Preserving the Past

You are looking at a photograph of the “younger generation” who attended the Price family reunion in Newburgh Ontario 99 years ago this past summer.This group was made up of the children of the folks organizing the reunion and were the grandchildren of Andrew Valleau Price (1830-1810.)

Now if you are a fan of Strauss-Howe Generational Theory it is clear that we are talking about a “younger generation” that is in itself three possible demographic generations – that’s the way it was back in the 19th century when a big family could have kids born over a 20 year span, and then their kids might do the same.. The oldest grandchild is my grandmother who was close to 40 by then and had kids of her own. The youngest one was probably born around 1910. No matter – the photographer knew best how to organize the photo.

A second question given that we have this photo from a century ago is how can we preserve the memory for future generations to enjoy and talk about? This breaks down into a number of sub topics:

Conservation of the Image

I don’t know how many copies of the original image are still around but I’m willing to bet that if a given image hasn’t been thrown away or burned, it’ll still look good. It’s ironic that 100 year old black and white paper technology gives us the best chance of a long term preserved photo. This one looks far better than some of the fading color slide images I took in the 1970s, and I’m not confident that the Instagram and Facebook digital photos of today will survive that well either.

It does require someone who cares to keep the photo around though. My grandmother obviously cared. So did my mother. So do I. And so did the original photographer who arranged the group and used a high quality early 20th century camera to make the image in the first place.

Who’s Who?

Ay, there’s the rub. Everyone in the photo is dead now, so there’s nobody from Newburgh 1917 who can help us today. There are a few distant cousins in the succeeding generation but they are now in their mid 80s. I have been in contact with one and he has been helpful ruling out some grandkids who were not there.

I am probably the oldest of the grandchildren of anyone in the photo, and I conclude that there are some people in the pic I have met and know for sure, others I have a pretty good probability of guessing, and some I don’t have a clue and don’t know how I’d ever know who they are. All I can say is that I wish I’d discussed this photo with my mother and uncles 35 years ago. Too late now.

Sharing The Knowledge

Here’s the easy part. With the Internet and the rise of websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch I can post the image in the Cloud and make it available to thousands of prospective researchers. Maybe a distant cousin will recognize it as one they have in their collection, and contact me. That happened with the cousin I mentioned above – his wife is a genealogy buff.

It’s sort of like a message in a bottle, but multiplied many times over. Put it out there and see what happens. At least it’s not just sitting in an old photo album in a dresser drawer.

There you have it. I’m doing my part at this distant point in the future. But how I wish I could know more about the past.

 

Have Camera, Will Travel

Like most people I have always liked to travel and document what I saw in my wanderings. That meant I was always  hauling along a camera of sorts. Since my travel experience now goes back close to 50 years the apparatus I took along has changed a bit. Here is a brief history of what I’ve used over the half century.

1969-1981 Yashica Electro M5

Type: Manual Focus Viewfinder

Medium: 35 mm Color slide film.

Summary: Cheap and cheerful, my first serious camera.

Got this one shortly after I graduated from university and it went everywhere with me. It was a rudimentary beast – hand focused, hand cranked film advance, no real controls other than sunny, cloudy, indoor settings. The flash was always a hit and miss proposition.

This one documented the earliest days of my relationship with Maria, our time in Port Hope and Montreal, Sarah’s early days, so it made a lot of great memories. In the right light it took pretty good slide photos.

Ah 1971. Not a bad year.

By the time I got to the early 1980s though. I was ready for something better.

1982-2002 Nikon FE and 3rd Party Lenses

Type: Manual Focus SLR

Media: 35 mm color slide film and later 35 mm color print film.

Summary: My life in pictures.

Pretty amazing that over 30 years I just used two film cameras. This second one I got from a work colleague who had it as a spare camera. It was and is a classic from Nikon. I never really took advantage of its quality though as I couldn’t afford a bunch of Nikkor brand lenses. The camera came with a small 50 mm Nikon lens, but I expanded that somewhat with some 3rd party lenses (Vivitar and Quantaray zooms, Kiron wide angle.) The whole kit was heavy and bulky but it went on a lot of vacations. It still is around somewhere in a closet at my son-in-law’s house. I used it until my eyes started failing in the early 2000s and I couldn’t focus with any degree of accuracy. It was slow and inconvenient to load film in but once you were ready to go, it was a workhorse. However just don’t try to take pictures indoors without a flash. The combination of slow zooms. low ISO film and shaky hands can give poor results with a camera like this.

Got some good memories with it though.

2002-2006 Nikon F80 and Nikon Autofocus Lens Kit

Type: Autofocus SLR

Media: 35 mm color print film.

Summary: Sight for sore eyes.

This was the last great color film camera I ever purchased and I got it just before film died and digital took over. It has all the bells and whistles of a Nikon film camera of the day – auto focus with the appropriate lenses, although backwards compatible with a lot of manual focus stuff. It is easy to load film and has an autowinder. I have quite a nice lens kit with it as well.

This camera went on a number of fine holidays right up to when we started cruising in 2006. But by then I was getting more and more digitally oriented. The film camera required a large supply of print film, and to lug it around I needed a big camera bag and strong arms (or needed to bring along a Sherpa assistant.) Even today when I could bring a digital SLR and a bunch of lenses on holiday, I choose not to do so if we are flying anywhere. Those days are over.

This one was pretty good with low light though, if you chose the right lens.

2007-2011 Fujifilm S6000fd

Type: Digital Zoom Lens “Bridge” Camera

Media: Fuji xD card

Summary: Relief for sore shoulder.

This camera was the first one I took on an extended holiday that didn’t have film of any sort. The Fuji S6000fd had a fixed zoom lens that enabled both wide and telephoto shots and no dust could get into it so I wasn’t worried about having to post process the images. It had a rudimentary electronic viewfinder that I could use if the light was too bright to see the screen on the back of the camera, so I could (and did) use it like an SLR. The only disadvantage was that – like an SLR – it was heavy and bulky and I just didn’t want to take it out on shore excursions after a while.

Can’t miss with photos like this though.

2010-2015 Canon S90

Type: Compact Mid-Zoom Pocket Camera

Media: SD Card

Summary: Light as a feather.

A bit of an overlap here as for a while I carried two digicams on cruises – The longer zoom for taking photos from the ship, and a smaller one for shore excursions. After 2011 though I just went with the S90 – lightweight, compact, and a great camera for good and low light, but there were two disadvantages:

  1. The zoom range isn’t really long enough to capture marine traffic or views of distant islands.
  2. No viewfinder and very difficult to compose photos in bright sunlight.

Be that as it may I did get some pretty good views of Bora Bora on our way through to Hawaii in 2015.

Future Trips Panasonic DMC-ZS50

Type: Compact Superzoom

Media: SD Card

Summary: Hoping for the Best.

No camera can do it all, but I’m hopeful this one might give me what I need for carefree travel photography. It’s light and pocket sized. It’s got a viewfinder that I can see well with glasses in bright light, and the zoom lens goes from very wide to very long. I can’t imagine any situation where I won’t be able to get a photo – even dim light should be OK as this particular camera can take pics at ISO levels I’d never envisioned in my earliest days. It has image stabilization and face detection so that eliminates other glitches. It can take 6000 exposures without running out of capacity.

I guess we’ll see but early results look promising:

So there you have it. After close to 50 years I’ve gone from one camera with a fixed lens, to one with multiple interchangeable lenses, to autofocus, to digital, to two digital cameras, and now to one camera with a fixed lens, I suppose that’s progress for you. Hmmmm….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get It Right Next Time

Back when I started listening to rock and roll (in its antediluvian days) the saxophone had a prominent role in most tunes. A good example is this Little Richard classic from 60 years ago.

Note that the saxophone in this early rock cut serves to add muscle to the rhythm section in the absence of electric bass (still in development) plus give a honkin’ instrumental solo (that would later be handled by a Telecaster or Strat electric guitar.)

In the guitar drenched 1960s and early 70s the saxophone was seen as a quaint anachronism in most studio recordings. Then in the late 1970s and 1980s it made quite a remarkable comeback.

I can think of two major reasons this happened. First was the popularity of Bruce Springsteen and his long time collaboration with Clarence Clemons. You can get a sense of that here. Lots of guitar and bass – but a searing sax solo as well.

The second reason is because of the work of Scottish folk rocker Gerry Rafferty. Rafferty’s use of saxophone on his late 70s hit “Baker Street” is considered to be the most iconic sax riff ever. And my personal favorite is the follow up hit “Get It Right Next Time.”

This cut from Rafferty’s 1979 “Night Owl” album has pretty much all the elements of a rock hit – infectious shuffle rhythm, spooky introduction, some good guitar licks, and to top it off a rollicking solo by one of the great sax players of the 70s. His name was Raphael Ravenscroft and yes he did the Baker Street riff as well.

Not bad lyrics either:

You gotta grow, you gotta learn from your mistakes

You gotta die a little everyday just  to try to stay awake

When you believe there’s no mountain you can climb

And if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time

Sadly Gerry Rafferty, Clarence Clemons and Raphael Ravenscroft have all passed away. Done too soon, as Neil Diamond would sing. But the sax legacy lives on.

 

 

Vale of Tears

My great-great aunt Maud was a widow when she married great-great uncle Norman Price in 1900. I didn’t know this based on the paper genealogy I have (done in the 1950s by her niece Helen Delmage.) When I did find out I did some research on Maud’s first husband Henry Harwood. Henry died of pneumonia in 1895 at the age of 26 – he and Maud were married a year or so.

Anyhow I found an online pic of Henry’s lonely tombstone in Mount Pleasant Cemetery Toronto. Maud never used the cemetery plot herself (she’s buried with Norman in Lewiston NY where they spent most of their married life.) But Henry ended up with plenty of company.

Maud made ample use of the plot for various and sundry relatives. There was her brother Joseph H. Foster who died in Memphis TN in 1905 and was shipped back to Toronto. But what confused me for a time was the presence of two young women – Edna G and Ethel C. Warrington – both who died in their 20s. How did they end up in Henry’s plot?

Well it turns out that Edna (died 1908) and Ethel (died 1898) were Maud Price’s cousins – daughters of her sister Charlotte Foster. Charlotte married Frederick Warrington – who was born in England and came to Toronto where he worked for her father making surveyor optical instruments.

The Warringtons were a star-crossed (one might say snake-bit) family from what I see at a distance of 100 plus years. Fred Warrington took them to Detroit, then New York, then Alberta and finally back to New York over a 40+ year period. Born under a wandering star no doubt.

Ethel Warrington was a diabetic and died at age 21 of kidney failure. Edna Warrington was a nurse, contracted TB and died at the age of 29. Maud Price looked after their funeral arrangements, probably because Fred and Charlotte were too far away. Ethel is commemorated on the back of Henry Harwood’s tombstone although her surname is spelled Warington. I don’t see any trace of Edna except in the cemetery records online.

The Warringtons had a son Arthur who got married in Detroit, settled in Alberta , joined the army in World War I and was killed at Vimy. To top it all off two of Arthur’s sons died in World War II – both in 1944. You can’t make this stuff up.

I haven’t been able to find out what happened to Charlotte and Fred but I hope they died peacefully somewhere. The rest of the family had their vale of tears to contend with.

I find this story rather heartbreaking and these people aren’t even related to me except tangentially. Probably I am the only person on the planet who put their story together. It’s been a long time coming.

There are some days to be grateful you live in an era of relative peace, with available insulin and antibiotics. Today is one of them.

Never Been Here, Never Actually Seen It But…

This stately Victorian farmhouse is in my opinion the home of my great-great grandfather Andrew Valleau Price (1830-1910.) Here he would have raised his large and diverse family which included two dentists, a doctor, a clergyman, and an inventor plus assorted farmers, farmers’ wives, businessmen’s wives, etc. My own line comes down via AV’s oldest daughter who married a local successful farmer. Their daughter married the hired man and the rest shall we say is history.

So what makes me so sure this is the right house given I’ve never seen it? The Internet is a marvelous place. I was able to look at a map of Camden township from 1878 and then at Google Earth – and the roads and topology pictures are surprisingly similar. Then I have this photo:

Reunion of AVP’s family ca 1917. My mother Mary Hawley is the tiny baby being held by great-great uncle Weston Price near the open front door.

The house from 100 years ago and the one from Google Earth look surprisingly alike, and given its location I’m pretty sure that is the “Eagle Rock” farmhouse referenced so often in the family genealogy.

So Google Earth photos, Ancestry, an 1878 local atlas of Lennox and Addington county and a photo from my grandmother’s family album all combined to solve the mystery. Now you know the rest of the story.

I guess I’ll have to take a trip out to Newburgh one of these days to see for myself.

 

Skule Daze

Another year of school started today with my grandson now in Grade 2 and my older granddaughter in Grade 1. That got me thinking about my own school experience which started almost 65 years ago. That’s me far right first row next to Donnie Keith (or was it Ronnie Keith – never could tell them apart.)

Considering how much time I spent in academia I must say I really didn’t enjoy it all that much. I never really looked forward to heading back to school every year with a few exceptions. Let’s take a look at the various stages:

  1. Elementary School – Yech. Back in the 1950s the experience was totally rote work and seat work. I alternated between stuff that was so easy it put me to sleep – arithmetic, spelling, reading – and stuff that was virtually impossible – art, music, cursive writing. The authorities couldn’t understand how I could ace the hard subjects but fall flat on my face with the “fun” stuff. Besides, they kept trying to move me to the next higher grade level so I wouldn’t be bored. This was great – get me into an older group when I was already immature and shy and just wanted to stay with my friends. I survived thanks to my mother’s influence as she resisted these “acceleration” moves on the part of the school staff. Why they never heard of gifted classes or enrichment activities back then totally escapes me.
  2. Secondary School – Bliss. After getting away from the artsy-fartsy stuff I immersed myself in the love of learning for the high school years – Classics, French and English, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History – I ate it up. Nothing I couldn’t do. I had no social life but I didn’t care at the time – the original Renaissance kid. It really helped that I went to a tiny academic high school where anything I wanted to learn about was available, and the teachers cared.
  3. University – Meh. This was supposed to be the the highlight of academic pursuits – not!!! I needed a job at the end of it all, so I chose STEM subjects as my major – Chemistry and Physics. Things got increasingly specialized as I went on; I did manage a couple of courses in Economics and Psych but that was it. Thank goodness I got a summer job in a food science research lab because then I found my life’s work. I would never have made a good academic chemist, I’m afraid. Add to that the fact I had no money, could not stay in residence and lived hand to mouth all the time I was at Queen’s and you can see how it wasn’t such an outstanding time of my life.

So out of the 18 odd years of schooling I suppose I liked maybe 5 of them. Not exactly a poster child for education, was I?

After I got out and embarked on my career I got into the fun part of learning – lifetime stuff. As a chemist I knew more hard core science than the average food technology grad but I needed to learn some microbiology and food engineering. General Foods was great about giving me the opportunity to do this in a practical way. Over the years I had the chance to learn advanced statistics and quality control methods, more computer programming, unit operations in a variety of processes, plus a wide variety of business software for personal computers. And that was just on the job.

At home I’ve continued to learn about economics, astronomy, history, theology and just about anything else that suits my fancy. I firmly believe that life is all about learning and the relatively small time you spend doing it formally becomes less important as time goes on. You can never stop learning though.

65 years – a lifetime ago. I wonder if my grandkids will look back at their lives in 2081 and think the same thoughts. I’m sure lifetime learning will have a whole other meaning for them.

Before and After

From the earliest times in Almonte, the town fathers harnessed the river for water power – to run a sawmill, a flour mill, a number of woolen mills. Up until now the commercialization has been relatively benign. But things have apparently changed.

The greedy developer who owns a small power generation plant in the old flour mill wants to triple its size, and to do so has to alter the course of the river in ways never done before. The town council fought the development for a number of years but ultimately lost. Municipalities in Ontario have no veto power when it comes to projects generating “green” energy. And so:

This is how the Almonte upper falls looked in April of this year.

And this is how things look right now.

Any one who was concerned about the vandalizing of the river was told they were tree-huggers and johnny-come-latelys to the town. The “real” residents had no such objections since they remembered the industrial heritage of Almonte. Sure.

Now granted, this is probably as butt ugly as things will get. The townsfolk have been told the battle is lost, that things won’t look that bad once the blasting and hoe-ramming is done, that we must move on and accept progress, that we need to go back to being the friendly town again. But I wonder….

 

Grandpa’s Special Girl Turns 6

I know, I know. You should treat all grandkids the same and I love ’em all – but there’s a very special place in Grandpa’s heart for my older granddaughter Veronica.

Maybe it’s because she’s the most like her Nonna of all the kids – concerned for the welfare of others above all, but at the same time wanting everything to be fair and equal when it comes to the treat department.

Veronica came out for a few days last week for her first visit on her own. She’s a big fan of chocolate coated ice cream so we made a visit to the DQ in Carleton Place for the first time ever. It went well. She missed her brother and sister though, so we Skyped every night.

Veronica helped by making her bed every morning and getting herself ready without prompting. She’s really growing up – tomorrow she’ll be 6 and she’s starting school in Grade 1 this September.

Even Mr.Oates – who usually heads for the bedroom closet shelf when the grandkids come – made friends with Veronica and enjoyed all the attention he got from her. He’s a convert too.

Veronica’s the one it’s most fun to tease. She’s the master of reaction and double take. But she places strict limits on how many jokes Grandpa can make – about two a day will do.

Tomorrow she’ll get two birthday cards – one that plays music and one her Nonna made. Why? Because that’s just the way it has to be, and don’t you forget it! Happy Birthday to Grandpa’s most special girl.

You’ll Get What You Need

My Canon S90 Compact was and continues to be a fine digital camera. However, it is now more than 7 years since it was released and my particular unit is well over 6 years old. Since I have long ago decided I’m not hauling a heavy digital SLR and a quartet of lenses aboard ship, it’s important to me to have a smaller, versatile, good quality camera to come with me. I don’t want to mess up a cruise vacation with a camera failure though.

The S90 has always taken fine images even when the light was low. It didn’t become a victim of over mega-pixillation and its sensor was pretty good for the time. The only problem it has is that it is a little short in the telephoto range for seagoing photos. I did well in earlier trips with a 28-300 mm Fuji bridge camera but again it was large and heavy. Was it possible to get something that:

  • Has a decent enough telephoto range.
  • Focuses and makes images a bit faster than the S90 – that one is a bit of a dog when it comes to fast moving objects.
  • Is a good quality unit.
  • Does not go overboard with megapixels.
  • Gives value for money – I am not interested in paying more than I would for a digital SLR and some of the deluxe compact digicams certainly are priced that way.

You can’t always get what you want..but if you try sometimes, you’ll get what you need. (M. Jagger)

And after extensive research this might be it.

Panasonic Lumix ZS-50.

Now this is last year’s model and if I had been interested in the replacement Lumix ZS-60 I would have waited a while to get one. Unfortunately the older model is rapidly disappearing from the retailer sites, so I acted fast.

The lens, viewfinder and layout of the two models are identical. The newer ZS-60 has a touchscreen, is a bit faster in taking a sequence of photos and shoots 4K ultra high definition video – none of which interests me much. What sold me on the ZS-50 is that it has a 12MP sensor (my S90 has a 10 MP sensor.) The new camera features a similarly sized sensor with 18 megapixels, which is better for HD video but introduces more noise and poorer low light performance. I’ll take the 35% savings and better still photo capability.

I’ve always been  Canon and Nikon guy – you know, real camera makers. Panasonic always meant CD players and microwave ovens. What sold me on the Lumix was its lens – designed by Leica and built by Panasonic to Leica standards. Leica knows a thing or two about camera optics, and combining their expertise with Panasonic’s lens manufacturing and electronics prowess makes a very nice package indeed.

Of course even with a great lens you make some compromises when putting such a zoom range in a pocketable camera. To have this sort of versatility in a “full frame” DSLR would require 3-4 lenses, about 15 Kg in weight, and probably enough money to buy a compact car. Not exactly the solution for a one day stay in port.

A pocket camera needs a small sensor and a relatively slow lens to get to where it is. This means you cannot avoid some noise in photos and relatively poor low light performance (use the flash indoors, dummy!) Also a small camera can be hard to stabilize at extremely long photo lengths – you are unlikely to put it on a tripod, now are you – so a bit of camera jitter and lack of sharpness will be expected. The answer here is to keep your telephoto settings to about half the 30X zoom range if you can.

But hey, you’re on holiday. You are off to experience Toulon or Barcelona – not photograph it for National Geographic. And that’s where the awesomeness of the Leica lens will come in. Sunny ways, my friends. For bright light situations the Lumix is king.

I plan to take the tiny Canon S90 camera along too as a vacation backup. It’s a bit better for low light situations if I find I need it. Either way my total camera weight will be less than 500g. I think I can deal with that.

The Canon isn’t that shabby when it comes to photos either.

Sometimes it’s best to stop obsessing about your equipment and just look for the light and press the button.

 

One Little Life

I read recently that if all the homeless animals in shelters in North America were given homes we’d have to keep about 8 cats and dogs per household. That’s not going to happen, and sadly only about 1/3 of the cats in shelters get adopted. That means a lot of otherwise wonderful lives end every day.

But once in a while the opposite occurs as it did a year ago for our Mr. Oates.  It was a close run thing for him – lost his home and family, ended up in a shelter, most of his cute kitten stage behind him. He was in a no kill shelter but a lot of cats don’t ever leave the building.

He was in the right place and right time when I came by to see about getting a new friend after our old pal passed away after 16 wonderful years. The shelter staff vouched for him even though he was a bit depressed – sleeping tucked away in one corner of the shelter. And oh my was he handsome.

His life has turned around – he has a comfy bed, lots of cat toys, a back yard to watch the birds and chipmunks, plenty of food, water and the necessities of life. He may not appreciate it, but he gets gentle and comprehensive vet care. He’s home.

He still is a little apprehensive when the grandchildren come by, but he’s working on it. Otherwise he’s a love bug – soft purr, lots of meows. It’s common to wake up at 2 AM and feel a warm furry hot water bottle behind my knees.

As the shelter motto goes – you can’t change the world, but you can change one cat’s world. Certainly 8 cats are not on our agenda but I’m glad we made the effort to change one life. One little life.

 

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