The Gilded Age, an HBO Max series, has been well-received. It’s one of my sister Marcia’s favorite shows. “Old New York in the 1880s. Old Money and New Money are the opposites that attract to create a Post Civil War Era New York society.” I haven’t seen it yet.
But I may have to because my church, First Presbyterian, is a filming and production site for the program! The building “will be featured in the opening scene of the second season, and it will also be used as a production and cast holding site throughout the month of August,” according to the church office.
Apparently, the 2022 Capital District is more representative of 19th-century NYC than 21st-century NYC. Preparation for filming began on 1 August, “and related activities will continue through August 25th. We will be able to attend worship on Sundays as we normally would since the production company works only on weekdays. However, access to the building during weekdays will be restricted to the production company and church staff in order to observe strict COVID-19 protocols.”
No closeup for me
I had seen the casting call for extras. “Grant Wilfley Casting is seeking paid actors to play 1880s pedestrians and church-goers. According to the casting call notes, women will be fit for corsets, should have shoulder-length or longer hair and ‘natural’ hair colors only will be allowed. No balayage, undercuts, wigs, weaves, braids, ombre or unnatural looking highlights will be considered. Shaved heads and dreads will also not be permitted.” And no, I didn’t try out.
Costume fittings began on June 27, and all background actors had to “attend a costume fitting and mandatory COVID-19 testing before filming. Extras must also be up-to-date with all COVID-19 vaccinations as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The casting company reports that background actors will be paid $60 for COVID testing, $30 per two hours for fittings, and $165 per 10 hours for filming.” And you thought show biz was glamorous.
“The Gilded Age filmed sections of its first season around Troy, New York, completely transforming the city. The TV series is a period drama that follows the millionaire titans of New York City in the 1880s, including Marian Brook, an orphaned daughter of a Union general, and a ruthless railroad tycoon named George Russell. Played by Louisa Jacobson, Marion moves into the New York City home of her wealthy, old money aunts, played by Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon.”
During the second week of production, “a team of horses pulling a carriage went up on the sidewalk forcing an actor to fall. But she was not hurt, and production resumed.
It occurred to me that I’ve written a few times about my paternal grandma Agatha Green. For instance, here and here and especially here. I am reminded that she was born 120 years ago on July 26.
I’ve written far less about my maternal grandma Gertrude Williams, born August 10, 125 years ago. I think it’s because my relationship with her was more… complicated. She was born Gertrude Elizabeth Yates, daughter of Edward Yates and Lilian Bell Archer. For the longest time, even my mother believed she was born in 1898. I always remembered it because it was the year of the Spanish-American War.
Then one day in the mid-1960s, she went to register to vote. Unwilling to lie to a government official, she confessed her true age.
I thought Gert grew up in the house my mother always lived in until mom got married. But in the 1905 New York State Census in Binghamton, NY, she lived at 53 Sherman Place, a street razed c. 1960 to build a park near 45 Carroll Street. By 1910, she lived at 13 Maple Street with her parents and her younger siblings, Edward, Ernest, and Adina, or Deana as everyone called her. Gert had an older sister who had died before she was born.
In March 1912, her father died. Yet, in July of that same year, her mother Lillian married a guy named Maurice Holland, a guy from either Texas or Mexico, depending on which subsequent Census you believe.
In the 1920 Census, the household was Harriet Archer (Lillian’s widowed mother), Lillian, Maurice, and Lillian’s four children. Gert, now 22, was working as a maid.
My mom enters the picture
Gertrude married a guy named Clarence Williams around 1927, and they had a child named Gertrude. (She will hereafter be referred to as Trudy to avoid confusion.) And they had a second child, who did not live long and died in early 1929.
In the 1930 Census, the household consisted of Lillian and Maurice; Gertrude, Edward, and Deana, Ernie having moved out; a nephew of Lillian named Edward Archer, 17; and my mother Trudy, 2. Here is a picture of Gert with her mother, sister, and daughter.
But where’s Clarence? Fuzzy gossip suggested that Lillian and maybe even Harriet (d. 1928) drove him away. I never got the real story. Gert is 32 and working as a servant.
By the 1940 Census, the residents were Maurice (Lillian d. 1938), Gert, Edward, Deana, and Trudy. Gert only had a 6th-grade education, and she was working as a housekeeper.
My sister has many undated pictures of people visiting 13 Maple Street, eating in the not-very-large backyard. So it was some sort of cultural mecca. What was THAT all about?
I’ve just seen the 1950 Census
It shows Edward, 47, as head of household, naturally(!), because he was the eldest male; he was a truck driver. Adenia, 42, was a stitcher. Gert, 52, was now listed as separated from Clarence (d. 1958) and not working outside the home. Trudy, 22, is a shipping clerk. She married Les Green, 23, on March 12, 1950; he was a cleaner doing remodeling work.
Eventually, in 1950, my parents-to-be moved into 5 Gaines Street, about six blocks away. It was owned by Gert and presumably her siblings.
I enter the picture
I was born in 1953. In 1958, when I was going to kindergarten, I was supposed to attend Oak Street School. Since my mother worked outside the home, at McLean’s department store, it was determined that 13 Maple Street would be my school address so that I could go there at lunch and after school, tended to by Gert and Deana. Ed had moved out by then.
Deana was cool. We’d play 500 rummy and Scrabble. I taught her canasta, which Grandma Green had shown me.
Gert was a pain. She would tell stories, but it was difficult following them or believing how much, if any, was true. She would indicate that we should not go near this person, who turned out to be a relative. Worse, she forbid her adult daughter and us to see her brother Ed because he was living with a woman, Edna, who was not his wife. After Ed died in 1970, my strongest memory was of Gert and Edna crying on each other’s shoulders at the funeral.
There were “bad men” lurking in the Oak Street underpass, we were told. The boogie man existed. When I washed the dishes, which I did at home regularly, she told me I shouldn’t because it wasn’t manly. This was one of the several times that Deana said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!” When Deana died in 1966, I was devastated.
My mother was in a tug-of-war between her mother and her husband, which I alluded to here. Dad clearly did not like Gert. One time, we were having dinner, and someone asked Gert if she wanted some peas. She said, “I’ll have a couple.” My father put two peas on her plate. It was shocking and bite-your-lip funny and may explain why I can be such a literalist.
Mom’s first cousin Frances Beal, Ernie’s daughter, tells a Gert story here, in the fifth paragraph from the end.
When my parents and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC, it became clear to everyone except Gert that Gert needed to move down with her daughter and son-in-law. She had a coal stove, which required going to the basement to shovel the coal into pails and carry it up rickety steps. I did this a lot as a kid, which I oddly enjoyed.
It was the task of sister Leslie and me to take Gert to Charlotte. She railed against it. Where would she get stockings? “They sell stockings in North Carolina.”
She lived in Charlotte until she died on Super Bowl Sunday in 1982. She was cremated in Charlotte but buried at Spring Forest Cemetery in Binghamton, less than 100 meters from 13 Maple Street.
I did love Gert, I believe. But I didn’t always like her.
The Chautauqua Institution, 17 miles northwest of Jamestown in southwest New York State, has been, since 1874, “a community of artists, educators, thinkers, faith leaders and friends dedicated to exploring the best in humanity. Whether it’s your first time visiting or your fiftieth, our promise is the same: Wisdom will be gleaned. Memories will be made. Life will be enriched. Positive change is your charge.”
For instance, week 7, August 6-13, was Interfaith Lecture Theme: Home: A Place for Human Thriving. “‘Home is where the heart is’ is a sentiment that has been repeated for over a hundred years, known to mean where our loved ones are. In reality, it is also the place wherein ‘family’ in many forms and contexts is created, wherein each member can thrive if the nurturing elements of shelter, security, caring, nutrition, and felt love are present. In this week, we will look at the essentiality of ‘home’ from multiple perspectives and insights and perhaps to see more clearly into our own lives and histories.”
I know many people IRL who have attended CI multiple times and were refreshed by the experience. It was a place my wife and I thought to travel this summer, except that plans for sending the daughter to college were more complicated than anticipated.
Kelly, who’s been to Chautauqua Institute, wrote of the assailant about “a learned hatred in service of a small god.” Quite accurate. “I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea of God–a being so vast and powerful as to be able to create the entire Universe–nevertheless being apparently so thin-skinned as to be offendable by anything some being says, thinks, writes, or does down here on Earth.”
Hate does not take a vacation
This. Warner Bros. Discovery Condemns Threats Against J.K. Rowling Made in Wake of Salman Rushdie Attack. “The Harry Potter author received a death threat on Twitter after showing her support for Rushdie.”
Add to this all the threats of political violence, particularly in the United States. WAY back in October 2021, Rachel Kleinfeld documented the phenomenon.
“From death threats against previously anonymous bureaucrats and public-health officials to a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor and the 6 January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, acts of political violence in the United States have skyrocketed in the last five years. The nature of political violence has also changed. The media’s focus on groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Boogaloo Bois has obscured a deeper trend: the ‘ungrouping’ of political violence as people self-radicalize via online engagement.”
Worse, “ideas that were once confined to fringe groups now appear in the mainstream media. White supremacist ideas, militia fashion, and conspiracy theories spread via gaming websites, YouTube channels, and blogs, while a slippery language of memes, slang, and jokes blurs the line between posturing and provoking violence, normalizing radical ideologies and activities.”
In the past week, I’ve read or watched The Hill: “Pro-Trump backlash to FBI search fuels concern over political violence.” PBS News Hour: “Assessing threats of political violence and rising extremism on the far-right.”
And The Atlantic: What Comes After the Search Warrant? Why August 8 may become a new hinge point in U.S. history. “This country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary.
“Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power… I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.“
Rafia Zakaria wrote an opinion piece on CNN: Salman Rushdie has risked his life for decades; US must stand up against censorship, too. “The horrendous attack on Rushdie, an author who has been a champion for free speech and intellectual freedom by putting his life on the line, should be a lesson to the people of his chosen country. Stifling freedom of expression isn’t justified — whether it’s the extreme action of an ayatollah condemning an author to death for his work or book bans by zealots who believe that America can only be made ‘great’ again by furthering the cause of white supremacy.”
I must admit that I’m very nervous. The only good news is that maybe global warming will do us in first. (Too cynical?)
White Southern Evangelicals Are Leaving the Church
How the Central Warehouse became Albany’s albatross. Chunks of the building facade fell onto railroad tracks, disrupting Amtrak service running west of Albany for four days. Check out a Flickr photo album of the building.
NYS Health Department says hundreds of people may be infected with the polio virus. Polio? WTH.
Adults ages 50 and older infected with COVID-19 are 15 percent more likely to develop shingles within six months of the diagnosis than people who weren’t infected, according to a 2022 study published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases. That likelihood increases to 21 percent among older people hospitalized due to COVID.
Why You Should Put on Sunscreen Before You Go On Vacation
I guess I don’t know what WOKE means. An article entitled Et Tu, Brute? Cracker Barrel’s Menu Goes Woke is about the restaurant recently announcing that “it is including artificial meat in its menu, thus annoying its conservative customers.”
You Shouldn’t Store Leftovers in Your Hotel Mini Fridge
Why 1984 Debuted in 1983 and The Danger of Posting Selfies and How to Sell a Stolen Plane and Why Winnie the Pooh Makes for a Bad Soldier? and How a Ouija Board Can Protect You from a Lawsuit and How to Mint Extra Tips? and How to Feed Your Penguin
1. What’s the best beach or lake day you can remember?
I had torn the nail of the big toe of my left foot when I was about 12. The family went down to Jones Beach, on the south shore of Long Island. I’m not much of a beach person, but I did wade in the water. The saltwater did a remarkable job in healing the nail.
2. Describe your ideal picnic lunch
I’m pretty flexible. Bread that you tear apart. Cheeses of various types. Fried chicken and deviled eggs -the mother and child reunion. Lemonade. Grapes.
3. What flowers are in your bouquet?
Tulips, which we planted one very warm December 1. Lilacs: we had a bush next to our house growing up. Beyond that, whatever.
4. Silly ways to pass the time during a snowstorm
Whatever “silly” things one could do are not coming to me. If I’m snowed in and have things to read and, ideally, some music, I’m fine. With the right people, I’d play cards and/or board games.
When we were on our honeymoon vacation in Barbados in 1999, we could dine at one of three or four establishments as part of our all-inclusive package. All of the food was fabulous.
7. How many layers to your ice cream sandwich?
Sandwich, ice cream, sandwich. What more does one need?
8. Pretty things, which are faux patent leather
Literally, I have no idea.
9. What is the best way to eat chocolate?
Is there a bad way to eat chocolate? I always thought that fondue was wonderfully decadent.
10. Describe your unicorn’s special magic
The daughter of one of my oldest friends had a large stuffed unicorn. She, the daughter, thought that my daughter ought to have her unicorn. And it became so. Here are my daughter and Uni back in 2010.
11. All the fruits in your fruit salad
Blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, peaches, and mac apples.
12. Describe the soil, grass, trees, flowers, and rocks in your magical forest.
I think we started with perfectly fine soil, grass, et al., but we’re wrecking it.
13. The lyrics which move you the most are:
NUMEROUS. Here are the first that came to mind:
And I need you more than want you And I want you for all time – Wichita Lineman by Jimmy Webb
14. What are the best sauces in the world?
Hollandaise, sweet and sour, and marinara are the first to come to mind; there are probably plenty of others.
15. Write a haiku about nature
Climate change is real. Droughts, fires, floods, catastrophes. We must act right now. [Yes, I checked: fire can be one syllable or two]