Friday, October 31, 2014

On The Road

When I was in high school I had planned to travel to Norway some day.  But with college, marriage, working, children, difficult relationships, and coming down with fibromyalgia, I had put any thought of traveling out of my mind.   But God surprised me and made a way for me to see the world. Back in 1992, when Chris and I had been married for 27 years, Chris happened to be hired for a job where he was required to travel frequently. He was able to keep his frequent flyer miles and accumulated a great number.  When he was going to travel to London, Ireland, Paris, and maybe Rome for one trip, he invited me to accompany him with a free airline ticket.  We planned to travel business class, but when we arrived at the airport we were upgraded to first class.  This meant that we would be served something like a seven course meal. We were supplied with a personal cosmetic kit, which included slippers, eyeshade, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, skincare products, etc. After a sleepless night spent savoring delicious sustenance, our first stop was London. 
internet photo

After arriving at Heathrow we were whisked to our destination in a black cab.  See the interior above.
 We checked into our comfortable accommodations in Queensgate.  When we set out to find a restaurant where they served “British” cooking we could only find food from other countries-- like African, Middle Eastern, Thai, or cuisine from India. We settled on consuming a sandwich at a pub.

internet photo

That evening we took the underground to see Big Ben.  We walked along the Thames.  The temperature was perfect.  It was a peaceful respite except for the traffic rushing up and down the street. 

tour guide photo

The next day we signed up for a tour of London.  Since walking caused me more pain we thought riding would be less painful for me.  The main event, I think was seeing the Tower of London, and observing the changing of the guard at the palace.  

photos by Chris

That night we attended a lovely meal and theatre presentation.
photo by Chris

When Jes, accompanied us in our 1995 trip we rode the underground in London and took the Chunnel to Paris.

For the 1992 trip we traveled to  Dublin next.  For the trip in 1995 we traveled to Sweden after sight seeing in Paris. Next blog I will give my impressions of Ireland.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Tale Ends

Ann and Jay Stowell

The H.C. Stowells lived a few blocks away from where Grandma and Grandpa lived on the south hill of Spokane. As I persisted in reading through the account of Uncle Jay and Aunt Ann’s sojourn in Spokane, I came across this description of their visit to my Uncle Hollie and Aunt Jeanne’s home.  I can relate to Jay’s description of his visit as I spent many enjoyable hours stopping there during my family’s summer vacations.  Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Hollis were always very kind to me. (I had cordial relationships with Stowell cousins Richard, Janet, and Robert also.)

Uncle Jay continues on—“We were invited to dinner at the home of a nephew.  It was a delightful occasion.  We admired the modern, well-kept home, we inspected the garden, we enjoyed a delicious meal and we marveled at the workshop, which, with its many power-driven tools had crowded the car entirely out of the garage.  In this shop many useful tasks had been performed including the building of a fully equipped modern trailer.  I concluded that my nephew had inherited the mechanical genius of the Grandfather Stowell whom he had never seen.  I enjoyed talking with him about his work in the postal service.  He had made quite a study of Department regulations.  He felt that one of the weaknesses was the failure to provide adequately trained supervisory personnel, and that efficiency was reduced when trivial matters must be referred to Washington D. C. for decision.  He was active in the management of the postal credit union and seemed to be doing well in that field.” 

Later, back at the C.H. Stowell home, Jay spoke with Grandpa Claude about Claude’s experience years ago with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.  “He had operated a heliograph instrument at the top of one of the first steel towers ever used in connection with that work.  He told of the lift which he used to get to the top of the tower, of the launch available for travel from point to point on the Great Lakes or to island stations, and of the difficulties involved in getting true readings for the accurate establishment of permanent markers on which the primary triangulation work of the survey could be based.  The job had one advantage.  On cloudy days it was not necessary to report for work.  The Morse code was used and the dots and dashes were produced by intermittently cutting off the mirror reflection of the sun’s rays with a hand held cardboard.  Some months later he had visited the world’s fair in St. Louis and found his picture and his work on exhibit there.” I had never heard about my grandfather’s visit to the World’s Fair so this was interesting to me. 

Claude and Jay Stowell at the Bowl and Pitcher 1947

I knew that Grandfather Claude had helped remodel my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Hollie’s house but I had never known that he had purchased bargain houses, and with modest alterations, had sold them at a profit.  He had owned fifteen houses.  Apparently my two uncles and my father had worked on the houses during vacations from school.  My dad had never mentioned this to me. 

Uncle Jay recalled that when in their boyhood Claude and he used to, the day before Decoration Day or as we call it Memorial Day, select companions and would drive into the country to gather lilacs and other flowers.  Their best picking grounds were often the bushes around abandoned country houses.  With their wagon loaded they drove to the Good Templers Hall and deposited their spoils.  The following morning the women arrived to make bouquets and wreaths out of the mass of flowers.  In the early afternoon there would be an address or other patriotic program.  They all lined up with flower arrangements and marched to the cemetery to decorate the graves of their departed heroes. 

He goes on, “One of the distinguished graves was that of my great grandfather.  On his tombstone were carved names of the Revolutionary battles in which he had fought.  It was also recorded that he crossed the Delaware with Washington and that he was the first man on the first redoubt taken in the battle of Yorktown.  (So after all I would be eligible to be in the Daughters of the American Revolution organization.  Not that I would want to be!)

At the conclusion of his account Uncle Jay had some of the same thoughts that I have had about life.  He stated, “Man’s perversity has always been his undoing. There is a cure if we are not too proud and stubborn to accept it.  (I would say that it is forgiveness of sins and receiving eternal life if we believe in Jesus.)…He continues; “If the human race could forget its anguished strife for power, domination and possessions for just a few minutes it might be surprised to discover what a really beautiful and comfortable world has been entrusted to our keeping—rent free.”

He also said, “As a child I was taught to love America.  I did, genuinely and strongly.  I still do. But the America that I once knew is gone forever. The new America has some things that are better and some that are much worse.  Perhaps the greatest loss has been in our self-confidence.  ……We still are benevolently minded toward the rest of the world, although our enemies point to our far-flung military establishment to prove the contrary. Perhaps the answer is that while powerful nations have usually sought tribute from subordinate powers, we have taxed ourselves to the danger point to aid them.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Uncle Jay’s tale.  He reminded me of Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford series.  He sounds like a kind, orderly, Christian man who lived a good life, and set an upright example for us.  When my family would drive from Virginia to Washington to visit the relatives in Spokane we would stop at churches on Sundays along the way.  This is what Uncle Jay and Aunt Ann also did.  So we either learned this from them or it is genetic.  After I was married and we had young children, we drove from Seattle to Biloxi. We stopped at churches on Sundays for the worship services also.  It is always good to go into the house of the Lord on a Sunday.

His closing word was a quote from Whittier:

“I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.” Whittier

He knew God who is a stronghold for us.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wages And Work

Claude Stowell

As I continued to read my great uncle Jay’s narration of his and my great aunt Ann’s visit to my grandparents in Spokane, in 1953, I learned more about their childhood.  Unfortunately I have no pictures of them as children.  I did find the picture above of Claude.  I guess this was his high school graduation picture.

Henry John Stowell, my great grandfather, and father of Grace, Claude, and Jay, started a small business to supplement the family income.  The business included construction, building furniture, and also undertaking.  Uncle Jay started working for wages at eleven years of age.  He made two and a half cents an hour or twenty-five cents a day.  During the next nine years he made fifty cents a day, then seventy-five cents, and then increased to one dollar a day.  As a schoolteacher he made from six to eight dollars and fifty cents per week, as did Grandfather Claude. 

In addition to farming Jay worked in the country store.  Then he worked in the village meat market.  He drove the meat cart pulled by horses far into the country and sold meat from door to door.  One of the horses was a kicker.  He would have to get her to one side of the stall and watch his chance and dodge in.  He didn’t know how he ever got the crupper under her tail. 

They also picked bushels of cowslips and dandelions.  They gathered quantities of wild berries.  They stored nuts.  They saved therowert, catnip, and sage to be used as medicine. They chewed gum they got directly from the spruce trees. They ate rabbit, woodchuck, deer, and bear meat.  They caught trout, dace, and suckers.

Unfortunately, when Jay was fourteen, and Claude was eighteen, their father died. He  had a table saw accident and could not eat after being hit in the gut from a kicked back board.  He starved to death as a result. They buried him in one of his own coffins.  They sold the building business and kept on with the undertaking business.

They had some unusual cases during this time.  One night word came to them that a schoolboy had just died of diphtheria.  Uncle Jay hitched a horse to the light wagon and placed the casket on the porch of the quarantined house.  The parents put the body in the casket and he drove alone with it in the middle of the night to the cemetery where workers were waiting to receive it.

Another time, against the judgment of those building the casket, they followed the dimensions furnished by relatives and built an oversized casket.  They couldn’t get the casket into the house. He didn’t say what happened as a result.

Uncle Jay became proficient in upholstering the caskets and putting the handles on the outside.  He learned the trick of “walking” caskets on end to move from one place to another.  Years later as he waited for a train he noticed an express agent struggling to move several caskets by sheer force.  He showed the man by doing a rhythmically and with slight expenditure of energy the trick of “walking” them. 

Another business venture was making ice-cream.  Uncle Jay didn’t say if this was before or after his father died. 

Next blog will be on Uncle Jay’s impressions of his visit with my Uncle Hollis and Aunt Jeanne.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old And New Stowells

Manor De Cothelstone

According to the Stowell Genealogy, published first, I believe in 1921, the founder of the family was the Norman knight Adam.  He came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.  Giving him the manor called “De Coveston or De Cothelstone,” and the manor of “De Stawelle” in Moorlinch, County Somerset, rewarded his services.  The first Stowell to come to the United States was Samuel Stowell who settled in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1637.

When I found my great uncle, Jay S. Stowell’s 298-page account of his and my great aunt’s retirement trip through the United States and Canada in 1953, I wondered what else I could learn about the Stowell family.  It turns out I found out much about my grandfather, Claude H. Stowell.  He was Uncle Jay’s older brother.  They had an older sister, Grace.   My grandfather was a middle child.  I’ve always believed that middle children were good at getting along with people, as they had to learn to deal with older siblings and younger siblings.  Of course I know some people who were the oldest child or the youngest child and they are also good at getting along with people.  Maybe it is just the personality one is born with!

Grandpa Claude was born when Rutherford B. Hayes was U.S. president.  Uncle Jay was born when Chester A. Arthur was president.  Uncle Jay remembered the presidential campaign when Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton ran unsuccessfully against Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson.  He remembered the exciting torchlight processions with its many flaming and smoking kerosene torches in swiveled metal containers fixed on the end of wooden poles.  He recalled large pictures of the Republican candidates displayed in his folk's window, and the equally large portraits of the Democrat candidates hanging in the window of their next-door neighbor.  He remarked, “How anyone could be so unintelligent as to vote the Democrat ticket I could not quite understand.  My youthful judgment seemed to be confirmed when the country plunged into a depression which was hard to take and which left vivid memories.” Now I understand why my dad and Uncle Jay were such good friends.  They agreed on religion and politics!

They recalled that their grandfather, Samuel Stowell,  walked to town from the “Old Stowell Place” and stopped at their house to die. Grandpa Claude was six years old and Uncle Jay was two years old.  Samuel was ninety-three years old.

Uncle Jay remembered that in the home of his youth they had a print of "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci.  He noted that the salt cellar was turned over in the depiction.

Uncle Jay tells of how he and Grandpa Claude were teachers in one-room country schools.  They drove a horse and “cutter” eleven miles to school through the snow.  They used lap robes and heated soapstone to keep warm.

The little inland town where they grew up, I believe, was Orwell, New York. It was a busy place.  There were four blacksmith shops.  There were an equal number of cheese factories.  There were two planing mills, several saw mills, a cheese box factory, a ladder factory, and largest of all, a chair factory.

The town had furnished 184 Civil war veterans.  Their father was one of the veterans.  He bought a manual of arms, fashioned wooden guns in his carpenter shop, assembled a group of boys, and gave them military training. 

I will stop here for today and next week I will continue on with memories from the past as recorded by Jay S. Stowell.