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Thread: Cool Underground Tunnel and Nanaimo's Old Mine Shafts

  1. #1771
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nostradama View Post
    And off-topic, for which I apologize. That set of fireplace brasses is extremely valuable from a historical viewpoint, and I hope that when the elderly owners "go", the family infighting over who gets what doesn't end up with the set being broken up. Among "housewives" a woman was judged by the "state of her brasses," and it wasn't uncommon for the brasses to be polished daily. There was a huge empasis on cleanliness, because the only heat in houses was coal-fired fireplaces. That resulted in a constant battle against the dirt left by burning coal, both inside and outside the house. In my mother's family, at least once a year big batches of bread were baked just to be torn apart when fresh out of the oven, and sort of rolled over the wallpaper in the house to take dirt off. Any "decent" woman scrubbed her front doorsteps every day, and usually polished the brass door knob, too. My mother and her eight sisters used to go to what they called a "Turkish bath", like a sauna, once a month and when they were there, sweating, they could run their hands over their skin and end up with their hands sort of grey from coal smoke "sweated out". London probably wasn't dirtier than other cities, but it was known as "the big smoke". Biggest disappointment of my young life was being taken to see Buckingham Palace. Immediate thought "big and dirty". What you see these days isn't what Buckingham Palace used to be--it was sandblasted back to its original colour years ago, after maybe a couple of hundred years of coal smoke. Again, apologies, but maybe I'm a dying breed--I saw what coal smoke had done to Buckingham Palace; I remember what my parents told me about life with coal fires and coal smoke, and they were born in 1904 and 1906.
    No, no worries Nostradama. No need to apologize. We aren't really on or off the topic of anything. I just enjoy amateur photography with my camera and like to post my photos so that people can see some of the things that I find throughout my normally busy work weeks.

    So the fireplace brass - the lady did mention that if I were to purchase anything like this, a pawnshop or garage sale would be a good place to start. She said that the antique stores would charge top dollar and I have no idea what this stuff would cost. It all depends on who is offering such items for sale. Some will charge a fortune, especially if they know you are a very interested buyer and want the merchandise no matter what. Others will just give the stuff away. Or throw it away if they have no interest. I'd love to see some of the brass and copper that goes through the recycling places. Ya, fighting over heir looms is a bit childish. I say forget the kids altogether if they are arguing and pass the stuff along to a collector that will care for the items and record their history for future collectors. Remember, although material items are nice to have for the short time that we are here, we aren't allowed to take anything with us when we go!

    Ahh, the smell of a coal fire. There's nothing in the world quite like it. Seaman once told me that the smell reminded him of Coombs. I often wonder what a voyage aboard the old ocean liners (Lusitania, Titanic, Normandie, Vaterland) would have been like with the continuous plumes of coal smoke escaping their stacks. I'd imagine the 1st Class passengers all had stories to tell. I get a whiff of diesel every now and again from the BC Ferries but I couldn't tell you what coal smoke in the eyes felt like

  2. #1772
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    Default Coal stench

    Fascinating story Nostradama. I'm in Houston, Texas where the petrochemical stench is a present day reminder of what it would have been like when coal was king. Recently, I was in Pittsburgh for a few weeks and visited interesting places such as the original offices of Andrew Carnegie and George Westinghouse. The current Chairman of Wabtec which is the descendent company of George W's original Westinghouse Air Brake Company, Bill Kassling, invited me to visit George's late 1800s to early 1900s office which is fully restored in his castle, just up the hill from Bill's office. I was allowed to use the office as my own for a day which was a neat experience. What struck me was that both George W. and Andrew C. had showers nearby their offices and changed clothes two or three times a day. The coal stench in Pittsburgh was so bad that it was necessary for these guys to go through such lengths to keep up appearances. Pittsburgh is quite livable now with the sun able to make it to street level. Things are getting better in Houston from year to year but I still tend to change shirts in the afternoon and the city is always in a haze. The big coal-powered and coal-heated Chinese cities (Beijing, Guangzhou, etc.) are a close approximation your pre-sandblasted London - brown skies, dirty buildings and the constant need to cough up ugly black spittle caused by the acrid air.
    Last edited by Peter Roosen; 06-08-2011 at 04:26 AM.

  3. #1773

    Default GR74 and Peter Roosen

    Quote Originally Posted by GR74 View Post
    . . . No, no worries Nostradama. So the fireplace brass - the lady did mention that if I were to purchase anything like this, a pawnshop or garage sale would be a good place to start. She said that the antique stores would charge top dollar and I have no idea what this stuff would cost. It all depends on who is offering such items for sale. Some will charge a fortune, especially if they know you are a very interested buyer and want the merchandise no matter what. Others will just give the stuff away. Or throw it away if they have no interest. I'd love to see some of the brass and copper that goes through the recycling places. Ya, fighting over heir looms is a bit childish. I say forget the kids altogether if they are arguing and pass the stuff along to a collector that will care for the items and record their history for future collectors. Remember, although material items are nice to have for the short time that we are here, we aren't allowed to take anything with us when we go!

    Ahh, the smell of a coal fire. There's nothing in the world quite like it. Seaman once told me that the smell reminded him of Coombs. I often wonder what a voyage aboard the old ocean liners (Lusitania, Titanic, Normandie, Vaterland) would have been like with the continuous plumes of coal smoke escaping their stacks. I'd imagine the 1st Class passengers all had stories to tell. I get a whiff of diesel every now and again from the BC Ferries but I couldn't tell you what coal smoke in the eyes felt like
    It would be terrible to see that set of "brasses" broken up, because in my experience it's unusual to see an ash shovel with a design on the "shovel" part of it. A question about what looks almost like a tray behind the brasses: is that attached, or is it separate? If it's separate, then I suspect it's what's left over from a dinner bell set, which would originally have included a stand for it, and a hammer/gavel striker, although that brass "tray" is a little large for that purpose. A dinner bell was only used to announce an evening meal was ready. I had one, inherited from my mother who'd received it as a wedding gift in the 1920s, gave it away to a much younger antique-collecting friend in my down-sizing.

    I was really surprised at the comments about the smell of burning coal, because honestly it's something I'd never heard my parents talk about. I suppose if people grew up in a coal-burning country and travelled to others that also burned coal, it was such a commonplace thing that they just didn't notice it. Until we came to Canada, my father was career British Merchant Marine, and had been in coal-burning ships, never mentioned the smell in ships, either, but perhaps the stacks were high enough to carry the smoke away from the ships while they were moving?

    In the earliest days of trains, "coal smuts" were a real problem, especially for women and especially in the summer, because if the windows were opened because of the heat, pretty big "smuts" would come in the windows. Some women wore veils to try to keep their faces clean, and wore loose light coats to cover their regular clothes.

    I'll betcha that if someone got Prince Philip of England going on "coaling" in countries all over the world during his time in the Brit (Royal) Navy, he'd have a lot of stories to tell, heavily laced with four-letter words, because no one liked coaling, and sometimes both crew and officers had to go at it. "None of them liked it" pretty well covers it.

    Among people like Westinghouse and Carnegie, changing clothes frequently during the day was commonplace, although those two gentlemen probably did more clothes-changing than average because they lived so close to "the works"? Examples for women that wealthy or married into the wealth: a dress for breakfast, if the woman even "came down" to breakfast (many women were served breakfast in bed and didn't "appear" until about 11:00 am.) But if a woman breakfasted with the family, that would be the first dress of the day. Then a change into a different one for luncheon; after that a "tea gown", sometimes called a "teegee", and loved by many women because the corsets, etc., didn't have to be as heavy or as tight, with "tea" in the late afternoon being a pretty complete meal, although sandwiches, cakes, cookies, etc. Then a change into another for dinner, served around 8:00 pm or later. If husband and wife were dining in the home of friends or hosting friends, then the dress was more elaborate. If the invitation was "to dine", a narrow-skirted dress. "Dinner and dancing to follow" meant a wide-skirted ball dress. And on and on. Pretty well the same thing for men--constantly changing clothes. I'd bet that the poor Queen and Prince Philip probably change clothes about four times a day even now. Not that they don't have a lot of help with the whole thing!

    It was Adolf Hitler and his Nazi government who introduced wide-spread pit head showers for miners in the 1930s, although some owners of Welsh coal mines provided a few. This was a big deal, because in those days baths were usually Saturday night in workers' homes (many of which didn't have bath tubs until after WW II) in a portable tub, often in the kitchen, because water had to be heated on the stove and then later bucketed out again. Everyone shared the same water, starting with "Father" and working down to the kids. So if Father happened to be a coal miner in a mine that provided pit head showers, Father was the cleanest in the family already. Much happier kids! In large cities like London, there were public bath houses; I don't know when those closed down.

    Andrew Carnegie, originally a Scot, has been forgotten as one of the greatest givers, donors, and philanthropists of North America. Even when I was in my early teens, the old columned building at the corner of Hastings and Main in Vancouver's eastside downtown core was still "the Carnegie Library". He built them all over North America, although he made his money in the US. These days that building is used as a community centre for people in the area and is a tremendous help to residents, the homeless, some of the people who need help the most. I think Andrew Carnegie would be happy to see how his building is being used now.

    With a short apology for huge length!
    Last edited by Nostradama; 06-08-2011 at 12:57 PM. Reason: bracket oopsie

  4. #1774
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    Does GR74 ever run out of things to post? Absolutely not!
    From today....

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    Actually, the question on my mind is 'Are seoguy and Morgan the same dude?' haha I'm kidding guys

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    Lmao!!!!!

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    This is an older picture from April 2011. The sign is located at 2565 Seablush Drive in Nanoose, thought the viewers would like to see it.

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    Default Locomotive #11

    This locomotive, built in 1923 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, was purchased by Comox Logging in 1937 and used in continuous service until 1961 hauling logs on the Nanaimo Lakes to Ladysmith run. It was overhauled and has been on display in Ladysmith since 1962.

  9. #1779
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    Default Coal smut

    Did not know until now that "coal smut" is the name for those puffs of coal ash that come into the cars following smoky, dirty, and noisy coal fired locomotives like #11. Seeing the words Hitler, Nazi and showers in the same sentence gives me pause. The point about this introduction of pithead showers is however a very interesting one.

  10. #1780

    Default Words that give pause

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Roosen View Post
    Did not know until now that "coal smut" is the name for those puffs of coal ash that come into the cars following smoky, dirty, and noisy coal fired locomotives like #11. Seeing the words Hitler, Nazi and showers in the same sentence gives me pause. The point about this introduction of pithead showers is however a very interesting one.
    Believe me, they gave me pause before I typed them, too; I understand what you're referencing. I'm a child survivor of the bombings of London during WW II, possibly some of the worst, since we lived close to London's docks and ships tied up to them. Once a Luftwaffe bombardier misjudged his target and the back half of our roof was blown off; I ended up being blown from the second floor to the first, all the way to the front door, under a rubble of roof slates, wood from the stairs, etc. I was dug out by a group of American soldiers on week-end leaves in London. I don't have anything good to say about Nazis, past or present. However, it's true that Hitler's Nazi government did, in some cases, improve workers' lives, at least in the short term.
    Last edited by Nostradama; 06-11-2011 at 08:23 AM. Reason: deletion

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