surgical ScienceIncluded among the immortals are Imhotep, Hippocrates, Andreas Vesalius, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Ambroise Paré, Joseph Lister, and Marie Curie.

International Museum of Surgical ScienceInternational Museum of Surgical ScienceInternational Museum of Surgical ScienceJust outside the Hall of Immortals is Asklepios, also by Linck.
International Museum of Surgical ScienceI suppose he wasn’t in the hall itself, since however much he’s part of the history of medicine, he isn’t an actual historic figure.

Branson 2012

Has it been all of five years since I was last in Branson? Seems that way. Quite a spectacle, that town.

Branson in early November was already lighted for Christmas because the late Andy Williams, Mr. Christmas, had wanted things done up by November 1. So let it be written, so let it be done.

A few trees at Silver Dollar City.

Branson 2012Branson 2012There were other seasonal decorations elsewhere.
Branson 2012Branson 2012And fall foliage in the rolling hills of southern Missouri.
Branson 2012And of course, French millstones.

Branson 2012 - French millstones, College of the Ozarks

What’s a major tourist destination without a few of those lying around?

Hida-Takayama 1991

While my friend Steve stayed with me in Osaka in October 1991, we took a weekend trip to Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, in the Japanese Alps. (All the pictures below are dated October 26, 1991.) The small city is better known as Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), since takayama simply means “tall mountain,” which describes a fair number of places in Japan. It used to be in Hida Province, in the pre-Meiji era way of dividing the country.

I’ve posted about the trip before. But nothing about the statues on the Kajibashi Bridge over the Miyagawa River in Takayama. Steve and I posed with different ones.

Statues on the Kajibashi Bridge over the Miyagawa River in Takayama. Statues on the Kajibashi Bridge over the Miyagawa River in Takayama. One source, clearly written in English by a Japanese writer — but not too bad a job, all sic — says: “Extremely long-arm goblin, Tenaga and long-leg goblin, Ashi-naga are displayed on the railing of Kaji-bashi bridge. Te-naga and Ashi-naga folklore is handed down in Japan, which represents the god of immortal.

“There is another folk tale about the creature. This creature was regarded as a hobgoblin, a ghostly apparition, Yokai in Japanese. The creatures with their weird long arms and long legs are said to do wrong to people.

“So, two different traditions about Te-naga and Ashi-naga. There is a shrine to dedicate the creatures in Nagano prefecture.”

We also spent some time at the Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村), which is an open-air museum with about 30 farmhouses from this part of Japan.

Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村)Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村)Complete with a bell to ring. Ring bells if you can.

Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村) bell“We saw a man and a woman fashioning hemp sandals from stacks of cord,” I wrote. Here’s the man.
Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村)I don’t believe this was in the Folk Village.
Cemetery, Hida-Takayama 1991Rather, it’s a good example of an urban Japanese cemetery. Since cremation is the norm in Japan, burial space isn’t necessary. Rather, the memorial stones can be fit into a tight space. In a city, even a small one like Takayama, that’s often an irregular or otherwise hard to develop plot of land.

St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral & The Holodomor Memorial

Last week I was near St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral (of the of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the USA and Canada) in Bloomingdale, Ill., so I stopped by for a look. It wasn’t part of Open House Chicago, but I’d read about the place a while back and realized it’s fairly close to where I live.

St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Being the middle of the week, the church itself was closed, as suburban churches often are. Still, a committee of holy men greets you above the door. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.
St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox CathedralIt reminded me a little of the artwork depicting Vladimir’s baptism of the Kievan Rus over the entrance of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago, which we saw a few years ago.

 Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic ChurchBut only a little. It doesn’t much look like any baptism is going on at St. Andrew, so I assume it depicts something else.

More than the church, I came to see the memorial to the victims of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, which is on the church’s grounds, near its cemetery. The Holodomor, as it’s called, when Stalin starved untold millions of people to death.

Holodomor Memorial IllinoisHolodomor Memorial IllinoisThe plaque’s a little worn — it’s been out in the elements since the memorial was erected in 1993 — but it says, in English: In memory of over seven million victims of the great famine artificially created in Ukraine by the Moscow-Communist regime.

Holodomor Memorial Illinois

Much too somber a note on which to end, so I looked around for some comic relief about Stalin, and found this, attributed to Romanian writer Panait Istrati, who visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, just as Stalin had consolidated his dictatorship: “All right, I can see the broken eggs. Now where’s this omelette of yours?”

St. Edmund Catholic Church & Grace Episcopal Church, Oak Park

Unusually warm this week from Tuesday to yesterday. Still a lot of green leaves. Autumn, but not quite autumn. It’s also the time of the year for Halloween decorations, and to avoid any store or event that uses the terms boo-nanza or spook-tacular.

Two more places from last week’s Open House Chicago, both in west suburban Oak Park. One was St. Edmund, which the sign outside says is Oak Park’s oldest Catholic parish. The church building dates from 1910.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkHenry Schlacks, whose work I’ve run across before, design the church. The interior is resplendent.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkMuch of its splendor is the stained glass, created by a studio in Munich (presumably pre-WWI).

St. Edmund, Oak ParkSt. Edmund, Oak ParkAnd an interesting baptismal font that, when I was there, reflected one of the windows.

St. Edmund, Oak Park

A few blocks away, among the numerous churches on Lake St., is Grace Episcopal Church.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkFirst occupied in 1905 — and the building took a lot longer to complete according to its plans, namely another 70 years — Grace Episcopal also has a resplendent interior, in its more muted way.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkGrace Episcopal, Oak ParkA sign near the entrance reminds visitors that the church, designed by John Sutcliffe, figured in a scene in Home Alone. I wouldn’t have remembered that, since the last and only time I saw that movie was during a bus ride from Perth to Adelaide, or maybe it was Adelaide to Sydney, in early 1992. But I did see “Everything Wrong With Home Alone” not long ago, which was funnier than the movie itself.

We listened to the organist practice for a while at Grace. Very nice. It’s also good to see a church equipped with a gong.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkI understand that the gong used during the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York is quite the thing to hear. And see.

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

During the last part of our Chicago Open House visit-as-much-as-you-can excursion on Sunday, in the near western suburb of Oak Park, I found myself face-to-face with a Mills dime slot machine.
Pleasant Home Oak Park Mills slot machineA nearby docent encouraged me to put in a dime. I did so and watched the wheel spin. It might be an antique machine, but it will still give you a fruit-based result. What it will not do is give any sort of payout. My dime was a donation, so I could see the machine move.

Next the docent made it spin without putting a dime in, so I could see the machinery inside in action. The back had been removed just for that purpose. It’s impressive — mainly because I can’t understand at all how such a machine works.

My dime is going to the further upkeep of the building in which I found the slot machine: Pleasant Home, also known as the Farson House, built in 1897.

Farson House Oak ParkAs much as I understand these things, the house is important in the development of the Prairie School. The AIA Guide to Chicago not only has an entry about the house, it devotes more than a page to it, which is major attention from that publication. Prairie School and in Oak Park, but not by Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather George Washington Maher, a contemporary of his who didn’t live nearly as long (dying in 1926), designed the house.

The Maher web site says: “In describing the Farson house, architectural historian Paul Sprague wrote ‘…it was extraordinary… compared to typical residences of the late 1890s. Its clean lines, flat surfaces of Roman brick, stone and wood, and simple rectangular window frames, chimneys and porch openings would have been hard to parallel anywhere at the time except in building by Sullivan and Wright.’ ”

Got an expansive porch, all right.
Farson House porch Oak ParkWhat do slot machines have to do with all this? That’s a tangent worth pursuing — another benefit of looking at things and then thinking, What was it I saw?

The first owner of the house was, according to the Pleasant Home web site: “Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties and top hats or straw boaters. [John] Farson gathered around him a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything up-to-date. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy.”

He was a Gilded Age millionaire banker (d. 1910), so he could indulge his interests. Slot machines were not one of them, however. That was the business of the second owner of the house, Herbert S. Mills.

“Shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893, the young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine and later manufactured Mills machines of all kinds for his penny arcades and fortune-telling machines. Mill’s penny arcades became institutions on American’s main streets and amusement parks at the turn of the century.”

I’ve read elsewhere — a tangent from a tangent — that it was actually Charles Fey who invented the modern slot machine, out in California. But he did partner with Mills to produce them on a mass scale, and no doubt become very rich as a result.

“Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons… In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.”

One more detail: while it was probably a pleasant place to live, certainly by early 20th century standards, Pleasant Home takes its name from its location, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in Oak Park.