Friday, November 25, 2011

The 1912 Hudson Touring Car

The latest car featured in our Motoring Series is the beeeeautiful Hudson touring car made in 1912. I love this motorcar especially because it reminds me of that wonderful Antique Freeway miniature car ride at Cedar Point. Although, those were little Cadillacs and oddly enough looked nothing like this.

The Antique Cars of Cedar Point Amusement Park
Hudson was a popular Detroit based motor car company which operated from 1909 to 1954, at which time it was merged with Nash to form American Motors ( a wonderful car company if I say so myself ). The name Hudson came from Joseph L. Hudson, founder of Hudson's department store who gave the neccesary capital to eight Detroit businessmen to create The Hudson Motorworks, a company which would produce automobiles UNDER $1,000 to sell to the mass market.

Hudson sold 4,000 of the 4,508 units they made of their very first car, The Hudson Twenty in their first year of business. Their sales increased the next year and in 1912 they released this beautiful touring car, which had a list price of $1,600. Quite affordable for a touring car of that time. It could carry 5 passengers and had 25.6 horsepowers. It came in some spiffy looking color schemes too.

Hudson was always ahead of their time and came up with a number of firsts in the auto industry too, such as a dashboard oil pressure guage, generator warning lights, and duel brakes. We'll cover more Hudsons in the near future because there are alot of them worthy of mention.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sundial Compass

The sundial compass was a unique and clever instrument conceived in the early 17th century. It simply consisted of a mechanical compass with a sundial affixed to it, but being "pocket" sized it was used in the same convienent way as having a pocket watch and GPS navigational device today. Something your every-explorer of the 1600s probably didn't have with them.

John Smith demonstating his compass

Edward Wright - a mathematician - had developed the "sea ring" in 1610, a magnetic compass with a universal dial attached on top, which gave mariners an opprotunity of determining TIME and PLACE at the same time. By the mid-1600s these "sundial compasses" were gaining popularity throughout Europe and many variations were invented by French, German, Dutch, and later English designers.

The most popular known sundial compass today is called the "equinoctial" compass, and was first brought to use around 1630. It looks like a pocket watch with a compass at its base while a folding lid containing the Gnomon ( the blade ) and the clock dial lays atop. This is a standard compass that can be used anywhere within the latitude range of Canada to Mexico. Although, if an explorer was to travel more southernly or northernly they would need to make some adjustment to the angle of the blade before they'd get an accurate time reading. Even in the standard range, adjustment has to be figured depending on the time zone you are in. Otherwise your "clock" can be off by a few minutes to more than an half hour.

On second thought, maybe just carrying a pocket watch and a compass would be a smarter choice for the modern mariner.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Age of the Naturalist

During the 1700s explorers were travelling across unknown territories and charting the oceans, and during their quest for new lands and people they came across many unusual animal and plant species. Although many of these early explorers reported details of these strange and wonderful new wildlife it was not until the late 18th century that naturalists began explorations with the sole purpose of gathering scientific information. This thirst for knowledge on all the wonderful creations in God's kingdom was the beginning of the Age of the Naturalist.

Bates catching Birds
One of the first of these naturalist explorers was Joseph Banks. One Captain Cook's 1768 voyage to explore the Pacific Ocean, Banks went along to study the animal and plant life and what he returned with was a large collection of specimens....notably Australian butterflies.

Another more famous butterfly enthusiast was Henry Bates, who during his years in the South American jungles, discovered over 8,000 new insect species, 600 of which were butterflies. he kept maticulus records of all the species he found, numbering and illustrating them in watercolor in the journals he took with him.

Word of the exploits of these amatuer naturalists soon spread, and shortly therafter butterfly collecting became a popular hobby among the average Victorian. Men and woman of all ages purchased supplies, nets, cases, journals and hundreds of little pins and began exploring the wilderness of their backyards and local parks in search of rare and unusual species to pluck and frame on their wall. Societies for the advancment of this field flourished too, especially in colleges and universities.

Today, nature advocates would scorn the practice of cloroforming and blantantly displaying the bodies of dead insect and other crawly specimens on a bedroom wall, although at the time it was deemed quite a "civilized" thing to do.

Von Humboldt and Bonpland
Here are some links to Daniel and Lina Beard's American Girls and Boys Handy Books that tell you how to go about doing this ( studying and preserving plant and animal specimens that is ). See I obviously have no qualms about preserving dead bugs.

Practical Taxidermy - Chapter XXV - What to Do and How to Do It

How to Make a Herbarium - Chapter III - New ideas for Out of Doors

A Land and Water Aquarium and How to Stock a Vivarium - Chapter VII - The Field and Forest Handy Book

Wild Flowers and their Preservation - Chapter VIII - American Girls Handy Book

In 1831, the British Royal Navy sent the ship The Beagle to the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans and onboard was a naturalist who was to become one of the most famous of his generation and those to come - Charlies Darwin. This young 22 year old amateur naturalist found many unusual insects and small animals to study, and years later used these to help form his theories of evolution.

The HMS Beagle

Naturalist explorers had to penetrate the most inaccessible areas of their quest for new plants. Botanists Alexander Von Humboldt and Aimee Bonpland camped for months in the jungles of South America studying, naming and recording the plants they had found. They enjoyed the thrill of adventure with the excitement of scientific discovery and many of them became rich on their discoveries.

Now Alfred Wallace on the other hand travelled the world for years and years, but wealth and fame was not what he was after...he wished to prove the theories of his good friend Darwin : that Man, in his present form, had evolved through thousand of years just as other plants and animals had.

Whether or not Darwin's theory was proven true, one thing is for sure....the Lord made an infinitely great amount of living creatures, each so very beautiful in their own unique way...and yet - of all of his creatures - MAN has been the only one endowed with the spirit of Adventure and the thirst for Knowledge to the origin of his whereabouts and of his present surroundings. This spirit of Discovery is still alive today, though alas it may not be as popular as it was during that wonderful Age of the Naturalist ( 1823 - 1919 ).

Alfred Wallace, Naturalist

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Ballad of the Tempest

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep.
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

'Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, "Cut away the mast!"

So we shuddered there in silence,--
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with death.

As thus we sat in darkness
Each one busy with his prayers,
"We are lost!" the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
"Isn't God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?"

Then we kissed the little maiden,
And we spake in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbor
When the morn was shining clear.

James T. Fields

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Dawn Patrol ( 1938 )

" They roared through the dawn...with death on their wings! "

Yes indeedee, rip-roaring action abounds in The Dawn Patrol! Where Errol Flynn walks, how can adventure help but follow?

It's 1915. In central France the 39th Aerial Squadron is losing men like flys to enemy fire. Major Brand's ( Basil Rathbone ) nerves are shattered as he recieves orders each day to send mere boys to the skies to face their death.

Amateur aviators fresh out of school, all eager to soar into the heavens to shoot down a gerry, come to the squadron regularly. Naive and blindlessly brave they boast of what they'd do if they recieve their flying orders. But the "old hands" Captain Courtney and Lt.Scott ( Errol Flynn, David Niven ) know better. It's no easy game. With out-dated aircraft and a well-trained enemy on your tail at every moment it's a face-off to the death.

They eye Major Brand with hatred burning in their hearts, knowing any one of these boys might be sent next, and without experience what chance had they of surviving?

" You know what this place is? It's a slaughterhouse, and I'm the butcher! "
Major Brand

When Brand gets transferred to duty though, and Courtney gets selected as his replacement, he finds what it feels like to be in the Major's boots : very dirty. And those who were once his friends, are now giving him the evil eye as well.

"The Dawn Patrol " was released in 1938 to critical acclaim, not only for its outstanding aerial photography of the dogfight scenes but for it's strong focus on the men who fought these hawk-like battles. AND the agony a commanding officer goes through when he must carry out orders from "higher up" knowing the steep price it costs on human lives...lives he personally knows.

Basil Rathbone is excellent as Major Brand, and Errol Flynn is as powerful ( and charmisic ) as ever as Captain Courtney. The comradery between all the actors is wonderful to watch. As the film progresses we come to know these men and feel the tension they do too, wondering....who will be next to take to the sky?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The 100th Bomb Group Headquarters Restaurant

The 100th Bomb Group Headquarters was a picturesque restaurant and gathering place located at Brookpark Road in Fairview Park, Ohio. I have alot of wonderful memories of going there and since Veterans Day is tomorrow, I feel like meandering down memory lane. Or in other words...indulging in some wordy warbling.

My mother is a structural engineer for NASA Glenn Research Center and she has been working there since 1985, when it was originally known as The Lewis Research Facility. ( Astronaut and senator John Glenn is from Ohio, hence the honorary name change ).

The research center is located just about 2 miles from where we live and it is adjacent to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Both of which are across the street from the 100th Bomb Group.

Entrance to N.A.S.A Glenn Research Center

Many times when we were growing up we'd go with our father to the Bomb Group HQ to meet our mother for lunch, as a special treat. And I really loved those outings because they transported me back in time and were always on typical "Avengers" like days. English weather that is...grey skies, trees bare, a cold nip in the air, and yet beautiful sunshine pouring in. My mother would leave for work around 9:30am and then at 11:30am we'd head over to the HQ and park the car at the dirt pathway just before the entrance to get a good view of the jets soaring overhead while we waited for her to arrive.

The 100th Bomb Group is owned by Speciality Restaurants Corp. who have a number of WWII themed restaurants throughout the U.S. The 94th Aero Squadron is a popular one in Columbus. Each of them are usually in front of an airport so as you are eating you can see the underbelllies of those mighty mechanical birds of the sky fly by.

This restaurant in particular was marvelous because it was styled after the architecture of a French country estate. One side of the restaurant ( the patio ) was completely roofless because it was BOMBED sometime prior to when the Allies took it over as a Base HQ. Outside, were P-57s and a couple of army jeeps as well as one of those lovely Dodge WC-54s ( see below post ). Inside, the restaurant had stucco walls and was decorated with WWII photographs, letters, and memorabilia of the past. 1940s favorites played on the radio and waitresses were dressed in the style of the period too.

2nd Lt. Kenneth Dille's crew of the 100th Bomb Group

Obviously, the "theme" of the restaurant was more memorable than the food, but I do recall their toasted parmesan cheese buns - their speciality bread. The 100th Bomb Group restaurant was demolished 6-7 years ago to make room for the incoming jets due to a change in their flying path. It was rebuilt entirely down the street at 22100 Brookpark Road, but it isn't at all the same. The new one looks...well, NEW. And it's twice the size of the original, loosing it's "cozy" atmosphere. Oh dear, looks like these short little memories are all that remain of the original. I couldn't even find a single picture of it online. Guess one never thinks about taking pictures of restaurants until they are no longer there!

The 94th Aero Sqaudron Restaurant of Columbus

Friday, November 4, 2011

The World War II Ambulance - The Dodge WC54

Driving those who needed medical attention through rough and rugged war-blown terrain needed a rough and rugged ambulance...and the Dodge WC54 3/4 ton truck was the vehicle of choice for the United States Armed Forces. Over 250,000 were made between 1942-1945, and of these 22,000 were ambulances.

These sturdy trucks weighed 5,900 lbs and were capable of travelling up to 54 mph ( for a truck like that during the war, that wasn't too bad ). But at 8MPH they sure were gas gugglers!

American Red Cross Medical Students practicing moving patients
in Dayton, Ohio 1942
 Dodge Corporation had previously made the 1/2 ton WC9, WC18, and WC27 ambulances for use during the war, but it was the WC54 that became the most popular, and was used throughout Europe and the Pacific, safely rescuing thousands of injured soldiers from the battle front.

Women ambulance drivers posing besides Wc54s

The trucks were built at Dodge's Mound Road plant in Detroit, Michigan and then were delievered as a chassis/cab with the trunk, radiator front windscreens and doors intact, to Wayne Works of Richmond, Indiana from whence they recieved their picturesque steel-panelled body. They measured 192 inches in length ( 16 ft ), and were powered by a six-cylinder gasoline engine.

Today, WC54s can be seen at Military Transport automobile gatherings and military museums, as well as in movies and television, notably in M.A.S.H and Patton.

The olive-drab colored WC54 on display

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

"But war starts at midnight!! "
Poor Colonel Blimp.... he just doesn't understand. Times have changed Blimp old-boy; your adversary will no longer play by the rules. A piece of paper on "conducts of war" will not hold back an army of embittered patriots striving to regain the esteem ( and fear ) of the world for their crippled nation. Hitler wants Lebensraum for his Bundes-Republik, whether a little nation like Britain approves or not. And outdated theories on how war should be fought are not going to protect jolly ol' England.
" Clive, if you let yourself be defeated by them just because you are too fair to hit back the same way they hit you, there won't be any methods but Nazi methods. If you preach the rules of the game, while they use every foul and filthy trick against you, they'll laugh at you. " explains Herr Kretchmar-Schuldorff, " This is not a gentlemen's war. This time you are fighting for your very existance, against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain. Nazism. " 

Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy is the title character in this fictional war biography from two of the most creative masterminds in film history : Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell ( Black Narcissus, I Know Where I'm Going! ).

Colonel Blimp was originally a cartoon by David Low, featuring incidents about a bald-headed, red faced buffoon of a colonel and his old-fashioned political notions. It was decided that this popular comic would be a very good main character for a film, and so Emeric Pressburger weaved a wonderful story around this pompous walrus and out came the script, " The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp".


The story begins in the current year, 1942. A group of army soldiers are preparing for a routine war simulation exercise. Colonel Blimp ( Roger Livesay ) is in charge of the 'Defense of London', and must have his men ready for "WAR BEGINS AT MIDNIGHT". Now, the opposing "army" discuss amoung themselves.. "The Nazis will not wait for war to be officially declared so why should we? Let's strike early!" And strike they do, promptly plopping Blimp in his bath, which happens to be a pool of retrospection for the benefit of us viewers.

We follow Wynne-Candy from his youthful days as a decorated British officer in the Boer War, to his middle aged years of hunting wild animals, to being a Brigidier in France during WWI, to the present times as a Major-General for the Home Guard - a retrobutive position he took to prove his worth, after the Army declined him a position in the military.

Ah! But lets not forget the romantic interest in this movie - Deborah Kerr. She plays three different roles in three different eras, each one representing the ideal image of English womanhood. Clive meets the first portrayal from Ms.Kerr ( as Edith Hunter ), when she notifies him of the anti-British propeganda a scoudral named Kaunitz is spreading in Berlin. Later, at a restaurant there, they intentially antagonize him and Clive must attend a 6am duel to defend his honor. His opponent, Theo Kretchmar-Schuldorff ( Anton Walbrook ), is a master swordsman and the outcome of this stunt is a draw. While they are both recouperrating in a nursing home for two months they become good friends, even though Schulldorf can only say "very much" and not very much beyond that. Miss Hunter is also a frequent visitor, because the British government thought it be better for international relations, to make her the cause of the duel. It is not until Schulldorf announces his engagement to Miss Hunter, that Clive realizes he was in love with her too, and throughout his life he tries to find another like her. Which he does - or so he thought.


Production on "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" began in late 1942. After four months of filming under "blitz" conditions, an expense of 1,000,000 pounds, and having beared a watchful eye from the government ( Prime Minister Winston Churchill tried to prevent the movie from even being made ), it was released in 1943 and recieved praiseworthy reviews from the critics.
Much of its original 163 minutes of footage was cut to 93 minutes for its overseas distribution because of its disheartening image of British military prowress ( Daily Mail wrote, " We cannot afford to put out a burlesque figure like this screen version of Colonal Blimp, to go round the world as a personification of the regular British officer " ), and its sympathetic German character.

Luckily, today it can be viewed in its entirety on the beautiful two-disc Criterion Collection edition loaded with supplementary material ( what a great company Criterion is! ). You can marvel at the sensous Technicolor and the crystal-clear detail of this transfer. Jack Cardiff, a long time collaborater with Pressburger and Powell, did a magnificent job on the cinematography, so fortunately none of that footage was lost, as is the case with some other films.

Cable television does not air this movie often, so its no surprise that it is relatively unknown in the United States. Nevertheless, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is a magnificent film and deserves all the recognition it can get. I like this movie "very much".

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lady Elizabeth Butler, Military Painter

Elizabeth Sotherden Thompson, Lady Butler ( 1846-1933 ) is often considered one of the greatest battle painters in British history. She had never witnessed a battle in person and yet she was able to capture on canvas what many of her male counterparts had failed to - the common soldier. The spirit and the glory of the life of a soldier she portrayed with such colorful fervor, as well as the savagery of battle and the pathos of war that he had to endure.

One of her most widely reproduced works The Remnants of an Army is singularly bleak and inglorious. It depicts the lone survivor of the 1842 massacre of British troops near Kabul, Afghanistan. A weary horse bearing its exhausted rider upon its back stumbles half dead returning to the dusty outpost from whence they came.

Alice Maynell, a poet and essayist ( and Lady Butler's sister ) claimed that "she has done for the soldier in art what Rudyard Kipling has done for him in literature - she has taken the individual, seperated him, seen him close and let the world see him ".

And the world did indeed she him, for Lady Butler created a large body of work which exists in museums and private collections around the world. So many beautiful paintings in fact, that one could chronicle the history of the 19th and 20th century British warfare through them.

Lady Elizabeth Butler was the daughter of an eccentric of independant means. Her mother was a gifted woman of the arts, with a talent for painting and singing.  Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, she studied art as a child and at the age of 20 went to England to pursue her love of painting at the Female School of Art. It was while touring a gallery in Paris, and seeing numerous scenes of military battles painted in oil, that she decided that portraying War and its heroic soliders, in all its aspects, was what she wanted to do.

Floreat Etona! Two Eton boys at the Battle of Laing's Nek

Victorian romanticisim of the British Empire was at its height and with her first major painting - The Roll Call - she became a celebrity known throughout Europe not only for her skill with the brush but for her good looks as well. It was Major William Francis Butler who managed to capture the lady's heart. They were married in 1877, and she travelled with him throughout the Empire while he served in the British Army, raising their six children in various locations.

Her husband had increasingly disparaging views of the effects of Imperialism upon the natives and decided to retire early and settle with his family in Tipperary Ireland where he became a strong sympathizer with the Catholic emancipation and Irish independance movements. Although Lady Butler shared her husbands views on the role Imperialism played, she continued to paint scenes of the heroism and valor of the British soldier.

" I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism " Lady Butler
The GLORY of the soldier is what makes her paintings so this day they stir the soul to excitement. One of her best known paintings Scotland Forever has become a legendary symbol of the Battle of Waterloo. Whether it was accurate or not makes little difference for it captured the thrill of a defending army surging into the very midst of the hell of a battlefield, and it justly deserves its fame as one of the most heroic military paintings ever produced.