Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden
October 29, 2017
December 29, 2017
Balboa Park, San Diego

The Japanese Friendship Garden is an oasis of beauty. We have often walked by its entrance, near the organ pavilion in the heart of Balboa Park, but had not been inside it for many years. We very much enjoyed our recent visits, the first on a quiet Sunday afternoon in October, the other just this past week.

The garden is located on a 12 acre plot within the park. It is a “friendship” garden because it symbolizes the bond between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama. The garden displays and celebrates Japanese culture, and uses Japanese gardening techniques with plantings suited to the San Diego climate.

In the upper garden we enjoyed the watercolor paintings displayed in the exhibit house, and we sat a while contemplating the dry stone garden. There is a koi pond in the upper garden, and we encountered more koi in the lower garden. They are large and splendidly colored animals!

The path meanders down into the canyon, from the upper to lower garden areas. Along the hillside we saw azaleas in bloom. There is a long water feature in the lower garden, which starts as a dry waterfall, then segues into flowing water, down to a pond around the Inamori Pavilion on the lower level. The garden is managed so that there are always some plants in bloom. We are looking forward to the cherry blossoms in the spring!

Some of the regular paths are a little steep, but there are alternate paths for wheelchair visitors.

Regular admission is $10; there are discounts for students, seniors, and military. Children under 6 are free. San Diego residents can get in free on the third Tuesday of each month.

There is an open air cafe outside the garden serving rice bowls, sushi, edamame, sandwiches, salads, and a variety of teas as well as other beverages. We ate there on our second visit and enjoyed our food. Since it is outside the garden, park visitors can eat there whether or not they are visiting the garden. Two of Bob’s former students saw him there, and they chatted while we waited in line to order.

Our second visit fell on the same day as the Cotton Bowl, and our middle daughter was in town, so we all put on our Buckeye regalia. In addition to the Japanese Friendship Garden, we visited the Timken and looked at the nativity scenes set up near the Organ Pavilion. (After the park visit, we headed to Mission Beach to hang out with other Buckeye fans and watch the game.)

Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum
December 17, 2018
Santa Ana

We headed north to see the Bowers Museum, which has a large and eclectic art collection. Meredith’s sister Kathleen had suggested visiting it, and after several unsuccessful attempts to find a date in common with her, we decided to see it on our own.

We spent much of our time in two special exhibitions: first we saw Endurance, the Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley, and next we visited Empress Dowager Cixi, Selections from the Summer Palace. We also toured the oldest parts of the museum and looked at the early California collection.

We were fascinated by the Shackleton exhibition. It is built around the stunning photographs and motion pictures taken by expedition photographer Frank Hurley, of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917). The negatives have been newly digitized and show remarkable detail, and his compositions are striking. The museum has laid out the exhibition in chronological order, with brief explanations of the various hardships and twists and turns of the expedition’s journey, illustrated by Hurley’s photos and films. The museum is also screening an hour long documentary about the Shackleton expedition from the first sailing to Antarctica, through the long confinement in the pack ice, the row to uninhabited Elephant Island, the open water journey to South Georgia island, and the trek across that island to the whaling station, where Shackleton finally returned to the outside world. A replica of the boat in which Shackleton sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island, a distance of over 720 nautical miles, is displayed in the courtyard of the museum just outside the restaurant.

The Empress Dowager Cixi (whose name is transliterated Tz’u Hsi in older western texts and pronounced “she she,” we think) was originally an imperial concubine. When her son became emperor as a child, she ruled as regent and continued her regency during the minority of her nephew. In all, she ruled China for nearly five decades, from 1861 to 1908. The special exhibition at the museum has many decorative items from her Summer Palace. The furniture on display includes a beautiful and ornate throne set. There are many beautiful Chinese art works, including some calligraphy and painting done by the empress herself. Beautifully embroidered silk gowns are displayed. Bob’s eye was caught by a large carved tourmaline stone mined in San Diego and exported to China, where it was carved as a decorative object. The Empress was interested in Western technology and art, and her interest is reflected in the collection, with objects such as English table clocks. Meredith enjoyed seeing the 1901 Duryea Surrey automobile which one of the empress’ generals imported from the United States as a gift to her. It had a three cylinder, 10 hp engine and was capable of speeds up to 25 mph.

The Shackleton exhibition runs through January 28, 2018. The Empress Dowager exhibition runs through March 11, 2018.

We had lunch at the museum restaurant, Tangata. Service and food were both excellent. It is somewhat pricey. It can be accessed by the general public as well as museum visitors.

After lunch, we visited the oldest parts of the California collection, the Native American and mission era rooms. The California collection is housed in the oldest part of the museum complex, the original building constructed in the 1930’s. There are some very beautiful woven baskets which Meredith‘s late mother Margaret would have loved. In addition to the artifacts on display, the Segerstrom gallery features a beautiful carved wooden ceiling.

We decided to leave for another day the rest of the museum’s permanent collections, which include such things as California plein air paintings, Mexican ceramics, Pacific Island art and artifacts, Pre-Columbian art, and Chinese and Japanese art.

General admission is $15 for adults on weekends, $13 on weekdays; the Empress Dowager exhibit had an additional entry fee. Students and seniors enjoy discounts, and children under 12 are free with paid adults. The museum is closed on Mondays. Parking costs $6, but is free with restaurant validation. Handicapped access is good. In the modern building, everything is at a level. In the older building, there are some steps down into the Native American room, but it was retrofitted with a wheelchair lift.

Monet in Balboa Park

Timken Museum
Botanical Building
Balboa Park, San Diego
October 8, 2017

We visited the Timken Museum of Art to see a special exhibition, Monet’s Étretat: Destination & Motif. The central items in the exhibit are two Monet paintings on loan from the Metropolitan Museum in New York: Étretat: The Manneporte (Étretat) and The Manneporte near Étretat, painted in 1883 and 1886, respectively. Both feature scenes at Étretat, on the coast of Normandy. There are two other paintings of Étretat on display in that gallery: The Cliffs at Étretat (1890) by William Henry Lipppincott and Sunset, Étretat (1892) by George Inness. The exhibition also includes photos and background materials about Étretat. The exhibition will run through December 31, 2017.

Étretat has a special place in our hearts. In 2000 we took three weeks off work and traveled in Europe with our three daughters, then ages 10-15. We had planned and saved for the trip for many years. As we planned it, we looked through the Michelin guidebook for France. Meredith was taken by a photo of the dramatic limestone cliffs at Étretat, so we added it to our itinerary. The scenery was beautiful and well worth the detour. Seeing the current Timken exhibit, which includes guidebooks from the 19th century and vintage stereoptican photos, we now know we were just part of a long line of tourists stopping there.

We love Monet — who doesn’t? — so when we heard about this exhibit, we figured it was a must-see for us. The Timken is a small museum, and the exhibition takes up just one small gallery, their special exhibition space. But this is the sort of thing the Timken does well — specific focus, quality not quantity.

As we have said before, the Timken is possibly our favorite museum. It is free, for starters. (Do drop a donation in the collection box, though!) The collection is good, and it is a pocket size art museum which is easy to see in a short time. Handicap access is good. Parking is free in the park, but allow for a bit of a walk, or take the parking tram, especially on a weekend.

On our way to the Timken, we stopped to listen to a bagpipe band near the House of Scotland. We took a walk around the center of Balboa Park afterwards, stopping in the Botanical Building by the lily pond (also free).

The San Diego Museum of Art also has a special Monet exhibition Reflections on Monet on display currently, which runs through January 21, 2018. We have not seen it yet, but hope to do so. It features a special viewing of Monet’s 1904 painting Le Bassin de Nympheas.

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
September 27, 2017

We were on a vacation trip to western Massachusetts, where Bob grew up, and decided to take a day trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. We eschewed the bland scenery offered by the turnpike and instead took country highways to get there. The countryside and small towns are beautiful! We did not manage to hit the fall foliage at peak color, but scattered trees had started to change color, and they made for a pretty landscape.

Once inside the museum, we went down to the lower level to watch a 15 minute video overview of Rockwell’s life and career. We then strolled around the gallery on the lower level and looked at over 300 Saturday Evening Post magazine covers. All feature Rockwell cover art. They are arranged chronologically, spanning over 50 years of his work for that magazine. Many of his best-known pieces appeared on the cover of that magazine, and we enjoyed the lesser-known pieces as well. Many are whimsical, others serious and often inspiring. Elsewhere on the lower level several preliminary sketches and paintings are exhibited. These were studies for later finished works. There is also a classroom type space where children can sit and draw. Materials are provided for them.

On the upper level we strolled through several large gallery rooms. There is the permanent collection of Rockwell’s paintings, of course. One of the paintings we liked most was The Marriage License, painted in 1955. It is set in what was then the actual town clerk’s office in Stockbridge – now a Yankee Candle store — and shows a happy young couple watched by a somewhat wistful town clerk. We learned the backstory at the museum. The man in the painting was the actual town clerk at the time, and his wife had died shortly before Rockwell painted the scene.

In the same gallery hangs a vibrant portrait of the young Abraham Lincoln trying his famous murder case, and a Christmas homecoming painting in which Rockwell, his wife, all three of their sons, and various friends are all pictured. We also enjoyed the famous Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes painting done in 1945. The love between them radiates from the painting, as they work together in preparation for the feast.

The museum also has space for special exhibitions. When we visited there was a Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol exhibit, showing similar or same subjects side-by-side, as illustrated by the two different artists. Two different portraits of Jackie Kennedy, for instance, were displayed next to one another, one each by Rockwell and Warhol.

Meredith liked the fanciful and cheerful paintings of Andy Warhol’s nephew, James Warhola. Many scenes from his children’s book Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol were displayed, as was some of Warhola’s cover art from science fiction novels. A piece used for the cover of one of the Spider Robinson Callahan’s Cross-time Saloon books was displayed in the center of the room.

Another room was devoted to showing the process of creating finished illustrations. Several different artists’ work was shown there, including Rockwell’s work for the painting Art Critic, done in 1955. Three different preliminary sketches are shown, for the female face in the painting which is being examined by the critic. They are all very different, but all humorous in one way or another. We can also see how the painting in the background beside the critic changed. Initially Rockwell made it a landscape, but later he changed it to a group of men in Renaissance dress, who seem to be looking at the art critic, as he in turn stares intently at the details of the costume the female figure is wearing in the painting on the left.

The museum grounds are scenic and extensive. In addition to the main building, there is also Rockwell’s final studio, which he used for the last two decades of his career. It was relocated from its location elsewhere in Stockbridge to these grounds, at his request at the end of his life. The studio is arranged and outfitted as it would have appeared in the early 1960s. Books owned by Rockwell and various props and knickknacks furnish the room, and an easel is set up.

Docents give regular talks in the galleries, and we listened to two different docents explain details about several of the paintings displayed. There was also a docent stationed in the studio, available to answer questions.

We enjoyed the experience overall and thought it was well worth a trip. Admission is a little pricey, $20 for the full adult admission. There are discounts for seniors, students, and some others. The museum also offers combination packages with other Berkshire area attractions. Parking is free and plentiful. The museum is handicapped accessible. It has an elevator between the main and lower levels, and walkways on the grounds are paved and slope gently.

There is a museum café, but we did not check it out. Instead, we enjoyed a late lunch at Once Upon A Table back in the center of Stockbridge, next to the Red Lion Inn. Service and food were excellent, and we would definitely go back another time if we are in the area.

Note: to be respectful of copyrights, we have not pulled Rockwell painting images into this post. We have linked to some images on the museum site, and invite you to explore the extensive archives on that site, which include source materials such as photos, as well as the finished paintings.

Paul Simon: Words, Music, and More

Skirball Cultural Center
September 2, 2017
Sepulveda Pass
Los Angeles

Time, time, time
See what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around
Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
— “A Hazy Shade of Winter”

We made it to the Skirball museum for the final weekend of the Paul Simon: Words and Music exhibition. We met up with Meredith’s sister Kathleen who lives in Los Angeles to see it together.

We had prepared ahead of time by listening to lots of Paul Simon’s music the week before, both solo and Simon & Garfunkel recordings. The biggest hits have always been things we listen to fairly often, but it was fun to get reacquainted with some of the songs we hear less often.

Words and Music is a traveling exhibition created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum. The primary special exhibit room at the Skirball was filled with photos, artifacts, and videos. The exterior wall was arranged in chronological order, with thematic displays in the center space. Among the many artifacts were Simon’s very first guitar, which his father bought for him for $50, and three of Simon’s Grammys.

The exhibit spans the entire period of Simon’s career up to today and includes a number of videos in which he reflects on what he was doing during each period, and who and what influenced him. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were classmates in school, met in sixth grade, and started singing together as teens. Near the beginning of the exhibition their very first recording contract is displayed, signed on their behalf by their respective parents. They first performed as “Tom and Jerry,” using the stage names Tom Graph (Garfunkel) and Jerry Landis (Simon), to sound more all-American and not distinctly ethnic Jewish.

There were interesting facts and vignettes throughout. We learned that “Mrs. Robinson” had started as “Mrs. Roosevelt.” Simon was working on the song at the same time the duo was working up the sound track for The Graduate, so the name change was both obvious and convenient.

The Skirball had a related exhibit down the hall called the Music Lab. Several machines were set up in that room, and the visitor could experiment, mixing songs, playing on drum pads, and blending rhythm and vocal tracks. Unfortunately, the museum was quite crowded the day we went, and Kathleen found the cacophony in that room unbearable. Meredith listened through headphones to an interesting video in which Simon described how he writes songs. She then left the lab and wandered off in search of her sister. Bob stayed, tried all the machines in the room, and had a great time.

We ate a late lunch at Zeidler’s, the museum restaurant. When we first stopped by, no tables were available. We headed over to browse the permanent exhibition, which is quite interesting and worthwhile. (The Skirball Center is the Jewish cultural center in Los Angeles. The permanent collection spans over 4,000 years of the Jewish experience, from antiquity to modern America.) Then we headed back to the restaurant. The food was very good, as we have found it to be in the past. Zeidler’s is our favorite restaurant museum, and everyone’s visit to the Skirball should include a meal at it.

Parking at the museum is free and ample. Handicapped access is good. The museum participates in Bank of America’s Museums on Us program. On the first full weekend of each month, Bank of America debit or credit card holders can get in for free.

Labor Day weekend was the end of the Simon exhibit at the Skirball, and it has now closed. The Skirball’s next special exhibitions will be part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA cooperative endeavor. Starting on September 14, Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico will open, and then on October 6, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in LA will open alongside the Brenner exhibit.

Totality!

Total Solar Eclipse
Kingston, Tennessee
August 21, 2017

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1.

Meredith and our middle daughter watched the total solar eclipse from a pontoon boat on the Tennessee River. They saw nearly two minutes of totality, and it was truly wonderful!

Meredith had spent the weekend in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, competing at the US Rowing Association Masters National Championships. She knew months before that the eclipse would fall on the Monday immediately after the regatta, and that Oak Ridge was near the zone of totality, so she made plans to stay on to see it. Our middle daughter is living a few hours drive away so she came down to join the fun. They met up with other rowing friends, one of whom lives in Kingston, Tennessee.

The partial eclipse before and after totality spanned a three hour period, but the total eclipse was just two minutes in the middle. The entire progression was interesting, and increasingly impressive as light dimmed and temperature dropped, but they found that the full eclipse was radically different from the partial phase. The corona was spectacular to see – two big arms of light streamed off to the right in the sky and one arm to the left. Two planets were out and clearly visible in the dark sky. All around the horizon for 360 degrees there was a red sunset-type glow.

As the darkness fell, the cicadas started sounding off loudly, and they subsided a few minutes later as the light came back up. Cormorants, which had been flying about fishing and otherwise active, perched in trees as if it were night. The group of friends sat in darkness of the sort we encounter shortly before dawn or after sunset – definitely dark, but still able to see, not as dark as midnight. As the eclipse passed off and the sun first started to emerge the “diamond ring” effect burst out.

That day was Meredith’s birthday. She had not planned to tell her friends, but our daughter spilled the beans. As the full eclipse began the group on the boat all sang “Happy Birthday.”

The total eclipse experience was dramatic, and although the physical details can be described, it is harder to convey the feelings it evoked. We can understand now why people who have seen one total solar eclipse often seek out others, and we are going to try to see the next mainland US total eclipse, in April 2024.

Author James Fenimore Cooper reflected in later years on the total solar eclipse he saw in 1806:

I have passed a varied and eventful life, … it has been my fortune to see earth, heavens, ocean, and man in most of their aspects; but never have I beheld any spectacle which so plainly manifested the majesty of the Creator, or so forcibly taught the lesson of humility to man as a total eclipse of the sun.

The experience reminded us of a family gathering long ago, when we saw the annular eclipse in San Diego in January 1992. Annular eclipses are less spectacular than total eclipses, because although the moon is completely in front of the sun, the relative distances are such that it does not completely block the sun’s light. This eclipse occurred just as the sun was setting, which made for a very dramatic sight, and San Diego was the only place on land from which the eclipse could be seen. Meredith’s mother Margaret came down from Los Angeles to see it with us. We went with her and our three daughters – ages 18 months to 7 years old at the time – to watch the eclipse from the western edge of the University of San Diego campus. We sat on what was then an athletic field; the Kroc Peace Center building is located there now. (When Meredith and her sister gathered and scanned photos of their mom just after she passed away, we found this photo of Margaret and Bob with the two younger girls.)

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall
Northern England
June 17-24, 2017

We traveled to Scotland and England in June, primarily to see and walk along what remains of Hadrian’s Wall, a World Heritage Site. The emperor Hadrian ordered the wall to be built, to defend the northern border of the Roman Empire in Britain and to regulate trade across it. The legions built it, and Hadrian came to inspect it in 122 A.D. The wall itself was about 73 miles long, stretching from Wallsend in the east to Solway Firth in the west.

The modern Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail is 84 miles long. We walked approximately 30 miles of it, including the central section between Chollerford and Birdoswald. That is the section where the most visible remains of the original wall and the associated fortifications can still be seen. It is also the section with the steepest hills and most dramatic scenery. The trail is well marked with acorn symbols and other signage.

We stayed in the town of Hexham and traveled by local bus (the “AD122” route) out to stops along the wall trail for each day’s hiking.

At first we walked over gently rolling hills. When we reached the Whin Sill rock formation we hiked up and down steep hills for a couple of days. The views were spectacular and well worth the exertion.

After that the terrain once again became more gently rolling hills. All along the way we walked past and through farms, mainly open meadows with flocks of sheep. We often climbed up and over stiles to get into and out of farm fields, and other times walked through “kissing gates.” We occasionally had to walk through cattle pastures. We had one particularly unnerving encounter, edging slowly around a bull and his cows, trying not to get between any cow and her calf.

We were amused by the sheep grazing over and around an ancient temple of Mithras which was located in the middle of their owner’s land. Meredith insisted on getting a photo of one sheep standing by the Mithraic altar; perhaps symbolic of the victory of the Lamb of God over ancient pagan faiths?

The best remains of the wall are in the most inaccessible areas, for the quite practical reason that it was easiest for builders in subsequent centuries to recycle (plunder) stones from the areas of the wall they could reach more easily.

When intact the wall was about 15 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide. Each side of it was built with well cut rectangular stones and mortar; the middle of the wall was filled with rubble – roughly shaped stones — and mortar. Along the wall the Romans built several major forts. In between those large forts they built small forts called milecastles, which were staffed by detachments of 10 to 30 soldiers. Like the large forts, milecastles had gates through the wall. In between the milecastles the Romans built turrets, which were staffed by a couple of soldiers. Those were guard posts which did not contain gates through the wall. In addition to the wall, the Romans dug deep ditches on both sides of the wall, and even where the wall can no longer be seen, the remains of one or both of those ditches is often visible. We saw the ruins of a number of milecastles and turrets as we walked, and here is a photo of Bob at one of them:

We toured what remains of the forts at Wallsend, Chesters, Housesteads, and Birdoswald. There are excellent museums associated with each of those, although unfortunately for us the Birdoswald museum was closed for renovations. We also walked over and around the ruins of the fort at Great Chesters, which is mostly buried under a working farm. There we saw an ancient Roman altar, standing out in the middle of the farmer’s field, covered with modern “offerings” in the form of coins from many different countries.

We were blessed with generally good weather. For the first two days of our hiking the weather was sunny and about 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. We were amused to hear the locals complain about how terribly hot it was; it seemed like normal San Diego weather to us! After that front moved on, the weather stayed partially sunny for several more days but with highs during the day in the mid 60’s; seemed cool to us, but great for hiking. It was windy most days, especially in the afternoons, and we had to be careful not to lose our hats. We had hard rain just one day, the final hiking day when we walked the area around the Birdoswald fort.

We visited museums along the way and will have to write separately about a few of those highlights.

Where the West Is Fun

San Diego County Fair
Del Mar Fairgrounds
June 4, 2017

We headed to the San Diego County Fair on its opening weekend. We always enjoyed going to fairs when we were children. Meredith remembers going with her father to the Barnstable County Fair in Massachusetts and with her grandparents to county fairs in Maine. Bob visited fairs in western Massachusetts, including the Three County Fair in Northampton, the Cummington Fair, and the Eastern States Exposition. When our children were small we took them to the sprawling Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, a splendid and overwhelming experience. Meredith’s mother Margaret entered items in the LA fair a couple of times, winning a blue ribbon for her Seminole jacket back in the 1980’s.

This time we started with the Old West theme exhibit near the entrance, then headed to the infield. We watched the Turkey Stampede, a fun and silly set of turkey races. We strolled through the model farm vegetable beds, then toured the “pollinator” area with a sample bee hive (safely under glass) and a butterfly enclosure. We really enjoyed going in and looking at the butterflies close up!

We opted for our usual (high calorie) fair favorites for lunch: Roxy’s garlic batter fried artichokes and Navajo fry bead, washed down with craft beer in the Paddock area. While we ate, we enjoyed listening to several bluegrass groups performing on the Paddock Stage, particularly a quartet called the Virtual Strangers.

The home arts building was our next stop, and we concentrated on the second floor. Meredith loves the handmade quilts, and it is fun to see what people chose to collect and share. In the fondant cake section we were amused to see a cake with a Star Wars theme, and Meredith sent a photo to her sister, who also loves Star Wars. The polymer bead club had a display table set up and was encouraging passers-by to make beads, which Meredith did.

We went on to the Swifty Swine pig races, which are a must-see for both of us. But who doesn’t love watching piglets run around a track to win an Oreo cookie? Absolutely ridiculous! On the way we wandered through the livestock barns and watched a couple of 4H competitions. After that we walked back to the garden exhibits near the main gate, including both the exterior garden landscapes and the cut flowers displayed inside.

We finished our fair visit listening to Tom Griesgraber playing the Chapman stick on the O’Brien Stage. We first discovered Tom at the fair several years ago, and always try to catch his act if we can.

The fair runs through July 4 this year. We used free offsite parking at the Horse Park, just east of the fairgrounds, and took the shuttle bus to the fair gate. Buses run frequently and get to use a back gate, so that is probably not only the thriftiest but possibly the quickest way to get to the fair. Full price admission is $18 for adults, $11 for seniors and children 6 and over; children 5 and under are free. Several discount deals are available, and the fair website has further information. Handicap access is good; most of the fairgrounds are at ground level, and there are elevators within the buildings.

Snohomish

Snohomish, Washington
May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day we drove with our daughters out in the country a short way from where they live, near Seattle, to visit the historic town of Snohomish. It had been recommended to us by the woman working the visitors center in Lynnwood. We had a perfect day for our outing — sunny and warm.

We walked along First Street, window shopping the antique stores and various boutiques. We then explored several adjacent residential streets, admiring some Victorian era homes. The town’s historical society has a museum, but it was closed, so we admired the building from the outside and went on.

We walked downhill back to the business district. We peered into the old Alcazar Theatre building. Built as a theater in 1892, it was converted to a garage around 1915, and now serves as an antique store. We went on down to the river and strolled back behind the business district, through the lovely riverside park. We watched some rafters who were bobbing along the river, heading rapidly downstream, paddling with little skill but great enthusiasm.

After our walk we ducked into the Oxford Saloon (established 1910) for beers and appetizers before heading back to the girls’ home.

Heritage Park

Heritage Park
Lynnwood, Washington
May 27, 2017

We ventured out from San Diego, and flew north to spend Memorial Day weekend with our daughters who live in Washington State, near Seattle. We brought the California weather with us – sunny and in the 80’s.

Our youngest daughter teases us that our super power is finding a museum anywhere. Bob rose to that challenge. On Saturday we bought sandwiches to go at a local Subway then headed to Heritage Park in the Alderwood area of Lynnwood, a town just north of Seattle. We enjoyed a picnic outside, under a pine next to ferns and moss-covered rocks – things you definitely do not see in Southern California!

After the picnic we explored the historic buildings and small museums located in Heritage Park. At each stop we met and chatted with docents who excelled in both enthusiasm and knowledge. All exhibits offered free admission; we left donations in the various donation jars.

First stop was the Wickers Building, known originally as the Alderwood Manor Main Store. This building was built 1919 and used as a general store for much of its existence, then as a plumber’s shop and finally as an appliance parts store. Like the other Heritage Park structures, it was relocated to this spot; it would otherwise have been demolished to make room for the freeway. Inside the building we chatted with the woman running the visitor center, whose knowledge of Washington State was truly encyclopedic. She seemed to want to plan outings for us for every day of our visit.

We then stepped into the newly opened Northwest Veterans Museum, a one room museum with a good, and varied, display of artifacts in display cases, one case for each major war from World War I to the present. This small museum was run by two knowledgeable volunteers, and they had a plate of delicious homemade cookies on offer. Among the artifacts was a uniform that had belonged to Col. Mary V. Fager, an Army nurse who served from World War II to the 1970’s.

After seeing the Veterans Museum, we went upstairs to tour what had been the apartment space for the Wickers family, who ran the store for several decades. It was furnished with the sort of items they might have had around 1934 when their daughter was born.

Our second stop was Interurban Car 55, the last survivor of six trolley cars that served the Alderwood – Seattle – Everett electric car line from 1910-1939. It was used as a roadside diner for a while after its retirement. It has since been beautifully restored. We looked at the trolley car from a distance; it is fenced off most of the time. A docent who saw us admiring it came out to tell us that there will be an open house on June 10 when visitors can go inside the enclosure and into the car itself. We told our daughter she should plan to go back and see it then.

We then went into the Superintendent’s Cottage, which dates from 1917. This building was the home for the superintendent of the Demonstration Farm, a large hatchery. In 1922 Alderwood Manor, Washington was the second largest egg producer in the nation. Who knew? Inside that cottage there are fascinating sets of “then and now” photos of locations in and around Lynnwood, and also maps of the area over the past century of development. We learned the origin and backstory of several local landmark buildings.

Our final inside visit was to the Humble House, and even though we arrived when it was officially closing, the volunteer on duty insisted we come in. That cottage was built in 1919 and is typical of the farmhouses in the area at that time. The local genealogy society keeps its library in the cottage. We chatted with the woman on duty, who like us has roots in Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts. Together we chuckled a little over the local view that things that date back only a century are “old” – not the frame of reference we have in New England, first settled in the 17th Century, or even in California, with Spanish missionaries founding Mission San Diego in 1769.

Next to Humble House is a gigantic rhododendron. We were impressed with its size and profuse blooms, then later noticed many more large rhododendrons as we drove around. Like the ferns, not something we see much of in Southern California. Funny how well plants grow when you give them some water.

Before we left the park we walked around the Water Tower. This structure, like the Superintendent’s Cottage, was part of the Demonstration Farm. It has been relocated but not yet restored. There is no water tank on top of it, and the interior is not open for visitors. The historical society wants to refurbish it but lacks funds to do so currently.