Thursday, June 23, 2011

FrancoAmerican Legends in California

One summer day in 1976, I visited with two legends in California....

Below: Maire Claire Yetto neé Rivet and her brother Joseph Albert Rivet in a small town in the San Bernardino Mountains.  

I have written about Joseph Albert Rivet in several other posting on this blog.  In this posting I will write about his sister Marie Claire.

Below: Marie Claire Rivet

Marie Claire Rivet was born in Cohoes, New York in 1918. Her parents were Joseph Paul Emile Rivet and Marie Louise Lacasse.  She married Walker Yetto (origin of surname: Guertin).  They raised their family in her family home on Summit Street in Cohoes overlooking the Harmony Mill and the Hudson Valley.  Their situation was complicated after she was hurt in a serious traffic accident: a tractor trailer truck hit her vehicle and she sustained neck injuries.  Soon thereafter Walker was injured in a recreational vehicle.  Then in 1965, after several years of poor health, Walker Yetto died and Claire struggled to maintain her home and family.  As a widow, she came to a decision - leave New York and settle in California where her brother Al had moved years before.  She packed everything in her car and moved.  She found a job working as a rural mail delivery person.  Her work started early at the local airport where she picked up heavy sacks of mail despite her physical pain from the neck injuries.  She bought her own home and lived there until her death in 2003. She was my mother's best friend. She was my Aunt Claire.

She is a legend. Her life was not a was hard starting from her childhood with a very stern father who was never remembered for kindness. Her mother died when she was five years old. Her stepmother Malvina Hamel was remembered as kind and gentle. Claire birthed children who lived to become adults and she miscarried others. She worked all her life and she worked hard. When misfortune came into her life she never looked for pity. She was strong; perhaps the strongest.  When I visited her a few years before she passed on, she was happy, self-sufficient, and gracious despite the long oxygen tubing she trailed about her home as she conducted her daily chores.  That week I last visited, she asked me to make her vegetable stir fry, my specialty. I did and she loved every bit of it! Simple things made her happy.  She was tough. She never gave up her faith. She never gave in.  She loved her children and grandchildren. 

Here are a few more photos from that day at Aunt Claire's home including some of the Joshua trees surrounding her home:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ancestral Millot-Mylott Home: Villiers-le-Sec, France

Nicolas Damien Millot dit Champagne, the Mylott forefather, was born in Villiers-le-Sec in Champagne, France in 1737.  He enlisted in the Company de Guyenne to fight for France in the Seven Years War, called the French and Indian War in the United States.  A photographer, Ludo has posted beautiful photos of the church in Villiers-le-Sec on is a link.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Québec, roosters, feathered hats, kitchens and the watercolors of Annelein Beukenkamp

When an artist creates an object (painting, musical score, acting performance) I believe, it is a very personal interaction between the artist and the source of inspiration.  Afterwards, if the artist chooses to share her created object with others, she is letting it go.  For the observer, the listener, the audience the object may become something totally different than the artist intended.  This is not a negative thing. The artist has shared her creation - a selfless act.  In doing so, others claim it or buy it, interpret it or distort it,  take it unto themselves and make it their own. Sometimes the creation acts upon the observer in ways one could never anticipate.  I offer you an example....the roosters of Annelein Beukenkamp. 

Click to view the detail but do not copy.
This image is copyright protected

Three years ago when I started spending more time visiting Québec, I started noticing images of roosters around and restaurants, souvenir shop windows, galleries.  After a day in Québec City, I thought I was seeing roosters everywhere!  Finally I saw the most beautiful roosters in a small shop....they were watercolors that somehow made the feathers look so real.  Feathers have to be difficult to paint.  After all, they are usually wrought with detail....tiny repetitive detail that make them so unique.  Now a days, unless you work directly with birds you may not have many opportunities to appreciate the variety and detail of feathers.  I obtained an appreciation for feathers growing up in my mother's antique shoppe where feathers were quite common.  There were always old Victorian ladies hats with plumage about in the shoppe. Often the feathers were dyed some distasteful gaudy color but sometimes one would come upon unadulterated feathers.  What a fine they would be!

To appreciate her roosters, take a look at Annelein Beukenlamp's blog here; More of her roosters are on her website.

Click to enlarge. Image is copyrighted- don't copy.

Well, seeing Beukenlamp's watercolors of roosters started me thinking about the feathered hats in mom's antique shop.  Gradually Beukenkamp's  roosters became my roosters as they revived my childhood memories.  From the feathers in the antique shoppe, I moved on to an earlier faint memory as I recalled images of roosters in my mother's kitchen too!  Mom was an antique dealer which meant she had endless sources of roosters!   Gradually the memory of ceramic roosters, pictures of roosters,  tin Jello molds in the shape of roosters, salt and pepper shaker roosters, cookie jar roosters and more all came back to me.  When one rooster left the kitchen, it was replaced by another.  They were not the beautiful roosters of Beukenkamp but they were roosters.  Somehow Beukenkamp's roosters made me aware!

An ugly rooster cookie jar

Were roosters special to just my mother or are roosters special to the folk of Québec? or perhaps to people all over the world? A rooster in every pot?  To find answers, I searched the world wide web.  First I found specialty farms like Cherry Creek Canadians.  They have very handsome roosters and preserve a special breed of chicken called the Canadian Chantecler pictured below.

A very, very handsome rooster at Cherry Creek Canadians

 In my search for answers, I found this page about Culture of Québec on Wikipedia. This lead to a current exhibit at  the Museum of Popular Québec Culture in Trois-Rivières about rooster weather vanes and animal folk art.

seems like there is an emphasis on roosters when I look at the images.....

The exhibit is open until January 2012.

Then I found folk art for sale....

Folk art Rooster $1800 (Canadian)

Another interesting Québec rooster is the sculpture at Au Diable Verte in Glen Sutton.  Au Dieble Verte (Green Devil aka the deep green woods) is a winter vacation destination with interesting accommodations like treehouse cabins and outhouses.  They appear quite proud of their rooster.  Unfortunately, at the English website I cannot get information about the sculptor...but it looks like a fearsome creature when the sky looks grey and stormy.

So there is evidence that Canadians love their roosters.  I must admit, none inspired my memory like the watercolor roosters of Annelein Beukenkamp.  Perhaps  because I came upon her watercolors in Québec, it confirmed the interconnections among my mother, her kitchen, and her French Canadian mother and grandmother. A special charm, a rooster in every Québec and FrancoAmerican kitchen!

Thank you to Annelein Beukenkamp who allowed me to post images of her watercolors and thank you to her roosters for conjuring up the memories of my mother's kitchen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Postcards of the Champlain Canal: Waterford to Whitehall

Following the Champlain Canal through New York State in postcards....scenes from Waterford to Whitehall.

The canal from Lake Champlain to Waterford was officially opened in 1823. When you read the chronology of events of the Champlain canal, it seems repairs, fixes, enlargements, improvements and plugs were started the day it opened and never stopped! The postcards below are not arranged in any chronological order. If theres any order it would be from south to north.  Therefore in some images the canal looks narrow with a towpath.  In other images the canal is wide or doubled spanned. 

Waterford, NY

Waterford Lift Bridge

Waterford Covered Bridge to Lansingburg

to Mechanicville...

Sleepy Mechanicville

to Stillwater...

and Bemis Heights...

to Schuylerville...

through Ft. Edward, Sandy Hill (Hudson Falls) and Fort Ann...

along Wood Creek... notorious for its flooding and damage to the canal

to Whitehall, NY where the waters began to flow north to Québec