Thursday, April 28, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 244

Maypole dance, San Juan Island, Washington, 1910

This is one of the postcards we found last fall when we took a trip to the San Juan Islands.  There are several cards in this series reproduced from old pictures in the collection titled Images of America:  San Juan Island, from the San Juan Historical Society and published by Arcadia Publishing Company.

When I showed this card to Bob, he reminded me that as grade school children we both participated in Maypole dances here in Seattle in our respective elementary schools where the streamers were made of colored crepe-paperThe photo on this postcard is dated 1910 and shows a group of young girls in white dresses dancing around a maypole at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington.  Each girl holds a different colored ribbon that is attached to the top of the pole and as they go around the pole the ribbons decorate it in spring colors.  At the right side in the background is the Hotel de Haro with spectators sitting in front of it.  The hotel was decorated with ivy vines draped across for the event.  The fenced in area in the center back of the picture encloses an outdoor dining area.

 Hotel de Haro as it looks, 2015

Hotel de Haro is located in the town of Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, has a beautiful garden and is right on the waterfront.  The marina was filled with pleasure boats during our visit.  This resort area was once a company town that produced lime.  The remains of old kilns can be found in the town center.

Old lime kiln 

Roche Harbor marina

The origins of the maypole and its dance are unknown but maypole dances date from before Christian times and are more common in European countries primarily in Germany and Austria although they are also held in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and several other countries.  Today it is still observed in parts of Europe and also some communities in North America where immigrants settled and brought the tradition with them.  A tall wooden pole is erected and decorated with ribbons and flowers, children and adults are invited to dance around often winding ribbons about the pole as is shown on the card above.  A few communities leave the pole up as a permanent fixture in other areas the pole is taken down after the event.  Usually held on May 1st or Pentecost (Whitsun) it can instead be part of a festival held at Midsummer.  The Maypole Dance in the United States most closely resembles those held in the United Kingdom.

I thought it would be fun to share the card this week since the first day of May is Sunday.  Another tradition not depicted on the card is the making of small paper flower baskets at school that were filled with spring blossoms (paper or real, probably some dandelions included) that were often delivered by children to friends on 1 May with a note proclaiming--Happy May Day! 

For more information, see:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 243

 Quincy, California, ca 1880s

Several years ago on one of the trips we took to visit Bopa’s sister and brother in Quincy, California we stopped at the Plumas county Museum and picked up these postcards.  The cards have drawings of the way Quincy and surrounding areas looked in the late 1800s.  Only one of the drawings had the artist’s name, C. L. Smith of San Francisco.    I thought it might be interesting to see what sort of historical information could be attached to the places depicted on the cards.  Perhaps my nieces and nephews who live/lived in Quincy have other things to add?

Quincy, the Plumas County seat, is a mountain town in northern California.  The Mountain Maidu were the early primary inhabitants and lived in small settlements along the edges of the valleys.  In 1820 the Spanish explorer, Captain Luis Arguello, named the river that runs through the canyon Rio de las Plumas (Feather River) after being impressed by the many floating feathers on the water.  Life changed for the native people beginning with the Gold Rush era.   Miners were attracted to the area during after the discovery of gold in 1849.  There were stories of a lake of gold but although many prospectors searched such a lake was never found.  However, a few miners had success in the rivers and creeks and non-native settlements were established.  Even today some small nuggets and flakes can be found in the river or in the streambeds. 

I can remember in addition to the traditional crawdad feed, rubber duck races, swimming in the creek, the tree swing, and camp singing around the fire on the beach that gold panning or dredging was a favorite vacation activity when we visited the cabin on Spanish Creek.  Usually a there were few little flakes or nuggets of gold that could be put in a tiny vial as a souvenir.  On very rare occasions a larger piece might be found by someone but never enough to cause a real frenzy of gold fever.  After the gold rush years in the mid 1800s cattle ranching and timber production were introduced.  The Western Pacific Railroad, built in 1910, allowed timber to be exported beyond the local region and also in brought tourists.   Today visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, hiking, kayaking, swimming, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing.  Quincy has art shows and musicals such as the High Sierra Music Festival held in July that draws about 10,000 people each year.  There are bed and breakfast inns, motels and campgrounds.  

Spanish Ranch, Plumas County, California

Spanish Ranch is a community in Plumas County begun in 1850 by two Mexicans who developed a distribution center for the many nearby mining camps.  It is now registered as a California Historical Landmark.

L.W. Bunnell's Hotel, Big Meadows, Plumas County, California

L.W. Bunnell was one of many who came from the eastern United States to California and Nevada to mine gold in 1851.  He mined the middle fork of the Feather river until 1853 then went to north fork where he mined until 1855 that same year he moved to Butt valley in Plumas County and began raising stock and farming until 1867.  From there he came to Big Meadows where he acquired about 940 acres and built a hotel along the banks of the north fork of Feather river amid pine trees and with views of Lassen’s peak in the distance.  The hotel resort offered excursions to Lassen’s peak, the Hot Springs and Mud Springs as well as other places of interest.  

Plumas House, Quincy, California

Plumas House was the center of Quincy’s social scene for many years beginning in the Gold Rush days.  James Bradley one of the first to settle in area named the town for his hometown of Quincy, Illinois.  Elizabethtown, an adjacent mining camp, was later absorbed into what is now Quincy. 

For additional information, see:,_California,_California,_California

Thursday, April 14, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 242

Valparaiso, Chile, ca 1980s

As I was looking through all the cards that Jim and Kelsey had forwarded to me this one of Valparaiso, Chile caught my eye.  As readers may recall, Axel Schroder the Danish sailor, jumped ship in Valparaiso around 1896-1897 and ended up working in the nitrate mines.  The oral history stories always made it sound like the mines were quite near to Valparaiso when in fact they were located much further north in towns like Humberstone, Santa Laura, Aguas Santas, Puelma, Pedro de Valdivia, Maria Elena, and Chacabuco.  We can’t be sure which mine but we can say that he had to work his way up the coast probably aboard ships until he reached northern Chile where he stayed for perhaps a year before moving north along the coast again finally ending up in Seattle in 1898 or 1899

Axel Schroder, ca 1899

In the 19th century nitrate or saltpeter was mainly used in the production of fertilizer and gunpowder.  It was called “white gold” and the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile has plenty of it.   Today, among other things, nitrate is used in instant cold packs, for heat storage and heat transfer in solar power plants, in the wastewater industry, as a food additive and preservative for meats, and also in mouthwash and dental gels.  The big boom in nitrate mining and exportation was from about 1870 to the beginning of World War II when other methods of making explosives were invented. 

When Axel was in Valparaiso it was before the Panama Canal had been built and it was a major trade route port.  After the canal opened in 1914 trade activity diminished dealing this port based economy a severe blow.  In the boom years the population soared from that of a small town to a city of 160,000 with colorful houses crowding the hillsides but after the canal opened and the economy began to falter many of the wealthier families left the city.  The city is now experiencing revitalization with many artists, cultural entrepreneurs, and thousands of tourists.   Population as of 2012 is listed as 284, 630.

The card above produced and distributed by Hispapel Ltda of Santiago, Chile has five numbered views on it of Valparaiso.  Corresponding identifications are found at the upper left on the reverse of the card along with the code 05-126 at the lower right.  Since the numbers on the front of the pictures may be difficult to distinguish, I am including them here.  The smaller pictures are, beginning at the top left, 1– Caleta S. Pedro, 2-Muelle Prat, 3-Caleta Portales and 5-Cerro Alegre.  Number 4 is the larger photo, Puerto.  The card looks perhaps printed in between the 1970s and 1990s.

Thanks again to Jim and Kelsey for sending the postcards!

For additional information and pictures of some of the mining relics, see:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tulips, tulips, tulips

The Tulip Town windmill
It has been a couple of years since we visited the tulip fields in Skagit Valley.  The weather forecast for last week was sunny and warm so we decided to take a trip north to see the flowers.  The peak bloom was just passing but there were plenty of gorgeous brightly colored tuplips to see.  

Even though it was a weekday it was Spring Break for a lot of kids and the two larger tulip growers, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, had crowds and packed parking lots even bus loads of people were arriving as we were.  Of the two Roozengaarde is the biggest with several formal garden displays in addition to the fields.  When we visited the year before last we went there and enjoyed it very much.  Thinking that the crowds might be less on a weekday at Tulip Town we chose to go there this time.  There were still lots and lots of people and the line of cars and buses waiting to park was long and slow but in the end the wait was well worth it.  On the way home we drove past Roozengaarde just to see if it was equally busy and noted that it was perhaps even more crowded.   

Can there be more fun than this?

The ground was muddy in places and while some, like this little girl above, were having a great time playing in the mud many others chose to ride the tractor or step around as many puddles as possible.  We had anticipated the mud and wore hiking boots but still tried to avoid the deeper puddles.  

Tulip Town Tractor Trolley

Bright vibrant colors greeted our eyes at every turn.  It was a dazzling display of Spring beauty and sweet perfume.  Bob estimated there were about 1 ½ million tulips in the large field arranged in rows of different colors.  The two or three small formal gardens were mixed with tulips, rhododendrons, azaleas, and hyacinths.  If we had gone a week or so earlier we would have found daffodils too but they were pretty much over by the time of our visit.  Enjoy the tulips . . .

Thursday, April 7, 2016

If this Thursday it must be postcards, 241

 Porte de Hal, Brussels, Belgium, ca early 1900s

The black and white photograph of Porte de Hal in Brussels, Belgium on this early 1900s postcard from France looks to date from the 1890s.  Notice the horse drawn carriages and trolley car in the foreground.  

Porte de Hal (French) also called Halle Gate or Hallepoort (Dutch) was first built in 1381 and served as a gate in the second set of defensive walls that enclosed the city of Brussels.  It originally included a portcullis and drawbridge over a moat.  It faces the city of Halle from whence it took its name and was one of six such gates.  This gate is the only one still standing. 

The building has been used as a prison, customs house, grain storage, a Lutheran church and currently a museum.  In 1847 the name was changed to the Royal Museums for Art and History but by 1889 it was too small to house the entire museum collection and today it mostly displays armor and weapons.  The remainder of the museum collection was relocated to the Cinquantenaire Museum. 

The circular tower, interior spiral staircase, turrets and a conical roof together with other Neo Gothic embellishments were added in 1868-1870 as part of a restoration project headed by the architect Henri Beyaert.  These enhancements changed a austere medieval tower into a more romantic structure.  

Henri or Hendrik Beyaert (1823-1894) began life humbly and had to earn his living from a very young age.  He could not afford higher education and worked first as a bank employee.  He had always been interested in architecture so when he left the bank he took a position as an apprentice stonemason.   In 1842 he moved to Brussels and kept a small bookshop where he finally had enough means and a school nearby to be able to take architecture classes.  While there he met Felix Janlet, an architect, who took an interest in him and offered him a job in his office.  Beyaert's job and a small scholarship allowed him to finish his studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1846.  Today he is considered to be one of the most important 19th century Belgian architects. 

In 1976 it was determined that Porte de Hal was in a dangerous state of disrepair and it was closed.  Even though renovation began and the Gate reopened to the public in 1991 lack of funds stalled the renovation therefore it wasn’t until 2007 that the project could resume.  By 2008 it finally opened with the St. Gilles drawbridge as the main entrance.  The remaining exhibits include history about the building and its part in the defense of Brussels; Archduke Albert of Austria’s collection of parade armor, and information concerning trade guilds in the city.  There is a walkway around the battlements that provides a panorama view of the city.

For more information, see: