Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween at the Sutton Museum

150 happy children and a small museum - Halloween's Pumpkin Art in Sutton

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg
When Richard Leclerc took over as administrator of Sutton's museum he probably thought that this would be a job of ease and relaxation. This, after all, is a small town and there are no Dinosaurs rising up in the middle of the night to wreak havoc. However, since he has been there, the museum has become a lively and interesting place, exhibitions change, interactive events have been created and the last in this series of changes was evident on Thursday morning when 150 school children invaded the museum to take part in this year's Pumpkin judging contest.
More than 70 beautifully crafted pumpkins are presently on display and shall stay until the final judging is over on Sunday. Kids under 18 can write in their favorites and adults are asked to make a $ 5.- donation to the museum when casting their ballots. There are prizes galore to be won, the biggest one being a Montreal Canadian's sweater autographed by Emile "Butch" Bouchard.

 This event is being sponsored by a number of local merchants which have founded an initiative "Buy Local Sutton". I.G.A. has donated the pumpkins, the Sutton mountain group has given money, so has the local cheese shop "Rumeur Affame", the pharmacy of M. Milot, Lynda Graham's "Vert le Mont" B&B. the "Chocolaterie Belge", the local fashion shop "Rendezvous de la Monde" and others.

"Three more days of this" for museum director Richard Leclerc who seemed to revel in entertaining his young charges.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Renaissance of the Wrist Watch

Wrist Watches - Not Just for Time-keeping Any More

by Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

They call them "wrist candy", advertisements speak of "bespoke alligator bands" and they have become the newest status symbol of the rich and famous - often the-bigger-the-better, even for the ladies. The wristwatch is back with a vengeance.
Where I come from it is tradition to receive your first wrist watch as a confirmation gift from your Catholic sponsor. Mine was my grandfather, and my gift was a 16 jewel wind-up Omega. I was eight years old and for the past 56 years mechanical and later electro-mechanical watches have held a great fascination for me, so much so that I now own approximately 300 of them. I have been able to maintain all but about two dozen in well-oiled, cleaned condition, and I wear one of them every day.
To this day the mechanical watch, either pocket or wrist, remains the finest micro-mechanical achievement of mankind, which explains the renewed fascination of the affluent with names like Rolex, Omega, I.W.C, Vacheron & Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling, and TAG Heuer. Some timepieces take a group of master craftsmen a year or more to create, and every year improvements are made in a form called "complications." Complications are moon faces, additional dials, even musical movements, all in a machine the size of an Oreo cookie...
A wind up watch or its "automatic" brother will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 parts, driven by a mainspring which transmits its power through a train of gears to the hands. It is regulated by a balance spring (or hairspring) which oscillates and activates a lever with two pallets which will engage and disengage the power train in precise intervals to  control the amount of power allowed to flow through the gear train.
A modern balance will oscillate at 18,000 beats per hour. Many upscale watches have movements that will almost double this. Rolex and Omega have movements with 28,000 beats per hour. But even the lowly 18,000 beat per hour Timex will beat 432,000 times every day, or 12.96 million times per month. The tiny balance wheel travels in an average year the distance of 2.3 times to the moon, and therein is the fascination to collectors.
There are two kinds of collectors: the affluent who purchase rare vintage watches mainly as an investment (some specialize in just one brand of watch, or only collect military watches, for example), or people like me who buy the inexpensive watches most people do not want anymore because they now have a reliable Quartz watch and cannot be bothered to wind up the thing every day.
Watches can be found in flea markets, in the glass vitrines of Church jumble sales, or on eBay. Collectors will often buy "a box of watches" and then find out that, out of 25, three work, nine have broken springs, three have busted balance staffs, and at least one has the stem missing or the crystal is so scratched that you cannot see the dial anymore. It's all right. If the price was right, clean up the good ones, put new bands on them, and enjoy.
Most collectors are self-taught watch cleaners and will have a series of case openers to get inside to the movement, and they will know how to finely oil the watch. It takes only approximately 1 cubic mm of oil to completely oil a wristwatch. Over-lubricating will only attract dirt. Even a tiny amount of oil in the geartrain will travel through the train and, eventually, one gear will lubricate another. This is a simplification but often it's enough.
Other than the purely mechanical watches, many will collect electro-mechanical watches. These were actually nothing more than quality gear-driven timepieces, but, instead of a spring, a battery-driven tuning fork does the timing. The finest was the Bulova "Accutron."
Bulova's Accutron watches, first sold in October 1960, use a tuning fork of 360 hertz to drive a mechanical gear train to turn the hands. The inventor, Max Hetzel, joined the Bulova Watch Company of Bienne, Switzerland, in 1948. The tuning fork was powered by a single transistor-driven circuit, so the Accutron qualifies as the first real electronic watch. More than 4 million were sold until production stopped in 1977, and today a functioning one will go for approximately $300 at auction.
Timex was not far behind and started aggressively marketing their Timex "Electric" series through National Geographic and similar magazines. I am very fond of these early Electrics and own many of them. The problem is that the first series Electric had a protruding battery housing on the rear of the watch which can become annoying. (The ladies series was better designed and the batteries were integrated flush.)
So, if this interests you, go start collecting. You may find that part of the joy of this hobby is that you can look up your particular make and model on the Internet, research the history of the watchmakers, and learn about the place where it was made and by whom.

This is truly a timeless hobby, collecting time.

So, why should one read a local newspaper?

  • Res audita perit, litera scripta manet: A thing heard perishes; the written letter remains.
by Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

The old Latin phrase pretty much sums it up: The written letter remains. Think about it how often you have seen one of your friends or relatives bring out a scrapbook with newspaper clippings from the past. There is the wedding announcement of uncle John and his bride Agatha in Barton, the high school reunion pictures or that winning touchdown when your father was 16 years old and they won the pennant. Or the touching obituary of some one's mother, lovingly written by an old friend and preserved forever in the browning pages of the Newport Daily Express or the Barton or St. Jonesbury paper. Those are priceless memories my friends and as the sages of old knew "A thing heard perishes..."
How many news stories that one sees on the TV become important memories? Not many. Which brings me to the above posted question:"Why should one read a local newspaper"?
The answer is manifold but simply put, a local paper, written by local residents and supported by local advertisers is the only true window of today's happenings in that particular community and shall be a valuable tool for future historians, future town planners, able to see successes and failures in the infrastructure of a region as it has developed over time and it will be the timeless chronicle of an era in which we are the current residents, administrators, teachers or preachers, dreamers or criminals.
For the past two centuries the local papers have preserved what no electronic media of today can ever do - it allows us to glimpse into the past through the eyes of those reporters, editors and publishers who had put the paper together, often with thinly masked motifs, political bias or even structured to cater to a favored group of advertisers or religious elements. But even that is a valuable chronicle as we have the benefit of hindsight and can now easily see through those machinations in view of the recorded history of the period. We would not know of the minutiae of life in America through the years of the Civil War, nor understand the vagaries of the local economies which have structured our history and developed our communities to where they are today.
Right here in Newport we have a rich and diversified history and, just for an example, in today's paper (Tuesday, October 22) there is a story about the lumber mills which stood on the site of the Eastside restaurant. The story fascinated me as I am familiar with the place and today I walked the grounds, trying to feel the smell of the steam machinery, see the log rafts or the barges from Prouty Bay to the area behind Waterfront Plaza, envision the rail yard with hundreds of cars laden with lumber. Just this small story demonstrates how valuable our local paper(s) are. For 50 Cents I got an inexpensive history lesson which gave me great pleasure.
But it does not end there. Let us look at the paper as a whole for a moment:
First, it is not a Pulitzer prize winning issue, there are no world class editorials, none of the stories will ever show up in syndication and after this day, few will remember it; Yet the members of the North Country boys cross country team  featured in a photo by Christina Cotnoir on page One will probably keep a copy of the page to show their grand children some day and I assume that the Student Athlete of the week, Ryan Paul, will not discard his picture of page six. The families and friends of Red Lontine Sr., Alfred A. Durocher or Mark Noel Perry will hang on to the obituaries written about their loved ones. Nobody will keep the Vista ad with today's specials but as a lover of a good beef stew, I for one will avail myself of the bottom round stew beef for $ 3.49 per pound while my wife Nancy has cut out the great pork recipes featured on page nine. Of course I already did the crossword puzzle after breakfast and looked at the classified advertisements which still did not have a needed $ 500.- inspected pickup truck but had a job offer for a marina yard laborer. I love boats and even know how to drive any size travel lift to haul them out, but at 65 years of age I doubt they would hire me. And there is always the advertisement "Not Bob's" for the removal of junk cars. I always wonder who "Bob" is or was and what he did to deserve the "Not Bob" moniker. Historians looking at this paper 100 years from now will possibly ponder the same question. Maybe dissertations will be written about it.
Well, I think you got my drift. Just by reading the local paper you become a member of the community as it enriches your experience as a resident, brings you closer to the daily life of the city and the surrounding country and even tells you what is going on, where the good church suppers are and where to get that old car repaired. It explains local doings and planned developments, introduces you to people who do things well and sadly also chronicles the darker side of the community through police and court reports. While many think that it is unnecessary to report those things, it is a proven fact that the threat of being exposed publicly has been a significant deterrent in the case of repeat offenders.
So, remember that you and your community will live on forever in the pages of even this humble paper which  makes it a valuable local resource and future treasure trove!