Sunday, February 28, 2016

Leap Year

February has 29 days this year, which means that spring is one day further away. The moon doesn't rotate to our calendar's specifications, it takes about four minutes longer than 24 hours so every four years an extra day is inserted in the calendar to bring man made and nature created into balance for at least four minutes.
   Not bad, Leap Years also adds an extra Sunday to the calendar so we have 53 Sundays instead of 52 to sit around and codger up vitally important things to write about that will add enlightment to the world and maybe a chuckle or two. Enjoy the extra day of rest thanks to a slow moon that can't keep up with us.
   Years that can be divided evenly by four are leap years except turn of the century years, which must be divided evenly by 400, hence 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 will not be. It's a shock to realize that a few who are born this year may be around to celebrate the turn of the next century.

   Do you remember Sadie Hawkin's events from your high school days? Sadie was a character from the Dogpatch cartoon strip drawn by the late Al Capp. She couldn't get a man to ask her out so she'd ask them. Let me tell you about her multiple greats-grandmother. This is the way the Irish tell it.
   "St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women could not propose marriage, so he permitted them to have this privilege on one day in one year out of every four. When St. Bridget proposed to him, however, he turned her down and gave her a silk gown as a consolation present. Until the 19th century in Britian, a man was obliged to give a silk gown to any lady whose marriage proposal he refused in Leap Year."
   From a woman's point-of-view, I'd say the custom would be an excellent way to acquire a decent wardrobe. Nash put in that the handsome, popular guys had better have deep pockets to afford many refusals.
   That's it you all, when you run out of scientific information to say about Leap Year the dubious history will fill the space.
   Thanks to Kay & Marshall Lee, The Illuminated Book of Days, illustrated by Kate Greenway, c. 1979, p. 213 for the quote as to where a girl asking the guy on Leap Year originated.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Color in the Kitchen

    The country was staggering it's way out of the Great Depression in the late 1930s. There is no other way to describe the recovery, it was uneven and spotty depending on where you lived and your circumstances. Our parents, grandparents and in many cases great-grandparents lived through rough times.
   Frugal rural and small town housewives managed to keep food on the table from their gardens, orchards, fields, livestock, and woodlands, but it was a constant struggle against uncompromising  nature with floods, droughts, and tornadoes to add to the economic collapse of the period.
   The Homer Laughlin Company of Newel, West Virginia in response to a growing trend from the buying public for color in their lives introduced a new line of kitchen and tableware. For the first time a talc body with their four carefully selected brilliant colors (red, blue, green, and yellow) were encased in a semi-glaze to the delight of American housewives.
   In January of 1936 Fiesta was born. It wasn't until late in 1936 that a rich ivory was added to the line. The original assortment of mix and match pieces included 54 items.
   Color had entered the kitchen were women spent most of their lives. Maybe just one treasured platter, but it was a spot of color especially when winter skies were dull and grey. Fiesta remains today - 80 years later a highly cherished collectible that is an overture to a lifestyle long gone. It is not safe for use in the microwave, but the dishwasher is kind to Fiesta, while the companion Kitchen Kraft line does work in the oven.
   Rapidly, on the heels of the success of Fiesta, HLC introduced  their Harlequin line with more colors. It was lighter in weight and less expensive, but retained Art Deco shapes in the cups, teapot, and cream soup bowls. It was sold through the F.W. Woolworth Co. Stores we refereed to as "dime stores." Harlequin remained in production through the early 1970s.
   Another colored line was Riviera that was produced in four colors. Red and light green using Fiesta colors and blue and yellow from the Harlequin line. Marketed in 1938 and sold only by the Murphy Co. If you take the ivory from an earlier Century line it is possible to collected Riviera in five colors. Production of this line ceased in 1950 and is harder for the collector to find.
  The photo shows some of my Riviera collection with a few pieces of the Hacienda decal that was added to Century shapes. The cream and green milk jug is over 100 years old, HLC made in 1912 and marked on the bottom.
   My sister was the Fiesta collector and at her death her extensive collection made a special trip to Texas to the home of a nephew who'd asked for the set when he first started housekeeping. Riviera is my collectible, but the cabinets do contain items of Fiesta and Harlequin in the proper colors to add sparkle to a dreary winter kitchen.
   It doesn't matter how professionally employed or community busy a woman is today she still finds herself spending time in the kitchen and loves a bit of color to brighten her day.
   Holiday splendor is a Fiesta punch set using Medium Green (1950 color) mugs with a 14 inch platter and a red footed salad bowl. It took over 35 years to assemble this set.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Star Theater

   Main Street in Russell Springs, KY is home to a beautiful Art Deco styled building. Construction began in May of 1949 and it opened to the public as a movie house on February 28, 1950. It will celebrate its sixty-sixth birthday with the final performance of this season's Beauty and the Beast. The venerable theater served the public as a movie house for three decades. Like many entertainment centers across the county it fell on hard times with the advent of television and expansions in the industry.
   The Star as a movie theater closed in the 1970s and became the home to a number of small businesses over the intervening years until the 1990s. At that time with a gift from a benefactor the Star was purchased and renovated to near its original construction. The Star reopened in 1994 as a playhouse. We were in the first audiences and have managed to make most of the shows for the past twenty-two years.
   It is managed, maintained, and used as show place for live productions sponsored by the Russell County Arts Council. The selections for staging at the Star reflect the values of the community.
   Citizens volunteer hundreds of hours to a production. It takes about six weeks of labor to construct the sets, learn the parts of a play, block the movements of actors (at times with large casts) to their proper places on stage, provide the costumes and props for each cast member, adjust the lightening and sound, and, oh yes, make sure the concession stand is fully stocked. Their's is truly a labor of love. The quality of their work is equal to any small house in the area and they have attracted supporters from surrounding communities.
   It would be impossible for the Star to continue to exist without the generous financial support of patrons, the business community, and other organizations within the county. A big ticket item for quality plays is the royalties that must be paid for the privilege of staging a public performance of a play. This is especially true for the spectacular Broadway musicals.
   Join us as we sit stage left on the front row on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy Beauty and the Beast. It is a show for the entire family. Live theater is a long standing Kentucky tradition, the first advertised performances were is 1790, two years before Kentucky became a state.
   Who knows you might even feel the presence of one of the resident ghosts that Roberta and Lonnie Brown discuss in their book, Haunted Holidays.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


   Quilting; the layering of several fabrics together and then stitching them together with patterns or blocks is an ancient art. Quilted vests and shoulder pads were worn by knights under their amour as a kind of "shock absorber." They protected the wearer from chaffing and also served as light weight body protection under chain mail. The Chinese have long used quilted garments to provide body warmth where heating is limited.
   Prior to the Civil War, quilts were used as signals on the Underground Railroad to alert runaway slaves as to the safety of a stop or the need to seek refuge in another location. The various patterns were codes, one such is the pattern known as the Arkansas Traveler.
  Quilting is a winter time activity, reserved for when outdoor activities are limited. Ours was a frugal nation whose citizens saved scraps and worn out garments to be remade into bed coverings.
   Fabrics for clothing was rare and precious. The process of producing cloth was tedious, labor and time consuming, which during the period of settlement and development was mostly done by hand in the home by the women and children. A new suit of clothes or a dress came after much work was expended to produce the required fabric, hence the custom of saving any available leftovers for future use.
   Quilting frames were often kept near the ceiling and lowered by pulleys when relatives and friends gather for a quilting session. Many hands made the work go faster, but it was also a time of fellowship and gossip as they took thousands of tiny stitches to piece and produce a new quilt.
  Today when we wander through a museum or a quilt show we marvel at the fine handwork and wonder why the women didn't go half-blind with their precise stitching when working in dimly lit rooms.
   We see the special quilts that were made for show or bedspreads, The everyday ones did not survive as the old fabrics wore away through long usage. During WWII I helped my mother take a threadbare Lone Star and cover it with a new bolt fabric. We then pulled heavy threads through the layers and tied them to make a new quilt with the old one serving as batting.
   The pride and joy of my quilt collection is one I made myself. The Grandmother's Flower Garden is made from various wool craps when short skirts first made the fashion scene and we cut off about eight inches of our dowdy winter skirts.
  I treasure the Fans that my Grandmother Black made for me, which has one of the fans upside down illustrating another quilting tradition. There is always a purposeful mistake in a proper quilt, because only God is perfect.
   Many modern quilters carry on the ancient tradition. I remember one patron who came to the library to get a selection of audio books, which she listened to while she created her beautiful work.
   To me quilts were made to be used on beds or maybe you took a very old one out on a picnic. I'm not sure I've adjusted to seeing them used as wall hangings or tablecloths. But our ancestors created a world of fine art which has become the icon of the frontier and rural America with their many and varied patterns of patchwork quilts.
   Quilts are like good friends, they keep you warm and age with you.