Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Back in WashPA

We are back in WashPA for our annual stay to see friends and family and to get our doctor and dentist check ups. Our get-togethers are usually at the local restaurants we like to support while we are here. We have been joining the retired teachers lunch bunch ever Wednesday and checking out the local music scene. I have failed to get pictures of most of these gatherings, but we are here for three months so I have time to get a shot of everyone.  
We sure were happy to see this sign as the problems with Opus continued on our trip from New York. We have another appointment at the local Cummins dealer, the fifth different repair place, and hopefully they will find the solution to the problem.
We got our usual spot at Pine Cove right by the woods, so we are entertained by the wildlife quite often. The deer are cute but also very destructive, eating people's shrubs and causing many automobile accidents. Between Nanc and I we have hit four. There are many bunnies this year and they seem like they are often playing with the deer.  
We got a message that Richard and Valerie were going to Pittsburgh to check on his elderly aunt. They stopped for a light brunch so we had a chance to get caught up with what they have been doing since we last saw them this spring in Baton Rouge. Seeing friends on the road is the best.
We have been going to the Washington Jazz Society's Sunday brunch at The Presidents Pub. We got to hear guitarist Dan Baker as a soloist rather than with his regular group. If you like music don't miss a chance to hear Dan.
After the jazz brunch we checked out some of the cars at the car show on Main Street. Unfortunately, most of the cars were gone by the time we got there.
How about this beautiful 1930 Ford Model A. We always like going to car shows to check out how people restore these old wonders. 
In all our years living here we had never been to the Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania's oldest professional summer stock theater. Each year from May to October they have a number of plays. This year is their 79th season of great summer entertainment.
We had great front row seats for the performance of Million Dollar Quartet. The play is based on a true story, the gathering of four famous musicians at the recording studios of Sam Phillip's Sun Records in Memphis on December 4, 1956.
Those four performers were Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Here are a few of the songs they recorded that night that were performed in the play; Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, Great Balls of Fire, Hound Dog, Folsom Prison Blues, Sixteen Tons and See You Later Alligator. If you love this music don't miss a chance to see Million Dollar Quartet.  The show was incredible!
Tim, Jim, Mike, Di, Sherri, Georgie and Nanc waiting for an audition at Sun Records. The music had us all rockin to those old tunes. It was a fun day with fun people and fantastic music and Georgie was lucky enough to get a scarf from Elvis!!!
Another Sunday and another jazz brunch. This week it was Mark Strickland on guitar. If you like jazz and happen to be in the Washington area, we recommend a stop at the Presidents Pub.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Vanderbilt Mansion

We stayed in New York for an extra day after the HOP to tour two National Park Service sites in Hyde Park, since we don't know when we will be back in this part of the country.
Our first stop was the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, her home Val-Kill. Eleanor was born in 1884 in New York. Her early life was filled with tragedy, her mother dying in 1892, her brother in 1893 and her father in 1894. At her wedding in 1905 where she married her distant cousin Franklin, she was given away by the POTUS, her Uncle Teddy. There main home was Springwood in Hyde Park that I covered in the last post.
Val-Kill was built 1924-26 from a design done by FDR. In the late 20's, along with her friends Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerson, they turned the home into an industrial center where local farmers made furniture and forged pewter items during the slack season on the farms. After FDR contracted polio, she along with Cook and Dickerson supported him in his return to politics. For her entire adult life Eleanor was an activist supporting the League of Nations and the World Court after WWI, joining the Urban League and NAACP in 1934 and resigning from the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939 when the group would not allow African American opera singer Marion Anderson perform in their hall. After that, Eleanor and FDR arranged for Marion to perform at the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people.
   After Val-Kill Industries failed in 1936, the building was converted into a twenty room cottage. Eleanor's secretary Malvina Thompson lived in this part of the home until she died in 1953. It was then made into an office for Eleanor. Until FDR died in 1945 Eleanor stayed here when he was not at Springwood. After his death, Springwood was turned over to the National Park Service and she lived the remainder of her life commuting between New York City and Val-Kill. 
During WWII, Nederlands Queen Wilhelmina and her family, who had escaped the Nazis, often visited Val-Kill. After the war President Truman appointed Eleanor as our delegate to the United Nations where she served on the Committee for Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs. She was in the UN until Eisenhower was elected in 1952.  
Val-Kill became an important stop for leaders from around the world. French President Auriol decorated her as Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honor here. Other visitors included Nehru of India, Tito of Yugoslavia, Selassie of Ethiopia and Khrushchev of the USSR. In 1960 John Kennedy sat in the chair in the background to ask her for her endorsement as president. She agreed after he committed to support civil rights. Eleanor died in 1962 and was buried along side Franklin in the rose garden at the Hyde Park estate. Kennedy, Johnson, Eisenhower and Truman all attended the funeral.
Stone Cottage, located on the grounds near Val-Kill, was where the only swimming pool on the Roosevelt estate was built. It was a favorite place for FDR who swam to maintain his strength after he contracted polio. We have been to Hyde Park twice and still have not seen all the Roosevelt sites. Top Cottage, a small home that FDR built in the 1930's as an escape from the crowd at Springwood, is still on our to do list. All the sites offer an interesting look into the lives of the Roosevelt family.
Just down the road from the Roosevelt home is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. The home was the spring and fall country estate of Frederick Vanderbilt, the son of William and grandson of Cornelius. The mansion, one of 40 built by the Vanderbilt family, is a look into how the super rich lived during the Gilded Age following the Civil War. 
When Frederick and his wife Louise bought the 600 acre estate in 1895 they wanted a temporary home to use while the big mansion was being built. This16 room house was built in two months and is now the park service visitors center. 
The 54 room Beaux-Arts mansion designed by McKim, Mead and White, America's top architectural firm at the time, took three years to build. Craftsmen did all the carving of wood and stone on the site. 
Many of the furnishings for the mansion where purchased from European families that had fallen on hard times. The walls and floors were covered with expensive Persian rugs. The total cost for construction and furnishings was $2,250,000. 
The wealthy of the time were enamored with the style of the French aristocrats. This included not only the building and the furnishings but also the food they ate.
One of many Persian rugs in the mansion. Some of those rugs have been taken down to preserve them.
Since the main purpose of the mansion was to entertain their wealthy friends the dining room was huge. 
Louise's bedroom, boudoir and bathroom where an exact replica of Marie Antoinette's. It included a birthing rail, that in France was where the members of the queen's court would gather to watch the birth to confirm the gender of the child.  
Frederick's bedroom, also on the second floor is modeled after the French king's. Our park service guide told us that Cornelius' great-great-granddaughter Gloria Vanderbilt (of fashion fame) and her young son Anderson Cooper (CNN journalist) once came for a tour. She insisted on doing the public tour and telling the rest of the group what it was like being at the mansion as a child. How cool would that have been?
One of many guest rooms. Where guests stayed was determined by their social status. Some stayed on the second floor near Frederick and Louise while five other guest rooms were on the third floor, where some servants also had rooms. While the Vanderbilt family were some of the wealthiest people in the country, they did not have the same social status as their neighbors, the Roosevelt family, who had "old money" wealth and social status. 
The mansion had all the modern conveniences of the time; from central heating, indoor plumbing and electricity to its own power station. One thing it did not have was refrigerators, they used ice boxes.   
The staff dining room. The mansion was pretty much self sustaining, providing food and flowers for the family. When the Vanderbilts were staying at the mansion there was a staff of 60 that lived on or near the grounds that served them. The personal staff that traveled with them lived in the mansion.  
The gardens on the grounds date back to the 1790's (a hundred years before Frederick purchased the property)  when the owner Dr. Samuel Bard, an avid horticulturist, started to beautify the grounds with many plantings.
Vanderbilt expanded the formal gardens over the years that he owned the land. When Frederick died in 1938 Louise's niece inherited the estate. She was unable to sell it and was convinced by her neighbor, President Franklin Roosevelt, to donate the land and mansion to the U.S. government. It has been part of the park service since 1940. If you are in Hyde Park all the Roosevelt sites and the Vanderbilt mansion are well worth a visit.

We are now back in WashPA for our annual visit until the middle of October. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Head Out Program (HOP) to Hudson River Valley

On the second and fourth days of the HOP visited the Hudson River Valley to tour the CIA and FDR sites in Hyde Park and West Point. All these places were much closer to the RV park so we did not have to spend as much time on the bus. We extended our time for a day to visit Eleanor Roosevelt's home and the Vanderbilt Mansion. That will be our next post.  
Our first stop was The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The CIA was founded in 1946 in New Haven, CT and moved into the former Jesuit novitiate St. Andrews-on-Hudson in Hyde Park in 1972. They offer associate and bachelor degrees in culinary arts and food and hospitality management. We toured several classrooms and kitchens, where students learn to work their magic. No photos of the classrooms were allowed.
I loved this wall covered with words about food. As you can see the best culinary school in America recognizes what I have always said, beer is food.
This sculpture is a sturgeon, the source of caviar, sculpted out of flatware. These fish are found in the Hudson River and can weigh up to 200 pounds. 
After the tour we were treated to lunch at Ristorante Caterina de' Medici prepared and served by the students. This is one of four restaurants at the CIA that are open to the public.
Everyone enjoyed their meal that started with bean soup with pasta.
The main course was roasted chicken breast with gnocchi and glazed carrots.
Dessert was Italian vanilla custard with strawberries and blueberries. If you are in the Hyde Park area make sure to add one of the restaurants at the CIA to your list.  
Our next stop was to the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historical Site just up the road from the CIA. This is Springwood, the home where FDR was born in 1882. Here is the link to our blog post when we toured the home and presidential library and museum two years ago. On that visit we got to see the bedrooms on the second floor. Because it was so hot we did not get to go upstairs on this tour. Below are some rooms that we did not include in the 2016 blog post. 
The Roosevelt's living room. The pictures on the piano are of famous people from around the world who visited Springwood. It is amazing to think of all the historic figures who sat in this room and talked with the president. I guess we did not make the cut on our first visit as our pictures are not there. 
We did get to see the kitchen this time. Modern by the standards of the first half of the twentieth century. 
Another room we did not see before is this small study where Roosevelt often met with Churchill, who visited the home many times during WWII. 
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. We had toured it a couple years ago and wrote about it in the blog above.
Busts of Franklin and Eleanor.
We did check out the special exhibit at the museum, The Art of War. It was an interesting look at posters from WWII that showed the various ways people could support the war effort.
The last day of the HOP we went to West Point to tour the United States Military Academy. Here is the link to our blog entry about our visit here two years ago. That post includes our visit to Woodstock, quite a contrast to West Point. This is the Cadet Chapel and Washington Hall, the cafeteria (mess hall) with the dorms (barracks) overlooking the The Plain, the parade ground. 
These are the homes of the superintendent and commandant on The Plain. Our guide said my relative John Caldwell Tidball may have lived there when he was commandant because it is the oldest building on the campus.
Our tour included the cemetery, something we did on our own two years ago. This is the Old Cadet Chapel that was moved here when the new chapel was built. 
These are a few interesting gravestones our guide pointed out. Top is Maggie Dixon who was the women's basketball coach at West Point for one year before her sudden death in 2006. It was a great honor that, even though she was not a West Point grad, she was buried here. Middle is William Westmoreland who was Army Chief of Staff during the Vietnam War. Top right is Harry Cramer who was the first American killed in Vietnam in 1957 long before we were officially there. Bottom is Emily Perez who was killed in Iraq in 2006 making her the first female African-American officer in history to die in combat. The stones are placed on her gravestone to show respect and that you have visited. Right is Norman Schwarzkopf who was the commander of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  
There are six Tidballs buried at West Point. We had visited those graves two years ago, so this time I decided to put a stone on John Caldwell's marker to show I had visited and to show my respect.
We had lunch at the West Point Club overlooking the beautiful Hudson River. We always learn something new when we take a tour even at places we have visited before. This time one of the things we learned was that Patty Hearst lives in one of the mansions on the East bank of the river.
Since our last visit the new visitors center has opened. It offers an inside look at the life of the cadets while they are going to school. This exhibit shows the tradition of tossing their cadet hats, that they will no longer need, into the air at graduation. The five men pictured are the grads who achieved the rank of five star general.
The HOP group. We really enjoyed the HOP seeing many things and making new friends. Our thanks to Jim and Lisa for a great time.