Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Display of Family Keepsakes

This antique Cobbler Set belonged to my paternal Grandfather, Thomas Anthony Hall. My Dad brought it home as a remembrance of his father, soon after his death. When I was a young child it was kept near my Dad's workbench in the basement, these smaller tools were stored in the old wooden cigar box that they were found in at Grandpa's house in Pennsylvania. The larger shoe lasts and hammers were kept, along with the cigar box, in a large cardboard box in a metal cabinet where they would be safe. My Dad would sometimes bring them out for me to use when I was working on some childhood project, and used them himself at times. But they were always returned to their special storage place after being utilized. Each time we brought them out Dad would explain how to use each tool I needed and answered the many questions I always had about my Grandparent's lives and what my Father's and his sibling's childhoods were like growing up together in that place and time.

My Grandfather was a Coal Miner, and this cobbler set was used to repair the families shoes, as money for new shoes was often hard to come by. He also fashioned many other useful items from scrap leather to replace worn straps, handles and hinges. And create change purses and small useful items for his young son.

When I was a teenager I wanted to put them on display in the basement game-room, and Dad and I worked together hanging the separate pieces on the wall and arranging the standing shoe lasts beneath them. Now that Dad has passed as well, I decided to create a more protective display for them, while still leaving the more useful tools accessible. By drilling holes in the top of an inexpensive shadow box, I now have the more worn, and smaller delicate pieces encased in glass and the tools that I often make use of are stored safely through the top edge of the wooden shadow box. The other tools are positioned underneath the shadow box and I have incorporated the old cigar box as a small shelf to hold the smaller items. In this way I can keep them all together in remembrance, to admire and use them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hillbilly Cabin

We ran across this old dilapidated shack along side some old dirt trail, close to a crossroads, out near the Steuben County/Schuyler County line in NY a couple a summers ago. It was just startin' to turn to dusk but we had ta stop - wantin' to get a closer look, but somethin' held us back...

Don't know if it was the possibles of a dead body bundled up and thrown against the house or the 'danger' sign on the front door, but we had the inkling that we shouldn't be stickin' around too long. Who's ta know if there was some gun totin' redneck watchin' us from behind a crack in the door or in that dark broken out window uptop?

We stood there listenin' for noises, with all the world goin' quiet at sundown, when out of nowhere came the roar of an old pick em up truck. It sped through the four corners stirrin' up dust, full of good ole' boys hootin' and hollerin' for all their worth and as that veehicle fish tailed to a stop just out of view... we done up and hightailed it outta there!

An' ya know, we been back that way time and agin and we just can't seem to lay eyes on that same old shack... 

mighty strange, I'd say...

Friday, February 18, 2011

River Cruise

This commemorative paperweight sat on my Mother's vanity throughout my early childhood. I remember her telling me that Grandma & Grandpa Derr had ridden on that ship. Years after my Mom passed away my Dad explained that my Mother's parents had gotten the item as a souvenir of a trip they had taken. I had failed to question my Mom further when I was young and upon asking my Dad, later, if he knew any of the details of their trip, he said that he thought it was a steamship that made river excursions. How romantic that seemed to me, especially since my Grandparent's story was so tragic. He died after only three years of marriage, with my Mom only 17 months old, and my Grandma expecting another child.

Thomas Harold Derr and Mabel Olive Stanton were married on July 28, 1915 in Chester, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Both were 20 years old. He worked as a Miller, and she as a Mill Hand. I am told it was a Grain Mill, and perhaps this is where they first met. Not knowing how long they may have known each other before exchanging rings, and assuming that they had waited until after their marriage to take a trip together, the cruise must have occurred after July of 1915.

In my daydreams I saw them eloping, possibly being married aboard ship. Not knowing then that they were married in Pennsylvania. Or maybe just a short Honeymoon after a hometown wedding, before heading back to work at the Mill. They may have just saved their money after the wedding to take a longer belated trip together. Since there was no mention of my Mom on the ship it must have occurred before her birth in August of 1916. Most likely in late summer of 1915 or in the spring of 1916 before Grandma was too far along in her pregnancy, yet past the morning sickness stage.

The luxurious ferryboat SS City of Detroit III offered elegance usually found only in an ocean liner.

The City of Detroit III first set sail in the season of 1912 and was the largest steel-hulled passenger side wheeler on the Great Lakes at that time. It must have been quite an event for my Grandparents to board the ship only three years later, while it still must have been considered quite an amazing attraction. 

The elaborate interior of the ship featured candelabras, balustraded staircases and museum quality paintings.

 With twenty-one lavishly furnished parlors and four-hundred and seventy-seven well dressed staterooms, this gigantic drifting hotel was furnished with all the newest enmities and was considered the belle of the Lakes. Imagine Harold and Mabel, two young mill workers, in love and newly married. Even if only standing at the rails for a short ferry down the must have been exciting.

The dining room on the City of Detroit is set up for a cruise.

I wonder if they were able to enjoy the fancy cuisine and exceptional service offered on board, perhaps lunch during a day trip if nothing else. An afternoon spent together in comfort and style...

The ship's Gothic Room.

They say that Honeymooners often stepped aboard the vessel at Detroit or Cleveland and then traveled to Buffalo where transit was available to Niagara Falls. Quite an adventure in those days, and an actual cruise around the Great Lakes would have been amazing as well. I wish I knew the circumstances and how it made them feel. 

The steamer City of Detroit III offered elegance in its trips between Detroit and Windsor
and also offered longer luxury cruises throughout the Great Lakes.

I wish the ship was still in service, I would love to re-create what I imagine their trip might have been like and would hope to make it the most extravagant cruise they could have dreamed of.


There are still short 2-4 hour touring or dinner cruises sailing the Detroit River, but nothing in comparison to what a run on the City of Detroit III must have been like.

Information on current Detroit River Cruises can be found here.

Information on other available River Cruises can be found here.

(This story was compiled using clip and photo files with captions of the Detroit News.)