July 2014

Posted by Ellen

Photographer Artie Leonard snags a shot for the National Photo Company in 1923.

Posted by Ellen

On Friday, baby Summer celebrated her second Fourth of July. Her first was in Philadelphia; this second one was in Warmenhuizen, the small town in North Holland where she now lives with her family. People in Warmenhuizen don't wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth, but Summer's shoes recall her American roots.

Posted by Ellen

Saucing up the satay, at LauPaSat market in Singapore.

Posted by Ellen

The Black Country of Belgium is the Borinage district of Wallonia province, where coal was mined to feed the furnaces of the Industrial Revolution from the 1820s until the 1960s.

The countryside was devastated by slag heaps, ash ponds, and smokestacks, and life in and around the mines was brutal. For more than a century, the miners of Borinage organized labor actions that were violently suppressed; in the 1930s, the mine owners evicted strikers from their homes, and families spent the winter sleeping in the streets while soldiers guarded the empty houses.

Since the last of the mines closed in the 1960s, Borinage has been characterized by Belgium's highest unemployment rates.

Constantin Meunier was a Belgian painter and sculptor of the late nineteenth century whose work often focused on the social impact of industrialization. This painting is believed to date to about 1893.

Posted by Ellen

There was free coffee for all at the Fourth of July picnic in Vale, Oregon, in 1941. The people of Vale were mostly newcomers to eastern Oregon, lured there in the 1930s by the Vale-Owhyee irrigation project. Most of the new residents were farm people from the Dust Bowl region, and over the span of just a few years they changed the culture of what had previously been a ranching community.

In 1941 for the first time the Vale Fourth of July festivities did not include a rodeo. Instead, there was a parade, a baseball game, a tug of war, a greased pig race, a motorcycle show, and, of course, fireworks. It was quite a full day of activities, and even the free coffee was not enough to keep everybody awake.

Posted by Ellen

For unknown reasons, this swallow family is out of the nest, all perched on a wire, but whatever, as soon as mama starts feeding one baby, the other is crying for more.

Posted by Ellen

It's an important project, replacing century-old water mains underneath this stretch of Kater Street near us. It's also been a crazy dragged-out project, beginning last fall and not quite finished yet.

In the wintertime, the digging had exposed the water main and also the connecting water lines that served houses all up and down the street. Of course the pipes froze. Repeatedly. Ice and snow interrupted the work, repeatedly, often leaving our neighbors with no water.

In the springtime, the neighbors enjoyed the noise of heavy equipment at their doorsteps, all day, every day.  All but one of the trees on the block were cut down. There was mud when it rained and dust when it didn't rain, and of course no parking. 

Now it's July, and the workmen have closed their hole back up and are finally preparing the block for new asphalt and curbs and sidewalks. They promise new trees next fall.

All along, the work has been hard: cold, hot, and dangerous, with people living right there in the construction site. The street is so narrow and the houses so close to the hole that the excavator has to back up all the way to the end of the block to turn around between scoops of dirt. 

As hard as it is, it's critical work for our children's future.  We need a whole lot more investment like this, or our problems will no longer be the first world sort of problems.

Happy birthday, America.

Iceland Maybe

02 Jul 2014
Posted by Ellen