Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Angels and a Menage å Trois in the Cemetery


Joan Ellen Gage said...
Fascinating! Did you find any Gages, as my Dad is a geneology fiend? We do have relatives in New England, especially.
by Joan Gage said...
Hi Joan Ellen! There were some Gages--I know a Dr. Gage was an important person about a century ago in Shrewsbury MA, near where we live, but since "Gage" is not really my husband's name (the real name is Greek and as a reporter he had to shorten it to get a by-line that fit in one column) and because it was raining pretty hard while I was in Rural Cemetery, I did not do a very good job of tracking down Gage tombstones.

civil war researcher said...
I loved the pics from Rural--the Crompton Mausoleum is very beautiful. A friend of mine was a family member and is buried outside of it on the grounds. When a family member dies and is buried there they open the mausoleum so you can pay respects to those buried inside and it interesting to see the interior.
over60andfabulous said...
How wonderful to find another blogger 60+ !! I am following - your pictures are lovely - my family has been here since 1776 & this is such an interesting topic. Thank you for sharing.
All the best, Mimi
by Joan Gage said...
Thank you to both Civil War researcher and Mimi, who's over 60 and fabulous! It's fun to meet friends who are as fascinated by cemeteries as I am.

Marie Sultana Robinson said...
My maiden name is Crompton. This is my family crypt. The faces of the angels are the women of my family. Yes, we used to open the crypt when we had funerals. Nearby are the Smiths which were part of the family as well. To most it's beautiful to me, it's a step into the past and family. Beautifully done pictures.
Marie Sultana Robinson said...
If you are researching the Civil War. George Crompton retooled the looms so they could manufacture the bolts of cloth to make uniforms. He was used as a model for the soldier in the Civil War monument downtown.

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Greek Cat Book Goes Traveling

 Vanessa Morgan is a beautiful and well-traveled woman, currently living in Belgium, who is the author of spooky novels, screenplays and a very popular blog called "Traveling Cats" ( that is filled with photos of felines snapped around the world.  Her blog offers insights into the countries as well as the cats that live there.   I was thrilled that she discovered my book "The Secret Lives of Greek Cats" and decided to post some photos and text from it on her blog.   Below is the excerpt she published today that tells one of some 40 stories in the book about cats living in the Greek islands, mainland, and even Ephesus Turkey.


Cats from Lia {Greece}

hortensia cats
lia cats

Hortensia and Haroula are sunning themselves on the terrace of Dina Petsis in the village of Lia, as they watch Dina prepare the bread called "prosphora" for lunch. Dina makes the dough with yeast and flour, kneads it and punches it down and then waits for it to rise. Just before she slides it on a paddle into the bee-hive-shaped outdoor oven, she stamps the dough with a bread stamp. The square in the center presses out the letters "IC XC NIKA" which stands for "Jesus Christ Conquers".
When Dina takes the bread to church, the priest will bless it and he'll cut out the square in the middle of the bread and mix it with wine for those who take communion. The rest of the loaf may be cut up for the antidoron, which is passed out at the end of the service.
It's an honor to bake the prosphora. The cats are proud that their mistress was chosen, and that she's the best cook in the village.
They're sitting under hydrangeas - some of them planted in empty tins from feta cheese and olive oil that Dina uses in her cooking. They love watching the baking and the way the bread smells as it cooks. Greeks call the hydrangea flower "Hortensia" and that's where the cat on the left got her name. Her sister is named Haroula, which means "Little Joy". Learning to cook and eating Dina's food are some of life's many joys in Lia.
Pictures and text come from the book The Secret Life of Greek Cats: Feline Photos and Cats' Tales of Greek Life and Lore by Joan Paulson Gage.
the secret life of greek cats

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Smile--It's World Smile Day!

The world's most recognized  and beloved icon, the beaming yellow Smiley Face, was created in December of 1963 in Worcester, MA by a commercial artist named Harvey Ball who never made more than the $45 he was paid for creating it.  Swiftly Smiley "went viral" in an age before computers and became the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet.
As the years passed Harvey Ball, a decorated WWII vet,  became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning had become lost in the marketplace.  The Smiley Face knows no politics, no geography and no religion and Harvey wanted to make that clear.  So he declared that the first Friday in October each year would become World Smile Day® with the slogan "Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile."

That's your assignment for  Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, as Harvey and his creation are remembered and celebrated in his hometown of Worcester and around the world.  Below  is part of Harvey's story from the forthcoming book "The Saga of Smiley--How a Cheerful Icon Changed the World."
         Ask the man on the street who invented the Smiley Face and he might reply that it was created by Forrest Gump in the eponymous 1994 film, when Forrest wiped his muddy face on a yellow T-shirt.  Or he might suggest that Smiley has been with us ever since the first bored schoolboy doodled on his algebra notebook.

         But Smiley came into being at a particular time—December of 1963—in a particular place—Worcester, Massachusetts, once a booming industrial metropolis of factories spewing out textiles and abrasives, but by the early sixties, a sleepy city that its 170,000 citizens affectionately called “Wormtown.”

        In December of 1963, the United States was reeling from the traumas of the Kennedy assassination and growing opposition to the Viet Nam war.  And in Worcester, MA, the executives of the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester (now Hanover Insurance), detecting a critical drop in employee morale in the wake of an unpopular merger, asked Harvey Ball, a self-employed graphic artist and decorated World War II veteran, to design a button that would cheer up their cranky employees and improve customer relations.

         In his studio, Harvey thought about the project for a while.  Then he drew a circle with a grin.  “I made a circle with a smile for a mouth on yellow paper, because it was sunshiny and bright”, he told a reporter for the Associated Press some years later. He studied the image but then realized that if you turned it upside down, it became a frown.  That wouldn’t do at all!  What if the company’s employees wore the button upside down?   So Harvey added two eyes and the Smiley Face greeted a waiting world.

         Harvey drew the circle and the two non-matching eyes by hand because, as he explained later, “You can take a compass and draw a perfect circle and make two perfect eyes as neat as can be.  Or you can do it freehand and have some fun with it.  Like I did.  Give it character.“ (An authentic Harvey Ball Smiley has a hand-drawn circle, a crooked grin and one eye—the right—larger than the other.  Beware of too symmetrical imitations!)

         Worcester Mutual made 100 buttons for employees to wear and give to customers.  They disappeared overnight.  Then the company ordered 10,000 more.  Smiley was launched into the stratosphere and quickly circled the globe.

         Harvey Ball never received more than the $45 he was paid for his design, and by the time the insurance company tried to register Smiley eight years later, they learned that it was impossible, because, the image, reproduced 50 million times in the year 1971 alone, was by then in the public domain.

         Smiley instantly became a symbol of his times.  The baby boomer generation adopted and adapted him to represent their worldviews as they evolved through the years. When, in 1998, the US Postal Service asked the public to vote on which image best represented the decade of the1970’s, Smiley won by a landslide.

         The cheery Smiley Face postage stamp was issued by the post office on the first World Smile Day®, October 1,1999, in Smiley’s home town of Worcester, MA. The USPS issued a special cancellation for the event.  During the ceremony, Harvey Ball said that he believed Smiley “reflects what is inside every one of us – a smile is what we want to see when we look at another human being….We start to believe that we are too small to make a difference. But… the truth is that every one of us has the ability to make a difference every day.” 

         The USPS’s stamp supply sold out as quickly as the original Smiley buttons.

         Harvey Ross Ball, creator of the most famous American icon after the Stars and Stripes, was a true American hero, a decorated World War II vet awarded the Bronze Star for heroism during the Battle of Okinawa.  In the spring of 1945, during the deadly battle, which lasted for 82 days, when three of Ball’s  comrades were killed by a wayward shell as they stood next to him, he did not ponder whether fate had saved him for a greater destiny.  (But neither did he ever forget his fallen buddies. He painted their portraits in uniform from memory years later.)

         Harvey, a tall, laconic Yankee, born in 1921, was a solitary soul, not much given to, socializing, talking, or even smiling.  But when he died in 2001, he had figured out his purpose in life.  As he told People Magazine in 1998: “I taught the whole world how to smile.”  

          After Harvey died on April 12, 2001, at the age of 79, his son Charles told the media : “He was proud and pleased to have served his country and raise a family…He died with no apologies and no regrets.  His moral compass stayed on north and never wavered.”

        And he left us the legacy of a smile.
(Next:  The other guys who made millions from the Smiley Face.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

My Folks, Rocking Fashions of the 1930's

The other day I came across a folder of old family photos that I had filed in the wrong place and hadn't seen for years.  Many of the snapshots showed my parents as they were in the 1930's. (They were married in 1932, but I, their first child, didn't come along until 1941.)
The thing that struck me was how dressed up everyone was in the 1930's.  Even in the 1950's, when I was growing up, I remember my mother would always put on a hat, even to go next door.  And when it was a tea party or church, both she and I would wear a hat and white gloves.  (Please click "read more" to see the other photos)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Before TV and Movies, There Were Stereoviews

This post was first published on 7/23/12

(Please click on the photos to enlarge them and see them better)

The Story Behind the Photos--19th Century Greece

Starting around 1860 and lasting well into the 1900’s, nearly every home in the USA was equipped with a stereopticon viewer and a good supply of stereoview cards.  Some of the stereo-viewers were fancy tabletop pieces mounted on a base, often with inlaid wood.  But most of them, like mine above, were simple hand-held models.
"An old dream realized at last, ship-canal through  Isthmus, E.S.E. Corinth, Greece" Underwood. 
It was traditional for wealthy families to send their adult children on a “Grand Tour” to finish their education.  Families of more modest means could sit in their parlors and view all the outstanding sites and monuments of the world in 3-D thanks to their stereo viewer.  The reflecting lenses inside the viewer fused the two images on the stereo card—which were taken by separate camera lenses-- into one image that appeared to be three dimensional.
"A Father and Son of the race of Homer, Patras, Greece. 1897"
From the very beginning of photography—the daguerreotype in 1839—photographers have created stereoviews that appear three-dimensional when seen through a  viewer, but if you ever come across a stereo daguerreotype (polished silver on a copper plate)  or ambrotype (on glass), you’ve found an extremely rare and valuable photograph.  Oddly, the few stereo dags I’ve seen often portray nude or partially nude women—I guess the porn industry began long before the invention of photography.

The stereoviews that flooded the country from 1850 were (first) albumen prints pasted onto cardboard cards.  From the 1880’s to the 1920’s, the 7  by 3 1/2-inch cards had rounded corners and were curved to enhance the 3-D effect.

In their parlors, Americans viewed the horrors of dead bodies on Civil War battlefields, exotic customs of foreign cultures and the wonders of the world.  Explanatory notes were usually printed on the back of the card. 

By the turn of the century, viewers often collected groups of cards that were posed by actors to tell a story—for instance a series showing a soldier leaving his fiancée to go into battle, then being wounded and finally nursed back to health by his sweetheart who traveled to the hospital to care for him.

Sometimes the series told a humorous story like 10 cards I once owned showing how Mrs. Newlywed catches on to her husband’s dalliance with the comely cook by spying a floury handprint on the back of his suit coat, so she replaces the attractive cook with a plug-ugly one.

Often identical views were published by more than one company—many of these were pirated and of inferior quality.
"Temple of Nike, Acropolis, Athens, Greece."
In the U.S. the major makers of these super-popular stereo cards were (first) the Langenheim brothers of Philadelphia, then Underwood and Keystone and dozens of other lesser-known publishers. I haven’t been able to find proof of a connection between the humorous stereoview series and early silent movie companies like Biograph which produced “The Keystone Kops”, but it seems that early silent movies would be a natural successor to the stories told by actors in stereoviews.
"Statue of Byron, Athens, Greece."
Before 2004, when Athens was preparing to host the Olympics, I started collecting stereo views taken in Greece around 1896 when the first modern Olympics were staged in the country where the Olympic games were born.  I used the photos on  these stereo cards to design a series of note cards and a poster, sometimes adding a touch of color.
Left:  "Recruits for the Army before the Temple of Theseus, Athens." 
Right: "The best preserved temple in all Greece, the Theseion in Athens"
What thrilled the original owners of these stereo views was the lifelike three-dimensional quality of the scenes. But what thrilled me, upon viewing the antique photographs of Greece, was the chance to see my husband’s native country and countrymen the way they looked as they went about their daily life at the end of the 19th century.  It wasn’t the  temples and ruins that  intrigued me—they look much the same today when I visit Greece.  It was the people—the extras in the scene—that I cared about.
Left: "The Argolis plain, looking from Nauplia to Mykenae
Right: "East end of the Parthenon on the Acropolis at Athens"
Because the photographer wanted to dramatize the 3-D quality of each photo, he would choose some important site—let’s say the Acropolis—for the background, then he would put something—or someone—in the foreground and often in the middle ground too.  And the “models” he’d ask to pose were people who were handy-—soldiers, farmers, school children, pedestrians.
Left: "The Acropolis from Philopappos Hill", 
Right: "Columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis in Distance, Athens"
I’ve never read anything about the methods of these stereo photographers, so I don’t know if they paid the bystanders whom they coached to stay very still until the photographer had focused on the scene with his large, boxy stereo camera on a tripod.
Left: View from Lykabettos Hill past the Royal Palace and the Acropolis to the sea, 
Right: "Greek Girls among ancient ruins"
I suspect these “extras” in the scene posed for free, just to witness this new-fangled thing called photography.
"City milk delivery, Athens, straight from the goat."
But in their traditional dress and everyday tasks, these humble Greeks achieved a kind of immortality as they became extras in historic scenes illustrating how life was lived in the days before electricity and television, smart phones and I-pads.
"Shepherds bringing Lambs to Market, Nauplia, Greece"
When I first visited Greece in 1968, there was still no electricity in my future husband’s village of Lia in Epiros, and women often wore their traditional garb, including the headscarves and embroidered vests, but by the seventies, electricity and television made it to the villages and all that authentic traditional detail was lost by the time they’d seen “Dallas”  and “The Fugitive.
"Holy Trinity Monastery, Greece, 1896" (Look at the artillery on the monk in the foreground!)
Whatever your area of interest—trains, ships, history, architecture, native Americans, anthropology, you can put together a great collection of antique stereoviews on the subject without a huge outlay of cash, thanks to EBay and sellers like my friends at Dave’s Stereos.  But if you come across any great views of 19th century Greece, give me a heads up first.

"Monastery of Hagia Trias (Holy Trinity) Meteora Rocks, Northern Greece"

Monday, September 7, 2015

Another Amalia Birthday—New York Style

Amalia’s a lucky girl.  A week after celebrating her 4th birthday at a pool party at her grandparents’ house in the country, she got a second birthday party in her hometown of New York City.  In Manhattan, Amalia has been invited to toddler birthdays that included rented function rooms, hired entertainers and waiters passing out hors d’oeuvres, but her folks managed to throw a super fun birthday with a minimum of expense (and a maximum of lugging things) in New York’s Central Park on Sunday, Aug. 23.   (Meanwhile in the nearby ball field, a bride and groom and their large audience were celebrating their wedding ceremony, which culminated with a loud cheer from the onlookers.) 

The day began with a safari or wagon train to transport everything over the four crosstown blocks from Amalia’s 14th floor apartment, into the park, and then on behind the Metropolitan Museum to a spot near Turtle Pond. Of course the passengers in the wagon train included Amalia’s little brother Nicolas, four months old. 

We used two strollers and a cooler on wheels, and the stuff we toted included a pink “princess castle” and a small inflated Doc McStuffins “bouncy house” filled with multiple balls.   Amalia and her Mommy wore matching dresses from Nicaragua.

Parents with toddlers and babies arrived; wine, beer, pink lemonade and popcorn were dispensed and Amalia’s Papi walked over to Farinella’s on Lexington to pick up long, rectangular pizzas (called “palams”). 

Meanwhile little Nicolas made friends with Milind, Siya’s little brother.

 We had already bought and transported the two cakes—a carrot cake from Citarella’s (the only cake flavor Amalia will eat—and only $20!) and a Sugar Cookie Cake from Insomnia Cookies on Second Ave. and 82nd.  

 This was an expanded version of the only cookie Amalia likes--she calls them “moon cookies” because of the moon on the Insomnia Cookies sign (They deliver warm cookies to your apartment up to 3 a.m., hence the “Insomnia” in the name.)

The candles on the cakes were lit and blown out by the birthday girl.   

 After that came the Doc McStuffins piñata, under the direction of Amalia's Papi, which was gamely attacked by Amalia, but not broken open until an older boy took the stick.  But before the cake and piñata came the highlight of the party that everyone had been waiting for—Manny the Bubble man.

Amalia’s folks had discovered Manny the Bubble Man in Central Park a year earlier.  He’s not the only street entertainer in the park who creates giant bubbles with sticks, rope, water and dish detergent, but he is probably the maestro of bubbles. 

 He considers bubble making an art form and was a little disappointed (as were the parents) that the youngsters kept popping his giant bubbles before they reached their full size.

Manny told me that he has done ads or commercials for Tiffany’s and with Sarah Jessica Parker. 

  Eleni and Emilio had booked him for half an hour, but he stayed an extra fifteen minutes, creating customized bubbles for each child plus parent.  Here’s Eleni’s long-time roommate Katherine with her son Pace.

 And Amalia with her Papi.

 Nobody wanted to leave, but it was getting late and people started packing up.  “The goody bags come at the end,” Amalia informed me, as she passed out Dr. Seuss bags from Target with back-to-school treasures inside.

We reassembled the wagon train, complete with all our gear and lots of presents for Amalia to unwrap later, and headed back toward home, thinking “Thank goodness for good weather, an August (not December) birthday date, and the magic combination of little kids and really big bubbles.”