Friday, March 30, 2012

Believing my own Fiction

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Here are the final two installments of the first draft of the first chapter of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster,the follow up to Threshhold Girl. I just listened to a BBC Radio Four program where Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins read the Wasteland. You'd think I'd be inspired to do a great job here, but...well. 

I think I'll have my hubby listen to the same BBC program this weekend. A few weeks ago I had him watch Death of a Salesman, because he admitted he had never heard of it. Then I saw that Grapes of Wrath was on Turner Classics, so we watched that. The book was a mandatory read in our high schools, but he never read it. After watching the 1939 (I think) movie he asked, "Why would anyone want to watch something that depressing?"  "It's not nearly as depressing as the book, " I replied.  Well, we still have Star Trek. We both like that.  My husband works nights so I make him lunch at noon and we watch the first Star Trek reruns, kind of a ritual.

Last week they aired that awful episode with the stupid plants that spew happy seeds where Spock falls in love with Jill Ireland. (The first time that aired, back in 67 or whatever, my brothers ran out of the room.) We discovered something new, thanks to HD TV. They use DOUBLES during the fight scenes. After all these years, we suddenly notice. That first Star Trek is part cheesy child's program, part serious sci fi, and part dissertation on the repression of Eros, methinks. And part genius too, I guess. Considering what came after...

Anyway, we both like the Big Bang Theory TV Program, too, which, as it happens, had a Spock themed plot this week, and 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother and  we like lots of modern movies, those androgynous ones, like the Bourne Series. Titanic is an androgynous movie and it's coming out right now in 3D. We won't likely see it because my husband cannot see 3 D. He has an eye issue that's congenital. 

Threshold Girl is about Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald Teachers College in 1911/12, the Titanic Era, if you will. Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is about her older sister Edith's doomed love affair.

The stories are based on real letters, I just embellish. I added a child labour theme to Flora's story and I'm adding a murder theme to Edith's.

The more I think of it, the more I believe my own FICTION.  It is entirely plausible that Edith's fiance went to Mexico to -ahem- make easy money. After all, he moved to Cornwall upon his return, a place where it was easy to smuggle to the US.

The hurricane at Monterrey in 1909 did, indeed, do considerable damage to William Mackenzie's brand new water works system, I found a document on Guthenberg that shows the damage. So it entirely plausible that Charlie's trip to Mexico was to do with some damage control measure by the Canadian concern. William Mackenzie was a Torontonian.  He was made a Sir in 1911, likely at the Coronation of GeorgeV, and along with Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. 

Here:



The Willow Inn in Hudson is Sold.


A view of Big Sur. Someone is selling this house on Sotheby's, 8 million. The house itself appears to be a box surrounded by windows.

This is the pic I have on my desktop right now. Not a bad choice, don't you think!

Still, most of us don't have 8 million to spend on a view. Most of us have to sneak our beautiful views where we can.

One of my favourite views is from the Bar at the Willow Inn, in Hudson Quebec.

World class,really. The water with the ferries, and the Mohawk burial grounds in the distance at Oka, and the little silver church, the view always changing with the season.

Actually, the resto is situated in the COMO area of Hudson. Como is so named because original settlers thought the area resembled the Como area of Italy.

Go to Sotheby's and check our property there. Expensive! Great views, you see. And not just of George Clooney.

Anyway, I just read in Your Local Journal that the Willow Inn has been sold. It's the end of an era.

The Willow Inn (or Auberge Willow Inn, the legal name, I assume) has been our favourite restaurant over the years.  If I could get back all the money for the meals I took there, my retirement fund would be in good shape.

My husband started taking me there when we met. It was the old Willow, the old building, before the fire in (I can't recall the exact year) around 1990.

He told me how "in his day" it was a bar where all the kids hung out, kids over 18. Playing darts and drinking cheap beer. 5 cents a glass or something.  He said he couldn't sneak in when under age, because everyone knew everyone in the small town.

By 1985, when I met my husband, the Willow was  a trendy restaurant, English Pub style, drawing clients from all over, as far as Montreal and Ottawa.  Especially in fall colour season.

My husband didn't like that fact, but I did.

I had only been to the Willow once before I met my husband. My Dad once took me there to celebrate something or other in 1976! My first job after graduation, maybe.

They had a simple menu, of traditional English Pub farr, burgers, a delicious steak sandwich, even steak and kidney pie. At the beginning, I usually had the bbq chicken thighs. Later on the fish and chips.

I remember telling Ken, the bartender there (a childhood friend of my husband's) that I never had a bad meal at the Willow, not in 10 years.

In those days, the Willow was just one of a handful of restaurants in the area, not like today.

And lately, my husband and I haven't gone there much. The food has been, how do you say? inconsistent. (The waitresses are still the nicest, though.)

I think they had trouble with staff, hiring kids. I know, because both my kids worked there when in high school. Doing dishes.

One of them has gone on to work in a very high end resto in Ottawa, the first one to serve seasonal Canadian fare, after training at another very good resto in our area,  the Maxime. He thinks the Willow should provide a spa across the street.

Anyway, the Willow Inn has now been sold, to a Mr. Poirier, the man who owns the local IGA's. Maybe that's a good marriage these days: The rising cost of food has not only been hard on the family budget, but also on restaurants.

That's one of the reasons Le Maxime closed last year.

The local rag says that the Willow will change, but only with time and eventually serve trendy seasonal and traditional pub fare. I guess with a vegetarian option, and gluten free option, etc, as these are the 2010's.

What's traditional pub fare, anyway?  In England, the pubs I visited served salmon fahitas and sushi.





Thursday, March 29, 2012

Audio Book - ebook - Freebook, My Book

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Well, here's the fourth installment of the first chapter of the first draft of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl, my free ebook about Canada in the Titanic Era.  This blog doesn't support MP3 files so I have to create a video to read the chapter out. I'm using slides. All very weird. Until I can get my husband the professional video editor to help me with a slick slideshow.

He says he can't do everything, paint the bathroom, blah blah blah..

Before I put up the next installment, I'm going to check my wireless account. There's a limit on upload, but I've never paid attention until I started loading these videos...I dunno. I hope I can finish the chapter before my  6 year old Canon camera conks. (Nothing is made to last that long these days.) It is acting up. Saying the memory card is locked or something. I had to fiddle for five minutes.

Anyway, I wonder if it is disrespectful to take the image of someone who died in a fire 100 years ago and fiddle with it. Well, he won't care, poor boy. Charlie G. died in a fire in 1910, not uncommon. But many more his age died of diphtheria and pneumonia and TB. In fact, there appeared to be some kind of epidemic happening in Richmond in 1912. And then came WWI. Threshold Girl focuses on Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald College in 1911/12. Two female students died out of the blue that year. She mentions it in her letters (which are in the book.) Her Uncle Dan dies of TB in March 1912.  That's why Flora's Mom, Margaret, was sooooo freaked out when any of her daughters caught a sniffle. That's why I can make an educated guess and say Edith took opium. Medicines in those days had all kinds of good stuff, cannabis, cocaine. And Edith always had a cold.

They invented the term 'drug fiend' back then in 1910. Although plenty of women and little old ladies were going around zonked, it was the poor immigrants that people were worried about, were scared of. Especially the darker skinned ones. When this person took some drugs to decompress, he became a fiend. It's the same as today. Successful businessman, those high octaine 30 somethings who work in high finance or tech, can take all the legal and illegal drugs they want on the weekend, to decompress from their 100 hour work week. No one cares. A recent survey reported in the UK in the Guardian revealed that many highly successful men, all otherwise law-abiding, see nothing wrong with what they do for recreation, the opiates, cocaine and cannabis. In fact, they see it as a necessity, something that helps them be so successful. They would like to give up smoking though. It's the poor we don't want taking drugs, and those who want to get richer by selling drugs to the men in the movers and shakers club, go to jail. This survey says the medical danger is that these businessmen take a lot of sleeping pills to recover from the wild weekends.

I hate taking drugs, the ones that don't pour from a carafe or 750ml bottle, although I took an aspirin today, because a study says aspirin reduces risk of cancer - and I know it reduces risk of Alzheimer's. And I've got a sore shoulder from using the computer.


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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Media Experiments and Me


If you record a recording you get a lisp. I just found that out. Here I read the first part of the first draft of the first chapter of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl. It's late at night and I have a bit of a furry tongue, but the lisp is a product of technology. It takes forever to load these smallish 52 mb files: it's like going back to 2005!

It's not as bad as the Blue Ray player we got for free about 5 years ago when we bought our big screen HD TV. You can load it and go make a toasted egg salad sandwich, and brew fresh coffee, before it loads. My husband broke down and bought a Playstation thingy. I hate both of the machines. I am too lazy to load anything. I buy my movies now on the satellite and save them on the PVR.

Except now they rent the new releases for two days. I rented Tinker Tailor last week for 6.99 and watched it three times in two days to get my money's worth. What a way to get depressed. Horrible people. Even Colin Firth played a total PIG in that movie. Mark Strong is adorable though, in a broken sort of way. While I wrote that last paragraph the file uploaded just 39 percent.

I think I am using up all my space on this blog platform. Oh well. I'm an essayist by profession, but the essay form is finished, I fear. (It hasn't been "IN" for about 200 years, anyway.) It's all about visuals, these days.

 It seems to me the more technology advances, the  more stupid it can become. That's because, even if something works fine, it is 'improved' upon, so everyone will buy a new whatever it is. But then, if there wasn't progress, I mean, were there no progress :) we'd still be taking pictures with that 5.00 Kodak (purchased in 1906) used to take the picture above, well, the original one, before I scanned it and then  fiddled in Photoshop and then Corel - at a very basic level. Alas Kodak just filed for bankruptcy protection. They had a 100 year run.

Now, from what I've seen in the old catalogues, a five dollar camera is one of the cheapest available on the market in the 1905 era - and five dollars was a lot of money in those days. And you had to still buy film and pay for developing. (Come to think of it, the camera was an IDEAL consumer age product!)

Marion Nicholson made only 600 a year as a teacher with a diploma in the Big City. Her Dad was making just 100 a month in the bush on the railroad and they cut him to 50 a month. That's why there are not many pictures of poor or even middle class people, like the ones I have of the Nicholsons. I wonder, if they had know what would become of their photos, if they would have destroyed them. And imagine what our great grandchildren might do with our digital images, one day. That's if they (the images I mean) aren't all destroyed one day by a radiation storm. So, here it is, finally. It ain't exactly BBC Radio 4, call it Radio Dorothy.


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Here's a funny bit from the Richmond Times Guardian circa 1910. The Social Notes. Sutherland's Drug store stuck in their ads for a pocket Kodak in this feature, for some reason. I wonder if he had to pay. Wait! He also put in an ad for a Brownie Camera. One and Two Dollars. (So I guess Brownies were the Model T of Cameras, affordable to all by 1910. We had a brownie in 1960.)  Funnier, Norman Nicholson, of my story Threshold Girl puts in an item about a huge potato he dug out of his garden. I guess he was making fun of the Social Notes.

Of course, it was very common for people to advertise their comings and goings, especially well off people in the city.

Here I added a bit. I still have a bit of a lisp. Must be the wine I just drank.Maybe I should do some She sells seas shells by the sea shore.
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Titanic Fashion and Female Fat



Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl and cousin May Watters, in around 1909 or 1910. Look how thin Flora was!

About 90 pounds or less. Her mother Margaret was worried, as this was the era when a healthy person could catch a cold one day and be dead in a week. Nevertheless, the Nicholson women were weight conscious.

Marion and Edith weighed about 130 or more, but remember, they weighed themselves in their clothing, and they wore a lot of heavy clothing!

As more and more young women went out to work, and this demographic got more clothes purchasing clout, the younger silhouette came into vogue. And the movies didn't hurt, either. The movie camera likes angular lines.

This blog does not support MP3, so I did a short video with the opening of Threshold Girl on my Canon Camera, purchased 6 years ago. My husband, the professional video editor, promises to help me make a professional looking slideshow. But we've already had our first fight over it. That's why husbands and wives don't work together, even if they have complementary talents.


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The first few paragraphs of Threshold Girl. The entire PDF is available for free, without ads. And with some nice pictures of Titanic Fashion.

I insert era fashion sketches as well as beautiful colour plates.


1912 June Titanic Article: What Really Happened!



Loading something on the Titanic as it is being built around 1910. 

My storyThreshold Girl takes place in the Titanic Era and is based on real letters. Here, below, is an 'experimental film' using slideshow and 1912 era Nicholson pics and a song by my friend Gary Jewell. Gary died a few years ago, his songs all lost, apparently. Then, one day, cleaning out my garage, I found a box of old used tapes he had given me, in case my kids (then youngish) wanted them. (Full of his songs he had transferred to MP3 format.) Of course my kids didn't want the tapes.  Kids don't like old technology. But when I found this box, after Gary's death, I was thrilled.  I got my youngest, who still had a tape deck, to play them and edit them all onto one cassette.  (He was at that age where he still would do things for you, although grudgingly.) So I captured Gary's songs. But then I had my brother in law put them on a CD. Much later, last year or something. I was afraid the tapes would disintegrate. He did. But he put them on a strange movie-type CD that makes it next to impossible to access them.

But I took that CD and somehow copied it to my computer, my laptop, and I just now played the song, off of there. For this bit. That's why it is tinny.  But here is the original song Pretty Young Lady - as a soundtrack to my 1912 era slideshow, a random slideshow. I'm just seeing what I can upload here. Only small files, so the slideshow is hazy. (And I taped it off a small tv. Am I crazy? There's GOT to be an easier way.)

I haven't done this since college. 

Back then you had this slide projector and tape that you punched holes in. My slideshow project back then was about the Pre-Raphaelites. It was a media class, and we were making media to some long Ezra Pound Poem. The one that mentions the Pre-Raphaelites, I guess. Some people made films. Anyway, I recall the teacher liked my project best, because it was the only one fulfilling the purpose of the project, whatever that  was. 30 years ago. This is the same teacher, I recall, who wasn't keen on the idea of personal video recorders. He was a filmmaker himself. A student was breathlessly telling him about this new invention on the horizon  and he replied: "It would only be used for porn." 



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Another try, changed the setting. Bigger File.
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Oh well. I'm gonna enlist my husband, a professional video tape editor, to help me do it right.



Here is the rest of a Titanic article from Fireman and Engineer's Magazine, June 1912, about the Sinking of the Titanic.The first paragraphs are located two posts ago on this blog.


Some Terrible Moments

Except in their general outline and their tribute to heroism of the crew and their male passengers, in which they are unanimous, stories of what followed conflict somewhat widely. One of the most coherent and detailed accounts of the accident and the immediate subsequent developments in that the Mr. R. W. Daniel, a passenger on the ill-fated boat, who states that the ship continued to move about a mile before coming to a stop: that the passengers assembled on the deck, and being assured that the Titanic was unsinkable, were at first calm, and later, when ordered to the lifeboats, many of them refused to go, feeling safer in the great ship.

We quote the following from Mr. Daniel’s statement:

“I learned later that there was a conflict in orders given when the boats were filled.  On the starboard side the husbands were ordered to enter the smaller craft with their wives. On the port side, husbands were driven back, the order being ‘women and children first.’ That explains why so many men survived.

In many instances within the range of my vision, wives refused point blank to leave their husbands.  I saw members of the crew literacy tear women from the arms of men, and throw them over the sides, to the boats.  Mrs. Isador Straus clung to her husband and none could pry her from his side.

Fully two hours elapsed between the Titanic striking the berg and her foundering. Not until the last five minutes did the awful realization come that the end was at hand.

Deck after deck was submerged.  There was no lurching, no grinding, or crunching. The Titanic simply settled. I was far up on one of the top decks. Two minutes before the final disappearance of the ship, I jumped.  About me were many others in the water.  My bath robe floated away. It was icily cold. I struck out at once. Before the last I turned. My first glance took in the people swarming the Titanic’s decks. Hundreds were standing there, helpless to ward off approaching death.  I saw Captain Smith on his bridge. My eyes clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed; the water had risen slowly and was now on the floor of the bridge. Then it was at Captain Smith’s waist.

I saw him no more. He died a hero. The bow of the Titanic was far below the surface. To me only her four monster funnels and the two masts were now visible. It was all over in an instant. The Titanic’s stern rose completely out of the water. Up it went, forty, fifty, sixty feet into the air, then with her body slanting at an angle of 45 degrees, slowly the Titanic slipped out of sight. 

Until I die the cries of those wretched men and women who went down clinging helplessly to the Titanic’s rail will ring in my ears. Groans, shrieks and sounds that were almost inhuman came across the water. I turned and swam. Only the preserver about my body saved my life. The Titanic simply lay on the water, settling slowly. The sea was absolutely calm.




Captain Followed the Ship

In the foregoing statement Mr. Daniel says he saw Captain Smith no more than beholding him waist deep in water on the bridge, but the captain followed the ship, according to one of the crew, G. A. Hogg, able seaman, who after stating that himself and a few other men landed on the raft when washed overboard when the Titanic sank,(sic)  said:

“The next moment I saw Captain Smith in the water alongside the raft. “There’s the skipper,” I yelled. “Give him a hand.” And they did. But he shook himself free and shouted to us, “Good bye boys. I’m going to follow the ship.” That was the last we saw of  the skipper.”

Several ships came to the scene of the disaster in response to the Titanic’s wireless calls for help, the Carpathia being the first to arrive. Reading the spot about daylight she rescued those aboard the sixteen lifeboats and the few that were on the rafts.  J. B. Boxhall, fourth officer of the Titanic, said he sighted a steamer not five miles distant, which cold have reached them in ample time to have saved all aboard, but which, for some reason, failed to respond to the Tiatanic’s rockets and other signals of distress. The natural inference is that this ship did not carry a wireless telegraphic and that the rockets were not seen or not understood.

Amongst the most notable of the passengers who lost their lives: Isidor Straus and wife. William T. Stead of the English Reviews of Reviews, President C. M Hays of the Grand Trunk Railroad. F. D. Millet, the artist. Jacques Futrelle, novelist; Henry B. Harris, theatrical manager. Major Butt, President Taft’s military aid; Benjamin Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor.


A False Sense of Security 

Lulled by a false sense of security based upon the theory that the shop was unsinkable, those responsible for her equipment seemed to have regarded precautions and appliances for the safety of passengers and crew in case of accident as a merely matters of form and the necessary discipline on the part of the crew in operating her meagre life saving equipment as entirely superfluous.

At least such a conclusion is justifiable. First, from the declaration of Mr. J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the International Mercantile Marine Company, and managing director of the White Star Line, who being on board the ship, said, “She cannot sink” when informed that the vessel had been struck  by an iceberg.

Second from the fact that the number of lifeboats, rafts, etc. was not sufficient to save more than one-third of the person on bard; and,
Third: because the discipline of the crew in this terrible emergency was miserably deficient, to which fact alone is attributed the loss of nearly 500 lives, that a disciplined crew could, by properly loading the lifeboats, have saved. Many lifeboats were not loaded nearly  to their capacity, some not being half filled – and it is reported that one was overturned during loading and all the passengers drowned.

From the evidence given at the senatorial investigation, as well as from other statements form rescued passengers, it is clear that the crew was unorganized, incapable of pulling together, with no life boat drills, no training in the rudiments of launching, manning or equipping boats, and that many of them were unskilled, even in handling an oar.

Fully two hours and 25 minutes (according to the most reliable estimate) elapsed between the collision and the sinking of the vessel. The night was calm and brightly star  lit and the surface of the ocean smooth.  Had the number of lifeboats been adequate and the crew properly disciplined, comparatively few lives, if any, would have been lost.

Luxury Vs. Security.

Instead of making necessary safety provisions for passengers and crew in the construction of some of their recently built vessels, the managements of the White Star and other lines seem to  have been bent upon catering to the luxury loving propensities of an international aristocracy who spend much of their idle, worthless, pleasure seeking lives in travel.  This is evidenced by the immense amount of space on these ocean going vessels devoted to their inordinate indulgences that should by right be occupied by safety devices, and it is also apparent from the prominence with which the management of the White Star Line advertised the Titanic and others of its shipped equipped with, “ Sports, decks and spacious promenades; commodious staterooms and apartment ensuites; cabins de luxe with bath; squash-racquet couts; Turkish and electric bath establishments; salt water swimming pools; glass-enclosed sun parlours; veranda and palm courts; Louis XVI restaurants; grand dining saloons; electric elevators.

The New York Herald Says:

“Had this latest expression of mercantile naval construction been supplied with few fol-de-rois, such as gymnasiums, swimming tanks and other non essentials to safety at sea, more boats and life rafts could have been carried and every life have been saved under the conditions that prevailed when the Titanic received her death blow.”

We find the same obsequious catering to wealth in the columns and columns of matter devoted by a money-worshipping press to a few millionaires who lost their lives in the Titanic disaster, while even a passing mention is denied the engineers, firemen, oilers, coal passers, and other employees below deck, but for whose skill and toil and sweat the vessel could never have been put to sea.

No Room for Lifeboats.


Captain E. K. Roden, in a notable article written for The Navy some time ago and which has been widely quoted since the Titanic disaster, said, in effect, that safety appliances in passenger ships were not keeping pace with the constantly increasing demand for luxury and comfort in ocean travel.  Representatives of certain shipping interests have been quoted as saying that the public demands these luxuries and that is the reason they are offered.
The New York Evening Post, taking issue with claims of this kind, says that, as a matter of fact:

“Each and every line seeks to outdo the other in new and original features, so that their press agents may have more to talk about, and that the newspapers will give more space to descriptions of the extra ordinary success that they have attained duplicating on the ocean ‘all the features of the most luxurious modern hotels.’ Then they forget to make a few thousand dollars of expenditure necessary to buy sufficient lifeboats and rafts, but tell us that is the fault of the public.  The Post says further, “every humanitarian advance in shipping the world over has been purchased by suffering or loss of life.’

A statement in this connection  which is now very significant was made by a White Star Line official three years ago.

“It is well-know that it is impossible for a steamship in passenger service to carry enough lifeboats to accommodate all hands at once. If this were done so much room would be utilized for lifeboats that there would be no room left for passengers. The necessary number of lifeboats would be carried at the cost of many of the present comforts of our patrons.”

J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the International Mercantile Marine Company and managing director of the White Star Line was among those saved, and the fact of his occupying a lifeboat while so many passengers lost their lives through lack of lifeboats, leads even the Wall Street Journal to say.

“Is there any passenger who should not have found place in the boats before the greatest or least official of the line.”

Speed Madness

The general inference is that Mr. Ismay was responsible for urging the Titanic at the excessive rate of speed she was making under such dangerous conditions with a view to ‘breaking the record’ which was also the incentive for taking the Northern Route, the most perilous at the time because of icebergs.

He however declares that ‘he would not have ventured to make any suggestions to a man of Captain Smith’s experience. That the responsibility for the navigation of the ship rested solely with him.”
The conclusion seems to be fully justified that speed madness was primarily responsible for the ship’s rushing ahead at night through perilous sea lanes after repeated warnings about icebergs.
The New York American: “Heedless of warnings, indifferent to disaster, the White Star Officials raced with Death and Death won.”
The New York World: The public has encouraged and inflamed this speed madness and must share in the blame.”
That the officers of the line considered speed before safety is to be inferred from the following statement of the Titanic’s quartermaster:
“We were crowding her to the limit. Every ounce of steam was crowded on, and she was under orders from the general officers of the line to make all speed of which she was capable. We had made 565 miles that days and were tearing along at a speed of 21 knots when we struck the iceberg.

The captain went down with the ship so the captain could not testify on his behalf.  Many are inclined to remember only his heroic end and cover what might be his shortcomings in a mantle of charity. Others seek to hold him personally responsible.

“Ice was in plain sight, floating ice and bergs. Not only that but Captain Smith had received by wireless messages at least three warnings that icebergs were in his path.  He had acknowledged with thanks the Mesaba’s warning that dead ahead of him lay much heavy packed ice and great numbers of bergs.” Yet straight into the jaws of destruction he steamed at high speed. The company is in no way absolved. Undoubtedly the captain was aware of the desire on the company’s part for a quick voyage. It would please the passengers and bring trade to the line.
Wireless Facilities Limited

That wireless telegraphy has, as the Baltimore Sun expresses it,” fallen short of its possibilities from lack of systemized organization and co-operation” in connection
 with the Titanic disaster was sadly evidenced by the failure of the vessels within comparatively close range to turn to the aid of the doomed ship when she flashed her message of distress. One vessel that might have saved all or nearly all of the passengers and crew failed to receive the call from the Titanic because her wireless telegraphy operator was asleep and it was only because the one only operator on the Carpathia had by chance postponed his usual hour of retirement that the vessel heard the call for help. Th events of that evening have created a strong and general demand for strict regulation providing among other things, for the equipment of freight as well as passenger steamers with wireless outfits and the requirement that every passenger boat be equipped with two operators. The New York World says: “Out of the revelation of lax and chaotic methods of wireless communication on the ocean should come a reform which must secure its stricter regulation for the public benefit.  The exhaustive investigation of the disaster by the United States Senate and the British Parliament augmented by the force of public opinion, will undoubtedly result in the enactment of legislation requiring the thorough equipment of all vessels with safety appliances and the resultant elimination of at least some of ‘the features of the most luxurious hotels.”







Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Montreal Nature Then and Now


Blue Bells from Flora Nicholson's Nature Diary, 1912.

A few days ago, it was the first day of Spring and I believe the high temperature was 25 Celsius or so. (Today it's almost 0 Celsius, what a let down. But it's sunny.)

A hundred years ago, on March 21, it was 14 below zero Fahrenheit (Canada used that measure back then.)

I know because Flora Nicholson, subject of my story Threshold Girl,  was a student at Macdonald Teachers College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue (about 2o kilometers from where I sit right now) and for an assignment she had to keep a Nature Diary. (It was an era of rampant industrialization and educators were nostalgic for more simple, agrarian times. They felt city kids needed to 'go back to nature' if only in theory. )

Date: March 21st. Events: First day of Spring. Notes: 14 below. Skating!

By April 1 st the temperature had risen to 45 degrees (F). O Canada!

On April 7 Flora writes: Sap of Maple Tree. Good run of sap on Sunday as night before was cold and frosty.

(Our very warm 2012 March means much less maple syrup. I've heard differing numbers, but a farmer near Ottawa who supplies a resto where my son works said the syrup run is only 30%. And there's fear that young crops like asparagus may be lost with a frost, so we are all going to pay for that warm spring, with even more expensive vegetables. Alas.)

Her entry on April 12th: English Sparrow. Brown backs with touches of black. Male has large black spot on throat and up towards side of head. Tame.

And on April 16th. Robins. Back dark brown, Head Dark Brown. Breast reddish. Flies low. Cheerful song. Also: Woodpecker. (red-headed) Resembles robin. Back brown and white. Head reddish. Pecks trunks of trees with its bill.

This was a day after the Titanic sank. I'm pretty sure word was out on the street about the disaster.  Flora's sister, Edith, a teacher at Westmount Methodist Institute in Westmount,  writes her mother on April 19th:
"This year has gone by very quickly after all. What a dreadful accident to the Titanic and such a great loss of life. It seems to have cast a gloom over every one. People can talk of nothing else. Mr. Hays will be a great loss to the Grand Trunk. There are to be memorial services in all the churches on Sunday morning. A special one for Mr. Hays in the American Presbyterian.

I think I shall go out to Macdonald tomorrow and see Flora.
Flora and one of her 1911 letters from Macdonald College to her Mom in Richmond, Quebec.
Click here for a video tour of her portfolio.


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(Still, Edith's April 19, 1912 letter) Later Sunday Afternoon.

I went out to Macdonald on the 1.30 train and spent a pleasant afternoon. She is looking splendid and is so beautifully dug out there. It is an ideal spot. The ice has moved out of the Ottawa a little but not yet from the St. Lawrence. I went to the memorial service in the American Presbyterian this morning. The front was draped with black. The pulpit with the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. The service was very impressive . He is certainly well spoken of."

Flora doesn't make an entry on the 20th, the day her sister Edith visits her. But on April 21st, Flora makes her next entry in her Nature Diary. The ice has moved on the river, she writes, repeating Edith's observation.

And she continues making entries for about 10 8x5 inch pages, in pencil, in her neat school teacher handwriting. She observes junkos (aren't they winter birds?) clipping sparrows, crow blackbirds,  purple martins, and on April24, elm trees with buds about to burst into bloom. On May 4, 1912  she sees the dog-toothed violets of the picture. Six petals, six stamens.

Flora's  final entry: May 28th. Saw a bumblebee.


Flora graduated in June, as described in Threshold Girl. She gets a job on the City Board, teaching in Griffintown. Her students are mostly the children of newly arrived Russian Jews.

In 1914 she writes a letter home saying she is invigilating at Parent's Day and she describes a school packed with parents anxious to know how little Johnny and Sally are doing.

Here is a sample classroom exercise, in boxwork, as described in Flora's Macdonald Portfolio. Boxwork was part of Manual Training " to instil a taste and love for  labour, to inspire a respect for labour, to develop independence and self-reliance, to train in habits of order, neatness, cleanliness and methodical work, to train the eye to a sense of form and beauty, to develop industry, patience and perseverance.” (That bit is from Flora's notes.)

To be made in the 3rd year,

I will show the children a box, already made up that is both closed and opened out flat. Then I shall take a little review of the work taken up, mostly square tray, fancy tray, explaining that we use very much the same measurements in the cubicle box. (She spells cubicle cubical.)

Then I shall have the students place their cards on the table, with straight edge facing them. Then I shall have them measure two inches from right hand edge both at back and front edges and joining these points and having them cut off that strip.

Then I shall have them measure left and right hand edges and from back and front edges and joining these points which gives us three rectangles and  six equal squares. 

Then I would ask the pupils how many faces there are in a cube. They would invariably reply 6. So they would see we have too many squares.

Then I would have them draw diagonals from lower squares on left and right hand side and also from squares on right and left hand side towards the back edge, score the other line and cut the heavily marked one and fold. 

As I was giving instruction for this, I would draw it on the blackboard.



Flora's Candy Box from her Portfolio.

Flora continued to teach all her life, despite marrying and having children.

She also continued to draw and document Canadian nature scenes in her paintings.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Titanic Magazine Article from June 1912.


A 1908 pic from Technical World magazine showing where the Titanic and the Olympic were to be built.

I found this interesting article written about the Sinking of the Titanic in a magazine published in the US in June 1912 that tells the story from a working man's perspective - and an engineer's perspective. Here's the first part of  Loss of the Steamship Titanic: the World's Greatest Achievement in Shipbuilding. From Locomotive Firemen and Engineman's Magazine. (Amazing what you can find on eBay.)

My ebook, Threshold Girl is about a college girl in 1911/12,is based on real letters, and contains information about the Titanic, from the point of view of the woman on the street, so to speak.

The sinking of the Whitestar Steamship Titanic, at about 2 o'clock on the morning of April 15, 1912, is the greatest disaster in maritime history, one thousand,six hundred and thirty five lives being lost, out of a total of 2, 340 on board, while many of the 705 who were rescued suffered hardships and terror, that will doubtless impair their health and mar their future happiness.

The Titanic was on her Maiden Voyage, she was the biggest finest ship afloat and her reign as Queen of the Seas was only of five days duration. On April 10th she sailed from Liverpool and on the following Sunday night, give days later, collided with an iceberg and sank, about 150 miles south of Cape Race Newfoundland and about 1100 miles east of New York.

Nothwithstanding the presence of much floating ice, and repeated warnings from other vessels that the icebergs were in the vicinity, she was steaming ahead when the collision occurred at a speed of about 21 and a half knots, about 24 and 3/4 statute miles and hour.

Some few minutes after 11 o'clock, accounts vary as to the exact time, a veritable mountain of ice was seen ahead, against which despite all efforts the ship crashed, a submerged portion ripping open the vessel's bottom  on the starboard side.

The shock was not violent, but the officer's soon discovered that the damage was such that it was just a question of how long the leaking bulkhead and pierced air compartments would keep the vessel afloat. (to be continued)



The Titanic and Olympic being built. Pic from Technical World Magazine.

This article is to be Continued next post.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Whatever is Good For Business.. is "GOOD" ?



I love the essay form, and one of the best essays I ever read explored the adage "Whatever is Good For Business is "Good".  I found it in a paperback volume of the best 100 American Essays.

That's all I can remember. (Except that the volume was blackish and had another essay about Going to the A and P.)

This Essay about Business was I think from the 30's, I imagine.

Today, few people dispute this adage. Many believe Greed is good, turning a Deadly Sin on its ear.

Well, I think of this as I read about a company named Aveos, here in Quebec. It's the company that services Air Canada planes. Last week it closed its doors and laid off about 2,000 skilled workers, the kind of people who live in my middle class neighbourhood.

The company is an iffy one. It has unknown owners, (Hedge Fund? I heard rumours) headquarters in Luxembourg, so some European tax shelter place, and right now, despite having a bankrupt Canadian arm, it is expanding its operations in El Salvador, where some workers make 2.00 an hour, if news reports are right.

Gee, that makes me confident about taking Air Canada. I'm scared enough when I fly. All those funny noises the planes make.

Yes, we in the Western World have for decades been living a comfy lifestyle on the backs of the Third World, and El Salvador is not a too terrible country, that is experiencing rapid industrialization. And they have nice weather, so people  there don't need to heat their houses or buy snow tires, if they own a car.

And obviously this kind of thing is 'good for business' and allows the rest of us Canadians to take a break from the cold and fly cheap every winter to sun destinations. If we are lucky enough to have a job that pays a reasonable amount of money.

My story Threshold Girl is about Canada in 1911/1912, the Titanic Era. It is based on family letters. To research this book I learned a lot about the 1910 era. It was an era when the Western World was experiencing rapid industrialization which was really upsetting the status quo.

My story takes place in Richmond Quebec, Montreal and Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

Flora Nicholson, the main character, is at Macdonald College training to be a teacher.  There is a dire need for teachers, especially in the City, where immigrants are pouring in (mostly from the UK) to work in the factories.

Many new schools are popping up to accommodate the children of these immigrants. Flora is hoping to get a school in the City, as everything is new and clean. She ends up working at William Lunn, in Griffintown, and teaching Russian Jews.

Between the years 1908-1913 Henry Ford famously perfected the assembly line. He also worked out a big problem in the automobile industry, saturation.  By 1910, most people who could afford an auto, (about 2,000 dollars) had already purchased one. Henry Ford created a car, the Model T, for about 500 dollars that could be purchased by his own employees, who he promised to pay a fair wage. Even the Janitor makes 5.00 a day, he proudly proclaims in an (below) article from 1913.


In 1910, Richmond, Quebec, a once thriving railway town, was losing citizens to the City and to the West, where all the jobs were. Especially young folk. Some of these young men headed out the US to work in Mr. Ford's Factories.

Anyway, sun destinations are nice. This February I took Air Canada to LA for a bit of sun - and to see family. L A isn't a sun destination. It's just a fun destination. I could afford it, up to a point. My husband's union wage has been frozen for about 15 years! And it's not like food or gas is getting any cheaper. My husband's union has taken many concessions over the years. In fact, he gets no overtime, ever, they give it all to the "freelance" guys. But he's too old for overtime anyway.

It's a trade-off. I guess.

Aveos employees had a good deal. Good salary, plenty of overtime, great benefits, so I have heard. And now they have nothing.  Good for business, firing them all, but not good for the common good, here in Canada, here in Quebec, where winters are long and cold, usually, anyway.





"The Man and His Work" (Technical World Magazine 1913)

"The other day he notified his Men and Women that for the work of getting out a thousand automobiles a day they are to get ten million dollars more a year in the way of wages. Even the janitor who sweeps out, if he is an American Citizen and over 22, will receive a minimum wage of 5 dollars a day."

Of course, Mr. Ford believed in "Whatever is Good for Business is Good" when he worked with the Germans during the war.

What bothers me the most: Democracy is not good for business, even if the myth goes that free trade and democracy go hand in hand. A little bit of democracy, is good, perhaps, but not too much. You want good little workers, not free-thinkers, not critical thinkers. These types start unions.

In 1910, the Powers That Be were hoping to create a country full of good little workers, by educating the immigrant child in Manual Training. The goal was to keep him 'in his proper place'. He was to have 'right and proper' aspirations.


Manual training may be defined as special training of the senses, sight, touch and muscular perception by means of various occupations, not so much for themselves, or the material product of the work, as for the training of the mind. The aim of manual training is to instil a taste and love for  labour, to inspire a respect for labour, to develop independence and self-reliance, to train in habits of order, neatness, cleanliness and methodical work, to train the eye to a sense of form and beauty, to develop industry, patience and perseverance.”


My storyThreshold Girl also incorporates a Child Labour theme. I have a character who works in the Cotton Factory at Magog.

Dominion Textile, back then,  employed girls as young as twelve. I saw it on the Census page. Also according the Census EVERYONE there worked 60 hours a week, even part timers. (That's because the law stipulated 60 hours as the limit.)


It looks as if someone "doctored' the census document. The company was afraid of information on a  Census, that was only going to be released in 91 years. Imagine!!

We've come so far in 100 years, and now.......


Friday, March 23, 2012

Wales Home and High Tech

This is a picture of Sarah McLean McLeod, my husband's great great grandmother, born Isle of Coll and living in Kingsbury, Quebec most of her life.

She lived from 1827 until 1912. So she died 100 years ago, early May. In Richmond, at her son's house.

I write about her because the newspaper the Sherbrooke Record contains a story by Corrinna Pole about the Wales Retirement Home in Richmond, Quebec, claiming it is the first such institution in the Province to implement a Real Time Surveillance System, in the form of a bracelet for each of its residents.

I'm guessing, but the Wales Home (a majestic place situated on a tall hill) might not have existed except for people like Sarah Mclean McLeod.

I say so because in 1911/12 Sarah was aged and infirm and taking care of her took quite a toll on the Nicholson Family of Richmond.

I wrote about them in Threshold Girl = a free ebook, that tells the story of Flora Nicholson's year at MacDonald College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. The year is 1911/12, the year of the Titanic sinking. It is also the year Sarah dies.

The Nicholson Family Letters tell the full story. Sarah is living with Flora's Uncle Dan in Richmond. Flora's mother Margaret often is called on to sit with her, sometimes all night. Margaret has her own problems as the letters and my story Threshold Girl reveal.  Uncle Dan gets TB and dies in March. Sarah dies in May. Below is the ticket Norman took to get from his job on the railway home for his brother in law's funeral. Ironically, it is signed Charles Hays, who died on the Titanic a few weeks later. Hays was President of the Grand Trunk. The BBC included this artifact on their History of the World Website.



As it happens, Mr. Wales was friends with the Nicholsons. He no doubt knew about the stress that this situation put on the Nicholsons and perhaps other Richmond families. In fact in almost tore the family apart.

In 1917 when he died he left money in trust for a seniors home. Norman Nicholson, Margaret's husband was one of two trustees for the Wales Home.

I have all the papers.

My husband and I visited the Wales Home in 2005, because a Mrs. Montgomery was there. She was born in 1910 and Margaret minded her for she was the neighbour's child.

...The picture above was a TINTYPE, and not a good one. But I cleaned it up in Photoshop. I made Marion pretty. This is the only picture of her as a young woman, for it would be in around the 1850's. One of her great granddaughters looks a lot like her.

Now, according to scholars, Edwardian era families DID NOT take care of their elderly, not in England. They did not 'take them in.'  If an old person was lucky, he or she held on to her house and then was in the position to take in a grand child or helper. Otherwise, it was the POOR HOUSE for them.

Sarah had some money, and that's the problem. Everyone fought over it.

Margaret McLeod lived to 1942. She lived in her home until 1938 and I believe she stayed with her daughter in Montreal for her final 4 years.


What I did on my summer Vacation- ah Staycation.


Burnt orange is in style among the beau monde or The One Percent, as we now refer to them.

Well, we're about to go back to reality. The temperatures from now on, in Montreal, will be closer to seasonal.

My 'summer vacation' is over. No more breakfasting on the porch and eating bbq out there in the evening, not for another month at the very least. It was indeed like a summer vacation. Or summer staycation. Warmth is so relaxing.

March can be the cruelest month, here in Quebec, as you wait for the snow to melt. And watching snow melt is like watching water boil, it just doesn't happen fast enough. But there's no snow in my backyard now. It all melted this past week.


 Not like in 1971 when I was 16. We had a record snowfall on March 3 to 5th. Here I am a day later, when it was hot. I recall we teens just watched as our Dad shoveled us out. My husband has a similar picture, (except he's one year younger in 1971 and about 7 inches shorter!) He says his neighbour came home in a helicopter after that storm.

I lived in Rosemere Quebec (about 17 miles off island North of Montreal).He lived in Hudson Quebec about twice as far away off island going West.  (A few years ago we had a near record snowfall. My husband had to shovel off the roof, twice, which resulted in  our house being encased in a wall of ice until April. Horrible. My dogs had only a little 4 by 4 foot space to pee and poop in front of the house. Disgusting!

I've continued scoping the web for beautiful home interiors (on real estate web sites) and I can say I found another North American City with homes (wealthy homes) as beautifully decorated as New York and California Homes. Montreal! Who would have thunk it!

Montreal may have been deemed the 149th best place to live in Canada (by Moneysense Magazine) but the rich in this city have taste.

My kind of taste. But then again I am a Montrealer.

Westmount, the Plateau, Ville Marie, Old Montreal, the houses for sale on Sotheby's in the area are stupendously decorated.

And they can't all be owned by Guy Laliberte!

Villas in Spain were spectacular too.

I don't get to mingle much with people who live in million dollar homes. Once, years ago, when I was working as a temp on a fundraising project for a museum I saw into that world.

The woman running the venture was about to be divorced (and freaking out a bit) and while we worked on the fundraising, I also helped her with her social activities. She was planning  a party for 140 or so of her closest friends.  She had an A list and a B list.

That was many many moons ago. I also remember the cocktail party for this event, and the society matrons complaining about how hard it was to keep 3 houses going, the city home, the country home, the other home.

I joked that I didn't have even one house. A woman told me, "It will come." But I knew it would not. I knew I'd be lucky to have one home, which I do have. Way out in the burbs. It is very boring here. I hate it, actually.

Anyway, my grandparents Jules and Maria Crepeau, had a nice house in the City at 72 Sherbrooke West. . Here's a picture from the real estate ad online 72 Sherbrooke West is for sale!! What do you know.  It's a triplex, now, three homes, all nicely decorated. Of course. Montreal! (The photo is copyrighted to Centris, as you can see.)



 I have written Milk and Water about my grandparents. The eplay takes place in Montreal in 1927, the era of US Prohibition..... My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was Director of City Services back then...So I finally 'got inside' my grandparent's place. They didn't take pictures, indoors, back then. Here are my grandmother and mother (at bottom) in 1929  on the porch of 72 Sherbrooke West.


The inside of their home, I've been told, was piled with bric a brac,4 stories of it,  a few pieces of which I still have. My grandmother dusted it herself, with the help of 'troubled' girls from the nuns'. My favorite piece is my Verre Francais vase. I liked it the best all my life. My aunt owned the vase. And now I own it. Burnt Orange Cloud Pattern.

Odd, I have seen very little Verre Francais in these fancy homes on Sotheby's for sale. Maybe it's not in vogue.



My Verre Francais, Schneider. I am planning to paint my walls yellow, because my house gets little light in the summer. Too many trees in front and it's forbidden to chop them down.