Tuesday, June 30, 2015

West Kingston, RI - Les & Eileen

As I said in the last blog, we don’t usually meet many people that we know on our travels and it’s a real treat when we do. Well, last night we had dinner with an old roommate of mine and this morning we’ve got lunch with an old roommate of Gary’s when he was in the Navy in Newport. Les married Eileen soon after we left Rhode Island but we saw them every now and then when we lived in Minnesota when he traveled in an RV to see his father in MN.

We left early so we could stop to see the Vets High School in Warwick, RI where I taught for 3 years. My room was the second set of windows in the lower picture.
Then we stopped to see the house that Jo and I had lived in for 2 years. Great view on Narragansett Bay. We used to watch the ships sail up and down the bay. The funniest one I ever saw was one Saturday when I looked out and saw - a submarine. I checked the paper next day and saw that a Russian Sub had come into Providence, RI for a bit. Cool.

We rented from a family named DeBellis and the mother of the family that lives there now bought it from the DeBellis’ about 40 years ago, right after we left. (I wish I had known that it was going to be for sale.) They have made some nice changes and it really looks nice.
Lunch was great. Les and Eileen brought one of their granddaughters who lives with them. Clever girl - she knew that grown-up conversation would be really dull so she brought some things to do to entertain herself.
After lunch we wandered through Roger Williams Park with its self-peddle swan boats.
the carousel
and this tree with all the cool knobs.
Time to head back to the RV - we’re on the move tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2015

West Kingston, RI - Nickle and Dime-in'

Ah, a day at home. Whew - we’ve been moving fast and it’s time to rest and relax - you know: clean house, straighten up, do laundry, do a little bookkeeping, make dinner for tomorrow and - hey, wait a minute - didn’t I say rest and relax? Yeah, right.

I also got to spend 1 1/2 hours on the phone with Verizon - just made my day. We had three things that we wanted to get done and after talking with 3 very nice, helpful people, we got them all done. We wanted to increase the data we have on our plan by 20 G’s. When we’re in parks with reliable wi-fi, we’re fine. But, when we’re in a park with no wi-fi or wi-fi that you have to purchase or unreliable wi-fi (isn’t this the general rule?) we sometimes come close to using up all we have. Sometimes we go to the local libraries to use their wi-fi but that doesn’t work all the time. (Ironically, our next park, a county marina, has excellent wi-fi and we’ll have lots of wi-fi left over at the end of this first month - ain’t that the way it goes?)

We got all our questions answered and changes made with Verizon. Were the service center people pleasant, helpful and eager to please? Absolutely. Was the time way too long and was their ‘hold’ music awful? Absolutely squared.

We have company coming for dinner tomorrow so I made a strata and a Waldorf salad today. We’ll supplement that with a regular salad tomorrow. Should suffice. Besides, they’re bringing dessert: pie.
Interesting park we’re staying in here in West Kingston, RI. Very nice setting.
Out out front window we can see the proverbial rock wall that are all over the area. (We had several in our home in New Hampshire.)
Nice park in many ways but there are some things that I might change. Firstly, they nickel and dime you to death.

        It costs $4.00 per guest even if they only are here for 4 hours eating dinner.

        The showers cost money.

        The water slide costs money.

        Pets cost $3.00 per night. Now, we don’t have a pet but that seems excessive. No wonder, we didn’t see many pets in the park.

Secondly, they have wi-fi but it is only in the store and to use it, you need to sit on a picnic table outside the store on the patio. It’s covered but outside? You’d think that for the money they charge, you might be able to use a table and chair in the clubhouse (see next item)

        They have 2 large clubhouses but they are always locked - unless you’ve paid to go to the weekly event that is held in them. Why couldn’t they open them up for wi-fi use? Don’t know.

        The campground website has directions to get here by directing you to Google. But Google gives the wrong directions and you can’t possibly get to the park that way. I finally called the office and asked how to get there. When we got to the park, I mentioned the problem to the woman in the office but she was indifferent to this. ‘Here are some directions’ she said as she handed me a brochure. But, hey, I’m already here and don’t need it.

On the other hand, there are loads of seasonal sites - we met a woman whose family has been coming here for 30 years - and they seem to be happy. It’s just us grouchy transients.

Our guests were my roommate when I lived in Rhode Island 43 years ago and her new spouse. They just got married. In fact, if you read my blog back in January, you would know that we actually met them down in their Florida home. This time, we’re meeting them in their RI home - which is new as of yesterday. They just bought a new home - beautifully situated on a nice lake.
Here’s Jo. Fun dinner and so much fun to see them again. We don’t see many people we know on our travels and it’s a real treat to do so.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

West Kingston, RI - Slater the Traitor and Painting the Kitchen Red

Have you ever asked yourself: where did the Industrial Revolution start in America? You haven’t? Never? Well, neither have I. And, we lived in Pawtucket, RI about 5 miles from the site where it all began. I guess we were too busy with jobs, and furnishing an apartment and just living our lives that it wasn’t a question we asked and not an answer we looked for. But, today, we’re here to ask and answer that question.
Right at Slater Mill in downtown Pawtucket. The Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. Of course, it depended upon a young man illegally sneaking out of England with machine and mill schematics in his head, a desire to make more for himself and loads of experience working in and managing a mill in England. Yep, Slater broke the non-compete rules of his employment, came to America, landed in Pawtucket and with the aid of a Quaker merchant, Moses Brown, built America’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill. (Maybe this is why he weas nicknamed ‘Slater the Traitor’ in England.) By the end of 1790, it was up and running with workers generating power by walking a treadmill. By the end of next year, they had a waterwheel driving the machinery and the Industrial Revolution in America was well on its way.

But he didn’t stop there, he developed the “Rhode Island’ system: employing whole families, including children, to live and work at the mill site. He and his brother built a village called Slaterville which included a mill, homes, a company store, schools, roads, a church and other buildings in exchange for a 60-hour workweek. Some called this wage-slavery. Ironically, he and his partners didn’t approve of slavery but employed children as young as 6 to work in the mills.
The Slater Mill today has a rotating crew of docents who talk about the home where Sylvanus Brown, a local farmer, and his family lived, the nearby machining mill run by waterwheel and Slater’s mill with all of its various pieces of machinery. These docents were excellent and fun to listen to.

Sylvanus Brown home
The home of Sylvanus Brown (no relation to Moses Brown) shows how the process for the making of cloth at home, with a spinning wheel, a loom and other equipment that the family used to make its own clothes. Very time consuming.
Here’s the bedroom with pegs on the wall for clothes since very few homes had closets, the mattress stuffed with straw, horse hair or whatever and the rope webbing holding the mattress up and a bed warmer for those cold nights.
In the basement was the kitchen and fireplace. The adults ate off of pewter plates (with iron in them - no wonder people didn’t as long as we do now) but the kids ate out of a common bowl.
Wilkinson’s Mill
Wilkinson’s machining mill. Not only does this historical site have the Brown home and Slater’s Mill, they also have a machining mill where employees used water power to run various machines to make metal tools. Designed as a cotton mill, it also included a machine shop on the first floor where mechanics built or repaired whatever machinery the mill required. A magnificent waterwheel still provides power to the machines in the machine shop. When built, the mill performed all stages of cloth manufacture except weaving.

Here you an see the main shaft running along the ceiling on the building. This is powered by the water wheel. When someone wanted to use power for any machine, he would just circle that shaft with a belt and, voila, the machine would run.
When employees were injuured on the job, here’s their medical insurance. If they were injured so badly that they couldn’t work, they lost their job.
Slater Mill

Built in 1793, the original Slater Mill was a modest 29 foot by 42 foot, 2 ½ story structure now obscured by later additions. Built of wood, it looked much like the farmhouses, barns and churches of the day except for its size.
Inside the mill were many different machines and it was fun to see the docent work them. The cotton gin:
The mill workers banded together to collect enough money for a clock in the nearby church tower. Since most people did not have a timepiece, mill owners clanged a bell on the mill to tell them when to begin work and when to end. Funny thing: in the morning they seemed to clang way before and in the afternoon, way after the actual time. So the wokers wanted to have a check on the owners.
Walked by the fire station and the uniforms and boots are all ready for the next emergency - which happened right after we passed by.
Fascinating historical site and so much fun to see those old machines work. And, now I know that America’s Industrial Revolution began right here in Pawtucket.

Now, it’s time for some nostalgia. We lived in Pawtucket on the 3rd floor of a 3-story walk-up. See that tiny little window in the peak of the roof - that was our living room. In the hot humid Rhode Island summers, we used to put a fan here and a fan in the kitchen at the other end of the hall, one blowing in and the other blowing out. OMG, it was still hotter than Billy Blue Blazes as my mother used to say. One side of the apartment were 2 bedrooms, on the other side was storage, under the eaves. You could actually stand in that storage area, look up and see - sky. Yep, through holes in the slats and shingles, we could see the sky. Please note that we don’t even have a porch like the other 2 levels. The guy on the first floor is our landlord - can’t say he was an absentee landlord.

Here’s what the house looks like now. Please check out that 3rd story window - not there when we were there.
And, here it is in our picture from the way-back machine. But we were just starting out and had to begin somewhere. But the 3rd floor of a Pawtucket 3-story flat? Of course, the good thing is that everything is up from here.
We took the back staircase up to our 3rd floor flat. Here is what our entry way looked like. By the way - they were there when we moved in. I wonder if those sailboats are still there.
We decided that we just had to paint. Here is Gary scraping off the old paint from the ceiling. Some paint was so loose that it fell right into his lap and some required a lot of scraping.
Here is our fine paint job in the living room, the small window in the picture above. Remember, when you look at our color scheme - this was the 70’s. Note the terribly expensive red chair - got it from a friend. Record albums on the floor. Who has record albums now? But, hey, we’ve got a persian rug on the floor - we’re starting to look better.
And, here’s how we painted the kitchen, right under the roofline. Who in the world would paint a kitchen red, blood red? But, we had cool place mats and antique salt and pepper shakers. Gotta have some style. Antique chairs and table from an antique show.
Here we are in our Grant Wood pose. Young and innocent.
Then we headed over to where I worked, about 1 mile from our house. Easy walk to work. I was in the 2nd floor office in the bay window section. I worked for the Girl Scouts in a special grant project in environmental education. Long after I left, they got a cool office right on the river in downtown Providence.
‘You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.’
                                                                                        Charles Kuralt

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

West Kingston, RI - Buyin' that Yacht

Looks like a beautiful day - let’s go to Newport and buy our yacht. We’ve heard that there is a great sale going on and we don’t want to be left out.

And, while we’re there, let’s drop in on our good friends, the Vanderbilts, at their summer ‘cottage’ the Breakers.
Oops, I’m thinkin’ we couldn’t even afford the taxes on that yacht and the Vanderbilt's left long ago. I guess we’ll tour the house, walk the Cliff Walk and then swing through the yacht sale. Sounds like a plan.

Newport, RI was the summer playground for the wealthy around the turn of the 19th Century. Their ‘cottages’ along the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic were some of America’s grandest private homes. With WWI, the depression and WWII they became extremely difficult to maintain and there were fewer who could afford them. Now, many of them are the property of the Newport Preservation Society and open to the public. I toured the Breakers long ago when my mother visited Rhode Island from Iowa. But, Gary hasn’t and I’d like to see it again. The inside pictures here are from the website of the Society since we could not take pictures inside. (One of the guys standing next to me in one room must not have heard this since he very obviously took a picture. He had a strap holding his camera on his chest, he looked down, touched the button on the top and I head a tell-tale click. Funny, I thought the warning was quite clear.) I got these pictures from their website.
The ‘cottage’ was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the son of the founder of the New York Central RR system, to replace a wooden house called the ‘Breakers’ which had burned in 1892. He hired Richard Morris Hunt to design a villa built to resemble an Italian Renaissance palace and it was built, decorated and furnished in 2 years. Actually some rooms were built in Europe, divided and transported to America in pieces - only to be rebuilt here. It had 70 rooms, 300 windows and 750 door knobs. (Aren’t you glad that you know all that?) Unfortunately Vanderbilt suffered a debilitating stroke in 1896 and died in 1897 only enjoying his home for a year. 4 of his 7 children died before his wife, Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt, died in 1934.

One of his daughters, Gertrude realized at the age of 19 that she was an heiress and wanted to be poor so that she could be loved for who she was and not for her money. She married a young man named Whitney who was wealthy in his own right and she then went on to found the Whitney museum in New York. She was an accomplished sculptor and actually studied in Europe. Her family and her husband never appreciated her abilities. Initially she worked under an assumed name but later exhibited under her own name.

Another daughter, Gladys married Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary and inherited the house when her mother died in 1934. In 1948 she opened it to tours and to raise money for the Preservation Society. In 1972 the Society purchased the house from the remaining heirs and opened it for tours in their own name.
The tour was self-guided and we each had headset to give us commentary as we walked from room to room. Very opulent and well gilded. But the Preservation Society has done a remarkable job in preserving the house. The tour was very interesting and not only told about the home and the owners but also spent time telling us about the servants who kept the house. They told about the daily life of one of the female servants: plumping, dusting, drawing bath water, laundry, etc. They changed the sheets on each bed twice a day - since the family took a nap in the afternoon. Female servants were never to be seen by the public, only the butler and the footmen, who were chosen for their height. Tall and lean with perfect posture.

If your were the footman who was in charge of the clocks, you wound clocks all day. If you were the footman in charge of brass shining, that’s what you would do all day. There were 30 servant bedrooms, all in the top two stories of the house - with little ventilation and only a small window on the 4th story.

It’s time for the Cliff Walk a walk along the cliffs of Newport, in front of the mansions. Anytime the wealthy mansion-owners tried to limit access, the fishermen of the village went to court and preserved public access under the ‘fishermen’s Rights’ section of the Colonial Charter of King Charles II. Now. centuries of use have guaranteed public use although it is really a public walkway over private property. Of course, lots of tall hedges were built along the cliff walk. But, what a walk. The picture below is from the Newport Cliffwalk website and shows the path along the cliff. Watch out for that 70’ drop. Most of it is asphalt or cement although the southern edge is much rougher and is over flat-topped boulders. There is a tunnel and several bridges over chasms and large boulders near the southern edge but the view is spectacular all the way.
Here are some of my photos.
When the waves broke and slid back down to the water’s edge, they rolled over the round rocks and made the coolest sound, like marbles rolling around in a can.
Before we started we met a young man selling water out of a cooler. I asked him how much it was and he told me he worked for commissions and I could pay what I wanted. Cool - and then I found out why he did that. Seems that if you charge a price, you need a license, this way, he avoids all the paperwork of the license and - makes more.
Now for the yacht sale. We walked through some of the town of Newport and happened upon this yacht sale.
Many of the yachts were actually for rent and there was a steward on the deck dressed in a navy blue jacket with gold buttons, white shorts, white socks and shoes and a brimmed hat.
Cemetery near the oldest church in town.
Since it was such a beautiful day and since there is only one route north, we got stuck in traffic - all the beach traffic heading north from Narragansett, the same traffic we got stuck in several days ago.

‘You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.’
                                                                Yogi Berra

Saturday, June 20, 2015

West Kingston, RI - Back to the Beach

1st day in Rhode Island - what to do? Silly question: go to the beach, which in Rhode Island is Narragansett Beach. Oh, there are other beaches in Rhode Island but none like Narragansett. We’ve seen it in all seasons and each one has its charms but today it’s above 80, sunny, the school is out and we’re on our way.

But first we wanted to correct an oversight from 42 years old - we lived 1 mile from the Gilbert Stuart birthplace and never went there. Well, we were too busy living out lives. Gary had just gotten out of the Navy and, on the GI Bill, was attending the University of Rhode Island and studying like mad. I was working in Providence, 45 minutes away, for the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island and spent a bit of time in travel. Visit the Gilbert Stuart birthplace? Geez Louise - we’ve got better things to do - like grocery shopping and laundry. Today, we’re going to stop and glad we did. Not only did we learn about Gilbert Stuart and get to see quite a few original Gilbert Stuart’s in the museum attached to the house and then we also got to see how a grist mill and a snuff mill worked.
Our tour guide was - get this - an retired engineer from Boeing in Seattle who moved here 3 years ago to be near his kids. But he whipped us through the house, the snuff mill and the grist mill, showing us how they worked. Pretty cool. Did I get any pictures - nope - pictures weren’t allowed. So I have nothing to show you except pictures of the outside of the home and mills. Except I took some from online. Here is his first painting, full length to show what he could do. (Note that the hands are hidden, Stuart hasn’t learned how to do hands yet.)
We got to see some copies of very early Stuart pictures. We saw one picture of two dogs he painted at the age of 5. At the age of 19 he painted a friend and his wife and child - very good but some proportions and colors were a bit off and he didn’t do hands - too difficult. But the friend saw so much potential that he sponsored Stuart’s travel to England to study under Benjamin West, a pre-eminent portrait painter. The difference in his art when he returned to the US is amazing. The proportions, the colors, the likenesses were much better and now he could do hands. No wonder he was hired to do the 1st 6 US Presidents and George Washington several times. In the museum, his paintings are next to other portrait painters and the difference is one even I can see.
Hey, look at the hands.
There was a 1-mile trail out side the home to an overlook over Cook Pond and an old gravesite. Ironic - when Gary and lived in RI back in 1972, we got a map from the state listing all the cemeteries in the state and where they were. We found quite a few and here we were still on the lookout for old cemeteries.
Then to a home we lived in for about 6 months. Nice small home and it was fun finding it again. Here we are moving out of it (for some reason, our friend, Les, brought a small semi to help us load up a few boxes, clothing and maybe 2 pieces of furniture. A bit of overkill.) Les is on the right, his wife, Eileen is in the white coat by the boxes, my studly husband is in the van.
And, here it is then and now. Somehow, we remembered the driveway as much longer (especially since we were shovelling snow with a teeny tiny shovel) and the yard as much bigger (to mow and to rake).
Now for the beach. We drove by it noting the $10 fee for parking, thought we could park away from the actual beach and walk to it - this is for our daily walk, isn’t it? We parked, walked 1/2 mile to the beach and then noted that it was $8.00 just to get onto the beach. We hesitated, talked it over - do we want to pay $8.00 just to walk a beach? Then a very perceptive young woman who was ‘guarding’ the entryway to the beach told us that we could just go without a wrist band. She looked at us dressed for walking: no beach chairs, no beach umbrella, no tote bag, no swim suits, no towels, just walking clothes and let us through. Thanks.
Beautiful walk along a marvelous sandy beach - although it’s hard to see the beach - there are so many people on it. But, we enjoyed our walk.
Narragansett has had its ups and downs. In the late 19th Century it was the playground of the wealthy and considered a very fashionable resort. There was a large casino which was very popular until 1900 when a fire destroyed it and many of the luxury hotels leaving only these stone towers that are now the icon of Narragansett.
Rolling dice have given way to rolling waves and, though the local surfers are out in force today, they only are getting a short run of about 10’. Great for learners but not for real surfers.

We last walked this beach in the early 70’s when we lived in Rhode Island. At that point it was a bit seedy with ‘dives’ along the beach: a pizza joint, a convenience store, peeling paint, grass in the sidewalks - a far cry from the glory days of the late 1890’s. Today, these ‘dives’ have been replaced by are condos lining the beach with gift shoppes, restaurants with white table cloths and, oh, yeah, a Dunkin Donuts.

But the beach, ah, what says ‘Rhode Island’ better than a day on Narragansett Beach?

‘We'll all be gone for the summer, We're on safari to stay, Tell the teacher we're surfin, Surfin' U. S. A.’
                                        Beach Boys