Christmas Television - ALF's Special Christmas

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 0
Christmas Television - ALF's Special Christmas
ALF's Special Christmas is a Christmas episode of ALF that aired in two parts on December 14, 1987. One major part of the story is about ALF, by circumstance, meeting a sick girl at the hospital. The character in the show (Tiffany) was based on a real person who had leukemia, Tiffany Leigh Smith (another findagrave entry), who died on January 2nd, 1987. The photos on Find A Grave are of the actress who played her (Keri Houlihan) and not the actual Tiffany Leigh Smith.

You can get an excellent deal on the DVD collection of all 4 Seasons of ALF on Amazon by clicking this link

At the end credits of Part 2, the two-part episode is dedicated to Tiffany Leigh Smith and Tom Kyle, who was a technical director of the show. If you haven't seen the episode, the episodes are all-around emotional, without giving spoilers, involving more than one character. It's definitely worth watching though and I would say it is amongst the best Christmas episodes of any show. You can find the full show available on many websites.

Here's a short promo for the episode:

Here's more information about the episodes (spoilers ahead at the links):
'ALF's Special Christmas' is the closest thing we ever got to a true ALF movie
Get your tissues: Here's the true story of the little girl whose Make-a-Wish dream was to talk to ALF

Synopsis of both episodes

ALF's Special Christmas (Part One)

ALF accidentally falls under a load of Christmas gifts for children in the hospital. He becomes a toy for the terminally ill Tiffany. The alien quickly becomes friends with the girl.

ALF's Special Christmas (Part Two)

ALF has said goodbye to his friend Tiffany. As he is just sneaking out of the hospital he gets stuck in the elevator with a woman who goes into labor.

ALF's Special Christmas is remembered for its mix of humor and heartfelt moments, making it a beloved holiday television event for fans of the ALF series. It remains a nostalgic favorite among those who grew up watching the show during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

St. Lucia Day History and Traditions

Sunday, December 08, 2019 0
St. Lucia Day History and Traditions
Christmas in Sweden and most of Scandinavia begins on December 13th. The 13 is the feast day of Sankta Lucia (Saint Lucia), bringer of light and patron saint of vision. Born in 283 in Syracuse, Sicily, Lucia was known to bring food and supplies to persecuted Christians hiding underground while wearing a wreath of candles upon her head to light the way.

She was betrothed to a wealthy pagan but vowed to remain unmarried, wanting to dedicate her life to helping others. Refusing to be married and named a Christian, she was tortured by having her eyes removed and finally martyred. Before the Gregorian calendar reform, Saint Lucia’s feast day fell on the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year in Sweden, a country she is rumored to have visited in her short life. Today, many in Nordic countries and elsewhere continue to honor her as the virtuous bride, bringing joyful light to their dark winter days.

On the morning of her feast day, in family observances, the oldest daughter in each family dresses in a white robe and wears a wreath of candles on her head while delivering sweet rolls (called lussekatt) and coffee to her parents by candlelight.

The sisters of the Lucia Bride wear a wreath of tinsel in their hair and a piece tied around their waist, while the boys have tall pointed caps sprinkled with stars. Awakened by the lights and the singing, the parents arise and eat the breakfast served, thus ushering in the Christmas season.

As Lucia Day comes at the darkest time of year, the candles of the ministering Sankta Lucia portend and witness to the True Light-the birth of Christ. On the morning of the thirteenth of December, the strains of "Sankta Lucia" are heard everywhere in Scandinavia as the white-robed maiden comes out of the night with her burning crown of candles. In honor of her martyrdom, It has long been the custom to donate money on Lucia Day to institutions working for the blind.

Source, including traditional songs and recipes: http://www.angelfire.com/ne/elkhorn38/stlucia.html

The Legend of Sankta Lucia
Christmas in Sweden
Sankta Lucia: The Survival of a Nordic Sun Goddess

Christmas Television - Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 05, 2019 0
Christmas Television - Blackadder's Christmas Carol
This Christmas special, Blackadder's Christmas Carol, is from 1987 and stars a few names that are recognizable. Rowan Atkinson, best known for his Mr. Bean character. Hugh Laurie, best known for playing Dr. Gregory House on the TV series, House. And also Stephen Fry, who I know mainly from seeing him in V for Vendetta and Stephen Fry in America.

As for Blackadder's Christmas Carol, think of it as the reverse of A Christmas Carol. You can watch it below from archive.org. You can also leave comments/reviews at https://archive.org/details/bbcv4648

Blackadder's Christmas Carol is a one-off episode of Blackadder, a parody of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. It is set between Blackadder the Third (1987) and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989), and is narrated by Hugh Laurie. Produced by the BBC, it was first broadcast on BBC1 on 23 December 1988.

In addition to Blackadder's Christmas Carol you may also be interested in watching one of the many adaptations of A Christmas Carol and especially Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean.

Vintage Christmas TV Specials from the '60s, '70s and '80s

Tuesday, December 03, 2019 0
Vintage Christmas TV Specials from the '60s, '70s and '80s
These are a few of my favorite retro/vintage Christmas shows and specials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I remember watching the reruns of growing up. This post is inspired by the article on Click Americana, "100 vintage Christmas TV specials & holiday episodes you might remember from the ’70s & ’80s"

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The 1965 Christmas special starring the Peanuts gang. It's about the true meaning of Christmas, with Biblical elements. Specifically, Luke 2.8-14. In recent years, it has received some criticism for the segment about the birth of Jesus, the story of the Nativity. Some schools have also chosen to no longer show the Christmas special in classrooms.

But the apprehension about the Biblical element being included goes as far back to 1965 when the special was being made. One producer was hesitant about including it. Schultz practically had the convince them to keep it in. The whole, detailed story behind it can be read at How the Bible Almost Got "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Canceled Without that part of the special, and how it adds a depth that ties everything together, A Charlie Brown Christmas would have (more than likely) been forgotten long ago.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

First premiered on December 6th, 1964 and is the longest-running Christmas special. It's the one everyone has seen and is a must-watch every December. Though I also recommend watching the 1948 version
Click here to read the history of Rankin-Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Little Drummer Boy

Also produced by Rankin-Bass and premiered on December 19, 1968. It showed every Christmas season on television until the late 1980s and didn't air for a few years until some time in the 1990s. It also had a 1976 sequel, The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the Grinch special that people are most familiar with. It first premiered on December 18, 1966. On top of watching on television growing up, we'd also watch in school on the last day before Christmas break in the 90s,.

Frosty the Snowman

Premiered on December 7, 1969.

A Christmas Carol (1971 Cartoon)

Premiered on December 21, 1971. This one didn't air often when I was growing up and I haven't seen it in a long time. The two other memorable ones I would watch every year though was the 1951 version starring Alastair Simm and the good but really eerie (at least when to a younger me) the 1954 version with Fredric March and Basil Rathbone, which we had on a videotape bought from Ames (remember them?).  Of course, then there's the 1938 adaptation starring Reginald Owen.

And I cannot forget Mickey's Christmas Carol

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Premiered on December 8, 1974 (See also: Twas the Night Before Christmas from 1946)

The Year Without a Santa Claus

Premiered December 10, 1974

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Premiered December 10, 1976

One more, though it's not from the 1960s-1980s, is the 1936 Christmas cartoon Christmas Comes But Once a Year. Which we also had on one of those Christmas collection videotapes. The parallax animation and real objects included in the animations always stood out about the cartoon to me (and still does). Which they were creative and complicated effects back in 1936.

Here are a few Christmas commercials from the 1970s, 1980s. There are plenty of Christmas TV variety specials and Christmas cartoons from the 60s, 70s and 80s available on YouTube and streaming platforms

Restoring the Traditions and Meanings of Christmas

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 0
Restoring the Traditions and Meanings of Christmas
As hard as it may be to imagine, Christmas celebrations and observances had more meaning in the past in the United States. Even as recent as a decade ago. Before what we call this 'progressive' age. Progressing towards what? At one time, the Christmas season was more about connectedness and not about the materialistic aspect. Which, in turn, makes Christmas feel like a chore to so many. I would be lying if I said that most families try to stay close to traditions. To spend the day away from ordinary distractions and attentive to each other instead. Most of them don't even have traditions anymore (if they ever did).

Yes they, more often than not, hurry to open their gifts. Then they head off to do their own thing and pay each other little mind. They flip on the television or power on their smart devices and sink into those escapes. They act like Christmas is over after those few moments of opening gifts. Then they'll have a so-called special dinner in the evening and that's it. A few moments in the morning and nothing else feels special about the day. Christmas should be more than that.

The trend of materialism has been a problem for a long time in the United States. We all know that it is only getting worse. It is a trend that needs to be undone. It always leaves people feeling like Christmas is a chore rather than a joy. To change that, we do need to go back to our roots or to find a better way to observe the holiday.

For those of us in the USA we need this change the most. We need to celebrate Christmas the way past generations of our respective families did. To celebrate the way the first-generation immigrants of our families would have. Be it that the "first generation" was a few decades ago or over a century or more ago. If your ancestors didn't celebrate Christmas then research Christmas celebrations around the world and mix and match as you please to give Christmas Day a meaning. It doesn't have to be centered around money.  Because, for most of us, past generations of our families came to these shores with little or no money at all.

Most of all, don't let people make you feel like you're not allowed to celebrate or observe Christmas over politically correct/shaming notions either. You're allowed to be happy as the year winds down through New Year's Eve. You're allowed to celebrate the holiday without being shamed for it. In fact, all of December should be a celebration.

Here's the article that inspired this post.

Mixing Polish and American Christmas Traditions in the USA | Traveling Mom

Many immigrant families across America try to preserve traditions brought from their countries of origin. It is easier said than done, especially when children, first generation Americans, are born. They do not want to be different. Parents need to be creative to find a balance between their culture and needs of their children.

Regarding Christmas celebrations and customs around the world, you can check out the entry on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_traditions

It's best to go to the sources linked on Wikipedia to get the full, unfiltered picture of respective Christmas traditions around the world. From there you'll be able to dig deeper and find more about the Christmas traditions that you're exploring. Or even find out about traditions that you never even knew about.

The Blizzard of 77 -- One of New York State's Most Destructive Snowstorms

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 0
The Blizzard of 77 -- One of New York State's Most Destructive Snowstorms
Twenty-nine people died in the storm from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, 1977 the first snowstorm to warrant a federal disaster area declaration. Total damage reached $300 million. For 11 days, national news reports showed images of a city blanketed in snow up to the roofs of houses.

Blizzard of 77 Buffalo, New York postcard

When the blizzard began, it seemed like just another Friday morning snow flurry. But by 11:35 a.m., lightning flashed and the sky darkened. The wind shifted and began to howl. Soon, people couldn't see across the street.

"My reaction? Wow!" meteorologist Ed Reich said. "It was the most dramatic storm I ever saw." Surprisingly, the snowfall total for the storm was only 12 inches. What made the blizzard unique were the sustained winds, gusting up to 69 mph, which picked up the drifts piled high on frozen Lake Erie and dumped them in western New York and southern Ontario.

The winds were accompanied by Arctic cold temperatures, making it feel like minus 60 degrees outside. Whiteout conditions quickly trapped thousands of people at work, in cars and in homes. Some had to stay put for a day, others for the storm's duration. At least nine motorists froze to death in their stranded cars.

During this time WKBW Radio was the up-to-the minute source of emergency news for all Western New Yorkers. Not only did WKBW report school, office and factory closings but it was a major contributor of reports that cities, towns and even entire counties were closed and impassable due to blowing and drifting snow! The following audio clips were recorded during this event.

While listening to these recordings of the actual broadcasts, you may detect some anxiety in the announcer's voice!

Blizzard of 77 stop sign buried in snow

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20171105065010/http://www.wkbwradio.com/blizzard.htm

Unfortunately, the audio on that mirrored link cannot be played because the streaming audio files were never mirrored there.

But you can listen to them in this video by PhilaVideo on YouTube. It is well worth the listen.

Here's a TV Broadcast during the Blizzard of '77 from WBEN Channel 4:

A slideshow video from the mirrored website above:

Snow Depth Map of the Blizzard of 77 (skip to 1:22:24, pause, and fullscreen if needed):

A Magical Sound Made By The Earth - Singing Ice

Monday, November 11, 2019 0
A Magical Sound Made By The Earth - Singing Ice
Singing ice is somewhat common and occurs with ice on frozen ponds and lakes. It is otherwise known as acoustic dispersion and occurs in a few ways. Which includes skipping rocks across the surface of the ice, from taking a chance ice skating on ice that's still thin, and (as in this video) from the movement of the ice and the water beneath the ice. When you get to experience it, in person, it is an amazing sound. It is like a spiritual sound and a musical instrument of nature trying to speak with its own voice. Almost unearthly at times.

When I was young, we used to have a depression in our yard that would fill with water from autumn rains. When it would get cold enough to freeze I would skip rocks across the surface of the ice to hear the unique sound of the 'singing' ice. It was nothing as remarkable as what's heard in this video though. If you ever have the chance, I definitely recommend going out to an undisturbed, newly frozen pond and experiencing it for yourself by skipping rocks off the surface. It is an experience that is worth traveling or hiking to a pond or lake, in late fall or winter, to hear the sounds firsthand.

September 1865 Sighting of an Unidentified Object Falling From the Sky in Montana

Thursday, October 31, 2019 0
September 1865 Sighting of an Unidentified Object Falling From the Sky in Montana
Below is a report from an article from November 5, 1865, published in numerous newspapers across the nation in October and November of 1865. Newspapers which included The Daily Phoenix of Columbia, South Carolina, The Cincinnati Commercial, and the St. Louis Democrat. What it describes is an unidentified object that fell from the sky in mid-September of 1865, near Cadotte Pass, Montana. Essentially, a UFO.

A Stone Falls from the Sky, with Characters Engraved upon It.

Mr. James Lumley, an old Rocky Mountain trapper, who has been stopping at the Everett House for several days, makes a most remarkable statement to us, and one which, if authenticated, will produce the greatest excitement in the scientific world.
Mr. Lumley states that about the middle of last September, he was engaged in trapping in the mountains about seventy-five or one hundred miles above the Great Falls of the Upper Missouri, and in the neighborhood of what is known as Cadotte Pass. Just after sunset one evening, he beheld a bright luminous body in the heavens, which moved with great rapidity in an easterly direction. It was plainly visible for at least five seconds, when it suddenly separated into particles, resembling, as Mr. Lumley describes it, the bursting of a sky-rocket in the air. A few minutes later, he heard a heavy explosion, which jarred the earth very perceptibly, and this was shortly after followed by a rushing sound, like a tornado sweeping through the forest. A strong wind sprang up about the same time, but suddenly subsided. The air was also filled with a peculiar odor of a sulphurous character.
These incidents would have made a slight impression on the mind of Mr. Lumley, but for the fact that on the ensuing day he discovered, at the distance of about two miles from his camping place, that, as far as he could see in either direction a path had been cut through the forest, several rods wide-giant trees uprooted or broken off near the ground- the tops of hills shaved off and the earth plowed up in many places. Great and widespread havoc was everywhere visible. Following up this track of desolation, he soon ascertained the cause of it in the shape of an immense stone driven into the side of a mountain. An examination of this stone, or so much of it as was visible, showed that it was divided into compartments that in various places it was carved with curious hieroglyphics. More than this, Mr. Lumley also discovered fragments of a substance resembling glass, and here and there dark stains, as though caused by a liquid. He is confident that the hieroglyphics are the work of human hands, and that the stone itself, although but a fragment of an immense body, must have been used for some purpose by animated beings.
Strange as this story appears, Mr. Lumley relates it with so much sincerity that we are forced to accept it as true. It is evident that the stone which he discovered, was a fragment of the meteor which was visible in this section in September last. It will be remembered that it was seen in Leavenworth, Galena and in this city by Col. Bonneville. At Leavenworth it was seen to separate into particles or explode.
Astronomers have long held that it is probable that the heavenly bodies are inhabited -- even the comets -- and it may be that the meteors are also. Possibly, meteors could be used as a means of conveyance by the inhabitants of other planets, in exploring space, and it may be that hereafter some future Columbus, from Mercury or Uranus, may land on this planet by means of a meteoric conveyance, and take full possession thereof -- as did the Spanish navigators of the New World in 1492, and eventually drive what is known as the "human race" into a condition of the most abject servitude. It has always been a favorite theory with many that there must be a race superior to us, and this may at some future time be demonstrated in the manner we have indicated.

1864 UFO Crash...?

My Favorite Halloween Movies and TV Episodes

Thursday, October 10, 2019 0
My Favorite Halloween Movies and TV Episodes
Every year around Halloween I try to make time to watch a few films and tv episodes during the season. Not all of them are Halloween themed specifically but they're suited for this time of year. Some of these shows and films are more about nostalgia for me. As is the case with many of the reasons why people watch certain shows and movies throughout October. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Ernest Scared Stupid

Ernest P. Worrell was one of my favorite characters in movies when I was a child. This film is no different and I've seen it quite a few times. It's a good film for nostalgia's sake.

The Hollow (2004)

There are a lot of people who don't like this film because of who stars in it (Nick Carter). And this was before the accusations against him. Ignoring his presence in the film as much as you can, this movie is an okay retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Further down the article I will also be highlighting a much better film based on Washington Irving's story.

Casper (1995)

1995's Casper film, starring Christina Ricci, goes along great with the Casper cartoons. The cartoons, which were also a favorite of mine growing up. We had a few episodes of them on those VHS tapes that'd you get from Ames (remember them?) and Kmart. Anyways, about the Caspar movie, the story is really good and the acting is also, in my opinion. The fact that CG in a film, from the mid-90s, looks as good as it does is also a plus.

Disney's Scary Tales (1983)

I used to watch this Disney special every year, during the month of October, when I was younger. In fact, this one was just about a must to watch when I was a child. You can find a few other Disney Halloween specials listed on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scary_Tales

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

No list is complete without this classic. Another Halloween cartoon I would watch every year growing up.

Wait Till Helen Comes

This is a more recent movie but was a story that I read as a child. I'd only remembered the name of the book once advertisements for the film were being shown online. The story stuck in my mind from my childhood and the film isn't all that bad.

Trick 'r Treat

I only found out about this film because I was watching True Blood and was looking for other similarly-themed stuff that starred any of the people from the HBO show. Specifically Anna Paquin. Trick 'r Treat was the film that fit the bill. Sam is an excellent standout character and one that makes this film itself stand out from many Halloween-season films of recent years. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Last, but not least, is the 1980 movie, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", starring a young Jeff Goldblum who makes for the perfect Ichabod Crane. This adaptation of the Washington Irving story is much much better than The Hollow above. And it's far more atmospheric, partly owning to the age of the film and how it was filmed. Like The Hollow, it is also a made for tv film. I recommend watching this after watching The Hollow though. Maybe even on Halloween night if you have the time. The full version is currently available on YouTube.

I've probably forgotten quite a few of the greats for watching during October and during the Halloween season. So feel free to leave a comment about some of your Halloween tv and movie favorites.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, NYC

Saturday, September 14, 2019 0
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, NYC
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a reservoir that is no longer in use as a water supply. It's a massive body of water that covers over 100 acres and holds over a billion gallons of water. Water access to the reservoir is not permitted to the public and is completely gated in, making it a haven for waterfowl and turtles.

It was 'retired' back in 1993 after it was determined that it was vulnerable to contamination and was also made obsolete by superior methods of supplying the water supply for the city. The reservoir was still considered a part of the city's water supply, for emergency use during droughts, until 1999. 

The reservoir used to be called the Central Park Reservoir, but in 1994 it was renamed in honor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the former First Lady and fashion icon.

If you're looking for a place to go for a run or walk, the reservoir has got you covered. There's a 1.6-mile track that circles the entire thing, and it's super popular with joggers and walkers alike. It attracts thousands of walkers and joggers every day.  It serves as the primary water supply for the park's other ponds and lakes.

Other facts about the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir:

Construction on the reservoir began in 1858, and it was completed in 1862. Irish immigrants were the main workers working on the reservoir during those years of construction. The reservoir was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who were also responsible for the design of Central Park itself. The reservoir covers an area of 106 acres and has a maximum depth of 40 feet.

The reservoir was originally called the Croton Reservoir because it was fed by the Croton Aqueduct, which brought fresh water from the Croton River in Westchester County to New York City.

The reservoir has been featured in a bunch of movies and TV shows over the years, like "Sex and the City," "The Devil's Advocate," and "Law & Order." 

Some people have suggested turning the reservoir into a pool or recreational area, but there are concerns about water quality and safety. So for now, it's just a really cool spot to check out in the heart of Central Park.

Related: 131-Year-Old Reservoir Is Deemed Obsolete

The street view panorama below was taken during the January 2016 blizzard

Tulip Poplar Trees - Quick Facts and Pictures

Wednesday, September 04, 2019 0
Tulip Poplar Trees - Quick Facts and Pictures
The tulip poplar goes by a few names, including yellow poplar, tulip tree, saddle-leaf tree, and its scientific name, Liriodendron tulipifera. There is also a similar species in China and Vietnam that has the scientific name, Liriodendron chinense. The tulip poplar, related to the magnolia tree, is a hardwood tree native to the eastern regions of the United States, except for the Northwest United States. It also grows in a few regions of Ontario, Canada, including from the Southern shores of Lake Huron, the Northern shores of Lake Erie, and the Niagara Peninsula region.

Given the right conditions, a tulip poplar can grow 150 feet in height or taller. There are records of tulip poplars reaching upwards and above 190 feet in height. On average though, a tulip poplar will be anywhere from 70 to 100 feet in height. Being a quick growing tree, you'll have a good beginning of a shade tree within a few years. What's also good about tulip poplars is that they are long-living and can live for a couple hundred years.

As for the flowers of the tulip poplar, they won't appear until the tree is around fifteen years old. From then on, the flowers will develop in the spring in southern areas and in late spring in northern areas. The flowers are typically yellow but can also be a pale green. The tulip-shaped flowers of the tree are good for attracting bees and if provide an abundance of nectar for bees' production of poplar honey.

Read More:
Tulip Poplar Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tipsand-Planting-Tips

Tulip Poplar Seeds
Tulip Poplar Leaf in Autumn
Tulip Poplar Flower
Tulip Poplar Leaves

The Dirty Thirties - The Dust Bowl

Saturday, July 06, 2019 0
The Dirty Thirties - The Dust Bowl
As anyone who has lived through a tragedy knows, severe circumstances tend to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. This phenomenon can be seen in the history of the region which became known in the 1930s as the dust bowl. While the location of the dust bowl was not static during that trying decade, the term generally refers to the southern portion of the Great Plains. It includes, but is not limited to the northern Texas Panhandle, northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and the Oklahoma Panhandle. One historian describes the severity of life in this area during the 1930s this way:

"The history of the heartland of the dust bowl is a story of extremes. The depression drove farm prices to devastatingly low levels while the weather tormented the residents of the region. Severe depression and extremes in weather were accompanied by plagues of rodents and insects. Although the period is known for its dust storms, the era began with a flood." (Bonnifield pg.61)

Dust storm approaching Spearman, Texas - April 14, 1935 - See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Indeed in September of 1930 heavy rains descended on the area with devastating effects. Homes were wrecked, businesses destroyed, equipment washed away, and the decade known as the "dirty thirties" began on the Great Plains. Of all the destructive forces that would be endured by the plains people during the next ten years - tornadoes, hail storms, plagues of insects - the most inescapable and pervasively destructive force of all was the wind. Once fertile land which had fed the livestock, produced abundant gardens and paid the bills was dried and pummelled into a fine dust, swept up 40 feet into the air, and deposited on floors, in cupboards, on food, between bedclothes, and in every nook and cranny of life. In this way, the wind and sun robbed a people of their livelihood, wore down their resolve, and relentlessly imposed on their very sanity.

As the years of wind and drought wore on, the inhabitants, many whose families had settled the area in the 1800s, were helpless to rejuvenate their land. Instead, they were forced to stand by as livestock starved in the pasture, crops literally burned in the fields, and plans for the future were carried away in the wind with the topsoil. Savings, meant to send a son or daughter to college, or to build up a herd of cattle to support a growing family, dwindled away as year after year the harvest failed to come through.

One of the greatest tragedies of the time was the fact that as mortgages were called in one by one by banks, the government with its 'Resettlement Administration' stepped in to buy up land for pennies. As the government consequently changed the landscape; experimentally building work camps, damming water sources, and trying out different fire prevention methods, many long-time residents who owed nothing on their land were forced to move.

While it is true that farming methods of the time contributed to the extent of the dust storms and land erosion, that fact is only a part of the story. Another part of the story is told by the survivors whose families called the land home for decades. They tell of mismanaged government programs and homes and land destroyed by prairie fires set by inexperienced government workers in the name of progress.

In the end, people who had relied on nature for their livelihood and who were all too familiar with the whims of weather and cycles of abundance and scarcity met the challenge in the way they had met so many before - with perseverance and most of all with hope. Hope for a better time next year. Called "America's Next Year People", these resilient families fought for their lives against unbelievable forces. They hung wet sheets on walls and ceilings to catch the dust. They ate meals under tablecloths to cut down on the amount of dirt ingested. After the worst storms, they literally shoveled the dirt from their rooms. And in the midst of the drought, they gathered tumbleweeds and soapweed to feed the livestock.

In her book, Dust Bowl Diary, Anne Marie Low describes the constant struggle to keep livestock alive, "Teaching a calf to drink from a bucket is a messy job. Nature tells him nourishment comes from above, like manna from Heaven." (Low pg.54)

Like the calf, the plains people were betrayed by the very lessons they had learned from nature. Dry spells are followed by wet spells, and rain eventually does fall, or so they thought. Lured to the area decades before with promises of abundance and government offers of bargain land, now they watched in what must have been awful amazement as nature turned its back.

In 1932 as the trials were just beginning, Anne Low writes of the beauty of her homeland:

"This evening I picked chokecherries in the Big Pasture, starting home just at sunset. Ducks were feeding quietly along the river. Behind me, the hills were turning lavender. In front of me, the fields were a golden mist. My country." (Low pg. 69)

Who could imagine the good times would not return? Just two years later she writes, "This country doesn't look pretty anymore; it is too barren. I'm herding the milk cows on what is left of the grain fields. We replanted the corn and garden...If it doesn't rain, the corn is out of luck." (Low pg. 99)

The story of the dust bowl is a complex story of failure and hope, furious weather and furious human effort, and most of all it is a story of the unending human capacity for faith in a better tomorrow.

Map of regions that were affected by the Dust Bowl.

Dust Bowl Era Photos Prints on ebay


Works Cited:

Bonnifield, Paul. The Dust Bowl: Men, Dirt, and Depression (Albequerque 1979)Low, Anne Marie. Dust Bowl Diary (Nebraska 1984)

Article mirrored from: 

Mass Mortality Events, Strandings of 260+ Dolphins Since February Along Gulf Coast

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 0
Mass Mortality Events, Strandings of 260+ Dolphins Since February Along Gulf Coast
Mass deaths of dolphins have occurred along the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico. Not just any region though. The main regions where the dolphins have been stranded and died are areas that were affected the most by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Other factors, including an excess of freshwater from the Mississippi, are also said to have contributed to the event.

Detailed coverage: Stranding of 261 dolphins, possibly linked to high Mississippi River, declared ‘unusual mortality event’ - NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune

The stranding of more than 261 bottlenose dolphins along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle since Feb. 1, with 98 percent of the dolphins being found dead, prompted NOAA Fisheries to declare an unusual mortality event on Friday.

More regarding the Unusual Mortality Event, declared by the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service - Southeast Region: https://wwl.radio.com/articles/more-260-dead-dolphins-found-along-gulf-coast

This declaration allows an investigative team to look into the high number of dolphin deaths stretching from Louisiana through the Florida panhandle.

Dr. Terri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries Coordinator, has issued a statement informing the public what to do if they come into contact with any stranded mammals.

There's a number of factors that well be looking at as part of this investigation, but its too early at this point to say what may be causing the mortalities, said Dr. Erin Fougeres with NOAA Fisheries Southeast Region.

The area where the dolphins have shown an increase of deaths includes the area where the Deepwater Horizon Explosion impacted the gulf in 2010.

Camping Light Bulbs for Tents and Campsites

Monday, June 03, 2019 0
Camping Light Bulbs for Tents and Campsites
For those of us who enjoy camping seasonally, there's only a minimal amount of 'gear' that we need for our temporary outings with family and/or friends. Besides the obvious, tents, sleeping bags, food and drinks, matches, and such, portable lighting is also a convenient item to have. Even when you're camping in your backyard. There are lanterns, light strings, flashlights and the like.

But one of the most useful camp lighting, besides a flashlight, are camping light bulbs. Being LED bulbs, most brands do last a good while running off of battery power. Using new batteries, the charge from the batteries can keep the LED bulbs powered for at least a few hours but usually not overnight. In addition to being able to hang these bulbs within a tent or over a campsite, you can also take them with you when needed in the dark.

Of course, what's important is getting the best light for your money. You wouldn't want to purchase camping light bulb only to find out it doesn't last as long as you thought it off of one charge or, even worse, doesn't work at all. Besides testing the bulb, and having additional batteries instead of included manufacturer batteries, it's good to have a quality item with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Below are some of the best camping light bulbs.

The Best Camping Light Bulb

These lightweight bulbs are a little bigger than most people's palms but they're plenty bright for your needs. They're also durable enough to withstand an accidental drop. Especially when compared to regular glass bulbs. Of course, being LED bulbs, they definitely last longer than old incandescent flashlights and incandescent lanterns. While these bulbs aren't super bright, and not able to light up a large area, they will light up a tent or the immediate area of a camp site. Each bulb has three modes: high, low, and strobe. 

As for placing the bulbs in a convenient place you can hang the bulbs, using the d-clip attached to the base of each individual bulb, in the center of your tent, near the back or front of a tent, on a branch, or tied off with clothesline rope or fishing line if needed. Included in each pack are four individual LED bulbs and three AAA alkaline batteries for each bulb. For those who want more convenience, it's best to also get rechargeable batteries for these bulbs. These bulbs are water-resistant but you should avoid dropping them in water or exposing them to heavy rains since it will most likely damage them. 

• Bright, soft lighting for illuminating your tent or anywhere you need the light.

• Lightweight bulb that can be placed nearly anywhere.

• Very portable and durable enough for regular use.

• Can last for up to ten hours – powered by three AAA alkaline batteries.

• Also works with rechargeable batteries. Note: the lighting may not last as long as when using alkaline batteries but rechargeable batteries may be more convenient in some situations.

• 3 AAA Batteries not included.

Similar brands of LED camping light bulbs:
Follow the links to learn more about the bulbs, including questions by customers and customer reviews.

Myths about Osceola of the Seminole

Monday, May 27, 2019 0
Myths about Osceola of the Seminole

Osceola, the Man and the Myths

The most famous painting of Osceola by George Catlin. 
George Catlin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the last few years of doing the educational programs and living history, I have been trying to put to rest some of the myths surrounding our favorite Seminole, Osceola. Problem is, there has been so much written about him from the very beginning that is just not true. Other people read these things, and not knowing any better, copy them down, and the myths are perpetuated. Without doing any further study, people just don't know any better. So what I will do here is try and expose some of these widely believed falsehoods. Keep in mind that even some of these are debatable, and you may have a different opinion.

If looking for facts, avoid novels that are nothing more than historical fiction. Even before he died, newspapers were writing fictional accounts of Osceola. The problem is that many people read these fictional accounts and believe them as fact.

The absolute worst book that you should avoid is "War Chief of the Seminoles" by May McNeer. Her book claims to be from true stories in her family history, but 80 percent of it can be easily proved false by historical documentation. It is a children's book, and easy to read. Problem is that people read this book and assume it is true without checking other historical sources. McNeer is descended from Indian Agent Wiley Thompson, who we know was made Indian agent for the single purpose of removing the Seminoles from Florida. Thompson treated the Seminoles very badly and told them that they were nothing more than ignorant children. When a white man would have a grievance against an Indian, Thompson would usually side with the white man even when the evidence favored the Indian. Osceola finally executed Thompson for revenge of Thompson's bad treatment of Osceola and the Seminoles.

False: Osceola was born in Georgia near the Chattahoochee River.
What the Facts Show: Osceola was born of the Upper Creek Town of Tallassee, in southeast Alabama, in 1804. A prominent early Alabama statesman, Thomas Woodward, was himself part Creek, and intimately knew many of the Creek families. Woodward described the exact location Osceola was born. Osceola was of a band started by James McQueen. McQueen jumped ship in Charleston in the late 1690s and became a well-respected trader among the Creeks, and lived to be 128 years old. McQueen had many children, and was practically the Father Abraham of the Creeks, known as "the soft-shelled turtle."

False: Osceola's name means "Rising Sun."
What the Facts Show: The correct name would be Asi-Yaholo. It is from the words Asi, referring to the Black Drink, and Yaholo, as one who sings out. So it roughly translates to "Black Drink Singer." Yaholo is a title. Many of the Seminole names are their title in society. It is not uncommon for Creeks and Seminoles to have four different names. A title, a personal name, a name as a child, and a private name. Thomas Woodward calls Osceola, "Ussa Yoholo." At the same time, Woodward also mentions a warrior named "Hossa Yoholo," who was with Peter McQueen (son of James McQueen who became leader of the band after his father.) Both Peter McQueen and Hossa Yoholo fought against Jackson. Hossa Yoholo was known as "Singing Sun," and also had a father named Powell, but would have been about 15 or 20 years older than Osceola. The Muskogee word for sun is HvsE (Hus-E'), and the word for "Sun Rise" is Hvseaossv (Hus'-E-aos'-suh.) It is easy to see where the confusion has come from. To complicate things even more, I have found reference to four different people named William Powell who lived during that time. One is buried in the national military cemetery at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

Asseola, A Seminole Leader. (11088226445)
Osceola from the McKenney-Hall prints.
SMU Central University Libraries [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
False: An Englishman named Powell was Osceola's father.
What the Facts Show: This is probably the most debatable of my points on this page. It is well accepted that Osceola was of mixed English and Creek race. But how much of each different ancestry is debatable. Lt. M.M. Cohen wrote in 1836 that Osceola had a Creek Indian father who died soon after Osceola's birth and that William Powell married Osceola's mother soon after. Many claimed that Osceola did not speak English, further proving that he was not Powell's biological son. (But that is a point that is debatable as well.) George Catlin who painted Osceola quoted him as claiming that, "No foreign blood runs in my veins; I am a pure-blood Muscogee." Genetic tests done on what is thought to be Osceola's hair did not answer the question either but pointed to someone of mixed race. Whoever Osceola was, from Indian, white, or even black ancestry, he was 100 percent Seminole.

False: Osceola was a chief.
What the Facts Show: He was not a hereditary chief. He led by his own charisma, bravery in battle, and outspoken views against removal. He commanded at most 100 warriors. Many officers have stated that Osceola only led a small group. In Seminole society, Osceola was a war leader, not a political leader. Much like a general or sheriff. He gained recognition during the 1834 treaty talks as having great influence over Chief Micanopy. The Florida Seminoles and Miccosukees credit Medicineman Sam Jones (Abiaka) for carrying the cause against removal. There was no one "Head Chief" of the Indians in Florida. In fact, the largest single faction of Seminoles at the beginning of the war fled to Fort Brooke and accepted removal over fighting.

False: Osceola fought against Andrew Jackson.
What the Facts Show: Jackson's major campaign against the Creeks and Seminoles were in 1813, 1814, and 1818. Osceola would have been too young to be a warrior at this time. There is a possibility that Osceola and the people of his village did meet or were briefly captured by Jackson in 1814 and 1818. Most likely people confuse Osceola with Hossa Yoholo, who also had a father named Powell and fought with Peter McQueen.

False: Osceola's Black wife was captured by a slave hunter.
What the Facts Show: There is no written eyewitness account of this ever happening. Indian Agent Wiley Thompson makes no mention of it in his letters. If it did happen, I am sure the war would have started much earlier. The story became popular long after Osceola's death when it appeared in a questionable abolitionist pamphlet. Osceola himself said that he had no slaves. And at Osceola's capture, the question posed to him is "Why have you not surrendered any escaped slaves?" There was another Indian, Econchatti Micco in north Florida, who did have a wife captured by slave hunters, and whom had a son known as Oceola Nikkanochee.

Sketch of Osceola from Dr. Andrew Welch's 1841 book: http://www.johnhorse.com/highlights/keyimgs/details/05.8_r.htm

False: Osceola thrust his knife in a treaty.
What the Facts Show: This is our favorite story, but even this might not have happened. After searching through many eyewitness accounts and government documents, I find nobody who says this ever happened. Indian Agent Wiley Thompson makes no mention of it, and he detailed much of what happened at the talks. It is only logical that he would have written about it since he makes a big fuss over the Seminoles leaders who did not even approach the table to sign the treaty. The closest thing we have to an eyewitness account is an anonymous letter written to a newspaper, which says Osceola made threatening looks and flashed his knife outside the window of the building during the talks. Those who first make mention of the knife in the treaty are those who were not even in Florida during the time. Dr. Andrew Welch first mentions it in his 1841 romantically written book, but his book is full of historical errors. There is a sketch in the book of the event, but this was printed in England. John Sprague mentions it in a footnote in his 1848, making it look like he was not sure of the incident. A book written in 1931 has a copy of what is claimed to be a copy of the treaty, but on closer examination, it is only a small rip and not something made by a knife being thrust strongly into the paper. One thing we can conclude is that this story is a symbol of the resistance and struggle to stay in Florida. It is an image that represents an ideal. It is a story much like George Washington and the cherry tree, which is well loved but does not have any historical basis. Even now knowing this, it is still one of our favorite stories.

False: While in captivity, Osceola went to Washington and New York. 
What the Facts Show: This is one of the most ridiculous stories that I have heard. Osceola never traveled further north than Charleston, South Carolina.

False: Osceola attended theater productions while in St. Augustine or Charleston, S.C.
What the Facts Show: There is no record of this. Osceola was captured in October 1837. He was ill from the time of his capture and only got worse until he died. He was too ill to escape from the fort in St. Augustine when 20 Seminoles escaped in November. At the end of December around New Year's Day, the prisoners in St. Augustine were moved to Fort Moultrie, outside Charleston, South Carolina. Osceola was very ill at this time and died in late January 1838.

Seizure of Osceola
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Marker at site of Osceola's capture
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Read more archived articles at http://web.archive.org/web/20010720080931/http://www.geocities.com:80/CollegePark/Stadium/1528/. Especially under the section: "Stray articles not in the tour book".

Sources Used (good and bad ones):
The Complete Story of Osceola, a reprint by the St. Augustine Historical Society of the Florida Historical Quarterly Osceola Double Issue, Vol. XXXIII, Jan.-Apr. 1955, No. 3 & 4.
Seminole Hostilities, U.S. House Doc. No. 271, 24th Congress, 1st Session, June 3, 1836.
Woodward's Reminiscences by Thomas S. Woodward, 1859.
Osceola's Legacy by Patricia R. Wickman, 1991.
Army and Navy Chronicles, journal published 1835-1842.
New American State Papers, Military Affairs, 1979, 19 Vol. Set.
New American State Papers, Indian Affairs, 1972, 13 Vol. Set.
Notices of Florida and the Campaigns, by M.M. Cohen, 1836.
The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War by John T. Sprague, 1848.
A Narrative of the Early Days and Remembrances of Oceola Nikkanochee, Prince of Econchatti by Andrew Welch, 1841.
The Exiles of Florida by Joshua Giddings, 1858.
Osceola; Florida's Seminole War Chieftain by Minnie Moore-Wilson, 1931.
War Chief of the Seminoles by May McNeer, 1954.

Paeonia Tenuifolia - Intense Crimson Fernleaf Peony

Sunday, April 14, 2019 0
Paeonia Tenuifolia - Intense Crimson Fernleaf Peony
Paeonia tenuifolia is a perennial flower that is better known as the fern leaf peony. This variety of peony has a crimson color to it that is similar to what you'd see with heirloom red roses. It is a plant that will typically be one to two feet tall early in the growing season. Paeonia tenuifolia blooms earlier than other varieties of peonies and can flower all summer, into autumn, but will sometimes go dormant in mid-summer.

Paeonia tenuifolia can be grown in zones 4 through 7 and will begin blooming in June.

Paeonia tenuifolia prg1
Flower Paeonia tenuifolia in Prague botanic garden, Czech Republic - Karelj [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Paeonia tenuifolia is the perfect ornamental flower

Paeonia tenuifolia has a few flowers that are excellent for growing as a companion. These flowers include similarly intense colored rose varieties and colors (per your choice), Jackman's Clematis, Carnations, and Chrysanthemums. Even other Paeonia tenuifolia, such as the pink shades of Rosea and Rosea Plena, are good too The choice is up to you though. Many perennials that enjoy full sun to partial shade, like the fern leaf peony does, make for a great companion flower.

Paeonia tenuifolia care

In early spring you should start watering the flowers if there isn't enough rainfall to do the watering for you. In late spring it's best to remove flower heads that are dead or look like they are dying. You should also remove fallen petals and flower heads from around the flowering plant. In the summer, it is also best to keep the flowers watered if need be.

When the flower has died back in the fall it is best to cut back the foliage of the plant and remove from the flower bed. This is to prevent pests from surviving over the winter. It may sound extreme but you should cut them back to ground level.

Very useful, detailed pages about Paeonia tenuifolia can be found at http://www.peonies.org/P_tenuifolia.html and https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62914/

Other varieties of peonies can be seen at these pages:

Activated Bamboo Charcoal Natural Air Purifier

Sunday, March 24, 2019 0
Activated Bamboo Charcoal Natural Air Purifier
Activated bamboo charcoal has been around for a long time but an air purifier made from charcoal has been becoming more popular in use in recent times. The activated bamboo charcoal purifier below has 200 grams of activated bamboo charcoal per bag. There are 5 bags per order available at a very affordable price when each bag can last up to two years when following the instructions. Each bag has a durable metal grommet in the corner. So you'll be able to place them on a hook or hang them the deodorizing bag anywhere you need it.

The charcoal is useful for absorbing odors, including smoke, from enclosed places. Which includes cars, closets, pantries, bathrooms, laundry rooms, even your refrigerator. They're good for anywhere that builds up moisture and odors. The activated bamboo charcoal could also prevent the growth of mold by preventing an abundance of moisture. They can also help in lowering or even wiping out allergens within your home.

activated bamboo charcoal
Activated bamboo charcoal
The best thing about activated bamboo charcoal, compared to chemical air fresheners, is that it is non-toxic. Also, chemical air fresheners are horrible for the environment and for you and your pets' respiratory systems over the long term. Chemical air fresheners also contain toxic ingredients and most people don't even recycle the containers. Which means that the containers end up at landfills, harming the environment. These activated bamboo charcoal bags are environmentally-friendly and non-toxic.

With bamboo charcoal, you can be sure that there won't be any toxic ingredients in them. They're even safe to use in contact with clothes or near your pets. They can be used near or in laundry hampers. They can be used in luggage, gym bags, book bags, reusable grocery bags, near litter boxes, and elsewhere.

To keep your activated bamboo charcoal working at its best, and allowing it to keep absorbing odors and moisture, you'll have 'revitalize' them in sunlight for two hours every month. This is so that any small amount of moisture that may be in the bag is dried out by the sun. Doing this will give you the maximum time of use of the freshener bags, for up two years.

When the activated bamboo charcoal is no longer viable, you can cut open the bags and use the charcoal in your garden. The charcoal will help improve soil health and plant growth in your garden.

Sequoyah Caverns - Valley Head, Alabama

Monday, March 18, 2019 0
Sequoyah Caverns - Valley Head, Alabama
Sequoyah Caverns and Ellis Homestead, closed since 2013, was a popular destination in DeKalb County, Alabama. The cave was named for Sequoyah in 1963. There is no evidence that he visited the caves but they were home to some of the Creek and Cherokee since archaeological evidence was found in the caves beginning in the 1840s. Some of these artifacts were on display in the main building.

They held seasonal events such as Nativity performances called Winter of Glory from December 21st-24th. Other events they held included Fall into the Past, a Civil War re-enactment that took place in November, a Spring Festival, and Summer Blast on the 4th of July, with fireworks and bluegrass music.

Better descriptions of the events that they held:

Fall into the Past
Relive history at our spectacular Civil War
re-enactments that take place for several days every November.

Winter of Glory
Join us for our live nativity scene event December 21st through the 24th every year.

Spring Festival
Come witness the powerful world of tractors, engines & machinery every Spring. Also, enjoy great music & crafts.

Summer Blast 
Let the excitement of fireworks & bluegrass music warm your soul every 4th of July.

History of the Sequoyah Caverns and the Ellis Homestead

James Ellis moved his family to Valley Head, Alabama from Tennessee back in 1841. He and his family built a log cabin and later a frame house where the campground is today. The cabin was 
later moved and used for another home 
on the farm.

In these pioneer days, the Ellis Family had to be tough and worked hard to cut farmland out of a wilderness. This hard work allowed the family to accumulate hundreds of acres of land, including what is today Sequoyah Caverns.

During The War Between the States, the Ellis family was divided, just like the nation itself.  James, a 2nd Lt. in the Union army, died from a camp disease in 1863. He is buried at the Chickamauga Battlefield. Four of his sons also served in the war. Three of his sons fought for the Union and one fought for the Confederacy. Only two of the sons survived the war. Mrs. Ellis had one son, Abner, who was too young to fight. 

Although times were hard after the war, the farm began to prosper again. By the turn of the century, the Ellis family was relatively well off. They were growing corn, cotton, wheat, and oats, making sorghum, and raising sheep and cattle.

Today, the direct descendants of James Ellis still live here welcoming visitors from all over the world who come to explore the Ellis Homestead and see Sequoyah Caverns.

Original Settler: James Ellis, 
Born 1806, moved here in 1841, died 1863

Son: Abner Jackson Ellis, 
Born here 1847-1900

Granddaughter: Harriet Saphronia Ellis, 
Lived here 1870-1935, married John Humble

Great Granddaughter: Abbie Jane Humble, 
Lived here 1904-1977, married Roy Lee Jones

G. Great Grandson: John David Jones, 
1933- Present, Owner of the farm, working with 
his son, Roy

G.G. Great Grandson: Roy Lee Jones II, 
1964- Present Running day-to-day operations

G.G.G. Great Granddaughter: Rebecca Jones, 
1989- Works today as a tour guide

G.G.G. Great Grandson: John Paul Jones, 
1991- Works today on the farm

Katelyn Nicole Davis ? Forever Missed