Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A New Tree Comes To The Yard

My brother gave my husband a gift card to the local garden center as a retirement gift. We bought a tree for the front yard. It will flower in the spring and we will plant bulbs around it as well.

My dad had planted a birch, a pine, and two arbor vitae in the front back in the early 1970s. The birch died, the pine was growing on the roof and into the neighbor's driveway, and the bushes covered the front windows. We had them all removed. Now we can finally landscape again.

I have the 'new' vintage china cabinet in my sewing area all filled with vintage fabrics, quilt tops and blocks, and linens and such.

You can see feedsacks and mid-century sheets in the photo above. I also have a nice collection of 50s/60s dress and cotton fabrics, some 70s/80s calicos, and some barkcloth and upholstery weight fabrics. I have smaller pieces of feedsack and vintage prints which I use for repairing vintage quilts.

Every week is a step further along, but so much is left to do! I really need the electric upgrade in the basement sewing area and a kitchen remodel. And new flooring in the family room. And...

The joys and challenges of home ownership. Now mine.

From Monetary Wealth to Spiritual Riches

September 16 was J. C. Penney's birthday. I was reminded that I had my grandfather's autographed copy of Penney's 1950 autobiography Fifty Years with the Golden Rule: A Spiritual Autobiography. I decided it was time to read it.

James Cash Penney was born in 1875 and died in 1971 at age 95. His father was a farmer and preacher, never financially successful, but a role model that inspired his son throughout his life. He taught his son to work hard, giving 110% to whatever job he was doing. He also taught him to follow the Golden Rule in all aspects of life. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."(Mathew 7:12)

When Penney turned 8 years old his father told him he had to earn for his own clothing. Penney badly needed shoes for school. He ran errands and earned the $2.50 for a cheap pair of shoes, the leather top held to the sole by wooden pegs. By 12 years of age he had progressed to buying pigs to fatten and sell.  The neighbors complained about the smell and Penney was instructed to sell the pigs before they were fattened. One must treat others as you would have them treat you after all. Penney put the $60 earned in two banks: in case one failed, he'd still have the other half of his money.

Penney's father was a supporter of the Sunday School movement, but their Missouri Primitive Baptist church members were not. He also believed that preachers should be educated and receive a stipend. The controversy lead to his father being brought up on charges and read out of the church. Although his father did not hold grudges, his son became alienated from the church.

Penney aspired to be a lawyer. There was no financial aid available in those days, and his father offered another opportunity--working with a merchant to learn business. In 1898 Penney was hired by the owners of The Golden Rule Store. He gave 110% and in 1902 he opened his own store and was made a partner. By 1907 he bought out the original owners and continued to open new Gold Rule Stores. His policy was to offer good products at a fair price, have stellar customer service, and accept cash only. The frugal, workaholic Penney's empire grew to 1,700 stores, plus model dairy farms, a home for retired ministers, and many non-profit charitable ventures.

But his life was far from idyllic. He was devastated by the loss of two wives, and he lost his fortune during the Depression. He was no longer the philanthropist tycoon and had to draw a salary from his stores earnings. The experience brought Penney to question his very existence.

My grandfather had marked these lines:

"A man must regard very soberly indeed the unheralded fact of being literally forced to start over again at the age of fifty-eight to provide for his family."

"I was flat broke, touching bottom."

"Suicide is not in my nature, or retreat. Through the burden was immense, the only thing possible was to find the way back to solid ground."

"No one had robbed me of the will and know-how to work hard and serve the public."

"First of all, I reminded myself, a man doesn't run. Neither does he squander time and strength in blaming everything and everyone in sight--excepting himself. When he has brought himself around to accepting the fact that possessing money will never be a guarantee of invulnerability and that whatever fortune he had has been lost, the way is opened to seeing that the only place left to go is--up. Powers remain.--and the power used to build with, in the first place. And so he fights." 

The triple underlining was my grandfather's, and next to the lines he wrote "N.B.", note bene, or "note well".

Penney was in failing health, suffering from shingles, and unable to sleep when a doctor friend checked him into the Kellogg Sanitarium in Kalamazoo for rest and treatment. Penney actually felt that his life was coming to an end.

He was given a sedative but awoke again at 10 pm feeling blue and alone and depressed. He walked the empty halls of the sanitarium until he heard the chapel organ playing the old hymn "God will take care of you...All you may need, He will provide/God will take care of you...Lonely and sad, from friends apart...No matter what may be the test...God will take care of you..."

He heard someone read the scripture verse "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden."

And he had his epiphany: he did not have to have all the answers and rely on only his own abilities.

"I had glimpsed God."

"Lord, I can do nothing. Will you take care of me?" 

Penney was reborn into a "right-thinking" man, aware that he had the power to cure himself by truly following God's way. He had followed The Golden Rule but still allowed business and the pursuit of money to lead his life. Humility became his greatest challenge. Giving money to charity was easy, but now he had learn to give of himself, to allow God control of his life. This realization brought him joy, peace, and assurance.

Within days he was well enough to be released. He changed the orientation of his life. Ten more years before he was baptized into the church and took communion for the first time. He became a noted inspirational public speaker.

From the viewpoint of 2014 Penney's business ethic would be untenable. Loyalty is passe', fair pricing has been supplanted by the all-mighty profit margin. Bosses have no business determining if a worker's spouse will be happy playing second fiddle to a career. Workers would not fight for a chance to work at half salary for a company they 'believed in.'

After the arresting climax of the book, Penney spirals into a long dissertation of men who succeeded at Penneys and about his later work.

Penney was from a world of several centuries ago. What would he think of today's business world, its practices and morality? Or of idle workers, an educated work force who wait for a job in their field. The excuses made about 'it's who you know' and what school you went to would not merit any compassion from Penney.
*                  *                   *                   *              *
I was intrigued by my grandfather's notations. I think he felt a kindred spirit to Penney, not in terms of material success but in having suffered tragic losses and rising again. Gramps was born to an unmarried woman. He lost his grandparents and mother by age nine. He worked himself through college and seminary. As a family man during the Depression he lost his job and had to move in with in-laws. Did Gramps underline those words because he also had hit rock bottom in his life and pulled himself together to fight on?

James Cash Penney had to have inspired many people in his day, not just because he had started an enterprise that is still around 100 years later but also by how he faced the great challenges of his life.

Monday, September 22, 2014

1962 Decorating and Fashions

The May 1962 Family Circle Magazine had an article on the latest decorating trends. This wallpaper is AMAZING. It could be a Modern Quilt design inspiration.

 Orange and black. Blue and green.
 Colonial was the alternative to Modern. Complete with a quilt of course.
Traditional looking but with an interesting combination of patterns that would look very contemporary today.
A plainer look, more masculine, simple and elegant.

Clothing styles were also featured. I would love to get my hands on the floral daisy print in this dress!

 Simplicity sewing patterns

 A name I recall from long ago, Ship N Shore.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Latest in Kitchen Design...Circa 1962

The May 1962 issue of Family Circle featured six pages of kitchen ideas. Many of the design elements are popular again today, including the hanging pendant lighting, colorful clear glass, bright colors in kitchens, and open shelving and hanging utensils and pots and pans. We see islands with eating areas and integrated refrigerators. Plants hanging in the kitchen are also being seen now. Our 1962 kitchen looked nothing like this! but our kitchen remodel, still  in the planning, might have some of these features.
Today we have desks for computers in the kitchen,

I love the double sinks

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Charles Dickens Quilt Top Completed!

Before our move I had purchased the border fabric for my Charles Dickens quilt. This week  I finally was able to add the border! If I EVER finish the quilting of my "Green Heroes" quilt, of which I have one long border left to do, I will hand quilt Dickens next.

I hand embroidered scenes representing Dickens's novels and used fusible appliqué for his portrait which was then thread embellished. Using reproduction and 'older' looking fabrics I set the embroidered blocks together with various squares, triangles, and strips. Totally unplanned, by-the-seat-of-my-pants quilt-making. I tried my hand at hexagon flowers for the first border, then added the final stripped border.

The illustrations came from various sources including my own drawings, original art from the books, and adaptations of clip art or photographs. The titles and Dickens signature are all based on Dickens's own handwritten manuscripts.

I trust I will enjoy quilting this more than my Green Heroes which has a black background border.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Details

On our visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts I found myself noticing details. Like this wonderful floral basket from the statue Zephyr Dancing with Flora by Benzoni. 

 How did he carve all that stone to create such delicate and lacy flowers? It amazes me.

In the room were examples of first century statues, including one from Herculaneum with it's wonderful folds and pleats.

Medieval artists loved to render the luxurious fabrics in detail. Amazing.

Those ornate fabrics truly marked a person's class. As did the plainer clothing of the common folk.

This portrait of a mother and daughter by Peale shows fabric less ornate and showy, but ultra-feminine, airy light. I loved how the doll looked just like Mommy but was dressed just like daughter. Perhaps it reflects how young girls want to grow up to be just like their mother. Especially when mother is so elegant and beautiful!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jane Griffith Pennsylvania Dutch Designs

Another great gem I have is a booklet of Jane Griffith's Pottery House Pennsylvania Dutch Designs, full of black and white line drawings from her pottery. I can't find anything about her! But these would make great embroidered or appliqued designs.