Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Little Bay

There were 20 tons of bolt metal per ship.
I live in the mid-Atlantic and am surrounded by interesting history.  There is a ghostly and mystical place nearby that I had always wanted to visit, but did not have the opportunity until recently when the access had been created.  This was another one of those special canoe trips.  There is something about a canoe that lets you slide right up and hear the ghost's sigh and smell the ancient air and sneak behind the bright day to snatch the history.  Besides you really cannot get deeply into this shallow and maze-ridden area by anything other than a canoe or kayak.

This place is a little embayment just off the Potomac River called Mallows Bay.  The day was almost cold and certainly eerily gray and misty with lots of exotic shadows.  Perfect for a ghostly paddle into and over some history.  The cries of a few water birds and the crash of leaves from the rare startled deer in the forest on the shore were about all we heard...except...well let me not get ahead of myself.  First, here is a little history, greatly shortened for there is a whole book on this area.

We have to go back to 1917 and WWI.  President Woodrow Wilson put out a call for building many more ships (ten times more) as we entered this war since we were going to move quickly and supply an American Army in Europe to defeat the Germans.  Because metal ship building was too slow and expensive, an engineer suggested the building of 1000 cheaper wooden cargo steamships to send across the Atlantic and past the many German submarines.  (I wondered if it even crossed the engineer's mind about the greater danger to those sailors making the crossing on these more fragile ships.)  Eighty-seven shipyards across the United States from the east to the west coasts got contracts to build this armada.  Bureaucratic delays and ineptitude and Germany's eventual surrender came as over 100 ships were completed with few to none crossing the Atlantic.  But an additional 200 ships continued to be built as the war wound down, and even as there were charges of poor assembly, leaky design and over contract budgets, the construction continued...sound familiar?

Eventually the fleet was mothballed along the James River at a large expense to the American taxpayer and finally offered for sale 'as is.'  A Virginia marine salvage company bought many for salvage of the metal, but accidental fires and sinking of vessels at their shipyard compromised nearby navigation and threatened the important shad fishery in the area.  The company was forced to move to the more remote area known as Mallows Bay and a massive facility was built to rapidly move this salvage operation along.  In one day a large number that had been towed to the area were torched in the shallow waters to reduce them immediately for metal salvage.  I cannot imagine the water pollution that resulted and the skies filling with acrid smoke.

The area soon became a graveyard for the remaining ships buried there because the stock market crash of the 1920's brought the price of scrap metal to a new low halting salvage operations.  Other entrepreneurial development near the salvage operation included bootleggers and floating brothels.  They were less accessible to the long arm (paddle) of the law due to the abandoned shipwrecks making navigation dangerous in the waters.  Of the 285 steamships built, approximately 152 ended up in this bay and today the remaining 80 or so lie at rest in all states of deterioration.  

The area became important once again when the advent of WWII renewed the value of scrap metal, but this value was only temporary.  The area was soon abandoned and now efforts are being made to keep it as an historic sight and as nature has grown to reclaim the area, an environmentally rich artificial reef has formed.  There has been some wheeling and dealing of a shady nature in recent decades due to the valuable real estate.  Only time will tell how protected the area will remain.

While quietly and carefully going between the sunken hulls and avoiding the dangerously protruding metal spikes that could poke a hole in our aluminum canoe, we did hear, without warning and with breath-taking suddenness, a single large explosion that boomed across the glassy waters' surface and broke the quiet air.  We held our breath waiting.  It must have been from the military testing base nearby, because, after a while, no helicopters or boats raced down the river toward the sound.  Just a ghostly and frightening reminder of wars, I guess.

These photos were taken at high tide and I hope to return in the summer at a low tide for even more interesting shots.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


When you have nothing in your fried brain it is nice to be able to regurgitate your brilliance that was dumped onto the Internet in prior posts by linking to it. The recent headlines about Nashville brought to mind a post of mine that I have linked to once before about a challenge I faced when I was younger and stronger.  For some antique knowledge of that time go here.  Some of you have been readers for a long time and I am thankful but this may be an old story for you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Children of Children

The ancient ones never dreamed that we would have the power to travel back through time and pass the sun as we glide slickly into another time zone.  They never dreamed that we would be powerful enough to turn rivers around and even to tame them, or with breathtaking greed, use them all up.  They never thought about how, like ants with ugly tools, we would remove entire mountain tops turning them to dust and toxic water, and then, in our guilt, try to rebuild them.

They never dreamed that our thoughts would follow electrical pathways in the air and invade the day of those we know, or like, or love, in the flick of a second without imparting any thing of importance.  They could never envision that we would be powerful enough to place electronic eyes everywhere and see from the mountains to the beaches to the bedrooms, all from the comfort of our throne. 

They never could imagine that we would make new 'better' versions of living things and parts of living things to suit our tastes, both physical and mental.  

They would have been aghast at the weapons of mass destruction with which we play so eagerly every day. 

They never knew that we would become the false gods sitting on the mountain in huge temples of artificial gold growing ever so fat and complacent as we proselytize about truth and justice.  They would be so frightened for us, their children, if they could have seen this future.  They would be even more surprised that being so powerful we naively fear the strangest of things, such as the arrangement of numbers on a calendar.  We are like mind-compromised children, fascinated by every little thing but learning nothing as we poke and pry and tear things apart.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Hotness Factor

Still tripping over my feet on that Memory Lane which has become somewhat overgrown with a large tangle of aging vines. When you are hot, you are hot. When you're not, you're clearly not. What more can I say? I rarely would consider turning back the clock on my life, but if I could have this day over again I think I would. I really look so 'full of it' in this photo. It was a perfect fall day, I had a brand new car (yes, that is an actual car and not a toy) and freedom. I am sure that I felt I had the world by a string and could wrap it around my finger. Innocence is sometimes too underrated.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Junk in the Trunk---Part II

Finding some uninterrupted afternoon time I sat and opened the scrapbooks and as requested took some photos for the many, many readers and lurkers of my blog. Hang in there, this should be really, REALLY interesting...!

I so 'fondly' remember putting together this 'comprehensive' manual for our basketball coach which was ultimately for the team that year. He 'contracted' with our Business Education teacher to have me and my best friend be his personal secretaries. He corrected every period and we worked for days changing many details! I can guarantee that he probably had to take remedial English in college and was trying to get even in some weird way. This would have had questionable shades of sexual discrimination today. At least they should have admitted that no one on the basketball team knew English and therefore, could not read it (How's that for discrimination?).

It appears from this memento that, during High School, I went to the State Convention for the Future Homemakers of America. This conference did not appear to have made any impression as I cannot remember much of it at all! I also do not think I am an exceptional homemaker as a result, either.

This is our hometown newspaper with an article on the newest members of National Honor Society. Wow...were we a little dorky, or what? Here we stand waiting to be served tea by our club faculty sponsor. She was like a little Ms. Marple. (Names have been redacted to protect those still serving jail sentences.)

While in High School I was in a fashion show. I DO remember this because I am such a nut for parading around in new clothes. We got to wear clothes borrowed from the dress stores in the nearby larger town. As you may recall, I came from a family that watched money closely and I rarely got to wear new clothes. This was a treat for a poor farm girl.

This is the important notice of my college tuition waiver, which had I not received, I may not have gone to college.

This is my Freshman Beanie...Yes we actually wore them for one whole day. What a crock!

This is a homemade record of something...what I don't know. Now I have to find a turntable! Maybe it was something from debate club?

When I turned 21 during my senior of year of college, one of the my former High School upper classmen friends, a really nice guy that I had no interest in, invited me to the Playboy club in Denver for drinks to celebrate. (I hope he didn't pay for membership just for me!) It was an awkward and cool and weird experience. I was so naive that I didn't question why someone would be serving me drinks in a rabbit costume with overflowing mammary glands. I cannot tell you how absolutely sophisticated I felt, as if I was in some Doris Day movie. I am sure that I looked like a 14-year-old Doris Day as well! ( And, no, I didn't do anything non-Doris Day at the end of the evening.)

Next on my memory journey is a bunch of letters that I continue to pour over! Enough about me, now, what about all of you?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Junk Trunk Revealed---Part I

It seems that readers of my prior post are somewhat lets take a tour of this old trunk.

I opened the heavy trunk lid and one of the hinges broke away as that side of the lid slid to the floor. Inside everything was dusty from bits of yellowed paper and most of the items in a jumble. So much for how well my brother (or his wife!) packed the trunk. This vase above (what used to be a vase) has absolutely no memory for me. Was it a gift I bought my mother on my travels? Was it some stupid trinket I bought for myself? This vase had never been used. So much for the hope for treasure.

My life was absolutely so filled with very important events that I had to make a huge and comprehensive scrapbook of all my high school activities followed by another thick tome of all the cool stuff I did in college. These thick scrapbooks are filled with mostly cocktail napkins, theater tickets, theater programs, old ribbons, newspaper clippings, my band letter(s) and a very few awards as well...nothing that even my children would find of interest today. There was also a JFK scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings.

My music tastes were somewhat prosaic, but I had no money and so each album was purchased with care. I also had some Frank Sinatra albums and an entire collection of Shakespeare productions on record (OMG, what a bore was I?), but where those went I surely don't know. Does anyone remember the singer Claudine Longet and that terrible murder in Aspen?

Above is the dress I wore to my Senior Prom. I am so surprised at how thin I was. I was actually elected "Queen" of the prom that year. Before you get impressed (ha!) my graduating class was under 25 students and only half of those were girls. I do think this Jacqueline Kennedy style of dress has stood the test of time. If I was still that thin ( yeah, big dreamer) and still had somewhere formal to go, I think would wear it.

Now I am going to sit down and open these scrapbooks...more to follow. That ought to be somewhat interesting.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Just Passing Through

I hate the fact that I am entering that time in life where the goodbyes are more often of a permanent nature. Everyone has had to bravely pass through this season in their life. I just hate that it is now my turn.

I sit quietly here blogging early in the morning. We stole my 2-year-old granddaughter for a visit on Sunday and she is now sleeping blissfully in the Pac-N-Play in our big is the quietest and darkest place on the main floor of this house. Thinking of her gentle breathing, I see life as a broad spectrum this morning. She has so much adventure ahead of her while others are moving on leaving her room.

My husband lost his sister-in-law last week. We were not close, but she had just visited our new home last year and I was so happy to see her in even better health and sharper spirits than she had been a few years before. Two of her five children had brought her on this trip. They had made careful plans renting an RV and planning for the needed oxygen tanks and other necessary baggage. She felt energized by this chance to get out on a travel adventure, we could tell.

We leave Wednesday for the memorial service in Florida, so blogging will be in stasis for a while, except for the pre-scheduled entries on 'my other blog'.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Honest Abe

"Perhaps a man's character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing." Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln compiled and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 43.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bloody Ground

This weekend we stopped by the Gettysburg National Military Park which has a brand new museum and visitor center, much of it is funded by Northrup Grumman. For some historians the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in America's Civil War. The fact that hundreds of books, new ones each year, are written about America's Civil War are testament to this wound that still scars our history.

The photo above seems so sterile compared to the lives lost and blood soaked ground that it represents.

"In the aftermath of the battle, every farm field was a graveyard and every church, public building and even private homes were hospitals."

While reading some information about this war I came across this quote:

"The most astute theologian of the crisis, a layperson named Abraham Lincoln, framed the issue in simple terms: "Both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God." And since they prayed for different outcomes, "the prayers of both could not be answered." In an environment like ours in which the role of religion in public life is energetically debated and values such as freedom are said not to be "America's gift to the world" but instead "'God's gift to humanity," the Civil War provides a cautionary tale about the limits of religious belief in guiding a democracy."

Sound familiar? I guess what amazes me is how easily some folks take the high ground without a second thought. They clearly have a clearer channel to the pure truth than I do.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tabor's Holiday

View from inside the African American Museum

I have had two sets of company visiting and staying back to back last week. (I am really not the social animal that is painted by this blog. I do not attend a church, belong to any clubs (yet), or party hearty on weekends. While no one I know would describe me as an introvert I do seek out the quiet times more often than not. I am fortunate to know some nice people who drop by during the summer months. Actually my husband is the real social butterfly in this finely aged duo.)

Anyway, Mr. Butterfly invited two buddies down for a weekend o
f fishing after the above busy week and I was immediately motivated to conclude that Tabor needed an 'alone' holiday. I headed up to my daughter's house for the same weekend. She was going to be away with family, and I would have the whole place to myself. The tiny house is within walking distance of a metro's ride to the center of Washington D.C. and all of its free and wonderful museums...are you getting jealous?

The famous Smithsonian Castle

Entry to Moongate Garden

I took my camera along and found that I needed this alone time to adjust my viewpoint and to take time for some focused photography. Having seen these outside architectural pleasantries many times, I photographed with a new eye and new angles and then used Paintshop Pro to have fun tweaking away with styles, hues, etc. I personally think they look cool and refreshing in this way...little egocentric gal that I am. You can click on them for a larger view.

Moongate Garden

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Tobacco Barn

On the side of the entrance to the county park just before the posted map of the trails, we saw this old tobacco barn. The last public tobacco auction for the county was held a few years ago and this part of American agriculture is now history. The countryside is dotted with these aging gray barns that are no longer used due to a buyout for tobacco farmers that was successful, and even though there is some small effort at preservation, these historic structures are not being preserved in most cases. If this barn had been used for drying tobacco I would have readily been able to see the rust colored leaves hanging down inside. Unfortunately, the structure and shape of these barns doesn't easily lend itself to reuse. There were varied shapes to the barns in parts of the South but this traditional barn shape is the most common for our area.

There was a sign on the outside of the structure saying KEEP OUT which of course motivated me immediately to walk through to the cooler inviting shade. It was being used for keeping straw bales dry. I aged this photo as homage to those farmers who built this country with honest sweat and determination. The tobacco industry may have been an unhealthy crop, but at the time the money it brought in to farmers was significant as it was a 'mainstay' crop for the area.

I could not smell the tobacco as some say you can inside these old buildings, but the daylight peaking through the slats was quite romantic. This, along with hinged openings, insured the tobacco would cure correctly. If you click on the photo above you will be able to see the saw marks left from the circular saw that was used to cut the wood at the saw mill. This circular saw was probably powered by a late 18th Century water powered saw. Do you remember Little House on the Prairie when Laura's dad worked at the water powered sawmill in town? The time when people did the work that had to be done to feed their families...not just for that big screen TV.