Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Blessing

I went out at 5:45 to feed this morning, wearing Dad's barn jacket and gloves. It was cold and I did not linger very long. This afternoon after Mom and I got back to the house, I walked the dog, went to the post office, and to the grocery store while Mom napped.

It was the first time I had picked up the mail since I lived here as an adolescent and it is a new post office. Picture me traipsing up and down every row trying to find the box they have had for 50 years; they were numbered in a strange pattern!

Back home, and I went out to feed with the sun shining and a beautiful afternoon. Rio always meets Dad at the gate and gets a handful of feed. Before it goes in his food bin. This morning, he did not come to the gate, but just went straight to his food bin. This afternoon though, he came over to the gate and I gave him his handful and then he sauntered on over to his spot, and Jenny came up braying. I checked the hay just to make sure, but it is good til morning.

I made Italian Wedding soup for supper and now the kitchen is clean, and I am resting in Dad's chair, thanking God for my family and our blessings, and that we are able to take care of each other.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Modern Church Architecture: First Baptist of Olney

Olney's First Baptist church is an example of mid-century modernism.  I have to wonder how many folks in this small north central Texas community were astonished as this building began to take shape. Who loved it, and who hated it?  I guess I won't find out until my retirement gig, when I will travel around to all the local town libraries and search out local documents that might shed light on questions. Facing along Main Street, a couple of blocks from "downtown" is a contrast of angles and curves, concrete and glass, and a dainty little row of lally columns.
The gabled end of the sanctuary is concrete, which gives the appearance of being rougher than it actually is.  The primarily blue-green stained glass has a dark red and orange-yellow pieces near the edge.  The three windows have a cross shape design.  One sees the repeated pattern of threes throughout the building.
The side door features a slightly curved concrete awning, topped by a small projecting stained glass window.

A row of projecting windows lines each side of the sanctuary.
The covered archway along the front has a scalloped style of awning, and the supporting columns are grouped in threes.  The spire that rises has three tiers.
The section behind the archway is most likely a chapel, and the window design is similar to those on the sanctuary, though simpler.  The slightly vaulted roof curve provides an interesting contrast to the alternating curves on the archway.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mid-Century Modern Storefronts: Perkins-Timberlake

 All the mid-century modernization of store fronts in towns I have been visiting lately made me think about the Perkins-Timberlake store in Olney, Texas, where we shopped throughout my adolescence in Graham.  Perkins-Timberlake had nine stores in Texas (including one in Seymour where I lived as a child) and one in Fredericksburg, Oklahoma.  While I really don't remember the Seymour store clearly, or shopping there (we shopped in Bickley's Department Store and Woods' The Man's Store), I seem to have a dim memory of its location in downtown.

Joe J. Perkins opened his first mercantile in Decatur, Texas in 1897.  He
...soon organized the Perkins-Timberlake system of stores, located in 9 cities (Walter N. Vernon, Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association)
It was actually not "soon" as I think of soon, as it apparently was not until 1914 that the store became Perkins-Timberlake instead of just Perkins.  Frank Timberlake began his apprenticeship as a merchant in the Perkins store in Jacksboro in 1914, although he had married Perkins' sister in 1886.  Timberlake took charge of the stores in Vernon, Texas and Frederick, Oklahoma soon after, and in 1915, managed the stores opened in Electra and Bowie (both in Texas).  In 1916, a large new store was opened in Wichita Falls, Texas, which became the headquarters of the company. (Source: Capt. B. B. Paddock, Ed. (1922). History of Texas: Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest, Volume 3. Lewis Publishing Company: Chicago and New York, p. 351).
 This was the location of the Olney store since my childhood.  It was apparently a newly "modernized" storefront after the tornado of 1951 destroyed the original store.  According to the Daytona Beach Journal, May 19, 1951,
Olney is a typical town in the Wichita Falls wheat country of North Central Texas...The Perkins-Timberlake Dry Goods Store...razed.
During my childhood and adolescence, another building was to the left of the building in the photograph--the significance of that item, in a bit.  The red metal slipcover was (in the best of my memory) a silver color, and I am not sure when it was added.  The red color interferes with my memory of the store, and while I do recall a sign across the front of the building, I don't remember if it was on this slipcover, or on the brick itself, and I can't find any supporting data one way or the other.
 Terrazzo flooring began to be used in the first part of the 20th century (Carol J. Dyson, Mid-Twentieth Century Storefront Components Guide, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency).  A modern version of the earlier practice of spelling out the organization's name in mosaic tile, the terrazzo floor could do fancy script not possible with tiles.
 As a child, I was fascinated with the script spelling out the name, and was particularly enamored of the mirrored column in the center of the entrance.  Notice how the green diamonds in the terrazzo draw you toward the doors.  Dyson indicated that the angled entrance and other details (such as the diamonds) were all intended to sweep the customer into the store.  A door in each of the showrooms enabled the employees to enter the windows to change displays.
 Dyson also explained
...with tempered glass doors...as the doors became minimal, handles and hardware became more important and were usually sleekly designed.
These door pulls appeared to be made of glass also (both by feel and visual inspection), although I recall their being clear, rather than the yellowed color.  I am not certain if that is a memory trick, or if perhaps they were made of some type of resin which yellowed with age.  I do remember that the door handles fascinated me as a child as well.
 In the photo above, you can see what was not visible to me as a child.  Because another building abutted this one, I was unaware of the details of the building itself.  I speculate that after the 1951 tornado, the decision was to modernize in rebuilding, and the metal or aluminum slipcover added.  There was most likely a sign and my guess is that it was aluminum letters.

And just think, as I was in that store the summer of 1968, using part of my first paycheck from my summer job to buy a yellow knit Polo-style dress and some brown and tan chunky heel spectator pumps for college in the fall, I had no idea of any of these things that are so fascinating to me now.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lake Village, Arkansas: Post Office and New Deal Art

"Lake Country Wildlife" by Avery Johnson, 1941. Image used with permission of United States Postal Service
 New Jersey artist Avery Johnson was asked to paint the mural for the Lake Village post office.  Johnson accepted, but his winning entry in the 48-states competition delayed the Lake Village mural.  It was completed and installed in 1941, after the post office was constructed in 1939 (Smith & Christ, n.d.)  The scene depicts wildlife on the shores of Lake Chicot, the largest natural oxbow lake in the United States (Silva, 2011).  Johnson was said to have been interested in the abundant deer population of the area, and thus, deer figured prominently in the work (Smith & Christ).  They described the artistic  requirements of the program:
Contemporary Realism--American scene painting--was the only truly acceptable style.
The subject matter requirements included:
  • realistically interpret local history 
  • post office scenes past and present
  • vignettes of daily life 
  • Regionalism that ...celebrated American scenes that had universal appeal, such as local agriculture, industry, and family
Johnson received six commissions for murals during the program, but Arkansas was the only one in the south (Smith & Christ).  Relief work for artists during the New Deal period was housed in several programs and federal offices, and was relocated in 1939 (through its conclusion in 1942) with a reorganization moving the Public Buildings branch and the Section into the new Federal Works Agency.  The 48-states competition to award one mural to each of the states was announced in 1939 to promote the program.  
The Lake Village post office is in the Colonial Revival style, popular during the New Deal era.  This design, or similar versions, is seen in the Mississippi post offices in Leland, Houston, Amory, and Pontotoc.

Silva, R. (2011) Walks through history: Lake Village CHD.
Smith, S. T., & Christ, M. K. (n.d.) Arkansas Post Offices and the Treasury Department's Section Art Program, 1938-1942. Arkansas Historic Preservation Program: Little Rock.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Old Bank of Leland

 The Neoclassical Bank of Leland was constructed in 1926, during a time of significant growth in the community.  Leland was
...conceived and laid out as a railroad town with commercial buildings facing tracks. (Joan Embree, 2004, in the nomination form for the Leland Historic District, National Register of Historic Places)
Additional commercial blocks were added as the town continued to grow.  The Bank of Leland was organized in 1899, and a new building constructed in 1909--across the street from the location of the new bank, which currently serves as the Leland City Hall.
Of the earlier bank building, Embree said:
An even more ornate Early 20th Century commercial building that has survived remarkably intact to the present is the 1907 Bank of Leland.  This combination bank (downstairs) and cotton office (upstairs) has the most ornate detailing surviving among buildings of its era in Leland.  A combination of Neo-Gothic (arches), Neo-Colonial (classical detailing), and Richardsonian Romanesque (faux-stone quoins, facings), the building retains its decorative hex-tile entry floor.
The 1926 building was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 2001.

 The entry surround "...has classical cartouche above a molded hood with denticulated cornice" (Embree).

 The bays are divided by pilasters with Ionic capitals...fenestration is anodized aluminum and glass. (Embree)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ice Storm

 We really do not like this tree.  It blocks the corner of the drive, and in spring, blooms with an awful sickeningly sweet smell that attracts hundreds of bees.  We say every year we will cut it down.  Now would be a good time--while I can get to the branches!
Update at 5:30 p.m. When I got home, branches were lying all over the front yard where the limbs had broken and fallen to the ground.  Now, why can't that happen with THIS tree?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When cats compromise for the good of the group

 I was working in the living room this afternoon so Abby could be out of her kennel--we had an unexpected weather day off due to the ice.  She was alternately chewing on toys, coming over for a quick pet, and snoozing, when I looked out the window and began to laugh.  Feral cats, or at least the ones who hang out around here, seem to weather the winter fine.  I always put out some type of shelter for them, and some of them use it, but several obviously have little lairs out in the kudzu somewhere as they only come up at feeding time.  A few weeks ago, I put out a cardboard box (a little trick I learned from a friend back in Texas) with 2 small openings (feral cats like an alternative escape route if necessary), and moved the kitty bed to the front porch now that it would likely rain and/or snow and ice.  I had seen two of them curled up in the kitty bed several times now, which is not all that unusual.
 So, how many cats can get in a kitty bed?  Apparently, when it is 32 degrees or less, at least 5.  Yes, 5.  One more cat jumped into the pile of 4 cats.
   While cats may tend to be independent sorts, when it is cold, they depend on each other as they need each other.  You can be a warm cat in a pile, or a dead cat all by yourself, due to freezing.
Now, if only our elected representatives could figure that out, we might get some things accomplished.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Imagine if you had been in Rayville, Louisiana and came to check your post office box

I have a new project, documenting as many of the New Deal post office murals as I can.  I started it by accident due to a post on Preservation in Mississippi about the restoration of the Picayune post office mural .  It is kind of like getting a cat...first there is just one...and then another, and pretty soon...well, you know about cats.  I had to make an unexpected trip to Texas the past week.  I had previously plotted out all the New Deal murals in post offices in the vicinity between here and there, planning for a leisurely few road trips in the future.  One was on the way to Graham (a real post about that one later) and one on the return trip--two different routes down and back.  I left TX at 6:30 a.m. today as I have to be at work in the morning.  However, Rayville, Louisiana is right on the Interstate on my route home, and I thought it worth a short detour of 10-15 minutes.
Image used with permission from the United States Postal Service
 It is Sunday, but most of the post office murals I have been able to photograph so far have been accessible even on Sunday.  The post offices that were built under the New Deal had both the post windows, the post boxes, and the postmasters offices all in the same room, and when the work day was done, they just pulled down the metal screen to close off the post office inner workings from the outer, so folks could still access their mail boxes 24/7.  It may have been done in later post offices, or they may have just "remodeled", but imagine my surprise, and disappointment, when I finally located the post office near down town Rayville, and walked in to see the above!  Yes, it is Sunday, and even if you can buy liquor, wine, and beer in Louisiana 24/7/365, you cannot get into the area where "the people's art" is located, at least in Rayville.
Image used with permission from the United States Postal Service
Now, truthfully, it is not that big of a deal, as I am up and down this road fairly often, and can go back--and will go back.  But, I was there now, and by golly, I wanted that photograph.  The blinds on the doors did not go all the way to the floor, so I stooped down to see if I could get a view...nope...I got on my knees...nope...I got on all fours...nope.  There was a fleeting moment as I was lowering myself to lie prone on the floor and try to angle the camera where I could see up to the mural from that little sliver of glass that allowed a view into the room (NOTE: Thank you to the US Postal Service for blinds that only close 3/4 of the way.) when I wondered what anyone coming in to pick up mail might think.   On both the Arkansas post office (coming later) and the Louisiana post office, I did note that someone placed lights in a way that did not enable one to adequately appreciate the art, although in this case, it was compounded by the reflection on the glass of the window as I lay on the floor looking through it.  

I will do a follow up visit for photographs when I will be able to have access, and do a real post with the data about the post office and mural.  Somehow, after all the things that have happened during the past few days, as I was lying on the floor of the post office in front of the door where no telling how many people had walked with no telling what on their shoes, yet determined to take the picture, I just had the thought of Larry the Cable Guy saying, "I don't care who you are, that there was funny."  Of course, I had been on the road for 8 hours in the pouring rain by then, and could have been a little light headed.

I drove on across the Mississippi River, and stopped to refuel in Madison for the last quarter of the trip home.  After fueling, I went in for my personal pit stop and to get some water and ice.  There was a young woman at the counter trying to explain something about how much gas she got and how much she intended to get.  By the time I got back out and was paying for my drinks, I got the rest of the story:  There had been a mishap at the pump, and somehow quite a bit of fuel had spilled onto the ground and she was concerned about it.  As I was getting ready to back out, the police and fire truck (hazard guys) were pulling in.  I was on the phone with R, updating him on my ETA when I suddenly said, "I have to go now so I don't get stuck here." I had no idea where that firetruck was going to stop, but I still had an hour and a half more to go, it was still raining, and the last thing I wanted was for that truck to pull up behind me and stop.

I had bought some bottled tea back in Texas--a new tea company, and as R and J and I love tea, I had picked up a box of several varieties, prompting my young checker to ask, "Are you thirsty tonight?"  I planned to pour the Dove Creek Unsweet Texas Tea over my ice, since though once cold, it was no longer so 10 hours later.  Couldn't open it.  Bopped it on the bottom of the jar.  Couldn't open it.  When I moved to Mississippi 10 years ago, one of my friends and colleagues gave me a Swiss Army Knife with a corkscrew.  He said, one never knew in Mississippi when you might need a corkscrew.  I need to get in touch with him and ask him to add a bottle/jar opener.  Obviously one never knows when one might need one of those either.  It crossed my mind to run back into the store and ask someone to please open that bottle for me, as my poor (Yes, I was playing the sympathy card, and it was totally true, folks) arthritic hands just could not manage.  But, then the sirens came and the firetruck came, and I weighed getting stuck there and unable to get out of the parking lot versus getting that bottle of tea open.

Let's just say the tea is in the refrigerator, chillin' out for me to take to work tomorrow, and Swiss Army Knife with bottle/jar opener and corkscrew is on my wish list for next shopping trip.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Old Bank of Leland

 The old [old--as in first building] Bank of Leland was organized in 1899 with capital of $5,000, which increased to $34,000 within 5 years (Dot Turk, "The History and Architecture of Leland", Washington County Historical Society, 1981).  The building above was built in 1909 on Third and Broad.  The first floor was the bank, and the second floor served as offices for McGee & Dean & Company cotton office (Turk).
 The side of the building featured a stairway to access the cotton offices.
Even though the bank built a new building in 1926, across the street, the entrance tile still proclaims the Bank of Leland.

 The building featured a corner entrance, which could be accessed from either side, and a stepped parapet roof.  The door opening into the building has been replaced at some point with a modern door.
The building serves as the offices for the McGee, Dean, & Company plantation office according to the current signage, and obviously needs some repair and paint.  The second floor does not appear to be in use, as windows are boarded and the stairway in inaccessible.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mississippi Innocence Project

While awake at 4 this morning, I picked up my iPad.  Noting the Mississippi headline in the NY Times, I read the article "Questions for Mississippi Doctor After Thousands of Autopsies." Folks in the area may recall Dr. Steven T. Hayne and his "service" to the State of Mississippi.  What will really chill you is to read the document prepared by the Mississippi Innocence Project providing background and appeals cases involving Dr. Haynes.  I'd put that on my must read list for anyone in Mississippi.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Not a road trip day redux: Texas is going down faster than the sun in Alaska

I was due to depart for Texas yesterday...after the third postponement for the season.  I'm starting to think the universe is talking to me.  Right now, I am in bed, with my leg elevated and alternately iced and wrapped for the second day in a row.  It is a mixed blessing.  It is kind of nice on one hand to simply lie in bed, and do nothing other than read, use the laptop for both research and pleasure, or do a crossword puzzle.  I even took a nap yesterday afternoon.
In 2009, I made my usual December run to Texas, and one day was out in the pasture in a tank top, taking pictures.  The following day, Christmas, it looked like this:
I had helped Dad shovel snow off the decks and steps, and make a path to the barn to feed horse, mule, and dogs and cats.  The snow was coming down almost faster than we could clear the deck, but it had piled up in front of the door to the point one could not open the door, and thus had to be done.
I had to drive back to Abilene yet, in order to meet up with Randy and his father for Christmas dinner before we returned to Mississippi the next morning.  I stopped to take a photo of this frozen fountain in Albany, slipped on the ice, and bruised my hand (from trying to catch myself) and my posterior, from landing on it.
Lately, I've been feeling like things are creeping up on me, and it is always another rude wake-up call when you realized yet once again, "What?  I'm not going to be forever young?  This is going to keep on happening?"  Still, I can't complain; it's usually only temporary, and I am learning to deal with it more effectively the more I learn about how to prevent it and manage it.

Meanwhile, really working on the acceptance of it is what it is and that being forced to slow down, or even stop, and be present in the moment is how I have had some of my most profound learning and joyous experiences.

But for now, it's time for the ice pack.