Sunday, January 18, 2015

History, Big Cheese Day at the White House & Sandy Creek, NY

Well the "Big Cheese Day" is on us and on January 21st, the day after the Presidents "State of the Union Message", this years cheese will be cut on the White House Lawn. However, the public is invited to attend by asking questiones on line, not in person.

 The story behind this day goes back to President Andrew Jackson who on receiving a huge block of cheese opened the doors of the White House and allowed the public to come in and partake of this huge present he had received. Jackson saw the White House as belonging to the people and the cheese as well.

The damage done to the inside of the White House on this occasion was extensive.  People were packed in so tight that they stood on furniture, some came in through the windows, some left that way. At the finish of the day the main rooms were in shambles and a fortune was spent by Jackson to renovate, buy furniture and repair the enormous damage that was done.

Well this historic incident had its beginning in the little upstate town of Sandy Creek, and its maker not only gave a large cheese to give to the President, but made two others to give to the Vice President and the New York Governot as well.

I think few knew about this until, a segment mentioning it was on done the television show West Wing during its first season. In this episode Leo McGerry reminds everyone that it is "cheese day" and relates the story of President Andrew Jackson receiving the huge cheese and having it set in the White House’s main room.  There he threw the doors open and invited the public into “their house” so that every citizen could share in the bounty.

So to promote this day the White House was made a commercial with the West Wing actors touting it.
The cheese was recorded to have weighed over 1,400 pounds and was made near Sandy Creek by Col. Meacham and was transported first by sets of gray horses to Pulaski and then on to the port where it was shipped via schooner and the canal system to Washington, D.C. The man who made it, Col. Meacham, was noted for his showmanship. 

Today tourists occasionally wander down to the port from which the cheese was shipped never knowing its history. Situated at the mouth of the Salmon River the remaining relic of the Port that shipped the huge cheese is the Selkirk Lighthouse, an old landmark that looks like it dropped down from a time of sailing ships and double-masted schooners... Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it still stands towering above the water with a near by a shell of the old hotel where sailing ships docked, and guests stayed in the hot summers of the past.

Built in 1838, this venerable relic has one of the few “bird cage” light surrounds left on Lake Ontario. Costing the United States Government seventy-five hundred dollars, the building escaped the renovation of many of the lake’s lighthouses because of being scheduled to be decommissioned (which it was) in 1858. It was built because many thought that by putting a lighthouse near the lake in what was considered a dangerous area known for shipwrecks, and by dredging a deep channel in front, it would become a large port, which it was for a while. 

Unfortunately, its neighbor Oswego to the west took its business because of its link to Syracuse via the Oswego River and Canal but not before the port shipped the "President's Big Cheese."

Friday, January 16, 2015

For all my Facebook friends, music & Gordon Lightfoot, "THANK YOU"!

Another week in winter…”Cabin Fever” has set in as I sit here at night in this dismal place where winter has seemingly no end.  People call it the wrath of “Mother Nature”… Guess ma is mad about something! 

The cold has taken its toll on machinery, houses, furnaces, people and most of all “pocketbooks”.  Read something funny on the internet last night…home heating prices will remain low for a couple of weeks because of the warm up.  “WHAT WARM UP”?

I sat here thinking after I got the boiler running and the pipes thawed.., Ahh! That was until it thawed all the way and a pipe burst in the kitchen.  The sound of the water and pressure escaping from the boiler pipe was like a song! 

The song was a sad one and I wandered back to my youth and the good times…, which, have been gone for a long time now.  Family dead, what’s left is small and lives far way, old friends here are all-dead.  Some say Facebook is a waste of time but without it and my new FB friends, last night would have been terrible...but after a few posts… a group of well wishers (some of whom I have never met in person) were sending best wishes, offers of help and encouragement!  Thank you all!

Then I started to think about the past and my music, music that I don’t play anymore because it brings back memories, thoughts of the fun past, and the ghosts of yesteryear. I guess like Paul Anka’s the “Moments of Our Lives”, we all have “our songs”.  

I got to thinking about it…yes me who always had a guitar in hand, always singing…NO MUSIC, don’t even have a tape or CD player anymore.  I got up, went into the icy cold front room, grabbed my old guitar…tried to tune it and played it (TERRIBLY) with my bad, cold, overworked hands. Soon the week no longer mattered…and before I knew it, it was midnight.

The last song I played said it all.  Of course it was a Gordon Lightfoot song.  Who else says it all in some song or another… it was his “You Are What I Am”!  A great song!

“You are what I am…lovin’ you for ever if I can…You make the time stand still…Do it now and you always will. Think about the times we’ve had, we’ve never been blue…(music) you got the combination gal to keep me straight and true...You are what I am…Lov’in you for ever if I can... Any time that I fall down I never get stuck...You got the combination gal to get me right back up…’Cause you are what I am…(singin’ songs) forever if I can…”

Hope you had a better week than me… If not sing along!

PS Those banjo players and extra musicians on this cut are members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra..."Gettin' Down" or UP? ... I guess!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, the NYS Police, and the freezing cold on this Sunday morning coming down!

What a week…like many before in someway…yet like none before in others.  The temperature here at my house, which is one of the lowest houses on the street, was far below zero every night including last night.  The man who was paid to deliver me wood, and owed me wood, kept promising to show up but never did.  I have been hand to mouthing it trying to keep warm, having to stay up most nights to put in a piece of wood here, a little kerosene there.

I had to pick my friend Bob up from the Crouse Community Center supposedly to take him home…. We got to his house at temperatures with wind chill far below zero, only to find his furnace out and everything frozen.   So back he went to the nursing home and I tried to get someone to get the furnace running and find out what was going on with the plumbing. 

To add to this nightmare I parking my car and Barb’s at a friendly neighbors empty driveway, so they wouldn’t be in the wood deliver’s way when he backed his truck in.

I was unsuspecting that some crazy neighbor (Who did not recognize the cars and although I have  lived here for thirty years?) would call the owner reporting that we were there and the shed door was the owner called the police. "Thieves?"

So two handsome NYS Troopers were dragged to Eaton to find two old ladies…old Back Street Mary and Back Street Barb pulling out to go… as once again the woodman called and said sorry he wasn’t coming.  After a chat we were off…”they let us off the hook” to go the store to try and buy food and kerosine for the second time… since that morning when I went to the store, I found that my debit card had been cancelled.  No not because of being short of funds, but because I had requested a new card as mine was having trouble swiping.

All in all it was not my best week….frozen pipes…40 degree temperatures inside the house, no food, trying to get heat and water to another house...Yikes!

So even though it was below zero last night…I got the old woodstove revved (he finally delivered wood) and fell asleep for a bit between stockings….ahh!!!

Kris Kristofferson
So when I woke up this morning I had a song running around in my head…”Sunday Morning Coming Down”…  Since it was too cold to drink beer and I don’t do drugs I found it curious…but the words were right as I sat here…”Nothing like a Sunday…to make a body feel alone!”  Yes!  So I was off on my next history quest!

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson in 1969 and was released by another singer, Ray Stevens.  Later Kris released it himself on his first album…there it was heard and picked up by legendary Johnny Cash who recorded it after singing it on his TV show, he made it part of a live album he did.  Cash won the Country Music Award with his rendition that year and he kept it in his repertoire ever after.

It is said that during an interview years later Kristofferson remarked that doors were opened for him with that song, and that its success allowed him to quit working and obviously go on to a great career as an artist and songwriter!  Yes I am singing it Sunday morning coming down!

(Did you know Kris  earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University?)

"Sing along!"


Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
An' I shaved my face and combed my hair,
An' stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I'd smoked my brain the night before,
On cigarettes and songs I'd been pickin'.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,
Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,
'n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.
And it took me back to somethin',
That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin' city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin' comin' down.

In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin'.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons, 
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin' city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin' comin' down.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years thoughts, Museum, WWI, Pope Francis and the Maria Dolens

History is a mystifying seductress to some of us.  Everywhere we look we find a piece of history that we are curious about.  Myself  I am continually looking into the history of everything and many times finding that I know very little of the history of things at all..

For New Years we all set goals for the new year and tonight we had a museum dinner meeting to celebrate New Year and also to talk about what to do about the museum for 2015.  This little band of helpers and myself have struggled, poured much energy and money into keeping the museum open. The question that came to my mind was, ”should I continue after 20 years?” 

After all left I thought about the New Year as most of us do and I tried to find something that would guide me.  I asked myself if you didn’t work on the museum what would you do?  The answers were pretty simple since I try to do them now… 1. Help wipe out poverty!  2. Work to end all Wars.

I am adamant that we are in a terrible time of class separation, I remember a line from a song…”The hands of the have not’s have fallen out of reach!”  They have and are becoming more so everyday. We are also in a time of world wars and skirmishes that are killing thousands of innocent people...and for what?

So I went on line and tried to find out what that great guy Pope Francis...who signs everything just Francis…said in his New Year message.  His message fittingly came on January 1st and the 48th anniversary of the Day of World Peace, and the Maria Dolens bell was shown ringing in the background.  The Maria Dolens? And so I was off on my newest history quest.

The Maria Dolens is the name of a bell that was cast from the bronze of many of the cannons - 19, one from each countries that participated in WWI.  It sits in Roverto, in today’s northern Italy and it rings 100 times each day in the evening to honor the fallen and to many to act  as a symbol for peace and an end to war.

The Bell was the idea of Don Antonio Rossaro,  called the Bell of the Fallen.  It was given the name Maria Dolens and placed on the Malipiero tower of Castello di Rovereto.  It has been recast many times because of fractures from ringing 100 times a day no doubt... but it has always been recast and returned to the tower where is nightly reminds the world of the price of war.  The latest recast was blessed by Pope Paul VI and on November 4th, 1965 was placed on the Colle di Miravalle where it today rest above the city of Roverto.

On the bell, which is the second largest swinging bell in the world, were added at its recasting the statements of the Pontiff Pius XII "With peace nothing is lost. Everything is to be lost through war." John XXIII: "In pace hominum ordinata concordia et tranquilla libertas."

Today it rang 100 times at midday and was shown on the large screen in St. Peter’s square.

It is said that it tolls in the hope that Man, in the memory of the Fallen of every war and every nation in the world, may find the path that leads to Peace….

I say AMEN to that… Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Memories near the holidays, my dad and "Squirrel Brains"!

Found this old picture of the Messere's in front of old Tubbert's Restaurant
one the old North side of Syracuse. I am the little girl in the middle sitting down, 

my cousin Gerri on my left and my brother on the right!
Around the holidays people tend to talk about the, their family who are now gone.  Remembering their mom or dad with a bit of a tear here or sadness because they are gone there…not me, as many times as I think of my father it is not with sadness.  No I don’t tear up with remembrance,  I usually am breaking out in a laugh.  This Sunday morning while I cleaned the kitchen was no exception.

When dad retired he used to work with me helping with my little contracting company or helping me with the new house I bought to refurbish.

When I lived in Syracuse he used to come over early for coffee because he claimed we had the best water (Skaneateles water) and his Solvay well water was far too chlorinated to make a good cup.  Of course… we also had a Mr. Coffee and not mom’s boiled and perked until it was dead coffee.

One morning he showed up while I was making toast and the toaster kept popping up.  In truth it had been doing it for more than a week.  I would punch it down and it would pop back up.  Chris’ cousin Donna had given it to us used and we had worn it out I thought.  I asked my father if he could take a look at it. 

He drolly replied, “Have you ever cleaned it?”  I said. “What do you mean?”  He said,  “You know cleaned it?”  With that he turned it over and there on the bottom was a little door that once opened dropped a pack of bread crumbs onto the kitchen cabinet.  He then gave me his most dreaded statement … the worst criticism that I could ever hear from my father if I screwed up…”Squirrel brain!”  Yes “squirrel brain”….Ouch!

Well today I was making toast and the same thing kept happening... I put the toast down… it would pop up!  Eureka! I knew what to do… turn it upside down and open the little door and shake it clean… This was an easy solution. 

So I turned it over and at that same moment realized I had the fan on the counter on high to move the heat around the room from the wood stove.  Just as I shook the crumbs (tons of them) out…bam!  The air filled with crumbs that were sent over my entire clean kitchen… and so l started laughing and laughing.  If someone saw me they would for sure have thought I was daft.   But I was thinking about my dad.  I knew that somewhere.. up above…ole dad was saying…”Squirrel Brain!” Ouch!