Friday, August 23, 2019

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

   Perfect summer weather in Minnesota so I hopped on a plane and am-scrayed out of the tropical sauna that is South Carolina in August to see my kids and grandboys.  Sunny, 70s, and no humidity —  perfect to have some adventures with four little boys.  

  A bright yellow picket fence runs for miles along the highway and cornfields near Jordan, building anticipation and raising the excitement level in the car several notches per mile.  

  And then there it is, a yellow behemoth rising from the prairie!  A candy store to rival all candy stores, a good example of turning lemons into lemonade.  
When the Wagner family’s commercial apple orchard was nearly wiped out by devastating hail storms two years in a row, they conjured up a vision of a seasonal candy store like nothing seen before in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Longer than the Vikings football field, Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store has kept growing over the years and is filled with over 3,000 different varieties of candy.  

  It’s a tradition for my daughter’s family (along with about a million other families, judging by the jam-packed aisles) to indulge their sweet tooths (teeth?) once a year.  And I got to go along!

  The aisles are narrow and numerous, piled with every kind of candy you remember from your childhood (and a whole lot more you don’t!). Overhead domes feature movie characters, this one with 24 more than life-size super heroes protecting the world from above. 

  Another room, another dome — 


And of course, the largest PortaPotties in Minnesota. 

 When you open the door — 

You walk into an immaculate full-fledged restroom instead of a portable toilet.  

   Mason was on a mission, ignoring all the other treats to find his favorite candy, and he found it.   I loved these little wax bottles when I was a child, too, and was amazed to see they are still around.  Of course, they were filled with root beer flavor then. Mason enjoyed every last one of his on the trip home!  

  Well, I’m sure you are wondering about my choice in all this world of sugar!  I bypassed chocolate from every corner of the world for my favorite “penny candy” when I was a child.  

  Who knew it was even still made! I seem to remember you could also get them in the shape of watermelon slices.

  I’m curious.  What was your favorite choice when you were say, seven or eight?  (And feel free to reminisce over more than one!)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Can’t You Sea?

  Last month was designated “Plastic Free July” across the world to increase awareness of the plastic pollution overwhelming our planet and to get people thinking about making changes in how we use it.  Our local art museum had an interesting exhibit, Can’t You Sea?, of art made from discarded plastic, along with special speakers and events, and a free month-long continuous showing of the documentary film, A Plastic Ocean.
  Here are some of our favorite pieces from the gallery.
                                             Washed Upgarbage collected from Sian Ka’an, Mexico.

Japanese artist Sayaka Ganz (reclaimed plastic cable ties, LED wire, plastic ware)




Kirkland Smith (computer keys, milk jugs, bottle caps, contact lens cases, plastic forks)

Pamela Longobardi (recovered life vests from Lesvos, Greece)

Aurora Robson (plastic debris, rivets, washers, tinted polycyclic, mica powder)

Ganz (plastic objects, wire, and cable ties)

  If you haven’t seen the documentary, A Plastic Ocean, I highly recommend it.  If you watch it, I don’t think you will ever think of plastic the same way again!

A brief description:

  The film starts off as an adventure to photograph the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet.  What journalist Craig Leeson encounters on his quest is shocking — a dangerous layer of plastic debris and filth covering the world’s seas and beach communities that were recently pristine. He is joined by diver Tanya Lee and for the next four years they explore and document the mess caused by decades of plastic use. 

  Perhaps the most frightening aspect of plastic debris is that it degrades into micro fibers which enter the food chain and ground water and from there move into human beings. Micro fibers are already being found present in much of what we ingest (from beer to seafood) and are made up of chemicals that alter normal function of the human endocrine system, impair brain development, cause learning disabilities, and increase incidences of cancers.

  Below is a trailer for the film.  You can watch the complete documentary on line.

Monday, July 29, 2019

What Goes Around, Comes Around

  The way immigrants, children, — babies! — are being treated in inhumane camps at the border of my country, in the heartland where they are afraid to come out of their homes lest they be snatched from their families — breaks my heart. 

  The Writer and I did not expect to be attending vigils and singing protest songs we sang in our teens again in our old age.

  Earlier this month communities across the country announced candlelight vigils to show support for more humane treatment for asylum seekers from Latin America.  

  Georgetown (pop. 9000) is not a diverse community at all and for the most part doesn’t have much enthusiasm for outsiders (including those of us from north of the Mason Dixon Line!).  We wondered if we would be the only ones showing up in the park.  We were pleasantly surprised.  

  There were handmade signs ...

and speakers (including a Native American elder, a worried honor student - DACA recipient, a war refugee from Germany in the 1940s, a passionate and eloquent young Gullah woman (above), descendant of African immigrants who were forced into slavery),

and musicians to lead us in songs for which some of us did not need the song sheets to remember all the words. 


When is the last time you sang all the verses of This Land is Your Land, Blowin’ in the Wind or If I Had a Hammer?  For us ... oh, nearly 50 years!  


Finally, we lit candles as the darkness fell on the beautiful harbor behind us and stood together to sing a last song of love and compassion for those frightened, tired, hungry, dirty and hopeful human beings in the camps.
Someone's crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone's crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone's crying Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya*

*  Sung in the Gullah culture of  South Carolina and Georgia, with ties to enslaved West Africans. The song is thought to have spread from the islands to other Southern states and the North, as well as other places in the world. 


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Gallivants Ferry on the Little Peedee

  Minnesota might have 10,000 lakes but I’m pretty sure more of the surface of South Carolina is covered with water than Minnesota’s is.  From the coast west, the land is covered with rivers and swamps that limit travel, isolating farms and communities.  Nowadays we zip over causeways and bridges to get from here to there, but those who were here in the 1700s and 1800s had to deal with the water at ground level.  
  Ferries were the only way to go.
The Little Pee Dee River at Gallivants Ferry

  The first ferries were simple flat-bottomed rafts or even canoes powered by paddles, 
oars, or poles.  Poorly constructed, manned by those of questionable skill, they commanded expensive tolls.  After all, what choice did a traveler have?

  Over the years, larger flatboats capable of ferrying a carriage, wagon, or freight came into use, and a pulley or winch system was used to move the boat against the current (photo below).  Costs rose accordingly, and in 1805 the toll for a carriage or team and wagon was $1.00 and a man and a horse 12.5 cents.  

 Cooper River ferry. (University of South Carolina collection).


Catawba River SC (photo from American Civil War Forum)


  Over time the location of a river crossing became a logical place to build a store ... a house ... an inn, and soon there would be a town, often named for the owner of the ferry business.  

  One of those places is Gallivants Ferry, west of Aynor on Hwy 501. A Mr Gallevans was granted the license to run the ferry there in 1795.  A store followed and the crossing became known by his name — sort of, as Gallevans apparently became Gallivants at some point.

  The store is still there today, as are other buildings that used to make up a community.  Happily, every building left today is preserved on the National Register of Historic Places.  

  When the cotton industry was demolished by the boll weevil, area farmers turned to tobacco for a cash crop. The variety grown here was “flue-cured tobacco,” which required a heating process in the barn before being sent to market.   The Pack House (left) was used to grade the cured tobacco and store it until it was taken to auction.

  Tobacco barns in the field were made of pine logs and equipped with brick furnaces to cure the tobacco.  Someone had to be at the barn around the clock to tend the wood furnace and control the temperature for a period of three days up to 10 weeks.  

  Behind this large storage barn a small village of 3-room sharecroppers’ cabins still stands.  In the 1930s and ‘40s, 1200 to 1500 men, women, and children were part of the sharecropping workforce in this area.  When the tobacco was sold, they received half the profits for their work.

  Powered by mules, the grist mill employed granite rollers to crush grain to produce flour, meal and grits to feed the community and livestock. The miller kept a portion of the meal as payment for the service.

  There are quite a few more historic buildings to see in Gallivants Ferry, some of them still in private use.  

  It is an unusual historic site to visit as there are no commercial shops whatsoever selling stuff, no people around, no traffic, no explanatory signs.  You are happily left to explore with only the quiet flow of the river and your imagination to conjure up the stories the place has to tell. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

What’s Your Impossible Dream??

“Purl’s Yarn Emporium”, Wall Street, Asheville, NC


  Simple sock monkeys made of men’s red-heeled work socks were popular when I was little.  Everybody had a grandma who made them.  But look closely at the details of these. This window display takes sock monkeys to a whole new level!  
I had no idea such a humble toy would be controversial, but get this:  

  In 1953, Helen Cooke received the patent for sock monkeys and then sued a man named Stanley Levy because he was selling sock monkeys that were not the same design as hers.  He contacted the Nelson Knitting Company hoping that they would declare her patent invalid. One of the most important pieces of evidence the company uncovered was a doll made by a lady named Grace Wingent for her grandson in 1951. Helen caved and settled the case against Levy when she was shown the evidence against her.  She sold her sock monkey patent to the Nelson Knitting Company for $750.

“The Impossible Dream” from “Man of LaMancha”

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Flat Stanley? ... Flat Granny!

  Flat Stanley was a popular children’s book series about a boy who gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board.  Making the best of the situation, Stanley discovers he can now do cool things like slip right under a closed door and  his distraught parents put him in an envelope and mail him to California.  Thus begin Stanley’s travels around the world.  

  The books inspired a Canadian teacher to create a project where his students mailed a cutout of their own Flat Stanley, along with a story they made up about him, to a classroom in another state.  The recipient was to take a photo of Stanley somewhere in his or her town and include information about what Stanley did or saw while he was there and mail Stanley back.  When the Stanleys came back to the original school, the photos and letters were displayed, then the students sent them out again on another journey. 

Over the years the Stanley projects proved a fun way for students to learn geography and experience the wonders of the world.  
By 2011 the project included thousands of classes in 88 countries participating annually, including the schools I taught in!  

So, that’s Flat Stanley, there, riding an elephant in India. 

 Now, who is Flat Granny?

  Flat Granny is part of an art exhibit called Suspending Belief at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC.  We loved it!  

Jenny Fine grew up enjoying and photographing all kinds of adventures with her slightly eccentric Alabama grandmother.  Together they dressed up and acted out little dramas for photographs.   

After Granny’s death, there were many stories Granny told Jenny that she hadn’t photographed yet and Jenny missed the adventures they might have had had she lived on. That’s how she came up with the Flat Granny idea.  Constructing a larger-than-life-size head and hands from a photograph, Jenny used them to recreate Granny to photograph her as she had when she was alive.  

Life-size Grannies in the gallery suspended from the ceiling floated and twirled.

Daddy and Flat Granny Dancing in the backyard watermelon patch.  

Feeding Flat Granny

  My phone battery died so that was all the photos I  took, but you get the idea.  

  Jenny Fine’s Granny must have been a whole lot of fun and an amazing good sport.  Definitely someone fun to know!  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Guess Where I Am

A couple hints ...

  They were babies, maybe six inches long not including the tail, and absolutely fearless.  

  I think I could have picked one up ... if I wanted to!  

Ibis, in the hospital parking lot.  

  Did you guess Florida?  If you did, you are right.  My mom had cancer surgery and I am here to help.

 Mom is 92 years old and she did great.  They discharged her from the hospital less than 24 hours after surgery.  As you can see, she was ready and waiting to go home!  

   She has a drain that has to be emptied — my job and I was very nervous. I’m getting used to it though.  We’re doing fine now at home with only a visiting nurse.  We both have a good supply of books to read and if we can figure out the Roku thing she got for Christmas, we can watch some movies.  

Have a good weekend!