Hobbies and Pastimes
Going through some old books a few weeks ago, I came across Longfellow’s Hiawatha, and inside was this wonderful and curious little note left behind by my grandmother Zillah Trewin. I don’t know when she wrote this note; it was probably some time later for the benefit of my mother who would eventually inherit it:
Zillah from Mother, 1905.
Mother memorized the introduction, first 5 chapters, also 10, 11, 12, 19, 20 and 22, largely while ironing.
If you are familiar with Hiawatha, you’ll know that this was no small feat! I try to envision my great-grandmother Elizabeth Sargent Trewin standing over her iron and simultaneously memorizing Longfellow’s verse. An image definitely emerges–now if only I could hear her voice. That would really be something!Longfellow
Here’s and interesting photo that was in the Colemans‘ possession. It is unlabelled. As far as a date goes, I am thinking 1890s/early 1900s? Thoughts, anyone? It’s highly possible these are Coleman / Angus / Woodruff family members, but so far I can’t make any best guesses. I’m assuming the photo was taken somewhere in Elizabeth, New Jersey, given that’s where they were all based at the time, with a few exceptions. If anyone recognizes this lady and little girl, please let me know. Thank you!
I love this photo of my Dad, Charles Brodhead, and his brother Woody (his only sibling) way out in the distance, fishing Lake Mohawk (Sparta Township, Sussex Co., NJ), in 1929. He was eight and his brother was 17; it’s fun to see them enjoying some brother time together. They had quite an age gap between them, and because of that and the fact that Woody was away from home at a boarding school for much of the year, they did not have many opportunities to do things together.
The lake was the creation of the Arthur D. Crane Co., which began constructing a 600-foot dam on the Wallkill River in 1926. When this photo was taken, probably by my grandfather, the lake had only been filled with water for a year or so. My dad’s parents were among the first to buy a lakefront lot and to have a home constructed there. Crane and his associates created Lake Mohawk to be a private community, and they had total control over development and sales. Many of the original homes and the lakeside plaza—all created in a very distinctive Alpine style—remain. The lakeside plaza reminds me a bit of Lucerne, Switzerland. (YouTube tour of Lake Mohawk; Old Photos of Lake Mohawk on YouTube)
For my dad and his family, Lake Mohawk was their little oasis for R&R whenever they could get away from their main home in the city (Elizabeth, NJ). His parents sold the house while my Dad was off in the Pacific during WWII, something he learned about only after returning home. Needless to say, he was very upset, but he went on to buy his own little lakefront house there as soon as he was able. For him, Lake Mohawk and the surrounding countryside held so many great memories, he wanted that magic to continue. And I can’t say that I blame him. It’s a lovely spot.
I recently happened upon the London Times article “Bad Health and Body-Fragility of Americans” which was published in 1858 in many US papers including the Long-Islander (Friday, 12 March 1858; article below, courtesy of Fulton History dot com).
It’s quite a curious read, the writer observing how weakened the American populace had become compared to their ancestors, the early colonists, and he had various theories for that, as did Americans themselves—they also found this phenomenon distressing. He mentioned feeling somewhat encouraged by America’s adoption of cricket as a sport, and indeed if you troll through 1858 newspapers, you will find plenty of mentions of cricket being played around the US. Click here to view a digital image of the printed engraving “Cricket Match Between Canada and the United States, at Hoboken [NJ], August 2, 3, and 4, 1858.”
Cricket had been played in America since the early 1700s. George Washington is even said to have joined in a game with his troops at Valley Forge during their winter encampment of 1777-1778. Philadelphia, which once had as many as 100 cricket clubs, became its epicenter. While the sport’s popularity began to wane when baseball gained a foothold during the Civil War years, it was still being widely played into the early 20th century (up to the WWI-era). Interestingly, efforts are underway to rebuild this most English of sports in America where it is experiencing a revival in places like Atlanta and Los Angeles. For the interesting 2006 Smithsonian article “The History of Cricket in the United States,” click here. The Atlantic‘s 2014 article “Cricket Is Back” is also worth a read.
Cricket or no cricket, at least on the surface we seem to be doing better as a nation today than in 1858, when the average American was viewed as a “thin, frail creature.” That said, as we all know, the pendulum has definitely swung in what could be argued an equally undesirable direction: approx. 66% of Americans (and 62% of UK residents) are now categorized as overweight or obese.
And, while the US and the UK have garnered high numbers of Olympic medals (the US garnering the most of any nation), neither country can claim to be the most athletic. When comparing a country’s population to its medals, the US ranks 17th worst, and neither the UK nor the US makes it into the list of the top 20 healthiest countries in the world. So it looks like both sides of the pond still have some work to do. I wonder what they’ll be saying about all of us 158 years from now, in the year 2174? And, will they be viewing us from a Wall-E-world type of environment and marveling at how slim and mobile we are? Or will, fingers-crossed, the pendulum have swung back for them and stopped in a much healthier place? For their sake, I hope it’s the latter!
The book of American pastimes: containing a history of the principal base-ball, cricket, rowing, and yachting clubs of the United States by Charles A. Peverelly, published 1868
While Jule De Ryther, a famous concert soprano, found a second career discussing and sharing her knowledge about food, Juliet Corson (1841-1897) spent her whole career trying to educate the public about food and cookery, and healthy and economical eating, particularly among society’s poorest. She was a proponent of letting nothing go to waste and making the tastiest and most nutritious meals possible no matter how small the budget. At 35, she founded the New York School of Cookery and operated it for seven years before ill-health forced her to close it down. She traveled the country, between bouts of ill-health, to promote the need for cookery classes in public schools. The French Consul General in NYC even consulted with her to see how her methods could be adapted to France.
Miss Corson’s numerous publications included Fifteen-Cent Dinners for Workingmen’s Families, published by the author for free distribution to working-people earning $1.50, or less, a day (New York, 1877), Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six (1879), and Practical American Cookery & Household Management (1886); for links to other publications, click here. I’ve not had time to read any of them, but I am sure she has plenty of tips that could apply to us today. Many of us are always looking for economical ways to feed our families and maximize our resources. One can only speculate what else Corson may have taught us had her life not been cut short at age 56 by a debilitating tumor (NYT obituary – “Death of Juliet Corson; The Well-Known Writer and Teacher of Cookery and Dietetics Expires Almost Alone”).
By the time Miss Corson penned this article in 1896, she was near her life’s end. You can tell from the article how passionate she is about food, and how knowledgeable. I was going to include just the portion about Madame De Ryther, but decided to include the entire article since it contains so much interesting information on the history of food and the preparation of game, an art that was already being lost in this country back then when venison was “the only wild meat ever seen freely in the New York market,” and is now in most places a great rarity, which is understandable of course, but it’s still interesting to get a sense of how our ancestors lived and worked, and what they ate. And how they may have prepared it.
Have a good Monday, all!
PS: Receipts = recipes; frumenty = thick wheat porridge usually served with venison (in Medieval times).
This past June I did a post on an 1891 Brodhead hunting expedition in Blooming Grove Park, Pike Co., Pennsylvania (and a subsequent follow-up). I just realized, while leafing through the December 17, 1870, Harper’s Weekly newspaper that contained the great scenes from Blooming Grove, that I failed to include in my post the accompanying article about this private 12,000-plus-acre hunting and fishing club. So, I will include it here now. It’s interesting (and good) to see how even back then, conservation was on people’s minds. You have to wonder what may have happened to all that land had it not fallen under the club’s protection.
As for the article, I had to chuckle when I read that the train took “only” 4.5 hrs to get to Blooming Grove from NYC, a distance of some 87 miles that is described as being one of the Park’s great advantages, which indeed it was at that time—and still is today. While Blooming Grove is still private/members-only, that part of Pennsylvania offers many other areas that are freely accessible to outdoors-lovers. We are still hoping to get up there next summer for some trout fishing and family-history-hunting expeditions.
I don’t know what the fishing is like today in Pike County, PA, but here is an 1877 article from The Country, Vol I & II describing the experiences of one visitor to that area from April 1-4, 1877. During those 4 days, this visitor caught 400 fish weighing 45 pounds and brought back to New York 234 fish that “scaled 33 pounds honest weight.” Roughly 88 of them were between 8 – 13.5 inches in length; the other 150 or so, he said, were small trout, but not “fingerlings” — “fat as butter and excellent eating.” Obviously these were the days before any limits were introduced! Today he’d be able to walk away with just 5 trout per day, and each would have to be at least 7 inches long.
I love the great outdoors and that includes “escaping mentally” to the great outdoors of yesteryear to imagine what things must have been like in a certain location at a certain point in time. If you’re like me, and you enjoy fishing, perhaps you will find this article of interest too. Present-day fishermen and women in Pike Co., feel free to comment about your experiences fishing in that part of PA.
Happy 4th of July, All!
Credit: Google Books
Paddleboarding is hugely popular here in south Florida, so I did a double-take when I saw this image in Recreation magazine (Vol. 47, Sept. 1912, p. 75; available via Google Books). But, as I read the brief accompanying article and examined the images more closely, I realized something a bit different was going on. I love the choice of attire. Obviously they were very optimistic about staying dry!