Wonder

From the comfort of air conditioned automobiles the wonders of the Mojave Desert are viewed much differently today than in the times when names such as Death Valley and Funeral Mountains were chosen for these locations.

A lady meditates amongst the mineral deposits of Death Valley known as Artist’s Palette.

I’m not sure prospectors of olden days spent much time meditating here in the other- world beauty of Death Valley. Recreational communing with nature would have been an unimaginable concept to them I would think. Livelihood if not existence here was tough business. Prospector Jack Keene scratched around the Funeral Mountains without success for some 8 years. But his dogged persistence paid off. He and fellow digger Domingo Etcharren hit pay dirt –gold– on the Death Valley slope of the Funeral Mountains in late 1903. Their 1904 claim was named “Wonder.” Both sold their claim for $45,000. The yield of the mine –gold and silver– was estimated at nearly a million dollars. It was part of the “Bullfrog” lode that created the city of Rhyolite.

The Keane Wonder Mill. The raw ore was deposited here from mine buckets delivered by a tram wire. Ore was crushed then pulverized before the valuable elements were separated mechanically, chemically, by slurry and wash.

Domingo Etcharren went on to buy a store in Darwin. Jack Keane returned to his homeland Ireland where he landed in prison after a sentence of 17 years for killing someone.

In 1908 the mine site had a house, an office building and a cookhouse. There were plans for an ice house as well. By 1909, 50 men were working at the mill and the mine. Work also began on a cyanide mill used for separating gold from rock.

The Wonder Tram.

The mill and tram were powered by gravity. With an elevation drop of 1, 300 feet from mine shafts to mill, loaded ore buckets traveled a descent of about a mile pushed by gravity on a tram wire stretched between eleven towers. The energy generated not only sustained the tram but pumped water, operated an ore crusher and the mill. The self sustaining power concept seems to be a technology applicable today somewhere, somehow.

“Old Dinah” a steam engine tractor used to haul Wonder ore to the train line at Rhyolite. On the third trip, the tractor blew a flue and was abandoned on the spot. Now it commands tourist attention at the Furnace Creek Ranch.

Keane’s Wonder mine shut down in 1912 with the announcement it was tapped out. It started up again in 1914 but went went idle once more in 1916. It restarted in 1935 to rework the tailings with Cyanide. The Chemical was stored in these large tanks.

The mine closed again in 1937. The next interest in Wonder came in 1940.

The tram was refurbished. Machines retooled and geared up. But operation was not meant to be. In 1942 all usable gear except the tram was moved to other mines. In 1972 the abandoned mine site came under the protective reach of the National Park Service.

Ghost Town

Rhyolite. It was once the third largest city in Nevada. Boomtown it was. Between 1904 and 1908 she was the queen of mining towns. Not just your ordinary canvass and wood makeshift structures. Rhyolite was solidly built with obvious intentions of staying around awhile. It boasted all the cosmopolitan features. Water and power. There were forty-five saloons, an opera house, an orchestra, a number of dance halls, a slaughterhouse, two railroad depots, and three public swimming pools serving as many as 10,000 residents.

Looking out the school house window openings to the town. The Cook Bank building, left. Overbury Building (jewelry store), center. General Store, right.

Two things killed Rhyolite. The gold mines tapped out. City investors pulled out when the national economy turned sour. By 1911 the population was down to 675. In 1916 utilities were shut off. Boomtown became ghost town.

Cook Bank Building

This substantial structure of 3 stories cost $90,000. It had marble floors imported from Italy, mahogany woodwork, electric lights, telephone and inside plumbing. Various interior components and fixtures were sold off when Rhyolite shut down. Staircases, banisters, floors, etc., live on today as parts of various buildings scattered through the region.



General Store
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Rhyolite is perhaps the best known of all ghost towns. Likely the most photographed. It has served as a set for numerous motion pictures and music videos.

Train Station

Three Railroad lines came through Rhyolite. The Depot today appears in use by someone. The structure seems restorable to me.

Bottle House of 1906.

The walls are completely made of glass bottles. The house has lived on through the years as a tourist attraction. However upon my visit I didn’t see any caretaker. It seemed closed up.

The Eggmen

John Lennon’s famous quote “Before Elvis there was nothing” could especially be said about Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337). When the glory that was Rome faded into the Middle Ages, art became highly stylized and flat dimensionally. Naturalistic perspective and depiction vanished. At the precipice of The Renaissance Giotto nearly stands alone in his discarding the centuries old framework of painting and art. Not since Roman times was the human form naturally depicted. He reinvented soft rounded deep modeling effects using light and dark values. Giotto marks the turning point toward The Renaissance. The above Madonna and Child is in Firenze’s Uffizi Gallery.

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Giotto was also an accomplished architect. The Bell Tower at Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze, is his. He never saw the completed work. He died three years after construction began. It took more than fifty years to build.

Giotto’s bell tower is sublime. But the grandiose architectural element of Santa Maria del Fiore is the celebrated dome by Filippo Brunelleschi. The achievement can not be over stated. Architectural dome engineering and construction know-how died with the Romans. It wasn’t until Brunelleschi closely studied the Roman artifacts first hand (especially the well preserved Pantheon in Rome) that architecture was reinvented. Being this was unexplored design in its day, Brunelleschi faced a counter current of resistance and opposition. The Guild of Wool Merchants who sponsored and over saw the project wanted to know just how in the world such a large dome could be accomplished. Brunelleschi asked the members of the committee to demonstrate to him how they would stand an egg on the table. No one could. “Impossible,” they said. With that, Brunelleschi cracked the end off the egg and proceeded to stand the shell on the table. When the members of the committee protested that any one of them could have done that, Brunelleschi explained that was exactly his point. If he told the committee how he planned to execute his concept, all would claim that they could have done it. After several months of arguing, the committee allowed him to proceed and work began on the dome in the summer of 1420.


The Pantheon, Rome, A.D. 118-25. Besides its position as one of history’s greatest architectural masterpieces, its survival from ancient times to modern day Rome is miraculous. Step in from the noisy hot streets of Rome to a cool calm quiet atmosphere where time seems frozen. You may almost hear the distant whisper of Marcus Aurelius. That the structure is so well preserved is a testament to Roman engineering and master building. One can only ponder a question; if the Pantheon had not survived into Brunelleschi‘s time, how long to reinvent such engineering from scratch?


Locals simply refer to Santa Maria del Fiore as “Il Duomo.” It remains to this day the most iconic Feature of Firenze. A site on the landscape still commanding the most attention.

Michaelangelo’s David, Firenze Italy.
Michaelangelo went to school, so to speak, with The Duomo before designing Saint Peters in Rome.

Another source of Michaelangelo’s admiration was Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Doors of the Baptistery, Firenze.

Michaelangelo fondly referred to them as “The Gates of Paradise.”

The doors consist of ten panels. Each frame depicts a scene from either the New or Old Testament. Ghiberti used a painter’s approach to composition but used his sculpture and architectural skill to create enormous visual depth. As an architect, Ghiberti was the only other considered candidate besides Brunelleschi for designing the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. And Brunelleschi was a possible choice for the commission Baptistery doors. Much competition for the prized jobs during The Renaissance.

The Gates of Paradise have been removed from the Baptistery and have undergone restoration. Replicas are there now. The originals will be kept indoors under a protective transparent encasement after completing a world tour. They maybe coming to a city near you.

Smithsonian Magazine has a complete story of the restoration and history of these magnificent panels.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/gatesofparadise-200711.html?page=2#

Love A Parade


Firenze (Florence), Italy. That cradle of The Renaissance and birthplace of modern Western Civilization. Trove of priceless art and architecture. It is only natural to view the parade of Calico Storico (Historic Soccer) with its Renaissance costumes as a quaint colorful and charming affair. In perfect fitting with all that is great with Firenze and Italy at large.


But I truly didn’t grasp what I was looking at. When I heard “Historic Soccer” I figured this was in some way akin to modern soccer.

It is not. These are mean nasty tough guys that play a sport that makes rugby look like a game of paddy cake.


A recorded date of 1530 is affixed to the beginning of Calico Storico, but it actually goes as far back as the 1400’s.


The child will not be participating. Nor will the older members of the parade. Only men in their 20’s and 30’s have the bodies capable of enduring the punishment suffered in this “sport.” A later day rule prohibits criminals from participating to somewhat mitigate blood letting.


A good wholesome church function? The four major churches of Firenze each sponsor a team. Here the white team is sponsored by Santo Spirito.

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The ball isn’t kicked in this version of soccer. A heavy leather bladder is hauled through a maul and melee across a field. The “goal” is to heave the ball over a 4 foot wall at either end of the grounds. Players literally wrestle, shove and bare knuckle punch or slug. It is part “Fight Club,” carnal demolition derby in some semblance of a ball game. By the end players are near naked from gear being ripped to shreds. Bruised, bloodied, dirty, sweaty and spitting mud. A splendid time for all!

The Netherlands of Van Gogh and Hitchcock

If you discover the tourist hubbub in Amsterdam not to your liking escape easily by heading north a short distance to the Waterland.

The Waterland is a region of lakes, canals, ditches, dikes, and drawbridges. Once a land of bogs, it was first drained for practical use in the middle ages. Today peace and quiet with lots a fresh air and unspoiled scenery characterize this region.

With little change here in 400 years, the sites are similar to ones inspiring Vincent Van Gogh.


A creaky wooden windmill recalls Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940).


Joel McCrea discovering sinister activity in a Dutch wooden windmill.


Ten small towns and villages dot The Waterland. The proper experience here is by bicycle on the narrow dike roads. The villages have their shops. Cafes offer Dutch cuisine.

Dairy farmers welcome bicycle tourists to view hand made cheese production. Samples offered of course.

Breakfast At Venezia

Daybreak at Basilica San Marco, Venice. Workers hose and scrub the Piazzetta.

Gondolas on the Grand Canal looking toward Punta della Dogana


Gondolas under protective drape.

Gondola Captains await their customers.

But the “streets” of Venice were quiet.


The milk man makes his rounds. Two men (left) walk and talk politics.

A chef with fresh produce in hand for the morning fixins stops to talk futbol with a friend.

The ladies lament grocery prices have never been higher.

The morning commute in Venice is either by foot or boat.

Pedal Power

At the train station in Amsterdam there is a remarkable three level parking structure.

It is all bicycles. Everybody rides them. Youngsters, housewives, fully suited businessmen, and seniors. This is indeed a foreign sight to tourists whom worship their SUV chariots. The tourists frequently fan out into the bicycle streets thinking these are extra sidewalks. “Watch out assholes!,” I heard one yell in his Texas twang as a slew of bicycles nearly clipped his fanny. He was clueless about the right of way and what he was doing.

Stockholm
I don’t suppose I should “talk.” I was nervous to find myself driving a car on a bicycle street in Stockholm. Afraid at any moment I’d be facing a head on collision with a flock of bicycles. My course was corrected though without incident.

Stockholm. The ever present bicycle anywhere people gather.

I got to peddling myself when I reached Copenhagen. At first I tried the civic bicycles. These are for everyone to use at their convenience. You unlock it by inserting a token or coin into the lock box on a rack. When you are finished with the bicycle you re-lock it to a designated rack and your coin is returned to you. It works pretty well except if you leave the bicycle unattended someone will take it. There is a minor industry of people taking these bikes and getting the coin for themselves.

Biking to market, Stockholm.

The civic bicycles are built to be sturdy. Not comfortable or quick. My Innkeeper in Copenhagen suggested I shouldn’t torture myself with those “old slugs.” He had a nice bicycle available for rent, so I took up the deal. What a pleasure. I did all my sightseeing in Copenhagen by bicycle.

When I got to Amsterdam, the first thing I did was rent another good bicycle. It really makes a difference in the way you see and interact with a city.

I liked this experience so well when I got back to the USA I purchased a basic but nice city bicycle. I put on a rack and saddle bags. I do most of my marketing by bicycle. Trips to the library, bank, what have you. Sunshine, fresh air, and burned calories. Not a bad deal.

Oui, oui, oui…City of Lights

Las Vegas is a town that took the Disneyland approach of replicating familiar world wide sites as “themes.”

Some will say the Las Vegas Strip is the epitome of a synthetic environment and monument of greed. Others may point to a strange if not extreme kind of beauty.

At any given moment I relate to either sentiment.

My stay in Las Vegas, August 13 and 14 was at Hotel Paris. Besides the obvious iconic miniature Eiffel Tower and hotel marque in the form of a hot air balloon, the facility is faithful to the theme down to the smallest details.

I was struck by the number of guests in the lobby, restaurants and elevators I heard speaking French. Apparently, oui, this is home away from home for many a French tourist.

The intensity of summer heat in Las Vegas isn’t apparent in photos. Imagine, though, after a short time in the sun my camera became too hot to touch.

Dusk provides only some relief from the heat. At least one can hold a camera without burning the fingers. Here is Hotel Bellagio. The immense fountain is one of the seven wonders of the entertainment world. Fountain jets are seemingly capable of shooting water nearly as high as the hotel itself. The water blasts and light effects are timed and synchronized to music played over a superb outdoor sound system. Sinatra is most typically played. But I’ve heard orchestral pieces and popular movie themes played as well. It is simply impossible to walk by without stopping during a performance.

I’d say The Flamengo is better displayed in a video clip. One of the more recognizable landmarks and light displays of The Strip.

Ballys and Paris are effectively one hotel. One traverses from one property to the other without stepping outdoors. Ballys is an older hotel, formerly the MGM. At another site a new MGM Grand was built after the old facility was stigmatized. On November 21, 1980 A fire killed 84 people and injured 785. At the time it was the second worst hotel fire in modern U.S. history. Ballys however seems to thrive and flourish. 1980 is now considered olden times. A growing population of people born after 1980 check in. Guests unaware of the tragic event.

Marstrand 11, Return and Reunion.

NOTE: So you don’t have view the 11 chapters of this story backwards click here for a beginning to end version:

Marstrand, Sweden: My Family Story.

June 2006. Greta immediately recognized the rocky geography. Her bus window view was from the road between Göteborg and Marstrand. A road that was still under construction during her first trip to Marstrand. Her arrival then was by ferry. With the familiar silhouette of Carlstens Fortress on the horizon Greta was nearly “home.” Once upon the cobblestone streets, there was no hesitation about the familiar way to the old house of August and Alma Palm. Stepping to the veranda she pointed to a window. A room where the Christmas tree once stood. She remembered the rustic kitchen and the relic of a stove her mother created meals upon. She looked out from the veranda on a peaceful Marstrand harbor and remembered fishing with Grandfather August. She recalled the sight of ships at battle.

Greta on the veranda, 2006 (left). On the veranda 1939 (right). From right to left, Greta, Gunnar, Gunhild, & friend.

Question remained if she would find anyone she remembered. Or if anyone was still around that remembered her, her mother and grandparents. Or if there was even a chance of finding relatives.

Our Innkeepers were Lena and Gunnar Danielsson at Korsgatan 5 in Marstrand. When they heard Greta’s story, they were very interested and became actively involved. After a few phone calls they offered Greta a pleasant surprise.

Lena Danielsson located one of Greta’s old Marstrand friends Karin. Lena invited Karin to Korsgatan 5 for coffee and coffee bread. Karin remembered the “American girl was allowed to have painted nails.” Sam Soderberg, center.

More surprises were in store. The next came via a short boat ride.


It is about right to say the Marstrand experience is incomplete without a boat ride, not counting the ferry. Gunnar Danielsson at the helm. Lena Danielsson at the rope. Sam Soderberg with floppy hat. Greta. And Sam’s wife Ruby.

Walking down memory lane, Greta meets with Ingrid, her second rediscovered friend.

A reunion sixty six years in the making. Ingrid, Greta, and Karin.

There were more happy meetings for Greta behind this door.

Dan and Sam with Swedish third cousin Ã…ke, Greta’s second cousin. The three third cousins share the same great grandparents, August and Alma Palm. Ã…ke’s grandmother is Margit, Gunhild’s sister. This is at the patio area of Ã…ke’s home in Marstrand. He operates an antique business in Göteborg.

Ingrid, center, is a curator at Marstrand’s History Museum. She opened the doors for us. We studied the displays and learned from her expertise. Greta, and Gunnar Danielsson look on as Ruby asks questions.
Another priority of our Marstrand stay was to locate the grave site of August, Alma and Algot Fredrik.

We walked and walked through the small cemetery in search of the family grave marker. It seemed every stone was looked at repeatedly. No matter how often the same markers came into view, the names August, Alma Katarina Palm, and Algot Fredrik were not there. A pile of discarded grave stones were set to the side. We happened to see the Marstrand Lutheran Church Vicar nearby attending to a site. He couldn’t recall ever seeing the name Palm. Then explained unmaintained or abandoned sites are made available as new plots. “Space is limited here.” The old stones are set aside or carved over to mark more recent burials.

From nearby trees the “cuckoo” of cuckoo birds seemed to herald our departure and unsuccessful quest. We were just past the cemetery gates when a woman called out.

“Did you say you were looking for August Palm? It’s right here.”

One sensed Greta’s relief. I imagined the trip would have felt somewhat incomplete if the grave site had not been found.

Perhaps we didn’t look as closely for a horizontal or flat gravestone. Most were the upright markers.

We made a second visit later. Greta bought some petite roses to plant at the site. “Mama would want that.”

Sam adding a cup of water to Greta’s freshly planted roses.

August passed away in 1947

Grave yard service for August. We noted the flowers tied together with U.S. Flag ribbon. We imagine Gunhild sent those.

The Watch and The Broach.

“It was on a lazy afternoon in the summer of 1939. Mama’s work was done at the house and we went swimming. I swam and played for several hours when she decided I should come out and rest a bit. While Mama dozed in the sun I explored the rocks and crevices. Deep in one of those crevices I saw something shiny. It was very far down and I had to lie on the rock very flat. I reached my arm down and stretched as far as I could. I barely managed to touch it with the tip of my fingers. I couldn’t quite pick it up. I held my breath, lunged as far as I could, and managed finally to lift the object between my outstretched fingers. Gingerly, carefully, I pulled the object up against the rough rock surface. To my surprise it was a beautiful gold watch. I ran to my mother holding out my treasure.”

Gunhild was even more surprised because she recognized the watch.

“‘I know whose watch that is, Greta. We must find Mrs. Ambjornson and return it. She will be very sad when she realizes she has lost it.'”

Mrs. Ambjornson in fact had tears upon seeing it. “My husband gave this watch to me on our wedding day. I have always cherished it and now he is gone.” He drowned a few years ago when a storm caught hold of his sail boat. “It is the most precious memory I have of him. It is worth more than money to me.”

Mrs. Ambjornson rewarded Greta with a trip to a jewelery store. Greta chose a simple porcelain brooch with a carved picture of blue water, blue sky with white fluffy clouds, and a sail boat on it.

“To me this was Marstrand. The water I loved to swim and sail upon. The open sea and the wind blowing through my hair. With this pin I always remember the best things I love about Marstrand and how it was.”


“Under Mama’s protection my childhood cares were few. Life was a party; a new and exciting experience every day. I greeted each new day with excited anticipation.”

The End.

acknowledgment

Greta Louise Teter Smith for unrestricted access to her personal history on Marstrand and to Gunhild’s letters. Also for opening the family photo album and answering a myriad of questions over the past few years.

Ruby Soderberg, additional photography

Mark Wagner, permission to use images of The Gripsholm

Gunnar and Lena Danielsson, for all their help not only in providing a top notch Bed and Breakfast Inn in Marstrand, but for all the attention given to making Greta’s return so memorable.

Korsgatan 5 SE 44030 Marstrand, Sweden. Tel +46 (0)303-14827 Fax +46 (0) 303-64807

Marstrand 8, Visit to Stockholm


“Stockholm was a very cosmopolitan city even in those days. Mama was eager for me to see as much as we could,” as Greta recalled.

Stockholms slott (Parliament. The lion stands before the Royal Palace), 1690-1704
“We visited the place where the king ‘lived.’ All I remember is a very huge building with lots of massive carved furniture and lots of red velvet.”


“We saw the opera house which was also immense and we admired the architecture which was very old.” Opera House (Operan, 1887) in this photo behind/through the Viking boat mast.


Nationalmuseum (National Museum), 1846

“The museum was very interesting to me as I loved to hear stories about Vikings. This museum held many artifacts from that time.”


The old street car today delivers limited service. Linking central hotel and shopping areas with DjurgÃ¥rden where many of Stockholm’s important museums and cultural sites are located. Tunnelbanan, the Stockholm subway, moves people nowadays. The first installment of Tunnelbanan was in place during Gunhild and Greta’s visit. The main period of construction, however, began in 1944.
“There were little street cars taking people here and there around town. We rode on them many times. There were also horse drawn carts, too.”

Above is a relief map/sculpture is of Stockholm Harbor about the time Gunhild and Greta were there. Bottom photo is a view toward that area depicted above. Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), 1889. left, rear. Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum), 1987, Center/Front (Behind red “light house” boat).


“We visited several parks, also, and I fed the pigeons.”

“The parks had numerous beautiful trees. We selected one particularly tall and shady one under which we sat and ate our lunch.”


Stockholm Market

“Most of the time we stayed at Aunt Margit’s with her husband, my uncle, and my cousins. Their apartment was outside the city. They ran a store which sold candy, fruit, flowers and vegetables.

“We took trips to the suburbs and visited other cousins of Mama’s. I remember visiting a farm with lots of animals; sheep, cows pigs and chickens. I was allowed to gather the eggs and feed the chickens. There was one particularly nasty rooster which would fly at me and scratch my legs until I finally climbed up on a woodpile to escape. I would cry in terror until I was rescued.”


Guessing this may be Margit in Stockholm. The city boasts of as many civic statues as the U.S. has of Starbucks.

Art is a valued aspect of the city plan.

A sight Gunhild and Greta would have seen in Stockholm. These old phone booths. If one examines the Marstrand post cards carefully, this style of phone booth was in Marstrand as well.

By September of 1939 Swedes all took to bicycles when gasoline was rationed. Today large numbers of all Scandinavians utilize bicycles for routine travel.


In Marstrand one day Gunhild recognized a visitor. King Gustav V’s brother Eugene. He was an artist. This was his home in Stockholm. Today it is open to the public as a fine art museum.


The lion statue guards Parliament Building on the left. The spire is Riddarholmen Church, Stockholm’s only remaining medieval building from 1280.

Gunhild and Greta were in Stockholm for a month. But their path was less rosy after an outbreak of scarlet fever.

“Mama was anxious to leave Stockholm, but when we returned to Marstrand, it was already hit with 8 cases.”

Sunset in Stockholm

Next: Midsommer to Christmas