Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local History Saved and Savored in Castile

CASTILE: Local history. We create it every day but, come evening, we sweep it out the door like so much cat fur. Luckily, some few dedicated people roll up their sleeves and hold onto that history knowing that we don't really learn without remembering where and what we've been.
            “The history of our town is in those cabinets,” a woman said nodding toward a row of drawers in the Castile Historical House. She and 8 other people were at work in and outside the museum when Rick and I just happened to find it on Tuesday. Rick and I had been on the road when plans changed so we happened down this street in Castile where local history is lives in an old, white house.
            Outside some people planted pachysandra around what was the town fountain – now a geranium planter. Inside clocks ticked and voices conversed sorting through the newest newsletter, an ongoing inventory and the filing of information that chronicles the ongoing life of Castile.
            The house was built in 1865 by Henry Cumming. It was sold only 3 times with the last sale made in 1956 to Annie Eddy. Mrs. Eddy bought it purposefully to donate it to the Castile Historical Society in memory of her husband. Currently the organization is supported by about 90 members with 10 of them active, friendly and dedicated to weekly work sessions. Jim Little guided us through the museum of local history.
            We chanced into the house after turning around in the parking lot of the unusual and interesting public library and saw, when we walked into the house, a portrait of Dr. Cordelia Greene, the library’s benefactress and one of the country’s first female physicians.
            The front door opens to an exhibition room where the collection rotates because much of what the house offers is on the second floor or in the basement and some people aren’t able to manage the stairs. Right now a newly refurbished oak case holds carved hair combs, long gloves, hats - the accoutrements of our grandmothers’ grandmothers who knew how to gussy up from lace collars to shiny buttoned shoes. 
            To the right of the front door is a Victorian parlor with musical instruments and paintings by local artists. The furniture is period correct for the clothing and the games on the small table.
            The dining room holds several more locally painted works by Annie and Jennie Myers, Carolos ‘Stebbins, Lemuel Wiles and Edward McGrath. The Myers sisters traveled the world to paint and gave away sketches to children when they were in Castile. There are also Japanese style wood block prints in gentle colors and shapes created by Jane Barry Judson.
            The kitchen cupboards stand open to show the tools of cooking in the late 1800s and the internet, used in the research room, helps to locate information on many of the things displayed.
            The basement hosts the war room with uniforms from many branches of service, ribbons, weapons and posters. There’s a trophy earned by Castile’s Boy Scout Troop 54. Each scout collected at least 1,000 pounds of newspaper and donated it to the war effort. For their service they were given a cardboard shipping tube created for a 75 MM Howitzer shell. Newspapers were used to make those tubes though the one the Boy Scouts earned was prettied up with a certificate featuring General Eisenhower.
            The second floor has a Victorian bedroom with dresses, a postage stamp quilt with thousands of tiny blocks and furniture suited to the room. Across the hall is the Indian room with beaded work as well as woven baskets and the huge camera once used by the photographer who built the neighboring house.
            There’s a medical room dedicated to Dr. Greene where a mannequin of a woman wrapped in a blanket and seated in a wheelchair sits surrounded by the tools of the medical trade (– tools now much improved in design and function by my thoughts). Dr. Greene ran Greene Sanitarium, established by her father. Alcoholic women lived in the Sanitarium and took the Castile Water Cure. They drank water and sat in the cold, fresh, country air on the porch to kick their addiction. The facility became a nursing home in 1956.
            The Castile Historical Society invites people to stop by. They offer occasional dinner meetings with speakers on various topics and open all such meetings to the public. The work they’ve accomplished in this house on Park Road is an impressive use of Tuesdays over the last 60+ years.

Castile Historical House is open Tuesdays 9-12 and 1-3 and by appointment. 17 Park Road East, Castile,   NY 14427. Phone 585-493-5370

Elaine Hardman, Tin Tinker on The Chew

NEW YORK: I don't watch much daytime TV. Daytime, for me, is for riding bikes, working in the garden and making pottery.
          Still, when I saw that The Chew was looking for people to do a segment on handcrafted work, I sent photos of my earrings upcycled from tin cans and a note telling them of my vast TV experience. I've been on AM Buffalo 3 times.
          Maria, the production assistant called and asked if I could teach Clinton how to make a simple pair of earrings in 5 to 8 minutes. "Sure," I said, "I was an elementary teacher for 35 years."
          She laughed and said she’d send a booking sheet. "Great!" I told her, though I’d no idea what a booking sheet was.
          Later the show’s producer called to give me details on time and address – building 24. She said to walk up to the side door like I belonged there and my name would be on a list. I should wear my regular makeup and be ready for a touch up. I didn’t mention that I don’t own any make up.
          What to wear? Kymberli said to wear bling. I keep my bling with my makeup. Eileen, Allison and Meredith said to wear a solid color. My new striped silk blouse was out but Allison lent me the blouse we got at a thrift store.
            Rick said I needed a new belt so we went shopping for belts the day before I left - right after I had quality time with the dental surgeon dealing with my root canal.
          My mouth was hardly swollen and I thought Clinton Kelly would like my newest shoes so I worked on my lesson plan, chose my materials and selected a platoon from my army of pliers and cutting tools. Time for a tiny television career.
        I drove to my friend’s house in New Jersey. Norma always welcomes me and gives me a place to leave the car and a place to stay in the city. We took the train in. (Honestly, I love when they shout all aboard and blow the whistle.)
         New York is hectic with people moving head down into time as if pushing into a strong wind. Helping someone pick something up earns a person a threatening glare that softens into disbelief and then a crinkle-eyed grin.
        My daughter Emilie met me for dinner and a very short visit and came to the show with me for support.  
        The ABC Studios are in a massive building. I never got a booking sheet and my name wasn’t on the list but nobody asked me for identification. Rather, Emilie and I followed one person who handed us off to another threading through narrow halls with uncountable arrays of electric wires.   
          We passed the ABC nightly news desk. It’s inside of glass room so that it looks almost like a museum exhibit. Then we entered the part of the building that is The Chew.
          The while building teems with people. For someone not aware of the big picture, it feels chaotic. It takes 142 people to put together The Chew and on Thursday they tape both the Thursday and Friday shows so it’s really busy.  
          We had to wait for the first audience to leave before we went to the green room. (These are NEVER green.) Maria offered us water, coffee, tea and snacks - the food prepared during the first taping.  
          Here’s some of the behind-the-scenes scoop on creating a daily cooking show like The Chew. There’s a rehearsal. A comedian comes out with a hand held microphone and whips the audience to a frenzy of shouting, singing and clapping.
          They record a 30 second segment of clapping and hooting (some people really get into this). The comedian says that it’s a warm up but the production people told me that if the actual applause isn’t good they splice the best whatever seconds on the clapping rehearsal into the show.
          Ditto for 30 seconds of laughing on demand. It’s a back up recording just in case they need it.
          Emilie was in the midst of the hooting audience when the makeup artist arrived. She said that half the guests she works on have no makeup. She applied lip gloss and called me done.
          In the rehearsal the cooks chop and stir the air saving the actual food to use during the taping. They use a teleprompter. Every word of their natural conversation and banter is scripted and marches past in all capital letters, 2 or 3 words on a line matching their reading speed. How can they read so naturally? The comedian uses has hand signals to encourage the audience to applaud or laugh.
          My part was short. I introduced myself to Clinton Kelly and talked briefly about making tin can folk art earrings. If I may brag, half the audience laughed at my joke without being told to.  
          Then Clinton talked with the other 3 guests and their projects. Diane stamps floor tiles with permanent ink and uses them as trivets. Susan staples chicken wire on picture frames to make an earring hanger and Sue ties plastic six pack rings together to make flower-like decorations.
          Clinton chose to stamp on the floor tiles saying it looked the easiest and I applaud his choice. They were all able to do this project in the very short time period allotted. I couldn’t have worked with 5 people.
          The main focus of The Chew is to help people make fast and easy meals. That’s reasonable. We all need the occasional fast meal. But I can’t work fast whether I’m making pottery, tin can folk art sculpture or jewelry, my mind is says slow. (My cooking is slow too and often starts with the growing part.)
          Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall came to the green room after the show and both seemed warm and interesting. They invited me to come back to the show with them for a longer segment this summer. I don’t know if anything more will happen. I’ve had my 15 seconds of fame on national TV.

 photos: Elaine on the set of The Chew
A sheet that blocks out the segments of Episode 153 of The Chew
Carla Hall peeking out and then Clinton Kelley and me in the blouse I got for Allison at the Goodwill store but she lent it to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rail Car Cuties

SCIO: They looked like a row of Tonka trucks on the railroad tracks along Route 19 in Scio on Saturday afternoon. Clean and shiny in the afternoon sun, these little yellow, orange, green and red cars were surrounded by men and women in glowing yellow safety vests. What were these machines that look like fun on metal wheels?
            Gary Gadziala was watching some people putting one back together but he took a few minutes to talk with me. He identified these nifty vehicles as rail cars. They were used by the railroads until the 60s when they were cast aside in favor of trucks that could run on the rails or drive on roads.
            “Easier,” he said, “for the crews to get around and not have to schedule clear tracks for them. This way the trucks could get off the tracks and the trains could run.”
            When the railroads solved one of their problems, they also created a recreational opportunity for train enthusiasts. All the people mulling about were members of the North American Rail Car Operators Association - rail car owners out for a weekend spin. They’d stopped for lunch at the Mahogany Ridge in Scio when I found them.
            They were on one of the hundreds of excursions organized by NARCOA. This particular excursion was named “Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad” and involved a round trip from Olean to Hornell on Saturday and then on Sunday another circuit from Olean to Emporium. Gadziala drove from his home is Ellicott City, Maryland to join the group of 37 rail cars.
            Most of the cars in this outing were made in the 1950s or 60s but some were older, rounder, louder and even cuter. NARCOA sponsors excursions like this all over the country and people register for the rides that interest them.
            Gadziala has been part of the group since he bought his rail car in 1980. He said it’s a fairly expensive hobby with the acquisition and maintenance of the rail car and then the cost of participating in excursions.
            The rail cars have 2 cylinder gasoline engines and some of the nicer cars have heaters, no small matter for some of these winter excursions. The organizers work out the trip with the railroad and arrange for a representative to lead the run in one of the modern road/railroad trucks.
            Later that afternoon I was behind our house clearing some branches downed by last week’s snow and heard a clanking noise. Sure enough, there were bits of yellow, orange, green and red zipping over the railroad tracks behind the trees – rail cars headed back to Olean.