Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday ramblings

A camera is a wonderful thing. It’s really too bad that I don’t own one, because our front yard is awash right now in the brilliant pinks of our multitudinous (okay, nine) encore azaleas and our wonderfully full camellia bush that has more blooms and buds than you could shake a stick at (to quote my father). Our yard looks more like spring than fall. I would love to be able to show it to you but, alas, I cannot. I searched Google for a possible substitute photo to include in this post, but nothing I saw even came close to the splendor in our grass. Actually, I think no photograph would begin to do our blossoms justice, unless Ruth Hull Chatlien happened to be the photographer.

My first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, was given to me by my Aunt Marion, my mother’s older sister, who visited us in Texas along with my thirteen-year-old cousin Philip the summer I was seven. They had boarded a bus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and after riding for three days, my aunt’s first words upon arriving were, “Now I know why they call it Greyhound -- because you feel like a dog when you get off.” That Brownie Hawkeye served me well for many years, until I married someone who owned a real, live, Polaroid Land camera.

In the interest of full disclosure, Mrs. RWP didn't spend any hard-earned money on her camera. She had entered a drawing at a supermarket and when they drew her name she won either ten thousand or one hundred thousand S&H green stamps (she can’t remember) and chose the camera, a chord organ, and a complete set of Corning cookware as her prizes. The Polaroid stayed busy until the company stopped making film for it and the chord organ was eventually replaced by a real piano, but Mrs. RWP is still using the Corning cookware.

When I was ten, my aunt and cousin visited us a second time, riding the Greyhound bus again for three hot, dusty days. My gift that year appeared to be a maroon -- I suppose it would be called burgundy today -- faux alligator-skin, attaché case, but when I opened the lid, it turned out to be a portable record player! Before then, we had a huge, wind-up Victrola monster that we had brought with us all the way from Rhode Island (I am not even kidding. My earliest recollections of listening to music from the Victrola include John Charles Thomas’s rendition of Albert Hay Malotte’s “The Lord's Prayer” and Gene Autry’s rendition, I think it was, of “The Mockingbird’s A-Singin’ in the Lilac Bush.”) Thanks to my aunt, I was able to play 78, 45, and 33-1/3 rpm recordings on my portable player for years, all the way through college.

[Update: You will get extra credit if you listen, right now, to a few songs from the most romantic LP ever made. Then come back here and read the rest of this post. And you guys in the back row, “rpm” is short for revolutions per minute, kind of like on the tachometer in your car. I will assume your grunting indicates comprehension. There was a 16-2/3 rpm speed, too, but that type of record is really rare. By the way, on the test at the end of the course, you will be asked to give an example of alliteration. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

Those two gifts from my aunt are among my favorite childhood memories. To be fair, though, my grandfather -- who also lived in Pennsylvania and whom I didn’t meet until I was fourteen -- sent me an enormous chocolate-covered coconut egg every year for Easter. I sent him cans of Prince Albert pipe tobacco for Christmas. Our family was (were?) really into the giving of gifts. Also the writing of thank-you notes.

So I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to use your imagination to picture those azaleas and camellias because I have yet to buy a video camcorder or a digital camera or one of those expensive all-purpose cellphones that can upload photographs to the Internet while simultaneously cooking your supper and waxing your car. And the longer I wait, the more expensive today’s gadgets seem to become. Instead of lowering prices, the manufacturers just add a few more bells and whistles to their products and continue to charge an arm and a leg. That just doesn’t seem right, somehow. At our house, we are concentrating more these days on paying our mortgage and buying food and renewing prescriptions. Acquiring more “stuff” is not a priority. Just in case you’re wondering, I composed this post on a kerosene-fueled personal computer with a monitor powered by a hamster running on a treadmill.

One thing that has gotten cheaper, though, is telephone calls. When I was young, long-distance calls were a rarity unless there was a death in the family. But every year on New Year’s Eve, at exactly 11:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, my aunt called from Pennsylvania to wish us all a happy new year. She was an hour ahead of us. Even after I was grown, telephone calls were not cheap. In 1969, when my annual salary was around nine thousand dollars, my employer sent me to Stockholm, Sweden, for a month and I remember that a three-minute call home to my wife cost sixteen dollars. I wish the camera-makers (and big-screen-TV makers, too) would take a note from those nice telephone people.

Speaking of notes, the choir director at our church has decided to include a piece of my music in this year’s Christmas program. I composed a new tune to “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” an eighteenth-century hymn written by John Wesley’s brother Charles, and combined it with the more-familiar tune called Hyfrodol. So it is partly old and partly new. The choir ran through it for the first time last Wednesday night and seemed to like it. The musical-composition software that I use is called Finale; it was given to me by my son.

It was an even better gift than my old Brownie Hawkeye camera.


  1. Wow....what a very kind and thoughtful Aunt Marion you had!! Your blog is super without your own photos.....although there are quite inexpensive digital cameras out there.

    And, wow.....Mrs. Rhymsie won some great prizes there! I once won a door prize at a bridal shower.....a towel and washcloth.....that's about it for my prizewinnings.

    I recall my mom having a camera similar to the one in your photo.

    Truly, you will need to record the composition of yours so we can hear it! Please!

  2. i can't believe the memories you bring back to me , in some way we have parrell lifes except maybe our under standing of c.s. lewis....anyway...the little hawkeye camera....i was just 12, a boy scout at steiner in the utah uintas....i was on top of a three sided cabin trying to take a picture of mtn. hayden when i stepped off the roof and fell ontop of my camera busting it and losing all the pictures....i cried for both the camera and the pictures

  3. also i spent 1 year in stockholm sweden, 3 years in etain france, and 2 years in birmingham england

  4. Thanks, Jeannelle and Putz, for your comments and for reading my blog.

    Jeannelle, welcome back after your Sky Watch marathon!

    Putz, I guess we *have* had parrell lifes in many respects! I have two comments about your comments:

    (1) I can't for the life, parrell or otherwise, of me picture a three-sided cabin. Do you mean it was triangular or that one side was open to the elements? And wouldn't that make it more of a "lean-to" than a cabin?

    (2) The first sentence I learned in 1969 Swedish was "Var finnst der herrtoaletten?" (Where is the men's room?), but I used to know a guy named Paul who always yelled out upon entering a Mexican restaurant, "Donde es las mujeres?" (Where are the women?) and all the waiters would laugh.

  5. it was a sturdy, fully developed log cabin, rectangular with bunks three feet high, solid roof and open so you felt like camping along the rectangle side, but certainly not a lean toooooo. a fire was going all night in fron't of all the boys, but in the summer you generally didn't need more than one blanket

  6. "Just in case you’re wondering, I composed this post on a kerosene-fueled personal computer with a monitor powered by a hamster running on a treadmill."


    Yeah, right. And I'm powering my boiler (furnace) on greyhound gaseous emissions.

    Great nostalgia there. I never had a wind-up gramophone, but we were talking about them just last night. Yellow Swordfish has a post up about Desert Island Discs and we were just saying how they must have meant you to have a wind-up gramophone on the island or how else were you to play them?

  7. Jay, I guess you could say my aunt and cousin traveled halfway across the continent on greyhound gaseous emissions!

    Thanks for commenting!

  8. You never fail to make me giggle. Perhaps a little bird should tell those six children to go together and get dad a camera for a birthday or christmas or just because. That is what we do for our mom.

  9. Oops! I meant three children and six grandchildren...my brain is asleep.

  10. egghead, I wasn't hinting; really, I wasn't (wink, wink). But actually I don't want them to spend a lot on anybody right now.