Saturday, February 28, 2009

Forward - into the Past....

1. The Rocky Mountain News , the newspaper in Denver which reported about the Civil War for the citizens of Denver, Colorado......has printed its last issue. I suppose that caught my attention more than most, because my beloved daddy (of blessed memory) was a newspaperman since he was three years old, in 1914. He used to tag along with his big brother Dan to deliver the Duluth Tribune . He went on to graduate with degrees in Journalism -- he was City Editor for the Minot Daily News in North Dakota when I was born and went on to the Minneapolis Star & Tribune where he served in several capacities including originator and editor of "The Minnesota Poll."

So I've been blanking out all the comments about newsprint dying, even though one of our daily papers here in Madison has gone under and is now appearing as a weekly insert in the OTHER daily paper's Thursday edition. If I live to see newspapers....as we know them....vanish, I'll be a very, very sad person.

You've seen this before - it's the absolute archetype Newspaperman from the 1950s (also my daddy, see above). The hats are out of fashion, ties don't look like that anymore -- those typewriters are in museums.......and now the newspaper is going.

It makes me sad.

2. It's now the season of Lent. Reminds me of one of my girlhood friends, Carol, who was a devout Catholic and always gave up candy for Lent. She saved up every piece she got all the way up to Easter - and then shared it out with the rest of us afterward. I think it's a noble idea, giving something up for a whole forty days, so I thought I'd give up some things too, in support of my non-Jewish friends.

I'm giving up rutabaga. I'm giving up watching golf on the teevee. No more hard whiskey. And I won't do any Advanced Mathematics. I don't think I need to report on my successes or failures here; suffice it to say, I'm confident.

3. I think it's time to brag a little about one of my "babies" - the four-leggedy ones. I may have mentioned now and then that our little stripey tabby, Lilliane by name, is a terrible brat ... sometimes difficult. But everyone's good at something, and wee Lilli is absolutely masterful at Human Training. Oh, Evangeline's got a few techniques for cadging crunchy treats, I'll give her that. But Lilliane? Well...check these out:

Keep in mind - this is a seven-pound cat.

"Next, I want you to take me over there, where I'm pointing with my eyes - and keep rubbing."

Now -- this action, which also involves not just standing there but literally a perambulation throughout the house - never ceasing the stroking, petting, snorgling - can last as much as ten minutes. And she manages to get him to submit to her wishes for this several times a day.

WHO owns WHOM???

3. OK, I can't hold back. I am EXCITED!! I think I've mentioned, I portrayed a late 19th-century woman in the Museum during Halloween: Mary Hayes Chynoweth. She was born in 1825 and died in 1912 and lived a rich and full life, marrying twice, having two brilliant and accomplished sons (they became "The Prune Kings of San Jose" as adults) - and in possession of "The Power", which enabled her to be a great healer, preacher, and spiritualist.

There's so much to her (I keep falling in love with all these dead folks) that I posed the suggestion of adding her to our Outreach programs, and going around in character to talk about her life. Our boss liked the idea - and went so far as to arrange for the museum's seamstress to make me a proper outfit for Mary.

Mary Hayes Chynoweth was tall - at least taller than *I* am (I heard that, Daughter -- "everyone over age 10 is.......") and a commanding personage. Well -- Linda the Seamstress has made me a suit of clothes that will absolutely allow me to portray her:

I was worried about the hat. Ladies LOVED their hats in 1895 (the era of the gown) and I am NOT a hat person. I've almost never found headgear that didn't make me look like a toadstool; my little caps and bonnets are ok, but I've never found anything else. Well, ladies and gentlemens - I LOVE THIS HAT! Adore it, worship it, I'm going to marry it and call it George. Sophie. Sadie. Whatever.

I was worried about the hat, bigtime. And the base hat the Seamstress Linda showed me was nothing short of dreadful - with a high, round crown and floppy-ass brim. She told me that she loves doing hats. Well, I had but little faith and am now here to tell you, that lady knows her way around a millinery. Is this hat not spectacular??? Go ahead, biggify it. (Ignore my wrinkles.) It's covered in the same rich fabric the gown's made from and adorned with bows of that stunning gold brocade of the front waist - and bedecked with TWO ostrich plumes (she tells me the black one really IS very old). And she said (to my delight) if she'd FOUND a huge dead bird, she'd have given me a big dead bird. (Very fashionable in those days, I am so not making that up.)

This is the back (like I had to say that). You know that I don't sew a stitch, so imagine how impressed I am with the quality of the tailoring of this suit. The gathers at the back of the skirt, the point at the bottom of the jacket -- the perfect sleeves. It's a medium-weight smooth wool, and the front of the bodice is (as mentioned) a stunning gold brocade. (By the way - the top is one piece -- not actually a separate shirtwaist and jacket, which is authentic.)

I did cadge a full view (Mr Dearling was acting as H.H. Bennett); overlook the little pearl-headed pins at the bottom, it had just been pinned up for proper hemming. There is a small train at the back, as the very best walking skirts had.

"Mrs Mary Hayes Chynoweth, before speaking to a gathering of Free-Thinkers and Spiritualists, November 1895."

I will be getting some beautiful earbobs - gold, I think, perhaps with garnets - and black gloves, and perhaps a small tasteful watch on a gold brooch or long gold chain. I don't expect I'll know until I either Pass the Veil and ask her......or study up on mediumship enough to contact her Over There....but I think Mrs. Hayes Chynoweth will be pleased with my portrayal. Dressed thus, I'm sure I'll be able to carry off her elegance.

Can you believe, I'm being PAID for having all this fun???




17 comments:

kmkat said...

That is indeed a gorgeous dress and hat. I think the leg-o'-mutton sleeves demand a *significant* hat. Without it you would look unfinished, unbalanced. What a perfectly splendid outfit!

Kitty Mommy said...

Wow! I think "splendid" is indeed the word!

Alwen said...

I feel the same way about newspapers. My mother is a Christian Scientist, and has given me the Monitor for forever. The Monitor is going to a weekly print edition, and the rest, they airily tell us, we can find online. It's not the same at all!

And there are my spiritualist & newspaper credentials all in one go.

Splendid outfit! And that is the perfect hat.

CTJen said...

You look absolutely amazing! And the hat is to die for adorable on you. I'm sure Mrs. Chynoweth would approve. :-)

Cathy-Cate said...

The hat is a thing of glory. Absolute beauty. Linda the Seamstress is a Millinery Artiste.

Wonderful outfit, and it should inspire you even more greatly to channel MHC.

NPR was just talking about newspapers too and their projected fate. I love online but I love my newspapers and magazines; it is not one or the other, and they are not substitutes one for the other.

teabird said...

What an artist your tailor is! The whole outfit is just wonderful.

(Newspapers disappearing - the idea makes me cry.)

gayle said...

Woohoo! Paid to play Dress Up! Every little girl's dream...
My own favorite dress-up era is Medieval - give me a wimple and cotehardie, and I'm grinning from ear to ear.
Fabulous dress and hat you have there. Enjoy!

Cindy G said...

Oh, I'm so glad you posted pictures - I was dying to see the whole outfit after hearing you describe it.

I love hats, and that one is an absolute beauty!

junior_goddess said...

I came to visit-leapfrogged over from Cindy's blog. My older brother delivered the Rocky Mountain News when he was in junior high.

Your dress IS wonderful. As is your hat!

Marjorie said...

Dearie! Welcome to the most modern 19th Century! I can only admire your milliner from afar (those of us with limited budgets do our own millinery), but your tailoress. Oh my. Quite the thing, and so very proper and tasteful. Just the thing to impress an audience. Their silence while listening will be sheer and utter envy at your panache!

MX said...

The hat is the thing!!!!!

Jamwes said...

No more hard whiskey?!? Whats the fun in that?

MollyBeees said...

OMGosh! I love the dress! What a cutie you are Mary Chyneweth!

I am sad to see that you insist on maintaining your toad licking habit during Lent. I am doing quite well with abstaining. Although it is easier since all of the pschodelic toads are hybernating.

Hyacinth said...

Oh my! That is a gorgeous outfit, and the hat is beautiful :) Must be so much fun to get dressed up in such finery :)

As for Lilliane, my Poppy would like to congratulate her on her Human Training techniques...seems like girl kitties (Poppy and Lilliane included) have perfected the art of "snuggling in Daddy's arm and commanding him to submit to my wishes" :)

Anonymous said...

Dale-Harriet, you are magnificent! I occasionally stumble over to your blog and enjoy it when I do. And I'm glad you get to have fun while getting paid, but as a former historian and museum professional, I have to chide you just a little. Not for the dress, but for the attitude. History is a fun field, and for many of us, history museums are little short of playgrounds. But too many people think that it is enough to have fun, and I think that is why the field is so underpaid. It is quite possibly the only profession that pays less than teaching! Years ago, after I got my Master's I got my first professional job, in which I was paid less than the check out clerks at the local grocery store. Surely your knowledge and expertise is valuable; your museum would be less without them. They obviously value you or there would not be expenditures on exquisite costumes and cakes baked in your honor. I'm sure it's personally rewarding, but why shouldn't a person with the range of experience and talent that you offer be entitled to all that AND a salary reflecting her value to the organization? Fun doesn't put food on the table.

End of rant. I didn't realize how strongly I still felt, even after being out of the field for a number of years. I guess you can take the girl out of the museum, but you can't take the museum out of the girl! I really only came over for the knitting!

janna said...

The hat is fabulous, as is the dress. And the cat is pretty special, too!

Anne said...

Oh my! I would so be tempted to wear that hat to shul on Saturdays and not just save it for wear with the whole outfit (which is gorgeous). You look very elegant!