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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Washington Crossing 15k

Last month when I started training for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, I signed up for the Rev Run 10k in Washington Crossing. It was the last non-humid day this summer, or so it feels at this point more than a month later. I made the impromptu training plan that each week I would do two 5ks, and add a half a mile to my "long run" for the week. There are many different ways to train for a half marathon. Mine is probably on the wimpier side, but then again I am training for a Disney race where there are lots of stops to take pictures with characters along the way and the main goal is to have fun.

The long runs have been a challenge. There are times I can coordinate with Don and he puts out a water bottle at the half-way point for me. There are plenty of other times I mostly power walk the distance and muddle through with only one water bottle and the occasional water fountain.

When doing the math, I realized the Washington Crossing 15k was perfectly timed as I needed to do 9.5 miles that weekend (or those of you unable to do the math, a 5k=3.11 miles, therefore a 15k-9.33 miles). 

I kept an eye on the forecast and procrastinated signing up for the race for fear of the usual evening thunderstorm (I don't run in thunderstorms). It was nearly 100 degrees at the 5 PM start, and still 90 degrees three hours later when I left the event. Definite heat advisory. The person in charge said he thought about canceling the race, but knew people would show up anyway and this way they were taken care of. Ahhh...

I believe they changed the course. I think it was supposed to be a simple out and back along the canal, and they changed it to a double out and back. The benefit to doing it this way is they had 19 water stations. NINETEEN! That is one every half mile -- much more than I would ever carry. The other benefit was that at the halfway point it was easy to bail -- something 25 of the 95 runners who showed up that day did. Only 70 of us finished. There were at least 8 crazy people who signed up that day (including me), and others who did not make it to the starting line.

The low numbers gave me hope I might placed for the first time, but alas there were three others in my age category and they beat me (by at least 15 minutes, so it wasn't close). Someday I'd like to win an award for most spirited or cheerful or something harder to quantify than speed, or find an even smaller race and place for my age.

As Don and Ashley had left for Canada that day, I was happy to have some camaraderie. Yes, there was a heat advisory and it was not good running weather. On the other hand, the race was supported and if I had troubles, someone would have taken care of me. There was also a huge dinner spread afterwards.

As for the race itself, I did great with my intervals for about 2 miles, then power walked the rest. I could not find my stride. I keep telling myself it will be easier once the fall weather returns. People commented I am a pretty fast walker. I cheered for everyone along the course with thumbs ups and words of encouragement. By the fourth switchback, even the most serious runner was cheering for me, too. I reminded people unlike our soldiers, we are here because we want to be here. 

The volunteers were awesome. One man gave me a wet towel, which I draped around my neck (surprisingly it was very helpful). Each of the three subsequent times when I passed him, he refreshed it. At the halfway point a volunteer told me I had to have water. Um..that time I was planning to have watered down Gatorade. That was okay, too. There was absolutely no shortage of water. I drank at each stop, but never needed a port-a-potty.

At the end Agnes (a 3:1 interval runner who tried my 1:30 second intervals while I was still running) thanked me for getting her through the race. That brought a smile to my face. Being in a category by herself, she came in first. A goal I have if I can only keep running another 15 years and my faster competitors find other activities. 

The course was almost identical to the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Race Don and I did in March, but without the "spiral of death" portion. Sort of ironic since this race's weather made me think of soup. This time with the weather being so icky, and the course so familiar, I did not take any pictures. 

Remember my needing to do a 9.5 miles this week and the race "only" being 9.33 miles? My GPS recorded I went about 9.5 miles instead of the official 9.33 so all is good. Until the last mile, the pace was 13:30, certainly strong enough to beat the Balloon Ladies in Paris, but I need to get stronger if I want to be a "four-peater" at the Princeton Half Marathon. That award for the most improved time among four-peaters is tempting. As I finished in last place in 2015, I have a shot at that award.

Great dinner spread, fabulous volunteer support, and a cool medal, too. Maybe next year will have better weather.

Archaeology at Morven

Last August Ashley and I participated in an archaeology camp at Howell Living History Farm. It was hot, hard work. By the end of our few days I was glad to turn it over to the professionals and go home to a hot shower. I blogged about the experience and put it in my past until I saw Josh at Morven on July 4th, an event it seems I did not write a blog post about. He was trying to round up volunteers to help on a one day public dig. At first I said no, but he asked so nicely I relented and signed up.

The day of the actual dig was also the day Ashley and Don were leaving for Canada so she could attend her last year at Upper Canada Village Time Travelers Camp, the sleep away camp she has enjoyed the past three summers. It was also the day of the Washington Crossing 15k race. The request was for three hours, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Plus the event was free.

We have been having a very hot and humid August. Saturday the 13th was no exception. I was the first one to show up a the allotted time of 9 AM. For a while it seemed I might be the only one to show up. Then a family of four arrived, and a solo man. The family of four included Sara, who was on the Howell dig with us last summer. This time they wanted people at least 16 years old, Sara is only 15 but has a lot of experience. Four others were no shows. I don't know how many of the afternoon crew came to work.

In many ways it was similar to any dig. Once you learn the basic skills, they transfer. Emma (a Princeton University professor, and a classical archaeologist) would say there are nuances, but did agree the basics are the same. You want to be careful when digging; you only dig down one soil layer at a time; you sift the dirt; you take lots of measurements and lots of notes.

This was building upon a dig they did a couple of years ago. Hunter Research was hired for that project, too. They are historical resource consultants, which to me sounds like an awesome job. I did not take notes during the dig because I did not have any place to keep them, but I seem to recall it was two years earlier when they found the wall to the green house, about where they suspect the furnace was located to keep the greenhouse toasty warm. On our one day we were going to dig inside the wall to see what else we could find. They hoped to find gardening tools, but since the greenhouse was shut down (as opposed to burned down), it is more likely they picked up their tools before deciding to stop using the greenhouse. We had to limit ourselves to within that fine white line, which can be a challenge when you get close to the side that drops off and you don't want anything landing in the open area.

Prior to our arrival, Josh and his team (Dot and Evan) cleared away a bunch of overgrown weeds, and exposed the area so when we arrived we could just jump in and get started -- after we had some safety instructions (don't fall in, stay on the path, hydrate, etc.). See that pipe -- it was added long after the Stockton's moved out of Morven. We were to keep clear of it.

Photo credit: Jesse at Morven
We split up into two groups: diggers and sifters. I decided to dig first, which meant the sifters had to wait until I could get a bucketful of dirt for them to sift. As it has been raining a lot lately, the dirt was very wet, making it hard to sift. We had to work with heavy duty gloves to make sure we didn't cut ourselves (being a former greenhouse, we anticipated finding lots of glass). There is proof of me actually doing some work that day.

As with many digs, it seems there is a lot of time spent waiting around -- sifters waiting for full buckets, diggers waiting for empty buckets. At the half-way point we switched. We were also given the opportunity to go on a tour of the outside of Morven with a retired archaeologist -- Sir Ian. I don't know if Ian has officially earned knighthood status, but his British accent and mannerisms makes me think of him as a Sir. He started by showing us the outside of Morven and pointing out how obviously the roof had been raised, and how one section was added to another, and all sorts of things I did not notice when I first looked at the building. He showed us historical documentation to prove Route 206 used to go right in front of Morven, rather than allowing a front lawn, but at one point the road was rerouted slightly while it was straightened, thus giving the signer of the Declaration of Independence (Richard Stockton) a front lawn and less immediate traffic, yet still easy access to Princeton.

Really neat in his collection of papers was a map drawn by a cartographer during the French and Indian War. Each night the soldiers would sketch what they saw along the route (they didn't move very quickly), and each day someone else would fill in the details. The gardens at Morven are among the only six or so gardens drawn on the maps that detail their route from New England to Virginia. The complete collection of maps is at Princeton University.

I felt guilty leaving everyone behind, so I rejoined the sifters. I wish I could say we found something really cool -- like a button or tool or something, but alas all we found were tiny bits of brick and glass, with the occasional tiny fragment of a plate (smaller than the size of a pinky nail tiny). 

Still it was fun. When the project continues someday as more funding is found, I can say I was there.






Monday, August 15, 2016

Last Stop on Hamilton Day: Alexander Hamilton himself

We tried to squeeze a lot into our Alexander Hamilton tour of North Jersey, but there is only so much you can do when these little historic sites are only open from 1PM to 4 PM a few days of the week.


My how times change. Five years ago (click on that link to see how much she has grown) we visited the Great Falls of Paterson (the second largest falls east of the Mississippi, the first being Niagara Falls) and barely noticed the statue of the man in Colonial attire. This time that man (Alexander Hamilton) took center stage and the falls were ignored. 



Funny he doesn't look like Lin-Mnauel here.
Alexander Hamilton founded the city of Paterson in 1792 (he was killed in 1804). He had a vision for a great industrial city powered by the water falls. It took over 100 years after his death (in 1914) for a hydroelectric plant to be built. The mills began decades after his death, too. Paterson was known as Silk City from 1880s to 1920.



We can come back and visit another time, Ashley.

Botto House

Now there is a title that makes you wonder "what the heck is a Botto House? A BottLE House I get. A Lotto House I get. But a BOTTO house?"

The full name of the Botto House in Haledon, NJ (Haledon is pronounced with two syllables, the first one rhyming with ale) is the American Labor Museum: Botto House National Landmark. It was built in 1908.

We made a stop at the Botto House with my Aunt Barbara during our tour of Hamilton sites. People who know even the slightest bit of US History can already figure out that Alexander Hamilton was long dead by 1908, and they would be correct. The Botto House has absolutely nothing to do with Alexander Hamilton.

Instead it was a side tour requested by my aunt who has wanted to go to this museum for years. As she was the chauffeur, and the description in her NJ sightseeing book sounded interesting, and it was near Alexander Hamilton's statue in Paterson, we went.

As soon as we walked in the front door Aunt Barbara greeted her son's second grade teacher who was on her way out. I don't think I would remember what Ashley's second grade teacher looked like. Oh, yes I would since that was me. ;) All kidding aside they had a nice reunion which I did not interrupt to photograph (but wished I had).

By 1910 there were over 300 mills in Paterson. Oh the Hamilton connection -- Hamilton founded Paterson and in the 1790s declared the Great Falls would be ideal for harnessing energy.

Back to the Bottos. Pietro Botto along with his wife and baby daughter moved to America in 1892 from Italy. One reason was because he did not want to be drafted into the Italian army (which had recently quadrupled to help acquire African countries). First they settled in West Hoboken (curren day: Union City). After working hard for 15 years in the silk factory, they moved to the 'burbs of Haledon, a stop on the trolley line from Paterson in 1908 (side note: house cost $4,600 to build, bet the taxes are much more than that in the neighborhood now). They house was built without electricity or heat. By now they had four daughters. The daughters also worked in the mills. To them North Haledon reminded them of the foothills of Italy where they were from. They even grew grapes on their property and made wine.

The mills housed many skilled weavers, about 20,000 employees at its hey day, 70% of whom were foreign born from nine different countries. In 1913 the Paterson Silk Strike broke out. The strike started because one of the owners bought fancy new looms. That part sounds good. The bad part was they felt each weaver could operate FOUR looms at a time, instead of two. Doing the math, that meant they needed only half as many weavers, and the weavers they kept were completely overworked. The strike began in January 1913 -- a very cold time of year. 


The workers wanted a safe place to meet. The mayor of Haledon was a socialist and sympathetic to their cause. They offered their home for rallies. It sat on a large piece of property a block away from the trolley line. Speeches were made from the front balcony (where we are standing). The strike ended on August 3, 1913 (about 103 years to the day before our visit).

The workers rally cry:
8 hours for work
8 hours for rest
8 hours for what we will

At the time Pietro and his daughters were working 10-12 hour days 5 1/2 days a week. The eldest daughter (Albina) started working when she was 11, the youngest (Olga) at age 13. Meanwhile his wife (Maria) ran a boarding house. All six of them lived on the first floor, keeping the parlor free for visitors, and the boarders lived upstairs in two different apartments with a hallway in between. Maria died in 1915 at the age of 45. We don't appreciate how good we have it now. 

The Hermitage

You may have heard that my girl is a bit Hamilton Obsessed. I have often taken her to visit historic sites, but now if you mention an Alexander Hamilton connection she is the first one in the car.

For a few years now I have wanted to visit The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, at least since my Aunt Barbara donated her grandmother's wedding dress to the museum (a great example of trying to find the right home for things rather than throwing them out because it is easier). The dress has yet to be put on display, and probably won't ever go on display, but when I found the Hamilton connection, I knew Ashley would jump at the chance for a road trip.

The connection: Aaron Burr and Theodosia were married in the house. The home belonged to Theodosia Prevost's first husband (sing it with me: "She is married to a British officer, Sir") who died in battle in Georgia (I believe, don't quote me on that). 

Until a bit over a year ago the tour of this Gothic Revival House probably only mentioned Hamilton and Burr in passing. The real history of the house is that for 163 years (from 1807-1970) the house was owned by the Rosencrantz family who made their fortune in the mills. 

The original house, where Burr and Theodosia lived, was quite small. It had a huge addition put on it in 1847. The house was built with central heating. Our tour started in the dining room, a room that did not really exist in the 18th century. No pictures allowed inside, but this was taken from the outside of the inside before I knew the rules.

Theodosia married Captain Prevost in 1762 and had five children in six years. Captain Prevost moved his wife and two surviving children to Ho-Ho-Kus (gotta smile when you say the name of the town) in 1767. Her mother moved in with them with four or five of her own children. That's quite a family! They built a second house near the railroad tracks for them.

The captain dies from war wounds. The state of New Jersey keeps trying to take it away from the poor widow. She makes friends with some pretty famous people (Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, William Paterson, James Monroe, and we presume Aaron Burr). By 1782 she and Burr marry in the house in a room that no longer really exists. He gets involved with New York politics and they move to Albany where they live happily ever after (I don't really know what happens once they move away from New Jersey, but it sounds nice).



Back to the house. the Elijah Rosencrantz buys it. His son, also named Elijah, but I was left with the impression he was the namesake, but not the first born son. In the 1800 they add a kitchen. No one knows what happened to the original kitchen. The office has a separate door so business people can come and go without being greeted by the butler or treated like guests. This office serves as the Ho-Ho-Kus post office for a time being.

One neat fact about the house, electricity was installed around 1900, but taken out again until 1969 when the board of health stepped in. Many reading this were alive in 1969, did any of you grow up without electricity? I know Aunt Elva did, but she was born in 1916 and lived in the countryside of upstate New York.

The tour included seeing the dollhouse Mary Elizabeth's father made for her. Mary Elizabeth was the last of the Rosencrantz family. She lived to the age of 85.

After a while the family sold the mill, then sold off property as they needed money. They ran a tea parlor in the front room until the Great Depression hit and no one could afford the luxury of a cup of tea in a fancy room. The house deteriorated. It was given to the state upon Mary Elizabeth's death. The state didn't know what to do with it. After a couple of years a board was created to oversea the maintenance of it, and to  fix it up.

Had we "wait(ed) for it" and gone in October, we would have seen "A Revolutionary Love Story" exhibit. Love that old sites are seeing new life all thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Tony award winning show.





COAA - Who Knew?

The other day we were meeting Patti and Neil for dinner at Tiger Noodle in Princeton when we saw this out the car window near the police station:


Then we saw this in front of the Garden Theater on Nassau Street:


Um...okay...I bite. What's up?

Our plan to stroll down Nassau Street after dinner was thwarted by a massive thunderstorm. We came back on Sunday to see we could learn more. A Google search on "Carillons in Princeton" and a Facebook post yielded no results, so a trip in person was needed.

Sunday August 7 we parked at the municipal building and spoke to the owner of the first carousel organ (the Diamond Jubliee Organ), as well as a couple of other people wearing convention badges. One "kid" (he was probably in his early 20s, but seemed like a kid to me) from California admitted he is one of the youngest members of COAA. COAA? Carousel Organ Association of America. They often meet in California, or at Kennywood Amusement Park (in Pennsylvania). Not too long ago they met in Montgomery, NJ in the backyard of one of the members who happens to personally own a number of these.

Carousel Organs are what they sound like -- the self-contained, mechanical music instruments that play music as carousel horses go around and around. 

A couple of the owners invited us to look at the back of their instruments -- where the music happens. Over the years many of these have been converted to play from an iPod or other similar tiny device. Not as magical looking, but owners say it sounds the same, takes up much less space, can be backed up, and is not as easy to damage (especially if you have backed it up first). 

Here is the back side of one running on music reminiscent of a player piano:


I will admit the scale is hard to imagine based on my photos. The first one is about the size of a semi-truck. They go down to portable ones, such as this one. I suspect they get even smaller, but at the end of the Organ Rally many enthusiasts had already started for home. The downpour on Saturday did not help (fortunately it did not start pouring until after the event stopped for the night at 5).

This picture gives a better sense of the scale. As I was talking to the gentleman above, the owners of the one below were dismantling it for their car ride home. People came from quite a distance. I spoke with someone from California (he does not have his own carousel organ -- yet). Someone else from Massachusetts, and Arkansas. All told there were 10 big ones on display, and others roaming around with their hand-held carousel organs.


The backside of the one above
Most were by themselves. In Palmer Square two were placed side by side, thus making them have to take turns. At least two did not return on Sunday. I was told one had broken part so he went home to Montgomery, NJ and the other had another event that day.




More details about the Princeton Rally can be found HERE.

According to the COAA website (http://coaa.us), the next rally will be in November in Mississippi. See you there?


Look Who is 100!

In 2006 a feisty 90-year old woman by the name of Aunt Elva invited us to join her at the same place (the Washington Crossing Inn) to celebrate her 100th birthday. We smiled and accepted the invitation not knowing what the next decade would bring.

That decade brought a big move to Boston to live closer to her eldest children (cousins Martin and Helen), and an end to her driving the giant Buick (thank goodness!). When she moved to Boston she was living in her own apartment, the first floor of a two-story home, with her beloved cat Duchess (who has since passed away). 

Five years later she came down to the Ewing area again (well, Bucks County, PA) we gathered at the Yardley Inn to celebrate her 95th birthday, at which point she quipped "what, you don't think I'll make it to 100?"

Don's Aunt Elva did what many only dream about, at the end of July she celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends.

Unfortunately due to a stroke about two years ago, Aunt Elva was not up to traveling to Ewing, NJ. Instead we drove to Boston.

I once heard as you age, you either lose your mind or your body. Unfortunately you don't get to choose. In Aunt Elva's case it is her body, her mind is still razor sharp. Her wit is quick. Her personality is sparking. She has made friends in her new home (an assisted living place in Jamaica Plains, MA). She has a few women who travel to visit with her and talk to her. Martin and Helen each visit several times a week. She is someone you want to be around. If we were closer (or at least if her hearing were better) I would record her history. She is a joy to be around.

Her hearing is not what it used to be, but she still loves to read. A passion that was noted by most of her guests. Amazingly she received about 30 books (which she plans to read over the next few months); no duplicates, and none that she already owned. That is quite a feat. We gave her a book about another woman born in 1916 (unfortunately Mollie Moran "only" lived to age 97).

It is hard to find a good gift for a centenarian, especially one with limited living space.

The party was a lovely celebration of a live still being lived.

All of the guests:from New England, to DC to Colorado
and in-between

Grandchildren, plus Ashley (Ashley, Nick, Elva, Sara, Joe)

Her children: Helen, Martin, and Nancy

Us with the birthday girl