12.31.2006

"Only Available in Canada?...Pity!"

Albert Brooke founded Brooke Bond tea who eventually bought Red Rose

A wonderful article by Sean Paajanen that I reproduce here in full (since it is the ONLY article I have found that encapsulates Red Rose tea history so well, and who knows if it will be online for the long-run...) about one of my great simple pleasures in life - RED ROSE TEA...
Red Rose is a well known name in tea, especially in Britain and Canada. The company started in Canada, but in more recent years has split into a US version and a Canadian version. Some say the tea is the same, but many think the Canadian Red Rose is superior. I have to agree, and I'm not just saying that because I am Canadian.

The company was started in 1894 by Theodore Estabrooks. He dealt in the import and export of various commodities, but felt that tea was his future. During the first year of business, he only sold $166 in tea. Even with such weak beginnings, he did not give up. In just 6 years, he was selling over a thousand tons of tea per year.

The Red Rose brand was born in 1899 when Estabrooks met M.R Miles (who was a member of a prestigious tea-taster family in England). They came up with the idea to create a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan teas, rather than the more common Chinese and Japanese teas. The result was a rich and flavourful tea, that they sold under the name 'Red Rose'.

Their tea quickly became a household name around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (their company was located in Saint John, NB). And Red Rose's popularity also spread down into the New England states. They were so successful, that they expanded their product line in 1901 to include coffee.

In the 1920's, Estabrooks met Gerald Brooke, of Brooke, Bond & Company. They became friends and when Estabrooks made the decision to retire, he sold his shares of the T.H Estabrook company to Brooke, Bond & Company. He wanted his share of the company to go to someone with the ambition to carry on the Red Rose legacy.

After WWII, Brooke Bond expanded to create Brooke Bond Canada. This new company established new packing plants in Montreal, but kept the original facility in New Brunswick.

Unilever acquired Brooke Bond Canada in 1984, and the plant in Saint John, NB was closed. The plant is still there as a heritage building. The remaining US business of Brooke Bond was acquired by Red Rose USA Management, who was then bought out by Teckanne in 1995. I won't pretend to understand the nuances of big business, but the end result was that Red Rose had become two separate entities, a Canadian one and an American one.

Even non-tea drinkers, would recognize Red Rose as the company who made those little figurines that people are still trading and collecting today. My grandmother had a collection too. I wonder what ever happened to them?
Note of Confusion: I am not the only one that is confused about Red Rose Tea history!!

12.14.2006

Tea Granny

Liz hanging clothes during the 1950 flood
My grandmother, and all her friends, used to get a kick out of my love of tea. I would insist on my milk in it, as taught to me by Grandma, and of course three sugar-spoon spoonfuls of sugar, mixed just right...then I would ceremoniously and most carefully sip my tea spoon by spoon, blowing on it a wee bit to cool, then slurp it up with gusto. "You're quite the tea granny, Patricia Kaye," Grandma or Toots would say, as I sat at the little table in the kitchen. It was right by the back door with the frosted glass showing a scene of a hunter with his dog in the woods. Behind that door was the back porch, with the wringer washer and the slop pail. That's where Grandma put all her vegetable and fruit peelings, etc., and it had a complex organic odor that I didn't dislike, but definitely identified as uniquely Grandma's. She would use it on her garden in the spring, mixing it in to help the next batch of vegetables grow. She had a small garden by her outbuildings, a line of small sheds in the back yard, ending with an outhouse. Looking out the back door was her clothes line, which she used year round, even in the winter. I learned from her that clothes could also 'freeze dry' just like coffee! I even have a photo of her standing in a boat hanging clothes during a flood. I tell you, nothing could keep my Grandma down. She was a stubborn and persevering Irish woman if there ever was one. Life experience had taught her that if you want something done it's best to do it yourself, that God helps those that helps themselves, and that hard work never hurt anyone. She had a lovely touch about her that people remembered for years afterward, whether it was because they had stayed at her Fitzpatrick maternity home under her care, or knew her as a town resident and neighbor in another capacity. Her friends could count on her, and she was generous with her hospitality and time. I knew her for far too short a time, and of that for even shorter when she was still in her prime; but I remember enough to have been inspired down through the years by her, and feeling very blessed to have known her, and to have had many days and even nights where I spent them with her and got to see her make many things with her hands - amazing baked goods, knitted mittens, embroidered dish towels, scrumptious meals, or ingenious wheelbarrows made out of what was at hand (including tricycle wheels for the front wheel...). She had a strong large body, and wore her hair long all her life, always up in a top bun during the day out of the way, but down at night and brushed well before bed. In later years I got to help her brush it out. Only at the end, when she was tired and in the wheelchair, did she allow it to be cut, and even then under protest. I think it was one of her only vanities, being a fairly plain woman. I can surely understand that and not begrudge her. But she was a lovely woman all the same, and I smile to think that Grandpa saw that too, those many years ago when he admired her carpentry handiwork upon meeting her...

10.17.2006

Grandpa's Blindness

I was lucky enough to know my Grandpa Fitzpatrick. I say lucky enough for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there was a large gap between when he was born and when I was born, relatively speaking when compared with the average; he was born in 1876, and I was born in 1959, making him 83. However, fate was kind, and I was able to know my Grandpa for 6 years before he passed away.

Another reason I was lucky to know him, was because he was a very special man. Of course, I never knew him when he was younger and in better health, but the kind of man he always was, I was told, was manifest in my experience with him - kindness, intelligence, wit, a great sense of humour, and a very loving human being. A great reader, appreciator of music, hard-working, loyal. My few surviving memories of the time spent with him, are very precious to me.

One aspect of my experience that was unique was that he was blind for much of the time I knew him, so in reality that is the only way I remember him. I don't recall that being an especially limiting handicap for him, as he taught himself well how to get around his own house and yard, and appeared to enjoy life as much as ever.

He became blind through a unfortunate accident. Grandpa and Grandma Fitzpatrick (my mother's parents) were visiting Grandpa and Grandma Short's (my father's parents) home. He asked where the lavatory was, was directed to a door down a hallway, and - unfortunately - mistook the wrong door for the bathroom. He assumed that the door he opened, although dark, was simply the bathroom without the light on. It was actually the basement door, and as he stepped forward, he fell, hitting his head upon landing. In the end, that accident caused permanent blindness.

I remember admiring the cane he used, and being quite amused by his joy in the simple pleasures of life - good food, good conversation, being outdoors and feeling a breeze on his face...and even a good backrub against an old oak tree in the front yard. His example as a man, a person, and as a partner that showed much affection towards my sometimes cantankerous (but loving) Grandma, made a lasting impression on me that I have never forgotten...

9.24.2006

KCND

The station during its heydey, near I-29 on the west side of Pembina...
KCND was the name of a television station in Pembina, North Dakota, which first signed on in 1959. KCND was purchased by Winnipeg, Manitoba businessman Izzy Asper in 1974 and relocated to Winnipeg; the station signed off as KCND for the final time on September 1, 1975 and signed back on as CKND later that day.
OK, that's the very short, official history of KCND. But MY history of the station runs a bit more like this...
- Chiller Thrillers! Mom and me, Saturday night, stay up to midnight, scared silly and loving it, chomping away at homemade buttered popcorn; we couldn't get enough of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, or the old Hammer films with Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing, all thanks to scratchy old films KCND ran.

- Saturday & Sunday afternoon movies! All the classics from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood to Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein (I have never laughed harder before or since...); we didn't need cable or Turner Classic Movies - we had KCND programmers who got ahold of bad copies of great films and we the audience were all the beneficiaries.

- Christmas Concerts! All area schools would be invited to come and present mini-concerts on "Live TV", as a community service to the viewers at Christmas time.

- I met my first best friend! Thanks to KCND, I met a great friend when her Dad moved their family from Indiana to take an announcer job in Pembina where we met at a church youth group.
KCND Trivia: A modern pop band named Typewriter - once known as The Lucy Show - one of whose members lived in our area and grew up listening to KCND, eventually wrote a song directly relating to KCND, an homeage to their beloved Saturday night horror film series. It is aptly named, Channel 12 Chiller Thriller (KCND 10:30)!

8.26.2006

The Piano

I grew up with a piano - it was always a part of my life. Before I was even born, my family had the piano. It was first owned by my grandfather's brother, my great uncle Dick. Eventually it found its way to my parents' home, where my sisters learned how to play on it. Then one day I wandered up to the tall bench, looking up to the even taller upright, its oak wood golden, and its brass foot peddles heavy and mysterious. I crawled up and pressed the white and black keys, and was delighted by the sounds they made. My older sister showed me how to play a song with her, a silly song, but fun, and I laughed with her. She told me it was called 'Chopsticks'. I had learned my first song...

When I was in second grade, my mother found a piano teacher in Emerson, Mrs. Forrest. She was very strict, teaching from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) style. She stressed proper body posture - how I sat, how I held my arms, wrists, and hands - and never ever let me forget to keep those hands up. An arched hand was a happy hand; a lazy hand got a ruler. "Never look at the keys," she would drill into me. I found out that for every song you played well, not only were hours practiced on that composition, but many more hours were spent dedicating yourself to the mechanics that underlay each piece of music: The Notes! Hours were spent learning each key white and black, each octave, how keys connect; scales, arpeggios, the Latin terminology, reading music, learning the history of the great composers.

While I initially lived a little in fear of Mrs. Forrest, I learned to respect her, and eventually realized she gave me an incredible grounding in the basics that I benefited from throughout the rest of my training.

Back to the piano.

The piano was a Bush & Gerts*, one of their tall uprights. I didn't notice that right away. To me, it was just a piano. But as I learned how to play, I began taking a pride in the piano I was playing on. For instance, the piano case was made out of the most beautifully-grained oak. The white keys themselves had a swirling translucence that I learned was for a very good reason - they were made from real ivory, something that is illegal nowadays (for good reason...) It became one of my chores to dust and polish the piano, and I always made sure it was done impeccably.

I took a peek under the top door one day...it was like another world. I pressed keys and watched the action - the hammers, the dampers, the frame itself with all the strings. It was also then that I noticed a fascinating label, in gold, that talked about the famous Exhibition in Chicago many years ago, and how this piano was made by a company that won awards there.

It was then, when looking even deeper inside, that I discovered handwriting near the top of the soundboard, above the strings. It was like a time capsule, dates and names of tuners over the years all the way back to shortly after my uncle bought it, all written in pencil.

* - Bush & Gerts pianos were manufactured in one of the largest and most thoroughly equipped factories in the world. The company controlling the Bush & Gerts was one of the strongest in the piano industry and the aim was to sustain the distinction which the instruments have gained in the long and persistent reaching out for perfection in tone production. In the ware rooms of the foremost piano merchants of the world the Bush & Gerts pianos were presented as instruments worthy of the highest and most discriminating trade. The Bush & Gerts factory was located at Rockford, Ill.

7.31.2006

Grandma was not amused...


The Volstead Act of 1919, named for its author, Minnesota senator Andrew Volstead, made provisions for Prohibition's enforcement, but it contained loopholes that invited abuses.

Somehow, I don't think that writer meant my grandfather, but in his own little way, Grandpa Fitzpatrick was flouting the law of the time when he was making beer during this time period, using honey from his bees in the process. They lived in the north part of town, a bit off the beaten track and somewhat private. Maybe Grandpa thought it would be OK if he kept it low-key.

Grandma wasn't thrilled about the idea, since it was illegal at the time, but she put up with it...He was even known to sell a bottle now and then to someone. Grandma herself, after a hard day's work, would drink a bottle against the heat. However, one day Grandpa crossed the line...On that day, my mother, who was around 9 years old, was uptown with my grandma visiting friends. Upon their return a few hours later, they came upon this scene...
Walking up the road to the house, we came upon an unbelievable scene: Men, women, sitting around, having a good time...drinking Grandpa's beer! It was a regular outdoor honkytonk. *
Well, if you only knew my Grandma, you could imagine what happened next: She was not amused. People knew my Grandma well enough that just her arrival meant they had better clear off. As they did, she proceeded to grab the remaining bottles of beer within her reach and smash them against the side of the shed.

* - Harriet Short (my mother)

6.19.2006

Sunsets

My recollections about sunsets in my hometown are many and varied, as are the sunrises, the northern lights, or the sky itself, whether it be going on forever on a fine summer day bright blue with white popcorn clouds, or pitch black night with stars shining so bright and many that you couldn't believe there could be that many suns who were the people who lived around those suns my Mom and I speculated as she pointed out the constellations sunsets were long and varied, some orange and pink some red orange and purple others casting a magical glow that turned the landscape and everything in it a golden color as if someone had put a filter over the sun itself in winter the cold would make rainbow sundogs in so bright it hurt days and rainbow northern lights danced across black skys so deep the sunsets lasted long, past 10:00pm, and you went to bed with the sun still peeking over the horizon saying goodbye for today see you tomorrow some nights could would join the sun and the colors would play behind them like giant shadow puppets in the sky sometimes they were so beautiful my mother would stop gardening or my father would stop mowing or I would stop playing and we would say to each other look how beautiful the sunset it and we would look in awe it never got old

5.26.2006

Radio

My grandparents had this box I thought was so beautiful, the grain of the wood on the back where it wasn't painted. I wondered what it was - there were telltale grooves in the inside, and holes in the back; for years, all I knew was that it had been a radio once, that it had been painted over multiple times.

When first married, I talked my parents into letting me have it, and I stripped it down to the bare wood - boy, that took a lot of elbow grease! The effort was definitely worth it, though - I revealed a beautifully-grained wood underneath! I oiled and varnished it, and used it for years to store doilies and afghans in. Recently I came across a website with images of old radios and saw it. I recognized the shape immediately. It had been a Freshman Masterpiece radio. A bit more research and I found it was probably a 1926 model...

4.08.2006

Grace

I grew up across the field from the town cemetery. My grandfather was the caretaker, and later my father. It was a part-time, voluntary town position which they gladly undertook. I think both of them enjoyed the solitude of the cemetery and felt it was a duty worth doing.

My Mom would walk with me up and down the aisles between plots, teaching me to respect the graves and not walk on them, not to mention they could sink in from settling. We'd talk about who some of the people were, some were relatives, some she had known. Some she didn't know. Both she and Dad would show me subtle depressions in the grass in the lower portion of the cemetery that indicated those that were pauper graves, unmarked and forgotten by most. My grandfather had shown them where they were, and I in turn now knew. I often wonder if anyone back home knows anymore.

I've been doing some research on poor farms or poor houses in Minnesota, and it brought to mind those graves. Listening to this documentary touched me greatly, and made me think how there are always those among us, as Jesus said, that need a helping hand. There but for the grace of God go I...

3.07.2006

Grandpa's Swing


The Swing...the hours spent in it, on it, swinging, sitting and twirling, laying back hanging on looking through the trees, at the sky, at the trees, noticing the iron bar the big oak trees had grown around, that Grandpa Fitzpatrick had placed there many years ago when my mom was a little girl, the iron rings still there, never changed, only the ropes when they wore out, or the wooden seat our family would make and notch and put onto the rope just so…jeanie with the light brown hair…walk right in, sit right down, baby let your hair hang down…the woods just behind you, the tips of the trees brushing your legs and back on the backswing, dragging your feet in the well-worn dirt path to stop, jumping off into the pile of leaves in the fall that Dad would make just for you…hearing Mom whistling in the house making supper…walking from the swing to the house, crunching acorns under your feet…dew on the grass on early morning swings when Mom would be by the clothesline hanging the clothes, whistling, the bright morning sun making the white sheets so brilliant you can hardly look at them, spiderwebs gleaming, worms hanging, dandylion seed floating, distant crows cawing…year pass, and there are your own children, swinging on that same swing, the same iron bar, the same iron rings...there comes a day when the auctioneer sounds in the front yard and strangers look through your things, your memories, and you quietly walk past the crowds to the swing and take one last swing before leaving it to your past, and walking on...

2.07.2006

What life was like when I was 4 years old...

Chickens, Smoky chasing chickens, me chasing Smokey chasing chickens...fitting through the chicken house chicken door and squeezing through between the gate and the fence (was I ever THAT small?!)

Butcher shop and bakery and luthweit druggist in emerson

Mccall's in pembina, george's store in st. vincent, sawatski brother's in emerson...hardwood floors and high tin ceilings, bolts of cloth so high it took ladders and hooks to bring them down to measure and cut

Visiting dad at the depot, big trains smoking and clanging and squeeling and chugging

Friehboldt's garage scantily clad women on calendars in the pits where oil ran black and slick and a grape soda was only a fridge door and 10 cents away

Collecting bottles of candy money, collecting acorns in cider jugs for grandma, following dad and big sisters while they mowed cemetery

'helping' in the garden, hoeing, collecting raspberries, going out on chokecherry pickings in the river woods

Milk pods and birds nest and blue robin eggs

Neighbor cows and horses, high pasture grass, dragging the road and nuisance ground runs

St. vincent fair, quansot hut bbq's and pies and 4th of july parades

Church potlucks jumping off the high church front steps, basement Sunday school, prayer meeting circles all heads bowed who prays first? Amen.

Running away, on my tricycle, running away to grandma's house, Mom running after me, me hiding in the woods in the ditch by Skjold's pond, Mom sounding so sad and desparate but me so mad I won't say a word if it kills me

Climbing the storm-pushed, might oak tree, fallen by the clothesline, shouting see me see me up here mom, up here mom continues to whistle and hang clothes she's younger than I am now were we ever that young she and I?

It's all like it's yesterday and all like it's another life and all like it's yesterday I want to go back there was something so NEW so amazing, so possible...