Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The "Betcha Didn't Know This" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Trying to decide how to present my story today without causing a big stir. May not be a way ... so here goes.  A few years ago I climbed to the top of the Manheim Township High School building to take a photo of a steel sculpture by teacher Stanley Lipman.  
Stanley Lipman's sculpture titled the "Hour Glass".  I took
this photograph from high above on the roof of the school.
This beautiful sculpture, titled "Hour Glass", was made and donated to the school district by Stan.  While on the roof of the school I took a photo of the sculpture that, depending on how you viewed it, was a replica of the Star of David.  No big deal to me, but to some it was.  Well, today I learned another fact much like the hidden meaning in the "Hour Glass".  Has to do with the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.  First I'll give you a few facts that you perhaps didn't know.  (1) Not everyone was happy about building a monument dedicated to George Washington, our first President.  His approval rating at the time was far from 100% and many favored Thomas Jefferson.  (2) It took almost 40 years to complete the monument that was begun on July 4, 1848.  
An 1860 Daguerreotype by Matthew Brady taken of
the Washington Monument during construction.
It was completed on February 21, 1885 and opened to the public three years later.  (3) The Monument originally had a flat top, but was changed to the pyramid-shaped addition in 1879. (4) In 1855 Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey Sr., Chief of Engineers on the United States Army Corps of Engineers, assumed responsibility for completing the Monument, taking over for architect Robert Mills after he died.  He requested that his workers be supplied with hot coffee when wanted.  The U.S. Treasury complied.  (5) On the first day of construction, a zinc box was placed in the foundation of the Monument.  In it were copies of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, a map of the city of Washington, D.C., publications of census data, a book of poems, a collection of American coins, a list of Supreme Court justices, a Bible, daguerreotypes of George Washington and his mother Mary, Alfred Vail's written description of the magnetic telegraph, a copy of Appleton's Railroad and Steamboat Companion, an issue of the arts and leisure magazine Godey's Lady's Book as well as a few other items.  (6) When the Monument opened, 20,000 people were there including then-President James K. Polk, former first lady Dolley Madison, the wife of Alexander Hamilton and three future presidents: James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.  (7) The Washington Monument was the tallest structure, 555 feet high, on Earth.  Only lasted about a year when the Eiffel Tower opened.  (8) The apex was displayed for two days at Tiffany's before it was added to the top of the structure.  
Our Glorious Washington Monument. 
It was a publicity stunt so shoppers could claim to have walked "over the top of the Washington Monument.  (9) And the final fact I share with you is that on one side of the four-sided aluminum apex are displayed the words Laus Deo.  Now, no one can see any of the words on the apex from  555 feet down and perhaps no one cares what is written on the four side of the apex.  But, Laus Deo, may be of significance to some.  These two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words, compromised of just four syllables and only seven letters ... mean very simply ... "Praise be to God!"  From the top of the Washington Monument a visitor can take in a panoramic view of the city as well as view a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape with the White House to the North, the Jefferson Memorial to the south, the Capitol to the East and the Lincoln Memorial to the West.  A cross!  Simply, Laus Deo - Praise be to God!  Your lesson in history for the day.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

Monday, February 27, 2017

The "Transportation Coming Alive In Williamsport, PA" Story

An old photo of Williamsport showing the Transportation Museum
which is marked with a star and "You are here."  It is located in
what originally was the Railway Express building along the
Pennsylvania Railroad tracks which traveled through Williamsport.
It was an ordinary day.  Had just finished lunch at the Bull Frog Restaurant in downtown Williams- port, PA and decided to stop at the Transporta- tion Museum a few blocks away.  Carol and I are visiting with our friends Jerry and Just Sue who live in State College, PA.  While in the State College area we enjoy trips to places we have never seen before that may be of interest to us and today's visit to the museum fills that requirement.  
This physician's buggy was typical in the 1880s.  It was strong
enough to withstand heavy use but light enough to enable
doctors to reach patients as quickly as possible.  Doctors
made home visits well into the 20th century during daytime
as well as nighttime.  Women delivered their babies at home
and were attended to by either a physician or a midwife.  I
can remember being visited by our family physician in the
mid to late 1940s and into the 1950s.  Click on photos to enlarge.
The Peter Herdic Transporta- tion Museum gives it's visitors a chance to explore the rich traditions of the Susque- hanna Valley from the time of the Susquehan- nock Indian Tribe to today's modern transporta- tion systems.  Every mode of transport from the birch bark canoe to a fully restored GMC 1962 bus are included in the museum.  We paid our entrance fee of a few dollars and started walking around what at one time was the freight station for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  
The Pennsylvania National Guard's 8th Regiment ambulance
at an encampment in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, in 1896.
These ambulances were developed to transport wounded
soldiers to field hospitals.
We got to see everything from an 1880s physician's buggy to an 1896 Pennsyl- vania National Guard ambulance to the 1962 bus, but the highlight of my visit was traveling back in time to the mid-1900s when we had the chance to step on the 1949 Pullman sleeper/lounge car numbered #8416.  It is one of two remaining sleepers in the country.  Pullman completed the car named "Colonial Houses", a lightweight sleeper/lounger on June 11, 1949.  
This is the Hiawatha paddlewheel steamboat at the Sylvan
Dell Dock in 1900.  This ferry carried picnickers and bathers
from the Market Street Bridge to the Sylvan Dell Park.  This
boat was not part of the display, but was still part of the
transportation of Williamsport at one time.
In August 1955 the car was renamed "The Nicholas Firestone" and remained in service with the Pennsyl- vania Railroad until May 1964 when it was transferred to the Penn Central Railroad, reclassified a "parlor" car and renumbered 7153.  It remained with Penn Central until 1971.  This particular rail car made visits to the Williamsport area frequently when it was in service.  In 2007 a replica train depot wood deck was built next to the car and the following year the car was opened to the public.  Interesting walking through the car and trying to imagine what travel would have been like riding on this Pullman car.  
This is the Pullman Car that is on display at the Museum.
It is one of 2 still in existence today.  You enter from the
far right and can view the beautiful car that hauled patrons
that needed to have dining as well as sleeping quarters.  
Jerry, who lived a block from the train station in Lancaster and whose father worked at Railway Express next to the Lancaster Train Station, told me that middle-class to upper-class patrons would ride on the Pullman car due to the cost of the tickets.  We boarded the Pullman car and admired the restaurant area and then headed to the bedding area where we found three bedroom/lounge areas in the rear of the car.  
This is the interior of the Pullman Car.  This photograph
shows the dining area.
One had an upper berth with with lounge under it that could be opened into a double bed.  Another had bunk beds as well as a single berth while the final one had a single bed and upper berth.  All rooms had their own bathroom, but no shower area.  At the rear of the car was a very small kitchen and to the rear of that was an area that housed an area where clothing could be pressed and shoes shined.  Each room had a small compartment where you could place your shoes that was accessible to the porter of the car who could open it and remove your shoes to polish them.  Well, our tour was over and we walked back through the museum, talking with the attendant for quite some time about the museum and the Williamsport area.  Hopped in the car and headed toward our next destination, the Woolrich Factory Store located in Woolrich, naturally.  It was another extraordinary day.

One of the cabins showing a lounge with table and a berth above it.  The lounge can be opened to sleep two patrons. 
The bathroom which is a toilet, mirror, towel rack and small basin.
Outside each room is this dual-sided compartment.  The patron would put their shoes in the door to the left and the Porter would open the other door and remove them, shine them, return them to this compartment and ring the bell telling the patron that the shoes were finished.
Another room has these bunkbeds as well as a place for sitting.
They actually had an area where they shined shoes. Do people do that anymore?
The kitchen area which is extremely small.  We didn't see a stovetop or oven, but they may have been part of another cabinet.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The "Little Secrets" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Recently was viewing the Facebook page of Barbara, a friend Carol and I met a few years ago online.  She and her husband Dee live on the Dutch side, or Sint Maarten side, of the island that is known as "The Friendly Island."  Sint Maarten or St. Martin, depending if you are on the Dutch side or the French side of the island has been a travel stop for Carol and I for almost 20 years now.  Our yearly visit in the spring gives us a chance to rejuvenate ourselves and to meet all the friends we have acquired since we began coming to this heaven on earth.  
Barbara (taken from Facebook)
The air temperature and water temperature both hover close to 80-90 degrees almost every day of the year.  I have written over 200 stories about the island and I'm sure if you visit my blog on a regular basis, you have read a few of them.  Our friendship with Dee and Barbara has been a highlight of our visit to the island.  We have been able to visit them in their hillside home on the Dutch side of the island and walk through Dee's fabulous gardens.  Carol and Dee share the hobby of gardening and I know when we arrive she will be talking to another pro about how to do this and how to do that in the garden to make the plants grow the best.  
Dee (also from Facebook)
Barbara and I always find something else to talk about during our visits.  Even had the chance to visit one of the island's restaurants last year for a meal together.  Oh yeah, thanks once again Dee for treating!  Well, Barbara posted a very interesting and informative video a few months ago and I emailed her asking if she would mind if I use it in a story.  She said she only found it herself online and didn't see any reason why I couldn't share it with the world once more.  If you have never visited a Caribbean island or experienced the Caribbean culture and food, maybe the video will give you a flavor of what Carol and I have loved for the last couple of years.  And, Barbara, when you read this, here's hoping we will get a chance to visit with you again soon and share a few words and many laughs.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on the video below to view "Little Secrets - Sint Maarten."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The "Wear Your Dream Around Your Neck" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Watching TV with my wife when she says, "Here's what I want for Christmas this year."  Hopped out of my chair and looked at the screen on her iPad.  Staring at me was a beautiful piece of jewelry that looked like a wave inside a circle.  Not a large piece of jewelry, but not real small either.  
And, inside the wave was sand.  "This is exactly what I've wanted for quite some time," she said.  I do remember walking in every jewelry store on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey as well as every jewelry store in Stone Harbor, NJ and every jewelry store in Cape May, NJ, and every jewelry store in every island we have visited for the past decade or so.  And, here on her iPad screen is just what she wants.  
Information just in case .....
Comes from a place called Dune Jewelry which is located at 1 Westing- house plaza, Building D, Suite 7 in Boston, Maine.  The silver pendant has an empty space within the wave that you can place sand.  Sand from just about anyplace in the world.  The company posts the locations from which they have obtained sand and if you care for a different location, you must send them the sand.   Well, none of the species of sand from locations all over the world was what Carol wanted in her Christmas present, so I searched through all the bottles of sand I have in my den.  Sand from every location that we have ever been that had sand on a beach.  Only trouble that would have been created was that I put a small amount of sand in a bottle and add another layer over top of it and more sand on top of that, etc.  If she had wanted sand from a beach that had sand in the middle of the small bottle, she would have been out of luck.  Then when every bottle had been checked, I found one more hiding behind a photo on my shelf.  
St. Martin sand.
There was an entire bottle of sand from the south end of Orient Beach on the French side of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.  The exact beach she wanted.  The beach with the yellow umbrellas and orange chairs.  The beach with very few waves.  The beach with the pure, fine white sand.  The beach that we enjoy every time we head to St. Martin.  We emptied a small quantity into a baggie, sealed the top, and placed it in an envelope addressed to Dune Jewelry in Maine.  It was lucky she found the site online during November, since they require a few weeks for turn-around time, unless you choose the sand they have in stock.  Carol placed the call and told them she was mailing the sand immediately.  Her gift would be in the mail in time for Christmas.  Then one day we received a package in the mail from Maine.  She told me she didn't want to see it until Christmas morning.  I opened it in order to wrap it and sure enough, I knew she would love it.  There was this stunning, one-of-a-kind pendant in .925 Sterling Silver that she will wear forever.  
Another view of Carol's Christmas gift.
A small card came with the pendant that tells the story of the people who make them.  The founder's name is Holly Daniels Christensen and she is much like us in that she loves to travel and has special memories she wishes to preserve forever.  She began making sand jewelry at her kitchen table in 2007 and over time realized that everyone had a special memory, exciting adventure or travel dream destination that could be captured by her.  So she stared Dune Jewelry.  She signs her little note ... With love & Sandy hands, Holly Daniels Christensen - Founder, Travel Lover, Sand Connoisseur.  Gave it to Carol on Christmas morning and I believe she has worn it every day since.  She does take it off at night so she doesn't wear it in the shower, since a small note suggested that she not subject it to moisture.  
And yet, another view.
It sparkles, as you can see from the photos.  She couldn't decide which of the dozen or so photos I took to show you the pendant, so I used a few of them.  If you too have a special beach location with special memories you want to capture for eternity, use the address in my story or phone number and email address shown in the business card. And, if you decide to order a piece of jewelry, mention you saw her story on my blog.  I would love to get a pendant for my daughter and daughter-in-law, and you can help!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The "Woman's March On Washington - A Personal Experience" Story

Marg's story framed by newspaper articles.  Notice Marg's beautiful
cursive handwriting.  They no longer teach that skill in our schools.
Click on photos to enlarge them.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading a story that Marg, a close friend of my wife, gave to Carol to pass along to me.  Marg and her daughter and granddaughter were part of "The Woman's March" in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017.  I thought it might be interesting to hear about the experience so I wrote a few questions on a sheet of paper which Carol gave to Marg.  What follows is Marg's story on her exciting day in Washington, D.C. as part of "The Woman's March".  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"The Women's March" of January 21, 2017 was the largest group of people I have ever been among in my 71 years.  Because I don't like crowds I did not plan to attend, even though I agree with the reasons why women wanted to march.  But, when our twelve year old granddaughter passed me a note during church asking me to please join her and her mother, I had to say yes.   So at 6:30 a.m. on January 21, Alice, Becca and I boarded one of the many buses leaving from Lancaster.  There were two men on our bus, which led to an amusing situation when the bus stopped for a bathroom break.  A 15 minute stop didn't allow much time when there was only one ladies room, so women lined up at the men's room too.  
Speakers stand
The only time all day I heard someone say "no" to someone was when the men thought they could walk right up to the men's room door without waiting in line.  Everyone was in such a good mood the men just laughed and got at the end of the line.  As we got closer to Washington people got more excited.  There was conversation about how hard it was to sleep the night before, because we couldn't wait to be part of an historical event.  Looking out the bus windows we saw metro stations with long lines mostly of women waiting for transportation into Washington.  What we noticed were pink hats on many women, even some men.  The bus parked among hundreds of other buses at the R.F.K. Stadium.  As we got off the bus a woman we didn't know greeted us with a large box of pink hats.  She said, "I stayed up all night making these hats.  Please take one."  She did not accept our offer to pay for them.  That spirit of friendliness we saw all day.  
One of many posters.
There we were, a group of mostly 40 somethings, a few girls, a few old ladies, all wearing pink hats and wondering how to get from the stadium to the mall area.  A large friendly policeman said not to walk because it wasn't a good neighborhood.  He suggested we take a shuttle.  As we stood waiting for the bus, cars drove by honking and passengers waving and cheering us on.  We felt welcomed to Washington.  Talking to people on the shuttle bus, I realized there were many teachers.  The woman sitting next to me was a teacher from North Carolina.  At the mall area there were people everywhere.  It was hard to know how many people there were, but it was easy to know why they were there.  The signs people were holding represented their concerns.  I've never seen so many interesting and creative signs.  Lots of the signs spoke of Trump being a sexual deviate.  There were many dignified, older women holding signs concerned about the future of planned parenthood.  There were groups concerned about the environment, lots of signs saying "show your taxes"; native Americans with signs saying "keep the oil in the soil"; etc. etc.  
Marg, Alice (photographer) and Becca.
The first event of the day was the rally.  We stood shoulder to shoulder listening to many speakers.  They were activists, authors, television hosts, film makers, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., singers, etc.  I never thought I'd see Madonna, but there she was talking and singing.  The second part of the day was the march.  I don't know the route, but it had to be changed because there were so many more people than expected.  We heard all kinds of chants.  "Refugees are here to stay!" and "This is what a democracy looks like", and many more.  When we got to the Trump Hotel the march stopped and the chants were "Shame on you" and "Pay your taxes".  I don't know how long we marched.  We were getting tired and hungry.  We hadn't eaten in a long time, but we had candy bars in our pockets.  At the end of the march we found a metro station.  Even with hundreds of people we were surprised how quickly the line moved.  Once we were back at R.F.K. Stadium, it was hard to find our bus in the dark among the hundreds of buses.  Once on the bus we felt we had one of the most exciting days of our lives.  I would do it again.  It was thrilling!

I want to thank Marg for writing about her experience.  I certainly couldn't have written about it as well as she did, since she experienced the event.  Years from now, she and her daughter and granddaughter will be able to talk about that day in history when they marched in Washington, D.C. for a cause greater than any other in history of women.  I only wish I had been part of it myself.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The "A Wall Of White" Story

White snow geese take flight at the Middle Creek Wildlife Area.
It was an ordinary day.  Looking up at the wall of white as it passes over our heads time after time.  Carol and I are standing along the edge of the Middle Creek lake at the Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania.  The wind is blowing slightly and the air temperature is in the high 40s, but the activity in front of us is keeping us warm.  
A single bird searches for an opening on the water.
The annual spring migration of snow geese from wintering grounds in the eastern and south- eastern United States to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra has begun.  Saw a story in the Lancaster newspaper about the migration and told of the best times to view the birds.  We decided to take a trip and hope to see more than we saw last year when we viewed maybe a couple hundred on the lake.  We arrived in the parking area along Hopeland Road, parked the car and headed down the walk towards the pavilion in a small area along the lake known as Willow Point.  
The path to Willow Point to view the snow geese.
As we made our final turn in the path, there in front of us was a wall of white as the birds descended from the air into the water.  Then, a few geese would take flight causing others to also take flight and before long there were thousands in the air about the lake.  And, just as quickly, they all descended once again to their spot in the water.  Earlier this week there were about 45,000 snow geese settled on the 360-acre lake to the north of Lancaster, PA.  
The view of the birds as they take flight over us.  In no
time there are thousands joining them.
Middle Creek is their stopover where they feed from the surrounding farm fields until they continue to northern Alaska, Canada and Siberia.  And, the noise they make is deafening.  Carol and I found a place along the water's edge and talked with two men who had their cameras on tripods with 500mm tele-lenses on their cameras.  Both have been visiting this location for the past few days hoping for that perfect photo.  
Landing on the lake in the midst of many others.
They told us that it was reported that there were about 45,000 yesterday and that today's count is close to 70,000.  I questioned them as to who counts all the geese and how do they do it.  Told me that there is a special formula they use for the procedure based on a specific area and how many are in the particular space.  
The snow geese open a circle in their midst.  No one is quite
sure why they do this.  As you notice, it is a perfect circle.
The game wardens take that number times the total area of the lake and presto,  a guessti- mate.  The marvel of seeing all those snow geese in front of me is amazing.  One of God's gifts to birdwatchers.  It's like being in a snow globe filled with snow geese and having someone shake it every so often.  Every now and then a flock of tundra swans would fly by heading to another area of the pond.  
A few tundra swans in the sky above us.
The long necks on their bodies is a sure giveaway as to what they are.  We also saw a few Canadian Geese but you could count them on one hand.  Out in the middle of the lake, to our right, is a large piece of wood jutting out of the water that has two Bald Eagles sitting on a branch.  
A handful of Canadian Geese fly by.
I'll bet they are examining the snow geese, asking each other which would be the best meal for supper tonight.  It was written in the newspaper that the best time to visit is early morning and late afternoon when the birds are returning to the lake after feeding in the surrounding fields.  
Two Bald Eagles can be seen in the background.
Many people bring binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras of all sorts from a phone camera to cameras covered in camouflage to prevent the birds from knowing they are being photographed.  As for me, I have my DSLR Sony with my 200mm lens in place to try and capture the flight of the birds. At times I realize I'm under-prepared with only the lens I have. After an hour of bird-watching, the cold and wind did us in and we headed back to the car.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on photos to enlarge. 

A few more photographs of the many flocks of snow geese.  
Carol was amazed that we didn't get covered with poop as the birds flew over us.
The snow geese take flight directly in front of us.  What a marvelous sight it was.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The "Yesterday .... All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away! : Part V - I'll Say A Prayer For You" Story

Foreword:  Previously I told of the day I found that I had prostate cancer.  I have decided to take you along with me on my journey to try and conquer the disease so that if you are a male or have a spouse or close friend who is a male, you may better understand what they are experiencing and can help your loved one with their journey through the disease.

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with Bill about what I can expect when I have my Cryosurgery or Cryotherapy.  If you have been following my journey towards being cancer free, you realize I have been going through a series of shots of Fermagon which are administered to help reduce the size of my prostate.  I first had two shots given to me in my stomach and a month later had a third shot.  I am supposed to have one more shot in about a week before setting the date for the Cryosurgery.  I questioned the nurse as to why I have to wait so long between shots and was told it was because Medicare wouldn't pay for them if they were any closer together.  Asked if I could pay for them myself and she told me they are very expensive. Just left it go at that.  Yesterday I got a statement telling me what has been paid for me during the previous month and found the shots are $1,500 each.  I will wait the month between shots.  In the meantime I asked my urologist if he could supply me with the name of one of his patients who has had the Cryosurgery before.  Within a week he called with a telephone number, telling me not to expect the gentleman to give me his name.  Not a problem!  I tried for weeks to reach him, but never could connect with him.  Well, yesterday Dr. Seiber called once again and gave me another number.  Immediately called and got an answering machine.  I hung up, not wanting to leave a message.  Shortly I left for my part-time job, but when I returned home my wife told me a woman called wondering why we dialed her number.  My wife noticed the number she called from matched the number Dr. Seiber had given me and talked with the woman, telling her why I had placed the call.  In no time she had given Carol her husband's cell number which I called when returning from from work.  Bill was a few years older than me when he had his Cryosurgery.  It was only the third time that Dr. Seiber had performed the surgery.  That was in 2010!  He had nothing but good things to say about Dr. Seiber and the good job he did.  He told me his recovery took three weeks with two bouts of having a catheter in place during those three weeks.  His recent PSA test showed a number under 1.00 telling him that he is cancer free.  Wow!  We talked for over a half-hour and we finished with him telling me he would say a prayer for me that all goes well.  I thanked him and asked if he minds if I call again if I feel the need to talk.  Told me to call anytime I want.  Nicest guy you'd ever want to meet.  My journey towards a better life is being made much easier due to so many nice people I have met along the way.  I await the procedure with a much more informed mind and a prayer that will be said for me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Postscript: Well, I have just received my fourth and final shot of Firmagon.  The injection point is more sore this time than before, perhaps due to the amount I have in my body already and my body not being able to absorb the entire shot at one time.  The lump at the entry point is raised and about the size of a bottle cap.  My next event is a trip back once again to have a bone scan completed next week.  Firmagon is said to make your bones very weak and brittle and I guess they want to see how it has affected me.  I have listened to the nurse and have been taking a Vitamin C tablet every day.  I also will need to find out the date for my procedure.  I did read a booklet I picked up at the doctor's office today telling me that Cryotherapy has been OK'd by the FDA, but is still a rather new type of procedure, and they don't have too many test results in yet to give me better information on the procedure.  I still feel confident I have made the correct choice and will be one of those statistics that will announce to the world that Cryosurgery is the best way to go! Met another fellow today, Norm, who used to be a custodian at the school where I taught and now drives bus for them.  He looked at me and asked why I look depressed.  Wow, didn't think I was depressed, but maybe he can read me better than I can.  Told him about my upcoming surgery and he said he had his prostate removed in 2001.  Said I have nothing to worry about.  He is also an ordained minister and he told me he would have his group pray for me.  Getting better all the time! Hallelujah!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The "They Found My Hat In Harriet Lane's Boudoir! - Part II" Story

The front of "Wheatland" which faces President Ave.
It was an ordinary day.  Getting ready to take you with me as I head up the staircase in President James Buchanan's "Wheat- land".   The entrance that is used for tours is in the rear.  But, the main entrance facing President Ave. is awesome.  The home consists of a two and one-half story central section flanked by three-story wings.  
Nancy stands at the top of the stairs in the
rear of the house.  Mahogany and maple
bannister takes you to the second floor.
The main block of the building contains a central hall with two matching rooms on either side; there are 17 rooms in all.  A Doric-columned porch dominates the front of the main section of the house.  Very few changes were made over the years except for the installation of a furnace and central heating, replacement of the open hearth in the kitchen with a cast-iron stove and the addition of a modern convenience in the form or a tin bathtub.  The last private owner of "Wheatland" is the George B. Willson family who purchased the home in 1881 from Harriet Lane who had inherited if from her uncle James. "Wheatland" was then inherited by a relative of Mr. Willison in 1929 and eventually put up for sale.  
The coral colored Mortgage button on the newel post.
In 1936 The Junior League of Lancaster purchased the home.  Today Lancaster- History.org retains 10 acres of the original 22 acre property, including the home and three outbuildings.  Well, back to the tour.  My tour guide, Nancy ushered me up the stairwell to the second floor.  The awesome bannister is made of mahogany with 111 spindle balusters made from tiger maple.  
Harriet Lane's bedroom.  I was checking out the wire signaling
system alongside the bed when my hat must have slipped
from my jacket pocket and fallen on the floor.  It was found
later and returned to me outside of "Wheatland".
The carpet is not original, but does match the Venetian Stripe pattern that was in the house when it was built.  We first went to Harriet Lane's bedroom which was covered in wallpaper with white curtains.  It reminded me of a woman's room.  Under one window stood a small desk while on the floor, closer to the door, was a huge chest that evidently was used for travel.  
A small desk or perhaps a make-up area
are lit with natural light in the room.
It had several stickers on it showing she had traveled out of the country.  Out of all the items in the house, the chest was one of my favorites.  Reminded me of the three small suitcases Carol and I have covered with stickers from all the locations we have visited.  The small middle room was said to have been occupied by James Buchanan "Buck" Henry, Buchanan's nephew.  "Buck" was James' sister's son.  When his sister and brother-in-law both died, James made a home for "Buck" with him just as he had done with Harriet.  We next visited James' bedroom.  In the closet was a simple jacket and two top hats.  A Daguerreotype of what the room looked like when James occupied it was on display.  The room was made to look like it was in the photograph.  
Harriet Lane's traveling case.
In one corner of the room was a chair commode which was the only method they had for bathroom facilities.  The house wasn't electrified until in the 1930's, so lanterns were the means of lighting the home in the evening.  James' bed was quite high, but not in excess for a man over six foot tall.  On the floor was a tin wash basin showing how people would bathe.  The home did not have a bath tub until after James died when Harriet had one installed in 1868.  One thing I noticed as I was leaving Buchanan's bedroom was the frog doorstop.  I visited "Wheatland" last summer to take a photo of the pond near President Ave.  
The middle bedroom was sparsely
furnished and is where "Buck" slept.
James loved frogs, thus the pond.  The final bedroom belonged to Esther "Miss Hetty" Parker, James' housekeeper who lived in "Wheatland" the entire life of Buchanan.  From the corner of Parker's room, steps led down to the kitchen.  Nancy showed me photographs of what the kitchen used to look like when it was first built, how it had been changed, and then changed once again until it looks as it does today.  As I stood in front of where the oven used to be, I looked to my right and saw the remains of the dumbwaiter that was in the house.  Well, my tour was over and as Nancy placed her hand on the old metal handle to usher me out, I thanked her for the informative and interesting tour I had of Lancaster's President of the United States.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Closet in James Buchanan's bedroom.
A Daguerrotype of what James' bedroom looked like. 
The commode. 
James' bed.  Sitting on the floor to the left, behind the rope, is what was used for bathing.  You stood in the small metal basin and poured water over your head.  Thank goodness for modern showers.
The small frog doorstop can be seen here.
A metal bathtub was only added in 1868 by Harriet Lane.
Wash basins stand on a table across from the tub.
The final bedroom belonged to Miss Hetty.  It was very simple with little furniture. 
The stairs lead from the second floor to the kitchen.
The kitchen with the area were the stove used to be.  
Another Daguerrotype showing the original stove in the kitchen.
This stove, as shown in this Daguerrotype, was installed by the Willsons.
The remains of the dumbwaiter can be seen to the left of the photo.  It would go from the kitchen in the cellar to the second floor.
The lock on the kitchen door used to allow me to leave.
Kathy said Good-Bye to me as I left after my tour.  Little did she know she would be asked to search for my lost hat and have to return it to me.