Alexander Graham Bell

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Beinn Bhreagh (I say Ben Bree-uh) Alexander and Mabel’s home

He is more than just the inventor of the telephone. He’s an expat who came not just to Canada, not just to Nova Scotia, but to Cape Breton Island. Just like me. Though he was born in Scotland, not America. He was a teacher for the deaf. I think my kids are deaf, sometimes. He was an inventor. The only thing I’ve invented so far are new ways to annoy DW. In that I am excelling.

Alec came to Canada, originally to an area near Brampton, Ontario, in 1870. This is 130 years after the British destroyed the French Fortress of Louisbourg. Once here, he continued working on methods to teach the deaf. He created the System of Visible Speech which helped deaf students learn to speak by allowing them to visualize the sounds.

Mabel Hubbard’s inability to hear inspired her father to work with those who were also deaf. He also founded the first school for the deaf in the US, the Clarke School for the Deaf. She eventually became one of Alexander’s pupils. Because she was educated in both Europe and the US she learned to speak and lip read in four language. When she was 19 and he 29 they married at her family’s house.

One story says that during arguments Mabel would turn her back on Alec so that she could not read his lips effectively making his argument null and void.

On March 10, 1876, just 3 days after receiving his patent, Bell spoke to his colleague, Thomas Watson, through his telephone

Come here. I want to see you.

Watson heard him clearly on the other end of the line. Wouldn’t they be impressed to see how far advanced his telephone is today? No wires needed. Though maybe not. Shortly after the telephone’s success, he and a partner developed a way to transmit a voice message on a beam of light. He would later say that that was his greatest accomplishment. Little did he know this achievement would directly lead to fiber-optic communication.

That wasn’t all of Bell’s accomplishments.

He created a metal detector which was successfully used on a patient to find a bullet, though the patient died. Unfortunately, the patient was President James Garfield.

He created hydrofoils – a slight combination of boat and plane.

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He worked extensively with kites. His favorite being tetrahedral (triangular pyramid) that were so big they had to be towed with a boat to gain lift.

In 1909, Bell and his associates witnessed their plane, The Silver Dart, take flight from the frozen Bras d’Or Lake, becoming the first powered flight in Canada.

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What’s even more is that we where it all happened. Baddeck, Nova Scotia. There is a museum dedicated to Alexander Graham Bell’s life and works. The boys got to make their own kite. They got to see exactly how Alec lived and taught and all that he created. They saw a life size hydrofoil. They saw the Silver Dart.  They got to see the 37 room house of the Bells (from the outside). They got to take a ride on a 67′ schooner, the Amoeba, on the lake where Alexander performed his experiments with kites and hydrofoils. On the lake of which The Silver Dart took flight.

 

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Fun Fact Bonus!

Beinn Bhreagh means “beautiful mountain”. The house has 37 rooms, 11 of them are bedrooms. It has 17 fireplaces. It cost them $22,000 1893 dollars to complete and sits on 600 acres.

 

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A Living Museum from 1745

©Eric Wood/allinadadswork.wordpress.com

Imagine living in a remote location, possible across a cold, giant ocean. Also, it’s 250 years ago. The village you have settled is among the best fishing waters in the world. Your village’s currency is now cod. Though, you yourself still deal with your native France’s livre. In the summer there would be 7-8,000 people. Just 1 or 2,000 come winter time. It was so successful, so profitable that walls 30 feet high were built. 800 soldiers are commissioned to protect the fishing grounds and the village. 400 fishing vessels fill the harbor every day.

Today, just one fifth of that village and it’s reconstructed buildings exist. Its inhabitants are merely actors, characters to educate. Today, a living museum stands in its place. It is a very interesting piece of history.

Settled in 1713 by France the fishing port grew and by the mid 1740s it was the 3rd busiest port in North America after Boston and Philadelphia. The British, seeing it’s success, laid siege to the fortress in 1745 and won. The French tried and failed to take it back the following year. In 1748, the British returned it to France for lands in Austrian Netherlands and a trading post in India. In 1754 a few skirmishes developed into the French and Indian War which expanded into the Seven Years’ War in 1756. In 1758 the British regained control of the fortress after a six week siege. Two years later the British systematically destroyed the fortifications to prevent the French from using the port when peace returned to Cape Breton Island.

Upon our arrival a French soldier greeted us in full uniform complete with musket. He informed us we needed to be out by 5:00 before the gates closed. Should we not be out before the closing we would be stuck inside the fortress but not to worry, there would be plenty of space in the jail to sleep. Our poor little Bang, seeing a soldier in uniform with a gun five feet long, didn’t understand that he was just an actor and he couldn’t stop his tears. Fortunately, the soldier was kind-hearted and gently explained that he was only kidding. He showed him hat (which had fake hair on it to make it look like he had a pony tail) and his gun. Bang was good after that.

On our journey to the Fortress we told the boys that they could ask questions to the people there. Anything they wanted to know they could ask. All the people have French names so they could even ask them that. They are in character and will answer your question as if it is 1740. The Blacksmith, for instance, started working with his father in the forge when he was 7.


FB_IMG_1500347450259There was a cannon demonstration, too. Atop the fortress wall, from the hill upon which the top picture was taken, were two cannons (though they faced outward, of course). Once was loaded with six pounds of gunpowder and fired. The boys (and their parents) were seriously impressed. After the firing we were allowed to approach the armaments to see them for ourselves and to talk to the soldiers in charge. We were informed that the cannons could fire a cannonball 2 miles and it would take about 22 seconds to reach its target. Though the cannon was only accurate at a mile and a half. Again, we were impressed.


After that we listened to another soldier tell us about the muskets. How they work, how to use them, and how to fire it. We even got to see it fired. We were told that musketballs were extremely inaccurate, 50 yards was their maximum range. Soldiers weren’t to fire until they could see the whites of the enemies eyes. This demonstration was Bang’s favorite part of the day.

Just before we left, just before the gates closed, we saw a smaller cannon fire. The boys were impressed by the sound of it. Just think of what it sounded like with all 100 cannons firing along with those on the ships that were storming the harbor!

It was definitely a learning experience and one I hope the boys remember if not forever, at least for a very long time. Characters, questions, cannons, muskets, costumes, buildings, animals, blacksmiths, bread makers…

One busy port

Questions I Asked My Grandmother

The boys have been writing to their cousins. I’ve been writing to my grandma. She LOVES history. Local history. Family history. So I write to her to give her updates on our family since she’s not on the Facebook or the Twitter or the Instagram. If she were on Instagram, I’d call it Instagramma. She writes back answering the questions I sent. She also sends loads of additional information that sheds more light on certain questions. So what did I ask her this time?

1. You mentioned that you liked being in school plays. Do you remember on in particular? What role did you play in it?

In one play I dressed like Aunt Jemima. I sang two songs, one of them was “Take me down to Hoecake Land”. The play I remember best was in 7th grade. We were to write plays about Thanksgiving. Mine was chosen to be used. The day before the play, the older student who was to be the main character got strep throat. There was panic until they said I needed to play the main character because I knew the words. So instead of directing, I got the role. It was performed for the PTA November meeting.

2. What were some of your favorite songs as a kid? 

Probably X-mas songs – Silent Night, Jingle Bells, etc… It was years before there were pop stars, unless you call Bing Crosby one.

3. How did Pop Pop propose to you?

In the car just as we got home from a date several days before Xmas. He just showed me the ring and that was it.

4. Did my dad get into trouble as a kid? What did he do?

My memory must be poor. I don’t remember him getting in trouble.

5. How long have you lived on “The Farm” and what changes has it seen over the years?

Came here May 1950. On the third house. 1st one was roomy. 2nd in 1981 was comfortable. 3rd in 1994 after a house fire. Spent lots of hours taking care of chickens, cooked big dinners for Leo (my grandfather) and his helpers. Bigger tractors, larger crops, grain at times and sweet corn, peas, lima beans, field corn, barley, or wheat. Everything costs more and there’s more government regulation.

6. What are some fascinating facts about Tuckahoe and the surrounding area?

I researched land records, put together 300 pages of abstracts. Tuckers were among the first land owners here. Mostly dirt poor farmers lived here. Some had slaves. Sometime I’ll collect research and send it to you. There was a fish hatchery next to us on the river.

7. What was it like living through the Civil Rights Movement?

In the 1950’s a group called the White Citizens League came to the Eastern Shore to recruit members. They opposed integration with parades and fund raisers. New

New members visited friends, relatives, and their neighbors for support. My brother, Edward, came to my brother-in-law’s, George, house when my husband, Leo, and I were there with our young children. When we were asked to support I said no. Yes, the Woods were upset. I said as a Catholic I could not join the group.

Around the same time, my mother told me she was mad with my sister, Clara and her husband for riding in an open car on the streets in Easton supporting the organization. 

The events completely divided the residents of the Shore. Many kept quiet. There were disturbances in Cambridge in the later years. 

The so called White Citizens League left Easton with funds collected never to be heard of again. In the 1960’s, when schools were integrated, Leo and I told our children to treat everyone the same.

8. Do you have any special memories of your grandkids?

With the girls, tea parties. Dress up – had several suitcases full, including Little Red Riding Hood outfit I made from a discarded red evening dress from a friend. Making bread together. 

Number 4 is the funniest to me. Her memory is not poor. She’s as a sharp as a tack. It’s just that my dad, like his son after him, was an angel and caused no trouble. She also sent me papers describing when her house was used as an observation post during WWII to watch for enemy aircraft. Lastly, in case you were wondering what a hoecake is, it’s a southern thing kind of like a pancake, but more like cornbread. Google failed to turn up any results about the song.

Candlemas Day

Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s groundhog, did not see his shadow today. According to tradition this means we’ll have an early spring.

However, down in Pennsylvania, Puxsutawney Phil did see his shadow. It’s weird that spring will be in Canada before it arrives in the USA.

This is an ancient Christian celebration dating back longer than I’ve been alive. Known as Candlemas Day, it marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year while spring equinox is when there is an equal amount of daylight as there is night time. Today, we’re right smack in the middle. You might have noticed that it’s light for just a bit longer than it was at the same time a month ago.

Anyway, clergy would bless candles and then pass said candles out to the people. The superstition was as true back then as it is today. If there is sun we’ll have six more weeks of winter and if it’s cloudy then spring will come early. Sometime later, the Germans introduced the hedgehog into the prediction. If their hedgehog saw his shadow then we’d have more bad weather, a second winter.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again

When the German then migrated to the New World they brought their lederhosen and traditions with them. However, due to a lack of hedgehogs in Pennsylvania, they switched to groundhogs.

In 1886, just 110 years after the US declared their independence, a newspaper by the name of Punxsutawney Spirit, printed the first news of Groundhog Day to be observed. The next year, The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob.  The editor of that paper declared Punxsutawney Phil to be America’s whether forecasting groundhog.

Wikipedia lists 26 prognosticators. Thirteen saw their shadow and predict six more weeks of winter. For those you who struggle with math, that leaves thirteen others who are predicting an early spring. I guarantee at least half of the 26 are right.

Technically, we have 6 more weeks of winter no matter what the groundhogs and hedgehogs say.

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Questions I Asked My Grandmother

1929 was a big year. Herbert Hoover was president. The stock market plummeted and U.S. securities lost $26 billion becoming the first financial disaster of the Great Depression. Trotsky was expelled from the U.S.S.R. The Cubs lost the world series to the Philadelphia A’s and the Boston Bruins defeated the NY Rangers for the Stanley Cup. A stamp cost .02¢ and a gallon of gas was .20¢. It was also the year my grandmother was born. Without her (and my grandfather), my dad wouldn’t be here. Without him (and my mom), I wouldn’t be here. Without me, you wouldn’t be here reading this. We can all thank my grandmother.

A few weeks ago I sent a letter off to my grandmother, my Dad’s Mom. It was done the 1929 way, written in ink on paper, sealed in an envelope and sent via postal service. Though, the way the postal service moves I could have sworn I sent it by pony express. Actually, I know it wasn’t by pony express. It would have gotten there faster if it was.

Today is “Questions I Asked” day a day early. As you’ve already read up there in the title, I didn’t ask my kids the questions this time. She graciously responded in her very unique penmanship. I can easily pick her handwriting out of a police line-up.

So what did I ask her? How did she answer?

1. When and where were you born? How many siblings do you have?

I was born on a farm at home near Longwoods, Maryland in 1929. I had 3 sister and 3 brothers.

2. What was school like for you?

Small classes, know everyone. What I liked best was being in school plays and history classes.

3. How did you meet Pop Pop?

We were introduced at a barn dance by a friend.

4. What was it like raising kids on “the farm”? 

We ate good food, played together, and worked in the chicken houses together.

5. Which trip/vacation was your favorite?

Probably going with Kathy (her daughter, my aunt) to Ireland, Scotland, and England.

6. What do you miss most about the “good old days”?

Memories of WWII when we had an Army Observation Post at our house. We had company every night and met interesting people in our neighborhood.

7. What did you do for fun as a kid?

My sister and I played with dolls and kittens.

8. Did you ever get into trouble as a kid? What did you do?

Once only, my sister was a trouble maker. One day I fastened her in the hen house. There was a black snake there.

9. What is a memory of my dad as a kid that makes you laugh?

He only saw me cry once. He asked if I had something in my eye.

10. How far back have you traced our family heritage? Who was it and where were they from?

Back to the 1600’s for some ancestors. They were from England. Nicholas Goldsborough is my ancestor six times – family marriages.

After note she included with her letter…

Once my children (she had seven of them) were out of school and on their own, I may have neglected them. I knew they had their own interests far removed from mine.

So I pursued my own interests- civic activities- historical and genealogical research. It was always easy sandwiching family and others.

Now, in recent years, I’ve been writing about my childhood and parents as I remember them. I have many loose leaf notebooks. 

The research I did for others broadened my interests and many friends have I acquired.

My research included murders, suicides, law suits, a few scandals and some boring. 

Only one long time effort researching Leo’s (my grandfather) Mother’s family. It cost a lot of money. There is a copy of it in the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Crash and Bang with their great-grandmother

 

All Hallows Eve

Today’s tradition has it’s origins roughly 2,000 years ago during the time of Celts who celebrated their New Year on November 1st. The celebration was known as Samhain. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.  They would extinguish their woodstoves, light huge bonfires, and burn crops and animals as sacrifices. They would don costumes and masks – which were often animal heads. After the celebration they would relight their woodstoves from the sacred bonfire to protect them through the dark, cold winter.

By 43 A.D.  the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory and began incorporating their own celebrations. They would celebrate the passing of the dead in late October. On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III opened the celebration to honor all saints as well as martyrs and moved it from May 13 to November 1. All Saints Day was also known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day). The night before it, the traditional Celtic celebration, became known as All Hallows Eve. Which is where we get today’s name of Halloween.

Some theorise that Halloween lost its appeal to death and ghosts in Protestant, Colonial New England. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.

New immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped popularize the celebration of Halloween. Combining Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

As for the history of the Jack-O-Lantern you can read the story of Stingy Jack (it’s a very short one). It was named after the will-o’-the-wisp or a jack o’lantern that is the phenomenon of strange light seen flickering over peat bogs. People hollowed out pumpkins, turnips, or potatoes to imitate this light. Some believed it warded off the evil spirits associated with the celebrations of this time of year.

Therefore, as tradition proclaims, we have carved our pumpkins (their own designs) and will be trick-or-treating this evening. Thor and Captain America will collect treats and Mom and Dad will invoke the “parent tax” and help them eat it.

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I don’t have a picture of Crash and Bang in their costumes yet, but I do have one of my brother and nephew. It’s a classic.

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The Force is strong with them.

Happy Love Day

Today is the day we all show a bit more love than the other 365 days this year (it’s a leap year, remember?). To some it’s just another Hallmark Holiday. A day created for the retailers. For the flower shops and the chocolate makers. There is a history to it, though. And it dates back farther than you might think.

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, some 2,000 years ago, on February 14th all the girls would write their name and place it in a jar. Then each boy would draw a name and the maiden they drew would be their partner for the duration of the festival that would begin the following day. Naturally, a few of these pairings would last until the couple fell in love and got married.

However, Claudius later banned this act as he saw fewer men joining the military because they didn’t want to leave behind their wife and children. He forbid engagements and marriages thereby causing them to held secretly. A priest by the name of Valentine performed the rituals behind closed doors. However, like all good things, Valentine was discovered, captured, and thrown in jail.

The couples he had wed in secret sent him cards and letters of encouragement. In jail is also where he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. He penned a letter to his love and signed it “From Your Valentine”. He was executed the following day for his crimes. Sometime after his death, it is believed the jailer’s daughter miraculously regained her sight. Most say it was true love that brought it back.

To this day, we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day by sending cards and letters of love just as Valentine’s supporters sent to him while he was jailed. Just as Valentine sent a letter to his love. It brings new meaning to the question, “Will you be my Valentine?”

Yes, of course I will DW.

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