Time Travel

I sometimes fantasize about being able to write to myself in the past and describe all the different things we now have that were pure science fiction not so many years ago… or at least when I was a kid.

That got me to realizing that by explaining how some of today’s technology, and even concepts, as if to someone in the past, really led to an introspective view of what things were like earlier in our lifetimes.

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For an example, I might describe a “smart phone“. I could start in one of a few directions, looking at the changing telephone and in fact how mobile phones have changed society; or viewing the smart phone as a hand-held computer, complete with very many useful tools. For sake of argument I’ll be looking at the later, the “smart phone” as a “hand-held computer”.

What might I write about smart phones to my younger self in the 1970’s? To begin with, I have to consider not only the world of the 1970’s, but also my own personal view of the 1970’s. My own personal view back then is perhaps the more important from the point of view of heritage.

Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X - dust...

Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X – dust jacket – Project Gutenberg eText 17985 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the early ’70s I was in high school. Now I knew about computers from childhood. I watched “Star Trek” when it was first being broadcast, I also was an avid reader of Science Fiction starting off with the adventures of “Tom Swift Junior.”

In high school I was extremely fortunate to belong to the school computer club. It was a time when even small computers were large enough that they might barely fit into a small bedroom. Of course that didn’t include the tape drives, disk drives, or the necessary air conditioner — that would likely be the size of two large deep freezes stacked.

Number One (Star Trek)

Number One (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that even on Star Trek they didn’t dare refer to their “Tricorders” as mobile computers. The view of “home computing” was that of computer terminals connecting via phone line to a computing centre in a central location like a university or corporation.

The old Telex teletype machines were gradually replaced with new “dot matrix” terminals and terminals with thermal printers. There were a few large terminals with CRT monitors. A few were even colour! I’m not sure if the mainframe computers had CRT consoles yet or not.

Deutsch: Siemens Telex 1955

Deutsch: Siemens Telex 1955 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did have ways to chat online. If you were on the same computer system as someone else you could send messages back and forth. I know we enjoyed chatting with students at another high school. They really got annoyed when we would send a “ctrl b” in a message. That rang the bell in the terminal and while ours was an electronic beep, the other school had an older Telex terminal.

Those teletype machines had an actual bell, and when it rang it annoyed the office staff at their school. We chatted via a computer at the local technical institute, but could have probably connected via phone directly to their school’s computer terminal. That seemed fun for us in high school.

As you can see, thinking about writing to my young self led to memories of what it was like back then. For myself, that only can go back to the 60’s. I was a toddler and later primary school student then. I think it would be interesting to see what older generations might come up with. I think I might know someone who was born in 1914…


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Cherished Words

English: Fire stoking as at intermission of st...

English: Fire stoking as at intermission of story telling, ATC Cranborne I wanted to capture a sense of the evening, the fire light was bathing people in a soft red glow, as they chatted during the intermission. When the fire was stoked the sparks added an extra dimension. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was lucky enough to know my Grandparents as I grew to adulthood and they were still alive while I was an adult.

I am a bit saddened that although they were alive, I lived at a distance so didn’t have a chance to chat much with them one-on-one. There was some story telling of their past, but I only was able to talk to one of my grandfathers one-on-one.

English: Story telling at Ancient Technology C...

English: Story telling at Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne Gayle Ross, visiting from the USA, tells traditional stories of the Cherokee people in the Earth House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard a few stories and things I didn’t know about him. During family gatherings he often told stories from his life, but speaking one-on-one was a bit different.

I’m not here to regale you with his stories, but to bring up the point that it is important to cherish the time we have to talk with folk like our parents and grandparents. We can learn a lot and it is just another way to retain family heritage, and heritage in general.


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When does heritage start?

English: The Smithsonian Building in Washingto...

English: The Smithsonian Building in Washington D.C., United States. Edit of Wikipedia:Image:Smithsonian_Building.jpg to reduce luminance noise in the sky. 中文: 位于华盛顿特区的史密森尼古堡。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When does heritage start?

Does heritage start 25 years ago, 50, 100 or? It is as sticky a question as “when does history start?”. The truth is you have to first define what “heritage” means. A lot of people consider heritage being synonymous with history. Rather I think you have to look at the word heritage from a much broader perspective. Heritage has more to do with where people are, how they got there and perhaps where they are going.

English: A hand-carved ivory polar bear statue.

English: A hand-carved ivory polar bear statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heritage can include things like art, religion, spirituality, family, technology, architecture and of course history. Museums have to define what their scope is — they can’t be everything. Some museums restrict themselves to certain time periods, some to certain locations, and some to certain subjects.

Many of us have a general image of what museums cover — meaning general municipal museums. Of course there are other sorts of museums like natural history museums and art museums (more typically called galleries). Many museums have cut-off dates of 25 to 50 years before the present. Of course by definition that sort date always changes. What is 25 years ago today was the present 25 years ago — 25 years ago today was 1988. Of course many museums can take the special date or range of dates. Others are set up around a specific event which defines what the collections are all about and what their displays are all about.

Cultural Heritage Center.

Cultural Heritage Center. (Photo credit: San José Library)

I think that general-purpose museums have to keep in mind and the more general definition of heritage. They have to keep in mind cultural heritage, art, technology, religion, as well as history. Museums are more than just collections of artefacts. Museums have to have a connection with the community to be successful.

Generally, what do you consider heritage?

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Walls and Fences

Good fences make good neighbours. Walls can be good places to post things. Walls and fences can be torn down or be nice places to sit on or lean on and talk things out.

Fences and garden walls have seemed to play an important part of my life creating punctuation in it. Some of my first memories are of helping my Dad build the fence around our first family home…

Later memories of growing up with my friends using that fence as a plaything, the stockade around a frontier fort or a castle wall, complete with a tower. That first fence was built when I was 2 or 3, but the addition of a 6 foot patio fence was when I was 8 or 10 and I helped Dad a bit more than being his shadow. Later it protected our travel trailer and my car when I got one.

Dad and I helped Grandpa putting up barbed wire fencing on the dry open prairie near the badlands. That was an experience I’ll never forget. Something shared between 3 generations. A lot of city kids would never experience the world like that.

Our next house was when I was in university and Dad and I ventured to build a stone retaining wall. I mixed wheel barrow loads of mortar for that and helped haul the stone and dig the fill. It was a thing of beauty built of a golden red rough and craggy stone. That wall will stand for ages.

The next home was smaller, but we had a formidable set of fences around it with a poured retaining wall… the walls for that were to be hidden from view. We terraced the yard though with retaining walls made from gardening ties. There was much topsoil to be hauled into that yard by barrow. (The cement was hauled that way too.) The yard was beautiful and when we had a torrential 100 year rain storm, our yard did not flood, but the rain flowed properly ending up in our storm drainage system. The soil didn’t run away and didn’t flow into the house at all. Our walls and fences did the job.

The last house… a townhouse… the first I was a visitor to. It’s fence was built by others. A metal rail fence with stone sections mixed in. It looks nice and does its job. The important thing was that Mom and Dad didn’t have to worry about upkeep.

For me… a few more fences, rental suites facing back yards… reminding me of when I lived with Mom and Dad.

One thing, that all those fences had in common was a chance for Dad and I to work together. Often I didn’t care to — preferring maybe to play with toys or the other boys. But, if not doing that, even when an older teen or young adult — I found that spending that time with Dad was a treasure. Even while we did not have a lot in common and we didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, we did have a lot in common: We believed in doing a good job. We believed that doing hard work felt good. We liked seeing what the results of our labour looked like. We liked each other’s company.

Even when finished. The fences and walls made for good places to talk and spend time outdoors. Not just Dad and me, but also Mom and my Sister and then her Husband and our other Relatives and Neighbours. I wished in later years more of my friends could have come and chatted by those walls and fences as well.

And one last fence for Dad… A tall one, probably the tallest one yet. Over 8 foot tall and made of those concrete boards that really give privacy and need little upkeep. Dad can’t really appreciate it. But I think Mom will when we visit Dad, and I think when we gather at the graveside, we will chat.

Some call it a curtain,
But maybe it’s a fence or garden wall.
We’ll all cross it some day
And meet in the end at our final call.


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We’ll Be Seeing You!

Weddings and Anniversaries and Funerals — oh my!

It strikes me that there are many relatives and family friends that I have of recent times only seen at funerals and weddings. As a child I can remember seeing them at other times. Relatives might come and visit during the Summer or we might visit them on family vacations when visiting my grandparents. But as our family grew older the side trips to visit these more remote relatives grew fewer. As we grew older we might only see these relatives when we went to church with our grandparents while we were on vacation. The faces were familiar at church and around town (My Father’s parents lived in a smaller relatively closed community.) even if I didn’t necessarily know the names or connections — many were second or third-cousins, great-aunts and great-uncles or cousins once or twice removed as well as family friends.

Later in life going to church while on vacation seemed to be of less importance as we spent more of our time simply visiting the closer family. Dad came from a fairly large family and we were lucky to go on family camping trips with most of his siblings and their families. We’d take over a corner of a campground, sometimes in a provincial park, and have an impromptu family reunion.

It seems to me that since my first cousins have become adults, we have all grown apart somewhat — they have their own families and in-laws now. My aunts and uncles for the most part are grandparents and soon are to become great-grandparents. There are many in-laws and many more second-cousins going the other direction down the family tree and more cousins levels removed. Everyone is busy with their closer larger families.

It seems though that at the last times I saw my great uncles and aunts and my second-cousins and cousins-once-removed, etc… was at my grandparent’s funerals. Before that, I had seen them at my grandparent’s 50’th wedding anniversary and a few of my first cousin’s weddings. Before that there were weddings of various uncles and aunts. (My Father and Mother were among the eldest in their respective families so I was old enough to remember a number of the weddings of my aunts and uncles.)

I think that over the years I have heard people lamenting over the purpose of the large elaborate weddings so many families plan. I think that I have realized the purpose. They serve as a bonding, not just of the couple but the family, not just of bonding two families, but of each family bonding with themselves. These large gatherings act as family reunions.

Actually in a “standard” family there are 4 family reunions as a wedding is essentially the bonding of 4 families.

I know on the surface it seems like it should just be the Bride’s family and the Groom’s family — but as I see it, the Bride’s family consists of two families: there are her Father’s parents’ family and her Mother’s parents’ family; likewise there are the Groom’s two families.

If you consider these 4 family reunions going on, plus the potential 4 groups consisting of the Groom’s friends, the Bride’s friends, the Groom’s business associates, and the Bride’s business associates… you can see how the Bride and Groom are kept busy hoping during the wedding to pay attention to their guests — not to mention the scramble to pay for the wedding.

Is it any wonder why cultures tending to large families have wedding traditions of weddings that last more than a few days. We might not have the large families here and now, but we are having families that are more complicated; with divorce, remarriage, common-law, adoption, surrogacy, open adoption… and multiple generation beyond 4 living generations expanding family size. So things get complicated, if not as large.

The wedding in any case is a time when the Bride and Groom can introduce themselves to the families at once in one place rather than travelling afar to do so. For the rest of the family it is a chance to reacquaint themselves with each other. The wedding is a chance for a family reunion. It is a chance to catch up on what is happening and perhaps share some old stories. Sadly it might be the last time some family members ever see each other and for others the last time until the next such occasion.

It is the value involved of bringing families together that is a perhaps unexpected benefit to the large expense of such a large gathering. Wedding invitation lists can grow very quickly as well. …10 members from each set of family starts at 40, then if there are 10 friend each, (+ 20) and lets say 5 business acquaintances each (+10) and add that to the Bride, Groom, Maid of Honour, Best man (+4)  and let’s say since we are talking a very small wedding 1 bridesmaid and 1 groom’s man. (+2) (76) So a small wedding can very easily have 77 people to it. (Remember the person officiating.) I see how weddings easily grow past 100 people and thousands of dollars. Anything extravagant pushes the price up.

Families also gather at christenings and other rites of passage and religious rites if your families practice such. There are also in some families actual family reunions that are intended to bring members together. Some can be quite large.

The largest gatherings aside from a few of the weddings have been  my Father’s parent’s 50th anniversary and my Grandparents’ funerals.

Sadly funerals are one time drawing families together where they might  stay in touch a while before and after the event — perhaps even more so than weddings or other events.

I know that many people dread family gatherings for their own reasons — some younger folk perhaps because they might find them boring — others because of complex family issues and stress caused by them — but sometimes it might be worth going to if you have any interest in hearing family history. It would be interesting if there were more time to take advantage to talk to more family, to hear more family stories. Great-uncles and great-aunts might have the most interesting stories to relate about grandparents and even great-grandparents.

Perhaps having an interest in heritage and family history have increased the value I place in living history and gathering it. I wish I knew more of our family stories, but my grandparents and Father have passed on — luckily I can still talk to my Mom and other relatives.

Family reunions like anniversaries and planned reunions might not happen in some families so the ones planned around weddings and funerals hold a definite purpose. Perhaps there’s reason to hold a secondary specific reunion dinner or event just to get together without the pressure of that other event which brought folks together.

People are important.

You are heritage.

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