Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Winter Wonderland & Russia & Old Eaton

Waking this Sunday morning of 2019 to snow flakes was truly a discouraging but beautiful thing.  The cold damp air as the cat slid out the door came rushing in at me… soon the cat came running back in.  As I held the door my thoughts flashed back to the Boris Pasternak novel and the film Dr. Zhivago.

I was thankful my neighbor Ed Riggal had plowed my drive and I appreciated it, but thoughts and scenes around the house still reminded me of a Russian winter.

The scenes from the movie at Varykino and all the ice hanging inside the old mansion made me smile with remembrance as all winter my house usually is so cold that the windows are frosted over in the unheated majority of the old structure.

Thoughts of Boris Pasternak and Russian politics have been pushed to the front of the news with the  the Ukrainian situation and Putin... it is bringing to life with our news a new novel that would rival Zhivago in a more modern way.

The novel itself covers the years from 1905 - 1920, years of revolution … White Armies…Red Armies and shows the feelings, poverty, hardship and pain that it wrought in the Motherland.  Banned in Russia the novel was finally published in 1957 in Italy after it was secreted out.  It became a monumental success and actually won the Nobel Prize for literature for Pasternak in 1958... against a backdrop of fear for he, his lover, his wife and his family's well being as the novel in Russia and was claimed to be subversive.

Banned from accepting the award and threatened... writing to the Academy he said, “In view of the meaning given by the society in which I live, I must renounce this undeserved distinction which has been conferred on me. “

In 1960’s Carlo Ponti, the husband of Sophia Loren, bought the screen rights to the novel and offered it to David Lean to make into a film.  Lean felt that in no way was Lara, the main character,  able to be played by Loren... and produced the movie using Julie Christie and Omar Sharif.  The movie of course became a classic and the struggle of the Russian people became a widescreen success that humorously had to be filmed in Spain!  

Lara’s theme became a hit that the music director had to record using Balalaika players from a local Russian Orthodox Church who could not read music… this to make it realistic…It won the Academy award.


And those pictures of Varykino - that are forever in my mind…phony.  To make it look like ice the mansion and sets were sprayed with white wax and then coated with water… yes…wax!!!













Saturday, December 29, 2018

A New Year for the Old Town of Eaton Museum!

Words cannot describe the 20 plus years we (I) have spent down here trying to keep the history of Eaton alive. Time mixed with memories that are both good and bad.  

The original group of Neighbors for Historic Eaton formed out of the group that put on the Bicentennial for the Hamlet of Eaton… a thing that took great co-operation and time…and much effort.

The result of this is the Old Town of Eaton Museum and the Friends of the Old Town of Eaton Museum, a group now left in great part to new faces as the old ones have slipped from our grasp one by one.  How sad to look back, and yet how wonderful to have these memories.

I myself am not from Eaton or Madison County, and yet by that right alone was able to solicit help that bore no old grudge nor hard feelings… as do occur in small country towns.  I started by writing weekly updates on an old word processor loaned to me by Mike Curtis.  These articles were published in the Mid-York Weekly at a time when we had to take them to the paper’s office to get them put into print…a world of difference from  in today’s world of internet sending of both prose and pictures for publication.

We also… with the help of Bob Betz and myself put up the first webpage for Southern Madison County History called Our Old Town.  I did all the writing for that and took the pictures on old used computers and a cheap camera.  That progressed to covering 20 pus historic sites for Madison and Southern Onondaga County as Fall Festival History Weekend.

We have worked hard, and we finally have a 501 not for profit charity status, but we need to continue in that vain to support the Eaton Museum.  

As New Year closes in on us, although a season of hope and joy for many, let us remember the past struggles with happiness for their success…and let us remember with much sadness those who have passed on to become a piece of Eaton’s vast history.

This year coming …will bring us closer to the future…but with sad eyes we tend to in the holiday season to look back…

***Please take the time to view the video below… put sound on… and revisit the Bicentennial in 1995 and view many of our neighbors, relations, and friends who have passed on! 


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

For All My Friends & My Favorite Christmas Poem



Once again on the week behore Christmas I find myself lost amid old memories, problems of the present... and the dificulties of living in this (at the very moment) place in history where in seconds news is flashed, reflashed, disected and rehashed within the blink of an eye.

So.. I decided to try and go back to a much nicer time, a time when life was simple and the holidays were something to look forward to...times to remember in your heart with joy!  Here is a repost from last year...but some things to think about.   I question...are we living in better times???

I painted the above picture for a Christmas card in 1995 and wrote the poem to go with it.  The story came from discussions with the old members of our little community group who shared their remembrances of "Christmas Past".

They are all dead now... but like on old clock I have turned my mind back to that year and leave the poem to you as my Christmas blog and my hope for a quiet and warmer future built on love...not hate....on families....not presents and shopping...and on love for your neighbor!


Going to Grandma’s for Christmas


Going to grandma’s for Christmas,
A very special day.
Through the city, past the suburbs,
Out the country way;
Past the now frozen pond,
Where children skate and sled;
While moms and dads look on.

As we approach the old farm house’
With barns in red and white;
I feel a glow of warmth,
In just picturing the sight,
The front door swinging open;
As waves and cheers abound.
It seems a million years ago,
Last Christmas came around.

The tree in its shining hour;
Standing in the hall,
So it might stretch to its fullest height,
And run from floor to floor.
Grandma’s fresh baked cookies,
Cooling by the stove;
And gingerbread decorated,
With swirls, and dots, and love.


The goose stuffed and waiting;
Cranberries and popcorn strung;
The neighbors gathering at the door,
Singing carols just for fun.
After all the presents,
Are unwrapped and tucked away;
I slip upstairs to Grandma’s room, 
To kneel with her and pray.

Then curled up in a feather bed,
So snug and fluffy warm;
I feel at ease with all the world;
And safe from any harm.

No matter how many years come and pass away,
Grandma and the country,
Will be the heart of my Christmas Day!

Christmas Thoughts & Wishes

Happy Holidays to all… as we celebrate in this crazy year of news, crazy weather, and crazy political events.  What more can one say!  Rather humorously the phrase  “Peace on Earth” and “Good will to Men” has become an impossible wish that even praying appears unable to solve considering the religion of violence which has overcome us all.

As I sit here on the quiet “Back Street” of old Eaton I am blessed in a way... its quiet, boring, everyday life, is a far cry from the world out there.  Oh yes there are problems here and there, but it is a country town quite capable of sustaining itself in a permanent state of suspension.  No terror acts, little crime, prayer groups, basketball at the church, gossip at the local mini-mart and small groups of people that keep the cemetery, church, fire department and museum going.

I do wonder if we here in America who have so much ever stop to consider how very fortunate even the poor are.  We have no war that is bombing us, destroying our communities, reducing our cities to ruble or turning our children’s lives into horror.  Yes children’s lives, that help form the hatred for the invaders or the enemies that are causing them so much pain. A learned hatred that passes onto fighting of more wars and reasons to for them to become warriors.

Reflecting on all this I hope for a moment that we all stop to consider what we have and offer a prayer or wish that all men on earth would one-day share in the richness of what we have.

To those amongst us who are the “have not’s”…take heart and continue on… look around and appreciate what you do have if only good friends or good family or strangers that care.  To the “haves” try not to flaunt it…money and gifts cannot buy happiness for your loved ones or for you.  That “Christmas Feeling”…is short lived. 

I try to look back to a time when a child was born…a child who changed the world’s thinking… a child that advocated peace and understanding.  

There have been many of them…and we need many more.  Children that grew up and changed the world around them with peace and hopeful words not words of hatred, boasting or threatening…only words advocating peace and acceptance… truly great men and women like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, John the XXIII, and many more…and of course, the man whose birthday we celebrate this week Jesus Christ! 


We need men and women who advocate on behalf of People... poor or rich, old or young, of this religion or that… ones who are pushing the one thought of Christmas… “Peace on Earth and Good Will to ALL Mankind.


A bit of history on John the XXIII.



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Advertising, Christmas Spriit and Children's Books!


A couple of years ago I found this and thought I would repost this blog...please view the video and share and laugh...one of the best Christmas advertising campaigns ever!
With all of the Christmas advertisements, internet marketing, and media blitzes to entice us to buy for Christmas or the “Holidays”....  I was amazed to find an advertising campaign that I loved.  I fell upon it while surfing, it was an ad for a very British supermarket chain called Sainsbury.  So of course I was on a "history quest" to learn more, since I remember Sainsbury’s from a trip to London at Christmas many years ago.

Located on historic Druy Lane the company was founded in 1869 by a man named John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann.  Eventually the company expanded and by 1922 it was London’s largest grocery store…in our area much like Wegman’s. Early in its existence it featured “self-service”... a unique concept in those days of personal help in the local stores, it also featured its own brand of goods.

The success of the store was due to its ownership, which remained rooted in family members.  In World War II it stayed open despite the bombing of London and its stores in many other areas (one of which that was severely damaged) and the rationing of foodstuffs. 

The company later was overcome by a competitor Tesco Foods, but today after being split into 3 corporate entities and much needed change was implemented, it opened its 1000th store.

As a way to give back to the community this year it asked children’s book author and artist Judith Kerr to take her famous clumsy hero cat Mog out of retirement in a book and commercial for the holiday season.  

The new book is being sold by Sainsbury's that will donate all of its profits to Save the Children in its effort to promote child literacy… a very important mission of Kerr’s artistic and wonderful children’s books... she has written 15.  

Kerr herself is at 92 and has had an association with her publisher Harper Collins Books for over 50 years, for fun she actually gets a cameo in the video.  Bringing Mog,  her clumsy feline character to life on the screen was a remarkable accomplishment that she thought she would never see.

The commercial edition with its message of sharing has skyrocket around the world via the web and in this year of tragedy and terror I have taken to watching the little video many mornings just to smile and enjoy Mog and his antics.  


Watch and enjoy the Christmas Message! 

Merry Christmas to all!


Sunday, December 9, 2018

A special history, a Stray, and Winston Churchill's love of Cats

Thanksgiving and Christmas time always remind me of home...and with may new porch boarder I thought about my family home and a famous cat called Jock.  The stray that showed up on my doorstep is obviously not a feral cat...he is older..longhair...and super friendly and wants into my house.  I have put out Facebook requests for help since I know he belongs to someone, but so far no luck.  I can't keep him as the stray population that I have been caring for is at its limit and my only house cat Rascal would not tolerate an addition...so if you can help let me know at backstreetmary@yahoo.com...

But here the story of home and a famous cat called Jock!

Winston  Churchill’s mother was Jennie Jerome, a beautiful American who actually has great ties to CNY.  The Jerome Family farms were in CNY and the land that my family built its house on was part of the Jerome Farm…home of Jennie’s grandmother.  

Thoughts of the Jerome farm led me to ponder the fact that for Christmas one year I gave my brother the gold watch dad had given me...he had found the old gold watch in the family garden as a young man...a garden that would later become the family compound of homes.  Repaired and running, I thought it was a great family history piece and a great present.

Picture I took on a trip to London
of Churchill's statue with
Big Ben in Background
Churchill was supposed to come to speak at a family reunion in Syracuse once, but had to turn back because of the presence of U Boats...he did send a telegram to the family group assembled…a piece of history I learned from the Wood-Eaton sisters who visited me years back in Eaton.  They were relatives and were to be at the reunion and remembered the trip.   They had come to Eaton to visit their great grandfather Allen Nelson Wood’s house, the house I live in.  Isn’t it strange how life is full of so much serendipity?

Mr. Wood was named Allen Nelson Wood...Nelson for Lord Nelson a hero his family honored with the name for many generations…and then suddenly my grey cat Rascal jumped in my lap…hint …one o f Winston Churchill’s most famous cat’s  (grey) was named Nelson to honor Lord Nelson.

Churchill was a cat lover, actually an animal lover.  Winston and his wife Clementine signed their love letters to each other with little drawn pictures…he a dog (Pug) she his cat...and their daughter the PK or puppy-kitten.

His cat stories are famous and many can still picture him speaking with a drink in one hand and the grey cat next to him. One story I love is... after one of his famous speeches (he had a lisp as well as drank) a woman MP in Parliament said, “Sir, you are drunk!”  His replay was “Madame that may be true, but in the morning I shall be sober whereas you will still be ugly!”

His favorite cat in later life cat was a ginger-marmalade colored cat he called  “Jock”, named after Sir John Coville his secretary who gave it to him.  Churchill loved the color and the cat so much that after giving his home Chartwell to the National Trust… he stated in his will that it should always have a ginger colored cat in residence…and to this day it does…and always named appropriately “Jock”.

Great piece of history...please help find this new stray cat a home or its owner!



Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Museum, World War I, Peace, Starvation 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..

Every year we all set goals for the next and this morning as  I am sitting drinking a cup of coffee I am doing just that, I have struggled, poured much energy and money into keeping the museum open and with this year's pie sale that was pulled off with a struggle and made a success in part on
Sunday sales... with local support, the question that came to my mind was,...”should I continue after more than 20 years?”  

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 War and Hatred..

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...even though we are in the middle of a supposed boom economy here in the USA. We are also in a time of world war, causing starvation of millions and skirmishes that are killing thousands of innocent people...and for what....Religion and Power....Riches?

So with the recent celebration of the 100th Anniversary of WWI..."The War to end all Wars" I went online to find out what  has been said in the past...   Pope Francis...who signs everything just Francis…in his  New Years message a few years ago for the 48th anniversary of the Day of World Peace spoke in front of a screen that had the Maria Dolens bell 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 of the 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, as always, it rang 100 times at midday...in Italy as I am writing this..... just as it  was shown on the large screen in St. Peter’s square that day.

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…!