Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blue Ribbon Neighborhood

A funny thing happened one day in early April ... our neighborhood was adorned in blue ribbons. 

I had several thoughts as I walked around the neighborhood taking pictures:

1) Did we win an award? If so, I should write an article about it for the Lawrenceville Patch.

2) Is this in honor of Autism Awareness Week?

3) Does someone just like blue ribbons?

The answer was 2 -- as it was April 2nd, it was in honor of Autism Awareness. 

Then I began to wonder, how does something like this raise awareness? As I walked around the neighborhood taking pictures I asked random strangers about the ribbons. Not one of them (okay, it was a quiet afternoon and I only saw 3 strangers) knew why the ribbons were on the trees. 

My next step was to email the editor of the Lawrenceville Patch ( He forwarded me a link to a Patch article about the town being decorated for Autism Awareness (I suppose I should read more of the Patch than just my articles). 

Mystery solved -- at least for my neighborhood.

However this reminded me of the time I was in college (late 1980s) and word got around that if we wore blue jeans on Friday it would show we were in support of gay and lesbian people. Really? Blue jeans on a college campus in the late 1980s (height of the fear of AIDS) would really show that? Try something that stands out like wearing lime green (school colors were blue and gold).

The blue ribbons were a nice touch, but I still don't think they raised awareness. Only those who knew what they meant got the message. Perhaps a sign with the blue ribbons would have helped. 

The Lady, The Chauffeur and the Locomobile

We are very blessed to be living in an area that is so full of history -- and a very wide array of history that spans over 300 years. This post features a modern woman from 1910 who is a role model even a century later. I learned about her cross country travels from Becky, the grand-niece of "the chauffeur," Harold Brooks.

Harriet White married Clark Fischer, owner of the Eagle Anvil Company in Trenton, NJ. Three years later, he died in a train crash, she survived the crash. She took over his business -- quite a daring thing for a woman to do at the onset of the 20th century at a time when women were not even allowed to vote. The men scoffed at her, but she soon turned the business into a huge success.

Fast forward a few years to 1909. She decides to embark on a journey that would take her around the world. Picture life in 1909. The Orville brothers had successfully flown an airplane only 7 years earlier. Many places did not have roads. The "war to end all wars" had not happened. The Titanic was just beginning to be built. Cars could drive at 10-15 MPH. To say life was a bit different, would be an understatement.

A quick question to see who is paying attention: Why didn't she just take a train? Answer: her husband had died in a train crash and she was afraid of traveling by train.

Harriet White Fischer did know how to drive, but she brought along her chauffeur (Harold Brooks), a chef (she still wanted to dine in style) and a lady servant. Brooks was in charge of the logistics for the trip and for maintaining the car. Fortunately while he did have to change the tires about 20 times, nothing else went wrong with the car.

He also took over 200 glass slides during the trip. Over the past century, these slides were transferred to more modern slides. In the 1970s (?) his family recorded him describing the slides as he told his side of the story. That is what I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing at the Benjamin Temple House in Ewing, NJ. 

Brooks took a picture or two at every crucial point during the trip -- the loading of the car into a boat, an airplane they saw in France, pictures at different stops, and at different sticky situations. I could learn a lot from him -- sometimes less is better. In today's digital age, I would take 200 pictures just of the car in a crate to get the right image. His relatively few slides told the highlights of an adventure that lasted over a year.

Another lesson ... record people's stories in order that the next generation may enjoy them. Mrs. Fischer was well-known locally, but not a household name today. Her adventures live on.

A lesson from Mrs. Fischer -- follow your dreams and go on adventures. You never regret the things you did do, only the missed opportunities.

Go out there and have some adventures, then write about them so they are never forgotten.

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