Monday, January 28, 2013

Four Generations of Women on the Phone

I had shown a picture of my mother at her business and a picture of my grandmother at her business to a friend. She told me that I must make a collage photo. That is because the photos show my grandmother at a switchboard about 1910 and my mother at a switchboard about 1969.

In the case of my grandmother, she was the operator at the phone company that was housed in the parlor of her father's house. The switchboard supported 24 lines. The picture of my mother was at her business.

My mother had been a rural school teacher before she married my father. She gave up teaching after she married my father. However, after I was born, I became her pupil. I remember before I started kindergarten sitting on our front steps and my mother teaching me to read.

I don't remember my mother working with my younger siblings as she did with me because she did other things to bring money into her household. She sold cosmetics at home parties and took in ironing. I remember the mangle iron that she had to iron sheets and tablecloths. Everytime I iron a sheet, I think of that mangle of so many years ago.

The mangle was so much better than my European ironing board and iron. The only thing that my European ironing board does better than the Walmart ironing board is that is so heavy that pulling the sheet across it doesn't tip it over.

But I digress ... At sometime while I was in grade school, my mother worked for an answering service in Minnesota. At that time. I had no idea that my grandmother had been a telephone operator. She was simply my grandmother who lived in California. She was old.

I can remember most of the various occupations that my mother while I was growing up. So when we moved to California, I wasn't surprised when my mother secured a job as an operator at an answering service. She shortly became the night supervisor and acting manager when the manager was away. My mother complained enough about the manager and her ineffectiveness to the point that my father told her to start her own service.

My mother took up my dad's challenge and did start her own business that she successfully ran until her death. I found a photo of her taken in the early days of her business. I was away at college at the time my mother was building her business. She worked seven days a week.

After my father and a sister died, I was lucky to find the photo of my grandmother at a switchboard. It was this photo and the one of my mother at her business that I showed to the woman who owns my gym. As I was making the collage of the two photos, I recalled seeing a photo of my sister as a toddler with a play phone and a photo I took of my daughter as a toddler on the phone.

I had an "aha" moment.  I had pictures of 4 generations of women all using the telephone over a period of 70 years. My grandma worked on a 24-line switchboard. My mom had three 100-line switchboards with rotary dial. My sister played with a toy rotary dial phone. My daughter played with a real touch-tone phone. Much has changed since these pictures.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 1949 Merc

A friend posted a picture on Facebook of a red car that looked like it was made in the late 1940s. It reminded me of the first car that my dad bought. It was a black 1949 Mercury. He bought it sometime in the 1950s after I was old enough to remember our getting a car.

We had that car until 1957 when my dad bought a new Dodge station wagon with a push button automatic transmission. Although I was much older when my father bought the Dodge, I don't have very many memories of that car until I started to drive.

My dad called our first car "The Merc." We didn't have a garage so "The Merc" lived outdoors. In the winter, my dad would go out in the cold to start the car and then come in the house to have breakfast while "The Merc" warmed up.

I don't have very many memories of being driven in "The Merc" during the winter other than at Christmas time when we would drive through the neighborhoods in North Minneapolis with houses decorated with lights. We also would go to downtown Minneapolis to see the store windows at Daytons and Donaldsons department stores. They generally had animated scenes in their windows.

Most of my memories of "The Merc" were of trips to northern Minnesota to visit my mom's family or to Anoka County to visit my dad's family. The trips to my mom's family near Pine River were long as experienced by a child under the age of 11.

We didn't have safety belts on those days so one of my favorite past times when we were driving home at night was to lie on the back seat with my back on the seat and my butt against the upright part of the back seat and watch the street lights as the car moved forward. As we approach Minneapolis, I could see lights from the high rise buildings. (These buildings were not a high rise as they are today.)

I also remember when a tire would blowout and my dad changing the tire. It seemed to happen regularly. I have had only one blowout in my 50 years of driving. That was in 1991 on Intersate 5 when I was driving back from Sacramento with my kids. I took them to Railfair 1991. Each time that I watch the movie "A Christmas Story," I relive those tire blowout moments on "The Merc."

People didn't take photos like we do today. Film was expensive as was the cost to have the photos developed, so I don't have a picture of "The Merc."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Swedish words that don't translate to an English word

I was asked years ago to have a document translated from French into English. I decided to try to translate it myself. It didn't take me long to realize that I was the original author of the paper.

As I began to translate the document, I then realized that English has a much larger vocabulary than the French language. That triggered me to look at other languages and the richness of each one's vocabulary. I was surprised at the limited size of the vocabulary of many languages.

My research confirmed that English is a language of a very rich vocabulary. However, all of us English speakers shouldn't get too cocky. My Swedish friend gave me a list of Swedish words that had no single English word equivalent.

I suspect that I'd find similar lists in other languages.

These are the words that my friend gave me and their meaning in English:

Bädda – to make the bed

Diska – do the dishes

Övermorgon – day after tomorrow

Träningsvärk – training ache

Hen – he or she

Somna – to fall asleep

Snyt – to blow your nose

Mil – ten kilometers

Sugen – something you have a real desire for

Sambo – someone who lives together with their boyfriend or girlfriend