Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saratoga Springs, New York, Summer 1915 Photo from

Peak time for Saratoga Springs back in its' heyday, was summer.  Late summer - August - Racing Season, to be exact. 

Before it's fame as a racing hub, it was the center of shady coolness, just south of the Adirondacks in north New York State, and the home of some mineral springs that had been used as medicine since before the white man.

Rich Europeans and Americans would flock to Saratoga Springs in the summer months to cool off and to escape the mosquito born illnesses in warmer parts of the country, not that the people of that time knew they were mosquito born.  The huge Elm trees that shaded the streets of the city and the breath of refreshing, clear, sharp air from the mountains just to the north carried the promise of health in the midst of the dog days of summer.  That coupled with the mineral waters and baths and medical treatments centered around Saratoga Spa made this town a draw for all those rich enough to afford to change locations for long periods of time. 

This is where my great great grandfather, Nelson Bootier (Narcisse Boutin in Quebec) came to live in the mid 1800's from Quebec, Canada.  He was a carpenter, played piano and sang, and his brother, Ezra, who also came, was a tin smith.  I'm old enough to remember some of the remaining impossibly tall elms along the street in front of my grandparent's house on 84 White Street.  The Dutch Elm blight that arrived in this country from imported timber in 1928 and carried by bark beetles hadn't yet arrived and done its' damage in the picture copied from below (the link opens up at the Shorpy site, so scroll down to see the picture here).

No matter how hot the day, under the spreading high branches of the Elms and the giant fir trees, the air was cool. 

My father was born in 1919 and this is the town he remembered as a small child.  He went to school here, went to war from here, and returned in 1945.  I don't like to think about post war Saratoga Springs, or any of the other major cities in the US.  Everything changed after the war.  Urban renewal tore down many historic structures that, arguably, were falling down areas of poverty.  But history was erased so fast and so freely at that time, in the name of modernity, the city of tomorrow, etc., that one of the major hotels in Saratoga Springs that had operated for over 100 years at least, the United States Hotel, was torn down in perfectly good working order, it's furniture sold off, and I believe an A&P grocery store and parking lot was put in its' place.  You can see the magnificence of the United States Hotel before it was demolished by watching the movie, "Saratoga Trunk", an Edna Ferber novel made into a movie in the 40's with Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper.  I'm not positive, but the giant hotel on the left of the picture may be the United States Hotel.

And now - without further ado, here is the picture.  Click on it and all pictures to enlarge.  If you want to see it really enlarged, go to the site:

There are the famous elms, this is Broadway, the main artery of Saratoga Springs and where the best hotels were.  Perhaps one of my ancestors is a newsboy in the picture.  I wish I could walk right into the picture and explore.  

Look at the ladies clothes.  Some are frumpy, and the top of the class is the exquisitely dressed, sporty woman and man in the foreground.  No heavy dowdy jackets for her like the ones behind her, which make the women look bigger than, perhaps, they are.  Both she and her companion have their footsteps in sync, right foot forward.  She is thin and lithe, although she may have on a minimal corset, and she is probably incredibly rich.  She doesn't even bother to try to impress, hence the sporty aspect of her impeccable outfit.  She looks.....a little higher class than the others on the street.  Perhaps the photographer chose to use this picture because of them, perhaps they were well known in society circles at that time.  Closeup below:
The umbrella is the only somewhat encumbering item of her outfit, and perhaps it is scheduled to rain later that day, or she protects her skin from the sun, even in these northern climes.  She has on a simple white (remember - NEVER after Labor Day...) straight skirt that looks to be of cool material - linen?  Next is a simple shirtwaist, tucked into the skirt with a nice narrow frilled collar, not fussy at all.  The thick belt and what looks like a few flowers plucked from some arrangement (perhaps in her room at the hotel) and placed in it for decoration show her whimsy and enjoyment of her surroundings.  The pendant hanging from the one dark string of beads is perhaps a locket of some kind and the beads are in sharp contrast to the white on white outfit.  The light jacket tops off the skirt and seems to be somewhat tailored, rather than a boxy look.  She is carrying a small purse or book, I can't tell which, and her hat is the only point of contention to me.  I believe the decoration on the back is made to look like a bird's wing, and on the side may just be the real wing of a now dead bird - definite points OFF for that.  My favorite - her shoes.  They look somewhat akin to today's comfortable sneaker type walking shoes, but dressier, as fits the time period.  I know nothing about men's suits, but I assume her companion is dressed to the nines for their morning promenade, and they look like a very interesting couple.  Not every gentleman in the picture has on a jacket AND a buttoned vest with tie tucked in, so I assume he is quite stylish.  No children to care for, they look carefree.

Next, my possible ancestor newsboys:
Notice the short pants.  My dad wore those as a child.  These children are probably local resident's children, maybe even Bootiers trying to make some dough.  On the lower right, tipped up against the tree, is a chair containing someone I assume to be another newsboy by the jaunty angle of the chair legs.  His mother probably never let him do that at home!

Ladies whose clothes are unattractive:
The lady on the left with the tight buttoned down dark jacket and skirt - serviceable wear, but unattractive (I have a picture of my grandmother from about the same year and she has on a dark wool suit that looks heavy, but warm, for winter, and decidedly plain).  Her hat is approved though, because there were no birds harmed in its' creation.  The hat and shoes are the only white parts of her apparel.  She looks proper, but uncomfortable, and she is smoothing the bottom of her jacket.  It doesn't look like she can get enough breath in that thing, and she probably has the inevitable corset below it all.  Her companion isn't nearly as dapper as the gent in the front of the pic.  And he has a stogie hanging out of his mouth.  I know that was considered stylish, but he just looks like a trombone salesman on vacation with his very self conscious wife.  The two elderly women and the man look like summer vacationers in comfortable wear, but the long white jacket looks like a box over the striped skirt, and the next woman's suit looks like so many of the outfits one sees in pictures from this time period.  Unlike the trombone salesman, they look like they are undoubtedly rich and enjoying their racing season and their morning walk.  The hat on the boxy woman's head is the best hat in the picture, and the hat of the suited woman should be minus the white standing up thingy.  They are very proper however, very proper.

Next are the incredible streetlamps:
At first I thought it was a real child in the shadows, but then I saw the other lamps further down.  Beautiful and so ornate.

Last is across the street.  Except for the cigar store and  the "Busch Beer on tap", the rest of the shops look inviting.  The Ice Cream and Confectionary store sounds divine.  Once again, shades of "The Music Man" with Marion, the Librarian having a strawberry phosphate at the River City Ice Cream shop.
Oh how I would love to go into some of those stores.  I bet the ice cream was delicious, but in New England (which Saratoga Springs isn't precisely in, but it might as well be), it seems it is the best ice cream in the world.  Also, note the big horse-drawn wagon with the loads of luggage in it.  They must be delivering to one of the large hotels from the railroad station.

Oh - and let's not forget the gent checking the daily news, perhaps while waiting for a friend to show up:

Friday, May 25, 2018

"So....How Is Living In Boise" They Asked

OK folks, gird your loins.  I'm doing well in Boise.  I love the 4 seasons, especially fall, and the winter was mild with sunny days a LOT of the time - not like Northeast US winters at all.  I only drove in snow one time because I wanted to finally experience it.  My husband became an expert at driving in snow, but since the winter was mild there wasn't a whole lot of snow ever.  It did have the decency to snow on Christmas Eve and that was wonderful.  Meanwhile, we thought we would be stuck in the house all winter, but we took lots of short trips around and in Boise and enjoyed the outdoors a LOT during this past winter.

We have a lovely house in which we put new flooring and furniture, and then promptly ran out of money, so the kitchen remains 80's bleah and the master bathroom countertop is the worst color I have EVER seen.  Yes, I could paint the cabinets in the kitchen and the bathrooms, but that would take more WORK, and after moving across country with four crated cats in a Kia Soul (need I say more?) I'm not into more work.  Maybe someday.

However, the greatest joke ever is that my husband does NOT like Boise.  He can't wait to return to Florida.  While I miss it a great deal, mostly the wildlife and my mother - it is quite lovely and very civilized here.  It is like going back in time to the 1960's in general.  You never have to wait at the Dr.'s office or the dentist.  Everyone who waits on you from McDonald's on up is super polite and cheerful and helpful.  There is some diversity here, but not much, and that affects the food choices which are not as varied as they could be.  But Boise is growing by leaps and bounds and it is changing FAST.  It is interesting to watch the changes, while it will be sad if Boise loses its' "small town" feel.

About the wildlife.  In Florida, we had a back yard that was like a jungle and had more birds and butterflies and insects and lizards - all in balance because we used no chemicals - than anywhere I have ever seen.  I literally had Knight Anoles and Iguanas (neither of which are native to Florida) hanging out on my window looking in at me on a regular basis.  We had a screened in patio that my cats miss like CRAZY.  And when they look outdoors here, there are no lizards anywhere.  In fact, there are a few bird species, a lot of wasps and a couple of squirrels.  The squirrels are bigger and prettier colors than the little gray squirrels of Florida, but they are petrified of humans.  My Florida squirrels would practically eat out of my hand.  That is the extent of wildlife in our yard.  If you go out of town into the desert, you risk meeting up with serious Diamondback Rattlesnakes, especially in the spring.  In fact, Idaho is much more serious and severe a natural place than Florida.  Yes, we got hurricanes and bad thunder storms in Florida, but those are nothing compared to the mountain roads in Idaho with no guardrails, the desperate wildlife that WANTS to catch and eat you, and the killer Poison Ivy/Oak, etc.  This place will seriously kill you if you make a wrong move, and it has killed a lot of people.  An avid biker fell down the side of a mountain off a trail outside the city of Boise a couple weeks ago - and he died.  Period.  There was no pick yourself up and get back on the bike - not when you are in the Rocky Mountains, which are serious mountains (not humpy and full of pretty deciduous trees like North Carolina) and don't mess around.  That's why they are called rocky - there are lots of landslides in the spring of tons of rock onto roads.  Just driving up route 55 past Banks, Idaho, the hills got craggier and craggier, sharper and sharper - and even though there were guard rails and it was a four lane highway, I was really nervous.  I felt like we were on the moon - no trees, just sharp jagged rocks looming over the road in piles looking precariously like they could avalanche at any moment.  When you go for rides in the country, it is majestic and beautiful and powerful, but not enchanting or pretty.  It always feels dangerous to some degree.  You could freeze to death in the winter on a road no one much travels, you could be walking along the desert and a chasm opens up in front of you and you find yourself looking at a giant canyon below you - a few more steps and you would be history, because you can't see these cracks in the surface until you are upon them.  It is wildly beautiful, but never feels safe.  You must remember in rocky places to ALWAYS be aware of snakes.  If you see a dead prairie dog that has just died and is laying there - you can be sure a predator is near, probably a snake, who just killed the prairie dog and is waiting for you to go away or to bite you.  On country roads you see maybe some farms that have horses, cows, some llamas and goats, but no wild animals.  No animals or birds on all the miles and miles of hills around you, at least that you can see.  No movement.  In the spring this improves for a while, and then the summer heat sets in and emptiness reigns in most places.

We have seen prairie dogs this spring, cute as they can possibly be.  Huge warrens of holes in the ground where they pop up when you turn the car off and are quiet for a few minutes - then they peak out, see the coast is clear and begin eating the grasses.  We have seen more birds this spring, but nothing like we had in our own backyard in Florida on any given day from August through May.  I miss the lizards like crazy since I always thought of them as miniature T Rex's and thus really cute.

All of this description to say that we have moved here, used a tremendous amount of money to do so, we are settled, have had and still have the extreme assistance and love of my brother in law and his family, and it isn't likely we can amass enough capital to turn this process around and return the way we came.  My husband thinks otherwise, but I don't think, unless we win some serious lotto money, this is a possibility.  So he is unhappy here and stuck here for quite a while at least.  There is only one thing I have to say - if you read my posts that led up to this move, you know I talked to my husband about all the realities he wasn't considering and he would not listen.  So now all I can say is, "I told you so."  Nicely - I say it nicely.....usually.  Meanwhile, I am living in the now, learning about a new place, and making the best of every day.  Most of the time here the weather is fabulous with some rainy or snowy days thrown in depending on the season, but not enough to complain about.

I mentioned poison ivy above.  In March we went to "Jump Creek Falls" south of Boise - it is one of those chasms in the rock that open up like a crack in the earth.  You approach it from below, so you climb into it and up towards the falls.  There is a posted warning about Poison Ivy in the spring, which I neglected to take seriously.  I've walked barefoot in Florida, a tropical haven for all kinds of poisonous things and creatures and never had a problem.  I never got Poison Ivy in Florida  - ever.  I also didn't know that in Idaho Poison Ivy grows in bush form.  Needless to say I of course touched a bush with both my hands - to move it out of the way so I could proceed.  By that night I felt feverish and my face felt hot.  Next day the itching and redness began.  But only on my face.  Later, as the weeks went by, my right eye swelled up and nearly closed, my face looked like I had the pox, and various parts of my body broke out in seepy, itchy blisters - my arms, my legs, my waist and back - evidently I had touched most parts of my body after moving those bushes aside.  My jeans have a habit of slipping down from my waist when I'm hiking so I had to adjust them a bunch of times.  This bout of Poison Ivy was NOT fun - I have made several tongue-in-cheek "jokes" about Idaho Super Poison Ivy - like everything else here, it doesn't mess around.  I had Poison Ivy as a kid, and yes it was itchy, but I don't remember EVER having it like this for over a month before it finally cleared up.  I had to get steroid pills and take benadryl for the itching.  Plus I scratched like a monkey and the itching woke me up at night.  I will never return to Jump Creek although it was a lovely place.  How anyone goes there and DOESN'T get Poison Ivy I don't know.  My husband didn't get it - but there is greenery in an otherwise barren place all around the narrow - as in not much room to move and only one way to climb - canyon toward the falls.   My in-laws mentioned that I had been noticed to have a habit when on walks of randomly touching plants and flowers, as I always have all my life, and they thought it was unwise.  And they were right - do NOT relax in Idaho.  Unless you are hermetically sealed.

So that is it so far for the Great Move West.  That is all for now......👀.