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Over Easy: Letty Owings, Age 89, Recalls More New Orleans History

By: Crane-Station Wednesday September 17, 2014 4:09 am
Ball gown and crown worn by Queen of the Krewe of Hiacynthians for their Mardi Gras ball, 1955.

Ball gown and crown worn by Queen of the Krewe of Hiacynthians for their Mardi Gras ball, 1955.

Letty Owings, age 89 and the author of this post, recalls history, customs and experiences in New Orleans in 1958-1959.

New Orleans Mardi Gras

No chapter on New Orleans would be complete without something about the Mardi Gras experience. We knew about the big parade, but beyond that we knew nothing of the festival. The secrets and functions of the city that revolves around a carnival remain obscure to outsiders. Mardi Gras is not just a celebration, it is a way of life meshed with social structure and status. Anyone who is anyone belongs to a krewe, an organization built on social status, occupation and ancestry. All year long each krewe prepares for the season which ushers in the balls and the parades.

The first balls begin on New Year’s Eve. Generally the functions closest to the New Year have the least prestige. That statement has many variations, so I should not be dogmatic with my pronouncement about the worst first. The parades, mostly at night, happen more and more frequently as the weeks approach the “real” Mardi Gras on Shrove Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. As an aside — “Shrove” days are set aside for celebration and excesses not allowed during Lent.

The date of Mardi Gras is strictly governed by the length of Lent in any given year. As Lent approaches, the parades pick up both in number as well as in prestige. People line the streets to view the floats and catch the trinkets thrown to the crowd by masked revelers. Why a cheap pair of beads thrown from a float takes on the mark of a status symbol is hard to say. It all has to do with the spirit of the occasion when good sense gets exchanged for excitement. I have still in a box somewhere the beads and trinkets we caught from the parades.

After a season of fever-pitch excitement and parades and balls, the Tuesday before Lent comes at last. This is the Mardi Gras tourists know about. Two Krewes are left to do their thing, Rex and Comus. Both Krewes parade in their finery, and their awesome collection of real jewels and royal robes. All participants remain masked until the Rex and Comus ball when the King (Rex, of course) and Queen are revealed to the public. Always the distinctive honor goes to well-known socialites of New Orleans. Few people ever get invited to the Rex and Comus affair. In fact, few outsiders or non-members of krewes ever get to go to one of the balls. Essentially they are closed affairs.

After the revelry and costuming and marching bands and drunkenness in the streets, at the stroke of midnight when Tuesday turns to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the doors close and the ball stops. The celebration is over until next New Years Eve. But even at that time, many are beginning to plan the next year’s floats and balls.

Most persons outside New Orleans who go to the city to experience Mardi Gras, see only the last day parades and the wild confusion. That is not all there is, but in order to see the real thing, residence in the city for a time is a necessity. Even then, the rituals and preparations are mostly kept from outsiders. We were fortunate in that our quarreling neighbors who belonged to a krewe wanted our oldest daughter to experience the real thing. I made her a formal and off she went. At the balls, all men are masked. The women have a card signed by different gentlemen who care to dance with them.

A flood

 

Ebola MEDEVAC and the State Department’s Emergency Aeromedical Evacuation Services Contract

By: Crane-Station Saturday September 13, 2014 3:08 pm

The two humanitarian aid workers who were transported from Africa to Emory Hospital via Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia in August flew in one of only three airplanes of its kind in the world. The air ambulance is a modified Gulfstream III, owned by Phoenix Air Group. Savannah Now explains:

In addition to previously installed extensive aeromedical equipment, this GIII is outfitted with a biological containment system specifically designed for patients with highly contagious diseases.

“We’re contracted by both the CDC and the Defense Department to provide transport and in-air medical services for people coming back into the country infected with such things as tuberculosis, SARS, Bird Flu and now Ebola,” Dent said.

To do that, the interior of the GIII has a tent-like, clear plastic structure that has negative air pressure to keep pathogens from entering the cabin.

“It’s what we call an ABC – or Aeromedical Biological Containment – system,” Dent said.

It’s essentially a room within the interior cabin with an outer, airlock chamber that allows our medical people to be in and out during the entire flight.”

Savannah News is describing a flying Level Four Hot Zone, basically, but the problems do not begin and end with the interior of a sealed plane, and approval for evacuation of a health care worker who gets sick in Africa is not automatic. In fact, today unfortunately, there is a tragic headline titled, Ebola outbreak: WHO denies request from Sierra Leone to evacuate infected doctor. On the given reason there is only this:

“WHO is unable to organize evacuation of this doctor to (Germany)

How is this possible? Please turn your attention to the video in the post titled “CDC Expects to MEDEVAC 3 Ebola Scientists per Month,” where Potrblog analyzes the US State Department’s urgent contract with Phoenix Air Group for the use of the only two planes to evacuate an expected three CDC workers per month. If you look at the analysis of the contract carefully, it is literally an unworkable hot mess in the end, giving the CDC a false sense of security when they would otherwise perhaps not deploy.

The problems do not come from the outfitting of the specialized Gulfstream III airplane. The issues arise in where the plane can fly, what countries it can fly over, how sick the patients can be, where the plane can land and refuel, whether or not the patients can receive basic water or IVs or care during any stop on the ground or not.

For example, based on the video, evacuation to Germany is impossible because no European country will allow an air ambulance to fly through European airspace and no airport will allow the jet to land and refuel.

The air ambulance was permitted to refuel at a military airport in the Azores when it transported the Americans.

Given the severe limitations on where the air ambulance can fly and land and how much it will cost, there appears to be little likelihood that any non-American afflicted with Ebola will be transported out of Africa for treatment.

Related:

Emergency Aeromedical Evacuation Services
Solicitation Number: SAQMMA14C0155
Agency: Department of State
Office: Office of Acquisitions

CDC: Three Scientists Per Month Expected To Catch Ebola As A result of US Surge Into Africa
Location: INL Support

Over Easy: Public Schools in New Orleans 1958-1959

By: Crane-Station Wednesday August 27, 2014 3:25 am

Letty Owings, age 89 and the author of this post, recalls moving to New Orleans and teaching in a public elementary school in 1958.

New Orleans, 1958

Cultural experiences abound in this land of ours, but none can surpass living in New Orleans for just one year. The mockingbirds singing in the magnolias were left behind in Atlanta, along with red dirt and Stone Mountain. Ray went ahead of the six of us to begin his year of duty in the New Orleans Public Health Service Hospital. He got established and rented a house before the kids and I loaded the car and followed to what we found to be a strange locale.

As we drew up the drive to the hospital, moisture dripped from the huge vine-covered trees. A big crab inched his way across the street. Ray was sweating bullets because his “room” had no air conditioning to tame the heat and humidity. I remember his coming to the car and saying, “I don’t think you should have come here.”

Our rented house proved to be nicer than we expected. It did have its moments, however. An alligator came to the carport to lounge around, and the neighbors whose house practically touched ours fought half the night. That could be entertaining in the days before TV if they had only known when to shut it off. Our house, built on a concrete slab, sweated the floors sopping wet at night. Walking around could be precarious. Clothes that touched the floor or shoes left in the closet turned green with mold.

The quarreling neighbors told me to stay out of the yard during the day for fear of heat stroke. I blew off that advice since a veteran of the Midwest dust bowl could not possibly have a heat stroke. I did not have the stroke, but I did get mighty sick when I gardened in midday—only once. That once was all it took to pay attention to the natives. I never made my peace with the heat and humidity, but we did build immunity to mosquitoes.

School in Jefferson Parish where we lived came as an impressive challenge. One day right before enrollment time, the neighbor lady—not the battling one—asked me where the kids were going to school. Considering that a question with an obvious answer, I told her they would go wherever the local school was located. She was quick to inform me that nobody that was anybody sent kids to public school, and, in fact, it was unthinkable. Without either money for private school, which meant Catholic in New Orleans, or a desire to try to change plans in a strange location, we forged ahead with public education. Our oldest was ready for high school. When enrollment day came, we found the high school, if it could be dignified by that name.

The school building, completely buried in a summer’s growth of tall weeds, appeared as though it had been a long time condemned and given over to hopelessness and rot. The principal, a hefty Italian sweating profusely and flailing his arms around, trying to impose order on the chaos, hardly seemed to notice our inquiry about enrolling a student. In fact, students appeared to be the least of his worries. The attendees chiefly consisted of those who had been disciplinary cases thrown out of Catholic school or sons and daughters of the dock and levy crews. The kids that slept on the levy were called “levy kids.”

Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano Eruption Begins

By: Crane-Station Saturday August 23, 2014 11:22 am

The National Icelandic Broadcasting Service, Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), is reporting that a small eruption has begun in Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano. The Icelandic Meteorologic Office (IMO) has raised the civil aviation alert color code from orange to red, and airspace over the volcano is now restricted. IMO defines this alert: “RED: Eruption is imminent or in progress – significant emission of ash into atmosphere likely.”

There is a Live Stream of the volcano on YouTube here.

Related:

Seismic Activity in 3-D updated every 60 seconds. Shows location and depth. Super cool site!

Small eruption believed to have started

Iceland’s volcano has started erupting

Over Easy: Orange Alert Issued for Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano

By: Crane-Station Wednesday August 20, 2014 3:29 am
An icy mountain under a sunny blue sky

Another volcano in Iceland may be preparing to erupt.

Following a swarm of 2600 earthquakes on Saturday in and around Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) reports that the Bárðarbunga civil aviation color code has been raised to “Orange.” IMO defines this alert: “ORANGE: Volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.” IMO reports:

The intense seismic activity that started on 16 of August at Bárðarbunga persists. Very strong indications of ongoing magma movement, in connection with dyke intrusion, is corroborated by GPS measurements. There are currently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngjujökull just E of Kistufell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong earthquake (M4) was located in the Kistufell swarm.

This is the strongest earthquake measured in the region since 1996. As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10 km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bárðarbunga aviation color code has been changed to orange.

Yesterday, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (NCIP) reported that evacuations are beginning, in preparation for the volcano’s eruption.

The Bárðarbunga volcano system is about 700 meters beneath the ice. Bárðarbunga is a stratovolcano. Also known as a composite volcano, the stratovolcano:

is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions and quiet eruptions, although some have collapsed craters called calderas.

A stratovolcano is not a supervolcano. By way of historic comparison, two notable stratovolcanoes include Krakatoa (1883) and Vesuvius (79 AD), whereas a notable historic supervolcano includes Yellowstone. Mount Saint Helens is a stratovolcano.

The alert levels are a type of early warning system, and they are issued in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano eruption in 2010, for example, interrupted large portions of European airspace until atmosperic ash returned to safe levels for air travel.

International Business Times reports:

Intense seismic activity observed at Iceland’s Bardarbunga on Saturday has prompted the country’s Met Office to issue a warning for airlines about a potential eruption at the volcano, which is located beneath Vatnajokull, Europe’s biggest glacier. Officials said they have noticed very strong signs of magma movement through underground fractures.

On Monday, the Met Office changed the Bardarbunga aviation color to orange, which is the fourth level on a five-grade scale and indicates “heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.”

Related:

How to Pronounce Bárðarbunga Volcano

It’ll be time for some Bárðarbunga, if Iceland’s latest volcano threat erupts

Alert: Area North of Bárðarbunga Volcano Evacuated

Another Unpronounceable Icelandic Volcano Is Getting Ready to Explode

At Over Easy, we welcome all topics, and we encourage lurkers to unlurk and join in the discussion. See you in the comments!

Freak Shows and Patent Medicines During the Great Depression

By: Crane-Station Saturday August 16, 2014 3:35 am

Letty and Ray Owings, ages 89 and 91, share their memories of freak shows, patent medicine salesmen, and minstrel shows, during the mid-1930s, in rural Missouri.

Freak Shows and Patent Medicines During the Great Depression

“What would you like to have cured?”

Letty shares:

Imagine a world without newspapers, electricity or central heat. Imagine a world without television. If you can think of a world where all communication was by word of mouth, that was our world, during the Great Depression in the small farming community in Missouri.

In the mid-1930s, people with genetic deformities or other physical issues such as being morbidly obese were considered to be ‘freaks of nature.’ People without arms, or maybe with a leg off from the knee down would be featured at the State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri. Also, the shows would travel and come through a series of towns, to show the freaks, and sell patent medicines all in the same venue. These events would often take place in a town park.

Since no one had any money for real doctors to come and make house calls, nearly all doctoring was done with patent medicines. The salesmen would pose the question, “What would you like to have cured?” They had bottled cures for everything from bad sex to diarrhea. The McNess man, who was the same man for years, would come around in his horse-drawn buggy, and sell his medicines, but he also sold vanilla and red sugar for cookies. The medicines were always red-colored liquid in bottles, never pills.

We had two things in our closet from the patent medicine man. While many consider all things from that time to be snake oil, one of the things we had in our closet is still available today. At that time, we called it “horse salve.” Today we call it “Bag Balm.” We used the salve for everything, including its original intended use, which was to soften cow teats.

We also had “blackberry balsam” for diarrhea and stomach upset. The horse salve and the blackberry balsam were inside the house, in the closet.

If you were outside, and you were cutting the grass in the chicken yard, and you got cut, or in the alternative, if you cut your finger (nearly off) in the sawbuck, you headed to the tractor and unscrewed the cap on the carburetor, and allowed gasoline to flow over the cut. Gasoline was used to prevent infection, and it did prevent infection. These items, the two on the inside, and the gasoline on the outside, made up the whole of our medicine cabinet.

That wasn’t totally true, because my dad would also collect certain plants and weeds that he knew to have medicinal use. Certain plants, for example, would help with menstrual cramps. Also, lots of people ate dandelions, and they were not too bad if you threw in some lambs quarter, and maybe a few potatoes, to cut the strong taste of the dandelions.

As my dad would collect and point out medicinal and edible plants and weeds to me, we did come across what he named at that time, “wild hemp” and he told me, “It makes people kind of crazy.” We left the wild hemp alone but there was one woman in the small community who everyone knew was, in fact, kind of crazy, and she was a large woman, big-boned. She lived alone, and everyone called her “Big Annie.”

Like everyone else in the community, Big Annie had examined the plants and weeds in the fields and in the woods to determine what was fit to eat and what was fit for medicine, and when she came across the wild hemp, she made an agricultural decision to use it, to shade her chickens. She didn’t know what it was, and as far as she was concerned, it was simply an excellent plant for shade use, for her hens. So, the wild hemp plants grew tall and provided excellent shade, and the chickens were happy, and Big Annie was happy and everything was going reasonably well, until one day, when the sheriff drove by.

Upon noticing a very large and obvious outdoor marijuana grow operation in plain view of the road he was driving on, the sheriff reportedly stopped and chopped down the plants. Big Annie was furious. She ran up and down the road, hollering at the sheriff, yelling at the neighbors, “They’re cutting down my chicken shade!”

On rare occasion and only when someone was very sick, did we call for Doc Martin to come around and make a house call. He would always leave with his chicken, for payment.

Ray adds on blackface minstrel shows:

Patent medicines were often sold in the same venue as minstrel shows in our town. Sometimes, a minstrel show would come to town on its own, and set up a big tent on an empty lot. Using shoe polish, white people would pose theatrically as black people. Although these shows stopped sometime in the 1930s in our area, the idea was to make make jokes through a questioning character called “Mr. Interlocutor.” At that time, blackface minstrelsy was so accepted that the obvious bigotry we see today was completely missed then.

Author’s end note: If you have not seen The Butterfly Circus, which I have posted before, I recommend that you find 20 minutes to see this inspirational film.

Over Easy: Ruthie Gets New Felony Charges

By: Crane-Station Wednesday August 6, 2014 4:12 am
High prison walls with a guard tower

Not just walls keep prisoners in jail.

Note: This is a re-post from 2011. As I explained briefly just recently, we are dealing with a criminal cyber-stalker who is also a burglar and a vandal. The person/persons/ have stolen everything that we have ever written, and had also stolen bank information, computer passwords, router passwords, virus protection passwords, medical information, social security information, credit card numbers, and debit card passwords, even cards and letters and pictures from family, as well as other person files. The person made copies off everything, left us with the copies, and stole the originals, including a family heirloom German script book, from the 1700s. The home invaders are over-focused on my legal case, and with each home invasion, I am left with nothing except ever-more altered and self-serving copies of bogus notes from my trial lawyer.

So, this is a re-post, as we try to deal with this crisis is our lives.

Ruthie Gets New Felony Charges

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life in jails and in prison, during the years 2008 and 2009, in Kentucky, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Names are changed, except for mine, which is Rachel (This post is from jail, before I was known as Bird Lady. I never saw a bird when I was in jail.) ‘Twin Oaks Road’ is a changed name of a real road.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, April, 2008

Ruthie’s 49-year-old mother just died. She was obese, like Ruthie, and she chain-smoked. She lived alone in a trailer. No one checked on her the entire weekend. She was found Monday, sitting next to the air conditioner, with an inhaler in her hand. The air conditioner was off, so the skin on the body split open and turned colors; the funeral will not be open casket.

Ruthie sits next to me at a steel table with a no-shank pen and paper. She starts to write a letter to a treatment center:

I’m writeing to see if I could get into your program
Im really own drugs bad especily crack cocane I started using when I was 12 years old and it was pot then I started dranking at 16 then started snorting cocane at age 17 then about 19…

“How do you spell snortin’?” asks Ruthie.

“s-n-o-r-t-i-n-g,” I reply.

She thanks me and continues:

…then about 19 crack cocane I stop using drugs there for awhile when I found out I was pregnet I had 2 little girls did good for awhile unlike the father of my kids, my old man, went to jail for about 2 years at first I stayed clean about 4 months after he got locked up.

This is the first and only period in the letter so far. She continues:

then things got hard for me, like paying bills, supporting my kids, just life in general, and everyone around almost did crack cocane, so I look for that for an axcuse, to start back smoking crack-cocane, I started smoking crack-cocane for about the first 6 months then started doing it all almost, But I never really been addicted to pills, like I’ll have a crack pipe and a meth pipe goin at the same time and my old man wuz sellin dope and doin weekins in jail…

Ruthie giggles and says, “A crack pipe and a meth pipe at the same time, that is high, don’t you thank that’s high?”

She continues writing:

…my reasons I looked up to my sister when I wuz a child is my sister took care of me when my mom wuz in and out of jail and on drugs.”

Ruthie never knew her real mother, the one that just died, until Ruthie was 18, and they met each other here in this jail.

Until that time, Ruthie had a last name and a social security number given to her by her foster parents. Then, her real mother gave her a name and a social security number, since the foster parents had been sexually abusive.

I ask, “What about your father?”

“Oh, he was murdered,” replies Ruthie. “I got a tattoo of him right here, on my arm. Yeah, he was murdered. It was in the news.”

“What happened to him?” I ask.

“Oh, it was over money. They done hung him with his own belt buckle. This man and this lady.”

Terry says, “Well fuck me runnin’.”

“They tried to stuff him into the trunk of a car, but he was too big, so they done drug him back into the house. I saw his body. He’d been dead for a week. He was split open, and there was maggots everywhere. Seein’ that changes you. I ain’t been right after seein’ that. Don’t you think it changes you, Rachel?”

Over Easy: Scientists Re-Visit Mount St. Helens

By: Crane-Station Wednesday July 23, 2014 3:12 am

A group of 75 scientists led by Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston visited Mount St. Helens this week, to create seismic waves by controlled explosions, that will enable them to study the mountain with a new method that is akin to an “ultrasound and a CAT scan” of the volcano’s “internal plumbing.”

Mount St. Helens erupted at 8:32 AM PDT on May 18, 1980 killing 57 people and destroying 250 homes. A second eruption occurred 34 years ago yesterday, on July 22, 1980.

If there were such a thing as reincarnation for a day, May 18, 1980, as a witness to the Mount St. Helens eruption from the Portland area would certainly be an interesting choice. I happened to be home from college for a few days, where several people gathered on our family deck, to watch and take pictures. It was morning but it was dark. Amateur photographs from that distance were difficult to obtain with any resolution, because of the amount of ash that filled the atmosphere.

Although Forest Service and USGS scientists expected Mount St Helens to erupt, based on a spike in seismic activity at the end of March that year, prompting authorities to warn residents to evacuate, no one knew exactly when the mountain would blow. Some skeptical area residents refused to leave, including 83-year-old Spirit Lake Lodge owner Harry Randall Truman, who perished on May 18, during the eruption.

The scientists had been incredibly accurate in their predictions at that time, as it turns out, even if no one really took them seriously, and even if roadside attraction souvenir stands were instantly popular. The predicted eruption that actually happened prompted a common query and reply among residents observing from afar, that went something like, “What’s happened?” followed by, “The mountain just blew up.” No one really expected the first eruption; likewise the second eruption took people completely by surprise.

On the television news we saw police cars lining the roads near Mount St. Helens during the volcanic event, and they all had the hoods of their cars up- officers had to try and cover the automobile engines, to prevent the ash from inflicting permanent damage. People in the area covered their faces with t-shirts. It looked like a black snowstorm. Deer and wildlife ran, and birds tried to find a wire to sit on. For a while, it was hard to conceive of the idea that we would have a world again. The event was very upsetting to nature.

It is good to know that scientists today continue to monitor activity and assess potential risk to human life, by using new methods to look at Mount St. Helens and other peaks in the volcanically active Cascade Range. Active mountains in the Cascade Range include Mounts: Rainier, Baker, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Three SistersMcLoughlin, and Mount Shasta.

Mount St. Helens’s pre-historic human residents were a collection of tribes. Each had a unique language and name for the mountain, as well a legend known as “Keeper of the Fire.” Although there are many versions of many legends, a prominent one that relates to Mount St. Helens is the story of the Bridge of the Gods, and the creation of the Columbia Gorge.

Author Chuck Williams writes:

In most versions, Mount Hood and Mount Adams, sons of the Great Spirit, fought over a beautiful female mountain. The brothers shook the earth, blocked the sunlight, threw fire at each other, burned the forests, drove off the animals and covered the plants needed by people with ash. The fight cracked the Cascade Range, forming a canyon and a tunnel which emptied the huge lake east of the mountains. The Great Spirit returned and was furious. He left the Bridge of the Gods, the stone arch over the Columbia River, as a monument to peace and placed an elderly, weathered female mountain, Loo-wit, at the bridge as a peacemaker- and as a reminder to the brothers of how transient youthful beauty is. Loo-wit was the keeper of the fire, which had been stolen from atop Wy-east (Mount Hood) by Coyote the Trickster.

Related:

Mount St. Helens eruption: Rare aerial photos never seen before, shot during 1980 eruption

Scientists Plan Explosions Under Mount St. Helens

Electricity And Seismic Waves Give New View Of Mount Rainier’s Volcanic Plumbing

Bibliographic reference for Keeper of the Fire legend:
Mount St. Helens A Changing Landscape
text by Chuck Williams
Introduction by Ray Atkeson
1980: Graphic Arts center Publishing Company PO Box 10306 Portland, Oregon 97210 ISBN 0-912856-63-7
page 19.

Vimeo- Remembering Harry Truman

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