Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Still Busy in WashPA

The weather here in WashPA has been very wet and humid but the temps have been staying out of the 90's and the rain has been less than they have been getting east of here. For us, the forecast almost every day is what we grew up with, partly cloudy with a chance of showers. We are in a routine of, generally, going to the same restaurants, checking out the local music scene and seeing the same friends every week. We did go to a gathering of a few of my Union High School Class of 1964 classmates. I missed the 50th reunion in 2014 because we were in Alaska. It was neat seeing some high school mates, but I was surprised at how old they were:) The only picture we took was me with my most famous (at least for friends from Wisconsin) classmate Barry Alvarez. Unfortunately, the unnamed photographer (initials NJT) failed to get the pic.     
The retired teachers lunch bunch was invited to Ed and Donna's place for an afternoon of food, fun and beverages. Here are Donna. Carol, Cliff and Ed. 
Reggie and John swapping tales.
Ron and Becky
Jim was celebrating his 75th birthday with a toast of Fireball and a Yuengling chaser. 
Tish, Nanc, Pat and Gail
Bill and Karen
Bernie and Jim
Donna, Linda, Georgie and Kathy. These lunch bunch gatherings are always a fun time getting caught up with what my former co-workers and their spouses have been doing in retirement. 
Paul and Georgie. A big thanks to Ed and Donna for hosting the lunch bunch.
On Wednesday we went to Al an' Rubens for dinner and to hear the Dan Baker Group. Dan on guitar, Josh on sax were Washington students and Jim on the trombone was a teacher and band director there.
The ladies usually get together on Thursday afternoon for lunch, shopping and games. Mike and I use the opportunity to go fishing. How about this nice bass I caught. Mike would not let me take a picture of his fish because I would have had to put the camera on micro.
We heard my cousin Missy and her husband Marty were going to the Bull Pen to listen to music on Sunday, so we decided to join them and get caught up on what they have been doing since we last saw them. They are going to be grandparents early next year and their other son Marty is getting married next June, so they will be real busy. 
The Jason Craig Band was great. They played a nice mix of old time rock n' roll. If you get a chance to see them don't miss it.
The wildlife continues to entertain us here at Pine Cove.
We took Opus to the local Cummins dealer to see if they could diagnose the ongoing acceleration issue. They put Opus on the computer and, like the last three places, they found no fault codes. They checked the exhaust brake and the flipper is working fine. I took a twenty mile test drive with the mechanic who monitored the computer on the ride. Unfortunately, the problem did not occur on the test drive. They told us the problem may be caused by a worn out electronic gas pedal. Their recommendation: When it happens again use the speed control (which by-passes the pedal) to try and accelerate. If that works, the problem is the pedal. So, it looks like we won't know if that is the problem until we leave here in October. Of course, if it is we will have to find someplace to have the pedal replaced.  Oh the joys of living on the road.    

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.